Existing and Conceptual Rail Coverage of Downtown Seattle (1/4 mile buffer around station)

For the last few decades the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) has served us well. Originally designed to provide a fast and reliable one-seat ride into downtown Seattle for commuters, it has evolved as our region and transit system have grown. The DSTT has been a resounding success contributing to a drive alone rate of just 23% for commuters in the historic 12-block “JCMSUP” commercial core.

The problem is that Downtown Seattle is quickly growing into a multipolar downtown, making it harder to serve with transit. Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union have drive alone rates of 53% and 46% respectively, significantly higher than the commercial core. As I wrote several months ago there are several solutions to this problem including the “Pill Hill Solution”, extending the routing of express buses into downtown adjacent neighborhoods, or encouraging transfers. All of these solutions have a role to play.

But what about light rail? How might it fit into the future of mobility in the Center City? As the possibility of a second light rail tunnel through Downtown Seattle moves forward I’d like to challenge the “traditional” transit vision popularized by the monorail of a single line running from Ballard to West Seattle. Why? Because South Lake Union happened.

Combined, South Lake Union and other poorly-connected Center City neighborhoods including Denny Triangle and First Hill currently contain 78% as many jobs as the JCMSUP commercial core (74,000 to 95,00) but more importantly can contain 350% as much future job capacity as the commercial core (47,775 to 14,000).*

If you look at existing and future residential capacities the equation is even more favorable to South Lake Union, Denny Triangle and First Hill. South Lake Union has more residential capacity than Ballard, the West Seattle Junction and Northgate combined. Clearly, improving mobility to these neighborhoods is essential for their continued growth and improved access to light rail is key to that end.

So how can coverage of these three areas by light rail be improved? Geometrically it’s rather simple. Instead of running a single continuous line from West Seattle to Ballard (the “monorail solution“), two lines with a shared downtown tunnel and branching “tails” could be built. One of the two lines would run from West Seattle to Downtown, Denny Triangle and SLU while the other would run from Ballard to Belltown, Downtown and First Hill. Passengers could transfer between these lines and Link in the commercial core.

This simple geometric trick, which is being employed by Metro to extend the RapidRide C and D lines, would significantly improve light rail coverage of the Center City, especially in areas that current or proposed rail lines would miss. It would extend the reach of the Link for regional commuters making transfers faster and more reliable while also increasing downtown transit capacity. Eventually the tails could be extended to serve the Central District or the Aurora corridor.

Whether or not this solution is feasible or not is beyond my pay grade, but I hope that Sound Transit and the City of Seattle take a serious look at this idea when developing an ST3 package. At the very least, any second downtown tunnel should be design to accommodate future connections to these areas.

* See page 11 of the Seattle 2035 Development Capacity Report.

155 Replies to “Expanding Coverage of a Second Downtown Light Rail Tunnel”

  1. Please someone correct me if I’m wrong: but isn’t the biggest cost of these projects is the stations: from civil work, eminent domain etc. rather than the tunnel itself? Could we possibly add 13 or so stations in the downtown core without breaking the bank?

    Also a thought: as I understand it, we can tax developers/development for improvements only if it affects their local area, so perhaps we can get more station funding that way.

    1. There would be only 11 stations, I think Zack. The Ballard-First Hill and SLU-West Seattle lines would share the stations at Stewart and University with a junction just to the north of Stewart and one to the south of University. Now ST has not accepted the idea of level junctions, but it’s only had three opportunities to use one (between IDS and Stadium, the westbound access to the MF and the westbound egress from the MF. It chose a level crossing for the westbound ingress to the MF, so we can’t say it would never agree to one used by base-service trains, but they have indicated some level of skepticism.

      This plan would put two diverging crossings in the most heavily used portion of the new tunnel.

      1. The London Underground does level junctions at Paddington Station where the Metropolitan Line splits from the Circle & Hammersmith lines, and again at Tower Hill and Edgeware where the District Line diverges from the Circle. Train frequencies are as close at every 90 seconds during morning and evening rush. So it can be done.

      2. @Pete Lorimer: If they could, TFL would get rid of some of those flat junctions in a heartbeat. They are a significant crimp on capacity, and an even worse problem for reliability.

        During the Morning peak, there’s only 1 scheduled H&C, 1 Circle and 1 District line train every ten minutes in either direction between Paddington and Edgware Road. That’s a total of 36 movements an hour (187 in each direction). Westbound, the headways go 2-4-4, giving a 6-4 pattern to Bayswater and a 10 minute headway towards Hammersmith. Eastbound it’s 5 minute headways from Bayswater, and 10 minute headways from Hammersmith.

      3. Pete,

        I didn’t advocate against level crossings. All I said is that ST appears to be so skeptical of them that they built a pretty expensive “flying junction” to move trains from the MF to east/northbound service instead of relying on the cross-overs just to the west of the MF.

        They have three places in the system where there is route divergance and they chose to use a level crossing only once, east/northbound trains leaving service and entering the MF. And actually, it’s not really a level crossing, but rather a pair of facing point turnouts which allow a train running westward on the north track to cross-over to the south track and run against traffic for a few yards another facing point turnout that enters the yard. That track is also the means by which trains entering service toward the Rainier Valley do so.

        And if truth be told, I expect they did so very reluctantly and only because the tunnel portal is a block and a half east of the cross over and the flying junction from the MF to east/northbound is in the way of one to accommodate out-of-service trains.

        A train entering service to the west/north in the absence of the flying junction could wait on the access track for (an) in-service train(s) to pass without inconveniencing anyone. And remember, this is on a line which is physically limited to a train every 4.5 minutes per direction.

        So, as William pointed out, it’s pretty darn unlikely they’ll choose to have a level route divergence right in the middle of the most heavily used trackage in a new tunnel.

        d.p. can now attack me in a second wave.

      4. Not gonna attack you, but am gonna point out that ST “accepted” the idea of a baffling track geometry yielding a 2mph southern entrance into the current downtown tunnel, and “accepted” the unprecedented idea of backing their own tunnel up by forcing every driver to leave their cab and walk half the length of a train sitting with its doors open at a live platform.

        So the agency may not be the best arbiters of what does and doesn’t slow down and reduce the throughput/utility of a tunnel.

        My advice is that to remind the agency that anything it builds in the city in the future is exclusively about our needs, and is built exclusively with our money, and that it needs to shut the fuck about about its ahistorical understanding of what is and isn’t possible so as to give us the best value for our money.

        Who hands billions of dollars over to a contractor incapable of so much as using Google, anyway?

      5. Where do the operators get out of the cab and walk back half the train? I’m not doubting what you say, but I am flabbergasted and would love to know where this craziness occurs. Is it at Westlake where they’re preparing to reverse?

        In ST’s defense I think that the rotten alignment at IDS was sort of baked in by Metro.

        Thank you.

      6. I assume it’s Westlake where the driver sweeps the train to make sure there aren’t any passengers on it for, you know, safety reasons so they say.

      7. At Ruoholahti, the western terminal of the Helsinki Metro, there is an announcement that it’s the last stop. It has a slightly longer-than-normal dwell time, but there’s nobody to force you off, so if you stay on you just end up riding around to the other platform where the train waits for a few minutes. I don’t see what the issue with that is.

      8. It’s going into a stub tunnel where there’s no way out until the next scheduled run starts. Homeland Security has got the agencies all paranoid that a terrorist will shoot the driver and blow up the tunnel if they allow anybody into a non-public area (or don’t force every buses to stop for a “mandatory security stop” on entering or leaving the tunnel). Plus the person could have a heart attack, and anyway nobody is expecting somebody to be there so they aren’t looking for them.

        There have been unofficial suggestions that the security guards could sweep the train so the driver doesn’t have to get out of the driver’s compartment and walk all the way through the train and back while buses behind are waiting, but so far the agencies haven’t been interested in that.

      9. Nah, Mike. Why hire one extra platform security-theater robot, when instead you can waste thousands of service hours on hundreds of buses and trains every day for a decade and a half?

    2. Yes, the tunnel itself is “cheaper”. The subway stations can range from $100 to $200 million each depending on the location, size, construction method, depth, utilities, building foundations, and many more things.

      Building anything of this magnitude in Downtown Seattle, as is currently being done in SF, LA and NYC; will be very expensive and disruptive.

    3. One solution is to build stations in to the sub levels of new buildings in partnership with the developer.

  2. This certainly is interesting… although I would like us to also consider a slightly different proposal. Rather than build new tunnels to SLU and First Hill — what if we extended the existing Streetcar investments.

    Imagine — a West Seattle line that was in a tunnel under 2nd ave from Stadium to Westlake, daylights there, and then continues as a streetcar in exclusive ROW (but at-grade) and with TSP up Westlake.

    You do the inverse for Ballard — tunnel under 2nd ave from Belltown to Jackson St… daylights there, and then continues as a streetcar in exclusive ROW (but at-grade) up to First hill.

    This would require investment to kick cars out the lanes that the Streecar are in, and for TSP, and we’d also need to lengthen the streetcar platforms to support multi-car trains, but these investments would probably be way cheaper than 2 new tunnel spurs. It also would make the Streetcars semi-useful finally, because they’d be way faster and higher capacity. It also means we don’t need to build the completely duplicative central city connector because the Streetcars travel in the new tunnel instead.

    The primary disadvantages I see are there would probably be limits on the length of the streetcars (I doubt you could have 4-car platforms in the street?), but this only matters if you think that West Seattle or Ballard can support 4-car trains every 5 minutes of riders, something i doubt for the forseeable future). The other would be reduced reliablity for running at grade. But given that this would only happen at the END of the lines it probably could be somewhat mitigated (trains leaving the tunnel don’t worry about it, and for inbound trains have a time-point in the first tunnel station).

    1. Great! So then you’ve built a big, expensive, multi-branched tunnel, and First Hill still has terrible, indirect transit!

      Why didn’t I think of that?

    2. I don’t think anything other than grade separated will serve SLU well unfortunately. There are a lot of busy streets to cross (Mercer and Denny would be quite difficult to get priority on).

      The grade going straight up First Hill may also be a bit to steep.

      Downtown is exactly the kind of place where tunneling pays off in reducing congestion.

      1. The graft going up first hill would be too steep, they might even have to use sand on the rails.

    3. Streetcars are not the answer and should not be intermingled with the light rail system.

      1. “Streetcar” is just a shorter way of saying “street-running light rail”, and there’s nothing wrong with the idea of integrating our streetcar lines into the broader light rail network if we can use that as an excuse to improve the lines and introduce more grade separation.

      2. How about the fact that the lines don’t go anywhere and don’t help with anyone’s mobility?

      3. With better connections to a bigger rail network, it would be harder to claim that they “don’t go anywhere”.

      4. To a certain extent, you guys are arguing semantics. Along Rainier Valley, the light rail operates just like a streetcar. It is on the surface. There are plenty of areas where both you guys would agree that such an alignment makes a lot of sense.

        But downtown (including South Lake Union) is not one of those areas. There are just too many cross streets to expect the city to give a streetcar signal priority every five minutes (and there is no point in running it less than every five minutes). There are too many buses and cars making turns. Besides, how exactly will it connect to anything else? Do you want to run in a tunnel on the less congested, less densely populated area, then run on the surface through downtown? That makes no sense. Downtown is one area where a tunnel makes sense, even if it is connected to a “streetcar” outside of it. Sound Transit has done a lot of things wrong, but this basic design (surface on Rainier Valley and then tunnel through Beacon Hill and downtown) is absolutely correct. To do the opposite would be silly and backwards.

        There are a handful of areas downtown where signal priority, along with taking away left turns and thus grabbing the left lane makes a lot of sense. But for those areas, BRT makes sense, because it is cheaper, buses can go up hills and you don’t need the extra capacity of a train (not that our streetcars have that). It still isn’t as good as a tunnel (or an elevated line) but a lot better than nothing (and a lot better than our streetcar line). I think it is telling that the city has pretty much abandoned the idea of using streetcars for new high capacity lines, even though they made a huge investment in the one that is about ready to launch. I think the new folks know that streetcars aren’t appropriate for this city, but they don’t want to abandon or even criticize them (Rah, Rah, Transit!).

    4. I don’t think having lr go to sc would work beyond a “lines on map” level. There are a lot of implimentation problems.
      1 the portals. Two portals in dt is a lot of intrusive infrastructure
      2 the speed limit, limits the system
      3 the track gauge. The streetcar rail is different, and might need to be replaced.
      4 this surpluses our recently purchased streetcars
      5 traffic is terrible in those hoods. Some cars but will wind up in the way
      6 light rail trains may be longer than the blocks.
      7 I can’t think of other reasons…

      1. This response is mostly about the SLU line, since that is the line that goes through the area on the map shown.

        The streetcar rail and gauge is exactly the same as used for light rail trains. The streetcars have somewhat narrower car bodies. The overhead voltage is different on Link but not hugely so (1,500v on Link vs 750v like virtually all other newly built urban rail lines in the USA).

        In my own opinion, it was silly to order streetcars of a different width than light rail cars, since the only real difference between the two is that one shares traffic lanes with stationary traffic, and the other could if you wanted it to (but nobody in their right mind would want to).

        Order wider cars, jack hammer out the platform edges, and the thing becomes compatible with Link cars, except possibly one curve by the streetcar maintenance shop looks like it might be too tight. Even the lower overhead voltage probably isn’t an issue as the car systems work with voltage spikes and sags typical in overhead lines. A 750v car typically works on voltage down to 550v or so. I imagine link cars could work on voltages down to 750v.

        However, while the two may not be too different in terms of operating with each other, the bigger issue is getting the streetcar to the point it is useful. It needs to be in a separate lane as much as possible. Drivers may scream about it being given signal priority, but in the end making the streetcar function as well as international best practices dictate mean ultimately people get attracted away from their cars. You can’t do that at walking speed.

        Until the SLU line adopts industry best practices so that it moves faster, there’s no point in connecting it to anything. Really, there are new “streetcar” lines in a number of French cities. None of these new lines are built like the SLU line because you can’t achieve the goal of attracting people out of their cars by poking along at walking speed.

        Then, once it is built so the speed is decent, then maybe it is time to consider making it part of the rest of the network.

      2. A transit service that moves no faster than walking can still attract riders who want to travel farther than they are willing or able to walk, or who want to travel during hot or rainy weather. A slow transit service can also entice people out of their cars if it serves locations where parking is scarce or expensive, because the extra time spent riding may well be worth the reduced time or money which would have to be spent obtaining a parking space.

        I certainly don’t ride the bus to work because it’s faster than driving, or even substantially faster than walking. I ride the bus to work because crappy transit is all the transit we’ve got, and it’s (marginally) better than paying downtown parking rates or showing up a sweaty mess after climbing up Capitol Hill every morning would be.

  3. This is an “integrated network” with a “trunk-with-branches” network design. It’s been used successfully in many countries, and it’s the basis of German suburban train networks (S-Bahn), and even the Munich subway network. Several higher-speed suburban lines converge in the city center to form a high-frequency “Stammstrecke” (stem section).

    The problem with the proposal as shown above is that it doesn’t contain that many stops in downtown. There are only two stations (somewhere around Westlake and University), which also happen to be within walking distance. This makes the “high-frequency corridor” next to useless for inner-CBD travel.

    Unfortunately, that also removes the biggest benefit of having a stem-section, because you don’t end up with a high-frequency line that people can use to access multiple points in the city center. You end up with multiple lines joined at the hip with a frequency bottleneck (because each direction shares a single track).

    There’s another challenge to consider, and it’s that for each line, the branches have to be balanced in terms of ridership. Otherwise you end up with lower ridership on one branch and high ridership on the other branch (i.e. train is emptier on one end of the trip = inefficient = $). It would also be better to have similar ridership on all of the lines that share the “stem section” so they can operate at the same frequency. Otherwise, the two frequencies don’t complement each other and you’ll end up with inconsistent headways through the CBD.

    Not to mention, if you plan on extending these lines further out, our ultra-slow trains won’t stand a chance at recovering from delays incurred along long lines, which sends a ripple effect throughout all of the lines that share tracks in the CBD. I’ve beaten this dead horse more than a few times, but this is yet another example of why light rail as a regional mode is a really bad idea.

    Anyway, simple idea, but very difficult to execute with many factors to consider and very little room for errors.

    1. So what if we just make that two-station section have 4 tracks, or double stack it (two above, two-below with stairs in between platforms (and elevators)

      1. Then you end up with a very expensive tunnel which still only gives you just two access points in the CBD. One could argue that the existing DSTT serves the CBD well, but it’s going to show its limits soon, especially with other factors that limit frequency on Central and East Link. And don’t forget that SLU will essentially be an expansion of CBD, which the DSTT completely bypasses.

        A better solution would be to have the lines share tracks for more stations (5-8 stations), splitting farther down south (in the south end) and farther up north (in the north end, to serve SLU). Then you’ll have a worthwhile “stem section” with true high-frequency transit through the CBD.

      2. I think you lose coverage making that long of a shared section. I personally feel that doing a double level tunnel for two stops would be worth it. then we will never have capacity issues. Hopefully. Having ridden around on the L for 6 years, and seen all the congestion and capacity constraints they have due to shared lines, I’m in favor of avoiding that at all costs.

      3. Well it depends on what you mean by coverage. Yes you’ll get more geographic coverage if you split the lines earlier, but then you won’t have the benefit of a central stem with super high-frequency through the CBD, which would also draw in more riders.

        What you’re asking for is essentially an independent network (where all lines operate independently of each other) and two transfer stations in the CBD. That would be the best for reliability, but you’d be way over capacity when the trains go outside of the CBD (assuming you run the same length trains or same frequency for the entire line). The advantage of sharing tracks in the CBD (integrated network) is that capacity is high in the city center and lower outside, which is more efficient.

        On the other hand, independent lines work best when ridership is relatively uniform throughout the entire line, which means that most of the line should be contained within a dense area, not Burien where the train would be near empty.

        For independent lines, you’d also have to build additional tunnels (separate tunnels for each track are preferred for safety reasons, including fire protection, smoke containment, etc.), so the cost would go up quite a lot.

      4. The train fills up at Sea-Tac and Tukwila that we have now, I see no reason Burien won’t drive that kind of ridership also. There’s lots of people who would ride given the opportunity to.

      5. I think it would certainly be ideal to leverage the DSTT for an integrated stem through downtown, with branching at the north and south. Do you know of any examples in which a rail line as been modified in this way? And even if so wouldn’t this put the DSTT over capacity?

      6. @Alex, that’s because we’re running a 2-car train every 7.5 minutes. CBD may one day have the demand for 4-car trains every 3 minutes. I guarantee you that you will not see that kind of ridership from Burien, at least not without building massive parking and rides, and especially not in the middle of the day.

        @People Mover: Yep, it’s called Central Link and East Link, except East Link doesn’t actually branch off. Although it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to extend it into Lake City and Lake Forest Park one day if demand allows for it. That would basically be about it capacity-wise for the DSTT. ST has stated that it’s not really feasible to run trains more frequently than 3 minutes, probably partially due to running at-grade along MLK.

    2. Interesting points. I wonder how much o f b the proposal is influenced by topology and foundation work. Adjacent stations could be really hard to connect underground in the southern cbd due to the steep gradient and very deep foundations.

  4. From talking to ST staff recently, I get the impression that they very much view a 2nd downtown tunnel as something that would have capacity for multiple lines beyond Ballard to West Seattle. What those lines would be has been left undefined though.

    I suspect this is another one of those instances where they would say “wait till ST4”

    There shouldn’t be anything preventing us from trying to re-purpose other funding sources the city has to extend a line or two out of this new tunnel (SLU to Central District via First Hill?)

    1. Yeah, hopefully the geniuses at ST are able to muster up enough innovation to design a tunnel that is capable of branching into multiple lines…

  5. Frank, this is a great idea but I fear that First Hill station is right where ST found the unstable ground which axed the link belly to the south.

    Plus those stations would be deep!!!

    You show the tunnel under Second Avenue, presumably to allow a simpler connection to the south for the West Seattle end. But that means that the track level at the new University Street station would be at least two hundred feet deeper than the ground level at Boren and Madison, and there’s little horizontal distance to rise up between them, especially since the Second Avenue tunnel would be deeper than the Third Avenue one because of the street steps.

    And finally, there is the BNSF tunnel which runs through there with a track level about fifteen feet above MSL. This tunnel would have to clear it.

    The idea is a great one, but the tunneling will be tortuous, to say the least.

    1. The reasons for cutting First Hill station were junk-science and political expediency.

      A decade has passed. Let’s stop giving that error credence.

      1. Completely agree. It’s crazy to think First Hill is some kind of special snowflake incapable of supporting a station (nevermind high rise towers)… Especially compared to the unstable landfill that is most of downtown/sodo.

      2. What political expediency? ST would have been much better off politically if it had built First Hill Station, as your opposition proves. It’s not plausable to say ST didn’t want the station because it wanted it very much. ST reluctantly deleted the station because it was convinced that there was a too-great a chance of cost overruns putting a tunnel in that soil and with that angle from Westlake. As for pseudoscience, your armchair handwaving is not convincing. You have never mentioned your engineering credentials if any. Comparisons to other cities are irrelevant because First Hill is not Paris or San Francisco, it’s not even Beacon Hill, and a residential tower is not an underground tunnel. Having a cost overrun might prevent approval of future Link extensions or any transit capital project, and some people are still talking about how Link hasn’t met its 1996 budget expectations yet.

        The substitution of the streetcar is political, and I don’t think ST wanted it. But the public and politicians said it had to give First Hill something to make up for the loss of the station, and First Hill insisted on a streetcar and nothing less, and wouldn’t hear about a trolleybus. So ST was basically forced into adding the streetcar, and I doubt anybody on the board thought it was a great idea or would achieve anything near the Link ridership, and it obviously wouldn’t address mobility on First Hill as well as a Link station would.

      3. Fucking bullshit.

        Look up the political history of the decision (and the brief media war in which it played out). The decision was made over the vocal objections of at least one Seattle representative, who correctly insisted that this was a 100-year error.

        But it didn’t matter. The suburban majority threw the city under the bus, just as it always does.

        It’s the unmodified-by-human-sluicing portion of a perfectly standard glacial-till hill. It has major hospital buildings and even skyscrapers stably built upon it. The notion that a straightforwardly bored subway tunnel was going to cause great harm or balloon to 3x the cost is fucking ludicrous.

        Junk-science, political bullshitting, and a city full of credulous dipshits for the win.

      4. So what other reason did they give for deleting the station? A faster trip to Lynnwood? (As if people in Lynnwood don’t work at the hospitals.)

      5. Mike, it was a stipulation of the federal grant that the station be deleted due to their cost/benefit analysis. No one ever said it was impossible – just that it was ‘too expensive’.

      6. And even that is arguably revisionist history.

        There was no such specific stipulation, and ST never even allowed itself the chance to make a case for a better line in an FTA grant application.

        The agency just preemptively shot us all in the foot.

      7. (To be clearer: ST never applied to include it. The FTA never said anything on the matter, much less stipulated a deletion.)

      8. If “ST never applied to include it”, why was it on the map? Was the map they gave FTA different from the ones in the newpaper and public outreach documents?

        If true, that would be double-dealing of the worst degree. Surely someone inside the agency would have blown the whistle on such egregious abuse of the public weal, and the place would have burned down.

        Which is why I don’t believe that it’s true.

      9. First Hill Station was included in the ridership estimates. But the ridership wasn’t high enough to warrent the cost under Bush-era TIGER cost/benefit analysis formulas. I’ve heard under he new rules it likely could’ve been included.

        To be clear: no one ever said First Hill was incapable of supporting a station. It was always about money.

        ST at the time was in no position to negotiate. They almost folded as an agency and had to rely on the Feds for U-Link (which is why, despite what they say today, U-Link is neither on time nor under budget).

      10. Small correction: I meant Bush-era FTA grants. TIGER and ARRA probably would’ve funded a First Hill Station.

      11. Yes, but even under the Bush-era algorithm (which explicitly penalized existing transit users to attract new/suburban ones), there was a case to be made for First Hill, based on the order-of-magnitude time savings it would provide for each anticipated rider — including the newly attracted ones (mostly area employees).

        The point is that ST waived its responsibility to make such a case. At the behest of the board’s suburban majority, and over the objections of those who actually represented the Seattle taxpayers who would pay for the line.

        That isn’t political necessity or even political shrewdness. It is political cowardice.

      12. DP, you still haven’t said why ST deleted the station; you just vaguely cited politics and suburban majority. I can’t believe that even suburban boardmembers thought First Hill was “merely unimportant”, because it’s probably the third-highest destination their commuters go to (after downtown and UW).

      13. You seem to be clinging to the mistaken impression that suburban board members give half a shit about such things, or think them through.

      14. I strongly suspect that a “straight through” First Hill station would look better financially and have less trouble with the geology. The U-Link First Hill design required a lot of tight curves, which generally can’t be done with TBMs, and made for some tight limitiations on the possible alignments.

        I really do think the dropping of the First Hill station from U-Link was a legitimate construction-risk call… but if you’re gonna build a second subway line, it’s pretty obvious that going straight under First Hill (as opposed to looping in a nearly 120 degree curve under it, as U-Link proposed) can be done for a reasonable price.

  6. So you’re trying to solve last mile problems in SLU and First Hill with highly expensive light rail that will have at most 1 extra stop at a cost of billions versus doing something sain like doubling back on streetcars by just giving them better right aways and separate lanes.

    The First Hill streetcar was built because Light Rail was deemed too risky in the first place. SLU might be worth looking at but there’s already a streetcar that’s going to get better when Westlake gets exclusive lanes.

    We already are having a hard time getting ST to listen to a second downtown tunnel because of the costs. Adding branches that cost more than they are worth seems silly and redundant. Might as well tell everyone to rip out the streetcars because we wasted millions on them and now we’re going try something new based on zero studies because it sounds cool. Good luck getting people on board with that.

    1. The First Hill Streetcar solves no access problems at any speed.

      Why is that so hard to understand?

      1. What? You mean a streetcar that goes *around* the CBD doesn’t improve accessibility? /sarcasm

    2. “Might as well tell everyone to rip out the streetcars because we wasted millions on them”

      That’s not a bad idea.

      The problem with the streetcars is not just that they’re low-capacity streetcars with ineffective signal priority and too many stops. It’s the routes. They don’t go where the highest number of trips are, or where the most critical transit needs are, and they’re too short to replace bus routes. The SLUT is just a block away from the 40 and 70, which both go far beyond it and don’t have insurmountable capacity patterns. The FHS is too short to replace the 14 (to 28th) or the 7 (to Mt Baker) or the 9/49 (Mt Baker to U District). It has one unique new service: western Jackson street to lower Broadway. That has been neglected by Metro forever but it’s not sufficient enough demand to require a streetcar; a trolleybus could have nicely done it. The CCC creates some minor new services but again it doesn’t address the most critical transit corridors, and the straight segments are too short to replace any bus routes.

      1. The problem with the streetcars is not just that they’re low-capacity streetcars …

        Yeah but, that is kind of the crux, isn’t it. Even if everything else lined up just right, even if everything else made a streetcar the appropriate technology (meaning the route is level and ridiculously popular, so much so that you need the extra capacity of a streetcar) it still wouldn’t make sense. It is laughable really.

        Jane: “Hey Joe, why did you buy that huge truck”
        Joe: “I need to tow my boat”
        Jane: “But you don’t have a boat. You will never have a boat”
        Joe: “Yeah, but if I ever get a boat, then I will have a truck that can pull it”
        Jane: “Wait a second, that truck doesn’t have the towing capacity of my car.”
        Joe: “Oh. But … but … It is a truck!”

      2. I’m actually not sure the *routes* per se are bad (with the exception of the insane dogleg), but the *stops* are clearly in the wrong locations. :-P

    3. I think first hill was skipped because if political risks. It’s not like you can’t build up there. The till isn’t that far down

      1. Political risks means that there is significant project constructibility risks, and that you don’t have enough clout to survive any more setbacks

      2. Exactly. It is easy to second guess the decision, but a “Bertha” type delay would have killed light rail here. Maybe we would get light rail later (and it might be better) but it would have taken a while.

  7. Only thing I don’t like about it is that it seems like the 8 is a route that is very busy, very slow, and desperately needs some sort of improvement.

    I kind of like the Seattle Subway concept of making that a light rail tunnel (at least, the busy section of it from Seattle Center east and then south to connect to the MLK segment of the existing line.

    1. The “Metro 8” subway is emphatically NOT “Seattle Transit’s” idea. So far as I can tell, it was first obliquely proposed at the “tail” of option 25 in a Sound Transit list of possible HCT routes. It would have run from West Seattle/White Center across the industrial district to about Sixth South, then north to about Dearborn when it would have entered subway and bellied east through First Hill, southern Capital Hill and the west through SLU.

      I then wrote a post advocating that the “arc” portion of the line be built as a stand-alone “collector/distributor” by extending it down to the Judkins Park and Mt. Baker stations, in order to expand the area of “downtown” that has HCT access with a single-transfer “in direction”.

      Seattle Transit then grafted the arc onto their deep south end “Yellow Line” Duwamish Bypass proposal and moved it east to 23rd Avenue instead of turning south along a Broadway axis. Both of those routings have advantages and disadvantages, but the plangent thing is that “SS” did not come up with the “Metro 8”.

      They did come up with the excellent idea of building the WSTT for buses and waiting to see if rail is really needed in the westside corridor.

      1. Much as the “North Seattle Spur” is an idea so obvious that half a dozen proposals (identical down to the potential stop placements) were proffered by entirely independent actors, long before it became a talking point on blogs like this one or found mention as a “study possibility” in ST2, an “8” cross subway has crossed the mind of almost anyone who has seen buses fighting the worst traffic in the entire city, and the queues lining up for them regardless, just to slog a mile or two.

        The specifics of a Denny-to-C.D. routing are not quite as obvious, Sound Transit having missed so goddamned many places with U-Link, and so there has been lots of range to the ideas bandied about formally and informally. Sound Transit’s “corridor 25” appeared as a rather recent entry and, in keeping with most of what the agency does, it is the most nonsensical. (Even more nonsensical than Seattle Subway’s “yellow line”, which is pretty darned nonsensical.)

        In the end, I’m not sure anyone can take complete credit for the idea, though I hope there will be a point when someone can take credit for getting it truly and duly on the table, in place of one of ST’s waste-incarnate ideas.

      2. Is the “North Seattle Spur” to which you’re referring “Ballard-UW”?

        In all honesty I’ve never seen a cross-SLU subway proposed anywhere by any one before Option 25. The ideas for serving it have heretofore been “slices of the pie” radial routes headed to and from the CBD core rather than running longitudinally through it.

        Certainly, people have suggested a cross-SLU gondola and that’s similar, but where and when has there been a serious proposal for a subway east-west through the area? It only has been developed in the past decade so certainly not before. I can remember distinctly that the first time I got ganged up on here was in 2008 when I suggested that the close proximity of the Point Defiance Bypass puts cars in danger of being trapped in stalled traffic as a train approaches. I’ve been reading the Blog for most of the decade during which SLU has risen out of the nowhere it used to be. As much of a subway fan as I am, I would have noticed had anybody proposed such a subway.

        And of course nobody can take credit for the idea; as mentioned, the first glimmers of it I personally have seen was Option 25. I did forget to credit Ross with the name “Metro 8” which is great, though! Way to go, Ross!

      3. I certainly wasn’t the first one that came with the idea of a Metro 8 subway. I think I stole that term from someone here. I think both of you are right, it simply is a matter of timing. Parts of the Metro 8 subway made sense way back when, but until recently the core of that route was a vast nothing-land. It is really striking to think of the quick transformation of South Lake Union. I used to visit there often (and every time I drove — of course). There was a great outdoor store there — Outdoor and More — which was a surplus store. When REI moved to Cascade, it seemed like a really weird choice. Why move from the bustling Capitol Hill area to a boring ass, warehouse land? I guess so you could build your own building (zoning being what it was) and put up a climbing wall that can be seen from miles. Now, of course, even on Bhy Kracke Park I can’t find it. Newer, bigger, broader buildings have eclipsed REI.

        The Metro 8 subway idea was a stretch a few years ago. The C. D. (or Central Area) and lower Queen Anne have had plenty of people for a very long time. But South Lake Union was the desert that made such a line tough to sell. Now it is the opposite. Not that I didn’t predict that. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that flat land midway between the University of Washington and downtown Seattle, overlooking a lake, would be valuable. Paul Allen figured that out and for all his faults, he’s no fool.

        I agree with d. p. in that “The specifics of a Denny-to-C.D. routing are not quite as obvious”. I actually made several maps with several variations. Depending on my mood, I could be convinced that one is better than the other. Even the worst choice is better than crap being proposed. Federal Way light rail is just not in the same league as the worst “Metro 8″ proposal.

        This is another reason why I am so fond of UW to Ballard light rail (call it a spur, I don’t care). The stations line up in ridiculously obvious fashion. You don’t even have to modify the bus routes! Seriously, just go to Google Maps, click the ‘X” and then click the “transit”. See all those north-south lines? Put a station there! 15th, 8th, Phinney/Aurora, Meridian and you are good to go. Throw another station at 24th in a few years, while you are at it.

        The Metro 8 is a tougher thing. I look at this map and I like it, but I also look at this map and I see holes. Madison and Pine is one of the most densely populated areas in the state, and it would be in a hole. The Madison BRT would help (of course) but it is still a hole. Getting to the UW from there is no better. Getting to downtown is no better (you would stay on the BRT). Getting to Ballard and West Seattle is a little better (I guess). Getting to South Lake Union is maybe better, but that assumes that we can’t build a BRT on Boren. Again, I don’t mean to criticize, because I like this idea. I’m just saying that trying to fill in the holes that Sound Transit left after they spent billions of dollars of our money building a light rail line is very difficult. They left so many.

        In all likelihood, Seattle will have half-ass transit for the foreseeable future (even Paul Allen’s fortunes can’t turn that around). We only have so many chances, and we simply blew them. But I think with a UW to Ballard subway, along with a Metro 8 Subway, and a lot of heavy lifting by the city (building things like the Madison BRT) we will be in good shape. Some areas that deserve better transit will probably be left out, but overall it should work out (assuming Sound Transit doesn’t blow it, again). It’s not a bad city for walking, overall, and my guess is that people will do a lot of that in the future. Walk a mile, read a few pages from a book, get on the train and get to your stop. It takes a while, but hey, you should have seen it way back when.

      4. Thanks for the clarification. I admit before I even found this blog, sometime in 2009 I was grumbling about the need for some sort of tunnel bypass for the 8 as I experienced it for the first time myself. Then, thanks to my visits to a friend in Magnolia, I get to suffer through the western regions of the same mess on the 33 most any time I visit Seattle.

        At the time, I sort of pictured the thing being a western crescent, by taking over the waterfront trolley line (which still existed as a track then, mostly in dedicated private right of way along the waterfront) and starting the tunnel at the north end of that.

        You’d wind up with a C shaped route sort of, but unlike the Alaskan Way version of the 99 or the Waterfront Trolley, it would actually connect with stuff at its north end. There are a number of times I would have loved to be able to take the 99 in order to bypass the Denny Disaster from the 33, but the 33 and the 99 didn’t connect well at all at the north end, so using it as a bypass for all the slow running through downtown was negated by the lack of frequency and the walking distance between the two.

        Making the line an inverted L so it runs roughly Seattle Center to Rainier Valley makes a lot more sense for a lot more people.

      5. Those “obvious” ideas weren’t in ST’s earlier long-term plans, which means nobody (or at least an insufficient number of) people or politicians suggested them to ST. ST has been putting every little line somebody wants into the long-term plans, much to fiscal-conservative critics’ chagrin, so the idea that they’d refuse to put this line in is contradictory.

        It first surfaced in ST in the “Option 25” Anakandros mentioned. That was one of the candidates for the December 2014 LRP. That corridor was a seriously weird C shape: West Seattle – Jackson – 23rd – Denny – (possibly Interbay or Ballard). I asked ST where it came from and the rep said one person had suggested it an open house. (That could have been RossB? I don’t know.) The corridor got little support in the process and was dropped before the final. But it inspired this idea of a Queen Anne – Central District line that some people are now calling the “Metro 8 subway” although I don’t like the name. There may have been a few other people who thought about it before that, but they don’t seem to have surfaced in an ST hearing or comment period.

      6. I’m not fond of the 8 terminology either.

        Maybe call it the SCLURV? Seattle Center Lake Union Rainier Valley?

      7. “Is the “North Seattle Spur” to which you’re referring “Ballard-UW”?”

        “The spur” is a downtown-UDistrict-Ballard line. It would involve either adding a line alongside Central Link and East Link, or diverting East Link trains to Ballard instead of Lynnwood. A plain Ballard-UDistrict line would be a shuttle. There has also been talk about a non-revenue junction that would allow the shuttles to leave shuttle-land for maintenance or nightly storage; that would be something in between.

        Many of us — including those who don’t support the spur or don’t want to push ST on it — are aghast that ST didn’t design a junction and transfer stub into the station. It’s one of those “obvious” things that people can’t fathom how a transit agency would miss. I have sounded the alarm to ST several times saying this needs to be designed before station construction begins, but the only answer I got at an open house (and this was a couple years ago) was that they can’t design a transfer stub because the Ballard-UDistrict line isn’t voter-approved yet and they don’t know whether it will be built or even whether it would use that alignment (he mentioned a Pacific Street routing to 520 as an alternative). Ayayay! This is why we need a long-term “system plan” (to use ST’s terminology): something that says what the future phases will be and how the transfers will work, so that we can design them into the stations from the beginning.

      8. That corridor was a seriously weird C shape: West Seattle – Jackson – 23rd – Denny – (possibly Interbay or Ballard). I asked ST where it came from and the rep said one person had suggested it an open house. (That could have been RossB? I don’t know.)

        Wasn’t me man. :) I’ve come up with some whacky ideas, but that route (and I remember it) was just silly. But you are right, it got them thinking about the idea of a route that was not so obvious then, but is rather obvious now. I have been meaning to write up a “Page 2” for the idea, but as of now, I only have a map (https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zq-vQCJbvN5w.kvjui0NlQ-Jw&usp=sharing). It is an interactive map; you must select one of the alternatives (and deselect the other two) to get an idea of what this would look like (more or less). It appears like it would connect to the main line, which is of course inaccurate. It would connect to something like the WSTT (which would still have a station at Westlake) and is thus close enough, in this case. I should probably copy the WSTT to make it more realistic.

      9. OK, I updated that map, so it should be a bit more accurate. It is hard to read, though. That being said, if you ignore the details south of Belltown (where the WSTT and the existing tunnel run) then it is just fine. I think the basic idea is straightforward (Mount Baker to Judkins Park to the C. D. to CHS to South Lake Union and then Belltown).

        You could keep going (to lower Queen Anne) but I think that would cost more. If not, then it would make sense to join in Queen Anne. I would still want the train to curve around towards downtown, though, just to provide a faster trip to South Lake Union (from the southwest) and provide a faster trip to Belltown (from the east).

      10. I have sounded the alarm to ST several times saying this needs to be designed before station construction begins, but the only answer I got at an open house (and this was a couple years ago) was that they can’t design a transfer stub because the Ballard-UDistrict line isn’t voter-approved yet and they don’t know whether it will be built or even whether it would use that alignment

        In the early 1990s, I attempted to convince TriMet that the horrific sharp curve at Sunset Transit Center wasn’t desirable and should be eliminated. Their response was that sometime in the future, they will have to build a line that goes west on highway 26 due to the horrific sprawl problem out that way. Thus, they have to design the track and transit center to be easily adaptable for such an eventuality.

        In the end, they even wound up installing a bridge for eventual bus lanes or something along those lines

        I find it difficult to believe that just one fairly small concession to a future line would be impossible to build. I’ll bet if there was a public meeting about installing such a thing there would be no objections. Nobody will see it and for now it will impact absolutely nobody.

      11. Glenn,

        I think it’s probably too late to add a junction north of Brooklyn now. The first southbound TBM has already been transported through the Roosevelt station box and is chewing away somewhere under 12th NE headed toward Brooklyn. It would need to be halted immediately in order to compute the vertical change necessary to accommodate a junction. It would have to sit still while engineering to decide which tunnel would be humped upward and which sagged downward to accommodate the diversion in the northbound track.

        Since everyone at ST is all ga-ga about being so far ahead of schedule on North Link I expect anyone at “Headquarters” who was bold enough to suggest such a delay and study would be shown the door. And they all know it.

      12. Continuing,

        The obvious thing was to have made Brooklyn a “stacked” station which would have solved two problems. Obviously it would have made a divergence just to the north easy-peasy. But it also would have made the station footprint considerably narrower, at the obvious cost to riders in one direction or the other of an additional escalator ride. Since the bulk of the ridership departing — and therefore more time-sensitive — will be headed south, it should have been the northbound track which was deeper.

        But that didn’t happen either.

        A lost opportunity.

      13. Depends on how much they want it.

        The TBMs only do so much. Things like the crossovers between tunnel lines to allow for emergency crossover have to be done using much more labor intensive methods due to it not being a straight shot.

        Any idea what’s under there?

        If it’s typical Cascades volcanic bassalt or the like, you could probably create the necessary junction cavity by drilling a few holes and setting off the right explosive charges. That stuff is so hard and so well fused by the volcanic process that made it, the freight railroads don’t even use concrete tunnel liners on most of the tunnels blasted through that stuff.

        But, if that is what is down there, they could probably wait until a line is proposed anyway. It won’t be the first time someone has had to add a branch tunnel.

  8. new DSTT needs to be built with enough capacity to provide service on the following:

    core downtown line tunnel would serve

    Belltown (near junction to/from SEA CTR East and West stops)
    Pike/Pine Stop w/underground xfer under Pine St connecting to the mezzanine of the current DSTT
    stop near Coleman Dock near junction to east (First Hill et al) branch
    stop near Occidental Park / 1st Ave
    stop for stadiums under 1st ave
    stop near Starbucks HQ

    then the following routing possibilities could then exist

    1. points north – Ballard – Uptown/Seattle Center West – Belltown – Downtown – First Hill – Cherry Hill – Central District – Madison Valley – Madison Park / Arboretum
    2. points north – Ballard – Uptown/Seattle Center West – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – Georgetown – SouthPark -> SeaTac
    3. points north – Ballard – Uptown/Seattle Center West – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – Georgetown – SouthPark – White Center – Fauntleroy
    4. points north – Ballard – Uptown/Seattle Center West – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – West Seattle

    5. points north – Fremont – Westlake/Dexter – SLU – Space Needle/Seattle Center East – Belltown – Downtown – First Hill – Cherry Hill – Central District – Madison Valley – Madison Park/Arboretum
    6. points north – Fremont – Westlake/Dexter – SLU – Space Needle/Seattle Center East – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – Georgetown – SouthPark -> SeaTac
    7. points north – Fremont – Westlake/Dexter – SLU – Space Needle/Seattle Center East – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – Georgetown – SouthPark – White Center – Fauntleroy
    8. points north – Fremont – Westlake/Dexter – SLU – Space Needle/Seattle Center East – Belltown – Downtown – SODO – West Seattle

  9. This seems like overkill. SLU really isn’t very far from Westlake (only 800m at the southern edge), and speeding up the existing streetcar with signal priority, exclusive running lanes, etc., etc., should be perfectly adequate. The distance is really too short for some (most?) people to even bother with a transfer. I routinely walk from Westlake to SLU and it takes 6 minutes or so at a decent clip, perhaps 8 minutes if I’m with slower folks.

    Ditto for First Hill. It’s so close to downtown that tons of people are happy to walk. Hundreds of people actually walk to First Hill from Colman every day, and that’s a half dozen blocks farther away than Univ St station.

    I’m all for serving SLU and First Hill with rail as soon as possible, but both should be part of a longer, more useful urban line with better connections.

    1. While SLU may not seem great now, what matters are the extensions from it. After looking at this, I could see how this can replace option D in the Ballard LRT study. From SLU, Link could cross over to LQA, then to Upper QA, then to Fremont, and up through Phinney to Greenwood or up 99 and over to Greenlake or even into the Seattle Spur.

      A corridor which this could serve that is neglected is LQA to SLU. The 8 runs along Denny to get there, but it’s usually faster just to walk. LRT would be great for connecting these two areas because of how split up they are by 99.

      And of course I’m partial to a Queen Anne Hill stop for connecting downtown more quickly. But beyond that, an extension of the SLU line would help with connecting upper Queen Anne to the north. Right now it takes way too long to get to Fremont or Ballard from the top of the hill without waiting for a long connection or just giving up and walking. An SLU extension or Ballard option D would help tremendously with that.

      1. An alternative to the 2nd DSTT that accomplishes the objective of this post:

        Ballard ->

        Lower Queen Anne ->

        SLU ->

        Cross Central Link at new Convention Place Station ->

        First Hill ->

        Yesler Terrace/Little Saigon ->

        SODO ->

        West Seattle.

        This single West Seattle-Ballard line would have transfer connections to Central Link in two locations and directly serve First Hill and SLU. The downside is that Belltown would remain subway-less. The Convention Place transfer station could prove quite costly, however.

      2. That sounds interesting, but it seems like the cost per mile would be astronomical (although it would also be crazy in my option). Maybe I’m just averse to squiggly lines of tunnels, but that just doesn’t seem right. I feel like the crossover from the old tunnel would be the hardest, and in the meantime wouldn’t allow for bus –> mixed –> LRT like the WSTT proposes.

        Also, it seems like the line you’re proposing would sacrifice travel time at the expense of ridership and monetary cost. While it’s a novel idea, it just seems odd to me.

      3. Chad,

        What you listed in Option 25 almost exactly, although 25 would have crossed North Link at Capitol Hill instead of Convention Place.

  10. At some point you should just ban private autos from downtown and use only taxi and bus service.

    That would effectively move people along within the city but with no infrastructure costs.

    A drawback of tunnels is they cannot interface directly with surface transit or transportation the way a true light rail, trolley-bus system would.

  11. As much as I would prefer a 2nd Ave alignment, the BNSF tunnel is most likely why the 2nd transit tunnel is preferred at 4th Ave. I do wonder if there is a way to locate the next set of tubes closer to the current DSTT given the only thing the current one needs for the mezzanines are wider escalators. There is currently ample pedestrian circulation room at Pioneer Square and University Street during rush hour (at least from my observation) Not sure about ID but if those could be utilized, I would hope that may reduce certain costs for providing another giant station underneath 4th Ave. As much as I like the branch splitting, I would be concerned about future frequency cut offs from SLU and First Hill. That would limit each line to 3 minute frequency and if you added an express line (Aurora corridor and Georgetown south) that would limit those branches to 4.5 minutes and less.
    That is one of the drawbacks of not having through running. The other question becomes how many from SLU are heading down south to West Seattle? Would it perhaps make more sense to connect SLU to a new Aurora-Airport express line?

  12. Is it even remotely feasible to consider constructing another set of tracks & platforms under the current DSTT? Perhaps create something akin to the Market Street subway in SF, which is double decked with BART running directly below Muni?

    Can it be done while maintaining service above? Or perhaps attempting to create a new subway under the current DSTT while maintaining service above would end up costing even more than creating a new subway under 4th.

    1. It could be done; the escalators for the lower tracks could be placed between the upper level tracks, as BART’s pierce the Muni platforms on Market Street. But to transfer from a line in the lower tunnel with center platforms to one in the upper tunnel with side platforms would require that at least two stations — probably Westlake and IDS — would have to have both center and side platforms so that escalators could be placed directly between the over-and-under platforms of the two tunnels.

      The biggest problem would be the undercrossing of the BNSF tunnel around Yesler. The existing DSTT roadway/track height is already under MSL so a tunnel below it would be quite far under water level. I expect that digging it would be a rather Bertha-esque feat, though of course the tubes would be much smaller standard issue ones.

      But perhaps it would make sense to have the southernmost shared station be Pioneer Square and have the lower level tracks diverge to a “due south” heading just south of PS to pass under the cab stand at King Street Station and then veer veer eastward to a First South alignment. The would eliminate the need to underrun the BNSF tunnel for that line and keep it out of Bertha’s business.

      1. If one did that, the southernmost station with both a shared center platform and small ones on each side for people tranferring between lines at different levels would be Pioneer Square.

  13. “South Lake Union has more residential capacity than Ballard, the West Seattle Junction and Northgate combined.”

    Can we get a citation here? This seems completely, totally, utterly wrong.

    1. Well, not if Ballard, West Seattle and Northgate all turn into SLU’s themselves, but there are a LOT of large buildings under construction north of Olive Way. They very well may eventually hold more people than live in the three other neighborhoods.

      Consider Manhattan Island. It is 23 square [land] miles, barely 3/4 the size of San Francisco which everyone agrees is very dense. The population of Manhattan Island was estimated at 1.636 million people, twice Seattle’s population.

      Calm down, I’m not advocating that SLU become another Manhattan, just saying that what people complain about as “too much density” here is lightweight when compared to places like New York, London, Tokyo and the like.

      1. ‘Dakos, I’m descended from Manhattanites. I’ve been visiting Manhattan my whole life. I know Manhattan. Manhattan is a friend of mine. ‘Dakos, South Lake Union is no Manhattan.

        Seriously, though, residential density is not countable in “large buildings”. And large buildings built on large lots across just a couple of dozen blocks, and shared with other volume-devouring uses, as seen in South Lake Union, do not add up to much.

        Comparisons even to San Francisco’s similarly from-scratch (but larger and denser-constructed) SoMa would even be pushing it here. Comparisons to Manhattan are ridiculous.

      2. Dammit, d.p., I know SLU isn’t Manhattan. That’s obvious. But it might “have more residential capacity than Ballard, the West Seattle Junction and Northgate combined” (which was the statement which was challenged) if the City allows it to continue growing and the new Council “protects” other areas. I just used Manhattan as an example of how very many people can fit in a few square miles when it’s allowed and worth it economically.

        That said, your comparison to SoMA (especially the greenfield area south of Caltrain) is definitely better. Both the “goals” of the respective cities and the method used to achieve them are similar: newly constructed places for techies to live and work.

      1. Any document that finds only 5,000 residents in central Ballard (or only 10,000 “capacity”) is demonstrating little except the ridiculous arbitrariness of the “urban village” boundaries.

        Even then, I can’t figure out why that number is so low. The 98107 zip code, whose northern boundary is co-terminus with the “urban village” and whose eastern and western boundaries are only a few blocks wider, is listed as housing more than 21,000 people five years ago!

      2. Okay, it wasn’t clear from your post that you were quoting the (as-yet nonexistent) additional capacity column. Nevertheless, it is clear based on the other columns that they are using a very slim definition for the boundaries of “Ballard”, compared to the area delineated as SLU.

        But the paucity of these totals, if anything, reminds us why permitting increased density across contiguous Seattle is so important. These lauded nodes, even a hypothetically-maximally-built SLU (that will never feel or function as a place where residential uses have primacy), don’t really add up to all that much.

      3. Good luck on allowing increased density across Seattle, or expanding the Ballard urban village boundaries.

        The Seattle Times is already railing against the possibility that maybe at some point in the future the city might consider allowing townhouses in some of what are now single family zones, decrying it as “the end of single family zoning”.

        The city council is packed with wealthy landowners who have nothing to gain and everything to lose by increasing housing supply in Seattle. Single family upzones, if they happen at all, will happen decades down the road and in extremely small amounts.

        SLU is where the zoning allows for growth, therefore it is where growth will happen. That’s all there is to it.

      4. Lackthereof is mostly right. SLU isn’t the only place that will have lots of residents, but it’s one of three or four. The unbuilt strip between Second and Seventh Avenues south of Denny will be filled in, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Northgate shoot up if the city allows it.

        If some sort of HCT makes it to Frelard, that’s where “Ballard” growth will be pushed. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hill above Delridge fill up with large buildings, especially if a White Center/Burien line eventually comes to pass. There are potential good views over West Seattle from there.

      5. I wouldn’t bet on this. Ballard’s low-rise-zoned areas extend far past the apparent “village boundary”. And those areas are growing, because they’re more pleasant and still largely more walkable than the in-between lots amidst the warehouses and power substations of Frelard.

        Life isn’t all about HCT, and it certainly isn’t all about “zoned capacity” for skyscrapers or greenfield “TOD”s.

        People will gravitate toward the places that they actually wish to be, and expand to transformable places immediately adjacent, no matter where you’ve tried to force them. A lot of the transit-first easel planners around here need to force that through their skills.

      6. d.p.,

        I think you’ll find the newly elected Council very willing to hear demands for down-zoning from places which have recently (e.g. last 10 years) up-zoned but haven’t yet been built out. That would include quite a bit of the area between Market and 65th west of 15th NW. Don’t be surprised to see the LR area cut back to NW 59th or so.

        You point about people preferring “pure” residential areas is well made; that’s why zoning was originally so popular. But the truth is that the grease-stained low-rise warehouses in Frelard are not the highest and best use of that land. They will be forced down to Duwamish.

      7. SLU is booming… I would hardly call any transit investment in it as “transit-first”.

    2. Yeah, I let that statement slide, but it all depends on how you define an area. My grandpa used to live in Blue Ridge. If someone asked him where he lived, he would say “Ballard”. Makes sense to me. What high school would have he gone to? Ballard.

      Speaking of which, from what I can tell, the borders of the CRA for “Ballard” (https://buildthecity.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/seattle_cra_map.pdf) don’t include the high school. This is ridiculous. Some guy lives across the street from BHS and you tell him that he doesn’t live in Ballard — he lives in Whittier Heights. Them’s fighting words. Dude might eat lutefisk for breakfast and ask if you want to see the business end of this viking horns. Best to change the subject, in my opinion.

      South Lake Union is huge. Lots of new big buildings. But Ballard is big, too. Let’s just leave at that and try to figure out something that works for everyone and not try too hard to figure out where the borders are (because they are rather arbitrary).

      1. Those caclautions are based on urban villages and centers, I don’t think that’s an arbitrary boundary at all. Either way, did you know this fact? I think your surprise is exactly why it’s important thank Frank included this information.

  14. I love the proposal! I would advocate for the “green” line going from Westlake directly to First hIll, skip the University street connection

  15. Having lost the battle to use the existing tunnel to its original design capacity, I’m starting a new campaign to lobby for a 3rd tunnel under Seattle in ST6. It’s not too soon to lay the groundwork.

  16. I like it. Quite a lot. It would of course face the political challenges of being Seattle-centric and of providing relatively few miles of track per dollar, but it would provide a pile of high demand stations per dollar, which is a much more useful metric.

    Two things I would change, though: – first, the west Seattle line diverges from the existing line too soon. It doesn’t end up far enough away to provide much useful new coverage, but it makes transfers to East Link a pain in the ass. Keep them parallel and a block apart in the CBD, with paired stations at either end for transfers for people coming into or going out of the CBD – within it, there’s no need to transfer between the two, that way.

    Second, I still prefer a #8 line, providing an east-west connection north of downtown, and a north-south line to connect first hill. That way, we would be setting up more of a gridded rather than a hub and spoke system. Hub and spoke works when activity is concentrated in a single downtown area, gridded is best for a wider variety of destination pairs. Given that we’d like to build this system to accommodate for an expanded downtown area, gridded is the way to go.

  17. My problem with this idea (which in general seems excellent) is that the orange line south of downtown is not very good. The two stations shown are in an industrial area with low ridership potential, then you have a bunch of space before you get to anything in West Seattle–which for the foreseeable future is not a good place for light rail. If light rail is in West Seattle anyway (possibly because of ST3 including it and somehow passing), then I guess it works fine, but I still see most of the demand being for the SLU stops. There actually seems like more potential extending northward from there to serve 99 (or Queen Anne) or Eastlake corridors.

    But the green line is great, and suggests one or two more CD stations in the future. I do tend to think only Westlake needs to be on that line, as some have mentioned, which would improve the geometry.

  18. Very good idea, Frank. If we build a new light rail tunnel, then we certainly should make sure that it can handle other lines. Your routes show how important this is. But let’s not forget, if we build light rail to West Seattle, then it probably won’t include much else.

    It still think the WSTT (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WSTT-Initial-Service-Pattern.jpg) is a better initial value. Of course you make it capable of handling light rail. But if we have extra money, then the money should be spent moving the Madison stop up the street, to Boren. That is one of your stops. Denny and Aurora is not nearly as good as the two stops you have listed (roughly surrounding that spot) but pretty close. Once Bertha finishes up, the street grid will be connected, and John and Thomas go right across (with one as a transit only streets, perhaps). This makes the Aurora/Denny stop not that bad. Not as stupendous as what you suggest, but not too shabby, either, at way less money that it would take to add one stop on West Seattle (that does most West Seattle riders no favor either).

    When money arrives for a Metro 8 subway, it would then make sense for it to run a bit wider. The Madison BRT will be running there, so I don’t see a huge need for a quick trip to downtown via another tunnel. But something that connects 23rd (Yesler and Cherry) along with Pike/Madison, CHS, South Lake Union makes a lot of sense. From there it could curve around (to Belltown and then south, sharing the line). To me that provides a lot better connectivity. Getting from the Central Area/greater Capitol Hill to the UW (or anywhere north) becomes a lot easier (three less stops because you don’t go downtown). It might take a little bit longer to get downtown, but there are alternatives (Madison BRT, or a quick transfer at CHS). Meanwhile, Central Area/Capitol Hill to South Lake Union is a super fast, one seat ride.

    But as mentioned earlier, there is no obvious way to connect the core of the city (south of the ship canal) — and Sound Transit did us no favors by not adding a single (net) station. They added CHS, but took away Convention Center. I think this is a good trade, but most subways would have several stops in there. The bus tunnel was built with stops every half mile or so, but Sound Transit seems to think one every mile and a half is sufficient. So because of the lack of stations, it will be very difficult to come up with a great line (or set of lines) that can complement what is about to open. Unless we build a lot more than what you have proposed, someone will be left with the short end of the stick (while areas like Federal Way get a nice, empty ride to the airport).

    So, yes, absolutely — if we do build a light rail line through downtown, then we definitely need to be able to build lots of extra lines in the future — we need them.

  19. Even if there is an ST3, the North King County subarea funds will be limited. We cannot afford subways everywhere. We need new ones most where transit is slow and unreliable and in heavy demand; that is in the CBD, First Hill, and maybe SLU. A major issue with a tunnel will be its portals; they take valuable land. Please be leery of branching lines. Why is LRT the mode of choice? It is very costly; can we afford much length; do we need its capacity? can it climb the hills of West Seattle and Ballard? So, how about an electric trolleybus tunnel or another joint bus-rail tunnel? The West Seattle ETB BRT could have exclusivity on the West Seattle Freeway that is owned by Seattle; it could have ramps connecting with the SODO busway; it could have C and Delridge lines. after Northgate Link, what corridor has demand exceeding the capacity of articulated ETB on tight headway? Speed and reliability can be provided either bus or rail with exclusive ROW. Seattle is one third as dense as SF. Earlier decisions have gone away from driverless modes such as SkyTrain and monorail. The d.p. discussions of the Ballard and U District line have been sound.

    1. It’s been discussed over and over again if you search the archives. I don’t want to completely rehash the arguments, but here’s a bullet-point list of reasons:

      * Political will to get reserved ROW for buses/BRT is virtually non-existent
      * The cost of building proper, fully separated ROW for a BRT system is similar to the cost of LRT ROW
      * Existing examples of BRT do not live up to the “rail on rubber” promises
      * Cost-cutting compromises tend to be much more harmful in BRT design than LRT design
      * BRT runs into capacity issues much more quickly than LRT due to physical constraints of road-going vehicles
      * Transit riders have a long standing, repeatedly shown mode-bias towards rail, possibly because…
      * LRT is more comfortable for riders than BRT due to physical constraints of road-going vehicles

      And the credibility issue:
      * BRT supporters only ever appear when rail is proposed, never when BRT is the only sensible option (see: the dearth of advocates for Madison BRT)

  20. I’m glad that Frank is presenting an iteration of possible utility on a second tunnel. We need lots more!

    There are some great concepts within this:

    1. The proposal presents that we can de-couple West Seattle and Ballard. For decades, Seattle proposals have always linked them together but I suspect few people want to go between these neighborhoods. I will say that ST usually de-couples them in segment planning, but there is still a strong legacy by many to always pair them and I can’t figure out why except for convenience.

    2. A comprehensive rail network in all directions would let us free up the number of buses going through Downtown, and that would save service hours. I’m not sure if the implications of this in service concepts are fully understood. Riders would leave Metro routes in Downtown Seattle if this existed, and Metro would have to restructure its system.

    There are a few points that I would quibble about:

    1. Why just stop at 14th and Cherry? Either go the next logical short distance to 23rd or turn the route southward to tie into East Link (either setting up a possible second Eastside rail line or a link down to Mt. Baker Station). Forcing all the transfers Downtown loads the system, and makes people go out of direction in all cases if they want to use rail.

    2. Wasn’t there some discussion about the Battery Street tunnel providing this SLU connection? I realize that this station is sited a bit better, but Battery Street would appear to save lots of money.

    3. The maximum ridership segment forecasted for Link is between Capitol Hill and Westlake. This doesn’t help that at all! If the intent for a second Downtown tunnel is because of capacity issues, a different configuration will be needed.

    1. The issue of decoupling is future frequency limitations. If West Seattle or Ballard needs 90 second frequency on an automated line, you will not be able to do that without coupling the line together and they will always be limited to 3 minute frequencies using the same tunnel.

      1. How will Ballard or West Seattle ever need 90 second headways, even with buses, much less trains?

        It seems that the consensus on the blog two months ago was that the WSTT as a bus facility was sufficient for at least a couple of decades. If “real” light rail tracks are laid during construction conversion to rail operation would be a much less fraught decision than it was for the DSTT.

        But now people are forecasting 90 second headways on a west side line? That’s some serious overkill.

  21. I like the concept. A couple of quibbles (don’t know if others brought them up.)

    1. I think the Battery street routing makes more sense and would be significantly cheaper on the north split. The walkshed of Denny/Battery-ish plus an SLU stop is not so different, walkshed wise and doesn’t overlap as much with the future to-be-maybe-better SLUT.

    2. My understanding from ST documents is that your 2nd ave southern routing is impossible. Soil plus utilities conspired to force the tunnel to cross over to 4th at about Union. Reading between the lines somewhat – I think this is the heir apparent routing for that section.

    3. Its not clear that a tunnel up Madison is possible. You are correct that those stops would be amazing. Standing on 4th looking up its pretty intimidating. Full exclusive lane BRT will likely be the primary mode for that corridor… which should be fine as long as an additional line is built to cap hill/CD (like the Yellow line on the Seattle Subway map or something else like it.)

  22. Interesting idea. Although, since this would be a second tunnel, there must be some way to walk from one tunnel to the other without going to the surface. Otherwise, it’s a real pain in the butt to transfer from SeaTac-Rainer Valley Link to First Hill or SLU Link.

    Then there is also the question of whether we need first hill link at all when…
    1. First Hill streetcar will hopefully open within the next decade
    2. SDOT is hard at work on Madison BRT, which, if it’s real BRT, would obviate the need for a full-on light rail line.

    Then there is the question of whether it makes sense to build out these two mile-long offshoots of the second rail spine in the first place, given that they are their own thing and only serve one neighborhood each (unlike Cap Hill, which is on the way to UW), and both are really close to downtown. Seattle “light” rail is anything but light, with its buried tunnels, large stations, and long, heavy trains. I think for FH and SLU, it makes more sense to have frequent bus and/or streetcar service instead of redesigning the second tunnel with two ends that extend to meaningful and justifiably far destinations (Ballard and West Seattle) just to build two more light (“light”) rail offshoots a little more than a mile long each that just end. The mentality that money is no object is simply not realistic, especially given the fact that ST3, which this whole thing rides on, could be defeated by voters (but hopefully it won’t).

    1. Underground Link would be much faster than either the FHS or Madison BRT. However, this particular route isn’t ideal because it overlaps with Madison BRT to much and doesn’t address the Denny Way transit problem. So I’d prefer a line that went diagonally from Queen Anne to First Hill, or straight east from Queen Anne to Capitol Hill and then turn south. That would have to be separate from a Ballard-downtown line. And from Queen Anne you can’t serve all three of Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the CD with a single line so you’d have to choose two of them.

      1. Another alternative is first assume the WSTT, then run a spur rail line like so:

        From the Belltown station, curve around to South Lake Union. Then go east to CHS. Then head southeast, eventually connecting to Judkins Park and ending at Mount Baker. This last part is tricky. You could swing wide (a pretty natural curve) or swerve west to touch First Hill. Either way it works, and I don’t have a really strong preference. It is a bit messy, but here is a map:


        The map is interactive (select one of the variations to see what it would look like). The route would obviously not have all of those lines.

  23. If we can only afford a short rail line on the second downtown tunnel, we should strongly reconsider mode and explore using the tunnel to support a trolleybus rapid transit network. I think we will be sorely missing our bus tunnel after Northlink and rather than building a short rail line, create a tunnel that can be used by a dozen trolley bus lines combined with transit lanes and new trolley infrastructure across the city.

    We have one of the best trolley bus networks in the country already but it sorely lacks priority treatment and it doesn’t connect the whole city the way the streetcar network did 100 years ago. With a downtown tunnel and investments in signal priority and transit lanes, the second tunnel downtown could dramatically improve upon our already extensive and expensive trolley wire system in order to support multiple branches of zero emission rapid transit to the corners of the city.

    For the price of a short rail line we could create a multitude of lines by restructuring our trolley network into a Third avenue style tunnel that would provide the same transfer experience as another train tunnel. You could use the savings created by utilizing existing trolley infrastructure and not laying track to build a few new trolley lines and trolley wire upgrades. This budget could yield a system to support a citywide rapid network building off existing trolley routes such as Routes 7, 36 and 70 and adding in new lines.

    Seattle needs more than a short section of rail from ST3. We should build a downtown tunnel for a new trolley bus network that could connect:

    -Ballard to West Seattle
    -Rainier Valley to SLU, Fremont and Ballard
    -Lake City, U District, Eastlake, SLU, ID, Beacon Hill
    -Georgetown, SODO, Queen Anne

    1. Aren’t trolleybuses still limited to 30 mph? So it would be a slow way to get to Ballard or West Seattle.

      1. No. They can get up to at least 40mph.

        The 1940 Brill trolley coaches operated at 50+mph on the Aurora Bridge. It’s all about how you spec them out.

    2. The vast majority of the cost is tunneling and station construction. Busses wouldn’t change that. If we spend all that money tunneling and building, we might as well buy high capacity vehicles too.

      1. Not always. That is certainly the case with a tunnel, but then what? How does it get from the tunnel to the surrounding neighborhoods? If the whole thing is in a tunnel, then you are absolutely correct, but if the route will go above ground, using existing infrastructure, then bus improvements are much cheaper. In many cases (such as West Seattle) adding a busway from scratch would actually be cheaper than building a new light rail line, because of the grade involved (light rail can’t run as steeply as the existing freeway). Fortunately, in this case, we wouldn’t have to do that (we could simply leverage the existing freeway and add to it).

        It really depends on the situation. For example, with a bit of money spent, you could get from a tunnel (around Mercer and Elliot) all the way to the Ballard Bridge without any delay (you would have to add a station for Dravus, but that isn’t that expensive). But then there is the bridge itself. It doesn’t go up during rush hour, but goes up enough times outside of rush hour to be a big problem. Building a new bridge is very expensive, and at that point, you probably get into the category you suggest — once you spend that much, you might as well add rail.

        Personally I would build the WSTT, along with the UW to Ballard light rail line and make the necessary improvements to the West Seattle freeway and surface streets. That would be ideal if you are in West Seattle, but not quite as good along the Ballard to downtown corridor. But it would still be a huge improvement, and those in Ballard would have two very fast routes to downtown, and thus be connected to rest of the city really well, even if the second route sometimes gets bogged down with a bridge opening. Keep in mind, not everyone would take a bus along 15th (where a light rail line runs). There are plenty of people in old Ballard and 24th. For those people, a bus that goes on 24th, connects to the UW to Ballard subway and then continues south would be great. This eliminates the transfer (if headed south) and is thus an improvement over a light rail line (in that case).

    3. There is merit in the “West Side Transit Tunnel” as it’s most often called. Something to put RapidRide C, D, and E into now, and possibly the 5 and 40 and/or regional routes and then we can convert them to rail at our leisure. The biggest bottleneck is Weller Street to Mercer Street, and this would address that.

      The problem is ST has not been interested in it so far, and it wasn’t in the draft list of projects. (Although the “light rail tunnel” project could be stretched to it if ST were interested.) ST understandably has a horror about repeating the joint-operations experience, which every day leads to 5-10 minute or worse delays in the DSTT. It also precludes center platforms which are more efficient, because of the need for the center breakdown lane.

      Longer term there could be a problem with, how do you convert the lines to rail one by one without disturbing the interim bus service that’s still needed? That could possibly make it harder to convert the lines to rail in the future.

      1. That’s a really important point. Any time you’re boosting the benefits of infrastructure that can be converted later (in this case, 2 tunnels under downtown) the disruption in service to all those bus or rail passengers as it’s being converted gets harder to manage. It’s going to be a lot harder in 2030 or 2040 than it was in 2007ish to provide people an alternate means of accessing downtown if a second tunnel must be converted for rail service. Particularly if it’s RapidRide or better service that’s being kicked onto the surface.

      2. But that assumes that nothing is built before then. Let’s assume that we build the WSTT next, then, a few years later, we build Ballard to UW light rail. If we then kick the buses out of the WSTT, folks in Ballard will have to switch to using the train and go via the UW. Big deal. Now assume that we built a Metro 8 subway before we kicked the buses out. A Metro 8 subway route is by no means obvious, but for the sake of argument, lets say it goes from Judkins Park, to 23rd and Yesler, then 23rd and Cherry, then Madison and Pike, then the CHS, then the heart of South Lake Union (e. g. Terry and Harrison) and then curves around to join the tunnel around Belltown. Assume that this is built before Ballard to downtown rail. Now everyone headed to South Lake Union takes that train (instead of the bus). By then the street grid north of Denny is opened up, so a bus can go across Aurora on John or Thomas. This means that lower (and upper) Queen Anne riders take a bus east, then transfer in South Lake Union. Since this street connection doesn’t exist right now, this could easily become transit only, making this connection a bit slow, but not horrendous (traffic lights would be the only issue). There would be a transition time (where buses don’t run while they work on the rails) but that could probably be kept to a minimum. Digging takes a very long time, but building overhead does not. Certainly laying rail does not. Worse case scenario the buses run on the regular road, and slog along (like most buses do in the city). This would provide service for the areas in between (Interbay and the areas that connect to it).

        As far as mixed operations go, there is no reason why they can’t operate quite well. Just because we don’t do it well, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. To be fair to everyone involved, it was never designed to hold both at the same time. This could be and should be the case with this new tunnel. The buses should all be at the same level as a future train. Off board payment is mandatory (at least in the tunnel). Just the latter makes a huge difference. For all of its faults, buses ran really smoothly in the tunnel when we had the ride free zone. One of the reasons why it is a mess right now is because everyone knows the situation is temporary. Neither Metro nor Sound Transit is willing to spend a lot of capital (political or otherwise) coming up with a solution (such as off board payment) because they figure people will just endure it for a little while. This would not be the case if we built light rail to Ballard (unless we also agreed to build light rail to West Seattle at the same time, which is unlikely).

      3. Ross, in that case why not build Ballard to Downtown first and then build Ballard to UW (which requires a transfer to the spine and has no stations in Uptown, SLU, or Belltown) second?

      4. A tunnel designed for rail use from day 1 should not require a long shutdown like the DSTT did in order to add a rail line.
        Furthermore I’m not sure a center breakdown lane would be 100% necessary. There may be a way to provide the same function but still have center platforms.

      5. Center platforms might be more efficient but if crowds are going both directions all day, then they can become limiting in circulation and you could have issues like Embarcadero BART station which in all reality needs outside platforms with exit center platforms (ala Barcelona)

    4. Oh, and of course, Link would have fewer stops than RapidRide so both would be needed, and how would you accommodate that? One answer might be that you don’t need RapidRide downtown, and the routes could be converted to into some kind of neighborhood loops that meet Link somewhere. But that would require radically changing the RapidRide routes which are suppoedly “guaranteed long-term”, and cost money for new RapidRide stations and ORCA readers and fiber-optic cables.

      1. “of course, Link would have fewer stops than RapidRide”

        I don’t follow you. If Link and RapidRide cover the same area, then I would assume they would have the same number of stops. It is like the downtown bus tunnel. The number of stops don’t change just because light rail is run. If that was designed from the very beginning to handle trains then it would have the exact same number of stops (one would hope).

      2. It is like the downtown bus tunnel. The number of stops don’t change just because light rail is run.

        Well, actually…

        Ever tried to take Link to the rather-useful Convention Center stop?


  24. Agree with the concept, but would move a new tunnel to 1st Ave for better access to the waterfront. (Or, dare I say, put transit through the new waterfront tunnel?!)

    1. A 1st ave tunnel would be much more difficult to connect to the existing 3rd ave tunnel for mezzanine transfers. The point of having a 2nd tunnel downtown is to allow ease of transfers.

      Also, no transit is going in the Bertha tunnel. Its very deep, has no exits in downtown and doesn’t follow the grid, so you would have to tear down a lot of expensive, tall buildings to put any stations in. Not to mention the drill supposedly building it is still broken.

      1. The other issue is the soil under 1st Ave and trying to get around Bertha and the BNSF tunnels.

      2. Dan,

        The BNSF tunnel is easiest to cross on First Avenue, because that tunnel crosses First about Union, fully one hundred and fifty feet below street level. That’s plenty of vertical separation for a tunnel. As one moves east, the diagonal BNSF tunnel crosses each north-south street about three blocks farther south and — since the streets slope to the south while the railroad tunnel is dead flat — closer to the street level. Hence the [crazy] suggestion to have commuter trains stop at platforms adjacent to University Street [in the diesel smog].

        On Second the crossing is about Madison and Third is right at the north end of Pioneer Square. That may be the reason that station is not a block or so farther north and therefore more equidistant between IDS and University Street. The tracks don’t cross Fourth Avenue but instead curve to become parallel to it a few yards west of the roadway.

        Now the Viaduct Replacement tunnel is just the opposite. It’s shallowest as it passes under First Avenue and gets deeper as it heads northwest to pass under the BNSF and the big sewage collector around Madison. I doubt a First Avenue tunnel could cross the auto tunnel while remaining fully buried.

        Besides, First Avenue is too far from the axis of development which is balanced across what would be the alley between Third and Fourth Avenues.

    2. I’d rather see a Fifth Avenue tunnel with transfer connections at both ends of downtown. This gives the possibility of actually siting a station at Madison for connections to the Madison BRT as well as better serving the east side of downtown + the west edge of First Hill.

  25. A surface running MLK type treatment on Elliott/15th will be a fantastic improvement for Seattle. This effective, economical solution will make it affordable to build more stations than would be possible for tunnel or elevated without blowing the entire Seattle budget.

    1. Elliot to.. where exactly? Would there be a tunnel waiting for it downtown? Are you suggesting we connect this to the CCC on 1st (Assuming it gets built)? How would this even get to West Seattle?

      Maybe you are suggesting that we reproduce the route of the Rapid Ride D with a streetcar? How would this be an improvement over the current Rapid Ride D?

    2. We have that already, it’s called the 15 (used to be the 15X) expanded to all day service, which would be awesome. Add a stop underneath Dravus (maybe Garfield St?) and make the bus lanes 24 hours. The RR D can continue be the milk run that shadows it. Total cost ~$10 million/yr for primarily extra service (this number is probably off by a lot, but still way cheaper than surface rail) and a few million for creating a bus station under Dravus St with accessible access.

      MLK was a mistake. Let’s not repeat it.

    3. Surface running for any new rail is simply a non-starter. We need rapid transit. That starts with removing potential points of failure. Yes there are going to be things like signals, switches, and certain people unfortunately. However, as soon as you add at grade, all it takes is the one 3 hour shutdown during rush hour to ruin things.

      1. @d.p.

        I think we can all agree though that replacing the RR D or 15/15x with a streetcar (even with exclusive lanes) that basically runs the same route instead of a subway is a non-starter.

        Especially not for the downtown portion.

      2. @d.p. I totally agree with the comment you linked too. I think voter support for larger partially at-grade light rail system (outside of downtown) is much stronger than a smaller grade separate light rail system… and I think that’s the right technical solution too.

      3. I think we all agree that the potential Westlake/”40 on rails” option is also a non-starter; especially if there is no grade separation

  26. Tunnels shouldn’t go everywhere, build a large grid of tunnels, fan buses and shuttle vans from them. We seem to be leaving East Lake out of a SLU route, which could serve Wallingford, Fremont. Use West Lake to handle QA and Ballard. At somepoint a one way roundabout could help merge trains, and let some runs become express and others milkrun.


  27. One refinement I’d add to this is to make it an “over-under” tunnel with all platforms on the “uphill” side to ease transfer between this line and Central Link, at least north of Pioneer Square Station. That one would be so near sea level it would be better to have it side-by-side with a central platform. With stacked platforms you don’t need a mezzanine to accommodate direction reversals.

    With vertically stacked tunnels there are no issues with diverging. I think ST would like that.

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