Corrected Map #3-01
Full ST2 buildout, plus Star Lake and Federal Way added pending funding. Map by the author.

On Monday we looked at travel times on Link’s ‘Red Line’, the central spine that will run between Lynnwood and Des Moines (or possibly Federal Way) in 2023. We made a few observations along the way, including the relative benefit to Snohomish County compared to South King, about the gifts of Link to the Rainier Valley, and more. Today we’ll look at the Blue Line – or East Link – which will run from Lynnwood to Redmond via Bellevue.

At the outset, two characteristics differentiate the the Blue Line (‘East Link’) from its spiney anchor, the Red Line, namely demand symmetry and affluence:

  • Demand symmetry. Beyond Northgate in the north and Rainier Beach in the south, the Red Line serves predominantly bedroom communities with intensely asymmetric demand that today is served by rivers of peak-direction express service. With the exception of Route 512, no suburban corridors along the Red Line currently sustain all-day frequent service, with the 578 and 594 dropping to half-hourly off peak. By contrast, the Blue Line will serve the both the Seattle-Bellevue and Seattle-Redmond markets, both of which sustain frequent all-day service and achieve the most symmetric demand of any city pairs in the region. Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond are job centers in their own right, and reverse peak demand is very strong. The buses that the Blue Line would ostensibly replace – the 545 and 550 – are the most successful all-day bus routes in the Sound Transit system (page 32), nearly breaking even at the farebox with costs of roughly $3 per rider.
  • Affluence. The Red Line will provide a critical link both for middle class suburban communities and those hit hardest by the continuing suburbanization of poverty, linking low cost housing to job centers, primarily in Seattle. (As I’ve written before, the long travel times from South King County to Seattle should have spurred a stronger movement for intra-South King mobility and development, and the I-5 alignment choice makes that more difficult, though not impossible.) By contrast, the Blue Line will stitch together the wealthiest centers of the region, namely North Seattle, Central Seattle, and the Inner Eastside. The balance between choice and non-choice riders on the two lines will likely be stark, with a much more moneyed set of folks traversing Lake Washington compared to those crossing the Duwamish.

Travel Times

Much like the Red Line, the Blue Line will supplant already successful bus corridors while also creating new travel opportunities via intermediate stations. Relative improvement in travel times is greatest for the new intermediate stations that currently require transfers, while for destinations that replace current bus service, Link’s primary selling point is reliability.

The Blue Line will likely replace Route 550, force a restructure or deletion of Route 226, provide a faster alternative to the B-Line, and replace the Bellevue-Redmond tail of the 566/567. The chart below shows Link travel times to Westlake atop today’s scheduled bus variation for each Blue Line station area. As you can see, the Blue Line halves travel time between Westlake and Overlake Village, Bel-Red, the (yet unbuilt) Spring District, and the East Main area. For today’s big transit markets at Microsoft, Bellevue TC, South Bellevue Park & Ride, Mercer Island, and Judkins Park, the train is slower than the fastest bus trips, but the Blue Line virtually guarantees a median travel time or better in perpetuity, everywhere along the line. For anyone stuck in reverse-peak traffic on I-90, the gold-plated Blue Line is likely actually worth its weight in gold.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.17.53 AM

Within the Eastside, Link substantially improves travel times to Downtown Bellevue while also doubling to quadrupling the frequency, depending on the station area in question.

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Between Redmond and Downtown Seattle, the situation is slightly ambiguous, and Link’s time savings will depend much on how well or poorly future freeway bus corridors perform, or whether they are retained at all. However, assuming that Redmond-UW bus service continues to exist along SR 520, savvy riders at Microsoft or Overlake Village may want to check traffic before getting on the train. In normal to moderately congested traffic, taking an SR 520 bus and transferring to Link at UW Station may be a few minutes faster. Though the transfer would introduce significant uncertainty, the doubled frequency of Link on the shared corridor between Lynnwood and Chinatown brings the expected wait time down to just 2 minutes. Though bus+Link would certainly be faster off-peak, peak performance would again depend on future traffic levels.

(Assumes scheduled 2016 bus travel times of 13-20 minutes between Overlake TC and UW Station, 3 minutes of walking, 2 minutes average wait, and  6 minutes between UW and Westlake.)
(Assumes scheduled 2015 bus travel times of 13-20 minutes between Overlake TC and UW Station, 3 minutes of walking, 2 minutes average wait, and 6 minutes between UW and Westlake.)

For Issaquah-Northgate trips currently served by the 555/556, Link is likely to be a far better bet. The ability to transfer at South Bellevue or Mercer Island will make for a relatively seamless experience and free riders from the slog down Bellevue Way.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.26.23 PM

On the Red Line, I defined Link’s ‘centers of gravity’ as Downtown (for maximizing short trips) and the Rainier Valley (for minimizing long trips). The Blue Line is a bit more fragmented by uneven stop spacing – a natural consequence of a long lake crossing – but the centers of gravity are still what you might expect. For maximizing short trip possibilities, Downtown still reigns, as its residents can travel anywhere from Lynnwood to Bel-Red in less than 30 minutes, with only Overlake inching beyond 30 minutes. But Judkins Park and Mercer Island also do very well. At Judkins Park, a 30-minute window gets you to either 185th St or Overlake, whereas for Mercer Island a 30-minute window gets you to either Northgate or Overlake. If you want to live in a residential part of Seattle but have good access to Downtown  Seattle (10 minutes), Downtown Bellevue (14 minutes), and Overlake (24 minutes), Judkins Park will be about as good as it gets.

Travel Times Between All Blue Line Stations
Travel Times Between All Blue Line Stations

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 12.29.25 AM

What do you see? How do you plan to use the Blue Line?

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 looked at Lynnwood-Federal Way (The Red Line), and Part 3 will look at bus vs. Link travel times for all station pairs in the system.

61 Replies to “Blue Line Travel Times in 2023”

  1. This will really open up residential opportunities for people who work on the Eastside near one of these stops but would rather live in Seattle. Roosevelt and Northgate to Downtown Belleve at around ~30-35 minutes will be very good during rush hour. 24 min from Capitol Hill will also be great.

    Link is shaping up to be a good rail system for commuters to the regions urban core, but it’s utility as an urban transit system for non-commute, off-peak trips isnt quite as strong (not terrible, as some people claim, but still leaving a lot to be desired).

    1. The potential is greater than that. I grew up on the Eastside, and there’s a lot of cultural affinity with the north end. People will be going to the U-District, Greenlake, and Northgate all day. Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood will be less because of the distance, but they’re still culturally similar so there’s travel between the two beyond work commuting. (The biggest non-downtown ridership from Snohomish will be to north Seattle, all day.) If you wanted to build a line connecting the largest middle-class areas that travel to each other, the Blue Line would be it.

      1. Fair enough – that is a good point. Although I’d argue if the blue line went west from Brooklyn towards Wallingford, Fremont, and Ballard it would do a slightly better job of connecting middle class areas than north to Roosevelt and Northgate (do people on the Eastside really go to Northgate given the malls in Bellevue, Crossroads, etc.?) But your point is well taken overall!

      2. Redmond-Ballard would also be useful, and more grid-correct. But the Blue Link does connect the most common trip pairs.

    2. Conversely, people who want cheaper rent, but might want to take advantage of the Seattle cultural amenities.

  2. Judkins Park is really interesting. While I-90 and Rainier Ave make a hash of the walkshed, the to-be-built station entrance at 23rd will open up more of the neighborhood to Link. Less than 25 minutes to Bellevue, Overlake, Westlake, and UW? that’s gonna be a popular place to live.

    1. It is also yet another station where open space will eat up a lot of the walkshed. It’s as if there were some sort of conspiracy to move stations next to freeways, put in gratuitous mezzanines to make getting in and out time-consuming, or gratuitously build plazas or parks next to stations, to keep renters away.

      1. An interesting side effect of being near all this open space: Several planned stations have existing cycling infrastructure that connects to existing apartment complexes and condos. Mercer Island, South Bellevue, and Judkins park stations all have great connections to the Mountains to Sound Greenway. Density isn’t terribly high around South Bellevue – but the other two stations have a lot of bike & ride potential. Mercer Island’s existing bike racks are very well used – The planned bike cages at all 3 stations should be very popular.

      2. Or, Brent, it could be that I-90 is the only way across the lake, and judkins park is the only place to put a station (hint: home of the erstwhile flyer stop), unless you have enough money to drill a big hole down from the top of the hill and bust through the tunnel, including the car deck carrying the westbound lanes, to get to the tracks below, and then hollow it out to a width sufficent to handle platforms. If there is any conspiracy, it seems to be to pursue a practical design responsive to the built environment.

      3. @BW,

        I imagine the location of this station had something to with the fact that E Link is utilizing the pre-existing I-90 tunnel and floating bridge, and therefore it sort of has to….you know…..go near the freeway, since… know….that is where the tunnel and bridge are located….

        So I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy, more like a fall out of design decision made in the late 70’s and early 90’s to think ahead and build all that infrastructure to accommodate rail. So it is a good thing, and far from a conspiracy.

      4. Re: Bike Cages – I live near Beacon Hill station and have used biking to the 550 flyover stop as an alternative to backtracking downtown when going to the Eastside. It’s surprisingly convenient, other than taking my beater 2nd bike and hiding in the bushes since there’s not much lockup infrastructure there now.

    2. Judkins Park will likely be the sleeper hit of the line. If you’re in Columbia City it’s a three-block walk to the Red Line. If you’re in Hillman City or Rainier Beach it’s significantly further. The population concentration is centered on Rainier Avenue, and from there you can take the frequent 7 or express 9 (if it remains) to Judkins Park Station, and from there it’s nonstop to downtown. From Mt Baker Station to Intl DIst there’s three intervening stops, more circuitous routing, and a low-speed surface segment. Judkins Park station will also bring in more of north Rainer that’s north of Mt Baker. And it has quick access to the Eastside! I’ve known more than one person who works on the Eastside or has a tech job that has moved to Rainier over the past twenty years, so it is happening, and this will probably, um, accelerate the gentrification.

      1. And there has been a lot of TOD discussed for the JP area over the last couple of years….some got postponed by the recession, but….

      2. I agree Mike — the area has always been fairly convenient for both the east side and downtown, but it will be a lot more convenient soon. One of the more interesting and less intuitive connections is from Judkins Park to Capitol Hill Station: 12 minutes. That is substantially faster than the Metro 8, even in the middle of the day (making a transfer worth it). That is a very common connection (made famous by Sir Mix a Lot in the song “Posse on Broadway”) that just got a lot better.

      3. Have fun getting stuck on the NB 7 or 9X during morning rush hour on the way to JP from HC or RB. Thanks to the huge backup on Rainier Ave from people trying to get on 90, I’m often able to outwalk the busses between Mt Baker and 90.

        JP has the potential to be the sleeper hit for RV, but they’re going to need to fix the bus reliability on Rainier first. A cycle path down Rainier would also help a lot for those so inclined.

      4. Forgot to mention the station quality. The current Rainier flyer stops are out of the way, neglected, and some people feel unsafe there. But if the station is designed well, with entrances on both sides of Rainier and on 23rd, with escalators/elevators, and good sightlines and lighting to make it feel safe, it could attract more riders to the Eastside just for that.

  3. Travel times over all are much quicker between the ends of the blue and red lines. The double frequency is also pretty useful for all of the stations north of IDS.

    It seems increasingly less necessary north of the city limits though. Is there any expectation that Shoreline and Lynnwood (or stations further north) are actually going to upzone enough or bring enough commuter buses to fill all of those trains?

    If the plan was originally to stop at Northgate, why bother going all the way to Lynnwood? Since the track is elevated it seems it would be easier to retrofit a spur somewhere around Northgate or 130th out to Lake City way to make better use of the rest of those Blue Line trains…

    In fact, it seems like it would be pretty straight forward to split the lines right at Northgate Way and run an elevated line right up the Northgate Way/Lake City corridor…

    1. @CB,

      My understanding is that ST hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not to turn back the Blue Line trains at Northgate or whether to continue the interlining all the way north. So the map that Zach is showing may, or may not, be totally accurate. It remains to be decided.

      1. @lazarus

        Hopefully if ST does want to run the blue line further, they consider serving areas that are actually underserved (like Lake City, perhaps onto Kenmore and Bothell) instead of giving park and ride lots a bunch of extra empty trains. Elevated lines along arterials are a lot cheaper to build than new downtown lines, and it would be fairly inexpensive to add one of the most major population centers north of the Ship Canal not already getting a train.

        For folks wanting to go to the east side north of Northgate, the transfer would be the least painful in our whole system:
        1) Get off the train in Northgate
        2) Wait a few minutes on the same platform
        3) Ride the very next train.

      2. @Gordon Werner

        Agreed, this bridge adds a lot of reliability issues for the line… to me that’s another reason to do something different with the north end of the line past Northgate if possible. At least the rest of the line could keep moving and taking riders to useful locations while the bridge is closed.

      3. Since when have federal safety rules not been overzealous? Not since 2000. There are these “Mandatory Security Stops” at both ends of the DSTT that make even buses stop. So the bridge will probably still be closed. But no, it’s not a big deal, just like a Ballard transit bridge opening “a few times a year” is not a big deal. It’s when it happens every day that it becomes an issue.

        “we can only hope that SoundTransit actually adds real-time train information on the station displays … something which I still do not understand why it wasn’t available at day 1”

        Stinginess. They would have had to pay the contractor more to implement it. But ST2 includes unspecified “improvements” to them, which probably means next-train displays. This should have been a minimum requirement for the system, like 100% grade separation. What other subway doesn’t have next-train displays?

      4. The above is a reply to Gordon Werner’s Blue Angels comment below.

        “If the plan was originally to stop at Northgate, why bother going all the way to Lynnwood?”

        The earliest schedule had three lines, something like Lynnwood-Des Moines, Northgate-Redmond, and (daytime) Lynnwood-Stadium. Then ST switched to two lines, with East Link running Redmond-Lynnwood peak hours and Redmond-Northgate off-peak. Then it decided that would lead to overcrowding north of Northgate so it extended all trains to Lynnwood. Perhaps ultimately it will do something else, like truncating them at Northgate after 8pm.

      5. All the more reason to consider a UW to Ballard spur. Northgate and Roosevelt are decent stops, but they aren’t huge (like the UW/Capitol Hill and downtown). The argument I’ve heard in the past is that you needed the frequency on the northern section, because of the high volume of people coming from the north. I never bought that, but if ST doesn’t believe that all the stations north of Northgate don’t justify the extra frequency, then it is hard to see how Northgate and Roosevelt do.

        Bellevue to Ballard is a logical pairing. Basically that means one route going mostly north-south, while another route goes basically east-west. Of course you could have that, plus a third route that just goes from Northgate to downtown. That would include the highest demand section (UW to downtown). Of course, if high frequency for the outer areas is your goal, then it is best to keep the lines separate during the high demand periods. Trains from Northgate could run every three minutes, but not if they interline with trains from Ballard (although theoretically we can run the trains every 90 seconds). During rush hour I could see trains running every four minutes from the north, while trains from the west run at the same frequency. This would be ideal for folks who aren’t headed downtown (e. g. Northgate to Ballard).

        As for the other idea (splitting at Northgate to serve Lake City) that is a reasonable idea, but not necessarily easy. Surface running would be problematic, and elevated would be politically difficult.

        I don’t think a line like that would be ideal, either. It would essentially connect the northeast end, but leave the northwest alone. I think a crossing route (from Lake City to Bitter Lake) makes the most sense. This should start out as BRT, but eventually could be converted to light rail (which would involve some tunneling). There is plenty of population density on both sides. Bitter Lake is not as big as Lake City (few places in Seattle are) but it is not tiny and has huge potential for growth.

      6. @CB,

        If ST did decide to extend the Blue Line to Lake City in ST3, then it couldn’t afford to put LR service in Ballard (regardless of the route).

        It would be great if ST had a bottomless pot of gold, but they have to make decisions based on the budget that we the citizens have given them.

      7. ST’s long-term plan has the Lake City line starting from Northgate. So that will be the initial assumption in planning, and ST will have to deal with all those elevated/surface issues anyway. Now, if you somehow want to divert the Blue Line to this track instead of Lynnwood, that’s theoretically feasable with a large turning arc, but only if ST is no longer nervous about overcrowding in Shoreline/Lynnwood. Or ST could revive the Lynnwood-Stadium line as a daytime relief line.

      8. Ross beat me to it. I’ve been looking at this map and thinking that running Blue Line trains west to Ballard instead of north to Lynnwood would make lots of sense.

    2. Imagine going to Northgate or Roosevelt Station to get on a train into Seattle in the AM peak — and the train is too crowded to board! At the very least, you could be standing at peak hours for that 15 minute trip from Northgate to University Street Station. Even worse, you may be squeezed tightly on the train. Of course, the worst is not to be able to get on a train period because it’s too crowded.

      If demand is what the ridership forecasting models say — particularly about commuting patterns — this is a real possibility.

      ST may think that they want to run all the trains to Lynnwood at peak hour, but if things get too crowded as predicted, the North Seattle residents are going to scream about not being able to get on a train until some if not all of the Blue Line trains are ended at Northgate so that they can actually get on one!

      1. Nobody has predicted that trains at Northgate will be too crowded to board. I swear, where is this stuff coming from?????

        We would be extremely lucky to have a system that was so successful that 4-LRV trains, operating at 6 min headways were filled well beyond their normal 800 person capacity. That is well in excess of 8000 pphpd! That is would be an awesome problem to have!

        And if that problem does materialize what would ST do? They would go to 3.75 or 3 min headways, effectively doubling the capacity. Such things are possible once the buses get out of the tunnel.

      2. Highly unlikely IMO, I agree with Lazarus. Right now we’re running 16 LRVs/hour during peak. A full 4-car, 4-minute headway line, for instance, would be 60 LRVs/hour, 3.75x greater than today. At 3 minutes, it’s 80 LRVs/hour, or 5x more.

      3. I don’t commute to and from North Seattle, so I have no idea how overcrowded the I-5 buses are today and how that will change when Community Transit buses stop running and other riders move from parallel corridors onto the train.

        My gut tells me that you guys are correct. I don’t think that the problem will occur — and if it does there are rail and bus operations strategies that could address it.

        I channel the comment to reflect a general systems issue that emerges in operating well-utilized rail systems when there are over 10 or 12 stops on a branch — the benefit to having some trains that turn back before the end of the line.

      4. It’s not just when the line opens, but looking ahead twenty years after that. That’s where the main concerns about crowding are.

  4. What is the max possible frequency over the I-90 floating bridge? I have heard somewhere that there can only be one train on the bridge at a time? (I hope I am wrong)

    1. There was a lot of misinformation being thrown around by Eastlink opponents during the planning process. I also “heard” that trains would only be able to operate at 5mph over the expansion joints. This, of course, was “known” before Sound Transit had even started design and testing of the expansion joint system. I would take the sky is falling kinds of information with a rock of salt until you hear it from Sound Transit.

    2. The physics of that make no sense.

      Unless you are talking about a long span with few supports, such as an arch span or suspension bridge, there is very little impact of multiple loads. Eachoad is supported by that section.

    3. The origin ($) of the one train at a time rumor, perhaps?

      “One remaining technical question is how trains would operate during a substantial, once-a-year type windstorm. Assuming a sustained north wind, at 30 to 40 mph, it appears only one train at a time could safely occupy the bridge.”

  5. I live in Redmond, near Overlake Transit Center. Compared to the 545, I expect the frequency, reliability, comfort, and capacity of light rail to more than make up for the longer travel time.

    Right now I usually have stand on the bus during peak because there is no room to sit. Standing on an express bus is not fun. Standing on a train is… well, still not fun, but the ride is smoother, so it’s much better. I used to live in Tokyo and New York, so I can appreciate the difference.

    I don’t think many people would choose to keep taking the 545 once light rail is running to Redmond. I would be surprised if it survives.

  6. Eight years from now, I’ve really got no idea what my travel patterns will be. Depends on where I work, go to school, or just feel like taking a train ride.

    Right now, most likely travel will Tacoma Dome to Federal Way, if 574 doesn’t change, Columbia City and Beacon Hill for food and coffee, and change at IDS for ride with way-cool scenery when Mt. Rainier is sunning itself.

    Or up to the U-District for whatever’s going on, and also a really great subway ride. Chicago got me hooked at an early age.

    But honestly, best news here is number 2023. Which from 2015 is less than half the time it took from DSTT opening ’til Train One (probably not train number, but place in line) cleared Westlake with people on it.

    Greatest technical thing for me will be watching the I-90 bridge become part of a railroad. Wonder how bad it would bug ST if first passenger load eastbound all had life-jackets? And if they stuffed inflatable rafts under all the fold-down seats?

    Risk management might insist for awhile, given WSDOT’s record of sending two floating bridges to Captain Ivar Haglund’s Locker in recent memory. Might be a good idea if since the Apology and Moving Shortly message won’t be needed anymore, the sound system replaced it with “Nearer My God to Thee!”


  7. So SoundTransit has stated that during our occasional bad wind storms … only one train set at a time will be allowed on the floating bridge. This will negatively affect the schedule of service … and we can only hope that SoundTransit actually adds real-time train information on the station displays … something which I still do not understand why it wasn’t available at day 1.

    Also … no one has said whether or not Link will be allowed to cross the floating bridge during Blue Angels performances … As the train is on a fixed guideway, commanded by trained operators there won’t be the problem of people just stopping their cars on the highway or causing accidents due to inattentiveness … however I can see the usual over-reactionary folks forcing the train service to stop “for safety” … ignoring the fact that the jets are the safety problem, not the train.

    I just want SoundTransit to publicly state that Link will NOT be halted like the 550 is today.

    1. Reposting my reply which belongs here.

      Since when have federal safety rules not been overzealous? Not since 2000. There are these “Mandatory Security Stops” at both ends of the DSTT that make even buses stop. So the bridge will probably still be closed. But no, it’s not a big deal, just like a Ballard transit bridge opening “a few times a year” is not a big deal. It’s when it happens every day that it becomes an issue.

  8. Great travel times! Generally, there is little to complain about with the line itself.

    Just a minor quibble: I remain disappointed that there was never a plan to develop an infill station south of Dearborn under the 12th Avenue Bridge to Beacon hill and connect up to Yesler Terrace. The land appears to be there, but I doubt it could be created given curves and grades.

    In fact, if the Broadway streetcar segment found a way to end at this station, and the Jackson Street streetcar segment went further east into the CD before turning either north or south, we would have a much more interesting utility of the streetcars that would enable Metro to even drop some transit routes.

  9. What do you people think about building flying switch capabilities — maybe even sidings or grade separations — to East Link to facilitate operating more than one line in the future. To me, it seems silly to not do this for a second Downtown Seattle tunnel, a South Bellevue connection to I-90 or maybe a Wilburton area connection south or north. If the project is below budget, it seems like this would be a good strategy for a change order should ST3 pass in 2016. If this isn’t done before East Link opens in 2023, we’ll have to spend tens of millions more and have major service disruptions after 2025 or 2030 to do this.

    1. If they have extra money left over, in my opinion they should build a station in downtown Bellevue.

      1. How about a pedestrian tunnel westward from the BTC light rail platform, under the BTC and portaling at 6th St and 106th? Maybe even with a moving sidewalk?

  10. Zach has done a good job of explaining the travel times to Westlake from Microsoft, showing that the Blue Line may take a few minutes longer. However, it should be pointed out that the same graph from Pioneer Square to Microsoft would show a Blue Line travel time advantage. The Blue Line travel time would be five minutes shorter and the bus travel times would be 5-10 minutes longer. The Blue Line will be more reliable than the bus too — and likely more frequent (meaning shorter wait times). I’d think a transit user would gladly sacrifice a few minutes in exchange for travel time reliability, especially if it’s on a smoother-riding train.

  11. This is a great post. I really like the time charts as well as the analysis. Something interesting occurred to me. For some routes, Link is faster during rush hour, but existing bus service is faster during off peak. If that is the case, then I wonder if it makes sense to cancel the rush hour bus routes, but keep the off peak ones (especially if they provide additional connectivity). I would guess that would also provide a bit of savings to the system, since I would imagine a lot of drivers only work during peak hours, and some buses sit idle in the day (someone else could speak to that).

  12. I think your second graph’s legend is incorrect. The grey line’s text says “Time to Westlake”, but I’m pretty sure you mean “Time to Bellevue TC”.

    Thanks for this article. The numbers overall are much better than I thought they would be.

  13. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Where’s the love for South King County.
    Nothing but Northgate this and Northgate that, but poor neglected Federal Way gets zero ink. FW to Overlake TC is 73 minutes with a transfer at IDS and quick step 4 min up and over the mezzanine (OJ can do it in 2)..
    and don’t even get me started on Renton, which is ahead of the curve with RR-F.

    1. That’s in the next article, which will be looking at travel times for the whole system (instead of just the Blue Line.)

    2. Ah yes, the IDS transfer problem: No down escalators. Lots of transfers. People connecting to/from Bellevue and SeaTac Airport with luggage. People waiting in lines for down elevators with their roller bags for 5-10 minutes. Older married couples fussing because one spouse is too weak to carry luggage down all those stairs.

      This will likely be a major sore spot in 2026. Many will complain about it in 10 years unless something is done. Mercer Island and Bellevue citizens aren’t typically quiet either when it comes to inconveniences, either.

      ST ideally should RIGHT NOW be in the midst of major public meetings with a nationally-known station architect to redesign the IDS flow of transferring passengers. It ideally would be implemented before East Link opens. Alas, it seems ST would rather pay millions to study rail to Paine Field rather than to invest any money in a station redesign for the major transfer point in the system. Of course, more people will transfer at IDS than will get on or off that Paine Field station.

      On a related observation, ever notice how an IDS overhaul (or more generally down escalators for the DSTT) never is explicitly listed as a choice in the ST3 shopping list?

      1. I think many in these threads have forgotten about the reality checks that exist in the post itself, i.e. the travel-time charts.

        Bellevueites — even the scant few with non-laborious access to the train — are not about to go spending 48-60 minutes taking trains to the airport. It’s just not going to happen.

        The precedent is very clear on this: sprawl-suburban trains have virtually no “network effects” to speak of. The reverse-direction transfer quality at I.D. is immaterial, because so few will ever attempt it.

      2. So true. I can count on my right foot the number of riders from Kirkland to SeaTac on Link, and have toes left over.

      3. and offering up the most excellent transfer opportunity at UW, with its 1,000 foot walk doesn’t sound very encouraging either. Adam had some good suggestions in Jan’15, that seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
        Of course the 40 min Link ride to SeaTac allows ample time to rest up for the next 1/4 mile trudge, with bags in tow, to the terminal.
        Add in the 25 min KTC-UW trip on the 542 and we’re back to an hour+10.

  14. An interesting article on the Mass Transit web site and cominngvfrom one of the national press wires says that “millennials” (everyone seems to have their own definition of the birth years) are increasingly wanting to live in close in neighborhoods and be walking distance to places.

    This could have negative impacts on the outer ends in terms of ridership.

    It could be beneficial to the reverse commute ridership.

  15. As things expand further into the more distant suburbs, is there any reason that it wouldn’t make sense for the outskirts to be run similar to how the Purple Line in Chicago works?

    On the south end, the Red line would terminate at the airport or something. Then south of there you’d have another line (lets call it the Yellow line) that would just go from the airport to all points south. At peak hours, the Yellow line would interline with the Red line and go all the way into downtown. On the north and east ends you’d do the same with maybe Northgate and Wilburton as the break points.

    1. There aren’t enough stations for it to be worthwhile doing it that way, I don’t think. Purple and Red lines in Chicago can work that way because

      1. It’s a four track express + local line over much of that distance. Express service works nicely if you inherited infrastructure that is good at it.

      2. The stations are fairly frequent, so express services saves a bit of time.

      3. The trains are fairly frequent, so there isn’t really a transfer penalty.

      4. Chicago is a huge draw for commuters, and so during peak periods there is a significant demand to make express trains worthwhile.

      5. Once you get to the loop, there is a lot of transfer opportunity, so that it isn’t just a small urban core over which those express trains see commuters. Easy and frequent trains on a dozen lines feed commuters to the loop and also a couple miles in each direction of the loop.

      6. Chicago has semi-permanently coupled cars in minimum two car sets, which form 8 car trains during peak periods. It isn’t necessarily worthwhile to run huge 8 car trains all the way to the far end of the purple line all day long. So, the Skokie Swift (the black line) gets single cars and the purple line is also separated so it can run shorter trains if it needs to, but south of there the 8 car trains can work their magic at clearing platforms.

      For the situation in south King County, you would probably be just as good to run the through trains south of the airport less frequently. You can call it a different line if it helps clarify the schedules for people. Once the peak period is over, you can run single car trains on that if you need to without interfering with the capacity of the line between Seattle and the airport.

      Once you start reaching maximum capacity of the line through downtown in the off-peak periods, so that four car Link trains are always required even at 9 in the evening on Sundays, then maybe it is time to worry about separating the lines into a less busy section and more busy line.

      Average weekday ridership is somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million on the L trains. With that sort of ridership, things require a bit of work to put capacity where it is most needed.

      1. Although this usually happens only in the densest metropolitan commuter systems, where there is enough demand from the end-nodes, the trains end up being full part way into their run, with all the passengers taking the whole trip.

        Much like bus routes, where it doesn’t matter if the bus is on time, you can’t fit anyone else on.

        Small suburban-oriented light-rail systems have a capacity constraint as it pertains to equipment and station infrastructure.

        Not that it will ever happen here, since everyone, including many transit supporters, are happy with extra taxes to support a never-ending road capacity expansion scheme.

      2. Oh, and express service, based on travel times, is not that much faster.

        High speed is an illusion.

        One that a lot of commuters buy into, though.

      3. Just to be clear, I didn’t mean “express” trains that would skip stops. My vision of this would be this:

        At non-peak times, the Yellow line would run from Tacoma to Seatac at say 15 minute headways with one or two cars on the south end, the Orange line would run from Everett to Northgate with similar headways and train sizing on the north end, and the Red line would run from Northgate to Seatac on 10 minute headways and larger trains through the core.

        At peak times, the Yellow line would change it’s northern terminus to Northgate, still at 15 minute headways and maybe larger trains if demand allows, the Orange line would change it’s southern terminus to the International District (or maybe all the way to the airport, if demand requires), and the Red line would be unchanged form non-peak times.

        This way you would have roughly double to triple the runs through the core, while keeping a dedicated core run that handles most of the demand. People outside the Northgate-to-Seatac core would be required to make a transfer at these end points during non-peak times, but would be able to get all the way into the core with a single seat during the peak. Additionally, you’d be able to independently control the number of cars per train in the outskirts and the core, so that you aren’t running 4-8 car trains all the way to Tacoma when you only need 2 out there but still need lots of capacity through the core.

        In comparing it to Chicago, think more of the Purple/Brown pairing (if the Brown terminated at Belmont) rather than the Purple/Red pairing. After the split at Belmont, the Purple line has ~8 stops, which should work out to about equal to what we’ll have south of the airport once things are fully built out.

        And to respond to your capacity and demand comments, of course those are valid points, this is why I specifically said “As things expand further into the more distant suburbs”, implying that this would be 15-30 years out, where demand would be greatly increased from what we have today.

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