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NOTE: This post is copied in its entirety from an article I wrote, titled Fast Trains to Olympia: A Mapped, Annotated Extension Proposal. It is the latest entry of my blog, Transportation Matters, a Pacific Northwest-flavored blog that discusses railway planning, urban planning, and related politics.

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Olympia, the seat of government for Washington State, is sited at the southwestern edge of the urbanized Puget Sound region. While the politicking inside the statehouse may directly affect the other cities of the region, Olympia is not otherwise well connected to them. Including the bus commute on Interstate 5, a ride that is frequently halted by worsening congestion, Washington State’s economic, political and social centers remain unlinked by any reliable, frequent and swift mode of public transportation.

It does not have to be this way.

The Tacoma to Seattle core rail line endeavors to close the most critical gap within the region. It does so sensibly by eliminating mainline redundancy and utilizing existing rights-of-way; by improving rail capacity for cargo trains that have been diverted away from our city centers, and; by building smart, new infrastructure to link the two cities and their suburbs together in a single, urban, high-speed line.

In much the same way, the extension from Tacoma to Olympia will also capitalize on existing infrastructural resources, and similarly employ the best passenger railroad engineering practices of Western Europe to achieve a uniform speed profile of 200kmh (125mph). This is the overall system’s design standard, with the only exceptions being the last few kilometers into Olympia and Seattle’s city center terminals, or those segments where top-speeds are higher.

Some have already questioned the merit of a line to Olympia. Indeed, after decades of malinvestment into the region’s railroad network, and even dismantling quite a bit of it, the capital costs of the project, as-of-yet not calculated, will be substantial. However, to discount a project whose cost should have been evenly distributed over the decades is irresponsible and short-sighted. Railways have not been afforded the same generosity as has our regional highway network.

Consequently, it is even more imperative to thoroughly review and understand the benefits of any such extension.

One, and perhaps most fundamentally, the extension would further transform mobility in the Puget Sound region and upend current notions of distance and geography. Following another on-time departure from King Street Station’s stub tracks in central Seattle, for example, a businessman could arrive at an Olympia Station just eight blocks from where his meeting will be held inside the Capitol Building, and do so roughly twice as fast as driving—likely far more quickly should the interstate not be having a rare free-flowing day. Distance becomes unimportant when high-speed trains are your preferred mode of travel, exposing formerly ignored real estate to investment opportunity from sources across a newly connected region.

Two, as new BRT and streetcar lines are developed and improved bike and pedestrian systems connect with the high-speed line at its stations, the vast majority of the region’s populace will finally be offered a real alternative to driving for the first time since the commencement of the Automobile Age.

Three, the segment of the line between Fort Lewis Station and Lacey Station is designed to accommodate true high-speed trains traveling upwards of 300kmh (185mph). Responsible planning dictates us to prepare for a time when much of the extension is incorporated into the Central Washington High-Speed Line to Portland, Oregon, rendering the final miles of trackage into Downtown Olympia merely a spur. In other words, the extension to Olympia must be seen as the initial segment of a true high-speed line linking the primary cities of the Pacific Northwest. This proposal has us securing the critical urban rights-of-way now before urban sprawl and poor planning eradicate these limited, very precious resources.

Lastly, four, while the construction of any rail line will undoubtedly pollute, their subsequent operation will generate dramatically fewer toxins than their vehicular counterparts. With high-speed electric trains, the comparison becomes even more pronounced. Confronted with worsening congestion, deteriorating air quality, poor mobility and city centers stifled by underinvestment, the Puget Sound has extraordinary potential to recast itself as one of the most resilient and sustainable metropolitan areas of the world through this rail improvement plan.

The Olympia Extension could play a major role within this transformation.

Measured to within mere feet of inaccuracy, this project is technically feasible. All that is required now is the political will to begin establishing the sole rail spine of a rapidly growing region.

From here, I’ll let my plan speak for itself. I welcome scrutiny and constructive criticism.

46 Replies to “The Olympia Rail Extension: A Mapped Plan.”

    1. Individual maps are of a map-book that does indeed (ultimately) travel north as it follows the railroad from Olympia to Seattle.

      System maps are orientated in a way that has them fitting within their particular ANSI sizes.

      My apologies if they have confused.

      I’m trusting in everyone to (at least eventually) know their way around the Puget Sound on a map. All maps have compass orientation, too.

  1. You’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars obtaining large diameter curves and then you’re going to stop five times in 30 miles?????? Just use the existing trackage; obviously the UP spur into Olympia would have to be completely rebuilt, but at least there’s a grade and no land acquisition.

    Olympia is a little city and is unlikely to grow a lot because it’s port facilities are relatively poor and very poorly connected to the rail system. No businesses big enough to fill large office buildings are going to move there, except maybe some satellite law offices filled with lobbyists. It will always be the “company town” for the State of Washington government and nothing more.

    It does not need “high speed rail”.

    1. Ultimately, this is a rebuild of a line for swift commuter traffic; consequently, there will be sensibly located stops. And since not all trains will stop at each station, the 200kmh speed profile has an important role in the quality of the overall system. Such a speed is hardly “high-speed”, and is now merely a respectable swiftness in comparison to equivalent lines around the globe.

      You make it seem that such a modest improvement in the sole rail line of the region is a wild, outrageous expense; I’d suggest that you are falling into the trap that I warned about within this very post. Sure, there will be capital costs for this project that are non-zero, correct; however, to criticize the project for what is tantamount to a lack of foresight by older Washingtonians, who should’ve distributed the costs of improving our singular rail line over the decades (like our roadway network), is nonsensical. Plus, as congestion worsens and our region densifies, the value of connecting to Olympia (pop. 46k, urban pop. 265k) and intermediate cities by express rail will prove enormously intelligent.

      Furthermore, the curves are hardly large-diameter as you claim, and their correction to 1900 meters represents a fairly modest improvement in the rail line’s infrastructure. This is basic stuff.

      We can most certainly kneecap proposals like these into something more superficially affordable, more diesel-powered, more glacially paced, and more useless——indeed, more of what you think is appropriate for the region and no more.

      I would hope, though, that more forward-thinking minds would prevail and construct infrastructure that is lasting and effective the day it opens to the public.

      1. There are a total of twenty-eight northbound buses which run between Olympia and Lakewood today. Twenty-eight. With what’s probably an optimistic average ridership of 40 per bus, that’s 1,120 northbound trips or 2,240 total.

        Even if your proposal quadruples the ridership — even if it produces ten times the riders, which almost never happens when a transit facility is upgraded– it would still only carry unique 11,000 riders per day. There are certainly not 11,000 employees of the State of Washington (the main riders of IT’s expresses) who commute from Pierce County. Are there even 11,000 employees of the State of Washington in total who work in Olympia?

        So ten times is extremely unlikely. You’d be very lucky to get a tripling or 7,000 total trips, 3,500 unique riders. People have to get to their workplace, and Olympia and Tacoma are both very spread out.

        The E-Line in Seattle — which is likely never to get a steel-wheel alternative — carries about 14,000 trips per day or 7,000 unique riders. Even buying trains to run on the existing track is probably not a good investment until and unless Olympia grows a lot!

        Look, I love to ride the train; my father worked for the Norfolk Southern so we rode all over on passes in the era before Amtrak, and I still choose the train when I’m going alone, except across the country.

        The Point Defiance Bypass is going to give the trains a good run between Lakewood and the Nisqually River Bridge. If it ever makes sense to do this, using the existing UP upgraded to 50 mph is good enough. It’s only seven miles from the junction to downtown Olympia. That would be eight minuts. Spending all that money to loop west of Mounts Road, basically splatter Old Nisqually and then carve a new line through South Olympia is spendthrift and anti-social on top of it.

        Sorry to pop your bubble, but this proposal is Robert Moses on steel rails.

      2. Mr. Moses was an autocrat who hated trains and other modes of transit while elevating the automobile, and who destroyed neighborhoods to achieve his pricey motoring visions. This is a bottom-up plan that seeks scrutiny for improvement; endeavors to instigate a discussion on how to best link our region beyond the options provided to us by the professionals which have hitherto been insufficient; supports alternative modes of transportation and even seeks connections to them, and; is a plan that takes great pains to rebuild existing infrastructure, avoid disruption, minimize expropriation and get the best bang-for-the-buck. How is this anything at all like Mr. Moses’ methods?

        The answer is that it is not. It was a terrific line, however, for the uninformed.

        You seem very focused on Olympia; the focus is misplaced. Olympia is only one of five stops on the extension beyond Tacoma, and the infrastructure investment needed to get there truly isn’t so monumental. Plus, while the capital cost will be in the hundreds of millions, at least, we get a priceless urban high-speed rail line that ultimately has low operating costs and swifter travel speeds for a ridership umbrella of a million people. It also separates every grade crossing, eradicates noise pollution from these roads, transforms the real estate values of linked city centers and nearby residential areas, and upends how we navigate the South Sound. You too narrowly focus on Olympia’s minor extension and fail to comprehend the larger possibility of an express rail spine south of Seattle. You also discount how the extension toward Olympia plays a role in the creation of a modern high(er)-speed line to Portland, Oregon.

        So, no, you haven’t popped my bubble. You are only continuing to support the status-quo that nearly every resident in this area objects to, but is nonetheless subjected to.

        Offered a real plan with real benefits that is value engineered to reflect a real concern for the taxpayer’s wallet, I think the public would bite.

        Indeed, a one seat, 200kmh ride into King Street would beat those 28 buses to Lakewood any day.

      3. Well, if Olympia is “minor” what’s “major”? Lakewood already has Sounder Service, so those who want to take the train already can, and apparently do.

        The Fort can’t be developed, and its suffering a 35% reduction in force right now. There’s a freeway right alongside the tracks all the way to the Nisqually crossing with most of the other side of it occupied by that Fort. So there goes 50.000% of your walk/development shed. There’s a golf course on the north side and the WSDOT weigh station (not to mention a fairly sizable hill) on the south side to the west of Center Drive. And actually, the Fort has property on the north side of the freeway east of Dupont as well, so you actually lose 100.000% of the walkshed at the “Fort Lewis Station”.

        Where exactly are you going to find riders along this beast? You’ve already proposed ripping through the prime farmland west of the Nisqually River, I guess you want to build a “Little Green River Valley” there? If not from Olympia, then from where are the riders going to come for this two or three billion dollar pipe dream? Yes, Dupont might develop into a regional center, but its developable land is hemmed in on two sides by the US Army, on the third by that golf course and on the fourth by very anti-development Steilacoom.

        Once the Point Defiance Bypass is opened (if it ever actually gets underway) it might make sense to extend Sounder to Dupont in order to carry what commuters from there and Olympia want to get past the clog at the Fort. But none of this even higher-speed-than-the-Bypass-will-allow frou-frou is necessary or even wise.

        Your proposal to separate passengers from rail between Black River Junction and Tacoma Junction is a good one. I doubt that Warren and Koraleski can come to an agreement to make full separation a possibility at a price that Washington State can afford, but whatever can be done along those lines will help Sounder.

      4. I have to admit that I love this back-and-forth. Deliberation is valuable in the creation of projects worthy of investment.

        Having stated that, though, you take multiple positions that I would have figured to be contrarian on a blog dedicated to the creation of high-quality transportation infrastructure. I’ll detail some of these now:

        1. In a region where the convenient way to travel is exclusively by private automobile, you deny a competitive rail alternative that would most sensibly link our intercity distances.

        2. In light of growing road congestion and increasing population densities, you do not see a need for a non-road based alternative to transit, nor is the South Sound deserving of the additional transit capacity provided by dedicated public infrastructure.

        3. Olympia, the capital of Washington State and home to over 260,000 people, is unfit to be a terminus on a rail spine that links the very poorly-connected centers of commerce, culture, education, government, military and recreation of the region, all through a population umbrella of millions of residents.

        4. Despite there being no precedent of the state investing meaningful sums of money into intercity railroad infrastructure (in comparison to routine highway expenditures), you assert that a $1-$3 billion dollar, one-time capital expenditure to secure a high-speed passenger-dedicated corridor from Tacoma to Olympia is “unwise”, perhaps immoral, and “frou-frou”.

        5. That current Sounder services, technology, equipment and possible line extensions, including 1h13m trip times from Lakewood to Seattle using diesel locomotives and cars, represents a standard of excellent to be satisfied by, and even expand.

        6. That rebuilding our existing, decayed infrastructure and existing rail rights-of-way to a basic level of functionality that is commonplace around the world is tantamount to wasteful spending or a misallocation of resources.

        7. That railroad curves laid out in 1888 should not be corrected for modern passenger railroad services, due to either notions of expense or disruption, and in fact are sufficient hosts to the trains of what would be our region’s sole railroad line.

        8. That it is sensible to judge the merits of an as-of-yet unbuilt railroad line based on the situation on the ground today, not on an understanding of the larger demographic trends of a place.

        These are some of the views you have espoused on merely a hypothetical project that would become the region’s first comprehensive mobility alternative to Interstate-5. Powered be electricity, incorporative of undervalued, high-potential infrastructure and rights-of-way, and perhaps as transformational as Interstate-5 when combined with urbane zoning and quality connecting transit, there is absolutely no equivalent regional proposal that could be as responsible and cost-effective as a publicly-owned express rail line between Seattle and Olympia. And if you doubt that the corridor stacks up well to international precedent, it does: in terms of total length, the populations of the cities served, and the importance of the cities served, our corridor strongly resembles that of the electrified Amsterdam to Groningen line, a well-used and busy railroad corridor.

        You wrote, “Well, if Olympia is “minor” what’s “major”? Lakewood already has Sounder Service, so those who want to take the train already can, and apparently do.”

        My response: Major is the construction of a swift passenger-dedicated line (to Portland, Oregon, for example), while minor is the construction of a spur from it (to Olympia from the high-speed line, for example).

        I made a map for you, here. Reflect on the “Olympia Spur” as a component in the grand scheme of the plan and understand how a few miles of rail line can be minor.

        Additionally, if you think Sounder’s current speeds and service levels presents an adequate alternative to driving for the masses—an alternative that would compel more to take the train or refocus where people live in the area—that is a delusion I cannot begin to argue with. There is no middle ground between our positions.

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        You wrote, “The Fort can’t be developed, and its suffering a 35% reduction in force right now. There’s a freeway right alongside the tracks all the way to the Nisqually crossing with most of the other side of it occupied by that Fort. So there goes 50.000% of your walk/development shed. There’s a golf course on the north side and the WSDOT weigh station (not to mention a fairly sizable hill) on the south side to the west of Center Drive. And actually, the Fort has property on the north side of the freeway east of Dupont as well, so you actually lose 100.000% of the walkshed at the “Fort Lewis Station””.

        My response: JBLM’s fluctuating population levels do not really have any bearing on the merit of a stop near there, nor of rebuilding decayed public railway infrastructure. Additionally, sure, while in that specific area you will not likely build meaningful transit oriented development, the station stops are purely hypothetical (and can be moved to preferred areas), and that stop, in particular, would likely be a station strongly supported by carpooling, park n’ rides, corporate shuttles, and so forth. This is in addition to a restructuring of transit lines and local urban development that anchors the stop in the future.

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        You wrote, “Where exactly are you going to find riders along this beast? You’ve already proposed ripping through the prime farmland west of the Nisqually River, I guess you want to build a “Little Green River Valley” there? If not from Olympia, then from where are the riders going to come for this two or three billion dollar pipe dream?”

        My response: Your demagoguery would be tiresome if it were not so impressive. Again, for the capacity, resiliency and benefit this line produces for the Puget Sound region, no alternative compares whether by price-point or logic. Consequently, I object to your assertion that this sensible investment in critical infrastructure in a rail-starved region is a beast, particularly when the components of this beast are sitting under-utilized, abandoned or being used inefficiently right under our noses.

        Writing of riders, I believe the entanglement of connections amongst this region’s populace, commercial interests and civic institutions is a quality foundation of support for a swift, intercity rail corridor. I would further suggest that heavy congestions levels and the clamor for improved mobility on every section of the corridor is further evidence of the need for an improved, reliable connection. This demand will only become stronger with time, and a rail spine would make such trends concrete.

        Also, while the cost of this extension has not yet been estimated, $3 billion seems improbably pricey. Then again, hypothetically, if it was that amount (a lot of the cost will be to separate dangerous, antique grade crossings that should be separated no matter what), that cost distributed over thirty years is a fraction of the state’s annual GDP; it is a fraction of the monies spent on building the Washington suburban experiment and its supporting roadways, and; it is a fraction of the tax cut offered without hesitation by the State’s leadership to a single company. Especially when considering the benefit of an effective transit system, the entire corridor is affordable.

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        You wrote, “Once the Point Defiance Bypass is opened (if it ever actually gets underway) it might make sense to extend Sounder to Dupont in order to carry what commuters from there and Olympia want to get past the clog at the Fort. But none of this even higher-speed-than-the-Bypass-will-allow frou-frou is necessary or even wise.”

        My response: The bypass’ reconstruction is underway now, but its completion will not challenge the stagnant ridership of the Cascades service as it doesn’t improve travel times. The improved performance reliability of the overall Cascades corridor will help some, but we do not break barriers in modal choice with 40mph average speeds for trains, especially if those trains are covering a significant distance.

        You wrote, “Your proposal to separate passengers from rail between Black River Junction and Tacoma Junction is a good one.”

        My response: Thank you! Don’t forget about the new greenfield alignment into SODO, too. That new bit of infrastructure is essential to preserve the new capacity created by the separation of services, and allows for precision scheduling.

        ————–

        Lastly, I want to acknowledge your impact on the design of the corridor per your reasoned suggestions. No longer proposed is the greenfield alignment south of Olympia required by the 200kmh speed standard. I reduced the city approach speeds to 180kmh (110mph), and corrected the curves to 1200m with 305mm of cant equilibrium. These fixes avoid a significant amount of expropriation (even if it is merely a golf course), two new bridges, and new right-of-way acquisition and construction, all for an insignificant trade-off in travel time. While the former alignment was always an “alternatives analysis”, as is the entire plan, it is sensible for the greenfield routing to be axed in exchange for a less disruptive and more affordable route into Olympia. Good work. Other segments of the corridor would benefit from value engineering, too,

        Maps have been updated to reflect these changes.

      5. #1. I’m all for providing a public alternative to private cars. I just don’t think it needs to be “emerging” high speed rail to Olympia. 260,000 people does not an HSR terminal city make. Washington State is not The Netherlands, and Olympia is not Groningen and never will be. If there is an urbanist’s nightmare of sprawl it is Olympia. Sure, it’s got a very pretty little eight block downtown with a few hundred people in it at any ordinary time (festivals excluded of course). It’s not a destination. And in any case, you are completely ignoring the region’s HOV system. While I agree that long-distance express buses are not a particularly cost-effective way to haul people around, the sunk cost of the freeway system coupled with some added concrete reserved for buses through chokepoints is a lot cheaper on a fully amortized basis. Those drivers are employment.

        So far as rail to Olympia goes, does it make sense to make certain that the UP alignment doesn’t go up in smoke like the NP’s fast direct line did? Absolutely. But putting trains on it when only a thousand people use transit to make the trip in any given day is not a good use of public funds. It just isn’t.

        And so far as what appears to be your real “camel body” attached to this nose-in-the-tent, there is not going to be HSR between Portland and Seattle in your lifetime (mine will be done before the first EIS is filed). We can build a pair of exclusive bus lanes through the Fort for Boldt for a lot less money.

        #2 See #1. “Dedicated public infrastructure” can be physically separated or rigorously enforced separation from general traffic for buses.

        #3 Yes, at this time that is absolutely my belief, and it will probably remain so for a long time to come absent complete ecological catastrophe in the Sun Belt.

        #4 I didn’t say “immoral”; I’m not an Ayn Randite. HSR on a commuter line is absolutely, positively for certain “frou-frou”.

        #5 Well, if you can obtain complete separation between Black River and Tacoma Junction (with maybe with an adjacent third track for switching access and Stampede-bound freights), then hell yes, hang catenary. But absent that complete separation, Warren is not going to let you electrify his railroad and possibly ignite one of his oil trains.

        #6 Quick, get the extinguisher; your straw-man is burning! The line along I-5 will undergo (you say “is undergoing”) a complete rebuild with curves eased and the track moved over so that a second track can be added in the future. The Cascades and the Starlight (if they survive the coming Marco Rubio presidency) will use it. Since I don’t think it makes sense to extend Sounder any farther than Dupont (if there), I sure don’t see any reason to give Union Pacific a new roadbed for it’s thrice-weekly dinky into Olympia.

        #7 Well, I think the curves on the Bypass are being straightened at least a little — there isn’t that much room without trespassing on US Gubmint Propitty at the two noticeable curves along I-5. Do I think that some of the curves south of Nisqually Junction should be straightened? I guess, if there’s room to do it without large amounts of earth moving. But since we’re not ever going to have hourly passenger service between Portland and Seattle, it would be a pretty big subsidy for Warren’s oil trains. And what the heck, they’re too slow to need it.

        #8 See #3. If the Sun Belt collapses and we get a tsunami of refugees, well it would have been a good thing to have. But you know what? Those people (and I do truly mean “those people” because I grew up among them and I know how they think) will never ride your train, and they will do everything they can to de-fund its operation.

        As to my “demagoguery” look closely at your map,specifically maps 8 and 9. Your proposed route goes right up the middle of what is clearly good agricultural bottomland. No, it’s not much good agricultural bottomland, but if the San Joaquin Valley continues its eco-collapse, we will need every acre of that sort of naturally watered bottomland we can preserve here in the northwest.

        And to your paean to hordes of latent riders here in the northwest. The folks in Thurston and Pierce Counties outside the eight block downtown of Olympia and the two square miles of lovely old Tacoma want to DRIVE!. Their idea of “public investment” is more lanes. They will not take your train. The only reason that the folks in the burbs of King County and the vast majority of Snohomish and Pierce Counties voted for ST1 and ST2 was so those bastards in front of them on the freeway could be lured into taking the train. “Because by God I’m not going to take a stupid train!”

        And, even though I am bombastic and love to use colorful words, I appreciate that you did listen and get some value from the exchange. In a best-of-all-possible-worlds scenario, this would be worth doing. Unfortunately, even as otherwise “progressive” as Northwesterners outside the two urban cores appear to be, they want their lebensraum and they want to drive to their manor in it.

      6. I think it is easy to claim that comparable rail corridors are too foreign or too unique, or this or that, to be relatable, while they very much are. With meaningful transit systems and intelligent development patterns, an urban system like that of Amsterdam to Groningen is very achievable with the tools we already know to possess.

        You can bemoan the situation on the ground today with your colorful rhetoric, but that will not be the case in thirty to fifty years, let alone ten. What will be the case in that timeframe, however, in the absence of key investments in transit, is the absence of a real alternative to urban sprawl and cars.

        You are an advocate on a transit blog of kicking the can down the road, of more roads and lanes and HOV provisions in the guise of frugality and sensibility, though it is hardly either of those things when the total costs are considered. You seek to put lipstick on a pig, to tweak the status-quo, in an insufficient mobility system that is glaringly at risk to failure.

        You take a local historical precedent which favored cars and sprawl and dismantled rail transit, all with plentiful government financial support, and use it to malign a project that has substantial potential and public benefit at a reasonable cost, even as our transit-starved society has begun to move beyond such shortsightedness.

        This is all okay, however. This project and others like it can be rejected by you and those who share your pretenses.

        Indeed, I think many would agree that given its painstaking commitment to a high-value re-use of historic infrastructure components, that its failure to garner approval on merely your apparent ideological grounds is telling of the worthwhile contents of the proposal.

        So, while I happily take your quality ideas and incorporate them into a proposal worthy of investment, I do think your utility is limited if, while supporting multi-billion dollar highway lane expansions and HOV provisions, you reject a multi-billion dollar express rail system that has been neglected for far too long, and certainly prevented from playing its rightful role in moving the Puget Sound masses.

        Lastly, I have not seen any bypass engineering or planning proposals that call for curve improvements. The plan is to eventually build 110mph-capable tracks on the existing straight segments, though there are no plans to even attempt to secure the funding for it. Then again, why pay for that when we can build a personal bus lane for the for-profit Greyhound Lines? An enlightened idea, Anandakos, and definitely on par with your damnation of a forward-thinking rail proposal because, in a rural segment totaling one whole mile, and in a region that has purposefully destroyed thousands of acres of farmland for urban sprawl, you decry as outrageous the purchase of a linear strand of right-of-way 50-100 feet wide.

        I think our debate has reached a point where there is not much of a middle ground.

    2. You are an advocate on a transit blog of kicking the can down the road

      No, I’m an advocate of using the State’s limited funds in a prudent way and serving dense areas first not building you a personal high speed train and enabling sprawl for another forty miles.

      And here’s a observation. There are now another five or six people who have responded to you and you’ve insulted them all! by your obsessions about every little element of your grand plan. Good work.

      1. I’ve only defended a rail proposal and my choices reflected in it.

        All of the points raised by commentators are ones that I have already encountered in the planning of the alignment, and my retorts reflect the thinking that supports the alignment.

        The back and forth here is productive not only in challenging my thinking, but that of others. Bring your disagreements to me, debate me, and let us improve the plan.

        Indeed, this process has been effective at bringing about terrific improvements.

        In this discussion of hypothetical transit options and ideas, I hope feelings have not been hurt. I have not intended to hurt feelings. And I hope your feelings have been unharmed in the cross examination of your ideas on rail planning.

    3. Olympia has a metro population in excess of 265 thousand people. It is the Capitol of our state and employs many thousands of people who commute from pierce, and King counties. It is home to many people that work at the adjacent Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It is home to tens of thousands of retirees.

      The evidence of need for fast frequent transit is the severe congestion on I-5 every day. This idea that transit should only feed into our largest city is absurd. There are many diverse economies in this region and they don’t all center around Seattle.

  2. This is looking to be quite the 2-person debate. Here’s my 2 cents:

    We absolutely need high-speed rail from the Puget Sound to Portland, and there’s probably about a dozen ways of getting there.

    That being said, there probably ought to be stronger land-use regulation in the south Sound to keep it from becoming south King & Snohomish counties (all over again). That alone would help reign in a lot of the haphazard development and densify the urban areas between Tacoma and Seattle. A denser Tacoma to Seattle corridor would support better transit in that area – which already had commuter rail – and improvements to the existing and proposed commuter, light rail, and BRT systems. In this perfect world of mine, which quite frankly, will probably never exist, Olympia will always be a little town (relative to Seattle) out in the sticks of Thurston County, with an enclave of politicians and bureaucrats.

    A better policy for me would be to stop the roadway investment along this stretch of I-5. Ultimately, people will get fed up with the SEA-PDX traffic jams and be more open to taking the Amtrak Cascades – and hopefully drum up support for HSR. It would induce demand on the UP & BNSF for additional freight options getting more trucks off the road, as well.

    The other policy that makes a little bit of sense is to price the Amtrak rides more in line with actual cost of an auto owner to drive it. Yes, this requires more taxpayer support, but we subsidize the bejeezus out of roads, so why not rail? We made the trip to PDX a few weeks ago, and I did a 2-minute cost analysis. It would have cost about three times as much to take the train for my wife and I as it would to drive our 10-year-old economy car (34 MPG). Add to that the inconvenience of being stuck to a timetable and not having the flexibility of visiting an area not connected to transit. (I’ll admit, we spent Sunday at Cannon Beach instead of in Portland.) Recreational travelers, business travelers, and families simply won’t take rail if it doesn’t pencil out for their checkbooks. Some people will take rail out of convenience (the ability to work on a laptop on the train, or for somebody who does not own a car), but this does not describe the majority of residents in either Portland or Seattle.

    All of these are things to consider. Like I said, a dozen ways to get to a HSR corridor, but it’s time to start getting it done, no matter which route we take.

    1. Engineer, I agree with everything you stated with the exception of this:

      We absolutely need high-speed rail from the Puget Sound to Portland, and there’s probably about a dozen ways of getting there.

      There isn’t.

      Unless a new high-speed line is built all the way into central Seattle, which would be spectacularly expensive and spectacularly stupid, all or a portion of the existing OLY-SEA rail corridor would have to be revamped to include high-speed services to create a shared corridor. As building a railroad is relatively straight-forward, that means a lot of the technical improvements of my plan would be constructed, specifically curve improvements and double-tracking. The physics involved still act the same, whether I am designing the corridor or a planning authority.

      With that noted, there are really only three places where new high-speed infrastructure could logically connect with our (currently awful) OLY-SEA commuter rail corridor: one, in Lacey, which is the likeliest and most natural point of connection, and the one featured in my planning proposal; two, in Lakewood, where there exists a connection to a beautifully tangent and rural rail right-of-way into Washington’s center—perfect for rebuilding into a high-speed line—but imperiled by the political realities of bisecting a military base (…though it’s not like it will stop, so who knows…); and three, just north of Sumner at Salmon Creek, after the line descends from the Orting Valley.

      Thus, while you are not one of my proposal’s disbelievers (that I can tell), if we are ever going to have any decent passenger railroad operation in our area, it will likely require the realization of my plan as it is currently proposed. And while 125mph minimum speeds is not true high-speed rail (indeed, the world’s first system, Japan’s initial Shinkansen of the 1960s, was designed from the outset to be 5mph faster), it is nonetheless a damn good urban speed that we should expect as a baseline.

      It kind of makes my proposals not so far-fetched anymore, all things considered.

  3. After reading the other comments, it doesn’t sound like anyone commenting is very familiar with Olympia. So as someone who lives in and loves on Olympia, let me share some facts about my favorite city.

    1) Olympia is neither an enclave of politicians nor a company town for the state. I will agree that Olympia may not qualify as “major” city, but it isn’t the sleepy backwoods that you think is. For starters, we need to consider Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey to essentially be one large (albeit a sprawly) city. Olympia has three colleges with a combined enrollment of 13,000-15,000 students and thousands of employees, two hospitals with 2000+ employees plus all the supporting specialists and offices, thousands of civilian and enlisted workers that commute to JBLM, several large distribution centers, a ton of small businesses in the downtown core, and offices from Weyerhouser and Xerox. And, yes, it also has the state government which employs quite a few folks, many of whom actually commute in from Shelton, Rochester, Chehalis, Yelm, etc where they can actually afford homes on their not-so-large state salaries. I would also add that Olympia supports 7 large high schools (1000+ students). That’s not an indicator of a “sleepy town”. Again, I’m not arguing that it’s a huge, dense metropolis in need of high-speed rail every 10 minutes, but to claim that it’s a small town that is only supported by the state is just factually wrong. If you want to disagree with me, come spend some time here first.

    2) For reasons mentioned above, rerouting the UP line through the fields south of town is not a great idea. In addition to what was already mentioned, I would add that the routing shown goes right through the Nisqually Delta. This will never, ever happen. Between fish, the environment, the tribe, lahar risk etc. putting any line through here would be tied up in litigation and mitigation for years. It won’t happen.

    3) Contrary to what many people think, Olympia is not flat. This was an issue of an earlier post as well. I apologize that I have poor skills and can’t make this a hyperlink, so feel free to copy/paste. The article was from Feb 2015: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/02/11/sounder-to-olympia-is-not-out-of-reach/ Both that author and this author failed to realized that vaunted capitol building they were trying to reach is located (like most prominent buildings) at the top of a hill! Now it’s not a huge hill, but let’s not pretend that we can build a train to get people here and then make them walk 8+ blocks uphill. I live next door to the capitol (literally) and I frequently go downtown for events, restaurants, etc. I am always huffing and puffing to get back up (of course, maybe that’s the beer). Obviously this won’t stop diehards, but it is going to discourage casual riders and anyone in business clothes.

    4) The station placement is awful. It’s not close to anything and it’s a dead part of town. Yes, that could make it ripe for revitalizing, but there are much better options. The best plan would be to get the train through town somehow (elevated, close a street, cut/cover, etc.) and place the station near the current the bus station. In other words some where between Franklin, Chestnut, State, and Thurston. The land is either vacant or has empty buildings; it’s much closer to the activity of downtown, the waterfront, the lake, etc.; it would create a multi-modal center with the bus station; and it that part of town has frequent (15 minutes) free shuttles to take people up the aforementioned hill.

    5) We can’t use the current Cascades ridership numbers to infer anything about demand. The station is way, way outside of town. I would love to take the train, but by the time I drive 20 minutes, or bus 40 min to the station I am ahead to just drive north. The current ST express buses on the other hand do probably give a good indication of demand.

    6) A lot of us here in the south sound go north a lot for sports, music, entertainment etc. Unfortunately commuter-based transit patterns don’t serve us at all. I would love to take buses or trains to mariners games, shows at the Paramount, the Solstice festival, etc. The problem is that nothing runs late this far south and all the transit options are milk runs that stop several times and nearly double the travel time. If you want Oly residents to take a train to Tacoma/Seattle it would have to run hourly until midnight and I just don’t think there’s demand for it.

    Anyway, I am not trying to endorse the plan laid out here, but as an Olympia resident it is really frustrating to see people making judgments about a town they clearly know nothing about. I hope this helps shed some light on a few things. And for the record, I would love high speed rail to Tacoma/Seattle leaving from somewhere near downtown. I just don’t know if the numbers are there and certainly not with this alignment as presented.

    1. Jay,

      Thank you for your insight. I’m calling it as I see it, and as you gleaned from my comments, no, I’m not too familiar with Olympia, besides the fact that my wife and I both have a ton of co-workers who commute to jobs in Tacoma from the “greater Olympia” area (Lacey, Tumwater, and Olympia). Given the vast amount of vacant land I see just sitting in Tacoma, there really shouldn’t be that much demand for people to live in Olympia and work in Tacoma unless a spouse happens to be employed in Olympia. I’m sure it’s all related to school district quality (a whole other issue) and cheaper real estate.

      I really have no desire to go hang out with you in Olympia. As you mention, you head north to Seattle for a lot of entertainment, just as we do. If we want to see countryside, we’ll head to Mt Rainier, or the Cascades.

      It seems like your proposal for a through route with a specific station location may have some merit if somebody could pencil it out. It looks like that puts it in the middle of downtown activity (as you say), so it might need to be buried or elevated, but having strong ridership would probably outweigh the drawback of a higher cost, not to mention not needing to do it as spur. All of this is provided the alignment can be done as true high-speed rail. To get improved ridership SEA to PDX, Amtrak will need to see improvements on the travel time to make it more competitive with auto travel.

      Again, thanks for your corrections and insight.

    2. Jay, I want to begin by telling you of my appreciation for your insights and the time expended to share it with us. It enriches the conversation here and it further solidifies my own perspective that Olympia is worth serving by rail. Indeed, my plan here does just that. I also agree with the assertion that, by itself, the city would not necessarily warrant a railroad investment of this nature, but at the end of a line linking heavily inter-connected cities together, and part of a larger investment in infrastructure that may one day unite the region with passenger-dedicated infrastructure, the spur to an Olympia terminus is wildly sensible.

      While I lack the lived-in experience of Olympia that you possess, I nonetheless live and work somewhat nearby (Lakewood/JBLM); am respectably familiar with its city center; am well acquainted with many local institutions; have an understanding of the terrain; am similarly frustrated by the area’s congestion, and; have even befriended many a citizen. So, this proposal is not coming from a place of zero knowledge or willful disregard for the place, or anywhere the corridor ventures through for that matter.

      With that noted, we do have disagreements.

      You wrote, “For reasons mentioned above, rerouting the UP line through the fields south of town is not a great idea. In addition to what was already mentioned, I would add that the routing shown goes right through the Nisqually Delta. This will never, ever happen. Between fish, the environment, the tribe, lahar risk etc. putting any line through here would be tied up in litigation and mitigation for years. It won’t happen.”

      My response: The UPRR alignment is not my first choice of routing into Olympia’s city center. There is a rail interchange near St. Clair, visible on this map, that leads onto a spur with a direct right-of-way into central Olympia. On paper, for a variety of reasons, this should be the preferred alignment (as it reduces line mileage, is gorgeously tangent in nature, and we could improve its few curves with ease). Off paper, we see that the alignment has been transformed into a popular trail, is swarmed by a dense and relentless urban sprawl, and would prove prohibitively expensive in both capital and politicking to develop into even a mediocre rail connection, let alone a fine one.

      Though the UPRR alignment from Lacey is indeed more circuitous, high-speeds through the Nisqually Valley render the actual travel time difference totally insignificant, and as the alignment still hosts rails, traverses industrial areas, is relatively unencumbered by sprawl and similarly accesses Olympia’s city center, it is our best chance for delivering high-quality rail services to your city. And yes, Olympia is of course a city that is deserving of such a connection.

      The proposed alignment does not bisect any local, state or federally protected lands (this is especially true in ecologically sensitive Nisqually, challenging any route through the vicinity). Additionally, nearly 100% of the entire corridor between OLY-SEA meanders within already established, busy rights-of-way. The only exception to this rule is indeed between I-5 and St. Clair, where curve straightening to trace the BNSF mainline for any meaningful speed is simply impossible (as in some pricey tunneling would be required). Nisqually Valley, as lovely as it is, is thus home to flat, parceled land that should be sold or expropriated for a critical segment of greenfield public infrastructure. While this is Tribal land and the Nisqually Nation will now doubt have to be engaged in the planning process—of course they must be!—the properties in question may not be owned by the tribe. Regardless, if they are that still does not imperil the plan.

      Discussing safety, any infrastructure crossing this area has to encounter or utilize Nisqually Valley, and there are no prohibitions from the State on development there. I-5 is there and hosts 115,000 daily cars. BNSF, UPRR and Amtrak are there, too. So, this notion of the area’s menacing danger is not a disqualifying factor.

      ————–>

      You wrote, “Contrary to what many people think, Olympia is not flat. This was an issue of an earlier post as well. I apologize that I have poor skills and can’t make this a hyperlink, so feel free to copy/paste. Both that author and this author failed to realized that vaunted capitol building they were trying to reach is located (like most prominent buildings) at the top of a hill! Now it’s not a huge hill, but let’s not pretend that we can build a train to get people here and then make them walk 8+ blocks uphill. I live next door to the capitol (literally) and I frequently go downtown for events, restaurants, etc. I am always huffing and puffing to get back up (of course, maybe that’s the beer). Obviously this won’t stop diehards, but it is going to discourage casual riders and anyone in business clothes.”

      My response: This proposal is not merely to shuttle people to the Capitol Grounds, but rather to have travelers arrive in Olympia’s city center. My statements on proximity are only to indicate the closeness of my hypothetical station to destinations that are meaningful to the readers, dreamers, and pragmatists who review the plan. Sure, not everyone is going to walk uphill eight blocks, but that was not the point; the point was that Olympia’s new station puts travelers within eight blocks of the most important places in the city, as opposed to eight or eighteen miles. And yes, some people will walk that hill. Such climbs are done daily in Seattle by the hundreds (or they can take advantage of Olympia’s rejuvenated transit system featuring timed connections).

      ————->

      You wrote, “The station placement is awful. It’s not close to anything and it’s a dead part of town. Yes, that could make it ripe for revitalizing, but there are much better options.”

      My response: This is a valid criticism and I will review alternatives based upon your input; however, I am going to wager that the hypothetical station in my plan is at roughly the optimal location in central Olympia. Please do consider what is needed:

      1. At least four tracks, preferably more, to host outgoing and incoming trains, and also to service and store trains at the end of their service periods. More tracks at terminuses increase reliability as they preserve flexibility.

      2. The terminal tracks should be tangent and 1,100 feet long.

      3. Platforms should be twenty feet wide, at minimum.

      So, with these technicalities noted, I fail to see anywhere else even remotely near Olympia’s city center that could play host to such infrastructural requirements and a new station. In addition to the current site’s success at hosting this complicated infrastructure, it does so by replacing parking lots, fields and open land, with only a few peripheral buildings affected. At a glance, it appears the station’s tracks could be extended further toward the city center a maximum of one block, but afterward would immediately encounter the densifying outer edges of the city’s core.

      Lastly, as public investment into transportation (or anything) is as politicized and polarizing as it is—as evidenced even on this very blog posting—we have to ensure that costs are kept to a minimum. Consequently, elevated structures, tunnels, trenches, or cut-and-covers to get just two or three blocks closer to some specific site in central Olympia, even though the station is only five or six blocks away (from McMenamin’s, no less), represents a grandiose civil project that is not justified by Olympia’s stature. Yes, we should demand rail to our capital city, but rail to Olympia does not demand a flawlessly central Central Station.

      For its high-speed trains, not even Paris has that (nor does that city have through-stations, which Olympia neither deserves).

      —————->

      You wrote: “We can’t use the current Cascades ridership numbers to infer anything about demand. The station is way, way outside of town. I would love to take the train, but by the time I drive 20 minutes, or bus 40 min to the station I am ahead to just drive north. The current ST express buses on the other hand do probably give a good indication of demand.”

      My response: Agreed about the Cascades, and agree significantly less about the buses. Travel times to Seattle that are cut in half from those of today would upend the mode-share playbook. Trains can accomplish this, as you know.

      And yes, given specific technology choices and infinitely logical corridor improvements, it is easily technically feasible in our region. We just lack the capital, both financial and political.

      —————>

      You wrote: “A lot of us here in the south sound go north a lot for sports, music, entertainment etc. Unfortunately commuter-based transit patterns don’t serve us at all. I would love to take buses or trains to mariners games, shows at the Paramount, the Solstice festival, etc. The problem is that nothing runs late this far south and all the transit options are milk runs that stop several times and nearly double the travel time. If you want Oly residents to take a train to Tacoma/Seattle it would have to run hourly until midnight and I just don’t think there’s demand for it.”

      My response: Once capital expenditures have been made and the trains are rolling, electric railways are easily the most affordable method of moving people. While we shouldn’t be running empty trains, not every trainset needs to be full for them to be worthwhile. As part public utility, a comprehensive scheduling of trains should be an expectation of these investments, even if some don’t break the lauded 80% full mark. And that’s okay. While the demand may not pen out for a SEA-OLY train at midnight, it may pen out to Tacoma or Lakewood, and the escalation of cost to bring that late-night ride to Olympia may be completely insignificant.

      1. I already commented about this below:

        “On paper, for a variety of reasons, this should be the preferred alignment (as it reduces line mileage, is gorgeously tangent in nature, and we could improve its few curves with ease). Off paper, we see that the alignment has been transformed into a popular trail, is swarmed by a dense and relentless urban sprawl, and would prove prohibitively expensive in both capital and politicking to develop into even a mediocre rail connection, let alone a fine one.”

        (1) There’s plenty of room for *both* a trail *and* a decent rail line. There is GOBS of space thre.
        (2) A “dense” urban sprawl is exactly what you want for rail — density is good for rail. Rather than driving your line through prime farmland, go through the suburbs and *place stops there*. If you want rail from Olympia to Seattle, this is the way to go. Your roundabout southern route will cause everyone in this “dense sprawl” to DRIVE to Seattle. If the line runs along the “Woodland Trail” route, WITH STOPS, everyone in this area will take the train to get to Seattle.

        Ridership matters. Go where the people are.

        (3) There is absolutely no need for high top speeds given the number of stops which are appopriate on this line. If you can get it up to 80 or 100 mph, you’re fine, you’re beating car traffic.
        —-
        You’re very good at designing alignments. You’re bad at ridership estimates and absolutely terrible at politics. So take it from someone who’s good at the stuff you’re bad at: go back to the drawing board and design a route which parallels the Woodland Trail — the trail can be shifted over if necessary. Put a station somewhere between Sleater-Kinney and College St, a downtown Olympia station, and a terminal station / layover facility near South Puget Sound Community College. Don’t make unnecessary efforts to make this line faster than 100 mph; it’s local/regional rail permanently.

        I’d really like to see that alignment. And you’re very good at designing such alignments.

      2. I will not break this down line-by-line because it is utterly counterfactual. I’ve measured the trail. Mathematics and a clear understanding of the nuisance this line would be on Lacey force me to throw my support behind the UPRR line. My examination has been more comprehensive than a first-glance gaze at a map.

        Sure, you could build the rail line over it, but you could also just fly every commuter between the airports of the region on a jetliner. Both ideas, however, are impractical, expensive, politically troubled, inefficient and totally unnecessary in lieu of better ideas.

        On the face of it, the trail is indeed the superior alignment.

        However, politically, it is not only absurd on a financial front given both the physical challenges it poses and the more affordable option we have at our disposal, it is absurd on the social front given its certainty to upset a tremendous amount of people.

        Plus, again, I’ve measured its curves and right-of-way. Even with 110mph line speeds it still cuts off a dozen roads, bisects new business areas, darts around residential developments, and is far more intrusive than any other portion of a rail line that enters far denser, bigger cities. Topping it all off, we’d have to remove the trail, which has never happened in the history of rails-to-trails as far as I am aware.

        So, no, there is not gobs of space. It is also not good to be surrounded by people and their built environment when trying to create new infrastructure.

        Nonetheless, I will be mapping the line. If anything, I’ll do it to prove myself wrong.

      3. Lacey is a garbage stop, both today and in the plan; I know this well.

        It has a real function, however; it allows for timed connections from/to central Olympia to either the Cascades or high-speed trains from/to Portland.

        Otherwise, the stop has very little utility and probably should not see much service.

        That is further support for the UPRR alignment, by the way, for skipping Lacey Station decreases trip times to central Olympia even more. In fact, given the speed restrictions that will no doubt be necessary to even bring the Woodland alignment into a state of feasibility, UPRR may very well be faster despite its length.

        ———->

        UPDATE: I just did a rough sketch of the Woodland alignment to assess the basic details of it. It is even more damning of the trail alignment than I had thought.

        The length of the Woodland Trail alignment is approximately 8.72 miles long.

        The length of the UPRR Port alignment is 13.1 miles long.

        This may read like some slam dunk, but then realize that 10.1 miles (80%) of the UPRR alignment is top-speed qualified at 125mph or better, with the line in the Nisqually Valley capable of hosting 155mph speeds. By comparison, the Woodland Trail routing has to zig-zag through sprawl at dramatically reduced speeds (likely just 40-50mph in many areas, especially where there exists reverse-curves).

        This means that while the Woodland Trail alignment is shorter by 4.38 miles, the UPRR Port alignment will utterly trounce its travel times into central Olympia as it is an alignment far more amenable to high speeds. It is also infinitely more affordable, more politically expedient, more socially acceptable, still a host of actual rail infrastructure, avoids neighborhoods and commercial centers, is less disruptive….and so on and on.

        St. Martin’s University deserves a connection by rail, as does that general area of Lacey. It will get it via a BRT line to a station on the UPRR Port alignment.

        Woodland is dead.

        ————->

        Update Two: Nathanael, I was dead wrong. Well, sort of.

        I was wrong when I stated that the Woodland Trail alignment could not be corrected to support the design speeds required of my project. Indeed, after two days of intermittent tweaking, I have uncovered an alignment that reaches (and, even more important, holds) those speeds while doing a fairly decent job of avoiding destroying too many buildings through the suburban area (specifically, it potentially impacts or outright barrels through about 30 buildings in the alignment, which, for all things considered, is remarkable).

        So, you’re right. It is technically feasible, and there is enough space to squeeze a high-quality railroad alignment into the busy area, just as you stated there was.

        While my project is fanciful, it does strive to be as realistic as possible. Though we now know Woodland Trail is technically feasible in the standards that my proposal dictates, is the alignment anymore realistic?

        Very probably not.

        Despite us knowing concretely that we can build a 200kmh alignment through Lacey—or any speed, for that matter—how would the area respond to the reactivation of a rail corridor for fast electric trains? The citizens there moved into the area thinking the Woodland Trail would remain just that: a bike trail.

        How would the area respond to the extraordinary disruption that will be the construction of the rail line when an alternative alignment exists just to the south that, while four miles longer, is just as fast at serving Olympia?

        How would the area react to the likely requirement of an elevated structure (of at least a few feet) so that Lacey streets can be grade separated? This would be a pronounced visual impact. Would the nuisance of the construction of this alignment be worthwhile in the face of route alternatives? Would it be politically feasible given the need to reactivate a long decommissioned rail corridor?

        Lastly, is a railroad station stop in Lacey near St. Martin’s University (pop.2,000) justified, especially at such a great visual and monetary expense? Could the area be better served by bus rapid transit to Olympia Station?

        These are all important questions, and a more thorough alternatives analysis will have to answer it. I am happy to have the alignment included in my proposal, though, and I thank you for that.

        Still, the politics of Woodland Trail would likely be bitter. And as a man who mocks others for their ideas related to planning politics (which was pretty rude comment, by the way), I am surprised you so strongly advocate for this alignment.

        Unless I am the miserable ridership forecaster and political analyst you paint me out to be, I do not see how Woodland Trail pens out over the UPRR Port alignment.

        Updated maps to reflect the new thinking here:

        Olympia
        Lacey (Suburban)
        Eastside Olympia
        Lacey (Central)
        Union Mill
        St. Clair
        McAllister Creek

      4. “force me to throw my support behind the UPRR line.”

        Then you’re an idiot, because your line is a non-starter. Dead on arrival. Will never, ever, ever happen.

        I don’t have to read anything you write ever again, because you just stuck your head in the sand.

        I tried to be polite. Now that you’ve demonstrated that you’re an idiot, I don’t have to be polite any more.

        Come back when you have a proposal for the Woodland Trail route. Until then, I suggest you stop screwing around with stuff you do not understand.

        “Unless I am the miserable ridership forecaster and political analyst you paint me out to be, ”

        You are.

      5. Would the route through the populated part of Lacey attract NIMBYs? Probably. But it will also attract *YIMBYs*. There will be people living in Lacey who say “I want to catch a train to Tacoma or Seattle”.

        The UP route is running through wetlands and quality farmland, as noted before — it’ll have immediate and substantial opposition. But it’ll also have *NO SUPPORT* because there’s no population! In particular, the entire population living in Lacey will consider it worthless — they’d have to drive west to Olympia or south to the middle of nowhere to go northeast to Seattle ?!? and vote against it.

        The politics of it are DOA.

    3. Jay;

      You do already have that tunnel under 7th. It’s not in the best of spots but it does connect to the shuttle as well. Also, this is somewhat closer to the residential area, and it seems to me that some / most of that is going to get redeveloped into denser housing at some point soon. There’s just too much sprawl in and around Olympia for there not to eventually be a demand for something else.

      Having a line run down the middle of Jefferson is a problem, but such things have been tackled before. While the trains don’t go through Salem quickly they aren’t at walking speed either, and it wasn’t that long ago the UP main line through Salem did exactly what the line to the Port of Olympia does. Salem wound up with a sidewalk that doubles as a one-way alley on one side of the line and a busy road on the other, but Olympia has lots of alternatives to use as a busy road. You could just wind up with a pair of one-way streets separated from the line.

      Sadly, I really don’t see industry of the magnitude of the brewery coming back to the Tumwater / Olympia border lands. However, that whole area could be redeveloped into something else, and it has the current railroad line running right through the middle the former brewery buildings. If some sort of major high density redevelopment happens there then planning around this line should be part of the process.

      1. Thanks for all the replies; I’ll try to hit the high points.

        1) I think we all had a miscommunication. When I wrote go THROUGH Olympia, I did not mean to imply a through-routing of the rail line. I agree that is not feasible, necessary etc. So we can end that debate because I agree with you and I’m sorry that wasn’t clearer. A spur is just fine with me.

        What I meant was that the spur line needed to go through to the other side of downtown rather than stopping behind the post office and tearing down the new office building next to it. I outlined the exact blocks that would work much much better. @Kento even makes the exact same comment below. The ideal stop is on the other side of town. Thus the train has to go THROUGH town as a spur. I’m not an engineer, but do know the city. As @Glenn pointed out, there are a lot of ways to do this, most likely down Jefferson. That’s what I meant by elevated, cut/cover, etc. Read Glenn’s post, he gets it. Other cities have solved this problem; we can too. As for downtown, you can’t just look at a map and observe what’s the “densifying outer edges of the city’s core”. You blew right through those edges with your tracks. Your plan tears down brand new dense office buildings. The best plan is to put a narrow, single track down Jefferson for those four short blocks and have a station on the other side. There’s gotta be a non-gradiose way to do it. And as other users pointed out, at some time, far, far, far in the future when there is a need it might be nice to extend the spur through the 7th ave tunnel, across the lake, and down Percival creek for a future connection to the West Side.

        As for space for a train, the spot I outlined has a lot of room for stations, tracks, etc. If that’s still not enough room, extra trains can always be staged a mile down the tracks at the brewery. There are a lot of tracks there and it’s close enough to work as a staging area.

        2) As Nate pointed out, you need to go where the people are, and I don’t think this does that. You have to be familiar with the town and see where people are. We don’t build trains to have trains. We build trains to connect people and places and we must put them in the right location to do this.

        3) Regardless of what you wrote, the Nisqually delta does have issues. Just because it was legal and permitted to build a freeway there 50 years ago does not mean that you can build a rail line there now. Talk to anyone who builds things. Old infrastructure gets away with a lot that we can’t do any longer. To ignore this is naive. Also, I didn’t say it was impossible, I said it had a bunch of issues with fish, tribe, etc. that would be litigated forever effectively killing the project. Of course it’s possible, but at some point pragmatism takes over and we must realize what can actually be pushed through.

        4) @Glenn, I agree about the brewery. I think it’s ripe for something.

  4. Troy: why on Earth are you taking the southside route? That’s just inappropriate.

    Take the “Woodland Trail” route and you can actually have a suburban Olympia stop Or two. Much better than going via Lacey.

    1. To be clearer, much better than going via Lacey Amtrak station.

      What you want is a station in the vicinity of College St & Pacific Avenue, Lacey. This would massively improve the ridership potential of the route.

      1. Lacey is a garbage stop, both today and in the plan; I know this well.

        It has a real function, however; it allows for timed connections from/to central Olympia to either the Cascades or high-speed trains from/to Portland.

        Otherwise, the stop has very little utility and probably should not see much service.

        That is further support for the UPRR alignment, by the way, for skipping Lacey Station decreases trip times to central Olympia even more. In fact, given the speed restrictions that will no doubt be necessary to even bring the Woodland alignment into a state of feasibility, UPRR may very well be faster despite its length.

        ———->

        UPDATE: I just did a rough sketch of the Woodland alignment to assess the basic details of it. It is even more damning of the trail alignment than I had thought.

        The length of the Woodland Trail alignment is approximately 8.72 miles long.

        The length of the UPRR Port alignment is 13.1 miles long.

        This may read like some slam dunk, but then realize that 10.1 miles (80%) of the UPRR alignment is top-speed qualified at 125mph or better, with the line in the Nisqually Valley capable of hosting 155mph speeds. By comparison, the Woodland Trail routing has to zig-zag through sprawl at dramatically reduced speeds (likely just 40-50mph in many areas, especially where there exists reverse-curves).

        This means that while the Woodland Trail alignment is shorter by 4.38 miles, the UPRR Port alignment will utterly trounce its travel times into central Olympia as it is an alignment far more amenable to high speeds. It is also infinitely more affordable, more politically expedient, more socially acceptable, still a host of actual rail infrastructure, avoids neighborhoods and commercial centers, is less disruptive….and so on and on.

        St. Martin’s University deserves a connection by rail, as does that general area of Lacey. It will get it via a BRT line to a station on the UPRR Port alignment.

        Woodland is dead.

    2. Olympia only needs a single station.

      Additionally, as addressed in these comments, the “Woodland Trail” is, in fact, now a trail, and a popular one at that. It is also enveloped by dense, uncompromising urban sprawl that would not only make it financial problematic to improve to the standards we should expect from such an investment, but politically daunting.

      The alternative UPRR alignment is more industrial as opposed to residential, wholly unencumbered by sprawl, politically and financially expedient to improve, and still hosts an actual set of rails. Plus, the extra distance needed to access the line, as opposed to the Woodland Trail alternative, is completely negated in travel time by the high-speeds through the Nisqually Valley.

      While it isn’t preferable, it is our best, if not only, hope to get into Olympia’s city center, and it really is not that bad whatsoever. We are talking differences of a few miles on an urban approach; we do not need a fight with the public, nor do we need several-hundred million dollar civil engineering projects to get around Wal*Mart and a housing subdivision.

      If you do not believe me, try curve correcting the trail to 1900 meters without angering a thousand people.

      1. The name of the university is St. Martin’s, not St. Mary’s.

        Like I said earlier, you guys have a lot to learn about this town, and I think this is a great example.

      2. Well, goodness, you disregard the entirety of my postings on Olympia, and further suggest my typing error at midnight is indicative of a potentially disqualifying lack of knowledge.

        Stinging.

        Just to be clear, what exactly do I not know about Olympia, or is exemplified in my Martin versus Mary error, that affects a railroad plan to the city in any way?

      3. I didn’t “disregard the entirety” of your posts. I work during the day and didn’t have time to write a lengthy response. I’m off work and have posted a reply above.

        As for Mary/Martin, it wasn’t a slight typo. A slight typo is Matin, Nartin, Mrtin, etc. You used the wrong name. The reason it matters is because it illustrates how unfamiliar with the space you are. No one who knows Olympia/Lacey would ever make that mistake. It’s like someone in Pierce county calling a certain city Pooh-ee-a-loop. No one who knows the town would ever do it. If you want to design transit for Thurston county, you need to become intimately familiar with it. Walk it, drive it, bike it, bus it, etc. You can’t just look at a google maps. You have to know what the city needs and wants before you design transit for it, and that requires someone who knows the town. And, someone who knows the town wouldn’t say “St. Mary’s.” You said, “St. Mary’s” which means you don’t know the town well, which means you don’t know it’s needs and wants, which means you can’t create a transit plan for it. Your ‘typo’ matters.

      4. My response to Anandakos addresses this point, and other points of contention I have with the style of comments here.

      5. While it isn’t preferable, it is our best, if not only, hope to get into Olympia’s city center”

        You are absolutely correct; it is the only way it will ever come about. But uttering that truism ignores the fundamental question: “Why, when Seattle will apparently not be allowed to build an east-west subway between Ballard and the University of Washington nor an “inner ring” Metro Eight subway from Uptown through South Lake Union, Capitol and First Hills, the CD and north Rainier should Olympia be the proud recipient of 125 mile per hour trains to Sprawlsville?”

        IT. JUST. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

        What the hell! Thurston County is barely able and only grudgingly willing to fund the operation of its 28 daily buses to Lakewood — about one of your 1,100 foot megatrains. How do you propose for them to make a proportionate contribution even to the operation of your mini-Shinkansen much less the capital cost? Even if your lowball estimate of “hundred of millions” of dollars (and I think you mean the improvements all the way from Tacoma to Olympia in that figure), to make that level of capital investment in a single-purpose facility worthwhile you’d need to run a dozen a day.

        Again, IT. JUST. MAKES. NO. SENSE absent Climageddon across the Sunbelt. First things first; the state has only so many resources and so much political tolerance for trains. I expect the latter will run out before the former.

      6. Anandakos, I get it.

        You find my research project to be a completely ludicrous and wasteful plan that not only has little purpose, but even less possibility of being built. You are so right, and I thank you kindly for your valuable insight into a proposal in which I have invested a tremendous amount of effort. Again, thank you; your comments are exactly what I had in mind when I solicited the public for improvements on the plan. Why couldn’t I have come up with something as brilliant as why even attempt this beast at all?

        Absolutely, I am an amateur armchair planner who bikes everywhere and does not own a car and is tired of the miserable commute to Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. How silly of me to think that this gives me the right to consider alternatives for mobility in a society dominated by the sunk costs of the automobile? How very Robert Moses of me!

        Absolutely, Jay, though I live down the road from Olympia, I do not spend every minute of my life in it. How dare I have a discussion of alignments into Olympia as an outsider, especially when I cannot even properly name the small, private university of the area! I don’t have the wherewithal to plan for curve improvements, let alone actually measure them (in meters, no less), when I don’t know my Mary from Martin.

        I just don’t know what got into me.

        In the effort to dismiss, deride and nitpick just the concept of my proposal, it is clear that people are not understanding that this project is not about building for the political reality. It is not intended to be perfect, either.

        This proposal is the product of one man who can’t live everywhere, nor can he single-handedly transform a society.

        As you make so acid clear every time you respond, Anandakos, this project is nothing more than an academic pursuit. Cars will still dominate the scene, congestion will remain routine, and infrastructure upgrades will be in the form of lane expansions and new HOV lanes. Do you really think I am blind to this reality to such an extent that your contribution to this blog post effectively begins and ends with my effort being a frou-frou joke?

        Again, thank you so much.

        Ultimately, this project stems from the dismay I feel at the Link Light Rail extension from Seattle to Tacoma. With a political alignment that will be slower than the current driving speeds of buses and cars, it will serve suburban areas of even less merit than Olympia, and likely very poorly at that. Furthermore, it does almost nothing for the valley and its historic, urbane city centers. This bothers me intensely.

        As a citizen critical of this plan, and as someone who likes to have ideas to offer others when detailing my criticisms, I tried to think of alternatives to the untold-billion dollar Link scheme currently unfolding. The alternative had to be comprehensive and regionally focused, easily sold to the public, and affordable when contrasted with its benefits. It also had to be scalable in its scope should it not be totally funded, and be able to be built in sections when funding arises.

        After extensive research over multiple months, my Tacoma-Seattle plan was developed. It was borne out of our region’s own infrastructure and rights-of-way, and strives to adapt those resources for the future. It makes subtle, transformational tweaks in these existing resources to bring new life to them, like a minor widening of a curve to accommodate 125mph speeds from 60, and does so in a way to avoid or mitigate the disruption to people. It directly invests in Auburn and Kent and Sumner and elsewhere, meaningful places that have long been ignored by the funding dollar in exchange for Federal Way, Lake Tapps and South Hill. It eradicates redundancy to give the public a critical right-of-way in a growing region, while also supporting our fright services. No more crossings, too!

        More succinctly, my project tries to do a lot with the resources we have now, tweaking them to have them provide the most bang-for-their-buck, and having a technologically-current passenger rail system safely operate over it to actually provide a service many people could functionally use. People like me, for example, who could take the bus to the station, or bike there, and catch a quiet, electric train into King Street. How galling of me to ever think that other people might use such a rail system, too.

        My proposal, and the months of effort that have been invested into it, is not intended to address a political reality. Your persistent “no” is all that was ever needed to do that, and you’ve done it aggressively.

        No, my project is about technical feasibility and financial priorities.

        It aims to let the public here know that, with a dedicated funding stream that invests in a rail system for the benefit of the public, this could be the plan that responsibly spends those dollars.

        It is technically feasible to upgrade decrepit or abandoned infrastructure.
        It is technically feasible to straighten curves from 1888 for 125mph speeds.
        It is technically feasible to get rail into Olympia.
        It is technically feasible to connect Seattle and Tacoma by rail with great speed and frequency.
        It is technically feasible to separate passenger and freight traffic, for the benefit of both passengers and freight.
        It is technically feasible to have fast electric trains providing a mass-transit backbone in our region.

        And my plan shows one of those ways.

        On top of that, the kind of investment made within my plan makes sense to people. People understand that you should replace the dead battery in your car or sew the hole in your pants before throwing it out and buying an entirely new one.

        They understand that you do not need multiple items that do the same thing in one place, and perhaps a better use of one could be found.

        They understand that if we can make financially responsible upgrades to things we already have—an enlargement to the home of a growing family, for example—then that makes a lot of sense.

        It does make sense, and those are the principles that form the foundation of my entire proposal.

        So, you are forever right, Anandakos, this project is not designed for the political reality. I know that even Link Light Rail has more of a chance of getting a built to Olympia than does my moderately fast rail corridor, even if it would be $20 billion more expensive. That is how our political reality. Western Washington is more Bertha than passenger rail.

        And maybe that’s a problem worth addressing and correcting. In fact, maybe it is worth its own blog post here. It would be an introspective essay that delves into the complexities of a rich region choking on traffic and sprawl. It would be a damning exposé of the hows and whys of a place that continues to deliver lackluster transit and housing options to a public hungry for something better.

        Yeah, maybe it does need an essay, but you will not see me writing it. I am a bit over being told of how absurd my thoughts are on these topics.

        Besides, I am just a 20-something armchair dreamer with a nerdy transit hobby and crazy visions. I’m not even getting paid for this—as if!

        I get it.

      7. Always think of the possibilities, Troy.

        It’s what gets us from here – to – there.

        It all starts with the idea.

        “Solving congestion” (with lanes) is the lazy (and most expensive) way to get “There”.

      8. Troy,

        Now that you’ve had your dramaturgy, I would invite you to read my old posts on extending Link beyond Highline CC — I think it’s stupid for at least a couple of decades and even then never unless Des Moines and Federal Way relent and allow SR99 to be the route and intensively developed. I would also invite you to read my old posts on extending Link north of Alderwood Mall. I also think that’s stupid unless the pooh-bahs of Snohomish County and Everett choose to send it down SR99 and intensively develop it. Both south of Highline in Kent and north of Lynnwood, there’s very little “there” there and an active hostility to the sort of development that makes the enormous cost of rail worthwhile.

        Transit should follow development unless there is some unbreakable commitment by government to shape the urban region to be dense such as Oregon’s Constitutional provisions. Yes, preserve rights of way where they exist and reserve corridors for future lines where there is a reasonable likelihood that one might be needed in the future. But in the absence of a clearer political sentiment statewide, now is not the time to be pushing for 125 mph commuter trains.

        So I’m not picking on your train plan because it’s your plan or a train plan or Olympia’s plan. I’m picking on it because it gets its priorities backward. The inner city is strangling on traffic seven days a week at all hours before 10 PM, and you want to spend at least a billion of the State’s scarce transit dollars making it easier for gentry from extreme South Puget Sound to get to jobs in Tacoma and Seattle at zippy speeds. It’s bass-ackwards because the State could provide priority bus lanes in that corridor and realize 70% of the speed improvement — and 90% of the reliability betterment — of your train plan for a tiny fraction of the capital and operating cost. .

        The freeway is going to be rebuilt through the Fort as a part of the recent Transportation package. As I read the bill, there is no requirement for HOV or bus lanes, but if the freeway is going to be torn up for rebuilding, spending an additional $200 million now for an additional pair of well-cameraed HOV lanes would be a great way to leverage the disruption.

        If people don’t ride buses provided a fifteen to twenty minute time and reliability advantage, they probably wouldn’t ride trains that provide a thirty minute one either.

        Look at Zach’s analysis of Sounder South. Hardly anyone gets on the train at Lakewood or South Tacoma Stations. Hardly anyone. It’s a gigantic boondoggle which if it were a bit longer would approach the folly of Sounder North.

        The same would be true of your Capitol Shinkansen.

        This is not to say “give up the fight” to improve Sounder’s operation between Seattle and Tacoma. Advocating for an investment in a relatively inexpensive second track on the UP route and diversion of a number of through BNSF freights to it makes sense. I don’t think you’re going to get electrification without the State taking the entire BNSF between Black River and Tacoma Junctions, but getting hourly diesel hauled would go a long way toward making Pierce County willing to give up the folly of Link to Tacoma.

      9. Whatever the merit of any part of my proposals, it would require a lot of political will and patience to bring it to fruition.

        We don’t have either of those things in Washington State, and when we have something approaching the mix, the whole delusion unravels due to lackluster planning.

        Your plans, wherever they exist deeply hidden on this site, will be promptly ignored. Presuming them to be remotely sensible, sensibility has not been the guiding principle for Link design in two decades; it is now a weird mix of populism and popular revulsion.

        Still, it is expanding its tentacles quickly, and rent-seeking civil engineering firms are salivating at the total failure to actually address our mobility problems.

        When it becomes clear that our $10 billion Link has done nothing to improve the commutes of the motoring majority; when it becomes clear that our several billion dollar HOV systems and lane expansions in Tacoma and elsewhere have done nothing to improve long-term traffic problems, these firms will be delighted to build a slew of expensive new road and transit projects to passably service the region for ten years. For a high price, of course!

        This truth bores my planner side, naturally, as does this realist perspective whose mantle you claim. I think most of this blog is painfully aware that our future is not a system whose efficacy is an American marvel, but rather the First Hill Line and a new toll. Visionary!

        Anyway, just some brief points on business.

        1. Lakewood and South Tacoma will eventually begin to provide a more solid ridership, even if modestly so. We are not even halfway through the ramp-up period that defines new rail projects. Beyond that, the stations hardly have a broad schedule of services. Their utility is currently narrowly defined.

        2. Additionally, the stations, and any stop farther south, will forever perform badly when the train speeds are notably slower than driving. Which they are. Mixed traffic, tight curves, the FRA and diesel technology ensure it.

        3. A Sounder extension to DuPont and Olympia would be an extraordinary waste of capital and effort without radically improved rail speeds and frequencies to Seattle. In fact, any line beyond Lakewood (and really Tacoma) makes zero sense if Sounder isn’t provided transformational corridor improvements (like the sensible ones detailed in my plan).

        4. The HOV system within and south of Tacoma will have a minor impact—if any— on the congestion problem in the area. It will also be fleeting. It will also be a billion or two more than the figure you quoted. It will also further sink money into the sunk cost of the interstate, making the case stronger for never again looking beyond the roadway in search of alternative transportation solutions.

        5. The speeds of my Capitol Shinkansen, which is a wildly sexy name, do not actually qualify it the globally lauded Shinkansen title. Not only is Shinkansen a specific technology my plan has not endorsed, the 125mph speeds are not Shinkansen standards, and were not even in 1964 when the system was opened. Worse, today such speeds are simply routine the world over. How about the Capitol Pretty Good Rail System That We Should Have Always Had? If you’d like, I’d be happy to discuss Shinkansen technology with you, as well as competitors, to help with fleshing out the meaning so you can more properly use the term.

        6. A healthy investment into railway infrastructure only looks wasteful through a very specific analysis, which is to contrast a huge up-front capital expense with those sunken costs that have been carried over for decades on the backs of taxpayers.

        If rails were provided an equally fortuitous investment plan, their expenditures would appear far more palettable, and their maintenance costs would be lower than those of roads, too.

        Theoretically, if value capture was employed to finance the construction, the Seattle to Tacoma line could operate at a profit (or breakeven). However slight that chance might be, it is at least a possibility that the interstate could never explore in an effort to recapture its enormous costs to the public.

        7. That buses will be 70% as fast as trains seems like an interesting method to support buses over rail investments, when that 30% could represent a meaningful, mode-shifting amount of time depending upon the distance. A half hour is a lot of time, and such time savings each direction is quite noteworthy.

        8. Ultimately, why do anything? I don’t mean that as a capitulation. I ask it with sincerity. Why do anything?

        When we have the interstate skirting the region, how could any comprehensive mobility system compare superficially to the cost of adding lanes and HOV provisions?

        Why redevelop the East Side corridor for rail service when we can run buses on I405?

        Why build infrastructure to divert BNSF trains when that won’t really affect the Sounder service greatly, especially relative to the cost incurred for new trackage and signaling on a for-profit freight railroad?

        Even if BNSF trains were diverted in support of a few additional departures, our region would still be home to a patchwork of irregular, disconnected, and not-very-fast transit networks that do just enough of what they need to do, but not much beyond. That provides a lot of options that will be expensive to maintain, but perhaps that failure of a regional system—which at least gets you to where you need to go—is the best we can reach for.

        Then again, we have that now! And what’s wrong with it? The region is growing just fine without even the improvements this idealistic blog clamored for, especially gold-plated subway trains that run on computers. The public whines about congestion, but it’s a part of our life.

        I guess the basic question to ask is: does our region even need to rethink its mobility system? And if it doesn’t—or if Link is the answer to this ostensible great need—then no. And not even my toy trainset with 1900 meter curves would change that.

        This region deserves the future it works to build. I just feel bad for the people on the hinterland who live so far from work not because it is lovely out there, but because it is all they can afford.

        If this region wants to tackle mobility, it has to be decisive. Perhaps my grand proposal, as utilitarian and functional as it is, is for another time and place entirely.

        You’re right, and this is something I tell others (and I think it is a common trope about Americans in general): expect us to do something stellar only as the last resort, or when we absolutely must.

  5. The one thing that always gets me about these proposals is the station location.

    A couple blocks north, north of State Avenue, it’s all warehouses for the Port of Olympia. Half of them I don’t even think are being used. Site the station over there, next to the Olympia Transit Center for a seamless connection.

    But at least any downtown station will be an upgrade to today’s station in East I-don’t-even-know-where-that-is.

      1. While I understand the desire to have a well located station, and it is absolutely important, the outright rejection I see here of the Legion Way and Adams St. site for a station is strange.

        I write this because, after further study over the past 48 hours, Legion and Adams is simply the most sensible place for a station on the only two alignments available into Olympia.

        Here is why I assert this:

        It is the only place on the two alignments that is expansive and barren, just waiting to be developed into railroad facilities.

        It is about four blocks removed from the absolute center of Olympia, and no farther. It is most certainly within the orbit of central Olympia.

        The area which you specified is rather modestly built-up. Nonetheless, should it be decided to demolish the structures in the four block area inside State, Jefferson, Thurston and Franklin, roughly, it would require the station to be at a 45 degree angle from the grid or worse, shoehorning the station into a awkward position for little benefit with 750′ tracks (with a platform length around 700′ maximum). While all the track lengths on this plan are hypothetical, preferred equipment has not yet even been speculated, and this would immediately dictate the requirements of the trains for the entire system. King Street, for example, has upwards of 1200ft platforms; Tacoma, too. This allows for a lot of equipment flexibility. An Olympia Station would minimize flexibility right out of the gate.

        This site would dictate the total closure of Jefferson St. The street currently hosts a street-running alignment whose preservation is counter to the intent of my rail modernization project. Street running is railroading from another age entirely.

        And then to top it off, should we select that site, expropriate the properties, evict the businesses, demolish the structures and close Jefferson Street, we then have to build rail infrastructure to service it. These two tracks and the ladder tracks emanating from it would form a Chinese wall on the eastern of the city center. It would require multiple grade separations at-grade. Alternatively, an aerial structure would represent a cost escalation by an order of magnitude, and a tunnel even more so.

        For what? To be a block away from the Intercity bus terminal, as opposed to four?

        So, yes, a more central Central Station is technically feasible, but it is so needlessly overwrought in light of development opportunities mere blocks away on totally barren land. Indeed, Olympia is still served, and served while, at Legion and Adams.

        Updated Olympia map to reflect this thinking.

  6. Some thoughts here:

    1. The plan for the Cascades alignment is only to upgrade the tracks to a 110 mph standard. Cascades service is likely to stay out at Centennial station no matter what.
    2. The idea of separating freight and passenger rail between Tacoma and Black River Junction is not a bad one for a number of reasons, however is unlikely in the near future both due to cost and the difficulty of getting UP and BNSF to agree to it.
    3. Tacoma rail actually controls the former UP and BNSF tracks in and near Olympia.
    4. I believe DuPont Sounder service is still on the table for ST3. Even if it doesn’t happen as part of ST3 it might still happen if Thurston county is willing to pay for it.
    5. If Sounder service to either Centennial Station or downtown Olymipia happens it will be on existing tracks.
    6. Thurston county will have to bear the additional cost both in capital improvements and operating costs.
    7. Improved express bus service to Lakewood, Tacoma, Seatac Airport, and downtown Seattle is likely a better use of Thurston County funds than extending Sounder service past DuPont or even Lakewood.
    8. The best mobility improvement I can think of is to extend the HOV network to stretch all the way from Seattle to Olympia with direct access ramps as appropriate.

  7. Truly saddening for me, this whole comment section has become an embarrassment.

    I worked very hard on this project. I shared my effort to the Seattle Transit Blog readership to instigate a dialogue about how rails could, once again, become a part of our regional fabric. I was especially curious as to how the plan could be improved, made more marketable to the public, and how it could become a project that was inclusive of rational ideas from a diverse, educated, transit-planning astute group of thinkers.

    While there was some support and several great ideas, many of which I incorporated to improve the plan—a plan with real promise in so many meaningful areas!—the discussion was marred by name-calling, derision, mockery and insults. Indeed, the entire premise of the work here was called into question, which is antithetical to the type of feedback that I had sought from the STB readership.

    I was naive to think that this blog would be excited about a bare-bones rail system for our car-dominated region. I was also plainly naive that I could discuss, or even debate, the merits of a hypothetical train alignment without being called an idiot or unintelligent for having my own reasoned ideas.

    This is the last time I engage the board in this manner. How disappointing; really.

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