Conceptual Duwamish Bypass
Conceptual Duwamish Bypass

When all the construction is done and light rail spreads across greater Puget Sound sometime in the next decade, one segment will look distinctly different from the rest. The 7 miles of track through the Rainier Valley will be the only section one of few sections, along with parts of East Link, where the trains run at-grade.  Though they have a dedicated lane, and pretty good signal priority, trains are limited in speed and still have to contend with the occasional bad driver shutting things down.

Nonetheless, the idea of bypassing the Rainier Valley comes up in conversation again and again, as a way to increase speed and reliability on a light rail line that may one day stretch nearly 70 miles from Everett Community College to the Tacoma Mall.

If you view Link as an airport express service or a long-haul commuter rail, then the Rainier Valley segment “feels” slow or wrong. But if you see Link as, well, light rail, then it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

All that said, the bypass is an idea that comes up often enough. UW Professor Cliff Maas once suggested that bypassing the Rainier Valley could help combat climate change. It seems worth considering.  As an exercise, what would such a bypass look like? How much would it cost and how much money would it save?  Estimates of 12 minutes travel time savings have been bandied about, though I have no official source for that.  So let’s see if we can do some quick math and figure out the pros and cons.

A reasonable bypass would run 5.6 miles from SODO to the South end of Boeing Field, where it would reconnect with the main line.  You could extend the it farther south to Sea-Tac, but once you get south of Boeing Field the train picks up speed anyway, and it would be silly to skip Tukwila International Boulevard station.   The Rainier Valley segment of Central link, from where it leaves SODO to the South end of Boeing Field, is about 1.4 miles longer, 7 miles of total track.

The bypass would have to make some stops.  It would be unrealistic to build 5.6 miles of track without a single stop, especially through economically disadvantaged communities like Georgetown and South Park.  Boeing Field would almost certainly want one for future commercial flights.  So count on at least two stops in our hypothetical 5.6 mile route.  That adds some dwell time at each station, plus acceleration/deceleration.

Service to the Rainier Valley would suffer.  One can imagine that Rainier Valley riders might see reduced frequencies to accommodate trains entering and leaving downtown via the bypass. There may be ways to mitigate this, but it would certainly be an issue.  Rainier Valley riders would rightly complain.

It would cost about a billion dollars.  Using the numbers for Lynnwood link, which come to about $180m/mi, our bypass would cost roughly $1B.  Possibly more with the river crossings. That would have to be evaluated against other possible extensions, to places like Burien, Crown Hill, Renton, Lake City, or the Central District.  It’s hard to see the bypass coming out on top in that battle.

It would save only a couple of minutes off of the travel time to the Airport.  That sounds counterintuitive, but bear with me: In 2023 travel from SODO to the south end of Boeing Field via the Rainier Valley should take about 16 minutes*.   To estimate how long the bypass would take, we need a straight, grade separated section of track to compare it to.  Northgate-to-Mountlake-Terrace is perfect, about the same distance and also featuring two stops.  Sound Transit says NGT-MLT will take 9 minutes, so the bypass saves 7 minutes in the best case.  But remember that the RV line still exists, which means that only every other train (or so) will use the bypass.  Now our time savings is down to at most a couple of minutes, as the average trip will involve more waiting time on the platform.

I hope this exercise makes it clear that a bypass through the Duwamish Valley would cost a lot of money and provide little benefit.  To be clear, this is a separate question from whether or not the Duwamish Valley should be served with light rail at all.  It might be a good idea, but it should be evaluated in terms of the potential benefits to the communities it might serve, not in terms of convenience for airport travelers.

Yes, it’s annoying when some yahoo driver cuts off a Link train and service is suspended while they sort it out.  It’s doubly annoying when it happens at rush hour, and it will be triply annoying when it affects a 70-mile “spine” that covers the entire region.  But instead of thinking of ways to mitigate that annoyance with another $1B in spending, we ought to re-think whether or not it’s a good idea to build a single 70-mile light rail line to begin with.  These questions should be top of mind as the board evaluates ST3 projects in the coming months.

* Once buses leave the tunnel, speed and reliability will increase noticeably. If you want the gory details: SODO -> Rainier Beach = 14 minutes in 2023.  RB -> TIBS = 8 minutes.  South end of the bypass is about 1/3 of the way from RB to TIBS, so roughly 16 minutes from SODO.

162 Replies to “A Duwamish Bypass: Lots of Bucks, Not Much Bang”

  1. “so the bypass saves 7 minutes in the best case. But remember that the RV line still exists, which means that only every other train (or so) will use the bypass. Now our time savings is down to at most a couple of minutes, as the average trip will involve more waiting time on the platform.”

    I’m sorry, what does this statement mean? Why would adding a second north-south line increase dwell times or wait times? Are you assuming a certain service pattern, e.g. That half of the red line trains would serve the bypass and half wouldn’t.

    If you look at the Seattle Subway map, and based on most suggestions you find here, the assumption is that the SODO -> South Park -> SEA line is a net-new line, potentially sharing the new downtown tunnel with the West Seattle -> Ballard line.

    So let’s say the actual saving are 7 minutes then. That is HUGE, and totally worth it. Reducing from 29 minutes to the airport to 22 is a 25% reduction in travel time.

    More importantly, when link finally gets to Tacoma they are going to have continue running the 59x buesses because Link will be at much slower than a direct express bus. However, decreasing travel times by 7 minutes makes Link competitive with express busses, meaning we can reasonably truncate the 59x in Tacoma, which will save a large amount of money on operating expenses.

    1. The assumption is that the ratio of trains would be approximately 50/50 between RV and the bypass. It probably wouldn’t be exactly 50/50, but it’s a pretty good starting assumption. I would also assume that the frequency would be low enough that it wouldn’t be faster to wait for a duwamish train if a RV train shows up, or that it would be close enough to be a wash.

      However, a duwamish line would generate it’s own passengers/demand, so unless there are capacity issues in downtown more trains would end up leaving downtown and servicing Seatac. So it would end up being slightly better than half the time savings if all the current trains went through the bypass (ie you’d end up with time savings of ~5 min, rather than the savings of ~3.5 min if the current trains were split equally between the two with no added trains).

      1. All I’m saying is that’s a completely straw-man argument against the bypass. I don’t think anyone who has ever suggested the bypass has said that trains would at all be split between RV and Duwamish. The proposals are it’s a NEW line. NEW trains, not taking trains out of RV. There will be sufficient capacity downtown because of the new WSTT, and at SEA it’s just a matter of interlining two lines that have 5-7.5 minute frequency (which is already being done elsewhere in the system).

        Please don’t waste time arguing against a false version of the proposal. The discussion should be on the actual ideal proposal, specifically, a NEW line between downtown and SeaTac.

      2. What he means is adding in the deceleration for the switches at both ends of the line, however it would be integrated, would also account for the slow down. Add in a 60/40 split in service between the bypass and Rainier Valley, the line itself would be pointless.

        The line itself would probably be more expensive than this number. Between crossing Argo Yard, demo buildings for the ROW (no room under the overpasses in Georgetown), add in a station in Georgetown, a station at Boeing Field, and most likely a station at BAR (may as well at this point) the savings is mute.

        You can’t access South Park directly without it being a circular route. Even at 55mph (FTA mandated maximum speed for LRV’s) it still not worth the $1 billion plus to build a bypass that may, if it is lucky, serve 5,000 people, at best.

      3. Building a 2nd line between downtown and the airport, even if it’s a “new” line, is going to fall pretty far down on the priority list as well. having two lines converge on an airport is excessive.

      4. That still looks totally unreasonable to me. Why does south Seattle have three north-south lines when north Seattle only has two?

      5. It is a ridiculous map. It is just one of the ridiculous maps that Seattle Subway has drawn. I love the organization (and donate money to them) but they need to stop drawing silly, pie in the sky maps.

    2. The bypass is repeatedly brought up both ways: as a variation of the Red Line or as part of a new line to Aurora. The Red Line option is sometimes presented as moving the main line to Georgetown and downgrading the Rainier Valley segment to a shuttle or streetcar or part of another line (e.g., MLK-Rainier-Broadway).

      1. Aurora-Georgetown was an old Seattle Subway idea. I forgot the new Seattle Subway map has Tacoma-Georgetown-Denny-23rd instead (a U-shaped line). The original line (Rainier Valley) is truncated at SeaTac.

      2. In a way, I agree with BOTH Frank and Stephen. I don’t think the bypass is anywhere near important enough for ST3. However, once the spine is longer (and it will grow longer, whether you agree with that choice or not), then the bypass makes a lot of sense. I don’t buy the argument that it saves only 2 minutes. 7 is a reasonable estimate, and 7 minutes is significant, and will become more significant as the spine grows longer. I’m saying that in ST4 or ST5, it will become a higher priority. Not just as a bypass, but also to serve neighborhoods like Georgetown and possibly South Park.

  2. So instead of a billion dollar bypass, what are the options for increased speed in the Rainier Valley? If quad gates are added to intersections can the trains go faster than the 35mph speed limit?

      1. Increasing the speed in Rainer Valley would do little to speed up the time it takes to get from one place to the other. However, elevating it would allow for higher frequency, which would have a much more positive impact on service. That being said, the community strongly opposed an elevated line there. I don’t see why they would change their mind. I think they have a point. Every substantial part of elevated rail (built or proposed) is next to the freeway. So why pick out an historically low income community of color for an elevated line?

        What is more realistic is to bury it. That was what the people in the valley wanted in the first place. That is very expensive, but it would allow you to greatly increase frequency, which is a much bigger deal than top speed.

      2. “However, elevating it would allow for higher frequency, which would have a much more positive impact on service.”

        This is something not mentioned in TFS. The RV slog is going to be killer for frequencies in the future.

        I wonder if you could bore under Rainier/MLK without affecting current operations. The kicker would be making the connection points to the new tunnel. This would be a lot easier at the south end than the north end. I remember in the 2000s, on the I-80/I-580/I-880 interchange in Oakland (or something), they completely replaced a bunch of on ramps in a weekend. If I remember, they had the thing built, closed down everything for the weekend and essentially rolled it into place.

      3. Stephen;

        It can’t be elevated; there is no room for the supports between the existing tracks so the entire system would have to be shut down for the time necessary to build the elevated structure. It could of course be tunneled, but that’s extremely expensive.

      4. @RapidRider — I forget to mention: The solution for Rainier Valley is underpasses. Not elevated, not underground, but underpasses. This is quite common, as I understand it. Not only in the U. S., but in Europe as well. It is common with light rail as well as streetcars. This is not cheap, but a lot cheaper than building a huge tunnel.

    1. Or we could spend the billion dollars making the Rainier Valley segment elevated or underground like it should have been in the first place. That would improve service for Rainier Valley, end the series of car and pedestrian accidents, and improve travel time for the south end. (But I don’t think it should be done until Lake City, 45th, and Denny Way have Link.)

    2. The FTA will not allow the speed limit of at-grade/middle of roadway systems to be more than the road limit, regardless of crossing gates. The only way around this would be to increase the speed of Link would be to the road speed limit. It would also need the approval of the FTA before this can be allowed, along with test runs to ensure the safety along the corridor.

      1. This brings up another dilemma, on the slow side. Seattle DOT’s safety director, Jim Curtin, has said (in the newspaper) that MLK Way will be reduced to 30 mph. My hunch is that would play havoc with all the signal timing if Link continues to top out at 35 mph.

      2. The city needs to address this wholistically, and not just let road-safety priorities automatically make transit less effective. The same issue is coming to Aurora. It currently takes 45 minutes from downtown to Aurora Village;’ it should take 30.

    3. There’s no room for quad gates. Long story short, installing them opens all new cans of worms from the feds to maintenance to space. Minneapolis, for example, allows higher speeds on their Green Line. In some places up to 50mph for light rail running in the middle just like Link. Here’s a 50mph speed limit sign from the Green Line on Google Maps . The choice to run Link at the adjacent lane speed (35mph) is simply a choice we made.

      That said, even increasing speed on the Rainier Valley will get a minute or two when everything else is considered. The real time killers are small things all over the line. Some examples:
      1) The deviations east and west to the Rainier Valley require trains requires 4, 90 degree turns. Between SODO and Mt Baker Station trains crawl at 2 sharp 90 degree turns and though the special trackwork around the OMF.
      2) Slowing trains between Mt Baker Station and Beacon Hill for noise issues. Installing noise barriers (which hasn’t been done) could mitigate wheel squeal from trains to let them speed up again.
      3) Operator inconsistency is another issue that can add minutes to the overall travel time. I’ve noticed some really punch it while others take their sweet, sweet time.
      4) The time it takes to get between IDS and Stadium because of “security requirements”. When Link first opened, it was a much faster process but it’s been slowed down considerably.
      5) The slow climb from I-5 to TIBS

      To say installing a billion dollar bypass just to get to the Airport a little faster is worth the cost when there are a bunch of low-hanging fruit is asinine.

      1. To say installing a billion dollar bypass just to get to the Airport a little faster is worth the cost when there are a bunch of low-hanging fruit is asinine.

        Yes, exactly right.

      2. If we want to spend $1 billion on a Duwamish Bypass, then let’s just add the third track on the BNSF where we can actually see some results.

    4. Some math to consider: The train travels about five miles on the surface. Some of the time is spent accelerating and decelerating. It is my understanding that the train can do both at around 1 m/s/s. Some of the distance is spend doing this as well. By my calculations, about 0.2 of a mile for each (accelerating and decelerating). There are six of these, but there are about to be eight. So, subtract this distance from the 5 miles and you get 3.4 (5 – 0.2 * 8). So, essentially, the train travels at top speed for about 3 and a half miles. This part is actually pretty easy:

      3.5 miles at 58 MPH = 3 minutes, 37 seconds
      3.5 miles at 35 MPH = 6 minutes.

      It would actually be a little less than this, since some of the time is spent going from 35 to 58. So basically you would save around two minutes. As mentioned above (and before) the great improvement would in increasing frequency, not speed. But the best way to do that is to build underpasses.

      [Physics majors can correct me if I’m wrong with any of my calculations, but it sure looks reasonable]

      1. Amen to underpasses! I recently read there are 28 crossings though ( I only counted 15ish, but regardless, there are a lot of crossings. I would love to see a cost estimate of an underpass. The light rail bridge span would be short enough that pre-cast bridge construction could be used to minimize the down time for link ( I imagine this to be pricey but not as pricey as an entire redo of the segment. Underpasses could be implemented over time as money becomes available.

        I am curious though if the 35 MPH speed limit could increase if the train is completely separated from general traffic and pedestrians. I understand your point about the speed not being as big of benefit as everyone believes, but I think a missing piece to this equation is user perception. When I’m riding link, I can’t stand when the cars are going faster than the train. I can only imagine that others share this same opinion, and that perhaps quite a bit more non-users could be converted if they perceived link to be quicker than driving.

  3. Can we get some stats on how many times d.p. took apart this silly idea? I assume the usual crowd will ignore the math.

    The transit system isn’t for taking a privileged few to the airport. It’s for people moving around the city to work home school and play. The RV detour is a feature, not a bug.

    1. Why this keeps coming up is beyond me, when perfectly sane ideas for speeding up far more transit riders from the south end have been squashed for the last 25 years.
      Soon after the SODO Busway was completed, the idea to extend it all the way to Michigan St surfaced [eddiew, et al], allowing buses to exit the HOV lanes prior to the Spokane St daily weave and grind to the stoplight.
      This one improvement, traversing the UP yards east edge could have earned enough carbon credits over the years to put a Bailo-Hydrogen station in every neighborhood.
      Do the math on all buses entering downtown each day, times the riders aboard for the last 20 years, and next 20 while we muse about another mind numbing asinine fix for MLK.

    2. The primary function of the bypass isn’t for the privileged few going to SeaTac — it’s to be able to seriously consider moving all of the Busses on I-5 south to the train. With the current plan, the travel time from Tacoma to Seattle on Link simply isn’t time-competitive with express busses. That means even if we “complete the spine” we will have duplicative service between train and bus.

      If instead we can make travel times competitive, then we can move more people out of busses and onto the train, which has a huge set of benefits (less environmental impact, better frequency, lower operating costs).

      1. Yes, so let’s not make another bad transit investment to mitigate the effects of a bad transit investment. Let’s not complete the spine. Buses work great for trips from Tacoma. 1B would be a hell of a down payment on Ballard-UW or metro 8 subway or (gasp!) great BRT to west Seattle.

      2. Even with the bypass, you would still need the 594. With a 55 mph top speed, the train is already slower than the 594, even without stops. Add in another minute per stop, multiplied by 15 stops or so, and you’re looking at about a 20-minute time penalty. And that’s before we consider that the 594 can and should be made faster by eliminating the SODO slog and taking the freeway straight into downtown – which the 578 already does.

      3. kptrease,

        The $1 billion you intend to spend on the Metro 8 is not North King’s to spend. A Duwamish Bypass would have to be paid for by South King funds.

      4. Anandakos, we wish that were the case… but North King’s dollars are even now being spent on the Snohomish County I-5 Express.

      5. William,

        There would be no U-Link about to open or North Link under construction if “Snohomish County’s I-5 Express” had not been the plan. So though I certainly agree with the general argument that in-city mobility has been to a degree sacrificed by eliminating useful stations and the I-5 alignment, there would be no system at all if Snohomish County had not voted nearly 50% for ST2. Without the “Express” they would have maybe turned in 20% “Yes” and the proposal would have gone down even with Seattle’s 65%+.

        There is precedent that a different sub-area pays for trackage within North King that benefits only the other area by East King paying for all work east of the Rainier Valley station on East Link.

        Since there would be no stations south of Georgetown on a low-cost bypass on the east side of Boeing Field (MUCH cheaper) North King would be on the hook only for the short mostly at-grade segment between the MF and the Georgetown station and a new elevated structure around the MF and across a somewhat lowered Airport Way.

      6. All those things said about a “budget bypass”, I do agree that “completing the spine” to Tacoma is unnecessary and a waste of money. However, it’s South King’s and Pierce’s money and without the yes-they-were-a-minority-but-they-were-essential “Yes” votes on ST2 from South King and Pierce there would be no U-Link or North Link.

      7. I’m 100% confident I could spend 1B in south king and move many more people to many more places than with this bypass. Let’s not pretend this isn’t about airport users being annoyed at having to shlep through RV.

      8. “The $1 billion you intend to spend on the Metro 8 is not North King’s to spend. A Duwamish Bypass would have to be paid for by South King funds.”

        They’re different things. A Duwamish bypass alone doesn’t benefit North King much. But the segment north of Stadiums going around to SLU and the CD is clearly a North King item. However, as a part of the line proposed by Seattle Subway (Mt Baker to Tacoma) it becomes less clear. SS proposes to split North-South Link into a north line and a south line that fishhook each other between Mt Baker and Denny Way (a kind of false ring line). That fishhook arrangement benefits North King, or at least SS asserts that it does. If so, then does the Georgetown segment benefit North King as a necessary part of the fishhook vision?

      9. kptrease,

        Wow, are you going for the title of “d.p. II”? There is more to South Link that just the airport. Of course if the line were going no farther than Angle Lake, such a bypass would be foolish in the extreme. But Federal Way and Des Moines have ganged up and shut down any possible SR99 alignment with the potential for TOD that it would yield. So the damn thing is going to be a commuter railroad with the wrong technology, you are right about that.

        But Link is going to be extended to Federal Way or ST3 won’t get any South King votes, and it’s going to be extended to Tacoma or ST3 won’t get any Pierce votes. So if you want your local subways before 2050 you’d better not begrudge them their folly.

        It’s NOT YOUR DECISION what South King does with it’s money.

      10. “Let’s not pretend this isn’t about airport users being annoyed at having to shlep through RV.”

        “The primary function of the bypass isn’t for the privileged few going to SeaTac — it’s to be able to seriously consider moving all of the Busses on I-5 south to the train.”

        It’s different things to different people. At the core it is about people annoyed at sheppling through Rainier Valley — both from SeaTac, Des Moines, Federal Way, and Tacoma. And it’s about people wanting to truncate the bus routes.

        But remember, this is not Sound Transit’s bypass. It’s an unofficial one. ST did have a bypass in its long-range plan but it deleted it last year as too little value for cost. So building it would first require convincing ST to reinstate it.

    3. Indeed; but the fact that it keeps coming back to life suggests not everyone in the region is reading the comment threads.

      1. With a new line the headways on the shared sections (Downtown to SODO and TIB to SeaTac) would be pretty excessive. I’m not well-versed on the ultimate headway goals for the existent Central Link, but I’d guess somewhere around 7 minutes peak (like they are today). With a new line we could bet on 7 again. That’d be a train every 3.5 minutes on the at-grade crossings south of Downtown, which I’m pretty sure is not feasible.

        At any rate, the main issues with this bypass are not whether or not we’d be taking trains from Central Link to feed it, but rather all the other operational issues laid out in the post. I agree that replacing bus service on south I5 with train service is an admirable goal, but it would be difficult to do effectively without a whole new straight-shot line with minimal stops all the way to Tacoma. This would be astronomically expensive and is definitely not more important than the pressing in-city issues such as Downtown to Ballard/West Seattle, Ballard to UW, Denny St Subway, etc.

  4. I’m not even sure the redundancy benefit is that great with a second line. Most of the line would still be vulnerable to single-point shutdowns. Some of the collisions with cars or people happen in the Stadium-SODO section which would still be on the surface.

    Importantly, how would the junctions be designed? Flying junctions are expensive and take up more space, but level junctions constrain headways and operational flexibility. If you’ve ever taken the outbound E branch of the Green Line in Boston you can appreciate the absurdity of level junctions on a busy light rail line.

    1. Exactly. If you are a user, you can only use one line at a time. It would be even more infuriating to you if you picked the line that happened to be shutdown.

    2. There is already a flying junction at the north end, around the MF. At the south end the interchange between Airport Way and Boeing Access Road provides an example of how to do it.

  5. It would definitely increase wait times for people in Rainier Valley. They now have to wait in the tunnel or airport for the right train to get to their destination. And then, assuming we are sending alternate trains down one track or the other they have the same wait for trains from Rainier Vally because trains are only coming by half as often.

    It also increases rider confusion since they now have to investigate the trains to figure out which one they need to be on.

    1. DON’T assume this. Nobody would seriously suggest reducing frequency in RV. In fact, if you recall, RV is actually the frequency bottleneck because it runs at grade. Re-run your thinking assuming a new line.

    2. Once EastLink opens, the downtown tunnel will be at capacity. So, the frequency to the Ranier Valley would have to reduce to prevent the tunnel from overflowing. Only if the bypass line ran all the way downtown and served downtown in a completely separate tunnel, could service levels to the Ranier Valley be preserved. But then, the costs of the line start to soar dramatically above the $1 billion mark.

      1. @asdf only because ST’s planners seem to believe that it is impossible to run a grade separated urban railway with better than 3 minute headways.

    3. Stephen – this is a main point of Jarrett Walker. Splits decrease frequency. Always. If you are running 6 minute headways on line 1, 6 minute headways on line 2 (this at peak), the intersection of the two creates 3 minute headways. This at SODO/Stadium. Then throw whatever headway East Link is creating at peak, and you have a Link traffic jam.

      1. This is NOT a split, it is a NEW line, which will use the WSTT. Take a look at this map:

        For West Seattle -> Ballard there will have to be a new tunnel _no matter what_. There is NO reason to pretend that we will try to cram all of these lines into one tunnel, ST themselves have already said they are planning on the second downtown tunnel.

      2. Zach,

        You are conceptually correct, but specifically incorrect. The Blue Line runs at eight minute headways in the peak hours and the Yellow at twelve. But the Steel Bridge is is huge fustercluck and is the main reason that extending the Yellow Line to Vancouver would have been a huge waste of money. There simply isn’t the available capacity across the Willamette to make spending $700 million a good investment.

        The Yellow Line would have been limited to something like 2,000 riders per hour in the peak direction, laughable as a Light Rail line.

      3. @Stephen — It isn’t just the logistical challenges, it is also a split of demand. There is only so much demand for Link, south of Tukwila (regardless of how fast the trains go), Meanwhile, north of SoDo, there is huge demand. This is true for a Ballard run, a UW run or a Metro 8 run (assuming a Metro 8 run feeds into an existing tunnel, as the diagram shows). So, let’s say a train goes every five minutes on the Metro 8 curve (from Judkins Park to South Lake Union and onto downtown). You are sending that same train to SeaTac. Fine. But now you are sending another train to SeaTac, via Rainier Valley? Really? Not that many people want to go to SeaTac. That is part of the problem. Either you send these trains less often, or you spend a lot of money sending almost empty trains a very long distance. That is expensive.

        Even with the bypass (which saves 7 minutes or so) there won’t be huge demand in the south. But if all that demand is focused on one line, than it will have decent frequency. If that demand is split between two lines, you either have to cut the frequency or spend a bunch more money.

        I think ultimately that is really the issue. As mentioned before, Seattle really has no interest in this. None. The two spots that would be served with rail can be served with buses. There is no interest in getting to SeaTac or Tukwila or Angle Lake any faster. So those in the south will have to pay more. They will have to pay more to build it, and pay more to operate it. Do they want to? I doubt it. I really do. Many of these areas have repeatedly rejected basic bus service. If you don’t want to pay a dime for a bus that will save you a 15 minutes, why do you want to pay a dollar for rail that will save you seven minutes?

  6. This is absolutely what should be done as LINK expands down and provides all day service to the southern suburbs of the region.

    In my view, we should have just build the old Interurban line as the first LINK route…so continue that bypass right along Aurora Avenue and maybe turn left at 65th all the way into Ballard.

  7. “If you view Link as an airport express service or a long-haul commuter rail, then the Rainier Valley segment “feels” slow or wrong. But if you see Link as, well, light rail, then it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.”

    The problem is, that’s exactly how Sound Transit views Link. As far as I know, they probably plan on cutting Federal Way/Seattle express bus service because of Link. In Snohomish county, truncating commuter routes in Lynnwood when Link opens stands as an undisputed fact, but there also isn’t a huge deviation on the north end other than the U-district, and this is actually a major destination.

    1. ST has no plans at eliminating any Express bus service when Link goes to Federal Way. The express bus will handily beat Link into Downtown Seattle from Federal Way or Lynnwood.

      It is the exact same reason why Sounder has not eliminated the 59x buses out of Tacoma.

      1. The SoundTransit enabling legislation allows it to run bus service until parallel Light Rail service is established or in inter-county corridors which do not yet support rail volumes. When (actually if) Link reaches Tacoma the expresses will be stopped.

      2. Brian, I think perspective is different from a train cab than from a 594 or a 512, or an ST 592 or an Intercity Transit 600-series trapped in traffic on I-5. Get us some bus lanes worthy of the name from Olympia to Everett and you’ll be right.

        Mark Dublin

      3. As a daily federal way bus commuter…it’s a loser. Currently, with I-5 traffic the way it is, my bus takes about an hour. This morning, my 6:46 AM bus reached the ID at 7:50. That’s typical. Light rail would be reliable and more frequent.

        However, if the HOV lanes turned 3+ or had an express system like the new 405, then the bus trip time would drop to 30 minutes – way faster.

    2. ST has remained silent on which south end bus routes may or may not be cut. So there’s a complete cloud of uncertainty over a major factor in the extension debate. In the north end it’s clear because both ST and CT have said they’ll truncate their routes. One possibility is to keep the buses peak hours but delete them off-peak.

      1. “One possibility is to keep the buses peak hours but delete them off-peak.”

        That sounds like the worst of both worlds. Keep the buses when traffic slows them down so that the trip takes almost as long as Link anyway. Delete the buses during times when they would actually save their riders a significant amount of time.

      2. The point is that commuters are the one who make the most noise insisting on keeping the buses, because to them time is money. Off-peak they don’t care, so if the net result is longer travel time, Link’s frequency makes up for it.

      3. Silence is Golden, when you don’t have much good news to report.
        Look at the numbers of buses traveling NB on I-5.
        Between 7am and 8am, there are 41 metro buses and 26 ST buses for a total of 67 – less than a minute apart on average.
        S.Link is limited to 6 min headways in the peak, merging with E.Link trains. Imagine the logistics required (staging) to transfer 7 or 8 bus fulls of riders from where they pull in to all pile onto one link train, now repeat this process every 6 minutes.
        That would fill every seat on 4 car trains, plus some standees. Of course, few seats would be available by the time the big transfer took place at Boeing Field Station.
        I’ve applied for the Torches and Pitchforks concession stand in anticipation of that Sound Move, kicking everyone out of thier nicely warmed seat to stand on an overcrowded train hang off the straps..

      4. @Mike — Another reason it makes some sense is that it would actually drive ridership when it is needed in the suburbs (in the middle of the day). It is tough to justify decent frequency in the middle of the day if most people just take an express bus. But if the buses go away and serve Link, then maybe you will get decent ridership. Of course that means a lot of empty buses in the middle of the day (or a lot of money spent on peak hour only service, which is a costly way to manage a bus system).

      5. and to keep the buses being truncated to trains in perspective, I counted the number of buses coming south on I-5 during the same hours (7-8am) and was a bit astounded.
        64 use i-5 during that hour from Metro and another 53 from Snohomish County (ST & CT) for a total of 117 SB coaches. A bus every 30 seconds.
        If everyone of those buses dumps a full load onto Link, then every seat on 4 car trains, departing Lynnwood 3 minutes apart, will have a butt in it. Everyone else can stand.
        Note to self > Order more Orca readers.

      6. @mic Well, I’m not sure where you are getting those numbers, but what it looks like is you are probably just counting every bus on I-5 at its most use span between S. Spokane street and S. 130th street in Tukwila, which includes routes like the following:
        101 and 102 to Renton
        150, 157, 158, 159 to Kent
        190, 192 to Star Lake
        177, 178, 179, 577 (not 578 at peak hour) to Federal Way
        590, 592 to Pierce County
        Additionally, there are routes 193, 197, and 586 that go to Seattle, but avoid downtown entirely.

        I’m not sure how this is relevant unless you think every single one of these routes all have at least their freeway portions replaced by Link. I don’t have any problem assuming that, for example, the 193 will be replaced by Link. First of all, Link doesn’t go to First Hill. Second, if Metro were to cut the 193 in favor of a transfer at downtown, it would, since there are already a lot of peak-hour routes to downtown. Metro wouldn’t have a problem with the redundancy, either, since there is already a lot of redundancy with other Seattle routes. Redundancy in this case is good because a lot of people are going to Seattle.

        There are some arguments in favor of truncating the 150 and 101 to Rainier Beach station, but realistically I don’t see that happening, even though it wouldn’t increase travel times nearly as much as a transfer to Link anywhere south of I-405, where the freeway is generally clear. The 158 & 159 seem like potential truncation candidates since it goes to I-5 & Kent Des Moines rd, but it would increase travel times quite a bit and doesn’t seem like it’s a consideration. The 157 exits the freeway at an odd place, and would probably be rerouted to the S. 200th street (sorry, Angle Lake) station, but again, I don’t see that happening.

        The 592 and 590 are up to Sound Transit’s doubtful decision making, but those riders would take Sounder instead, and not Link.

        But in terms of designating Link the be all and end all of commuting from the south, even if Sound Transit has such an extreme vision for Link, I don’t think Metro does, and that’s good.

      7. Alex is correct and only a select number of routes will be targeted to end at a Link station. Truncating every route isn’t feasible under any scenario and would simply shift bus riders to train riders, resulting in little net gain for transit mode share overall and not much gain in operating costs. Too little juice for the squeeze.
        Truncating most north spine routes that use I-5 into UW/CBD suffers from the same situation. Yes, they have a straighter shot at downtown, with twice the frequency, but also have twice the current bus ridership to deal with.
        It will be interesting to see how PT, MT, and CT selectively shed some of their operating costs from their ledger to ST’s ledger book. The compulsion to shed subsidy off to someone else will be profound.

  8. Outstanding post, Frank.

    I think it is very easy to look at a map and say “Hey, why don’t we run a rail line there?”. But building a line is very expensive. Running it is also very expensive. It only makes sense when you have the riders to justify it. A bypass doesn’t have the riders to justify it.

    That is one issue that proponents seem to be ignoring. Who will pay for this? I can understand why someone from Tukwila might want an express that could save a couple minutes, but are they willing to spend a billion dollars on one? I doubt it. Meanwhile, Seattle has no enthusiasm for this at all. This would go through the lowest density part of the city. I literally can’t imagine a route that performs worse than this one for Seattle (and I’m an imaginative person).

      1. Of course this would have to be paid for by South King and Pierce funds. Whenever it has been discussed that is a given.

      2. Sure, as long as they don’t interfere with frequency and mobility of our north king line that we’ve paid so much for, and are trying so hard to build ridership around.

        Assuming a new line, as Stephen keeps insisting on, would cut ridership dramatically, and decrease the frequency of other lines that would be a better fit for a WSTT anyway. It would mess with both lines. And get allow ridership from areas that aren’t at all willing to densify around a line to save a few minutes.

        The plan is goofy. Seattle Subway’s continuing to pay any attention at all to it doesn’t speak well of their transit props, IMO.

      3. I don’t support their expensive line through Tukwila, South Park and Georgetown. It has nearly as many stations as the Rainier deviation but they’re in much less dense territory. Tukwila might become dense, but South Park and Georgetown will never because of the planes and industry all about.

        What I advocate is a “stripped down” budget line between the BNSF and I-5 with one and one only station at Georgetown, using the loop around the MF as a flying junction.

        Maybe the right thing is it’s single track and used only in the peak direction for commuters with some sort of connection to the new tunnel, but without it this “Light Commuter Rail” they’re building is going to be a gigantic fustercluck with disappointing ridership.

  9. “The 7 miles of track through the Rainier Valley will be the only section where the trains run at-grade.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a section of Eastlink in Bellevue, where it runs at grade along NE Spring Blvd, starting at 130th Ave NE, just before the 130th St Station. It crosses 130th Ave NE, 132nd Ave NE, NE Spring Blvd (turns up 136th Pl NE) and finally crosses NE 20th St before making a very sharp turn to go along SR 520.

    Sounds like Sound Transit hasn’t learned their lesson!

    1. If I remember the travel time projections correctly, even with the curves and station stops, EastLink would be about as fast between Overlake TC and Bellevue TC as the 566/567 on a good day, just by avoiding all the traffic jams and stoplights. And that’s not even considering the huge backups along 405 and the lane of 520 westbound leading to 405 that can materialize any time during the day, not just rush hour. It’s also worth noting that the 405 HOV lane does not connect to the 520, so an express bus between Redmond and Bellevue pretty much has to just sit in line with all the cars.

      1. It’s not about being faster or slower than driving or busing, it’s about the issues faced with the RV stretch: intersections causing potential collisions and traffic potentially blocking the train, along with reduced speed limits. Won’t this all adversely affect headways, similar to RV?

        Considering the entire cost for East Link, how much did they actually save to put a little over a half mile at grade? I really hope this is just one alternate and a grade separated option becomes the preferred alternate.

    2. There’s also the SODO segment.

      East Link was going to be fully grade separated, until Bellevue insisted it wanted a tunnel in front of City Hall and asked ST to economize to cover part of the cost. That led to the surface segment in the Spring District. I asked ST about it at an open house, saying I was very concerned that surface routing and traffic lights would slow Link down and make it work less well for people. The ST rep said it would only have one level crossing on a low-volume street, so it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

    3. “Along” is not “in the middle of”. If you want a 100% grade-separated Metro system, Light Rail is absolutely not the correct technology. “Heavy Rail” cars with raised platforms have much higher volumes and quicker loading and unloading.

      But that horse has left the barn, so Link should use at-grade where possible, but not in the middle of roadways!

    4. If Ballard to downtown (via 15th) is built, there is also that. It is quite common for light rail lines to travel at grade. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The key is everything else, such as avoiding congestion and allowing for high frequency. The Rainier Valley route does quite well with the first, and fails for the second. But that is something that can be added later (via underpasses). If a line to Renton is added someday, that would certainly come along with it. Maybe 8 minute frequency to the airport and 8 minute frequency to Renton (with four minute frequency from Rainier Beach to downtown). I’m not sure if that will ever happen, though. Renton is not very densely populated. It probably would make sense to simply run buses to Rainier Beach. Adding frequency for Link makes that a lot more appealing.

      1. RB is a poor transfer point unless you build a bus station directly over the Link platforms. You’ll have runners being hit regularly because the light cycle favors MLK pretty strongly and especially when a train is approaching from the north.

  10. The Duwamish bypass concept is a classic example of incremental versus systems planning. By itself, the bypass makes little operational sense, especially since much of the demand for Link comes from stations between Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach. On the other hand, if there was a need for a line to provide rail to Renton/167 corridor, or if the alignment shifted to SR 509 and had a spur from Georgetown heading to the northwest to serve the West Seattle peninsula, the concept would have more merit.

    We are desperately in need of a south of I-90 rail systems plan rather than this incremental corridor-by-corridor incremental planning which we just paid millions for in ST3 studies.

  11. My idea is to make the Duwamish Bypass a single track, just for peak-hour express trains. NB in the mornings, SB in afternoons and evenings. Saves some capital costs and gives most commuters a faster ride.

    And lest we forget, back in the day when Sound Transit (then known as the RTA, Regional Transit Authority) was planning light rail, there were actually people on staff (and elsewhere) who wanted the Duwamish corridor to be *the* route south. To heck with SE Seattle was their unspoken motto. Thankfully they did not prevail.

    1. That actually doesn’t sound too bad, especially for Boeing/East Marginal workers. But I doubt the cost of one less track will be an enormous savings. Besides, the Museum of Flight is down there and tourists flock there in the summer.

  12. The energy behind a Duwamish bypass is partly a result of the misleading graphics produced by ST. The schematic maps that they display have the line turning back westward to show the location of TIBS when the actual station locations of the Rainier Valley stations are almost due north of TIBS, as Martin’s accurate map shows, The schematics south of Mount Baker should really be a direct up-down line and not squiggle back westward south of Rainier Beach. Not only would eliminating the south squiggle back be more accurate, but it would suggest that the airport connectivity is more direct than the current map does.

    1. No it’s not. The energy behind the Bypass is that south of RBS the line is completely different than north of it. And therefor the people it will serve are completely different.

      From RBS to Beacon Hill, Link is a rather “under-stationed” but otherwise classical modern Light Rail line. The Beacon Hill Tunnel is fairly unique for current practice but not at all unusual for traditional streetcar light rail systems. Think of the Sunset and Twin Peaks tunnels Muni has and the West Hills tunnel on PATCO. There’s a geographical barrier which can’t be crossed at grade, so it had to be tunneled under.

      The folks who use it are urban riders riding at all hours and for many different reasons. Sure, it has a peak-hours rush like any good transit, but there is ridership throughout the day.

      South of RBS it is destined always to be a commuter railroad, because the shortsighted South King County members of the board are either too craven to fight the antis or are too wedded to the corrupt revenues from the used-car lots on SR99. So there will be a peak demand and the rest of the time the trains will run mostly empty. And running four car trains mostly empty for 35 miles is a colossal waste of energy.

      I predict that very soon after the system opens to Federal Way that every other train will be turned back at RBS, because the only riders south of the airport will be transit-dependent folks forced off the express buses. There will be very few of the “choice” off-peak riders who make Light Rail systems viable.

      Also you know what that will mean for the people in the Rainier Valley? None of them will ever get a seat during morning rush hour! Never-ever. With trains from deep South King County using the bypass, “locals” starting at RBS could provide the service through the RV.

      Now I don’t know what to do about the “one train every six minutes across Royal Brougham” problem that Chris Stephan mentioned. There cannot be an overpass there because there’s already an overpass there, only not for the surface street. Eventually there will have to be another line built through SoDo because the RV line is so constrained. A deep south KC bypass could use that tunnel, but that doesn’t help for a good long while.

      1. Not “PATCO”, and not “West Hills Tunnel”. The “Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel” on “Port Authority Transit”.

  13. “Yes, it’s annoying when some yahoo driver cuts off a Link train and service is suspended while they sort it out.”

    Suggestion, Frank. Don’t use a patronizing sentence as a lead-in to a course of action I agree with a hundred percent. It’s more than an annoyance to miss an international flight.

    However, +100% on this one:

    “But instead of thinking of ways to mitigate that annoyance with another $1B in spending, we ought to re-think whether or not it’s a good idea to build a single 70-mile light rail line to begin with.”

    For MLK, I doubt I’m the only one that always thought grade crossings never belonged on a regional rail line, period. But less expensive fix would be to remove all grade crossings- and “undercut” major arterials at Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach stations.

    Special Pacific Northwest consideration: storm drain system with most powerful pumps om earth. Leave the electric submarines to MAX and the nuclear Navy.

    Everett to Tacoma is really beyond light rail passenger comfort level. Olympia- which is likely eventual regional terminal, ride just too long and bath-room deprived. Also, as was mentioned, by law LINK speed can’t exceed 55mph.

    But. In Skåne County, Southern Sweden, Kurt Wallander detective stories often take place in walking distance of a station of the county high-speed rail system.

    The Pågatågen. Swedish for “Little Boy Trains”. Maybe because kids like them because in addition to being 100mph ‘way fast, the also have bathrooms.

    (In Swedish, å is long “o”.)

    Check them out. I think they’re perfect caliber for what we need regionally. No, they can’t use the DSTT. But expanded regional service is going to need some special downtown Seattle treatment.

    However, just for fair comparison:

    Always thought there had to be a better name than LINK, and worth negotiating for copyright. Though we could keep present color scheme. Could also run South Lake Union and Central Connector track on its way through Seattle.

    Mark Dublin

  14. Frank,

    It needn’t cost a billion and it needn’t cross the river twice. There is adequate right of way for a nearly all at-grade right of way between the BNSF/UP tracks and I-5, an old, nearly abandoned spur heading north between Airport Way and I-5 north of Georgetown, and the loop around the Maintenance Facility to provide a “flying junction” interchange with the existing line.

    There’s certainly a cost for the flying junction at the south end, but such a bypass could be constructed for less than $200 million dollars.

    Since the SoundTransit board seems hell-bent on ruining South Link’s ability to shape the SR99 corridor into something actually useful for transit, the system down there will be an abject failure. It won’t be “psychologically” fast enough to attract choice commuting riders with the slow jog through the Rainier Valley but it also won’t be able to grow its neighborhood into something that “traditional LRT” would benefit.

    So, the best use of the RV segment is to extend it along SR900 to Renton and the Highlands and have most trains go there. Renton and the RV are strongly linked economically and have historic transit bonds.

    There’s some need for “local” service to the airport via the Rainier Valley, so an “overlay” line like the Green Line along the Banfield in Portland could go there. But there isn’t a clear economic link between the Rainier Valley and the airport, so frequent service between them isn’t really necessary.

    It would be better to throw in the ball on having South Link be anything but a commuter system, and give it the fastest run to downtown possible within a restricted budget.

    1. I appreciate what you’re saying. in a perfect world we’d have one line that goes straight south to the airport and a second line to Renton through the RV. but that didn’t happen.

      the whole point of my post was to question the premise of building so far south in the first place. it seems silly to say “we’re going build an expensive and low-ridership south to tacoma, but to make it work we ALSO have to build an expensive bypass along the Duwamish.” Good money after bad.

      Oh, and take away the river crossings and I still don’t see how we build 5 miles of grade-separated track for $40m/mi. it would be awesome if we could.

      1. Frank,

        I still don’t see how we build 5 miles of grade-separated track for $40m/mi.

        That’s because it’s mostly NOT grade separated. It’s “obstruction separated”. That is, the freeway is on one side and the BNSF and UP rail rights-of-way are on the other.

        Ergo. For about 85% of the distance the tracks on on terra firma. It’d have to go up on structure around Michigan to thread the tight needle there and it would need structure around the MF and across Airport Way, but everywhere else it could be just another track or pair of them, depending whether it would be peak-only.

        Is it “Light Rail”? Absolutely not; there are no stations! (Well, one at Georgetown for the optics).

    2. So far as Renton being non-dense, yes, that’s true, for now. However, it is the best place in South King County for densification, because it has relatively direct access to both Bellevue and Seattle.

      Maybe the tide of people seeking an urbanist lifestyle within the greater Northwest ecosystem will wane, but absent Microsoft and Boeing both upping sticks completely, I doubt it. The secret is out: the rain doesn’t bite and the summer (shhhhhhh) is spectacular: dry but not arid and sunny. Where are all those people going to land? Seattle proper and central Bellevue are increasingly out of reach of anyone who doesn’t bring money from a California or BosNyWash sale.

      Renton has some bones that can become a nice downtown.

      1. I have been observing south King County the past few years. Kent has high ridershio and a lot of low-income transit-dependent people, and the densest area in south King. Renton has similar kind of people but low ridership. On the 169 it’s sometimes standing room only in East Hill but it whittles don quite a bit by the South Renton P&R (the closest timed transfer to Seattle, with a 10-minute wait to/from the 101), and less at Renton TC. I’ve been through Renton TC a couple dozen times and it’s always practically a ghost town. One afternoon I took the 105 to the Highlands to see what’s there, and I found it surprisingly run-down and presumably inexpensive (like Skyway), but still hardly any bus riders.

        I think it’s because downtown Renton was so completely obliterated in the 1960s with 405 and the superblocks. Only a few small blocks remain around the TC. Renton is admirably reviving them with TOD and the garage and open space, but it’s still the tiniest of villages. It should rebuild the small blocks westward, replacing some big-box stores. The other problem with Renton is all the residential areas are unwalkable from downtown: the Landing, Highlands, Beacon Way, Fairwood. The Landing is a 30+ minute walk. The Highlands and Beacon way are past a longish highway stretch. Fairwood is far. Only the Talbot Road is walkable, but only a few houses are close enough. That probably got everybody to drive early on and completely. I don’t know if just bringing light rail to Renton would revive it, because the 101 and 106 haven’t succeeded.

        And where would the light rail go when it gets downtown? South to Kent? East to the Highlands? It would have to get to eastern Renton to really connect the area, but the known ridership is south not east.

      2. Mike,

        Well, yes, turn south to East Hill and then down to Kent Station. I don’t know enough about the neighborhoods there to say exactly where the alignment should be, but there is a good amount of empty space shown in Google Earth, at least down to about 220th. Since the area is a flat hilltop there are some opportunities for Rainier views from mid-rises.

        I have notices that there is an unbroken utility right of way all the way to 240th. It doesn’t have much alongside it but that might be a good thing. There are quite a few places where there appears to be room for development adjacent. I haven’t been out there to inspect it, but it’s the sort of thing that they use frequently in the Scandinavian countries for rail lines.

        Then swing back west along 240th through the dense part of East Hill to Kent Station in street running a la MLK. A busway could be built in the right of way south of 240th to Covington and SR18 for buses to access the LRT quickly and easily.

        This could almost all be at-grade like Westside MAX in Portland. IOW, “real” LRT not wrong-technology BART.

  15. A few points. Frequency is more important than speed. Splitting the line will make service less frequent to the Rainier Valley. When ST went out for public comment years ago, the strong preference was for at grade. A tunnel through a flat valley was too expensive. Elevated in that neighborhood would be ugly and do nothing for the neighborhood. At grade may be slower and generally not preferable, but it does interact with the community more.

    And I do want to point out the fallacy of thinking everyone wants to go to Seattle. A big reason Tacoma wants rail, is to connect to the airport, not Seattle. They believe they need this to attract new investment.

    1. I agree. Frequency is more important, and the way to improve frequency is to build underpasses in Rainier Valley.

      As far as your second point goes, I agree. But do you really think that if Seattle didn’t have a light rail line that Tacoma would build one to the airport? That just doesn’t seem like a very good way to spend money. There may be civic leaders who think that will spur development, but like a lot of schemes to jump start Tacoma, i don’t think it will work.

      1. My point simply being that Seattle folks assume everyone wants to go to downtown Seattle. Many people live in Tacoma and work in the Kent Valley. Tacoma believes that to attract the next Russell Industries or other major employers, they need rail to the airport. The line to Tacoma paired with bus service will serve many other employment markets besides downtown Seattle.

      2. Too bad South Link won’t go to the Kent Valley, then. That sounds like a great argument for more Sounder.

      3. “do you really think that if Seattle didn’t have a light rail line that Tacoma would build one to the airport?”

        That’s not really a fair question. Not everyone is going downtown, but it’s still the largest transit destination and transfer point. In the Bay Area the largest destination by far is San Francisco. In New York it’s Manhattan. So a train that doesn’t go dfowntown wouldn’t make sense. But if it does go downtown already, then it’s reasonable to consider extending it to Tacoma.

      4. Before building the rails, ST re-worked all the utilities in Rainier Valley. Are you sure that underpasses could be built economically (would all of the utility lines have to be relocated again which would require virtually shutting down MLK for an extended period?).

  16. A Duwamish Bypass initially sounds great. I’ve thought about it before. But Frank, you’ve presented a good argument.

    Besides, the likelihood of a Duwamish Bypass being built is quite slim – not just in the near future but even in ST4, 5 or 6. There are much more important corridors that are overdue for new rail, such as West Seattle, Ballard, SLU and the Eastside. And we all know how politics & government are extremely slow to respond to the needs of the public. If the Bypass were to be built, then I can see it happening after rail has filled in the rest of the region, and riders realize experience slow travel times long after Tacoma operations have begun.

  17. More math and a thought experiment: Just assume for a second that there are as many stops on each line. This makes the math simpler. As mentioned above ( some of the time and distance is spent speeding up or slowing down. This distance can be subtracted from each segment to see the distance that a train would travel at top speed. From the separation point, there are six gaps, or 2.4 miles spent accelerating or decelerating. So that gives us 3.2 miles for the new line where the train is going at top speed. This is where the savings would occur if there were the same number of stops. So:

    3.2 miles at 58 MPH = 3 minutes, 18 seconds

    From the previous calculation, we know that the train spends about five miles in Rainier Valley. Now just figure out the last two miles. There are two more gaps, so now we know that the train spends 1.2 miles at 58 MPH (2 – 0.2 * 4). So, that means the train goes:

    1.2 miles at 58 MPH = 1 minute, 45 seconds +
    3.5 miles at 35 MPH = 6 minutes (from above)

    So, if there were the same number of stops, then the train would save roughly 4 minutes, thirty seconds (7’45” – 3’18”). Not exactly a huge amount of time for that kind of investment.

    The main times savings come from skipping stations. But that is the whole point of a light rail line! To have stations. The Rainier Valley stations, with all their problems, still perform reasonably well. Their is no evidence to suggest we need an express. But if we did need an express, it would simply skip over many of the stations. There are logistical problems with this (of course) which is why that won’t happen either.

    If you want to dream of a big improvement for Central Link, then dream of a bunch of underpasses in Rainier Valley. That would not improve the speed, but it could improve the frequency. Such an improvement in frequency would make a bigger difference to the average commuter than a second line. That, and improving the dwell times (which is the main reason taking the train seems so slow).

  18. It should have been built through Duwamish Valley instead of its current route to begin with. A transit route shoud always take the shortest, most direct path between two points.

      1. A frequent grid with relatively closely-spaced routes serves all communities, and doesn’t provide stupid, unnecessary diversions that only lengthen the line.

        You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      2. Some reading so you can educate yourself:

        This one is especially important to understand:

        In the image below, two towns are made up of the same four centers of development. Maybe one is a college, one is a shopping center, one is a mass of apartments, or whatever. In any case, the two towns are identical except for the locations of the four centers.


        In the first town they are in a reasonable straight line along a path that transit can follow. That means that a single transit line connects all four centers, in a way that feels reasonably direct for travel between any two centers.

        In the second town, a single line connecting all four centers is maddeningly circuitous, and therefore much less attractive if you’re traveling between centers that are not adjacent. There would be another solution for the second town, which is to run a direct bus route between each pair of centers, bypassing the others. But that’s more route-miles, and hence less frequency and duration of service for a given service budget, and hence service that’s less likely to be useful to many people.

        Putting development at the end of a long cul-de-sac makes it a worse prospect for ridership, which means a ridership-maximizing transit agency will give it less service. Remember: if you want good transit, locate “on the way” between other places that support good transit.

        Transit First – Straight Routes Please (

      3. Your use of Jarrett Walker reminds me of this:

        Seriously, you need to read the whole book. It should be obvious but somehow you missed the fact that these concepts sometimes are in conflict with each other. Of course they are. That is life in the real world. Building a grid makes sense, but not if half the grid contains 3 people (AKA Sparseville). Just about every chapter and every concept that he seeks to explain should be read with the caveat “Ceteris paribus”, or “all other things being equal”. What you say would be true if all other things were equal, but they’re not.

        Along with the concepts you mentioned, he also mentions the importance of serving densely populated areas, He describes the length of a line and the cost of maintaining service. These are all fairly obvious ideas (just as the ones you mentioned are) but he describes them really well, which gives people a common understanding of these ideas. Here are some basics (feel free to refute any one of these):

        1) Building a light rail line is expensive
        2) Running trains is expensive
        3) Both are generally related to distance (the longer the line, the more expensive to build or operate). Again, all other things being equal.
        4) Assuming a single line to go to the airport, (and you are) it therefore makes sense that the line balance cost versus ridership. The line should try to maximize the first, and minimize the second.

        How to achieve this last point is not obvious. But you seem to believe that the Duwamish has the same density as Rainier Valley or that we can build a nice grid around trains that serve the Duwamish. Both are absurd. The Duwamish has the lowest population density of any large section of land in the city!* There is no way you have the ridership that you would have in Rainier Valley. Not per mile, not per dollar; whether you are talking about building the line or running the trains. The latter means that you probably don’t run the trains very often.

        Meanwhile, a Duwamish line is pointless in building a good grid. It is hemmed in by airport, river crossings (which are few and far between) golf courses and other green belts. It is much easier for someone in Rainier Valley to simply head north, even though heading west (towards these mythical stations) would be closer. Furthermore, it simply goes the same way as the prevailing roads and highways. This means that any attempt at a feeder system is pointless.

        Finally, the idea of Rainier Valley being or not being “on the way” is pointless. That is like asking whether Brooklyn is on your way to Long Island. I suppose, but that misses the point. Just to be clear here, Rainier Valley is a more popular destination than the airport. The set of stations after Sodo (Beacon Hill to Rainier Beach) are used more than SeaTac and Tukwila: They are also growing faster. They are, of course, much cheaper to serve (as you obviously know if you’ve read enough of Human Transit to educate yourself).

        * You can look it up here: — The lighter the color, the less populated an area is.

    1. Which two points are those? Part of choosing the Rainier Valley alignment was adding “serve Rainier Valley” to Link’s goals. You can think of it as two lines interlined at Columbia City, one going downtown and the other to the airport. Downtown-airport and downtown-Federal Way trips aren’t the only thing Link is for, and some people believe they shouldn’t be emphasized as much as they are. The purpose of a subway is to move pedestrians between population centers, and there aren’t many population centers or pedestrians in the Industrial District.

      1. “Which two points are those?”

        Any two points. If you’re familiar with Jarrett Walker, he has discussed this many times. A straight line is ideal because it provides the most direct route between any two points along the line. Instead of serving Rainier Valley, people in places like Rainier Valley and Columbia City could have accessed LINK via frequent east-west bus routes.

        Look at Vancouver’s downtown-airport subway. It doesn’t make stupid east-west diversions to serve “communities”. It runs straight up and down Cambie Street. If your trip starts east or west of there, you can take a bus to get there. And Vancouver’s subway, despite only being 25 minutes end to end (compared to LINK’s 38 minutes), does nearly three times the ridership of LINK.

      2. I’ve heard Jarrett speak several times, I have his book, and I read Human Transit, so I know what he says. He’s right, transit should generally be in straight lines, and places that want to be served should be along those lines. But you’re elevating it to an absolute as if this is the only important factor. Cambie Street is like Rainier Valley; it has a lot of people and pedestrian businesses directly around it. If Vancouver had an industrial district between downtown and Richmond and a large neighborhood on one side, it might have bent the line too. What is the purpose of transit? It’s to move the largest cross-section of pedestrians. Where are the largest cross-section of pedestrians going from and to? Neighborhood centers, urban villages, large institutions, etc.

        South Seattle and west Seattle are heavily pocketed by a river and hills that prevented linear communities from developing, so everything is in small pockets that aren’t in a straight line like Chicago enjoys. If you ask anyone what are the top priorities for light rail in Seattle, it’s to connect the quarters of the city and the largest neighborhoods. That includes Rainier Valley, downtown-Capitol Hill-UDistrict-Northgate (note: another non-straight line), Lake City, Ballard, and West Seattle. It’s not to go through the Industrial District where nobody lives and few people work, or Georgetown where few people live. Although we do try to get a station into the Industrial District if we can, which we did and it’s called SODO Station.

        The earliest Link design went on the I-5 express lanes from downtown to Northgate. We, the urbanists and majority of residents, pushed hard to move it directly under Broadway and the U-District, because the highest ridership comes from being within walking distance of pedestrian centers. People were not going to walk down a steep hill to a freeway station or Eastlake station, or take a 1-mile bus through a steep hill and lo-density area through it. Rainier Valley is essentially the same from the Industrial District, you’d have to go over Beacon Hill and a no-man’s land to get to the stations.

      3. @Chris — You are really lost if you think a line between the Vancouver airport and their downtown looks like a line between the SeaTac and downtown. To begin with, theirs is about half the distance. Second, it is way more densely populated. Here is a typical station in Vancouver:

        Notice something? There are major cross streets and huge buildings nearby.

        Now look at one of the few places where people actually suggest we should put a station along the Duwamish (Georgetown) —

        It is worth pointing out that the Vancouver station I referenced is actually closer to the airport than it is downtown, and thus one of the least developed areas. Meanwhile, the Georgetown station is the opposite.

        Holy cow, man, the only reason Vancouver ran a line to the airport is because they figured they might as well. There is solid development the whole way, and major cross streets the whole way. This makes for a good transit system even if no one ever rides the train to the airport. Your fantasy line to the airport is nothing like that.

      4. Vancouver’s Millenium line is something to behold. It goes mostly southeast, then turns north and goes west and crosses itself. If the Broadway line is built as an extension of it, it will have a pretzel loop in the middle.

        I think it’s crazy, and I wonder what people near the stations at the end think. Do they go to Broadway station and transfer and go the opposite way? Or is the one-seat ride tolerable? Or are they just happy to have any kind of rapid transit? As to why Vancouver did this, the only reason I can think of is to give double-frequency to the highest-ridership segment between downtown Vancouver and New Westminster.

        So it’s not all just straight Cambie-like. And you can’t blame it on being the oldest line, because it’s the second. Cambie is the third.

      5. I can answer the question about the Millennium Line weirdness. It seems like a semi-redundant loop, but actually it does serve riders. 70k weekday boardings. East west part picks up passengers that then can transfer to the Expo Line downtown or the 99 Broadway Bus which has extremely high frequency and ridership. The shorter north south loop also serves customers because of the bus connections particularly at Braid. If they are going downtown, they are likely to take the trains going south and then directly to downtown, but it they are going to Broadway, they will take the trains going north and then west.

        Of course the line was built like this on the assumption that it would be extended. The Evergreen Line extending north is already under construction and the Millennium Line extension down Broadway has been in the plans for a long time and will be built at some point.

    2. Ending in Rainier Valley would have made sense. Add a huge freeway station and be done with it (similar to the one at Mountlake Terrace, with HOV ramps on and off). Buses could feed it and keep going or just turn around. Of course, such a line is probably the fourth or fifth thing we should have built (after UW rail, Metro 8, Ballard to UW, etc.).

  19. “economically disadvantaged communities like Georgetown and South Park. Boeing Field would almost certainly want one for future commercial flights.”

    1) South Park is on the other side of the river so the value a station on that side that was not included with Georgetown would not make sense
    2) King County will fight to the death (along with the Port, and Seatac, Georgetown, beacon hill etc neighbors) from getting a real commercial flight (non-puddle-jumpers) the most likely situation in the next 50 years is that Boeing Field would be shut down (it is also potentially EXTREMELY valuable property).
    3) Georgetown has gentrified considerably I expect if we look at census track data, the income are do not represent “economically disadvantaged” populations anymore.

    The most likely situation is 1 or 2 stations (one for Georgetown/South Park and another for Museum of Flight/Boeing)

  20. Make sure the bypass has a stop at the Museum of Flight ;-). Just saying because moments ago, Community Transit in part because of a promise to serve The Future of Flight WON PROP ONE!


    1. If Northgate is on the line, do you need Southcenter? If the Future of Flight is on the line, do you need the Museum of Flight? The biggest issue is that a mall and flight museum is accessible by rapid transit; it doesn’t necessarily have to be all of them. Although my nickname for Link is “The Train to the Five Malls”.

      1. No, that’s the last thing you want if you are Seattle. Why would you want to share business with another mall outside the city limits?
        No tax receipts there!

      2. It’s not about what Seattle’s tax collectors want. It’s about what makes it feasable to live without a car and increase the number of carless households. People need to get things that are only at shopping malls, so the rapid transit line should include a mall station, like Metrotown in Vancouver. That doesn’t mean it needs to serve every mall, or a mall in every tax jurisdiction. Northgate is the most urbanly-located mall, so it’s the best candidate.

      3. Mike Orr, I think good transit service to both Future of Flight & Museum of Flight matters.

        But I do think regarding malls sadly light rail has to serve them to keep up ridership. Light rail is meant to be so much more than for commuters.

      4. I agree that it matters. Our disagreement is only on its relative importance compared to transit needs given limited money. And we both agree that frequent BRT from Paine Field to Link would be an adequate and cost-effective solution.

  21. Some bottom of the page notes…

    If light rail ever goes to West Seattle, it should be built as more of a high speed line and extended to the airport. If WS light rail is built with a combination of elevated and tunneled segments, it might be nearly as fast as the proposed Duwamish line. It certainly would be faster than the RV line. The RV line could then be modified to serve Southcenter (or Renton) on the way to the airport. I think RV residents would accept a longer trip to the airport if the deviation provided more useful destinations.

    Underpasses sounds like an interesting idea, but I’d like to know how feasible it is. When the rail lines were built, all the utility lines were re-located as part of the project. How would the underpasses work with the existing underground utility infrastructure? Re-re-locating the utilities to build underpasses sounds expensive and it would certainly require an almost complete closure of MLK for an extended period of time.

  22. I really think you missed the boat on this one Frank.


    1). Duwamish Bypass that serves Burien and Renton was the best performing quality rail line in the South King HCT study in $/rider. Better than any W. Seattle lines.

    2). The frequency argument is weak. There is no reason to change the RV’s frequency when a new line opens. It is also important to note that, with 4 car trains, the RV is already near its maximum possible frequncy through the RV so there is a future capacity issue to discuss too.

    3. You are missing some of the speed improvements a new line would have because the line you present is a straw man. No one is suggesting a line line like what you shown here. Notes:

    A). There will be a new tunnel DT and new elevated ROW through SODO to serve West Seattle. A bypass would use thay ROW.

    B) TIBs is not in the conversation at all.

    4). Serving Georgetown and South Park is important. Serving all Seattle neighborhoods is important. Adding Value for South King is important. Let’s enagage ST to make this next package giant and get out of arguing relative values until we have more facts.

    1. 1. The performance of the line was mostly due to ridership on the Burien/Renton segment and between that segment and Downtown. It was still tied to a very expensive West Seattle line and an expensive downtown tunnel. Also there is no way this line would be built in isolation. Politically you can’t build a Duwamish bypass without also serving West Seattle and you can’t build a Downtown Tunnel without serving Ballard. Indeed Ballard/West Seattle is likely to be built first with the Duwamish bypass and Burien/Renton service coming in a later phase. I agree the split line concepts make more sense than the “one big line” ones and allow a less expensive (relatively) West Seattle line.

      2. Frank was looking at a Duwamish bypass strictly as a branch off the existing line which would require reduced frequency on each branch due to the segment between SODO and International District. According to Sound Transit the crossing of Royal Brougham limits trains to every 5/6 minutes.

      3. The speed savings isn’t huge and results mostly from fewer stops between Burien and Downtown. The shorter distance and grade separation doesn’t save much time.

      4. There simply isn’t the money in ST3 even in a “go big” package to do spine completion, Ballard/West Seattle, and Downtown/Burien/Renton. Even taking some of the gold plating out of the West Seattle segment in this option you end up with two lines eating over half of the likely ST3 budget.

      1. 1). Right – Burien and Renton, the point is there are versions of a bypass in that area and configurations that have quite a lot of bang for the buck, particularly for South King, who are in need of better ST3 options. Not saying not to do West Seattle. Saying yes, and…

        2). Right – that bypass isnt on the table at all – which is why I point out what could be above.

        3). Time savings isnt the only reason to do it – but I would like to see analysis somewhere that looks at the full impacts of factors I listed above.

        4). You know something about ST3 budgeting I don’t? Different package sizes are very much on the table as far as we know. Scaling the program to subarea equity to Snohomish/Paine Field would mean a very large budget in the other subareas.


      2. 1. My reading of Burien-Renton was the opposite, that it would have low ridership and high cost compared to the other alternatives and segments in the study, and that it would attract a minimum number of riders from Renton to downtown. There’s also the poor performance of RapidRide F, which gets a significant number of riders only from Southcenter west.

        4. What Keith and Seattle Subway are proposing is to increase the project budget to include ST3+4+5. ST can do that: the legislative mandate only limits the tax rate, not its duration. Of course a limited rate means some projects can’t start until other projects are finished, but it would give us some certainty in where the network is going and when areas can expect HCT. That can give them some certainty in planning their land use and local transit. When I talked to Keith a couple weeks ago, he said, “There will be no ST4.” In other words, the coalition will fall apart when “The Spine” is completed. So if we want any more lines in the next phases, we’d better ask for them now.

        There’s a good argument that ST should have proposed a complete network in the first place in the 1990s, with phases and schedules beyond the initial line. It didn’t then, but this is an attempt to do it now.

      3. Mike:

        1). Check out B4. Its actually not close. And, applogies to Frank, it does appear to interact with TIBs, but I cant imagine a bypass oriented version would.

        4). Really all you have to do is scale the whole region to Snoho paying for the Paine alignment (which is clearly the alignment that is on the table.) to get 90% of the way there.

  23. What do you guys think of Seattle Subway’s routing in central Seattle? It seems like a good way to break up a two-hour-long line and bring the most one-seat rides to the most central Seattle destinations, and add more crosstown service.

    The specific east-west routing is less certain. There are several mutually-exclusive corridors that could warrant service: SLU to Group Health, SLU to Swedish, SLU to Harborview, and SLU to Providence. Seattle Subway goes with the first one, and then appears to turn south at 23rd. That part bothers me a bit because 23rd is lower-density residential, and I’m not sure it should be served if First Hill and the Providence areas aren’t. Or am I reading the map wrong and it would turn south further west?

    1. I think the routing is just for illustrative purposes. ;). The way we’re showing it probably isnt ideal for the reasons you mention. Hitting first hill somehow would be a huge win there.

      An argument could probably made for not having a transfer station at Cap Hill as well since it will be a few minutes away from a different transfer point and the money would be better spent on expanding station coverage.

      We think its a really good line and are hoping to get more professional review of options in that corridor.

  24. The damage is done. We’ve already squandered the billion dollars tunneling under Beacon Hill. The route sucks and we’re paying the mortgage for another 30 years. ST looks like idiots (and they are) so the best to hope for is a NO vote on future stupid lines. “Fortunately” there will soon be back-up for the NO vote when the even more stupid East Link lack of ridership comes online; backed up by the monumental disaster it’s going to cause with the elimination of traffic lanes for both buses and cars on the I-90 sinking bridge. Maybe they can leave a hatch open and collect on insurance (again) for a do over.

    1. Actually, there is NOT any loss of lanes at all- the I-90 bridge will still have the same number of vehicle lanes as before. They’re just adding on two new lanes for the light rail. Central Link is already very popular and cheaper per rider then paying for the equivalent amount of buses thanks to the cost efficiencies of light rail and the fact that trains last much longer then buses can even hope to even achieve. And with University Link, Link will be even more of a success.

  25. Not only was the tunnel under Beacon Hill an epic fail but the route down MLK instead of Rainer sealed the deal. No use throwing good money after bad trying to fix this. It is what it unfortunately is. Mothballing and putting the money toward sensible bus service would make the most sense but that will NEVER happen. So transit funding will continue to be drained for the next 50 years. So it goes.

    1. Like I said above, light rail is very popular and cost effective- it would cost more to move the same amount of passengers via bus then light rail.

    2. No epic fail. There’s a station right in the middle of the Beacon Hill neighborhood, which is isolated east and west by a steep hillside. The station is open and people are using it.

  26. @RossB

    >>You are really lost if you think a line between the Vancouver airport and their downtown looks like a line between the SeaTac and downtown.<<

    No, I never said anything to that effect. What I said is that the routing they chose for LINK was poor. It adds needless time for people travelling from the south end of the line to downtown. Not only that, but if they had gone with a routing more like what Frank suggested, it would mean fewer of those awful 90 degree turns. Those turns are bad enough if you're seated, but if you're forced to stand due to crowding (and especially if you're carrying stuff), they're even worse.

    I used to live in suburban Vancouver (North Delta). I'm quite familiar with it.

    1. You ignore the fact that there simply is no easy way to provide bus feeder service from Rainier Valley and West Seattle to a hypothetical line headed down the Duwamish directly to the Airport. Look at a map of the road network. How is someone supposed to get from say Columbia City or Rainier Beach to your hypothetical Duwamish light rail? The street network really isn’t much of a grid South of Downtown. As Ross has said the people are either in West Seattle or Rainier Valley. There just isn’t much in the way of residential or employment density in the Duwamish Industrial area. The East/West surface street connections are poor as well (only one decent E/W route between Dearborn and Southcenter Boulevard/405/518).

    2. 90 degree turns at which radius? Westlake curve I can agree is bad and the train wheels do hunt badly there but the others are wide enough to not make much of an impact on comfort. Those tight 45 degree turns the Canada Line makes following Cambie between King Edward and 41st are sharp enough to throw me off my feet.

    3. “the routing they chose for LINK was poor. It adds needless time for people travelling from the south end of the line to downtown”

      That gets into what Link’s goal is. Some people believe its primary goal is to get people from the south end to downtown, and intra-Seattle transit is just an extra. These are the people pushing for the bypass. (I.e., the bypass alone, not the entire Seattle Subway reorganization that includes a Duwamish line.) Other people believe Link should serve Seattle first and other goals are subordinate. Link’s actual role is between these two, and that’s how the ST board sees it, as a balance between these two competing goals. In that light, the Rainier Valley segment is justified, and a Graham station which would add 20 seconds to the travel time.

    4. The problem with South Link is that it is schizophrenic. It’s classic at-grade “Clark Kent” Light Rail in SoDo and the Rainier Valley and then just north of BAR it jumps into a phone booth and comes out snarling as SuperTrain! (Only it’s actually the locomotive…..).

      The powers that be in South King County don’t want it to mar their lovely collection of tattoo parlors, used-car lots, and Hookervilles, so it’s not going down SR99 where it might actually trigger some rational development. Therefore it will live and die as a commuter railroad. And let me tell you, the Rainier Valley segment is not very commuter railroadish!

      So it will be a huge embarrassment and the “antis” will use it as a Very Good Excuse to kill any possible future expansion of Link within Seattle. Any possible expansion. So you had better get out of your selfish ivory towers and start thinking about how to make the riders in South King County happy. Otherwise you’re not going to get your Metro 8…Or your Ballard-UW…Or your Lake City corridor.

      Yes! I agree with Ross and many of you that the rational thing to do is to stop at Midway (and Alderwood or maybe 164th in SnoHoCo). But if that is the plan you can expect 65% “No” in South King and 80% “No” in Pierce. Even 100% “Yes” in Seattle can’t overcome that.

      1. The antis are already anti, so they can’t get more anti. Undecideds won’t be swayed by what happens in south King County because that’s obviously a different environment than Seattle and that kind of thing wouldn’t happen in the city. And even though Link is on I-5 between Northgate and 145th, there’s more people around it and it’s easier to walk to or set up frequent feeders to than 200th to 320th.

      2. And you can’t say “the people” will turn against Link expansion because of the south end’s routing. Some people will and some people won’t. A significant number of “the people” want south Link on I-5 and are prepared to vote yes based on that, otherwise the alignment wouldn’t have been proposed and wouldn’t be in first place.

  27. Boy it seems that with this topic you’ve beaten this dead horse, exhumed it and beat it again… A bypass to the airport through the Duwamish is a non-starter for this line. We can lament design choices and dollars “wasted” on grade alignment through the RV but seriously let the horse die already. It’s done. I’m more interested in taking an idea like this and figuring if there are ways to establish new service through it.

    A Duwamish option may make sense as part of a split born out of the west Seattle alignment being batted around with ST3. Run a line to Renton, Kent to Auburn through Duwamish tying into a West Seattle line ending in Burien. You can interleave service for a 5 minute trunk route to Ballard and other points north. Likewise you run a split line up the east side from Renton to the future Kirkland-Issaquah alignment or find a way to connect through South Bellevue on the ST2 alignment. That way it’s possible to establish a mature network. Just a thought.

    1. “A bypass to the airport through the Duwamish is a non-starter for this line.”

      Please tell that to the people who keep saying it needs to be done right now, in ST3, as the highest priority. That’s why this article was written, because it keeps coming up and distracts energy from what North King really needs, which is light rail to the quarters of the city furthest from it.

      1. I concur Mike. I would seek to have an alignment like I suggest added for consideration to the board because I believe it has some merit. This other foolishness though has no bearing on other, higher priorities, North King being amongst them.

      2. Sure – this isnt a priority for North King at all. But if you look at the South King study work and start thinking about what’s in it for South King in ST3… And it gets interesting.

        Particularly if ST2 TIFIAA loan ends up funding Federal Way after all…

      3. Mike,

        Any Duwamish bypass would have to be built with South King money, so it’s neither here, there or nowhere to Seattle whether it gets built or not.

        Now the South King people aren’t fighting for it, so it’s certainly not going to happen in ST3. But it will be very few months after the system is opened to Federal Way when people down there will be crying for it. And NOBODY except transit dependent folks will ride it from Tacoma to anywhere north of the airport.

        So make a decision between the “full bore” Seattle Subway model with stops in South Park and central Georgetown and a “Budget Bypass” between the BNSF and I-5 for lots less money and save the necessary pieces of right of way.

        It’s called “planning for the future”.

  28. Instead of building a Duwamish bypass, why not just run an express service through the Rainier Valley (skipping all stations from Rainier Valley to Sodo) like the VTA does in San Jose? That requires zero extra building costs but still dramatically speeds up the trip. I sent an email to STB on the subject a while ago, but the idea doesn’t seem to have ever been taken up.

    1. It requires a third track. Otherwise the express train will be stuck behind a local train, or service would have to be infrequent to avoid this. VTA has a third track for part of the line I believe, and the NYC subway has four tracks where its express trains run. I think it would have been a good idea here, but almost everybody else involved in Link believes it’s too costly and unnecessary for anywhere outside NYC.

      1. I was thinking about that and remembered that they are planning on constructing an infill station at Graham St., so they could theoretically spend a few extra bucks to widen the roadway or the right of way (possibly diverting left turn lanes to new locations), and adding a third track there.

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