Map by Oran. Station Names are his.

[CORRECTION: Michael James of SDOT wrote me to clarify that their request does include “a station in the vicinity of Mercer St. and 1st Avenue N.” Apparently the excerpt “… a station at State Route 99 and Harrison, serving Uptown and the Seattle Center,…” refers to two stations, not one. I regret taking the sentence at its most clearly understood meaning, rather than asking.]

If there’s any takeaway from Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link alignment decision, it’s that input from jurisdictions carry significant weight in those decisions. This is understandable both in theory (elected officials ought to be more representative than self-selected public comment) and in practice (local jurisdictions are important to both winning the vote and getting permits to execute the projects.) This can turn out good or bad, depending on the values of the electorate and their representatives.

Last week Sound Transit staff presented the sum of both public comment and local government input on ST3. There are dozens of government letters, but today we’ll start with Seattle, signed by SDOT director Scott Kubly. The letter touches on most of the themes in previous Seattle-area rail discussions, but also sets a clear priority. Here are the bullet points:

  • The main request is light rail from Ballard to West Seattle.
  • Through downtown there must be a tunnel under 4th, 5th, or 6th Avenues because a surface alignment would have serious traffic impacts and “inability to serve South Lake Union.”
  • As a lower priority, evaluation of Ballard/UW rail with “considerations to extend the line east in the future.”
  • “Full evaluation” of Graham St. and N. 130th St. stations. In the latter case, consider the new urban village option there and the impact of feeder buses on ridership.
  • Madison BRT

The meatiest part is the Ballard segment, which would have stations at:

  • 15th Ave & N 65th St.
  • 15th Ave & Market St.
  • 15th Ave & Dravus St.
  • 15th Ave & Newton St. (the Interbay Whole Foods)
  • “in close proximity” to the Elliott Trail Bridge (near Expedia)
  • [UPDATE: 1st Ave N & Mercer St.]
  • SR 99 & Harrison St.
  • Westlake Ave N & Denny Way
  • “A below grade station with pedestrian connections to the existing Westlake Station platforms”

The proposal suggests either surface or elevated options on 15th and Elliott, as well as a new Ballard Bridge with “no more than 4 general purpose lanes”, bike, and pedestrian lanes, potentially not high enough to avoid openings due to shipping.

The West Seattle segment is much more vague, with an endpoint at the Junction running elevated, at-grade, or tunneled. The letter specifically calls out “early implementation items’ that could improve bus service to West Seattle more quickly.


[UPDATE: See the correction post for analysis. Original text follows.]

The Ballard-downtown segment is the most specific, and so invites the most interesting critiques. It’s not worthwhile to get too wrapped up about the precise intersections in the letter, but let’s use them as a starting point.

Serving Lower Queen Anne is almost inevitable on the way to Interbay, but it’s hard for a reasonably direct line to serve both Belltown and South Lake Union. The 20 or so blocks at the western edge of Belltown are the biggest losers here, not within a half mile of any station. SLU gets two stations on its periphery; virtually all of it is within a half mile of a station, and quite a bit in 1/4 mile.

Lower Queen Anne is a curious case: 99 & Harrison is the Seattle Center stop, and the heart of LQA just west of Key Arena is in the walkshed, if not terribly close. For the rest, a lot depends on the “Expedia” stop. The more that drifts south, the better it serves the variety of uses in Lower Queen Anne, and the less it’s limited to the peak-oriented patterns at Expedia itself. Somewhere around Mercer and Elliott might balance things out nicely. But a stop on Elliott is wise because it’s above ground, much cheaper, and therefore gets an extra station for the core.

One interesting thing about the 99/Harrison and Expedia stops is that they seem calculated to minimize construction impacts, although the former is complicated by being very near the DBT portal. There won’t be a giant station box pit in the heart of LQA or SLU, although there will of course be disruption. It’s a 0.4 mile walk between 99/Harrison and Westlake/Denny. Moving 99/Harrison west towards the Seattle Center grounds would probably space things out somewhat better and may ease project construction.

364 Replies to “Seattle’s ST3 Input”

  1. There is astonishingly little support or enthusiasm here for anything at-grade train related and it would be almost certainly fought VERY bitterly and tooth and nail.

    It’s pretty much a given and an assumption based on geography and common sense that it needs elevation to get across the Duwamish River (you’d, per discussions with various people at various agencies) need to be ‘crazy’ to tunnel under the areas near the bridges or south of them. So elevation to get over, and then you should frankly plow into the side of the greenbelt under Pigeon Point, around here:

    Then hit stops approximately at:

    1. North end of Delridge Way SW (not sure where is best).

    2. 35th & Avalon Way SW (small underground hub of some sort)

    3. Alaska & California (underground platform)

    Either that or you’d need to really rework bus lines to feed into the rail system, complicated by the fact that we’ve got major, VERY populous bus lines that come up California and Delridge all day, and up 35th especially during commute cycles. Maybe replace North Delridge with something near the Chelan Cafe area, here:

    That West Seattle alignment will be a tough fight for the innards of it.

    1. Here’s a what-if of how something like this could pencil out over ST3, ST4, ST5, and so on. Sorry for the ridiculous URL.

      1. Various key West Seattle stops

      2. Burien

      3. Connect to Tukwila station which gives you the airport

      Between #2 and #3 you can continue to all points south — Tacoma, Federal Way, whatever.

      4. Continue to Southcenter Mall (it’s the largest single commercial space by square footage in this quadrant of the United States — we should service it; it WILL be utilized, and it’s on the way)

      5. Renton Landing

      6. Onward to Factoria?

      7. Onward to Bellevue? Loop that loop.

      1. OK, everyone put down their magic markers, maps, and close goggle earth pro.
        NO, NO, NO, we don’t need to run a 1/4 B a mile rail line to Renton, to replace a ST bus that got eliminated because few rode the damn thing (Remember the Nickels Express)
        Hell, RR-F is even overkill.

      2. Like i said, just a what-if. Unless bribery were involved I can’t see a line going east from Southcenter to the Landing area (unless Boeing expanded workforce there a LOT and begged maybe?). But I still think a Southcenter stop and the rest I laid out are probably more or less inevitable.

    2. Yeah, I can totally see why you’d tunnel a straight mile under the middle of the city without bothering to stop at all, but then blow your money on subway stations at 35th & Avalon and “other key West Seattle” gas stations and Taco Times.


      1. Your opinion as usual is loaded with the bile leaking from your colon. You should get that checked out.

        When’s the last time you came by there? you know that Avalon itself is super-dense — as dense as Market itself — and that basically everything in red here will be 7-10 stories tall under the new comp plan for 2035, right?

        No, let’s not build anything rail there.

      2. You know that “accepting” a plan for anti-pedestrian, garage-filled breadboxes, a mile from anywhere that remotely feels like a “place”, does not actually guarantee that what you have “accepted” will come to pass, right?

        No matter how thick the sharpie line you draw around it, so as to set this “density node” — ultimately still tiny compared to contiguous Ballard, Capital Hill, or even the slope of Queen Anne — starkly apart from the surrounding miles of no-upzone suburbs.

        I just love the Field Of Dreams model of urban planning.

      3. Whatevert, you’re trolling. This is also about White Center, Burien, points south, and political realities, which often do out of real-world requirements (like, you know, winning elections) trump technocratic garbage.

      4. Once again I have to point out that you guys miss the point. BRT would be better for the people in West Seattle. Not just cheaper, but better. Riders from all over West Seattle would be able to travel faster and more frequently from their neighborhood to downtown, without a laborious and infrequent transfer.

      5. Ross, that’s your opinion and you need to realize that many people disagree with you for a whole host of reasons. Off the top of my head:
        -BRT isn’t even on the table and so isn’t going to be built
        -Rail bias is real
        -Voters won’t trust ST to create real BRT and so won’t vote for it even if given the choice
        -Votes matter
        -West Seattle has basically been promised rail by Dow, Murray, SDOT, etc., and there’s really no turning back without assuring an ST3 defeat
        -Major ROW acquisition and constructability issues

        In a perfect technocratic vacuum, I’d choose your system over expensive rail to West Seattle, but the reality is much messier than you seem willing to admit. Instead of continually arguing for something that is never going to happen because it is literally not an option the relevant agencies are exploring, why not advocate for the most cost effective West Seattle rail option and continue working to optimize the line to Ballard?

      6. It’s not so much a mattet of Ross’s opinion, as it is a matter of geometry. That BRT isn’t on the table is a political determination due to a failure of advocacy*. Voters not trusting BRT is fungible, again with advocacy, and yes votes matter, but voters vote no on wasteful spending, especially in districts such as WS that have not voted kindly in transit votes past. If WS rail means short-changing other more productive projects that kneecap future network expansion, ST3 failure should be strongly endorsed, and campaigned for.

        It is not a binary decision between technocratic vacuum, and politically driven boondoggle. Some gradation of planning vision between the two is possible, has been sporadically touched upon here and elsewhere, and could easily be advocated for. That it is not is simply a profound lack of vision.

        *Not that there hasn’t been advocacy from WS, just that it has been from pols/foamers who don’t get how spread out the peninsula is, and the whole $Billions to the first stop+transfer problem.

      7. @Jason why not advocate for the most cost effective West Seattle rail option and continue working to optimize the line to Ballard?

        So you want me to argue for Delridge bases light rail, huh? I’ll admit it is tempting. That is by far the most cost effective West Seattle rail line. Since most of the folks who insist that we need light rail to West Seattle are on the other side of the hill and would get nothing out of light rail, it would be funny to see that implemented. But I’m not that spiteful. I would like to see a proposal that serves the greatest good for the greatest number (as bizarre as that seems).

        Votes matter Yeah, they sure do. Which is why I will continue to argue for the most cost effective set of projects for the city. Without that, people will look at the set of proposals and realize what a stupid waste of money ST3 would be, and vote against it. Seriously, as I said, Delridge is by far the best alignment for West Seattle, but my guess is that tons of people in West Seattle would vote against that if it was built. They would feel like they would get nothing out of the deal. But build real BRT, and people from all over West Seattle see a better commute — better than any realistic light rail plan.

      8. @Ross, quoting Jason: “Voters won’t trust ST to create real BRT and so won’t vote for it even if given the choice”

        After the VERY PUBLIC and visible fiascos that were the deployment of Rapid Ride C and the “curb bulb mess” at California & Fauntleroy for it — which both Metro & SDOT still to this day CONSTANTLY apologize for yet can’t/won’t fix — there will be little to no support for BRT. BRT also requires complete elimination of at least one vehicle lane permanently, and that goes at-grade, and that gets into elimination on some of our narrower arterials into completely losing 50% of street parking, for example on California.

        Delridge has the same problem. 35th and Roxbury are already getting road dieted (hurray!) and are part of the bike master plan. Where do you put all the dedicated permanent separated BRT lanes?

        No one in the county, city, or ST wants to get into that political swamp. No one.

      9. In regards to Delridge Light Rail, I can pretty much guarantee that ANY attempt for at-grade there will be fought REALLY tooth and nail and viciously by that local community. Like, full war level, from speaking to many people over time.

        Also, have any of you ever actually driven down the south end of Delridge? Or walked it, or biked it?

        1. No room for at-grade. Not happening.

        2. No room for elevated, unless we want to eliminate Delridge. Like literally.

        If you want Delridge it needs to be a subway and then you lose all points west of it.

      10. The most logical (not looking at cost) Delridge integration would be:

        Elevated across the river
        Elevated North Delridge/Chelan somehow
        Underground Junction/Triangle
        Underground South/southeast angle
        Underground Leave space/capacity for 35th/high point-ish
        Underground Westwood
        Underground Go east to south Delridge/White Center
        Underground/Elevated to Burien

      11. DP: “Oh, so California is ‘narrow’ now?”

        If you want private trolling lessons shoot me an e-mail. 1. You’re not very good at it. 2. At all. 3. Your troll cherry picking methodology leaves a lot to be desired and isn’t that effective; you need to try to reverse or inverse what I wrote to be taken out of context instead of just tossed out like a meatball. Agitation versus repetition. Try to work on that.

        I specifically called out narrow in the context of sacrificing parking which is not a political fight that ANYONE in government in this context wants to take on. Try harder on both trolling and comprehension.

        “Jesus, you people are suburbanite morons.”

        I love watching STB edit your weak insults into oblivion.

      12. “We won’t consider parking in the massive lots behind the single row of shops that we consider our superlatively important commercial hub, said you must build us a $4 billion bridge and subway.”

        – West Seattle, acting in no way suburban or entitled at all

        (The rest of your reply was diversionary nonsense, and was boring. You and your neighborhood are both dull as hell.)

      13. d.p., you’ve never once explained how you get around the political problems associated with your preferred options for West Seattle. Not once.

        And for the record, I was born in Tokyo, have lived and traveled all over the map, know cities well, and am decidedly not “suburban”. I just have a different viewpoint than you. And roughly 1/10 as much bile.

      14. DP: >>“We won’t consider parking in the massive lots behind the single row of shops that we consider our superlatively important commercial hub, said you must build us a $4 billion bridge and subway.”

        – West Seattle, acting in no way suburban or entitled at all<>(The rest of your reply was diversionary nonsense, and was boring. You and your neighborhood are both dull as hell.)<<

        West Seattle is dull? It sure seems to rustle your jimmies.

      15. And no, I never said “Junction” parking, you did.

        I said “California” because no one in the city, county, or Sound Transit is stupid enough to put elimination of parking on our main commercial arterial within a hundred thousand miles of ST3 or ST4. Unlike you they actually care about things like getting people to a 50%+1 vote on projects.

      16. Jason: “d.p., you’ve never once explained how you get around the political problems associated with your preferred options for West Seattle. Not once.”

        Because he doesn’t care about solutions in the real world or in political realities. It’s his way or the highway, which is why he’s so ineffectual in these discussions.

      17. Perhaps, Jason, by being adults, and saying: “Hey, what you desire would eat up 60-70% of all of Seattle’s transit funds in perpetuity, makes no sense with your geography, would force transfers in awful places — as you yourselves admit — and we simply don’t have the funds to waste to indulge your suburban whining. So let’s work together to plan something effective and non-delusional!”

        But it is rather telling how Joe presumes to speak for poorer Delridge, which actually has been unfairly passed over for transit improvements in the past, and which really was the least-worst value of potential SW rail corridors studied. As usual, the movers and shakers in the fancy homes up top don’t really care for equity and outcomes, as long as they get the iconic “prize” precisely where and how they’ve envisioned it (and on everyone else’s dime). Typical.

        Anyway, Jason, I am (obviously) not unaware that opinions can conflict. I am also not unaware that young people can travel the world and come back with vague rail envy and the false impression that rail alone made those global cities awesome.

        Maybe, when someone suggests multi-billion-dollar rail to the sparsest corner of an already low-density city, you should ask yourself, “would Toyko do that?” When someone suggests a rail line that requires 15-minute walks across empty World’s Fair grounds just to reach anywhere, you should ask, “would Tokyo do that?” A little introspection drawn from your own experience might soften your causation/correlation confusion biases.

      18. d.p., I’m not young, don’t have rail envy because I don’t really think Seattle is dense enough to need much rail, and you didn’t answer my question about solving the political problems associated with not giving West Seattle rail. Politics in Seattle and Washington in general, including constitutional issues related to property rights and taxation, are a horrible mess. We really don’t live in a technocratic dream world where optimal outcomes are anything beyond a remote possibility. I wish we did. And if we did, despite your near constant nastiness, I would absolutely look to someone like yourself for advice on how to design our transit system. I absolutely think you have good ideas and know what you’re talking about where transit systems are concerned. But you seem to have absolutely no grasp on how city, county, and state politics work.

      19. DP: “But it is rather telling how Joe presumes to speak for poorer Delridge, which actually has been unfairly passed over for transit improvements in the past, and which really was the least-worst value of potential SW rail corridors studied. As usual, the movers and shakers in the fancy homes up top don’t really care for equity and outcomes, as long as they get the iconic “prize” precisely where and how they’ve envisioned it (and on everyone else’s dime). Typical.”


        Also, nice work trying to somehow make out as slumming from atop some fictional hill, when you know nothing about life, origins, income, neighborhood I live in, or anything else. [ot]

        Anyway, show me where I’ve ever said we ought to pass over Delridge or deny them equity. I dare you. I specifically said Delridge people — who I know a lot of, you know, actually living not far from Delridge — are every time I talk to them completely opposed to at-grade on Delridge, and there’s no way practical way to do elevated, which leaves a subway, which if you route it ONLY under Delridge, you lose the rest of West Seattle forever in all practical terms.


    3. Wrong.

      There’s no enthusiasm for any LINK routes at grade.

      Whereas there seems to be no limit of support for streetcars…at grade!

      The why of it escapes me.

      And if this is the case, they we bought the wrong rolling stock with LINK if what people really wanted was either the Monorail (Elevated) or a subway.

      1. Streetcars fulfill a different purpose than Light Rail. You’re not comparing likes.

      2. What exactly is the “different purpose” of streetcars? Is it because they stop more frequently that they run at grade?

        Maybe the Seattle Subway guys are right. Put the whole LINK type network in tunnels.

        And then run surface streetcars in parallel as the “locals” to feed main stations spread far enough apart to have express service across our region.

        Have buses handle cross traffic to and from the streetcars and LINK.

      3. John, subways/rail/link etc: connect major/key/important/geographically strategic locations in grade separated (subway, isolated, elevated, whatever) as fast as possible. Ballard to Interbay to Queen Anne/Center to Belltown to Westlake. 3-4 minutes between stops.

        Street cars: dedicated lanes, either for a lot more frequent service to like every other block or a lot more frequent. Like super dedicated nonstop high volume buses.

  2. IMHO, the best way forward would be to serve Belltown and LQA with the light rail, and then leverage the SLUT into something actually useful. The Denny&Westlake stop is the only new one I really like, but it is already a SLUT stop, and we would have to give up Belltown and LQA to get it. Not a great trade in my opinion.

    1. Or, conversely, fully integrate the existing monorail (already grade separated, of course) with ORCA and add a Belltown station somewhere between Bell and Wall–if possible make the connection at Westlake easier than it is now (i.e. a bank of dedicated elevators not dependent on the mall and hence within the fare paid zone). Add another LQA station to Link (preferable) or move the 9th/Harrison station west a bit. This way at least you have grade separated transit to both Belltown and SLU, which I think will always be better than street running rail even with signal priority. It’s not a 50-year solution but one would think within 50 years we’d better have additional plans in place for that area (i.e. Denny/8 subway, etc.).

  3. I’m trying to set aside problems with the specific proposed alignment and figure out how I feel about valuing SLU over Belltown. Certainly as far as bringing people to jobs in SLU, this is the right call. And SLU has some residential too (probably not much compared to Belltown). I’m guessing SLU jobs are driving much of the traffic growth as well as putting tons of upward pricing pressure on housing within short distance. But this is a slap in the face to Belltown residents, and they also have jobs to get to.

    Other perspectives?

      1. Exactly. The SDOT reccommendations just hughlight that you cant have it both ways. And we need to lines to serve all of these critically important neighborhoods.

    1. My take is that there could be a deal to appease Amazon (or at least some kind of tacit agreement that Amazon/Bezos will use its full weight to support ST3).

      Don’t be surprised to see a Westneat column in support of this.

    2. I’m in the same boat: trying to figure out what I think about the SLU/Belltown trade off. I’ll take that as evidence- not my own feelings, but the lack of a strong consensus so far in this thread. It shows that it is at least not a bad trade off, and the realty is that we clearly need to serve both neighborhoods, but geometry doesn’t allow it with one line.

      Straightening the line to serve Belltown and improve service north of there makes sense, if paired with an overhaul to make the SLUT useful and eventually a #8 subway.

      But having a stop on 99 is great for the north end, and SLU traffic and growth is obviously mad; I certainly am not against a SLU alignment. Moreover, there are some big advantages to serving Belltown via surface, and eventually a #8 sub. The diagonal crossing of the grid on westlake dooms the SLUT to slowness even with dedicated lanes, just as a function of reasonable light timing schemes.

      On the other hand, if we built a branch off of the CCC that went through Belltown and terminated at the Expedia station, and planned it from the get-go with dedicated lanes, it could be a solid way to serve Belltown soon and affordably. It would also boost frequency on the downtown segment, which nobody will complain about. I could get excited about this.

      1. Do you not see an issue with tunneling under LQA but not putting a station there?

      2. Sure, I see an issue, but you’re not going to get 1/2 mile stop spacing all along a tunnel. If one interprets the requested locations as general areas, one can put an elevated station at one end of LQA and a tunneled one at the other end.

        If I had written this letter, I might have moved 99/Harrison all the way to QA/Harrison. I don’t think it’s perfect. But it’s a decent starting point for discussion that makes interesting tradeoffs. If LQA is willing to say “give us a station in spite of construction impacts” then this is a much worse concept.

        I don’t want to be dominated by consideration of construction problems, but this is not like 99 in South King where you’re “impacting” surface parking lots that will be gone anyway.

      3. Yeah, I’d love an LQA station, and think it’s the one thing this route needs to really make sense; I just didn’t address it here b/c I was trying to focus on the choice between Belltown and SLU, which is the crux of our geometric challenge.

      4. Again – I just think we’re going to add a serious penalty getting to and from the main part of LQA with Aurora/Harrison. You said half-mile spacing isn’t going to happen throughout the tunnel and I get that, but why put .4 mile spacing to bracket SLU and then give LQA basically nothing (the heart of LQA is not within a half-mile or even 3/4 mile walkshed of Aurora/Harrison). It makes no sense. I agree, moving the station to QA and Harrison would be fine. Since the city owns Seattle Center, would it be possible to put the station in the middle of the Center, towards Key Arena? That wouldn’t be perfect, but would be much better than Aurora.

      5. Is there any plan or capacity to offer Express and Local service along LINK routes?

        I’m thinking of the E and F lines in Queens.

        So you have a triad of Express Trains between major stops. WIth local trains making all stops. And then, parallel or intersecting bus routes as feeders to all stations.

      6. Yeah – under the Seattle Center would be better than Harrison/99, but I think swapping an interbay station for a LQA station is something we can push for and hopefully get, if we get LQA to get in a huff about not getting a station. Remember, this is Seattle – we will grind to a halt and do ridiculous things for a neighborhood that makes sufficient stink (see West Seattle rail, Roosevelt getting a station but not accepting density to go with).

        If we can get that to happen, we’re looking at a line that’s nowhere near as cost effective as Ballard – UW, but will still be incredibly useful, and, from Ballard to Downtown, perhaps the least crippled thing ST has built yet.

      7. Link does not have express tracks, and the Powers That Be do not think it would be worth the cost. If there’s ever anything expressful, it will be the Georgetown Bypass, which will still have at least a couple stations.

        As to whether express trains are needed, it revolves completely around travel time. What’s a reasonable travel time to Ballard and anywhere this line might conceivably go (Greenwood?), remembering that this may be only part of people’s trips. I’d say 10 minutes for Westlake-Market is excellent, 15 minutes OK, 20 minutes maybe tolerable, and 25 minutes bad. By comparison, the fastest grade-separated study is 11 minutes, the 15X is 21 minutes, and the D is 28 minutes (4pm). So if Link comes out at 25 minutes, send it back to the drawing board. If it comes out at 10-15 minutes, then it’s fine and we don’t need an express overlay.

        In other corridors, Westlake-UW, Westlake-Lynnwood, Westlake-Everett, Westlake-Bellevue, and Westlake-Redmond are as fast as their respective express buses (the midrange of the bus’s daily variations), so express overlays are not needed. Link is less competitive for Westlake-Federal Way and Westlake-Tacoma, and for the specific pairs UW-Bellevue and UW-Redmond, so those are the only cases where express runs might be useful, but they’ll inevitably be in the form of buses if they exist. Cutting down the Westlake-Tacoma and Westlake-Everett travel time to 30 minutes to match driving is not in the cards.

      8. >> You’re not going to get 1/2 mile stop spacing all along a tunnel

        Why not? Who skips Queen Anne and Mercer, arguably the best station along that entire route? That’s nuts. Have we learned nothing from our previous mistakes. Wait, let me guess, the soil is suspect.

        Seriously though — look at a transit map. Look at a census map. Now look at that map again. See anything missing? Yes, what is missing is the obvious — a station at Queen Anne and Mercer.

        Thank God Sound Transit and SDOT didn’t build the downtown bus tunnel. Otherwise, there would only be two or three stations.

      9. This alignment is more or less the 1968 Forward Thrust plan’s NW line although once again not quite as good; that plan had a stop at LQA and another basically in the Memorial Stadium/Gates Foundation region. (It should be remembered that the original location for the stadium that became the Kingdome was supposed to be where the Gates Foundation is today.) The Ballard station was somewhere closer to 17th or 20th as the line curved a bit west then back to 15th. The terminus was at 85th (no 65th or Expedia stations) and there was a station at Dravus. The NE line had another station in what now is SLU before heading up to Capitol Hill.

      10. How deep would a 99 station be? The track would appear to need to be below SR 99, which will already be below grade. The depth and associated cost and hassle may make it worth relocating the station a few blocks.

    3. This single line obsession is at the core of the problem.

      If the Interbay segment was looked at like it could have two lines, both SLU and Belltown could be served. One Ballard line would go through Belltown to Downtown, and one Ballard line would go through SLU to a Capitol Hill transfer station (Route 8 concept).

      The diagram already shows a split in Ballard anyway and this already implies two lines. Why not just go with it and show two lines as a full concept here?

  4. Why on God’s green earth would you put a station next to 99, and not, you know, half a mile to the west where the people actually live?!

    Oh right, because this is Seattle, and incompetence rules the day.

    1. The lack of LQA is a problem, but 99 is actually pretty logical, given the BRT potential. A bit more road paint, and this setup could provide very solid Fremont and parts north connection to downtown.

      1. Good point – direct access to 99, without actually having it break the street grid, makes for a MUCH better station location than it now seems. Plus, you know that area is going to boom when 99 isn’t an obstacle and SLU starts running out of parking lots to develop. (look at how development has moved into Denny Triangle already, b/c SLU is running out of developable space)

    2. The 99/Harrison stop seems to be all about future capacity along that stretch of Mercer.

      1. 99/harrison is for gates foundation.
        The stops, in order are…

        Those stops aren’t about serving neighborhoods at all. Its just going direct to job centers.

      2. Since when did the Gates Foundation need a station? I’ve never heard them ask for one or it coming up any other way.

    3. Or, maybe if Bertha gets stuck again and WSDOT pulls the plug, we can leverage the north portal pit as a subway station. It would certainly be big enough, and not having to dig one ourselves would save a bundle.

      Lacking that, I agree – move the station further west. This is another example of short-term construction impacts trumping long-term utility.

      1. [drum roll, please]
        “And the award for best Out of the Box Thinking, goes to ASDF2”
        Everyone saves face, and Berth becomes part of the Seattle Undergound Tour.

    4. As I said, I don’t think it’s worth getting too wrapped up in precise intersections. Scoot Expedia down about 1/4-1/2 mile from the foot bridge, edge 99/Harrison towards Seattle Center, and you have a really good alignment (with apologies to Belltown).

      1. People in Uptown are expected to walk past Kinnear Park and down the hill to an Elliott & Roy station?

      2. The West part of Uptown, sure. If the other station is around Memorial Stadium, that would be better for some people in Uptown.

      3. A LQA stop really needs to be at Queen Anne and Mercer or as close to there as practical.

      4. I’m in the Twilight Zone, right?

        That’s the only possible explanation for what I’m reading here.

      5. d.p.,

        I’m still processing this, like everyone else is, except the people who are ready to blow it all up over LQA, or are absolutely unwilling to consider anything but Ballard/UW.

        Let’s say this were built exactly as Oran has depicted it. Would the compromises here be worse than U-Link? Isn’t U-Link still an absolutely transformative investment?

        I share a lot of the critiques here. The LQA stop(s) are not where I’d want them to be ideally. However, I also don’t think this is absolutely unredeemable as a basis for discussion.

      6. We don’t even know what ST thinks of the suggestion. It will surely ask the city to explain why it wants these locations and how general they are. A future city council and SDOT staff may think differently. We can bring it up to the city both at election time and when ST releases its system plan alternatives. At the very minimum the city should explain why it likes Aurora & Harrison, what ridership goals it’s trying to achieve (we shouldn’t have to guess this), and why not add a station at Queen Anne Ave or 1st Ave N where most people expected it.

      7. Another question is how are Queen Anne buses supposed to transfer to Link? An Aurora station misses the 1,2,8,13,D,32 and the 3,4. (I’m assuming the 16 will move to Dexter or Aurora permanently.)

      8. Queen Anne buses will transfer to Link at Westlake like they currently do. For people going to or from downtown, the transfer penalty will eat up most (if not all) of the time savings to be gained from riding the last mile underground. People going from upper Queen Anne to West Seattle would be able to save some time transferring to Link farther north, but that’s probably about it.

      9. Is this “absolutely transformative”? I fail to see how.

        The 40 bus, running more frequently than ever, can get me to that very Westlake/Denny dot any time it is not derailed by Mercer or by its own preposterous schedule padding. This proposal is 10 minutes walk from Ballard — not b/t 15th and 17th, like many proposals both north-south and east-west, but all the way in the median of 15th. Then, on the way to downtown, it spends multiple miles in a tunnel to both everywhere and nowhere. We’d be lucky to see any door-to-door journeys decrease in time!

        I am on record, in the context of debating the relative value of Ballard-east versus Ballard-south, in lamenting that “Uptown” isn’t as impressive as it probably should be. The business district has a couple of “destinations” but is otherwise modest. The contiguousness is interrupted by 72 acres of round-the-clock dead space. The megablock “density” west of QA Ave is quite low-FAR and botched for pedestrians, while the genuine residential density (seemingly ignored in discourse) stretches up the slope of the hill above Roy, in the form of numerous turn-of-the-20th brick apartments followed by ugly post-war view-claiming behemoths.

        In fact, those who have spent little time in QA might be surprised to discover that the actual, extensive, mixed-form urbanity is found on top of the plateau, with a business district far busier than Alaska Junction (and with exponentially more people in walking distance).

        I digress. Uptown isn’t perfect, but damnit, it’s on the city grid! And being on the grid, it acts as a healthy collector and distributor and connection point for myriad daily activities and transit trips from its three contiguous directions. Thus the existing, well-used, extremely high-volume transit — high enough that Metro sees fit, controversially, to double the trip time for Ballard-downtown riders just to add capacity to the area.

        Never in a million years would I have expected to see people wanting to tunnel straight freaking through without stopping!

        The new SDOT proposal is egregious in many ways, but the failure to understand urban contiguousness is the most damning. Moreover, SDOT makes the very same mistake as the PSRC in its obsessive focus on “marquee” employment centers at the expense of understanding what makes urbanity function.

        An ultimately small number of white collar jobs move in by the railyard, replacing the prior industrial sector, and suddenly that’s where the high-capacity transit station belongs? Seriously!?

        Bill Gates builds his foundation headquarters by the 99 tunnel portal — 1500 feet from the proposed SLU station, mind you — and no that’s more important than the walkshed of two entire neighborhoods or intermodal connections to the adjacent one? Seriously!?

        This plan is near-literal distillation of every terrible premise that has ever afflicted this city’s approach to urbanity and transit, all in a single squiggly line. This is urban rotgut of the worst order.

      10. I agree that there seems to be overemphasis on single employers here, which is why I suggest moving that Expedia station as far southeast as possible, which would probably bring it close to the tunnel portal.

        Is there any downtown-Ballard alignment you would prefer over your trusty 40?

      11. [Early typo: the 40 bus does this in 20 minutes. Often less. Really.]

        [Trains are not teleporters — especially horrendously located trains.]

      12. Option D was excellent. Kinda pricey, though.

        Bruce’s early take on Option B + low-budget grid-following tunnel was also reasonably healthy. At least its Uptown stop (QA/Denny) was actually attached to the neighborhood.

        The WSTT idea smartly leveraged its investment by building the best possible tunnel that it could, and immediately cutting bus trips from Ballard, Aurora, Delridge, and West Seattle in half. The ability for RapidRide to serve its entire current course (including QA/Mercer), without the disastrous surface deviation, more than compensated for the demerits of 15th access.

        This SDOT thing is just the worst of all possible worlds!

      13. Fair enough! I don’t see this as irretrievably worse than Bruce’s B+, but I see where you’re coming from.

      14. At midnight on Friday or Saturday, stand at the corner of Queen Anne Ave. and Mercer St. and count the cars. Count the cabs. If you can identify them, count the Ubers. Count the pedestrians. This is a destination. An underground station to disperse these people via Link makes sense.

      15. What d.p. said. There is something wrong with the Seattle process… and whatever’s wrong with it started after Forward Thrust, which had perfectly good plans.

    5. Put it a mile to the west, and you cut off all the heavy, dense residential on Aurora/Dexter/8th north of Mercer (not to mention the growing office/commercial development south of mercer). Where it’s suggested, both residential centers can access the station with a moderate walk. Not being able to afford individual stations for both areas, this compromise location seems relatively logical.

      There’s also the relative ease & cheapness of siting a station near Memorial Stadium or in the old Broad St. ROW, compared to the cost of carving out a niche on the other side of the Seattle Center. That’s more important than you might realize – it’s going to be hard to squeeze a new downtown tunnel and rail to Ballard into the budget, especially if a West Seattle extension gets thrown into the mix.

      Currently, via transit, it takes roughly the same time to get downtown from the Ballard urban village as it does from Burien or Bellevue. Permanently fixing that problem (and soon!) is more important than supplementing bus service in any of the midpoint neighborhoods. We could easily blow the entire North King ST3 budget building an ideal subway from downtown to SLU/LQA, and not have any money left over to get across the ship canal.

      1. That residential you speak of could almost just as easily use Westlake/Denny. The dense tracts of LQA would have no decent station access. It’s already bad enough cutting off Belltown – it would be a dealbreaker not having a station West of Seattle Center.

      2. “Not being able to afford individual stations for both areas”

        We don’t know how many stations we can afford. SDOT can’t be basing it on that and presuming what ST’s calculations will be, because major things haven’t been decided, like North King’s total budget, which West Seattle alternative, whether money will be transferred between subareas, what kind of Ship Canal crossing, how much this line would cost compared to the previous Ballard studies, how much a station or two would cost, etc. SDOT would be way premature in presuming the number of stations based on these things, and if so it should have said so rather than giving an unexplained list of stations. As far as we can tell these are just SDOT’s “must-serve” areas, not a statement on the exact locations or maximum number of stations. The stations may have been more to illustrate the alignment rather than to give exact intersections.

      3. @Mike — Fair enough. Maybe they just forgot to put the little circle there. Seriously, though, if Mercer and Queen Anne Avenue is not a “must have”, then someone made a big mistake. I mean Newton (Whole Foods) is not a “must have”, but Queen Anne and Mercer? Skipping that would be really stupid.

    6. You build both, for heaven’s sake. Holy smoke. I wonder if we can get the folks that built the bus tunnel to come back here and show us how they did it:

      Convention Place to Westlake — 1,500 feet
      Westlake to University Street — 1,200 feet
      University Street to Pioneer Square — 2,000 feet
      Pioneer Square to I. D. — 1,800 feet
      I. D. to Stadium — 2,000 feet


      Aurora and Harrison to Queen and Mercer — 3,000 feet
      Queen and Mercer to Elliot and Mercer — 2,900 feet

      What part of that is so hard to figure out? If you are wondering if a stop at Queen and Mercer is “worth it” look at a census map. Then look a transit map. Then look at a road map. Then a topographic map. All the maps say the same thing — a stop there makes sense.

      1. +1 million

        If you’re already spending billions on a tunnel, the least you can do is put in enough stations so that the people living directly above the thing can actually use it! If we can’t afford the stations, we can’t afford the tunnel!

      2. Eric, you mean like the tunnel between Northgate and Westlake with only 4 intermediate stations? Hell there should have been like 4 stations south of the ship canal on that tunnel.

      3. I agree! There’s no excuse for having only one station between Westlake and UW. Metro’s proposed restructure around the Capitol Hill station has understandably disappointed a lot of people. It’s not a universal improvement for mobility. Put a few more stations where they meet the already gridded bus routes and you have a good subway.

      4. Yeah ULink is more a tunnel than a subway. We need subways not tunnels. I even wish the route between U District and Northgate also included a Green Lake station and maybe even a Ravenna station in addition to what we have, we should have gotten a lot more out of the expense of these tunnels by actually making it a subway with many stations.

    7. Can we just label Harrison/99 “Gates foundation” Station, and Denny/Westlake “Bezos Station”. And who is it that owns Expedia…

  5. Might the curious 99/Harrison stop be integrated into an actual BRT segment of the E-Line?

    1. The wording is just curious, otherwise, for a subway station. 99/Harrison? 99 is not a destination for anyone not in a motor vehicle.

      1. An integrated, intermodal transfer station at Harrison, accessible by peds on both sides of Aurora … that’s what I’m dreaming of now.

      2. I share your dreams. Dedicated transit lanes on the length of 99, with solid intermodal connections, would be just this side of transformative, and definitely this side of cheap (that being, cheap). There are basically no intersections until 85th, so you’re looking at the better part of grade-separated speed and reliability at a fraction the price of tunnel/elevated and much better connectivity than you get with a freeway alignment.

      3. (And achievable by piecemeal improvement of the E, which, while not as grand, can be pretty expedient because you don’t need to draw up a large budget and consensus all at once).

  6. I would move the SR99/Harrison St station to LQA but I’m loving the Denny St station. This is however a loss for Belltown.

  7. Close, and a good starting point for discussions.

    I’d say go straight up 4th starting at the transfer station at Westlake Station. Put the intermediate station somewhere around Bell/Battery and the Seattle Center/LQA station near Key Arena. Then connect to the line as shown.

    Going up 4th the whole way should be shorter and cheaper than the round-about routing shown in the diagram just due to the shorter distance (about 30% shorter), and these savings could them be applied to a tunnel under the Ship Canal instead of a Ballard Bridge replacement.

    And note that Ballard-UW does not appear to be any sort of priority for the city. Meaning it is dead, because if it isn’t a priority for the City of Seattle, then it sure isn’t going to be a priority for any of the other boardmembers.

      1. Or perhaps the unused Monorail tax authority could be used to build Ballard-UW

      2. “Or perhaps the unused Monorail tax authority could be used to build Ballard-UW”

        That’s crazy innovative thinking. We don’t do that around here in government.

      3. Fotunately the threshold to get an initiative using the tax authority on the ballot is low. SDOT and ST could be handed a fait acompli.

    1. Yep, I think we lobby for future-proofing the Ballard station, and that’s the new goalpost

    2. Doing anything that isn’t functionally retarded does not “appear to be any sort of priority for the city.”

      1. d.p.

        As someone who is generally in your corner on ideas, please don’t throw the “r” word around.

        Sadly, SDOT’s proposal is not a surprise– the hedge of studying the Spur is even more than I expected. The SDOT folks at the Ballard HS forum didn’t like the Ballard Spur (they were in favor of the super expensive Option D)– which is why I kept harping on STB open threads for months to get someone to come aboard to take questions on ST3.

      2. Used with the utmost sardonic detachment and zero ill-will toward the developmentally disabled, but agreed nonetheless.

        Somehow, merely calling this city’s aims “clueless and stupid” doesn’t seem to capture the degree of dysfunction.

      3. Did you read the letter? They did not suggest studying the ‘Spur’. They suggested an east-west line “assuming a tunnel configuration with pedestrian connections to the U District station and considerations to an extend the line to the east in the future.”

    3. Is it time to shine the Bat Signal for Seattle Subway and put the Ballard Spur using monorail authority? The Ballard downtown line might be at grade, and with a possible drawbridge.

      1. Seattle Subway? Are you kidding? They’re busy flogging a Georgetown bypass, rail to Everett, and “studying” a Kirkland crossing.

  8. Congratulations, SDOT (and eventually ST).

    I will actually give money to the campaign that fights against your next ballot measure.

    I never expected it would go that far.

    [throws up hands, exits disgusted]

  9. Serving Interbay at the expense of tunneling under and serving Queen Anne seems to be the definition of penny-wise, pound-foolish. This absolutely needs to be an option considered by ST. Interbay is a fucking wasteland. But I’d love to take Link to Red Mill…

    1. My take is that they are trying to NIMBY-proof/avoid future lawsuits the line by taking it down the path of least resistance.

    2. I disagree. A Queen Anne station will take 100s of millions and require billions of dollars of tunneling… for an area that will never have buildings more than 4 stories.

  10. Lower Queen Anne is a curious case: 99 & Harrison is the Seattle Center stop, and the heart of LQA just west of Key Arena is in the walkshed, if not terribly close. For the rest, a lot depends on the “Expedia” stop. The more that drifts south, the better it serves the variety of uses in Lower Queen Anne, and the less it’s limited to the peak-oriented patterns at Expedia itself. Somewhere around Mercer and Elliott might balance things out nicely. But a stop on Elliott is wise because it’s above ground, much cheaper, and therefore gets an extra station for the core.

    But in all seriousness, Martin, this entire paragraph is a fundamental misreading of what a “walkshed” is, and achieves an almost Kafka-level nonsense in its attempt to make insanity seem rational.

    Make no more bones: this anti-urban thinking, and appears to confuse corporations for people.

  11. Martin, have you reached out to Kubly et. al (much like the ST guy did) to post here defending this proposal?

  12. I just want to point out that either surface running or elevated for this version of Ballard to downtown creates a number of issues for “extending” a line from Market St to UW.

    Would it be running on surface streets down Leary to Stone Ave?

    Would we instead have it run surface or elevated until Phinney, at which point a tunnel through the ridge would be necessary?

    If we didn’t have to pay for a whole new West Seattle bridge, Ballard might have more options. Its silly to focus most of the money where it provides the least amount of improvement.

    1. A West Seattle transit bridge unless both SDOT and Sound Transit are completely and utterly brain damaged will be used for nearly all of our buses as well. The West Seattle Bridge (upper) will be left to the cars.

      1. You have two sets of bridges to West Seattle already: the original low-level ones and the giant elevated ones. This is more than it needs.

        Retrofit them for rail rather than building a third set of bridges, please… you didn’t build an extra floating bridge across Lake Washington, did you? (Oh, whoops, I guess you did.) Anyway, that has more demand than West Seattle ever will, and they retrofitted a bridge and a tunnel for rail THERE. You can retrofit a bridge for the West Seattle route too. I have a proposal below.

  13. What grade does SoundTransit feel safe with for Link trains?

    In Portland, the approaches to the Steel Bridge are 7%. A couple of lines in Europe have sections at 10%.

    I ask this because of the bridge height issue, plus the desire to serve an area immediately on the north side of the bridge.

    There’s quite a lot of industrial along the south side of Shilshole Ave, and a fair amount of that is essentially parking and truck unloading.

    So, I’m picturing something that gains altitude to 70 feet, then heads northwest above this industrial parking lot land while descending, and then having a station somewhere closer to 20th and Market in order to be closer to the central activity center of Ballard. However, other than the industrial parking lot areas nothing really stands out to me as being ideal for having an elevated line above it. Too bad land wasn’t set aside for this 20 years ago.

    Keep the general traffic lanes at or near their current level at the Ballard Bridge, due to the expense of rebuilding the interchanges at the north and south end. However, the light rail line should be higher so it doesn’t get as much interference and since interchange to it can be by elevator and staircase rather than entrance ramp.

    So, for the new Ballard bridge, I am picturing something like an inverse of Portland’s Steel Bridge: on that bridge, the lower deck is for the railroad, and it can be raised and lowered without interfering with the road and light rail trains on the upper deck.

    My thought would be to make the new Ballard Bridge sort of like that, only with light rail (and maybe bus lanes?) on the upper deck. The lower deck would be auto traffic and able to raise and lower separately, as it will have to raise and lower more frequently because it is lower.

    1. In Spain … Light Rail with a 15.6% grade (yes it transitions to a rack railway … but it is still light rail) no reason why similar tech couldn’t be used here

    2. This is one reason why I supported the Ballard Spur– it would be a relatively simple tunnel.

      1. Sure, but why do something simple, elegant, effective, urban, and very high value for relatively little money……

        when instead you can do this?

      2. Half the price of this.

        Without having to tunnel under downtown or deal with the Ship Canal, and without nonsensical and ridership-killing station placements.

      3. I’m not sure why you think that the station placement process for Ballard/UW will magically align perfectly with your values. The same kinds of pressures apply wherever ST builds.

      4. Martin, the ST proposal for the Ballard to UW options were not horrible– Seattle Subway wanted an extra stop on 8th and Market and a resulting realignment — but there was nothing equivalent to the “no real LQA stop” that this proposal has.

      5. Seattle Subway wanted to go from three stations to five — that’s a big deal!

      6. @Martin

        That doesn’t change the fact that a Ballard-UW line would likely be less technically complex and more cost effective.

        A mediocre Ballard-UW line would be more effective than a mediocre Ballard-Downtown. I also have a suspicion that the difference between the best possible outcome and worst possible is smaller for Ballard-UW than Ballard-Downtown, as there is less variation in the neighborhoods that the line could serve and the line’s grade separation.

        So basically, if my assumptions are correct, you’re already in a better place if you’re lobying for the specifics of a Ballard-UW line rather than lobying for the specifics of a Ballard-Downtown line.

      7. I can only hope that short-sightedness in the design of the Central Link tunnel doesn’t preclude Ballard->UW. If the Ballard->UW trains can’t get into Central Link tunnel, at least for maintenance purposes, then building Ballard->UW becomes physically impossible without either a new maintenance facility, or a Ballard->downtown line built first.

        With the existing stations being designed without the remotest consideration to an extension westward from the U-district, I’m not sure how ST would be able to puncture a hole in the tunnel for the junction without a severe disruption of service.

        Of course, if Brooklyn Station were designed from the get-go for a future extension to Ballard, none of this would have been an issue.

      8. No, Martin is right. Sound Transit could easily screw up a UW to Ballard light rail line, just like they screwed up the UW to downtown line. Oh, don’t get me wrong, that will be great — connecting UW with downtown is by far the most important thing that light rail will ever do in this state. But having only one station on Capitol Hill (skipping First Hill and a 520 station) is asinine. We will never get that back. I know, I know, our backs were against the wall and there were soil issues and blah, blah, blah, but I really don’t see why people whine about things like 70 feet bridges that open once a month or surface alignments that average 30 MPH, but then ignore the fact that we skipped obvious, high performing stations. News flash — without stations, the whole thing is useless! Simply being told you are supposed to walk a mile to make a transfer is not a transit system. It is crap, and we shouldn’t spend billions on crap. If you are going to do it, do it right.

        Just to be clear, I don’t care if you add it later, as long as you add it. It is profoundly stupid to skip a NE 130th station, but if it gets added later, I don’t care. The same with the other stations. But we will never have a great way to connect SR 520 buses with Link, because there will never be a 520 station. How expensive would that be, really? How much service time would it save? How much time would it save for folks getting to and from Kirkland. Billions spent, billions wasted and opportunities lost because they didn’t want to spend a few million on a hole and some escalators (oh, and some station name and symbol that we argue about for days).

      9. @RossB

        Sure, but I don’t think the argument is that they couldn’t screw up Ballard-UW – it’s just that there is more potential to screw up Ballard-Downtown than there is for Ballard-UW.

      10. Seattle Subway wanted to go from three stations to five — that’s a big deal!”

        And…a big improvement!

    3. Also, for what it is worth, the clearance under the upper level of Portland’s Steel Bridge is usually regarded as 72 feet (it varies a bit as the Willamette isn’t as well regulated as the Ship Canal). So, that is a very similar height that you would be looking for in a 70 foot clearance opens-very-seldom New Ballard Bridge.

    4. 14th kind of stands out as ideal for an elevated/surface line, given that it has a median that’s basically just used for parking, and only a block from the main drag. Unfortunately it’s pretty far from the heart of Ballard.

      1. That’s going to make station placement a bit more challenging.

        The current Ballard Bridge is typically regarded as having 44 ft of clearance between it and the water line.

        You’d want the line to climb about 28 feet above the existing bridge, so at 5% figure 600 running feet to drop down to the existing road level, and maybe another 300 feet to drop down to the lower level roadway level reached at the north end of the Ballard Bridge.

        The good news is that you can swerve off the bridge and start descending immediately after the navigation channel is crossed. That way you don’t have to leave clearance for truck and bus height.

        Following a serpentine pathway you could probably get it down to around ground level by the time you are at 50th & 17th. So, you could at least serve Swedish and some of the more vital parts of Ballard. Going straight north you wind up at the surface a few blocks further north.

        South of the bridge you might not have too much trouble either. I count about 800 feet from the navigation channel (the area you would need to clear) to Emerson. So, you have enough space to drop it about 40 feet at 5%. The good news there is that if you wanted to build a station that interchanged with the 31 and 32 (and maybe RapidRide) you could do that there without building a vast multi-story monument like the TIBS station. That you can do in a straight line.

        Building this section as elevated would cut about 400 feet off of any climb or descent, as you are already about 20 feet in the air (20 / 0.05 = 400).

      2. For clarity: 28 feet above existing bridge is 72 feet, so that gets you to a line that is at the less often opened 70 feet above the water.

    5. Wheelchair accessibility and allowable slopes are going to dictate the design of a new Ballard Bridge, that is unless sidewalks and bike lanes aren’t included which isn’t happening infact largely those items are the tail wagging the dog on this new bridge proposal. if you build a transit only bridge it can have steeper slopes but once a sidewalk is included it has to have very gradual slopes.

      1. *sigh* for pedestrian bridges, go ahead and use the low-level flat drawbridges.

      2. Why REPLACE. Couldn’t, the existing bridge be left for sovs? Buses, peds, bikes and LR on a new one. As far as I know the Ballard bridge is in decent shape.

  14. The forecasting shows that the heaviest ridership load will be between Westlake and Capitol Hill stations. This doesn’t help that – even the second Downtown tunnel.

    1. The heaviest ridership load on ST2 Link. That’s not the same thing as the heaviest potential north-south ridership through downtown, or the bottlenecks that will develop if we don’t increase capacity for that. Belltown and SLU were left out of the original DSTT. SLU is understandable because there was nothing there then, but rerouting or branching the tunnel to at least Denny Way for the (now) D, E, and other routes should have been part of the original tunnel or a second phase.

      1. I reasonably speculate the Capitol Hill to Westlake segment will be even heavier with this line operating. SLU, LQA and possibly even Ballard people will use it to reach UW when after ST2 they are still on slow crosstown buses.

        There isn’t an easy single-line solution to this. Perhaps ST should look at this QA/Ballard line trunk as two lines. One split on the south to either Westlake or to at least Capitol Hill station (the Route 8 concept) and/or one split on the north towards either Fremont/UW or further up 15th Avenue. I know it’s more money, but it could be better are relieving Link overcrowding than a second Downtown tunnel would.

        We need system rider and train capacity studies now before ST3 gets finalized. We’re all speculating at this point.

  15. this is really odd.

    It doesn’t serve the residential neighborhoods of Queen Anne or Belltown
    It doesn’t really serve the Seattle Center

    It serves Whole Foods in Interbay … that place where there are NO homes (or very few homes)
    It duplicates the SLUT which could be fixed by transit only lanes in most cases

    I don’t get it.

    1. Yeah, the first time I heard this alignment it confused me too.

      Its almost like they are struggling to fix the Ballard to West Seattle ridership balance issue by finding the lowest ridership Ballard line possible.

    2. It’s 100% budget driven, I feel. It must get to Ballard, and it must have a new downtown tunnel, and it must fit into whatever N. King budget is left over after West Seattle takes their vanity project cut.

      1. It doesn’t sound very budget driven at all, since they’re adding stations to what they already studied an extending the lines, rather than prioritizing between 2 already-expensive projects WS and Ballard) that are their highest priorities

      2. I don’t think they’re “adding” stations.

        Compared to what we saw in 2013, they’ve actually removed the northernmost station, shortened the line, and reshuffled the remaining stations.

  16. If we’re going to have 2 tunnels underground, is there any way that we can design them so that one tunnel handles all northbound trains and the other handles all southbound trains? The engineering may be difficult (or impossible), but the rider benefits would be enormous. If both tunnels are uni-directional and built with center platforms, then riders from Rainier Valley and West Seattle can make cross-platform transfers to Ballard, Capitol Hill or the UD without having to exit tunnel 1 and hoof over to tunnel 2. It may be possible to build underground passageways between the 2 lines, but transferring from one line to the other will be more difficult if the tunnels remain bi-directional.

    Building uni-directional tunnels might require some major underground re-construction and not be feasible, but has the idea been looked at?

    1. I’ve too wondered about this. It would create an underground “loop” kind of like Chicago or like a big roundabout for trains.

      The big advantage is that Link wouldn’t need tunnels that have to cross at different levels. It would also allow for branching without tunnels needed at different levels. That would open up the system to be flexible and ST could rebalance train frequencies in years to come.

      The big disadvantage as some people may have to ride further than they want for one direction of a round trip. Add to that the difficulty that simple-minded people would have a hard time grasping the system. Seattle seems to have a really hard time presenting more than one alternative at a time (case in point here).

      This reveals the terrible lack of operations/systems planning by ST before pursuing ST3. There has not been an objective systems operations study and it should have been done concurrently with the recent corridor studies. At this late point, I wish they would call in experienced rail operations planners from the East Coast or Chicago or California to take a week and provide us with fresh perspective systems sketch plan alternatives without the biases of local elected officials, staff or engineering firms.

    2. The tunnels are already “uni-directional”. There are separate tubes for each track. Do you mean, say, drill two new bores under Fourth, Fifth or Sixth (I personally favor Fifth) and then have Central Link use one of them northbound (presumably the eastern one) and Ballard-West Seattle the other, western one, and then convert the DSTT to southbound operation both directions.

      That is an interesting proposition, because it would allow people to transfer “in direction” at the same platform.

      However, it would make the Ballard/LQA/SLU to Capitol Hill/UW transfer pretty nasty. Instead of going up to the Mezzanine then down to the other platform, a person wanting to make that transfer would have to walk from Third to Fifth Avenue.

      The opposite direction would work fine, though.

  17. A couple of things:

    1) Martin – can you provide any more context for what these comments mean? Is it possible that SDOT is simply throwing out this alignment as another one to study, recognizing that a more conventional LQA station (and a Belltown station) have already been looked at via the Ballard study done a couple of years ago? I’m being overly optimistic here, I suppose, but I’d like to know if this is really their 100% preferred alignment or just a route they’d like to study.

    2) Aurora/99 does not serve LQA well at all. I encourage people to actually try walking from Aurora and Harrison to Mercer and Queen Anne – it’s about 18 mins. at a decent pace. The half-mile walkshed ends at around Key Arena. It’s then another 7-8 minutes to get to Mercer and Queen Anne, and even further to get to the dense residential west of there. This would lose a lot of ridership over a stop West of Seattle Center and many LQA residents who would have ridden the light rail will probably prefer other modes.

    1. I don’t know what is more completely #nuts here, the map itself, or the fact-warping contortions attempted to defend it.

    2. 1) Martin – can you provide any more context for what these comments mean?

      Well the letter technically just asks ST to look at it. But in other cases it asks for ST to look at several options to trade off. If ST tweaked this a bit without changing who gets service, I don’t think Seattle would have an issue.

    3. As I said above, I encourage everyone to look at these stations, and look at maps. Look at a street map, a topographic map, a population density map, an existing transit map. It is obvious that it would be essential to add a station at Queen Anne and Mercer. Obvious.

      Maybe this was done with paper and scissors. That makes sense. They put sticker on the stations, and one of them fell off. Tell the city to put back the sticker — station — at Queen Anne and Mercer.

  18. I know many will disagree with me on this one but I am still weary and will be weary of a movable bridge.

    The fact is, it is a potential point of failure. Even if you are able to put on restrictions for hours it can open, if you want to run frequent service and build a fully automated system, that will stop that right there.

    The idea of putting the bridge all into one proposal I would be very cautious about. If everything is on one drawspan, then there is risk of failure for disconnecting Ballard due to one point of failure.

    I do think that is the biggest question with this is to serve SLU or Belltown? Move 99 and Harrison to LQA, find a way to redevelop the industrial land near Interbay we might have a winner. However, any at grade alignment is simply a non-starter.

    I am still of the opinion of make it reliable in the first place for full automation grade separated and remove potential failure points.

    1. I am probably never going to do this again, but I’ll quote d.p., because this discussion has happened before.

      While I happen to prefer the tunneled options, I do not understand why everyone is freaking out about the 70-foot bridge. This height was chosen because the vast majority of the masts that interrupt the Ballard and Fremont bridges would sail smoothly below it. Only the very largest ships, at the rarest of off-peak times, would force open a bridge this high.

      Chicago’s El crosses two downtown drawbridges. New York Freaking City sends a core subway line over a lift bridge! These bridges open rarely — in both cases the bridges are quite low, but so is today’s commercial traffic on the Chicago and Harlem Rivers — but when they do, having an exclusive bridge level ensures the trains are never delayed by more than a minute or two.

      Link wastes far more cumulative time with its lousy DSTT portal arrangement, not to mention its facepalming dwell times.

      A 70-foot bridge would open rarely, and the delay would be negligible. Everyone should reorder their worries list

      1. I’d add that a lower bridge actually strengthens the case for automation. During off-peak hours (bridges don’t lift during peak hours) an extra train could be stationed at Dravus to run the route southbound in the event of a lift at relatively little extra expense if it didn’t require an additional operator. This would mean that only trips to and from Ballard would be impacted by a lift as opposed to all trips down the line. In contrast, for a manually operated system, fixing this break point would likely be prohibitively expensive.

        Also, according to SDOT, the average bridge lift is 4 minutes, which is probably slightly less than off peak frequency would be. Thus, lifts could easily be planned around train crossings so as to minimize delays from lifted bridges.

      2. I know they are ugly, but straight lift spans (Tacoma’s Thea Foss bridge or Portland’s Steel, Hawthorne or Interstate bridges) are supposed to be faster than bascules (what Seattle has).

        Of course, the whole point of 70 feet is to bring it above the level of frequent traffic.

    2. Dan,

      You’ll only be “weary” of a movable bridge if you walk across it frequently. ;-)

      I think maybe you meant “wary”?

  19. I will say as long as there is a true LQA station the idea of one at 99 and at Expedia isn’t a bad one. Without a LQA station though this seems like a really bad idea.

    1. I agree. If you add in that one station, this is one of the better Ballard-Downtown lines possible.

  20. Ballard wants a subway. Surface or elevated are going to run into intense local opposition, whether that’s fair or not. ST needs a big Yes vote from Seattle next year if ST3 is going to pass and I’m not convinced they will get it if there isn’t a subway to Ballard.

    I’m less familiar with public attitudes in West Seattle regarding vertical alignment. But at a minimum, rail has to get to the Junction if ST3 is to pass.

    Gotta agree with the criticisms about there not being an LQA stop. What a hugely missed opportunity. The 99/Harrison stop is a station for the Gates Foundation at the expense of serving a dense neighborhood with many more destinations and residents on the other side of Seattle Center.

    Where is Seattle Subway on this? Where is the City Council?

    1. Thank you – yes, I too am surprised there isn’t more of an outcry about the lack of an LQA station. And I don’t understand what SDOT is thinking. As Anandakos suggested in another thread, is it possible SDOT thinks an LQA station will require a fight so they’re trying to go with the path of least resistance?

      Either way, the #1 priority now should be fighting for an LQA station. It’s also worth noting that this is probably Belltown’s only chance at getting a Link station – if it doesn’t get one with this alignment, it won’t get one at all. Meanwhile SLU could feasibly get one with several other alignments.

    2. My take is that since West Seattle rail will take up most of the North King money, they are using the remainder to give Ballard light rail– and the Option A is the cheaper of the options (cheaper if you go at grade, not giving LQA a real stop and giving Amazon a stop).

      For the budget experts, is the Ballard to UW (even the three stop option, with allowing a future stop at 8th and Market) fit into ST3 when you factor in the West Seattle light rail options)?

      1. I’m not even sure what they’re proposing here is cheap. It still requires a tunnel through Downtown and LQA to get to Elliot. That’s what makes not including an LQA station so insane.

      2. I’m not even sure what they’re proposing here is cheap.

        Well, based on the similar designs looked at back in 2013, this would be somewhere in the 2 billion neighborhood. It’s similar to option B, with the north end clipped short, the south end extended, some of option C’s cost savings along 15th, and a (presumably) cheaper Harrison stop location.

        Looking back at those old options and their prices, it seems that either SDOT believes interbay is more important than Fremont, or they believe that Fremont will eventually be served by a Ballard-UW line.

  21. Is the underlying assumption here that the DBT will be at capacity with the existing lines and cannot accommodate the Ballard link? Is this a given?

    1. The DBT has four lanes, so less capacity than the existing viaduct. It has no exits between SODO and SLU so transit can’t effectively use it — it would bypass the majority destination. There are not going to be any south-to-north expresses bypassing downtown: that would be more suited for marginal vanpools, and Link is effectively the transit express. Predictions are that the tolls will deter drivers significantly so the tunnel won’t be used much. So it will have capacity but not any that transit can practically use.

      1. I’m guessing he meant the DTT… if a downtown to Ballard (or WS to Ballard) Link line is built, can it share the DTT with the rest of the lines?

      2. ST’s study says downtown will need two transit tunnels by 2035 and that will still leave a gap of 5000-8000 north-south trips that will have to be served some other way. That’s also assuming the City Center Connector streetcar, so if the streetcar doesn’t happen that would add to the gap.

    2. There was no allowance made for a junction. Maybe you could pull it off at CPS, but certainly not anywhere after Westlake where the tubes are quite deep.

  22. It’s hard to see how the proposed alignment is any good at all. Stations close in to downtown are already well served by transit and are walkable distances anyway. Interbay is an empty wasteland. A new Ballard bridge is problematic. At-grade is a proven loser.

    Ballard-UW avoids all these pitfalls. It’s cheaper because a whole new line and downtown tunnel don’t have to be built, not at first anyway. It serves only dense neighborhoods–Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford. There is already a perfectly good tunnel under the ship canal at Montlake.

    An entirely new downtown tunnel to serve this one line, plus building West Seattle to Ballard, would probably eat up the entire $15 billion authority. That’s not going to go over too well with the other jurisdictions.

    1. Plus, there is cross-town demand. That’s why the 44 was converted to trolley bus, and runs articulated trolley buses at that. That’s why the 31 and 32 exist (though, obviously they only serve half the demand since they switch to the south side of the ship canal at Fremont.

      I’ve seen some pretty awful traffic jams on east and west roads through there.

      But, that’s not what the city is asking for here. So, someone should mount a letter writing campaign to the city asking them about this.

      This is the type of thing where you need a citizen outrage group. Something like the our Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP) group that you see from time to time milling about with signs and yelling various slogans.

      Otherwise, you get what you don’t want.

    2. Ballard – UW is a “whole new line” and will require a brand new maintenance facility. the one in Bellevue is running, what, $400m and has delayed East Link for how long because they have to deal with an angry city and angry neighbors? Is that what’s best for Ballard? Going all the way east to go south also might take longer than an express bus. Not the panacea it sounds like at first. If you think a bridge is problematic, tunnels are nothing to sniff at.

      1. It’s a new line if it’s built as a totally separate line rather than an extension. This Ballard-West Seattle line will also need a maintenance base, and ST hasn’t started siting it yet as far as we know. Even a separate line could have a non-revenue track to another line leading to a shared maintenance base. Every base site is unique and will have different levels and kinds of opposition. Nobody complained about the SODO base AFAIK. The Bellevue opposition was due to an upscale urban-village project adjacent to it. The Lynnwood opposition was due to the land being owned by the Edmonds School District which had other development plans for it and would have to find another site. The third site I don’t remember. But any base in Seattle — whether lower Ballard or Interbay or SODO or Harbor Island or West Seattle would have other issues, and we don’t know what those will be until ST proposes some specific sites.

      2. All the more reason to build Ballard – UW as an extension of Ballard -WS, and to Ballard WS first. Opens up a lot more opportunities for OMF as well as linking more trip pairs from WS to north of DT and from SLU – everywhere

      3. Maintenance facility aside, tunneling under 45th is easily simpler then either A. tunneling under Salmon Bay (note: not a canal) or B. building a bridge tall enough to not be subject to lifts. The tunnel would be substantially more complex than a typical tunnel and a bridge would face the logistical challenge of where to place the landings on either side.

      4. James,

        d.p. has shown that it’s possible to have a single-track non-revenue connection to the North Link tubes just east of 15th NE between 42nd and 43rd. It would require adding a cross-over between the tubes, which is probably the most disruptive thing about it, but it could certainly be done. It’d be nice if ST would include it in the digging now.

        Ballard-UW could probably run evenings and weekends with four trainsets, all of which could be stored in the terminal stations during the non-operating break. Cleaners could come to the trains rather than the trains going to the cleaners.

        Heck, it might be possible to run through the day with four sets. It’s only going to take about 14 minutes end-to-end. So an eight minute headway would allow two minutes for reversal at each end while the other pair of trains meet around Aurora. But if you did want six minute headways, a couple of extra sets could come from the MF around 6:00 AM, allowing two other sets to travel back to the MF that evening for a more thorough cleaning and preventive maintenance.

        Sets would then cycle through in two days.

      5. I just want to note there are multiple James posting on this thread, so any incongruous statements are probably coming from different people.

      6. d.p.

        I doubt eight because of acceleration, deceleration, cautious station approach, relatively low maximum speed attained except between Brooklyn and Wallingford and curves. It’s 3.81 miles to 24th NW which I believe you have suggested is a good idea to reach; I certainly think it is.

        But you’re closer than I was: at an average speed of 22 miles per hour it would be ten and a half minutes, say eleven for reliability all the way to 24th NW. So that makes it even easier to serve with four train sets which can be stored overnight instead of uselessly traveling to and from the MF. The reversing operation would have four minutes at each end with seven/eight minute headways.

        I have a spreadsheet which shows all six stops, giving three minutes between Brooklyn and Wallingford and two minutes between each of the others and it works perfectly. Seven/eight minute headways with three car trains should be adequate for the volume and with those headways there would never two trains in either terminals during operational times, making approach and departure more reliable.

        Of course with four minute reversals there would have to be an extra operator assigned to the line in order to rotate into each train sequentially to cover breaks for the “main” operator.

      7. Presuming for a minute a route that terminates at 15th/17th, the tunneled distance from Brooklyn can be as short as 3 miles exactly. Send the Fremont station closer to Lower Fremont proper, and you’re looking at ~3.5 miles.

        The ideal for this Brooklyn-to-the-cusp-of-Ballard is 3 intermediate stops.

        My 1912 analogue couldn’t possibly be more precise: 3.2 miles, straight where feasible but with multiple gradual turns, and 3 intermediate stops with near-identical gap distribution to the ideal Ballard Spur. (The widest stop spacing ever proposed in 1912; oh how times have changed.)

        The Red Line achieved its reliable 8 minutes from 1912 until the 1980s, when an extension added a tight 90-degree turn approaching Harvard, and with that turn added 2 minutes to the schedule. No such contortion is proposed here.

    3. I don’t understand this odd obsession with a UW-Ballard line. I think you guys are trying to “over optimize” the system and have completely lost sight of what is the most logical solution.

      1. UW-Ballard has long been the most logical solution.

        It reaches far more places*, improves exponentially more trips**, solves significantly more intractable traffic problems, and serves the sole remaining lousy-transited swath of the Seattle that boasts genuine contiguously-built density over a large area.

        It isn’t just hella cheaper. It’s better.

        *(This is the great irony of the radial obsession: north of the Ship Canal, the access-sheds for every radial proposal are simply awful. The major innovation of this plan has been to render the access-shed on the rest of the line awful too).

        **(By every metric: speed, reliability, access penalty, legibility, you name it.)

      2. Is not the most logical solution that which provides the highest ridership for the densest areas at the lowest cost?

        The sausage of Ballard-West Seattle is priced as filet mignon. Ballard-UW does more with less. There’s the beef.

      3. Other than LQA and Belltown, which the city of Seattle apparently doesn’t know exist, most of the unserved parts of Seattle are located along east-west corridors. Ballard-UW is the best of them, but that’s also the virtue of a “Metro 8” subway line. So if you’re building another north-south line, the most obvious stops are the ones that aren’t on this line. I think long-term 99 could probably use higher-capacity rail, but again, the city’s priorities do nothing to plan for that potential outcome. 15th gets you to Ballard but doesn’t get you to Fremont, or Queen Anne, or anything but Ballard.

        The city needs a *network*. Its top needs are east-west lines that integrate with bus service. Additional north-south lines need to serve urban density in the core (with short stop spacing, like the DSTT), and then hit the east-west bus service and one or two east-west Link lines that make sense. If you build one Frankenstein line that tries to serve the biggest employer in five different neighborhoods but nothing else in those neighborhoods, not only will your line fail, it will preclude building out the rest of the network.

        UW-Ballard is the next logical step in building a complete system that serves urban mobility needs. Nothing else (except perhaps Metro 8) comes close. I can think of other elements of a complete system that are lower-priority but still make more sense, like something to serve Lake City. Or just putting infill stations in where they were left out before. But other than serving SLU this line preferred by the city does nothing for anyone, and actively harms the long-term prospects for a functioning transit network.

      4. Not to mention the harm is political as well. Those voters with concerns of fiscal responsibility will have a field-day with poor-performing lines, further hampering our ability to build fixes.

      5. Yep, what Cascadian said. It is about building a transit network. Fast buses connected to fast trains. That is how Vancouver does it. Vancouver, a city with a very new, very limited light rail line manages to be the third best city for transit per capita in North America. The ones that are better are New York and Toronto. That is crazy if you know anything about cities. Vancouver is ahead of cities like Chicago, Montreal and Boston. Is it because they have a killer light rail line (like D. C.) with miles and miles of track so that every neighborhood has a station? No, not even close. Their light rail is fairly small, and doesn’t get huge numbers of people (obviously it gets way more than our light rail, but still not huge). Nor does it go to places like North Vancouver — a place strikingly like West Seattle, but with more population density. No, the way that Vancouver does it is by having really good, frequent rail (with lots of stops) along with very good bus service that complements it. We can do the same, by building light rail from the UW to Ballard. Or we can keep building crap, and wonder why everyone drives (and complains about traffic).

  23. I’m disappointed that SDOT seems to have just come up with this proposal unilaterally, without any form of public input. Especially, not allowing Ballard->UW to even be considered, while accepting as a foregone conclusion that West Seattle has to have light rail because some ST board members live in West Seattle.

    While, if push comes to shove, I could certainly live with this (it’s still way better than a #40 streetcar, and a new Ballard Bridge would be a huge win for foot/bike mobility), I still feel like we could do better. At a minimum, if you’re going to do Ballard->downtown, you need to serve Belltown and Lower Queen Anne better than this does.

    1. There will be plenty of time for public input during the development of the EIS. These are just proposed alignments.

  24. It seems like an extension of the first Ave streetcar would augment this alighnment well.

  25. I wonder if the 5th & Harrison station is a stalking horse for what would make more sense: a Memorial stadium stop. The Seattle Center’s long term plan calls for demolishing the stadium and putting an underground ‘transportation center’ in the hole that’s conveniently already dug there. They meant parking garage back then, but no reason it couldn’t be a rail station. That’d put station exits across the street from the gates foundation and next to the fountain on the center grounds near Mercer. Very little excavation or disruption required, and it meets the city’s goal of putting more foot traffic in the Center.

    I could live with that. Still pretty central to uptown and the pedestrian experience would be good.

    1. Maybe even Madison Square Garden style where the stadium sits on top of the tracks and platforms for Penn Station?

      This also gets the station closer to the trolley bus routes that go north-south through there, which I think would be good as combined they are fairly frequent link from there into some areas this line skips.

      1. Memorial stadium is ridiculously oversized for the athletic events the school district hosts; the plan is a smaller north/south stadium with grandstands on the east and a large lawn over the west side of the site covering the underground transportation center that can be repurposed as additional capacity for large (bumbershoot) events.

        The problem is that the school district has apparently never been on board with the plan. If some ST money greased the skids it might get done, and still be quite a bit cheaper than buying property and building in uptown proper.

    2. Even if memorial stadium is a no-go, there’s another easy land-grab nearby…. Broad Street between 6th and Taylor will be vacated once the 99 tunnel is completed. Plenty of room for a station where the road used to be. Not as good of a location as the stadium, though… right next to an interchange and a City Light substation.

    3. The school district is so short on capacity and land available they are currently studying placing a full sized comprehensive high school on the Memorial Stadium site. They need the high school seats, and that is one of the few sizable pieces of property they own that isn’t swimming with kids today.

      But sure, turn it into a light rail station. I’m sure the school district can just buy some property elsewhere.

      1. Or a school on top of a station. They’re not mutually exclusive. It just requires the plans to be coordinated across agencies.

      2. Oh, Mike…the District can’t even coordinate its *own* plans. I can only imagine how poorly they would coordinate with ST for a project like that.

      3. The worst crowding the route I ride regularly has is caused by high school students. Does Seattle have that issue at all?

        If so, this makes even more sense.

      4. The school district outsources some of its student transportation to Metro. Students get discounted passes, and Metro has some custom routes mainly for them. Most people don’t know the routes exist; they’re in the 6xx or 8xx range. Then there’s the crowd when a class goes on a field trip and thirty people get on and off at once.

    4. I’m fairly certain that SDOT wants the station directly across 5th from the stadium. It sounds like you’re aware that SPS owns both the land and the improvements, and has been openly hostile to basically all proposals. They wouldn’t even allow SDOT to install a cycle track along the sidewalk. Perhaps the parking lot to the east of the stadium could work, but I can’t imagine ST is itching to get into an eminent domain fight with SPS.

      1. To be fair, the city hasn’t really offered the district anything worthwhile for the land – a new stadium is nice enough, but losing the $700k a year they make on the parking lot isn’t worth it.

        That said, the city does have a two block long parking structure nearby that could be a bargaining chip, either revenue wise or as a possible school site as part of redevelopment.

        But after some thought I believe you’re correct and the intention is to use the abandoned broad street right of way across fifth. SPS is too dysfunctional to negotiate a win-win with.

      2. I’m thinking of the block immediately south across Harrison from the Gates garage (i.e., the SE corner of 5th and Harrison). So you’re correct that it’s not directly across from the stadium.

    5. Many of us have in the past advocated the low-hanging fruit of integrating the Seattle Center Monorail into the existing ORCA fare structure. Not because anyone thinks of that as a mobility game-changer, but because it already sits there under-leverage, and every little puzzle piece helps.

      But let’s be honest: If the Monorail accepted our bus passes tomorrow, rare would be the times it would make the most sense to use. It certainly wouldn’t have me trudging across the desolate World’s Fair grounds from Uptown, except when the buses have been brought to their knees by the very worst traffic

      The “Memorial Stadium / Bill & Melinda Campus” element of this plan is nothing more than the monorail, duplicated.

      What a ridiculous waste of brain cells.

      1. Agreed. It is crazy to build a station in, or next to the Seattle Center. The monorail does that. If you are going to the center, chances are you are going to a big event, and don’t mind walking a few blocks anyway. But the opposite is not true. If you live or work close to Queen Anne and Mercer (and lots of people do) then you won’t want to walk the extra half mile every day to the station. You will take the bus. Great, you might think, we spent several billion on a light rail running right under my apartment, and it does nothing for me. Of course, if you happen to ride a bus from a neighborhood on Queen Anne to Queen Anne and Mercer (and there are a lot of people who do) then you are really screwed. Again, this does nothing for you. Congrats, now you get to feel the way that folks in First Hill do. So urban, so essential, yet not good enough for high speed transit. May I suggest you move to Shoreline?

        All that being said, add a station at Queen Anne and Mercer and this isn’t a bad route. 99 and Harrison would enable pretty good bus interaction. Except I’m not sure exactly how that is supposed to work. Is there going to be a bus tunnel to go along with the 99 tunnel? If so, why not build the WSTT (meaning a one stop ride)?

  26. I’m sorry, but anything to Ballard and North Seattle needs to go UNDER the Ship Canal. One sail boat and the entire system gets messed up.

    1. I can think of two bridges that go over the ship canal that never get screwed up by sail boats. The bridge just needs to be sufficiently tall.

  27. Also there needs to be a stop in Uptown on the west side of the center. I understand the Belltown trade off they are doing here, I don’t like it much, but I understand it.

  28. Boy oh boy do the compromises inheret in this routing illustrate the superiority of a bus-based WSTT and Ballard-UW.

    RossB will no doubt posit an cogent discourse on the relative merits of West Seattle BRT, and I don’t feel like we need to rehash how astronomically great for the ENTIRE north end of the city a Ballard-UW underground would be.

    I’ll just leave this with respect to the WSTT:

    – Elliott (Ballard/Interbay/Amgen/LQA)
    – Aurora (SLU/Fremont)
    – Potential tie-in to Madison BRT
    – SODO Busway (West Seattle/ SB routes etc.)
    Even better would be to omit the LQA stop on this project, and prime the pump for a tie-in to the Denny stop for the #8-replacement tube.

  29. “Evaluate a multimodal rail/ped/bike/car bridge replacing existing Ballard Bridge (70′ or lower)”

    We cannot allow the goal of a fixed crossing over the Ship Canal be value engineered away. The people in the survey chose the vaguely worded DT-Ballard option that allowed for a tunnel under the SC, distinct from the Elliott/15th option. A lower than 70′ bridge will be opening frequently and with a new Ballard Bridge, the new rail line will lose its queue jumping advantage. Not acceptable after all this advocacy.

    Also, forcing this one line to serve SLU at the expense of Belltown is not good. Belltown is a dense tower neighborhood that will not likely be served by a line in the future, if this Westmost line is guided toward SLU. For SLU we need to add bus lanes, upgrade the streetcar, and start thinking about serving it with a line that connects DTS with Fremont, as well as the 8 subway.

    1. A 70′ bridge would hardly open at all. The vast bulk of marine traffic is 60′ or less. The 520 and 90 fixed bridges are both 70′, so there’s limited places a taller ship can even go. I’ll take an occasional opening for a historic schooner coming in for a maritime festival holding things up for a few minutes in exchange for a better bridge for all users.

      1. There is a not-insignificant amount of commercial marine traffic taller than 60′ that access industrial facilities on the ship canal and in Lake Union.

        Lake Union Drydock has a very large boat repair facility and drydock that regularly brings pretty large vessels through the locks and under the ship canal bridges.

        The width of the Montlake cut dictated long ago that large ships would not be able to access Lake Washington … this certainly led to the drying up of much of the maritime based industry on that lake as ships grew larger.

        Seattle’s elite have long worked and wished for these industrial sites to “go away” while at the same time bemoaning the loss of well paying, blue collar jobs in the city. You can’t have it both ways.

    2. “with a new Ballard Bridge, the new rail line will lose its queue jumping advantage”

      It depends on the bridge design. I was envisioning a double-decker bridge with trains under the road, like the I-5 express lanes.

      “A 70′ bridge would hardly open at all.”

      That’s the problem with a “lower than 70′” bridge. We’ll need to find out how much lower, and how much more often it would open.

      “Seattle’s elite have long worked and wished for these industrial sites to “go away” while at the same time bemoaning the loss of well paying, blue collar jobs in the city. You can’t have it both ways.”

      That’s an overgeneralization of the elite. The city leaders have decisively stayed on the side of keeping industry, as you can see by the lack of zoning changes and prohibiting housing there. Whether it makes sense to keep them forever is more debated, but at least in the medium term. Nobody official is talking about 40-story apartments in SODO to keep them out of the other neighborhoods. There’s concern about the areas turning into a dumping ground for car dealerships and big-box stores: that’s not “industry” or what we’re preserving them for. But at the same time, the new Honda dealership is a model of a compact multistory urban showroom, and if we have to allow a few dealerships there to get them out of the urban villages, then that’s a reasonable compromise.

      I am concerned that climate change or a future energy crisis or war could shut off overseas shipping and make local manufacturing and agriculture vital. The industrial land is insurance for that. It also gives a lower-cost space for startup industries to get established. Starbucks and Costco started in SODO, and there are many trade companies and distributors. If they’re not there they’d have to go to Kent, Bothell, Issaquah, or east Tacoma, and it would be harder to get there on transit or to work there without a car.

      1. See, that’s why I picture the opposite: trains (and maybe buses) on top.

    3. Actually, Belltown is the right place for a streetcar, because it’s residential; it has peak demand for work commutes of course, but it also has around the clock “entertainment” demand. SLU is an employment hub so it’s transit usage will be very much like that of University Station: 6-9 AM and 3:30-6:30 PM with modest activity at other times. [I know that University has the Library and Benaroya which produce other demand, but it’s pretty minor compared to the work pulses].

      So extending the Central City Connector through Belltown to the Lower Queen Anne station we all want, with reserved lanes and frequent service, makes much more sense. It also connects the people in the high rises along First, Western and Elliott to the Pike Place Market and Lower Queen Anne shopping areas, and stops every other block as is standard for streetcars makes for a shorter walk.

      Everyone in Seattle is used to the terrible performance of the SLU streetcar, which “crosses the grid” at signaled intersections its whole run south of Denny Way. It runs in mixed traffic which ruins it’s reliability north of Denny Way, has no signal priority and has to wait sometimes for cross streets with no cars in the Triangle.

      A car on First Avenue with reserved lane and reasonable signal priority — much easier to grant against streets with cobblestone pavement and steep grades — it will perform much more like the streetcars in San Francisco.

      In order to connect the area with Central Link a short stub line should be built on Pine with a terminal just west of the Westlake Station Mezzanine cover (I’ve read that the main reason that the Connector is to be built on Stewart is concern for the waterproofing shield on the station). Every other car should go that way.

      1. +1. Except for the stub line, which seems like needles complexity. But very much +1

  30. As a Ballardite, cyclist, and geologist with an interest in PNW earthquake hazard, getting a multimodal bridge out of the package wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. If they manage to come up with a reasonably unobtrusive design from Leary to 65th, it’s a tradeoff I’m glad to make.

    No problem with going above ground in Interbay, of course – just hopefully we can get rid of a station there and add one to LQA. Which station survives is a question of whether we can get the golf course or the armory redeveloped.

    (Side note – with a big redevelopment plan for Southern Interbay (which seems likely, given that there’s nothing really there right now), we should stipulate fill beneath development and new streets up to a few meters above sea level. Inundation by rising sea level is less of a problem in Seattle than almost any major coastal city in the country, but Interbay and the Duwamish are going to lose a good bit of land over the next 50 years).

    1. I don’t think there is really a question of which Interbay station to remove. The “Expedia” station has no walkshed being surrounded by water on the west and an extremely steep (undevelopable) hill to the east. A stop at Newton (or one block north at Boston has a full waklshed to the east as well as a potential walkshed to the west if that area gets redeveloped.

  31. Most of what I have to say has been covered, but I won’t let that stop me.
    1. Clearly SDOT thinks we don’t have enough money for a real subway. In which case I’d rather not do anything and wait until we do. Otherwise we’re giving away all of those terrible compromises out in the suburbs and freeway funding for something that’s broken on day 1.
    2. I think it’s nice that they’re trying to serve SLU. Though it kind of cuts off Belltown (forever?).
    3. Why. Why would they even draw that dot at 99. The only possible scenario where that makes sense is if Bertha fails, we tear down the viaduct anyway, and we convert 99 to a streetcar and pedestrian street. I’ll start holding my breath for that one.
    4. For SDOT to even consider surface running south of the cut is for me to consider voting against ST3.
    5. 70′ or lower bridge? And that’s the only option they give?

    Please go back to the drawing board, or let ST ignore SDOT’s recommendations.

    1. To point 1: Exactly.

      It seems like wanting the Seattle pols to press for something that solves Seattle problems currently plaguing the street transit network is a bridge too far.

      Not that this ‘proposal’ is a final word, bit still, the track record and alignment with perceived predetermined preferences does not lend itself to hope, or breath-holding.

  32. When you irrationally prioritize light rail to West Seattle over all else, this is what the rest of us get. As I’ve said before, I can’t see how this line would ever be useful for me, despite the fact that I live less than a mile from its proposed northern terminus at Ballard High School. There’s no way the train will offer enough of a speed improvement over the 28 I currently ride to convince me to walk a mile (or ride two buses) to catch it.

    What’s worse, it offers few meaningful connections to other transit. The D line will feed into it nicely from points north, and the people who currently transfer from the 44 to the D line to get downtown will see a nice speed improvement as well. That’s really about it though! There’s no direct connection to the 40 or 28, and I have a hard time seeing a double transfer to the 44 and then the train being an overall speed improvement for most riders of either of these lines.

    The line overlaps with Magnolia buses at Expedia, but it’s debatable whether the speed boost for the last couple of miles is worth a transfer penalty there. Same with the 99/Harrison stop. Sure, people riding the 5 or the E line could transfer there, but why would they want to when they’re already almost to downtown? Maybe if they were riding the train straight through to West Seattle it would make sense (better to transfer north of downtown than ride the bus through SLU to Westlake), but how many people really do that?

    1. Wouldn’t you expect the buses to become restructured if/when the Ballard station opens? You would likely very easily be able to get to the station.

      You live outside the walk-shed as defined by ST as 1/2 mile around the station, so you’re not expected to walk to the station.

      1. Ah yes, I remember ST coordinated so swimmingly with KCM on the last restructure effort for U-Link.


      2. They did do the ULink restructuring well to my satisfaction. They had a nice little meeting with STB folks who were supportive generally.

      3. How would you foresee such a restructure looking? The buses in that area are already pretty well grid-based. I guess you could do some sort of crazy crossing pattern where the 40 and 28 both deviate on Market toward the Link station and then turn to serve the corridor south of Market that is currently served by the other route. Seems very strange to me though.

      4. Maybe if by coordinated well you mean siting a single station for the whole hill without any regard to the distortion of a rational gridded network, but doing lots of outreach to make up for the inherent shortcomings.

    2. I dunno. It’s not my job, nor my interest. There will be a lot of bus hours saved if/when this line opens.

      1. I just don’t see it. You can’t truncate the D line where the train starts, because the stops are so far apart that you would be skipping large numbers of people by not having a bus there. Maybe you could reduce the frequency a bit. The 40 and the 28 both serve their own corridors of sufficient density to merit continued bus service at their current frequency. If these buses divert to serve the train station, you would need more service hours to pay for the deviation.

    3. There’s no evidence that the station locations are a cost-cutting measure. SDOT’s job is to outline what it wants, and ST’s job is to define a budget and say how much of it will fit and where it would have to compromise. There’s no budget yet, so cutting things prematurely is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like a criticism of Inslee, that he gave Republicans the highway concessions before negotiations started. If SDOT did that in its letter, it’s negligent. It should have at least marked compromises as compromises, and said what it really wants ideally.

      But there’s no evidence that SDOT did compromise like that. What there is, is a mystery: why did SDOT choose these stations? What are its goals for the stations? Why did SDOT exclude a station at Queen Anne Ave or 1st Ave N when it’s the obvious location for Uptown and Seattle Center and is the current primary stop and transfer point (especially to the 8)? Where did the Aurora idea come from, since it seems to have no precedent in past proposals whether official or unofficial?

      1. Fun fact: the estimated size of ST3 was based on being a similar size as ST1 and 2. The Board assumed that voters would be most comfortable with that familiar size. But there’s nothing to say it has to be that size; it could be more or less. So until we find out whether ST will stick to that size or adjust it, it’s premature to say what alignments or stations we can afford. I assume SDOT realized this too, and that it described what it thinks Seattle needs, not what would fit into some unknown budget.

    4. As I say below, the only real case I can see for West Seattle light rail is if it has lots of stops to bring workers to all the dockside industrial districts. The spread-out housing of West Seattle certainly doesn’t justify it…

  33. No one’s mentioned the multi-polar solution to this problem highlighted on this blog a few weeks back. We can get both a SLU line and a Belltown, LQA line by simply splitting up the WS and Ballard lines. It’s a creative solution that successfully splits the baby, so to speak.

    It’s unfortunate that Ballard-UW line is getting shuttered to 3rd place, but that’s politics for ya.

    I would encourage all to email your city council reps **especially if you’re in District 7**, the mayor, and Scott Kubly and the other man mentioned in SDOT’s letter to let them know your thoughts on this issue. It’s never to early to start advocating!

    1. That is what Seattle Subway recently suggested, and what’s planned for the RapidRide C and D split in March. The C is to go north to SLU, and the D is to go south to Pioneer Square. In Seattle Subway’s map (from memory), the West Seattle line goes to SLU; and the Ballard line goes to Belltown, Denny Way, and the CD to Mt Baker.

      1. Mike,

        Your conflating the SeattleSubway proposal for hooking the southend “express” Yellow Line into a wide-swinging Metro 8 and Frank’s proposal for stub tunnels breaking off the main north-south tube to SLU on the north and Boren/Madison on the south.

        But what you proposed brings up the opportunity to suggest what I think is a good idea for the D Line. If a train in the same corridor is going through downtown Seattle in a tunnel, ALL the riders headed to downtown will change to the train at the first station after they board the D Line. That seems like a formula for chopping the D Line at Market or maybe turning it to get west into the Ballard core. But the stations are already built south of there through Lower Queen Anne and the Federal Transit Authority expects them to be used.

        So why not use the D Line for Ballard-“Main” SLU-First Hill BRT service? Instead of turning south on Queen Anne Avenue just continue straight on Mercer to Fairview, turn right and then continue up Boren to Pill Hill. And maybe even continue on to Mt. Baker to give the new development along Rainier some hotshot service until the Metro 8 comes that way, if it ever does.

        It gives reasonably quick one-seat service between Ballard and two important destinations. And there’s the opportunity described below when the tunnel portal and elevated to get into the middle of Elliott is built something can be done to give the D Line a bypass of that horrible left turn and the traffic jams up Mercer Way. Without them, such a routing would be a damn good BRT line.

        It does leave the three pair of stations between Mercer and Bell which would become unused so Seattle might have to pay that back. South of Bell they’ll still be used by the C and E Lines, which ain’t going away any time in the next quarter century.

        On this topic, I’m wondering why they’re tunneling under Harrison rather than Republican or Mercer on the west side. If they use Harrison, they’ll have to dig a portal in the middle of a rather narrow street; there will absolutely be room for only one-way traffic, and a narrow, rather scary lane at that. If the tunnel were under Mercer it could pop out of the hill onto an elevated structure in the undeveloped half block between Sixth West and Elliott. And, the southbound bus bypass mentioned above could be built right next to the southbound track around the curve then “fly up” to the end of Mercer just above the tunnel portal. The bus would have a straight shot to merge with Mercer right at the curve off Mercer Way. I would expect that a bus priority signal should be included, but maybe the street is wide enough to provide a channelized merge.

        The train tunnel would change streets from Mercer to Harrison underneath Seattle Center.

      2. Oh, I forgot the icing on the cake: this alignment would accommodate a “perfect” station at Queen Anne and Mercer.

      3. Those Mercer alignments are interesting, and leverage the investment the city has made in two-way Mercer, if the city allows a bus on it (which it might not since it would slow down two lanes of cars). The black line looks like the 7 reroute that has repeatedly been suggested (Rainier-Boren-Fairview, and newly Mercer). The advantage of doing it with the D is it would avoid the controversy of rerouting the 7 away from downtown. It would also address the partial transit hole between Rainier, First Hill, SLU, and Uptown. The 8 takes a long low-density detour to get there, and is proposed to be split anyway, and gets stuck in Denny Way traffic. The 9 is infrequent and has a short span.

        I don’t know the details of the RapidRide commitment to the feds. The F line makes a lot of turns that probably weren’t in the agreement, so it’s probably not a street-by-street or station-by-station commitment, just a general commitment to serve certain neighborhoods. In that sense, “not serving Belltown” may be the biggest issue. One interesting point is the agreement doesn’t promise a one-seat ride from Ballard to lower downtown because the D has never done that.

        The light rail line seems tentatively fine; it’s basically shifting the assumed alignment slightly further east.

        That “Central/University Link” label threw me for a bit because it sounded like a new University Street line, then I realized it was just ST2 Link. While the segments are called Central Link and University Link, combining them as “Central/University Link” can lose that connotation. (And they are just planning/construction/ballot segments, not labels that the public remembers or would interpret correctly.)

      4. Zach, it doesn’t skip LQA – if you zoom in enough, you can see a station at Queen Anne and Mercer. As for Belltown… I’m not Anandakos, but it looks like it was a choice between Belltown and SLU. Myself, I’m quite willing to go to Belltown if and only if we promise SLU a gondola or another Link line within the next five years; otherwise, either choice sounds equally valid.

      5. Zach,

        It skips Belltown because the City asked that it be skipped. But it doesn’t skip Lower Queen Anne. There’s a station at Queen Anne and Mercer.

        Zoom in and you’ll see the red box representing the station.

        I made this map as a way to illustrate the use of the D Line shadow of the LRT line as a BRT(-ish) “cross-town” from Ballard/LQA/Real SLU to First Hill, the CD, and Upper Rainier which is planned for massive redevelopment.

        May it come to pass.

      6. Mike,

        All of what you said about the Link language is absolutely correct. I thought that we transit geeks would prefer complete accuracy; it was probably overkill.

        With the map I also wanted to show how one structure could provide the LRT line with an exit from Elliott to a portal directly under Mercer at its curve into Mercer Way and also provide the D Line with a bypass of that damned left turn onto Mercer Way from Elliott. That would be a huge improvement in its time keeping.

      7. You can’t serve both Belltown and SLU in a Ballard-downtown line without zigzagging, so you have to choose one or the other. SLU is the favorite now with all those jobs and growth, and Belltown has the 1,2,3,4,13,D,26,28, which is a lot more service than SLU has.

      8. Actually, now that I think about it, you can serve them both – you just need to take Westlake north, instead of 15th. The 40 does it currently.

    2. The D line on Boren is a curious idea and worth considering. Good visioning! I wish there was more interest in trying out new strategies.

      I do wonder what rider shifts will happen from RapidRide to rail in LQA and SLU if the Ballard line continues south through Downtown (at least to your Madison Central station). Given increasingly slow traffic and comprehensive and frequent rail coverage, Downtown-bound bus use will face decline.

      The line actually could be even more useful with a reconsideration of a Convention Place Link station reoriented to also exit onto Boren. I don’t think that can happen but I can dream!

  34. I’m actually surprised that there isn’t a station on Harrison between Queen Anne Ave and Elliot. The area not only has several high-rise residential buildings, but also the marketplace seems to be poised to get more density. That’s in addition to the better Seattle Center access. It’s by far the longest track stretch without a station south of the 15th Avenue bridge.

    East Portal Station at Harrison?

    I also suspect that District 7 candidates will quickly line up to ask for an additional station there. There are too many voters in this area to not do that. District politics is about to change Seattle!

    1. The options put forth in 2013 had the Harrison stop in LQA. See options B and C in particular.

      The eastward migration of the Harrison stop can be blamed on one of 3 theories, with varying levels of cynicsm:

      1) The upcoming new Aurora crossings, and current significant redevelopment along the Dexter corridor, have dramatically changed the calculus regarding where a northern-downtown stop should be located for best ridership & connectivity (imagine a future where E/W buses run on Harrison instead of Denny)

      2) SDOT doesn’t think we’ll be able to afford an LQA stop and still get to Ballard

      3) SDOT believes that it will be easy to make the case for an LQA infill stop later in the process.

  35. As I posted in the sunday open thread, I think making a station in the more urban core of Ballard (Ballard Ave/Market) would be a much better alignment through the area. But that’s not what I want to ask today. Are there technical limitations to building light rail through Queen Anne? It’s a gigantic hill.

    For an underground alignment, would a tunnel have to bore steeply up the hill between Westlake and Queen Anne hill in order to not have a station that’s 40 flights of escalators deep? Is that technically feasible? Would it even be slightly possible to go back down and tunnel under the ship canal?

    For a surface alignment up the hill, our current fleet of trolley buses can tackle the incline no problem. But can a light rail?

    I’m not saying I agree with SDOT’s alignment through Interbay. I think it doesn’t actually hit large population centers, even when Expedia moves in. But, I might be able to sympathize with SDOT suggesting that an Interbay alignment is the most technically feasible since it’s a relatively flat path, compared with Queen Anne hill. (Assuming they insist that Ballard-UW isn’t happening)

    1. Are there technical limitations to building light rail through Queen Anne? It’s a gigantic hill.

      Not really, no more than what it took to go through Beacon Hill.

      You keep the station deep, avoiding steep grades, and just build lots of elevator capacity down to the station.

    2. Well, the Upper Queen Anne station might need to be almost twice as deep. Quick look at a topo map told me that the Downtown section will be sub-100′ elevation, and the top of the hill where people are is about 380-420′ elevation. The Beacon Hill station is 160’deep. A 300′ excavation would be doable, but pretty much no one does that unless there is coal or gold or something down there. It would be primo expensive.

      1. That was always the problem with an upper Queen Anne station. But it’s our job to recommend the most effective transit network, and ST’s job to keep it within a realistic budget, so it’s entirely appropriate to be a suggestion that may fail. It’s still worth a study and price comparison, and we did get ST to do that.

  36. Barring a miraculous near-reversal in direction, I will be voting no on ST3.

    The current best case if ST3 passes is that we start with this crapfest, and make the positioning of stops slightly less horrendous. I don’t even see an LQA station having much of a chance given the apparent thinking behind the city’s priorities (which are all about serving one or two big employers during commuting hours with a line built cheaply with no regard for a broader network vision that would allow for sensible expansion). This line will make logical expansion impossible, and it doesn’t serve enough destinations on its own to be even close to having an upside on the tradeoffs.

    The best case is to kill this proposal, figure out which pieces of a logical, integrated network can be planned and funded via local means, and hold off on any further expansion of the system until the priorities of the decision makers align with reality. They are nowhere near that right now. They have learned nothing over the 25 years I’ve been following this issue closely.

    I really worry that the under-informed Seattle electorate plus just enough people in the suburbs will vote for this and screw the city in perpetuity. Doing nothing would be so much better than trying to polish this stinky turd.

      1. Yes, but the premise of the piece is that the city gets what it wants in its own area (and it’s a pretty sound premise with how the ST board operates). Why do you think that this represents anything other than a best case, given how things work here? If the elected officials and transportation authority for the city think this is the plan, the end product will be a compromise between this and what ST favors, which is worse. The city’s job was to stand up for the city’s needs, and they have failed. This is as bad as the feedback from most of the suburban cities. Worse, really, because the potential for good investment is so high in the city you actually have to work hard to screw things up.

      2. I don’t see this as an “anything” case. ST hasn’t even studied a SLU routing. There is so far to go between here and a finished product. And SDOT might be easier to influence than ST, since they are so local and answer to politician who actually care about transit.

      3. It’s the city’s statement of its priorities, which are horrible. These priorities will be set against Sound Transit’s priorities, and horsetrading with the stakeholders in other subareas. Where is the space for negotiating a better deal? You need to have at least one influential person with a clue. Who is it? It’s not Dow Constantine. It’s not Ed Murray. It’s not anyone important at SDOT or this priority list would be different. So the pols and the transit staff are against it, and the bulk of voters doesn’t have the knowledge to put its weight behind a good system.

        I keep trying to figure out how to fix it, by suggesting better station placement, etc. But the basic problem is that this preferred concept is trying to stuff two or three lines into one, and ending up with the worst elements of all of them. If you’re building an east-west tunnel you’d build the Metro 8 subway that intersects the Ballard-downtown line (which logically serves Belltown with urban stop spacing). If you’re going north from Westlake to SLU at Denny, you continue along Westlake or get to 99 or tunnel under Queen Anne and in any case hit Fremont and points north along that line.

        An alternative would keep an L with Ballard via Interbay, but put the tunnel portion in the logical Metro 8 place. Then intersect that with a north line in roughly the 99 corridor that hits LQA before it heads north across the Ship Canal. That would have a bit of a bend out of the way to the west, but it would at least build a network and serve useful locations along the way. The point isn’t that there’s only one way to build a network. It’s that you need to build a network. If you are going to only build one line, it has to make sense as part of a future network, and it should be the portion of the overall network that has the best ridership per dollar spent. Trying to hit everything in a scattershot approach without considering the larger picture is exactly the wrong thing to do. It will raise expenses and chase away riders and prevent fixing the mistake later.

      4. “the premise of the piece is that the city gets what it wants in its own area”

        ST is not going to make an alignment decision based on a single letter. Cities usually ask for more general things like “Serve this neighborhood” or “Serve this neighborhood on this street” or “Add this station or this P&R”. It’s unusual to list a complete alignment and stations, and I don’t think ST will take it as gospel just because of that. First it will ask the city for more details on what it wants and why. Then it will compare that to ST’s own studies. Meanwhile the EIS’s Alternatives Analysis process will have public hearings on more alternatives, and ST will gradually narrow them down to a preferred alignment. Even if ST defers 100% to the city’s wishes, that doesn’t mean it will take a single letter as 100% specifying the city’s wishes… especially if some councilmembers and the mayor weren’t aware of the letter or didn’t read its details or haven’t debated the 99/Harrison issue. Plus we’ll be getting a completely new council in November, while the first system plan drafts will be coming out around that time or early next year.

      5. Mike: if people believed that Sound Transit would IMPROVE the preferred alignment, I don’t think you’d be getting this sort of reaction.

        So far, Sound Transit has consistently made alignments worse during the “process”. So if you start with this as the best-case, and make it worse… you see whuy people are saying “hell no”.

      6. I’m focusing lobbying on Mike O’Brien: Front runner for city council from Ballard district, Fremont resident, ST board member.

      7. Nathaniel: Why do you think this is the best case? ST is going to throw away all its studies because of one vague letter?

    1. Hopefully Seattle Subway is figuring out whether there is enough support for ST3 to pass (if this plan is chosen). If not, will they urge a “no” vote and try to get enough signatures to launch the Ballard Spur using monorail authority? It is risky, but it might be worth examining.

      1. If ST3 fails and a initiative to build something alone in Seattle comes along, I’d expect to see the legislature revoke the monorail authority provisions. Realistically, the suburbs are not going to let the city build what it wants without spine extension attached.

      2. Seattle Subway appears tethered to the idea that an ‘ST-Complete’ proposal is the only mechanism to get useful tranist.

        They don’t seem likely to entertain the idea of pressing Ballard-UW+WSTT as an option. Rather, all-in-for-the-(political)win.

        Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Keith, but I’d love it if SS at least drafted a fall-back proposal for how to get B-UW+WSTT in the $15B package.

      3. But it never said anything about “heavy rail” which most metros are considered.

      4. trivialex, it’s not possible to get a WSTT and a B-UW in an ST3 package. It’s just not. Every single time Dow Constantine, or any other politician, talks about ST3, they mention a Ballard and West Seattle connection. It’s that, or it’s nothing.

      5. Is WSTT not a Ballard and West Seattle connection here? Is that not the point of this piece?

        Conceding that these must be served by rail seems to bind the network with debilitatting compromises, or massive overspending on underutilized infrastructure.

        See cascadian’s post on why these compromises are a piss-poor implementation of a bad idea. Regardless of perceived feasiblity, you’d think that SS would not hamper its leverage by predetermining a compromised negotiating position.

        Where is the proposal that shows the superior utility and estimate for these combined packages? We’d sure benefit from them, as apparently from their original advocacy and general consensus on the blog posts/comments, they would in fact deliver greatere utility at a lower price.

      6. Not to the satisfaction of ST Board members and WS neighborhood advocates, no. In the real world, you sometimes have to work within certain bounds, and a Downtown-DT and Downtown-WS are two of those bounds that are set in stone..

      7. But BRT would be better for West Seattle than any realistic West Seattle light rail plan. That is the point. While some in West Seattle would be better off with light rail, I’m convinced that for the vast majority of West Seattle riders, their point to point trip would be much faster and just as reliable with BRT than with a light rail line. Riders from all over West Seattle would be able to travel faster and more frequently from their neighborhood to downtown, without a laborious and infrequent transfer.

        I’m not convinced that leaders in West Seattle are close minded on the issue. I think they haven’t thought through the issues. It is complicated, and most don’t have the time to study transit, and transit issues. They just hate traffic now, they hate RapidRide, and they want a solution. They assume that the only solution, the only thing that works in this town is light rail. That simply isn’t the case. Spend enough money on improving bus corridors in West Seattle and everyone wins. It won’t be cheap, but as luck would have it, it would be much cheaper than light rail.

      8. Here’s what you can do: start a group, “BRT for WS!” You right overlong paragraphs extolling the benefits of BRT and see how that does for ya.

        The rest of us will keep advocating for the best possible things within the real bounds in the real world.

      9. Would that be the “real world” in which you approve $45 billion worth of funding in a single go, grow it even larger by eliminating any sunsets, and then build ALL THE RAILS!!!! to the furthest fringes of the region… yet somehow improve mobility for no one along the way?

        Yeah, good luck with that too.

      10. I believe in rail bias, so fine, West Seattle wants rail, you can give it rail… but for God’s sake design the rail the way you would the BRT. Don’t build another freaking bridge just for it — would you do that for the BRT? No, the whole point of the BRT is that you’d stripe lanes on the existing bridge.

      11. “If ST3 fails and a initiative to build something alone in Seattle comes along, I’d expect to see the legislature revoke the monorail authority provisions.”

        The monorail authority is vulnerable but for a different reason. It was granted at a time when the legislature was less tax-adverse, and when ST was less established and didn’t have successfully running lines to point to, lines which are more grade-separated than most then-running light rails nationally. (Part of the monorail’s motivation was the fear that ST would make Link mostly surface to minimize costs.)

        “Realistically, the suburbs are not going to let the city build what it wants without spine extension attached.”

        There are more suburban and suburban-symthetic legislators than urban ones, but it’s really not clear what would happen in the future. The current transportation bill was a lot of negotiation in the context of non-transit issues. If ST3 fails and looks like it won’t pass again in the suburbs, then I’d expect more of a “Prop 1” attitude: let Seattle do what it wants.

        Realistically, Seattle Subway will have to decide in the next several months whether to support ST3, run a competing initiative, or do neither. The details of ST’s proposal won’t be known until the end of the year and it won’t be finalized until around June, but at the same time a competing proposal would require time to draft, get it engineer-studied and cost-studied, write the initiative and promote it. So it would essentially require defecting from ST before ST’s proposal is fully known.

        In retrospect, it really would have been better if (A) ST had made a complete multi-phase system plan in the 1990s rather than an abstract “long-range plan”, and (B) we had reached this current point in 2014 and 2013 so there would be more time to draft ST3, ST3+4, or another alternative. Perhaps ST should have engaged the legislature a year or two earlier, arguing that a year is not long enough to prepare ST3.

    2. +1 to this. Especially the part about no apparent vision for a broader network vision.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing SLU, Belltown and/or LQA underserved this round if I knew that there was a broader vision that intended to do it properly in the future. Trying to make this one line do all of those things means it won’t do any of them well.

      I’d rather see a broad vision, prioritized in waves, than the current incremental model where the agencies in question don’t seem to be looking past the ends of their noses. The early compromises are going to cost far more in the long term than they save.

  37. 99/Harrison is a suboptimum station location. It’s adjacent to a major state highway, whereas the core of the Uptown district is at Queen Anne Ave. & Mercer Street. The busiest activities at Seattle Center are more to the west half of the Center, not the east half.

    The high-density office and residential district that is Uptown would not be well served at all by 99/Harrison as it would require walking across the entirety of Seattle Center, and then some, to get to the station.

    1. The highway will be lowered and the cross streets connected across it, so there will be more room for development and more willingness for pedestrians to be there.

  38. I don’t think it’s Sound Transit’s responsibility to build GP lanes across the Ballard bridge. That seems like SDOT is trying to milk some of the transit funds to replace a bridge they knew long ago needed to be replaced. I think it should be a tunnel and let SDOT figure out how to find the funds to replace that and the Magnolia bridge, both of which the city has said may require a separate citywide levy to fix and/or replace.

    1. SDOT asked for a bridge design, not for 100% ST-funded bridge construction. Building an automobile bridge would probably be far beyond ST’s charter; it would be like asking ST to widen 405 and add car lanes as well as BRT lane or train track.

  39. I think the degree of hostility towards this proposal is completely out of line with the actual merits of the proposal. Obviously the missing LQA stop (which is on the way) is a glaring hole, but I think that can fixed with advocacy. Moreover, the letter lists stops that they want to include in study not stops that they wanted to exclude. Point by point here’s why I think this proposal has more merit, especially as a basis for discussion, than its detractors claim.

    1. The routing makes the better selection on the SLU/Belltown trade off. Long term SLU will have more density and more jobs than Belltown. For this reason it is particularly important that HCT serves SLU as capacity is especially critical for serving job density which has more lopsided travel patterns. In addition, a SLU alignment offers the potential for 3 stations worth of walksheds, while a Belltown alignment offers only two. A SLU alignment also addresses east west mobility between LQA and SLU and Capitol Hill, a notoriously difficult task. Route 8 probably wouldn’t be necessary under this scenario, which can’t be said about a Belltown alignment. On the flip side, Belltown can be much more easily served well by surface transit. Finally, the SLU alignment does a better job of connecting to bus corridors, which will be especially useful presuming the line extends south through downtown or towards First Hill

    2. The SR-99 stop isn’t as awful as people claim. By the time a Ballard to Downtown line is built, SR-99 will be buried (or non-existent) south of Harrison and the grid will be restored. Thus, Aurora won’t be cutting up the walkshed in the way it does today. Given the density, and potential density there, the “on the way” nature of Harrison and SR-99 and the importance of providing transfers for the SR-99 bus corridor, I think that station placement is about as good as any choice in that area could be.

    3. An Interbay alignment isn’t as awful as people claim. While a Corridor D style tunnel between LQA (or SLU) and Fremont would be nice, it also would require two miles worth of tunneling plus the cost of getting between Fremont and Ballard, which is almost two more miles. In contrast the Interbay alignment could cover that north/south distance at much less cost and even less (or with less disruption) if the alignment could be built along the Interbay railyards at grade, which I doubt is precluded by the statement “in the vicinity of.” And while I don’t like the idea of building a shorter bridge it does seem that SDOT wants to see some cost benefit analysis, which isn’t an unreasonable request, especially given how poor the bike infrastructure across the canal is there.

    4. On an Interbay alignment I’d also add that this proposal could look a lot better if the large swath of mostly cement and grass that constitute south Interbay were regridded and upzoned. Moreover, I don’t think this upzonning is as pie in the sky as it may seem initially and I personally know of at least one long-time (non-transit wonk) Magnolia resident who described it as “inevitable.” Done well (insert needed skepticism here) I think the Newton street station could actually be a hugely successfully TOD project, which isn’t a possibility with other alignments.

    5. Contrary to popular belief, this alignment is not about cutting costs for West Seattle. In all likelihood, based on the estimates from ST’s 2014 study of this corridor, this alignment would eat up most of Seattle’s money at a cost of close to $3billion.

    6. Yeah UW to Ballard is still more cost-effective, but these are generally good ideas for a Ballard/Downtown line. Advocating for a UW-Ballard line is really a separate issue.

    1. I agree with some of your points but not with others. Either way, the missing LQA stop trumps all of them. I’m not sure why you’re so certain we can get an LQA station with advocacy. If that’s the case, we need to start advocating now loudly and clearly. But I don’t think it’s a given.

      1. To answer your explicit question.

        1. As alluded to in my post, these were stations areas to be included for study not stations to be excluded from study. I don’t think SDOT intended anything like “don’t study Mercer and QA ave.” This is especially plausible in light of the fact that ST already studied a station there in 2014. It was important for SDOT to emphasize SLU and certain Interbay stations because they haven’t been studied before. Simply put, the omission of LQA may or not be a telling indication SDOT’s thinking.

        2. Anyone looking at this alignment immediately notes the huge gap in LQA. I think this will consistently be noted in public comments, and in discussions with politicians. I also suspect locals in that area by and large want a light rail station and will push for it to be included. More importantly there are no issues of inter-subarea interests competing as there were in the omitted 130th street, Montlake/SR-520, First Hill and Graham St. stations.

        3. This letter is a request to study an alignment, which is about as far as you can be from actually making a decision. Options that serve LQA, have already been studied by ST and will continue to be on the table for a long time. There are reasons to be alarmed by some of SDOT’s thought processes (an Expedia station is arguably a net-negative), but having a panic attack over the omission of LQA isn’t one them.

      2. You realize this is going to ballot in less than a year and a half, right? I think ST is going to have to specify station locations by then so there’s not that much time.

      3. No it doesn’t have specify station locations at that time. Just general routing. For example the 130th street station was still a possibility until earlier this year, even though Sound Transit 2, which provided funding for link between Northgate and Lynnwood, was approved all the way back in 2008.

      4. Lynnwood Link was on the ballot with I-5, but afterward ST also considered Aurora, 15th NE, and Lake City Way. Clearly these are not all the same transit market because there are several miles between them, but all of them fulfilled the “Lynnwood Link” mandate. The EIS requires consideration of all reasonable alternatives. Likewise, the stations on the ballot are more “must-serve” general areas than exact stations. 155th was being considered as an alternative to 145th. ST specifically avoids the monorail mistake of locking down the street and stations in the ballot measure, because you don’t know until later engineering what’s really feasable or cost-effective.

      5. Alex – the fact that they said explicitly that the 99/Harrison is to “serve Uptown and the Seattle Center” means they are envisioning this route without an LQA station.

    2. I dont know about the “SLU is the future” thing. Belltown is much bigger now, and will be much bigger when this opens, and much bigger for quite some time. It is also a destination people actually go to, and an established neighborhood.

      I also question the electoral wisdom of skipping the the densest part of the city to serve what looks like, to a lot of Seattle, Amazonville.

      1. I have to disagree with both: “Belltown is much bigger now, and will be much bigger when this opens, and much bigger for quite some time.” Quoted from an earlier STB piece linked below:

        “Belltown has a population of 10,990 and employment near 10,250. Compare that with the Denny Triangle, which has a population 5,040 and employment at 19,385. Lower Queen Anne has a population of 6,980 and employment estimated at 12,670. Compare LQA with boom town South Lake Union at a population of 5,340 and a staggering employment at 35,990”

        And there are numerous buildings and proposed buildings currently being built or soon to break ground in the Denny Triangle and SLU, while Belltown is mostly built out.

      2. You know, I didn’t realize that SLU had that many jobs.

        But I still feel that the higher population, and non-office job orientation of Belltown and LQA make them more attractive all day stops. Also, a LOT of the Denny Triangle is already super close to westlake. Like a few minutes.

        I think SLU should be served. Totally. But I dont think that a stop by the Gates foundation does it well, and I think that the Denny&Westlake stop isn’t a good enough improvement to skip Belltown and LQA.

        In my perfect world, ST builds a Belltown-LQA—–Ballard line, and either does a stub to SLU, a #8 Subway (PLEASE), or just gets the SLUTS shit together.

  40. It almost makes me think they forgot to mention a LQA station, I mean based on the stop spacing and passing right under LQA it just seems like there would have to be a station at LQA.

    I wish the route went a bit further to the south, more along Denny and then it would pretty much be about 1/2 of the route of the Metro 8 subway between LQA and Capitol Hill. I think Harrison is too far north personally.

    1. Good point.

      Could STB please just ask SDOT what it meant by the suggestion, why it wants a 99/Harrison station, and what it thinks about adding an Uptown station?

      1. Yes – if STB could ask SDOT these questions that would go a long way to at least clarifying a few things.

  41. Compromise after compromise, concession after concession, you get a plan which no one wants but everyone is fighting for. Logic seems to be: any plan is better than no plan. Everybody has their opinion, their facts and biases vs others facts and biases. LQA vs Belltown vs Newton, WS-Ballard vs Ballard-UW, point counter-point for all this. Some want a massive drawbridge for Ballard, some want a tunnel, some want to bypass 15th/Elliott, Belltown, QA/Mercer. Have not even discussed other Seattle neighborhoods impacted or overlooked or even the merits of what West Seattle would like to do. This needs a 100% objective view on what makes sense. SDOT and ST is making this a train wreck before it leaves the station. Anyone have an objective view point? What is the #1 objective with this? What are the must have routes and stops? Must be other options available to get south from Ballard. Why is there so much focus on SLU and not other neighborhoods? Let’s build for success not mediocre, do it right the 1st time, don’t omit key pieces with plans to complete some other time. That doesn’t work.

    1. Chuck, I could not agree more.

      It has been a trend that leads down the road to mediocre transit outcomes. At what point do we put up the signs saying enough is enough with this path of least resistance for the sake of politics.

      ST 3 was looking at difficult decisions. We have less than a year to get this right. It means pushing on all fronts. We need to lobby not just Sound Transit but city officials. We need to have point on what we propose instead and why they are better and why they are worth additional expenses.

  42. I agree, the LQA station is needed much more than harrison/99. A compromise could easily be had placing it near Key Arena. Also, another station at 85th/15th is needed. Crown Hill is a designated Urban Village that is undergoing a great deal of development and is on the boards for more increased development.

  43. Speaking for myself: I’d happily use a car2go to get to Whole Foods, or Rapid Ride up to Dravus/down to Prospect.

  44. For all of you who think that the City of Seattle’s desires expressed in their 5 page letter are outrageous, I suggest that read the entire set of comments from agencies and jurisdictions. There’s already been reference here to the push for SR-522/SR-523 HCT; the board was letter-bombed by letters of support from the Northshore cities, legislators and the 522 transit activist group.

    Sno. County cities fall in line to support Link extension to Everett via Paine Field, Eastside cities support East Link to Redmond, I-405 BRT and Totem Lake to Issaquah. South King is universal in support of LR to Tacoma as are Pierce cities. East Pierce cities think Sounder to Orting is a good idea.

    Cities like Woodinvile, Lake Forest Park and Renton are saying effectively, “why are we paying into ST anyway?”. But they have their own ideas about how to fix that. Seatlle says a 130th station is a priority. Shoreline says it’s unimportant and shouldn’t be built.

    There will be a limited pot of money for ST3; not all of these things will be built. Maybe Seattle’s proposed alternative alignment won’t be the one chosen. Maybe it will spur some creative thinking by the planners on how to satisfy competing needs and desires with a better compromise. But whatever is built will be a compromise. And that’s not a bad thing…

    1. It’s time to stop and take a planning break. Build East Link to Microsoft — compromised though it is, it’s still a big improvement. Finish the schedule of Sounder upgrades. Open the stuff under construction. The current planning process is going nowhere good, but maybe when the new stuff is open, minds will change in the city halls and a better planning process can start to happen.

  45. Well, this is disappointing on so many levels, for several reasons:

    1) Insisting that the best way to solve West Seattle’s mobility problems is with light rail. This is simply not true. The best way to serve the vast majority of West Seattle transit riders is with BRT. A handful of people in West Seattle would be better off with light rail, but for most, their point to point trip would be much faster and just as reliable with BRT. This is because they would avoid the laborious and time consuming transfer to the train.

    2) Ignoring the WSTT in the same manner, and assuming that a single light rail line to Ballard (as good as it is) would be better.

    3) Making the UW to Ballard light rail line a low priority. Not only is Ballard to UW light rail cheaper than something like this, it creates a better overall transit network. Lots of fast buses would connect to a fast and frequent light rail line (connected to another fast and frequent light rail line). This is how Vancouver does it. No city in North America other than Toronto and New York perform as well as Vancouver when it comes to transit. We are similar to it, but we will continue to lag it greatly unless we try and mimic their success. This plan fails to do that.

    All that being said, if you want to build a light rail line from Ballard to downtown (after more important lines are built) this isn’t a bad one. It needs a station at Queen Anne Avenue and Mercer Street, and not much more. Belltown can be served via a Metro 8 subway, which should be built before this. So, yes, if you want to include this in ST5, just add the stop at the base of the counterbalance and I’m in.

  46. What would be some initial thoughts/speculation for a Metro 8 subway particular between LQA and Capitol Hill? Granted it clearly wont be in ST3, but it would be good to get a sense how it could work and how it could inform the design and routing of a potential WSTT and/or Ballard-Downtown line. I’m wondering in particular how many stations one would expect and roughly where they would be located? There’s a lot of bus lines radiating out of downtown, there is no way a Metro 8 subway could have a station at each transfer point, so which locations make the most sense? Hopefully if this ever came to be it wouldn’t be like ST’s initial concept for Ballard-UW with only 1 intermediate station, in this case… LQA-SLU-CHS.

  47. OK, here’s a counterproposal or two This is based on two principles:
    (1) Serve West Seattle and Ballard with rail since they seem to want rail service.
    (2) Reuse existing infrastructure. (This is a principle applied to East Link the I-90 bridge, but which apparently has not been applied to any other project.)

    I would appreciate it if someone better at drawing maps made an illustration of my proposals.

    1. So, just to cause trouble, here’s how I’d design a West Seattle Line:
      (1) Starts at the Link maintenance base. Convert the outside tracks into running tracks, using the grade-separated junction with Central Link. Fly up from the southwest corner of the maintenance base, over what appears to be a “Parts Plus Autostore”, go over the mess of ramps, and then land in the central lanes of the Spokane St. Viaduct. Take over those center two lanes.
      (2) Place a center island stop between 6th and 4th Aves, with exits on both ends.
      (3) Place a center island stop at 1st Ave.
      (4) Continue over the West Seattle Bridge.
      (5) Place a center island stop at Harbor Island.
      (6) Place a center island stop at Marginal Way.
      (7) Place a center island stop at the east of the Nucor compound; build a parking garage on the Nucor lot and reserve enough spaces for Nucor to replace their existing lot. Buses from Admiral Way loop on the surface underneath the light rail station; buses from Harbor Ave and Avalon Way just run straight, stopping and people walk half a block under the expressway/rail tracks; buses from Delridge Way stop at the parking garage.
      (9) Transition to exlcusive-lane surface running at 35th Avenue SW
      (10) Place an “MLK-style” center stop at 35th Avenue SW
      (11) Place another east of 39th Avenue SW.
      (12) Continue if and only if the people of West Seattle can tolerate grade running.

      OK, what are the advantages of this proposal?
      (A) Reuses an existing, very expensive bridge for more efficient purposes
      (B) Speeds past the bottleneck for West Seattle-downtown car traffic in exclusive lanes; allows numerous bus routes to stop before the bottleneck
      (C) Serves major industrial employment areas, and lots of them

      Why is it a proposal which won’t be seriously considered?
      (D) Takes lanes away from automobiles.

      1. Nathaniel,

        I’ve advocated using that loop to interface to West Seattle or the Duwamish Bypass for a few years now, so I heartily agree with the first part of your proposal. Though it might very well be true that the stations from ID north will not be able to accommodate more trains once Link reaches Lynnwood, Overlake and Highline as SoundTransit is projecting, the stretch of track between the MF and the junction between ID and Stadium certainly can accommodate the additional trains to West Seattle.

        If using them for both lines blocks the two cross-streets with observable traffic, Lander and Royal Brougham Way, too frequently, overpasses can be built more cheaply than a new, separate alignment for West Seattle.

        There’s even little Diagonal Avenue to get the alignment to Spokane on an angle, making the curve into the center of the elevated structure smooth.

        That said, you’re proposing too many stations. There will still be buses using the SODO Busway, and anyway there are no businesses of any note at Busway and Spokane and probably won’t be because it’s reserved for industry, so a station at 6th/4th and Spokane is redundant. Buses on Fourth South through Georgetown can be connected at Lander. I’ll agree that a First South station might be useful; there’s more multi-use development along First South (Starbucks) so providing a connection to an FS line on First would be useful.

        Harbor Island is also a non-starter. Jobs on the Island are purely shift oriented; it’s quite a way to the Terminals; and oil terminal and longshore workers are paid plenty. They will drive. And it’s WAY THE HELL UP THERE! Elevators? Cranes? Ten sections of zig-zag industrial staircases to match the nous of the neighborhood?

        For the same reasons, there is no need (or practical possibility) for a separate station at West Marginal Way. If there is ever bus service on West Marginal, it can connect at the Delridge station.

        Obviously, Delridge needs to be accommodated, and it’s long-standing Metro practice to transfer buses at night and on weekends there. But it’s a horrible transfer point, far from human activity and right under a roaring freeway

        So, while your proposal has merit for using a large, expensive facility, the West Seattle Bridge, more effectively, I believe this critical Delridge transfer point must be in a better location, if mandatory all-hours transfers from Alki, Admiral Way and Delridge are to be accommodated at it.

        Since there’s no easy way to get out of the center two lanes of the freeway anywhere near Delridge, that means a new bridge needs to be provided for West Seattle LRT (and buses, of course) along the lines of Joe Szilagyi’s proposal at the top of the post. You can still use the Maintenance Facility loop to join Central Link’s trackage through SoDo and Diagonal Avenue to get to Spokane, but the guideway can’t simply appropriate two lanes from the West Seattle Freeway. It’ll need to be a new elevated section to the south of the new Spokane Street Viaduct and a new high bridge over the Duwamish landing on the point of the greenway and curving around to a Delridge station at Andover, where there are some real destinations.

        So now we’re back to $3+ billion and in a budgetary cul-de-sac. Even without a new elevated right of way through SoDo.

        And, of course, there is the problem how to “re-separate” the routes up north of Stadium so that the West Seattle trains can use the new tunnel. One or the other of the tracks would have to fly over or under the existing ones, depending where the tunnel portals at the south end.

        All in all, Light Rail to West Seattle is a very difficult nut to crack without some sort of Very Expensive hammer.

      2. “I believe this critical Delridge transfer point must be in a better location, if mandatory all-hours transfers from Alki, Admiral Way and Delridge are to be accommodated at it.”

        I honestly have no clue where would be a good place for this that could be human services friendly in any way. There’s no good place, where anything is ‘open’ or hopping, especially at night, as you’re down by the port and river. This is basically the area on the map:,+WA/@47.5704957,-122.3580882,1634m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x5490102c93e83355:0x102565466944d59a!6m1!1e1

        Where? The only sites are really the 1. Chelan Cafe site (boo), 2. directly UNDER the West Seattle Bridge (is there room? I think so?) or maybe if you 3. took a site a little east of the river but west of 1st. But that leaves you train blockage issues.

      3. The big trade-off on alignment for West Seattle is the way that any bridge crossing method is determined. To a lesser extent, the design of a second Downtown segment in SODO also impacts what is reasonable for West Seattle. If there is the need for a new bridge and a completely new second segment through SODO anyway, I’d strongly consider an alternative alignment that crosses the river around the First Ave S bridge.

        I know it’s not popular here, but I would point out a few things:
        1. White Center appears denser and more transit dependent than Alaska Junction is.
        2. The segment could be split into two around the First Ave S bridge and West Marginal Way. One can turn back northwestward to go into West Seattle on a bored tunnel and one could head south down towards Burien and SeaTac. This saves time for all those White Center and Burien residents who have to detour through Alaska Junction. It also sets up an opportunity for the oft-discussed Duwamish Bypass if the south line continues down SR 509.
        3. Admiral and Alki could be served. The population in Alki appears quite dense and with rail access it would be very hot at Seattle’s Gold Coast.
        4. Although I’m not a tunnel expert, I’d think that it would be quite easy to do a pair of diagonal tunnels under West Seattle with portals at Alki and near the First Ave S bridge. The machines could be delivered and removed via water.
        5. The time penalty for Alaska Junction residents would be no more than 5-7 minutes.

        There was a Page 2 post discussing a West Seattle “U” this a few months ago.

      4. Footnote: White Center isn’t denser than the AK junction/Triangle today. Mayyyybe near parity.

        Y’all should actually all come and see these places.

      5. Off the top of my head, I can think of about 18 mid-size to large multifamily/mixed-use projects either very recently finished, under construction, or in the middle of the MUP process between the West Seattle bridge and the Alaska junction. The total units for these projects is just over 2,000. This is not to say that West Seattle is dense, because it isn’t, but it is rapidly densifying and there’s absolutely no reason to expect the building to slow down. Developers like the area for a whole host of reasons, and there’s plenty of room for relatively inexpensive infill development.

        (And for anyone who might be interested, the entirety of Roxbury from White Center to 35th is being rechannelized and given the Vision Zero treatment this August (i.e., within the next few weeks). Once that’s complete, SDOT is moving directly over to 35th and rechannelizing the southern half. That should be done by the end of September, I would think. Next year, once the Seattle Housing Authority has finalized designs and traffic management plans for a large development at 35th/Graham, the remainder of the corridor will be rechannelized as well. Upon completion, all arterial roads in West Seattle will have been rechannelized and made more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. I think this makes the area even more attractive to developers and I expect to see even more construction along these corridors as a result.)

      6. Is there a place in West Seattle suitable for a maintenace base? That could give West Seattle leverage, if it actually supports a maintenance base location in its own backyard.

      7. Make the new maintenance base half as thoughtful as the new SCL Denny substation and most folks would be happy to have it just about anywhere.

      8. The Port has a lot of land around terminal 5 that’s realistically never going to be used for cargo operations again. They get to proclaim that they’re really green by supporting transit and making a big (in kind) contribution to the effort. With the whole oil rig thing they could use some good PR.

      9. there’s plenty of room for relatively inexpensive infill development

        Nope. Because “neighborhood character” and “won’t someone please think of the parking!” and all that.

        The sharpie is not to be violated. The sharpie has spoken.

      10. Cute. I said that was going first, because it is. All of 35th is getting an upgrade. [ot]

      11. d.p., I’m an attorney and I actually do know what I’m talking about here. There’s literally nothing neighbors or anyone else can do to stop development from happening. Nothing. They can try to appeal the issuance of a MUP, but that basically never happens, and they would absolutely lose. Which is exactly why it never happens. To date, I can’t think of a single mixed-use project in West Seattle that has been killed because of opposition. Old cranky people can complain all they want in online fora and at EDG and DRB meetings, but they are literally powerless to stop development from occurring. It’s just bloviation, and I know you’re familiar with that.

      12. Jason, I think that’s a simplistic view of things. They can absolutely stop development by getting councilmembers to change the law. Tom Rasmussen has been doing a lot of that recently. In many cases there are things like alley vacations that give the Council leverage without even changing the zoning code.

      13. Martin, the council is not going to downzone any urban hubs or villages, and the council can’t stop any proposed development unless they require council action for something extraordinary like an alley vacation. Once a project is proposed, it is legally vested and any reactionary council action has no effect. None. This happened with the FAR amendments a couple years back, for example. Also, neighbors don’t really campaign for generic downzones for entire areas; they oppose certain projects that have been proposed, but again, those projects are already vested and there’s nothing they can do and nothing the council can do as long as the project complies with the law in effect at the time the project was proposed.

        The relatively modest LR amendments were a disappointment, but really not a big deal in the scheme of things. And they only applied to some LR-zoned areas, not anything zoned NC or higher. And Tom hasn’t managed to do anything other than embarrass himself and make noise. His neighborhood conservation district idea hasn’t gotten any traction and isn’t going anywhere.

      14. And, more to the point, Jason’s (perfectly accurate) description of the neighbors’ lack of legal standing in mixed-use zones in no way contradicts the fact that such zones are microscopic, and are not where desireable, organic infill densification would be either likely to occur or likely to have much aggregate impact.

      15. Anandakos: basically your argument is that people don’t work in industry, or that the people who work in industry will all drive.

        I don’t buy that argument. You may be correct, but if you’re correct, there’s a problem. From what I can tell, all those industrial businesses still have lots of workers (their parking lots are certainly full of small cars) and I don’t see why they should all be written off as permanent motorists. Early passenger rail lines were designed to bring people to industry, not just to offices.

        The logic behind the tight station spacing is to get people over the natural and artificial barriers.

        From east to west, the area is chopped up by train tracks and a highway ramp (next to the SODO busway between 4th and 6th), more train tracks (three tracks) along the Amtrak route between 4th and 1st, more train tracks (three) along Colorado Avenue, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Duwamish Waterway (though at least that has a walking path across it), the hill, and finally the cut which the West Seattle Bridge approach runs through.

        My scheme was trying to plant a station between each of these pairs of obstacles, though there’s no station from Harbor Island to the Colorado Avenue tracks because the obstacles are spaced waaay too close together there, so there’s not much in between.

        All these obstacles to east-west travel are obstacles for pedestrians and buses. (And I think they’ll get worse over time. I suspect the railroads are eventually going to push to close the grade crossings at Spokane Street Lower. There are definitely efforts to grade-separate or close Horton, Lander, and Holgate, and crossings with more than 2 tracks tend to be on the high-priority list for closure.) By crossing all these obstacles with light rail it improves the viability of the north-south bus routes.

        Consider that there may be wealthy industrial workers who would rather live downtown in luxury apartments with all the benefits of urban life, but work at these big industrial sites. Rather than fighting their way through traffic to get out of downtown, they would probably rather take a train to their job.

        Yes, Harbor Island Station would have Really Tall Elevators. According to Google, Puget Sound Institute of Pathology, Tideworks Technology, Pacific Sheet Metal and Roofing, Harbor Island Machine Works are all within obvious walking distance. (As would be PCC Logistics if the Klickitat Way bridge had a sidewalk.)

        As for 4th-6th, look at the mass of smaller commercial/industrial operations east of 6th Ave and south of Spokane Street. Currently these are served by the #124 bus and sort of by the #106 bus. West of 4th Ave, there’s Seattle City Light, served by the #131-#132.

        Marginal Way is probably impractical if you have Harbor Island *and* Nucor, but there’s a whole mess of industrial and commercial businesses along there, from Pacific Terminals Ltd. to CalPortland.

        I am making the case that industrial employers should NOT be ignored for the purposes of designing a passenger rail system. At the moment, apparently, they are being ignored. “Got a factory job? Get a car!” This is not appropriate.

        West Seattle has low density housing and doesn’t justify a rail line — but the industrial areas have a lot of employment, and maybe they do justify one. Especially if there are barriers separating them and creating chokepoints for getting to them — which there are, particularly in the east-west direction.

    2. Al S.: *if* it is determined that the existing bridges cannot carry light rail and a new bridge or tunnel is needed to cross the Duwamish, then I think you’re absolutely right; there’s a lot more potential for crossing in the vicinity of the 1st Avenue bridge.

  48. I’d prefer a Belltown route but I can get on board with this if – and only if – there is a station in Lower Queen Anne. 99/Harrison doesn’t count – I’m talking about something West of Seattle Center. The closer to Queen Anne and Mercer, the better, but a the very least it needs to be West of Seattle Center and north of Thomas.

  49. Also, any chance Oran or someone could produce a similar map but with half-mile buffers shown? Thanks.

  50. What are the implications of this for the eventual addition of a Metro 8 Subway?

    I guess part of me is thinking that there is already a hell of a lot of north-south bus service through this area, and maybe this new line needs to be Ballard – Interbay – LQA – SLU – Capitol Hill – Rainier Valley.

    1. That would be far too expensive to do for ST3 unless West Seattle is cut out, which isn’t going to happen.

    2. Glenn,

      Read my post a little upthread in response to Zach L and Mike Orr, 4:59 yesterday.

      What you just wrote is what the D Line should do. Continuing straight on Mercer to Fairview, then down through First Hill on Boren to Rainier creates a new “near-BRT” route between Ballard and “Main SLU”, First Hill and the Central District. And, it only “orphans” three sets of BRT stations, since Bell and south will continue to be used by the C and E Lines. The FTA might be OK with such a relatively minor abandonment of an existing route, but even if Metro had to “pay back” for those three pairs of stations, the penalty would be relatively minor.

  51. Ok, one more thing. No one seems to have mentioned the giant city light power station between Harrison and Thomas on 6th. As far as I’m aware, that’s not going away any time soon and it puts a major damper on TOD potential for an Aurora/Harrison station. Not only is that a huge adjacent block where no TOD can occur, but it also makes the blocks around it a lot less appealing for potential residents. (Maybe a positive is it will finally lead to affordable TOD housing?)

  52. A few items on this:

    1). Why is SDOT starting with a compromised ask?

    2). At-Grade needs to be off the table. Seattle can build exclusive lane streetcars if it wants at-grade transportation. Sound Transit is for building a subway.

    3). Assuming we just build Ballard to WS (which I don’t concede): The north end of the line should be split either at Belltown (like on the Seattle Subway map) or Westlake (Like Frank’s bi-polar DT map.) to serve Denny Triangle and SLU. You can’t serve every critical area with one line and SDOT’s line assures Belltown and LQA never get a stop.

    This means you could interline 6 minute trains DT (SLU to WS + Stadium to Ballard) and get 3 minute DT coverage in the process while serving SLU, Denny Triangle, Belltown, LQA, and setting up for a future “8” extension.

    1. Yes – ensuring that Belltown and LQA never get a stop would be a fatal flaw for this route. I would hope Seattle Subway would urge a “no” vote if that were the case.

    2. Keith

      What is/will be Seattle Subway’s official position for ST3 in North King?

    3. What’s wrong with at-grade through Interbay? There’s plenty of width in the right-of-way for the train to get its own lane, and essentially no cross streets to slow things down. I’d prefer we not go through Interbay at all because there’s nothing there, but if we’re going to have a half-assed route we might as well make it cost-effective.

    4. A few items on this:

      1). Why is SDOT starting with a compromised ask?

      Keith, I think SDOT, and the other agencies that contributed to this, see it as the best case scenario for Seattle under the political/financial/technical constraints they are under. These letters aren’t written in a vacuum. They’re the product of months of meetings with board members and staff from all of the agencies including Sound Transit.

      If the authors were remotely smart about it, they’ve actually pitched this letter at the high end of what they think is possible.

      If we want something better, we need to get the Seattle policy makers some wiggle room on the constraints they are under. The Seattle Subway tax authority extension is one, if it were politically feasible.

      ‘Blow it all up and start over again in 2020’ is another approach.

      The more obvious approach, although it’s very late in the day, is to put West Seattle rail back on the table. The letter writers see it as politically non-negotiable. But, among its other deficiencies, West Seattle rail has eaten the budget to avoid difficult compromises anywhere else.

      1. +1

        And the advantage to the ‘more obvious approach’ is that the SDOT letter specifically calls out interim bus improvements (*cough*WSTT*cough*)

        “Evaluate early bridge implementation such as a bus ramp or transit lanes that can be converted to light rail in the future, a bus hub transfer facility in SODO, or other options to improve transit travel times and reliability for connections from West Seattle.”

    5. “At-Grade needs to be off the table. Seattle can build exclusive lane streetcars if it wants at-grade transportation. Sound Transit is for building a subway.”

      They’re two different kinds of at-grade. ST has said that nothing less than MLK fits its definition of light rail. And that is worth considering on Elliott/15th. 15th Ave W already has “exits” rather than intersections, so it would be better than MLK. Since the Ballard line will never go a long distance, there are no long-distance riders who would be inconvenienced by 35 mph speed. As for those transferring to a longer-distance trip, what really matters is the downtown-Ballard travel time. We shouldn’t accept or reject alternatives until we know what the travel time would be, because if it can get from Westlake to Market in 15 minutes maybe that’s OK even if it’s surface.

  53. Everyone is nickel and diming this to death, take a weak ST proposal and making tweaks to make things even more mediocre. Keith Kyle’s idea above makes the most sense. Get off the streets, make it a subway. Commuters could battle the streets or go underground. You will then have reliable, consistent commute times. Any ideas with using buses will be at the mercy of the congestion that given day. That is why the whole area is fed up with Seattle’s traffic.
    Do we want ST to plan Seattle’s Transit plan? No. Do we want Mayor Murray? Get real. Do we want Dow Constantine? No way. Do we want Scott Kubley? Sharknado 3 – Oh Hell No!, Do we want a new City Council to decide? No probably the worst option. Do we want communities and other special interests groups? No, No, No. Do we want a group on this blog? Nope. Do we want 1 person on this blog? Not yet. Currently that is what we have, all the above making a bad plan worse or selfishly better for themselves. Wait until the general public starts providing input, then we will have a real mess. What’s the best, most objective answer? Not sure, this blog has a zillion ideas, not all objective or “best”. Too many people invested in their own self interests to provide objective thoughts. Some outsider with expertise in this stuff would probably come up with something different than any of the current ideas.

  54. Ok, glad they clarified that they meant for there to be a station around Mercer and 1st Ave N. I’m not sure anyone was supposed to read it that way, but what matters is they are asking for that station. If Sound Transit is able to provide this route with that stop, I’m on board despite thinking it would be wise to serve Belltown.

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