University Link light rail train testing from Sound Transit Video on Vimeo.

This afternoon Sound Transit released its first video of full-speed testing of the ULink alignment, showing a northbound trip from Capitol Hill Station to UW Station. The video gives a nice sense of how the ride quality and acceleration will feel once in service. The train slowly accelerates from Capitol Hill Station, taking 40 seconds to accelerate to 55mph underneath Volunteer Park. The train then cruises at 55mph for 2 minutes in the downhill northeast straightaway between Volunteer Park and the Montlake Cut. The train passes under the Cut at around the 2’30” mark, turning north and slowly making its way into the station at the 3’00” mark.

Tunnel videos are generally among the most uninspiring things to watch, but when you remember that during those 3 minutes the #43 would only make it as far 15th Ave, what the video represents is very exciting indeed. Just 8-9 more months to go!

87 Replies to “Under Capitol Hill at 55 MPH”

    1. We will probably have to build an in-city line that actually stops at more places on the hill at some point in the not too distant future.

      Sound Transit is regional, so we built the express lines first, unfortunately.

      1. “Sound Transit is regional willing to spend billions of dollars without bothering to understand how the fuck these things actually work, so we built the express lines first only forever, unfortunately.”

        There, fixed it for you.

      2. Hear, hear for d.p. Sound Transit is great at contracting out building, but (sadly) we can never again trust them to plan station spacing.

      3. “Sound Transit is regional, so we built the express lines first, unfortunately.”

        Well…thanks to Rainier Valley, it will never truly be express for anybody south.

      4. Yeah, how dare we put a shred of urban-form transit anywhere it could be accessed and used in the way that urban-form transit is accessed and used?

        There are distant parking lots and fantasy developments that totally fucking empty trains could be speeding off to!

  1. This will revolutionize transit in Seattle. It’s going to totally out perform travel on the surface. Unbelievable.

    Good bye 70 series (mostly), hello U-link.

    And the ridership charts will be crazy as soon as it opens. Wonderful.

    1. … and good-bye 43 for most riders..
      New post “On Capitol Hill at 3 MPH – Walking”

      1. I think the 43 would still be super useful after this opens, but I would truncate it before the freeway. Just skip all that congestion.

    2. No, they won’t. And the simple reason is that when Metro chooses Alternative 1 the City Council will go into hyperdrive panic mode and demand — demand!!!!! that the downtown expresses continue running.

      Once North Link opens to Northgate, yes, ridership will knock it out of the park. But no matter how much expensive lipstick you slather on the Husky Stadium pig, porker it will remain.

      1. Ah, no. Won’t happen. One, Metro is a regional agency and does not answer to the city council. And two, nobody is going to want the bulk of the 70’series after U-Link opens and the bus service on this route becomes both redundant and substantially slower than the alternative.

        No, if there is any angst after U-Link opens it will be because the transfer to Link is not fast enough nor convenient enough. U-Link will completely change the commute from the U to DT, and there won’t be any looking back.

        And, yes, ridership will spike and spike substantially when U-Link opens. Don’t believe me? Just wait.

      2. I believe both of you.

        I know the ridership will spike and things will change greatly.

        I don’t believe there will be a “fundamental change” as has been observed with the ridership increases in cities in Europe that have done rail transit well, partly due to the horrible and time consuming transfer at the Triangle Parking Garage.

        The true fundamental change seems to me more likely to happen when the U District station opens. My hope would be that maybe the Husky Stadium station will cause pressure on SoundTransit to open that station before the rest of the line does.

      3. If there were an upswell to keep the 7x we would have heard it by now. The routes with the most defenders are super-local ones: 2, 12.

        Also, the City Council can’t wish away the DSTT’s capacity limit. Link will have far more passengers when it reaches UW and that will lengthen boarding times. The tunnel is already subject to 5-10 minute delays practically every day so it’s way oversubscribed. And beyond that, delays on Stewart Street approaching the tunnel. I experienced two of those the past two days, southbound afternoon on the 71, and northbound at 7pm on the 550. Those delays are a big factor in why many people will switch to Link.

      4. I don’t think lipstick on a pig is a very good analogy. I think it is the opposite. It is like Brad Pitt or Mila Kunis with a very bad haircut. The fundamentals on this route are so strong, even Sound Transit couldn’t screw it up to badly. OK, to be fair, this was built when “just getting it done” was essential, but I digress. Even with all of the flaws of the station (the fault of both the UW and Sound Transit) this will be a hugely important and successful route. If you want to go from one spot to the other, it will be faster than driving. Even if you are headed to the UW Hospital, which will force you to transfer twice, this is faster than driving. We really haven’t had anything like this. There should be more stops (certainly) and the U-District station is in the wrong spot, but this is still a gigantic improvement in transit mobility for the city.

      5. @ Glenn the schedule ST has on their website says that Roosevelt will be done before the U-District station so there’s no way they’d be able to open that section earlier than the rest of the line.

  2. The video suggests it’s going to be great. But just after I viewed it, the access changed to require a password. (I hope actually riding it won’t require a password as well! ;-) )

    1. The same as the ones before Seatac station and the one in the stub tunnel. The crossovers serve 2 purposes:
      1. Allow trains to reverse at the interim terminus.
      2. Allow trains to route around problems and maintenance.

  3. That wasn’t too interesting to watch after about 20 seconds, bit it is exciting that trains are running through that tunnel! I’m looking forward to riding that instead of the 72/73 through Eastlake or Fairview, super slowly, stopping at every stop, late at night with 120+ other people. It may be packed, but it will be faster.

  4. It looks like it could open in days. I am constantly surprised at how long everything takes, even if it is ahead of schedule. Oh well, it will be worth the wait.

    1. Part of the wait is due to mandatory federal operational testing. It might look substantially complete, but for better or worse there is a lot to do between now and opening day.

      1. Some of it is. MAX orange line will open in September, and their first run was a month ago. Same federal rules apply. Testing isn’t that long.

        Local rules can get interesting. For the West Hills tunnel, TriMet had to prove their tunnel derailment emergency plan would work, so they had to have a simulated tunnel disaster with real people being evacuated out of the tunnel and to area hospitals. That was 20 years ago. I would imagine Link will need the same type of thing.

        Some of it is the sheer amount of work going into those stations. Just because you can run trains doesn’t mean everything is done. You don’t need Orca readers yet, or security cameras, or even elevators approved for public use. At this stage you can still use a mining type temporary ventilation system. Many, many other details in these stations still probsbly need to be done.

        I walked through part of the West Hills tunnel in 1995, three years before it opened. The track was down but at that point many intricate concrete castings were being made to get the ductwork where it needed to go.

        Underground work is just hugely complicated and time consuming. This is especially the case where the depth is so great that you can’t just drill a hole on the street to get a power feed or ventilation shaft.

      2. Good Point on tunneling. About 800 miners, with picks, shovels, and dynamite dug the Canadian Pacific twin tunnel through Rogers Pass, between 1913 and 1916 at cost of $9m.
        In today’s dollars that would be $217m to go five miles.
        You gotta love progress!

      3. Are you now lamenting that America’s standard of living has improved to the point that we can’t pay labor at those rates?

      4. Yeah, but how many people died digging that tunnel? We spend a lot on safety precautions, due to the relatively recent idea that a big construction project shouldn’t kill anyone.

  5. This is fantastic. To be honest, I’m a bit claustrophobic, so I never like tunnels (oh, how I wish that elevated transit made more sense in this city). I also know that there should be more stops. But holy cow — three minutes from Capitol Hill to the UW! We have never really had anything like that. The closest thing is the bus tunnel. But even then, when traffic was light, you could make all those lights and zoom from one end of downtown to the other. But this — this is different. Even at three in the morning, you would have a tough time beating that train. Broadway to the UW in three minutes? Wow!

    1. Wow, Yeah, 3.3 minutes. Blazing.
      And the same trip on the 43 is between 10 and 13, so about 10 min slower.
      Doing the math walking at 3 mph, anyone further than 1/2 mile from the station (10 min. walk) would be better taking the bus.
      Oh wait, that bus is going away. Sorry.
      But Yeah, those in the 1/2 mile circle should benefit. If you live there, say thank you for the billion dollar bonus.

      1. On the other hand, a half-mile circle around the station covers almost all the built-up area of Capitol Hill. What’s left over (at least, the part that was close to the 43) is in very easy walking distance from the 48, which still goes to the U-District.

        So, even with the unforgivably horrible stop spacing, deleting the 43 won’t be that bad a problem.

      2. or if you are near any of the other stations, or can get to the train station on a different bus.

        I also feel like your math might be working backwards from a solution to a premise. It doesn’t consider that a walker would still have to walk to a stop, and that they would have to wait for the bus. A person who doesnt live next to the bus-stop still has to walk there, and frequency isnt that high, so waiting can happen. Also, why cant some of those people take a bus to the train, then move faster than the previous bus could?

        There will always be some particular circumstances where this is worse for someone, but a high speed line between big destinations is a huge win for mobility.

      3. Mic is being overly pessimistic even for my taste, but he isn’t incorrect.

        If your solution to a shitty access-shed is to remind everyone that they could “choose” to wait for two separate vehicles, with a multi-hundred-foot vertical transfer between, just to travel go a couple of miles, then it’s time to admit your core investment is fatally flawed.

        And, no, the majority of the “built-up” area is not within a half mile of the station. Not even close. Not even close to close. There’s a reason driving will continue to be the primary method for arriving on Capitol Hill from all other points. #whoops

      4. …Just to travel a couple of miles along a single vector, that is.

        Need a 3-dimensional journey? Better add in a 2nd transfer and 3rd wait!

      5. DP,
        It really is too bad that Seattle isn’t more flat. I really do wish we could push through those instant access, cut and cover stations like in NYC. But with the operating costs limiting the change of grade, deep bore, and the resulting deep stations, is just what we are stuck with. The only ones that really really should be shallower are the Downtown Tunnel. I hope that any new line downtown has much shallower stations. If you have the disruptions of cut and cover, get the benefits.

        They don’t want to go deep. All that money saved on ULink was mostly from raising the station as much as they could, because they found a way to get under the cut with only 8 feet of cover.

      6. >> [That] same trip on the 43 is between 10 and 13, so about 10 min slower

        Say what? I’m looking at Google Maps right now, and a trip from Broadway to the UW shows 18 minutes for the bus. This doesn’t count the time spent walking to the bus. Hell, it will take 12 minutes if you drive. This is at 8:00 in the morning — I’m sure it will get better soon (ha). Of course, in the middle of the day or in the evening you don’t have to worry about traffic as much. But then there is a bridge that goes up, which will easily erase that savings (and then some). Meanwhile, the train will come a lot more frequently.

        Look, I get it. Read the third sentence again. I’ll repeat it here (in bold):

        I also know that there should be more stops.

        It is crazy that there are more stops along here. But my point is that this is something that Seattle has never had. We’ve never had a situation where someone can honestly say “Thanks for the offer to drive me there, but I’m in a hurry, so I’ll take the train”. That is not true of Link right now, nor is it true of any of our buses (even our express buses). It could have been better — a lot better — but it is still better than anything we have ever built.

      7. I think it is worth noting that a lot of people will use Pronto as part of the trip. I know I would. If I am at Group Health, then a ride down Howell doesn’t sound too bad. That’s a really quick ride (even with the hassle of docking and undocking). Going the other way I would probably walk ((or walk while looking for a bus) but for a lot of the area, there is a reasonable plateau there.

      8. Despite the poor siting of Husky stadium station and the lack of stations, my commute time will be cut in half and trips to the airport from NE Seattle will be simple and stress free. Lifespan of this type of infrastructure is 100+ years so, I consider it a multi-generational bargain.

      9. We’ve never had a situation where someone can honestly say “Thanks for the offer to drive me there, but I’m in a hurry, so I’ll take the train”.

        Ross makes a good point here… if your starting point and destination happen to match that slim pickings on offer.

        And as designed, that’s a pretty big “if”.

      10. @ d. p. Yep. The number of starting points and ending points is way less than it should be. So, of course, the number of people for which this is true is much lower than it should be. But the number of people for which this is true is still substantial. UW? Broadway and Denny? Lots of people in both locations. Way more than anywhere we have put a station, outside of downtown. Speaking of downtown, that pair works as well — Westlake to Capitol Hill. Even with no traffic it is faster to go down, down, down to catch the train, and then up, up, up to the surface. With afternoon traffic, of course, the difference is huge — train wins again. It is amazing what you can do (without even trying very hard) when you decide to run a train line away from the freeway.

        Just keep in mind, these are the pieces that are true for this metric. That isn’t true for every location. For example, if I’m in Lynnwood (where there are far fewer people, by the way) and want to get to Westlake around noon, I’ll take that ride. I’ll save myself around 10 minutes according to Google and Sound Transit. Even in the morning (when I can leverage the express lanes) I think an express bus probably wins, let alone a car pool. Somewhat shorter (but common) trips — like Lynnwood to UW — are substantially faster using the freeway most times of the day (if not all of them). Even really short trips (Lynnwood to Mountlake Terrace), which are probably quite rare, are at best a wash when it comes to train versus car pool. If the point of light rail was to provide really fast connections — connections that are faster than buses, let alone cars — then we probably should have stopped somewhere in Shoreline, or run the line somewhere else (like highway 99 or highway 522). It is amazing how difficult it is to provide substantially faster service when your train runs right next to the freeway.

      11. Yes, but I think you and others may really be overestimating the amount of value that exists for the general public at or near John and Broadway.

        Just shy of half a mile over, at busy Pike-Pine, there will be a ton of situations where the bus will still win over any possible trip involving the train.

        And if I know that the train has improved my end-to-end that little, and I’m inclined to drive (when feasible) today, why wouldn’t I be inclined to drive (when feasible) after the train is summarily bypassing where I want to go?

        That’s what you’re up against. Bad stop spacing is much bigger problem that STB partisans seem to realize.

      12. I can easily find five trips a week that ST2 Link will make at least 10 minutes faster, even without counting work commutes, and its frequency will give me more choices and flexibility even when it’s not faster. This will occur no matter where I live in the east half of the city. Of course Ballard and West Seattle will have a 30+ minute overhead on every trip, which is why I think they need significantly better transit to ST2 Link. One reason I didn’t move to Rainier Valley when Link opened is that my commute to northeast Seattle would be 90 minutes (Link+bus+bus). ST2 Link would cut it in half. The benefit of Link is not just between high-volume stations that currently have a <30 minute one-seat bus ride, but trips that involve a 30-60 minute bus ride where no all-day express exists, and trips that currently involve two bus segments that will be one-seat rides on Link, or Link+feeder. Sometimes even feeder+Link+feeder trips will be better with Link, especially if the feeders are frequent as we hope.

      13. I live just over a mile north of the UW station and, yes, I definitely look forward to it. By bike, it’s just 10 minutes from home to the station, straight down the Burke-Gilman. If they put in a Pronto Station at the Link Station, it will be easier, not needing to mess with a lock. Even on foot, I routinely jog the distance in about 15 minutes, which is still faster than waiting for a connecting bus or taking the same 15 minutes to go up the hill and catch the 49.

        Even for airport trips with luggage, the distance between home and the Link Station doesn’t bother me that much. Even if taking Lyft/Uber between home and the Link Station is a foregone conclusion, it still saves both time and money over taking Lyft/Uber all the way downtown to connect to Link.

      14. And I can think of multiple trips I took just today that should have been made faster by a $2 billion subway investment under Capitol Hill, but won’t be. At all. Forever.

      15. @dp — I think it depends on which way you are going. The numbers for the Capitol Hill station should be interesting. Like most stations, I expect higher numbers for people going downtown (as a destination or to transfer). But it really is in the other direction that things look good. I’m not trying to defend Sound Transit or the decisions they made — I don’t think the post was either — I’m just making an observation about what is about to occur in Seattle. This is something we haven’t seen in thirty years, if ever.

        If you are headed downtown, there are some very good alternatives via the bus. It gets even better if the city adds the Madison BRT. But if you are going the other direction, I think the train is the better bet for a pretty wide area. For many, it is a wash. For example, at Group Health, it is about the same to take a bus or walk to the train station (about 15 minutes each way). That is assuming traffic isn’t that bad or the bridge doesn’t go up. But the frequency of the train wins out. If the 43 were to keep running, I could easily see someone head towards the station, but grab a bus if it is encountered in the first couple blocks (made easier by the fact that the bus would be going the opposite way the rider is walking). Other areas are similar. Along Madison it is tempting to take the BRT, but then you would have to transfer to get to the UW. Anyone a bit south or north of the station will certainly take the train. In none of these cases is driving very good. A race to get to UW hospital, for example, will almost always be won by the person who takes the train — it takes a while to park the car. That’s why even for folks that will have to walk a ways, it is faster to take the train.

        Looking ahead, it is obvious that we will wish there had been several more stops along here. Like a lot of transit in Seattle (Forward Thrust votes, etc.) we will be filled with regrets. The fact that this is an area where a tunnel works so well argues for more care, not less. Just because we have what appears to be a winner doesn’t mean that we did everything right — quite the opposite. If LeBron James is on your team and you have a winning record you shouldn’t be happy. You should win a championship with that guy (or come close). Otherwise it just means you really need better supporting players. When it comes to the east side of Seattle, the area where light rail is by far the best value, we should have waited and done it right (or started with this route and done it right). To do this on the cheap (because of worries about overruns) was a very poor decision.

        Some of this can (and should) be made up with a Metro 8 subway. That is no substitute, of course, but better than nothing, and a huge improvement over the current system. It does make for a very high transfer system, though. Assuming a Metro 8 subway has a stop on Madison, then I could easily see someone taking a three seat ride to the UW (BRT, train, train). That seems crazy, but it is what we are stuck with. Speaking of being stuck with things, the same is true of the streetcar. If we had fast, frequent transit here, then it could work. But again, this is why the idea of a streetcar is silly. For this to work well, you want really fast frequency on Broadway — on the order of a couple minutes. There is no way that you would need the capacity of a streetcar for that (even if our streetcars were bigger than our buses).

        Meanwhile, there are areas that will always be screwed. Madison may be OK with the combination of a new subway and Madison BRT. Not ideal, obviously, but OK. But Group Health is hosed. The train probably goes right under there, too. Tons of people and a major employer and they didn’t both with a simple station. Oops.

  6. 55 MPH in this video and it’s going to take 8 minutes to go from Westlake to UW?

    1. yeah thats confusing. I think they MIGHT be including average wait time due to a 4 minute headway in the average trip time.

    2. This answers the question of whether Westlake-CH-UW will be 3+3 minutes, 3+5 minutes, or 4+4 minutes, as ST has said differently at different times. If this 3:21 trip is the fastest CH-UW trip without passengers, then it will never get down to 3 minutes. That raises the question of whether the Westlake half is the same. How much could it shave by ejecting buses from the DSTT and getting people to board more quickly?

      1. ST claims that the Westlake to UW transit time is 6 mins without buses in the tunnel and 8 mins with buses in the tunnel. So joint ops is effectively forcing a 2 min or 33% increase in travel time on this route. That is really embarrassing.

        What will be interesting is how this delay manifests itself and how people react to it. Sometime shortly after U-Link opens the majority of DSTT users will be on LR and not on buses as is the case today. It is hard to imagine these users accepting a super fast transit on U-Link only to have to wait for a bus to figure out how to clear the station. The bitching will be loud.

        That said, in all likelihood the buses will vacate the tunnel anyhow in 2017 when convention center expansion begins, so it will be a short lived problem

      2. ST’s reputation depends on eliminating the DSTT delays when University Link opens. If somebody gets on the shiny new train at UW and there’s still a 5-minute delay getting into or out of Westlake, and another 5-minute delay south of University Street, then they’ll say, “It’s still crap and probably always will be. How much did we pay for it again?” So ST and Metro had better get some buses out of the tunnel if they don’t want to turn some of those ST3-enthusiastic UW riders into ST3-No voters.

      3. I’m hoping the 2 minutes of padding time is just ST following the principle of “under-promise/over-deliver”. Outside of rush hour, the delay entering the tunnel from the south is often considerably less than this (ignoring the stupid security barrier).

  7. I can remember a friend telling me how insanely far it was from UW to Northgate… because of the amount of time it took to get there on a bus. UVillage is currently the only feasible shopping destination for many car-less students, because of the transit time. Link really will change everything. Capitol Hill will be “next door” to UW, and once the next segment opens, Northgate will be a short shopping trip. Many UW students will no longer bring their cars out of necessity once they get a job, because many of those jobs that took ages to get to on the bus will be an easy hop on Link. This does really change everything, and it’s awesome!

    1. Ya, incredible improvements are coming, and some of the U-Link improvements will start to come even before U-Link officially opens.

      For example, sometime in around August ST will start thru-runs and will be able to put 3 and 4 car trains into service on Central Link. This represents a huge increase in thru-put.

      Then sometime in the fall ST will start simulated revenue service and the headways will drop from 7.5 mins to 6 mins. This will represent a capacity increase and a useability improvement. Low headways are fantastic for the customer.

      Then U-Link will actual open and the angels will sing.

      And somewhere in all that we get the FH SC and we get a (long overdue) Metro reorg.

      Lots of good stuff.

    2. “And somewhere in all after that we get the FH SC”

      Fixed that for you. Last I heard the FHS is around next summer or fall.

    1. Yeah, I personally think this is the worst omission in the system. It is easy to argue that we also forgot most of east Seattle (which also happens to be the most densely populated part of Seattle) by having only one stop. Buses (of course) can’t interact with it very well, and not that many people can walk to the station. But hopefully, not too far away, a Metro 8 subway will at least solve half (if not all) of those problems (not as well as adding stations would, but still much better than nothing).

      But I think in general, the 520 corridor is screwed. There are some things that can be done (and I’ll argue for them) but those things are really hard to get. My guess is that every 520 rider will have to spend an extra five minutes or so connecting to Link. It will probably still be better than being stuck in freeway traffic, and the added frequency will be great, but it will be nowhere near as nice (and as simple) as just adding a little station where 520 and this light rail cross.

      1. Or maybe ST is just thinking a bit further down the road than you are. Because come 2025 there is no reason that many of these 520 riders couldn’t intercept Link on the Eastside instead.

        Doing so would be a lot more efficient than riding a bus all the way into Seattle just to transfer to Link for the last 3 miles or so, ha, it wouldn’t work for everyone, but it will sip urge work for many,mif not most.

      2. East Link will work for some, but not that many. It is no different today. 520 is a mess, and has been for years. But even when I-90 is running smoothly, 520 is full of cars. It just takes too long to go around. Yes, there is a transfer, but for many (if not most) there would be a transfer anyway. Not that many people live within walking distance of a train station. Most will start their trip with a bus. If you are on a bus at 405 and 520 (headed to downtown Seattle) and have your choice of heading south (presumably to Bellevue Transit Center) or west (towards the UW), then heading west is much, much faster. Even if the bus on 520 is creeping along at 30 MPH (which is unlikely, as 520 is being made very fast for buses) it would still be much faster to go via 520. These trains aren’t fast enough to make up for basic geography.

      3. Let’s wait and see how the new Montlake exit ramp does before we jump to conclusions. With 2 lanes, plus a traffic light, buses really should be able to get off the freeway quite a bit quicker than they do today. 520 buses also have the potential (pending adequate layover space) to turn around right at the Montlake triangle, without snaking through the entirety of the U-district.

        For the time being, fear of change and fear of the unknown has won out, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. When people get accustomed to riding Link and a good chunk of peak-hour riders vote with their feet to choose 542->Link over the 545, opinions may change – especially if traffic downtown continues to get worse.

      4. There are multiple intercept points for buses needing a transfer point to East-Link. Bellevue TC is not the only choice.

        And bridge congestion hardly matters when you are on the train.

      5. @asdf2 — There are things that can be done (both by the city and the state DOT as well as the UW) but I’m not sure what will be done. Since they are working with more of a blank slate, I think the state will do more. The idea of a new bridge is out. This means that for this to work really well, we will need the following:


        1) A flyover ramp from the inside (HOV) lane to the outside (far right exit). Otherwise a bus has to plow through regular traffic to go from the far left to far right lane.

        2) A bus terminal next to the station.

        That direction is relatively easy. Other than the bridge going up, it could be pretty fast. But it gets a little trickier the other direction:

        1) Before the bridge — actually before the two streets converge — you need to force 520 bound cars into the right lane. This is a big change, but not an impossible one. Basically, mark the left lane on Pacific and Montlake Boulevard as “HOV and Montlake only — no regular 520 access”.

        Now buses could leave the station, take a left into the left lane, and cruise right onto the HOV lanes of 520. Without this change, though, it will be a mess. It can take ten minutes to cross the bridge and get into position to access the HOV lanes. People routinely use that left lane to move ahead (they merge into the right lane at the last minute). Forcing them to get over there well before that point is the best way to deal with that. Whether the city will embark on anything that big is another matter. Traffic will be pushed back onto the other streets (Pacific and Montlake). With Pacific it is probably a bigger issue. You don’t want to push traffic onto the hospital more than you have to. So I’m not sure if this will work, nor do I know of a good alternative (assuming another bridge isn’t built). We may be doomed.

        On the other hand, consider what could be done if there was a 520 light rail station:

        * Add a bus-only Roanake on ramp. This would enable buses to cut over to Eastlake and take advantage of the Eastlake/South Lake Union BRT lanes. This wouldn’t save any service hours (over turning around) but it would greatly improve mobility in the region. Not only would a Kirkland rider get a fast ride to South Lake Union, but so would someone from the UW or Montlake.


        * Add an Eastlake style turn bus around spot at Roanoke (or really anywhere). Unlike Eastlake, you wouldn’t even need a stop (if locals didn’t want it).

        Both of these would be way faster (for a rider) than anything we end up with. The first would enhance connectivity, while the second would require very few service hours. A bus could basically run unimpeded once it gets on 520 in Kirkland until it gets back to Kirkland.

        Oh, and both of these would be fairly realistic and cheaper than what we will end up with (from the various agencies). As folks have mentioned (over and over again) the UW drives a hard bargain. We can’t even get them to put the station in the triangle. So just having a bus terminal will be tricky. The traffic improvements I mentioned will be tricky (if not impossible). A flyover ramp is expensive — no cheaper than a Roanoke ramp or an Eastgate style turnaround. Meanwhile, the state plans on building an HOV ramp to the express lanes. That has to be more expensive than either of those ideas, and could easily be scrapped if we built one of the others.

        I think it is easy to assume that a 520 station wouldn’t work (because of the way the freeway is set up). It is also easy to assume that Sound Transit was being overly cautious in this area. They couldn’t afford a single mistake (or they would lose public trust and be left with a bunch of buses). But a flat spot (for a future rail station) would have been very easy and very cheap. I just don’t think anyone seriously considered it, which points to a great flaw: the inability to consider bus to rail interaction. Like Lazurus, they assume that trains are always faster and better than buses, when of course, they aren’t. They should complement each other. I would have more faith in their decision if I didn’t see similar flaws happening over and over again. Recently I was told that while a NE 130th station (next to I-5) is a possibility, it will depend on the neighborhood upgrading their zoning. This is crazy. This suggests that they just don’t get it. Hardly anyone will walk to that station — it is adjacent to roads, freeways and parks. But Lake City is the biggest community between the UW and the Canadian border, and growing very fast. More to the point, it is obvious that a bus grid without a station at NE 130th is much worse. Sound Transit has historically spent little time considering the effect of light rail on buses. Just look at the Capitol Hill restructure. The location of the one station has made that so difficult that no one likes any of the ideas. This is nuts. But this is what happens when you put down a light rail line with a handful of stations and then tell the bus agencies “deal with it”.

      6. @Lazurus — And bridge congestion hardly matters when you are on the train.

        I don’t think you understand my post. My point is that even if there is bridge congestion — bridge congestion far worse than we encounter now, let alone when the work is complete — it is still faster to take the bridge.

        There are multiple intercept points for buses needing a transfer point to East-Link. Bellevue TC is not the only choice.

        Of course, but how can any of them beat going over 520? Just do the math. Imagine the bus is at 405 and 520. Now imagine the bus goes west, over 520. The bus goes 30 MPH in the HOV lanes (much slower than usual). It takes twelve minutes (instead of the usual six) to get to Montlake. So, 12 minutes + 6 minutes = 18 minutes.

        I just don’t see any combination that beats that. From the Bellevue Transit Center to I. D. is expected to take over twenty minutes (which sounds about right). But that doesn’t include the time it takes for a bus to get to the station. You could go to a different station, but how does that help? East Main and South Bellevue don’t have great freeway access. Mercer Island has great freeway access, but it farther to there than it is to Montlake. Maybe the Wilburton station (which is closer to the freeway) but I still don’t think it is faster. To even make it competitive you would have to do a lot of work there (new HOV ramps and maybe an HOV lane on 8th). Even then it is slower than going via 520.

        Even if the bus was traveling twice as slow as normal on 520, it would still beat an east side train connection easily. But why stop there — let’s assume a 20 MPH speed on 520. That means 18 + 6 = 24. So, 24 minutes if the HOV lanes are crawling. Again, I don’t see how you beat that with any of the east side stops. None of the stops are optimized to work with the freeway the way that a Montlake 520 station could have been. Hell, there already is a bus stop, all they needed was a train stop to hook into it.

        Trains aren’t always faster. You can’t make up for basic geography. Using 520 is just shorter.

        Which doesn’t mean that both routes aren’t needed. They are. Downtown Bellevue is a major destination, so it makes sense to run a bus there (or somewhere else, if you prefer). Likewise, if you’re destination is the airport, then maybe you would prefer to transfer at I. D.. But for those headed to the UW (or anywhere north) the opposite is true. So not only would you want buses to travel on 520 because it is the fastest way to connect people downtown, but because lots of people want to take the train in the opposite direction.

        If Sound Transit ignored a Montlake 520 station because they were too terrified of a cost overrun to even make a flat spot, then I can maybe cut them some slack. But if they ignored it because they never considered bus integration, or thought that a subway line over I-90 would eliminate the need for buses on 520, then they deserve every insult thrown their way. My guess is it was mostly the latter — they were focused on one goal, and one goal only — just connect the most important pieces. They didn’t consider spending a miniscule amount of money on a flat section of track (with the actual station to be added later) because they didn’t think it was important. It is hard to have faith in an organization that feels that way.

      7. @RossB,

        One of my engineering professors once said that, “the skill of an engineer is inversely proportional to the amount of paper he uses.”

        Translation: Your post is too long for me to read and try to decipher. I’m moving on — Link will be Link and the buses will adapt like they always do. We will see what travel patterns develop in 2025, but until then I have no reason to second guess the experts.

  8. When I lived on NE 65th and went to school at Seattle U, transit to school was a sick joke. The 48 was a slow ramble that still put me 11 blocks east of the school (and a good bit downhill). Most every other bus involved at least one transfer.

    No trip took less than 45 minutes door to door, ever. So, I ended up driving most of the time. I might be able to slice 5 minutes off by bringing my bike and cutting through some of the ridiculous transfer penalty areas. With this, it would have been 7 minutes (bike) on the Burke to the station, 3 minutes to the hill, and 3 minutes to school.

    Life. Changing. Please don’t underestimate the impact this will have, even with the stations where they are.

    1. There are a lot of Metro emps and alums on this blog. In their eye STis the competing agency and can do no right, and LR is the competing tech that gets too much attention.

      But the train has pretty much left the station: U-Link will open and be a game changer in this corridor, Metro will re-structure their routes to better serve LR, and the buses will eventually leave the tunnel. And the people will want more.

      1. Oh please. Really — such nonsense. Let me try and break this down:

        >> There are a lot of Metro emps and alums on this blog. In their eye STis the competing agency and can do no right

        Really. I never worked for Metro, and my guess is d. p. never did either. There is no jealousy here, and to suggest that as a motivation for criticism is preposterous.

        >> and LR is the competing tech that gets too much attention.

        Seriously? Ask d. p., or anyone else that criticizes Sound Transit whether they like light rail. These are folks that love light rail. UW to Ballard light rail — Metro 8 light rail. Absolutely. Please, please, please. Build it now. The first is something that Sound Transit hasn’t emphasized, the second is something that they haven’t even considered.

        The worst argument anyone can make is to try and attach bullshit motives to those that disagree with you. If you find yourself sinking that low, maybe you should reassess your assumptions.

        >> U-Link will open and be a game changer in this corridor

        Absolutely. I said as much in my first post. This is huge for Seattle and we’ve never had anything like this. But for the east side of Seattle (the most densely populated region in Washington State)*, that game changer will only be for those folks close to the Capitol Hill station. As good as it is, it could be (should be) a lot better.

        >> Metro will re-structure their routes to better serve LR

        No, not really. Metro is screwed. The stations were not designed without bus connection in mind. Nor were they designed so that they could make a substantial number of bus routes obsolete (you would have to have way more stops). Only the express from the UW to downtown is going away (which was a given no matter how you ran the trains). You still need buses from downtown to First Hill — you still need buses to Group Health — you basically need buses everywhere, because for the east part of Seattle we only have one stop. One!

        Seattle, meanwhile, is working desperately to build a system of BRT lines to provide mobility for the area, but these will basically ignore the stations. Madison BRT makes a lot of sense (of course it does) but it won’t be next to a station, because Link never added a station on Madison! What do you bet that in the next few months someone will ask this exact question. Not someone here, of course, but someone on the street: “Hey, why didn’t they have a light rail station on Madison?”. Answer: “I don’t know — but yeah, that would have helped a lot”.

        * This is debatable of course. The biggest single census tract in Seattle is in Belltown. It connects to some other dense areas. But if you draw a big square, about a mile (or more) on each side, then the only competition is the U-District. But the east side of Seattle (Capitol Hill and the Central Area) has a broader range of high density areas. The train cuts right through it, of course, but there is only one station. That station doesn’t connect well with buses, but it is next to the college (and a fair number of people). No more than most of that region, but more than most of Seattle.

      2. “You still need buses from downtown to First Hill — you still need buses to Group Health — you basically need buses everywhere, because for the east part of Seattle we only have one stop.”

        It’s not as bad as that. As a general principle you’d modify the bus routes so they don’t overlap with the train. So part of a route stays the same, and the other part goes a different direction where there is no train. Or a route between two Link stations or passing through two Link stations but with a different routing in between. The 48 and 9 are examples of that, as is RapidRide B.

        The problem with east Seattle — and why the restructure is harder and there’s less consensus there than in other places — is that the land goes only a short distance before it hits the water, in two directions (north and east), and the third direction (south) has less ridership demand. That confounds many conventional strategies that work in less restricted areas (north Seattle, Chicago). If Kirkland were next to Madison Park, then several high-volume routes could just keep going to it and and on to Redmond. If the Ship Canal and 520 weren’t there, then a Broadway – Fremont route might make more sense, and the 60 could be it. But the canal and highway and hillside create a bottleneck from Broadway and SLU to the University Bridge, and that funnels cars onto two roads (10th Ave E and Eastlake) and increases congestion and delays, and all those barriers and funnels and hills may be partly why there’s less density in north Capitol Hill where the route would go through.

        That’s just a silly example off the top of my head, but the point is that even with a subway or a better subway or multiple lines, you’d still need the same number of local buses; they’d just go different directions or partly different directions.

    2. Seattle U is a pretty great example of a trip where your “last mile” promises never to be faster than walking.

      So no matter how fast Sound Transit runs its trains through that tunnel, you’re looking at 15-20 minutes on one end of your trip, plus whatever the access penalty is on the other end.

      i.e. Lots of transit trips that still wind up in the 45-60 minute range, much slower than driving.

      This is the direct result of planning error — not just the lack of a First Hill station, but an almost willful refusal to place the remaining station(s) where buses can be logically structured for better and more frequent connections*.

      Why is it so hard for STB and its various frothing boosters to understand that you don’t just lay random rails that don’t stop anywhere and expect it to magically fix everything?

      *(oh, yeah, and there’s a slower-than-walking streetcar to boot)

    3. This is why I think Pronto ridership will increase greatly. This isn’t what bike sharing is designed for. It is designed for short trips when you don’t want to mess with public transportation — not as a way to complement it. But in this case, it solves the last mile problem, or at least makes it a lot more tolerable. It is about a ten minute walk from the station to the school. Even if it takes a minute to dock and undock, you still save five minutes. Of course, Ryan is assuming that he rides his bike onto the train. That won’t scale. They only allow four per car right now, and I’m guessing pretty soon they won’t allow any during rush hour. A bike locker at the UW followed by Pronto could work, but of course, that doesn’t scale that well either. New York has the biggest bike share station in the U. S. and they have less than a hundred (

      But yeah, in the middle of the day, doing what Ryan suggested will be great. Unfortunately, not that many people can do it (twelve per trip if they run three car trains).

      Which doesn’t mean, even without all its flaws, that it won’t be popular. I used to bus and bike from Pinehurst to Fremont. First I would take the 73, then ride a bike. It really wasn’t that fast, but it was so much better for my sanity than waiting for that transfer or driving. In this case, the combination is competitive even if Ryan walks on the other end. Ride the bike, park, ride the train, walk. Yeah, maybe driving is a bit faster, but not that much. Its not the 45 minute bus hell trip that he used to endure. He gets a good walk out of the deal (and a good bike ride). Maybe this is a selling point. Think of the people who drive home and then go for a walk (or hit the gym). Worse case scenario, Ryan has already logged twenty minutes of walking and fifteen minutes of bike riding. Maybe that is what Sound Transit is all about — a big time fitness program. Get your exercise going up and down the stairs. Walk down the street and stretch those neck muscles to see if a bus is coming (and worth waving down).

      1. Bike share, from Boston to Paris, is often used as a last-mile commute connector for an otherwise further-to-reach train station — meaning, specifically, a commuter rail terminus on the periphery of the center city.

        This is known to have trouble scaling, and a good portion of the bike-share programs’ rebalancing efforts are devoted to clearing out these commuter rail-adjacent docks in the 5:00 hour and putting the bikes back elsewhere.

        So yes, this can become part of how bike-share operates and the purpose it serves. But it can neither be the crux of the bike-share model, nor a truly reliable choice for large numbers of unidirectional patrons. The resource simply can’t be scaled that way.

  9. I use an Orca card with the e-purse and I’m annoyed every time I refresh it online by the question of whether my next trip will work or not. I have to wait until I get on a bus to find out whether my balance has refreshed or not and the sit warns it can take up to 48 hours. This means I feel I have to carry cash which makes even having the air a card seem silly.

    I was considering driving out of my way this morning to visit a ticket vending machine so I can be sure I can use transit this evening without needing cash.

    Also I see people who don’t have sufficient funds on the cards on the bus. Why doesn’t the card just go to.a negative balance they can catch up on next time they ride? This would work well for me since my e-purse reload would then cover any charges I’d made while the system figured out how to process my payment.

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