When the Sound Transit board next convenes, it will advance a set of light rail and bus expansion projects to go to voters in 2016 as a package known as “ST3.”  Based on the project list, financial constraints, and desires of local leaders, informed observers assume that this package will include a light rail variation on the aborted monorail “green line” route, running from Ballard to West Seattle via downtown.

Before the final list comes together, let’s stretch our minds for a moment and consider an alternate vision, one that’s been kicking around here on this blog in the comments section and on Page 2.  It comes from several Seattle Subway posts and arguments from from commenter RossB, among others. As we contemplate $15B in new transit spending over the next few decades, this idea is worth one last hearing.   I’ll call it the peanut butter plan, because it attempts to spread the benefits of light rail and rapid bus lines over as much of the city as possible.

What makes a good high-capacity transit network?

Before I get into the details, let’s list some things we know to be true about Seattle public transit:

  1. Buses can be time competitive with trains if given their own lanes on freeways or wide, freeway-like arterials. Therefore, in the rare places we have wide, flat, straight roads, we should take exclusive lanes for transit.
  2. RapidRide buses work decently well outside of downtown, and could be even better if we gave them exclusive lanes, off-board payment, and got them off downtown streets
  3. Rail, in general, ought to get built where geography or density make rapid buses impossible
  4. East-West routes in this town generally suck and are great candidates for rail
  5. Even after light rail is fully built out, most transit riders will still be using the buses, therefore…
  6. Transfers should be great experiences: you can benefit more total riders if you optimize for useful bus-rail and rail-rail transfers

With those principles in mind, let’s take a look at the current state of Link light rail and RapidRide lines in the city, including planned Link extensions set to open in a few years. The yellow areas in the map below represent the main choke points for transit, and therefore where the majority of our investment should occur: crossing the ship canal, downtown, and the entrance ramps to the West Seattle bridge.

Current and Planned Link/RapidRide Routes
Current and Planned Link/RapidRide Routes

Now let’s look at the light rail expansion Sound Transit is likely to propose next month, which I’ll call the Green Line (yes, I realize I’m using blue on the map).  It would replace RapidRide D from Ballard into downtown via Interbay, with a stop in South Lake Union, a second downtown tunnel, and a line to West Seattle terminating at Alaska Junction (ST may choose Delridge over the Junction, but either way there won’t be enough money to go too deep into West Seattle). Based on Sound Transit’s corridor studies and other documents, we can guess the cost of the Green Line at around $6-7B.

Likely “Green Line” proposal

To be clear, the Green Line would be amazing; I think most people reading this article will vote for it in a heartbeat.   But it has some downsides.  It’s very downtown-centric, for one.  Getting East-West across North Seattle would still be a slow ride on the 44 or a circuitous route via downtown. Given the geography and lack of fast roads between Ballard and UW, there is no chance of ever building a fast bus to make that East-West connection.  By contrast, most of 15th Ave W to Ballard and the West Seattle Bridge contains fast freeway or quasi-freeway right-of-way and relatively little cross-traffic, where buses can move fast if given their own lanes (see principle #1 above).

Secondly, the Green Line leaves several neighborhoods with no transit improvement at all.  Belltown, a dense residential neighborhood, gets skipped to serve South Lake Union.  That may be a good trade, but choosing one means avoiding the other.  It doesn’t do much for relatively dense and growing North end neighborhoods like Wallingford and Fremont.  It means choosing either Delridge or the Junction, but not both.

The peanut butter plan, described below, addresses these concerns.

The Plan

The peanut butter plan combines several projects:

  1. A second downtown transit tunnel for buses (the WSTT) speeds up Westside buses (like the C, D, E, 120, and others) through downtown, where space is congested and they need it the most.  Since it’s a tunnel, there’s no chance that downtown congestion will ever affect the buses.  Travel times to downtown from Ballard, Interbay, and Alaska Junction should be competitive with rail.
  2. A 3-mile light rail extension from Ballard to the UW, which provides the vital East-West connection.  Somewhat surprisingly, thanks to the magic of rail, a trip from Ballard to Downtown via UW is about as fast as Ballard to Downtown via Interbay, so Ballard riders could get Downtown nearly as quickly as via the Green Line.
  3. All-day BRT lanes along 15th Ave and the West Seattle Bridge, which doesn’t cost much but requires willingness to ignore or buy off certain interest groups.
  4. A new, wider Ballard Bridge with bus, pedestrian, and bike lanes
  5. Sound Transit-level BRT along the both Junction/35th Ave SW and Delridge Way corridors, all the way south to White Center or possibly Burien (if South King funding permits it), taking parts of ST’s A4 and B2 BRT alternatives.  To be super clear, this isn’t just painted buses, it’s “real” BRT, with mostly exclusive lanes on both corridors.  For perspective, the Seattle Transit Master Plan envisions a combined $9 million in improvements to these corridors.  Sound Transit assumes $2 billion for these corridors (details below), several orders of magnitude more investment.
Peanut Butter plan: delicious!
Peanut Butter plan: delicious!

The result is a rapid transit expansion that brings serious speed and reliability improvements to just about every neighborhood in Seattle, while opening up a new East-West connection for non-downtown trips.  Riders of express buses from places like Broadview, Phinney, and Alki would see their commutes shortened thanks to the new bus tunnel and a one-seat ride into downtown.

With this plan, we don’t have to choose between Belltown and South Lake Union, we can serve both. We don’t have to choose between Delridge and the Junction, we can serve both. We don’t have to choose between Wallingford, Fremont, and Ballard, we can serve all three. Finally, it doesn’t preclude the Green Line: the WSTT could still be converted to rail at a later date.

Political and Financial Costs

The peanut butter plan would cost about $6B, the low end of our Green Line estimate. That includes $2B for the WSTT, $1.9B for BRT on both 35th and Delridge and across the West Seattle Bridge, $2B for Ballard-UW light rail, and $100M for a new Ballard Bridge.  You can view the math here, but keep in mind it’s an informed guess.

More riders for less cost? What’s not to like? Well, you don’t get something for nothing. Making the peanut butter plan a reality would require a huge political commitment to fighting for every inch of bus-exclusive lanes along the Western half of the city.  Before this month, I would have considered that an impossible task.  After seeing how much pushback SDOT is getting for watering down Madison BRT, though, I’m slightly more optimistic.

Additionally, the Green Line saves operational costs by forcing West Seattle riders to transfer from several buses to a single, high-capacity train going into downtown.  The peanut butter plan, by contrast, would give more West Seattlites a one-seat commute, but would incur higher operational costs by sending more buses all the way into downtown.

Lastly, technical merits aside, there’s an important electoral question.  ST3 needs to win big in Seattle to offset potential losses in other parts of the Sound Transit region.  The plan can’t just serve riders, it needs to win votes.  To that end, any plan that doesn’t string steel tracks across the Duwamish river is taking a political risk of losing votes in West Seattle.  And not without reason: years of overloaded RapidRide buses slogging through various downtown and West Seattle chokepoints may have permanently soured West Seattle commuters on buses.

With the vote in 2016 we’re going to lock in another 30 years or so of transit spending and funding.  Let’s not let pre-conceived notions prevent us from seeing the full range of alternatives.

143 Replies to “An Alternative for ST3, With Something for Everyone”

  1. Though I like this idea in general and have supported it in the past, nearly every Sound Transit representitive has sneared at the mention of a new downtown bus tunnel.

    If this has any chance of happening, there will be a major uphill battle to convince the powers that be that its a good idea.

    Conventional wisdom is anything that doesn’t bring rail to West Seattle will be DOA as far as the ST Board is concerned.

    What’s the plan for changing the current momentum behind the green line revival? An article like this can start the discussion, but that alone won’t change the political momentum.

    1. WSTT is dead — it’s not even on the concept list for evaluation.

      In 25 years of operation Metro was never able to operate the DSTT up to the levels they claimed they would before it was built. Given that track record nobody (ST, Metro, or otherwise) would ever be able to get the business case to close. It’s a dead concept.

      If any new DT tunnel gets built it will be bullt as a rail only facility.

      Ballard-UW is also dead. Time to get real about ST3

      1. Ballard-UW is the most obviously useful line that ST could possibly build. If ST3 doesn’t include it, I have to assume that the board is incompetent and vote against the proposal.

      2. Time to get real about threatening to kill ST3 until ST comes to their senses and puts UW–Ballard back on the map!

      3. I’m beginning to think that you are a troll and a more effective one than Sam. At least Sam is amusing. You simply state that everything is hunky dory, and that Sound Transit (and everyone else) is perfect without one shred of logic or evidence to support your case. Consider this comment (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/11/28/uw-wants-to-help-find-solutions-to-urban-issues/#comment-661792):

        And the current station locations are very functional.

        How the hell can you argue that in the context of either the Mount Baker station or the focus of that post, which was the UW stations, including the one at Husky Stadium? You are either trolling, or are profoundly ignorant of the world around you. There is no need to take a class or read a book (although in your case I recommend both). You simply need to think it through. Imagine you are trying to get from one place to another. Let’s say one hospital to the other — UW Medical Center to Swedish First Hill. How are the stations functional in that regard? You have to cross a busy street to get to the station and then when you get downtown (or at Capitol Hill) you have to walk a very long distance or take a second bus! That is not functional. Holy shit, there is an existing tunnel from the UW Medical Center to the triangle, a chunk of land closer to actual campus! Meanwhile, we build an overpass, complete with a huge plaza, to serve a subway! That is not functional.

        There are numerous reports of people who stay on the 7, despite the bad traffic, because it isn’t worth the effort to get to the station at Mount Baker. That is not functional.

        Likewise this comment:

        In 25 years of operation Metro was never able to operate the DSTT up to the levels they claimed they would before it was built.

        First of all, citation please. Please tell me how they failed to get the DSTT up the levels they claimed, because back when it operated with only buses and off board payments, it was really fast. But even if it didn’t get to the levels they claimed (whatever that means) so what? Seriously, has Sound Transit? Hell no! They claimed 60,000 a long time ago. Here we are, with miles and miles of track, a city that is booming, with growth way in excess of when they made the estimate, and they are nowhere near that. Should we just give up on light rail? Of course not. Don’t be stupid.

        Seriously, stop being stupid. Your comments are stupid. They have no basis in fact or logic, and when challenged, so simply shut up (like a good troll).

      4. @Zach L

        Agreed, Ballard-UW isn’t dead, its just lower on the list than other options at the moment.

        Apparently lazarus would like it to be dead though. I can’t figure out why myself.

      5. “when it operated with only buses and off board payments”

        The Ride-Free Area was not offboard payment. It just pushed the problem to the neighborhoods, and confused people royally when you sometimes paid when you leave. Especially when it started changing based on the time of day. That confused even reguar riders persistently until the RFA was eliminated. And it prevented the back door from being used for exiting when it was PAYL.

      6. OK, right, Mike, technically you are correct. But who cares? I’m not arguing for the return of the ride free area. No one is. I’m just saying that buses ran really quickly through there when people didn’t have to fuss with payment. A lot of people new to the area assume that folks have always slowed down the buses with on-board payments downtown, and thus the buses were always slow through there. That simply isn’t the case. The buses ran fast and part of the reason they ran fast was because there were no on-board payments made downtown.

      7. In 25 years of operation Metro was never able to operate the DSTT up to the levels they claimed they would before it was built.

        OK, maybe it didn’t live up to it’s hype. But LINK hasn’t come close and before the stupid trains interfered with the Bus Tunnel operations it moved way more people than it does today. U-Link will change that but the fact remains that LINK basically stole the Bus Tunnel. I’m glad to see $2B or so to replace that lost capcity laid out on the table.

      8. There were a couple of reasons the DSTT was never fully utilized. First Metro never had enough tunnel buses to use the DSTT to capacity. Second was the planning for what eventually became Sound Transit derailed Metro’s plans to “grow” into the tunnel.

        The problem wasn’t that the tunnel didn’t work but Metro never fully implemented the plan for using it.

    2. I think the plan is to contact ST3 representatives. I plan on doing so, and having this post helps immensely.

      1. On “Pay As You Leave, Ross: Those of us that drove the “artics” carrying standing loads like the Route 7 at pm rush, hated the idea. Most of us, and a hundred percent of those with more than an hour’s experience, always let passengers off the rear doors.

        I stopped making people walk along the outside of the bus to pay, and just announced over the PA for everybody to hold up their pass in the door mirror. Hundred percent of passholders did. Cash “evaders?” Neither Metro nor me thought their fares were worth the lost time and gained aggravation.

        I never got called on it once. But far better approach, especially for the DSTT, is Proof of Payment exactly like for trains. Fare inspectors on platforms and waiting outside bus doors at major stops would work.

        Also- stack of broken vinyl records: blizzard the system with ORCA cards loaded with Day Passes only, and themselves costing NOTHING! San Francisco MUNI has fare readers at every single door on the fleet, trains and buses alike.

        Wasn’t King County about to do something like that?


      2. I agree, and I’m sorry if people thought that I ever considered resurrecting the terrible Ride Free Zone. I just wanted to counteract the nonsense idea that buses can’t move quickly. Of course they can. You simply have off board payment, which I believe is exactly what Madison BRT will have. This makes sense, since they have dual door boarding.

        Either proof of payment or turnstiles would work just fine. Proof of payment makes a lot of sense since it what we have for Link.

  2. With a second downtown tunnel, we have the opportunity to fix some of the issues with the current tunnel. If built for rail from the beginning, the profile can be much smaller and cheaper than the current tunnel with its overbuilt stations and extra room for passing, etc. We could also make the “green line” fully automated using a SkyTrain type technology and save ourselves millions in operating costs (and union benefits!) in the future, while operating at a higher frequency. I’m thinking something like the Vancouver SkyTrain or Copenhagen Metro technology – automated trains running every 2-3 minutes rather than clunky streetcars running at 10 minute frequencies with an operator.

    If built for buses, we again build much larger than we need to and the result isn’t ideal for anyone. We’re again stuck with manually-operated streetcar technology and are again subject to decades of political battles regarding bus vs. train capacity.

    Frank proposes some good ideas (Ballard to UW rail, for example), but I’m tired of “peanut butter” approaches where we get mediocrity everywhere. I’d rather invest and do this one right from the beginning.

    1. What makes you think a rail-only tunnel would be smaller than a bus tunnel? Not only would a second tunnel need to accommodate buses for at least a couple decades, nothing in ST’s history of station design has suggested their tunnel would be modest. All of ST’s stations are massive – Roosevelt might be the biggest subway station in the world when done. It takes up two blocks of deadspace.

      1. A rail only tunnel would be smaller and cheaper because it wouldn’t require the center breakdown lane.

        A rail-only tunnel would most likely replace the center breakdown lane with a center platform and skip the outer platforms all together, resulting in a significantly reduced footprint (less excavation) and cutting the number of escaltors, stairs, and ADA compliant elevators required by about half.

        A second bus tunnel is not going to happen. We learned our lesson with the first one. It will be surface bases and/or a rail-only tunnel.

      2. No need for passing lanes in the middle, and you can build center platforms that avoid the need for redundant escalators, elevators, etc. And, with an automated line that has smaller trains that come more often (i.e. the Copenhagen Metro and/or SkyTrain) the platforms don’t need to be anywhere near as long.

      3. The passing lanes only exist in the stations – not along the tunnel route. The cost difference is trivial when we’re still talking about modern ADA compliant stations with Sound Transit’s penchant for massive mezzanines and palatial entrances.

      4. You can build center platforms in the bus tunnel as well (our new BRT buses to Madison will have doors on both sides). You could also skip the passing lanes if you wanted. Buses break down very rarely, and with off board payment and level boarding, there isn’t much need for passing. I would add them, but it isn’t essential. Likewise you could make the platforms smaller.

        Like the current transit tunnel, a huge number of the riders will simply take a bus or train from one end to the other. For them they just take the first vehicle that arrives. If anything, that ratio will likely increase, since the tunnel is even longer to the north (serving Belltown and Queen Anne and South Lake Union).

        Again, I don’t see the need to do that — I think the savings are pretty minor. But let’s not assume that we will necessarily see much for functionality just because it is possible. Sound Transit has the opportunity to have center platforms in what is likely to be the biggest transfer spot on our rail line (International District) but decided not to. I would rather spend the money and do it right (which means building a proper bus tunnel with big stations and the occasional passing lane in case of a breakdown) but we can continue to be cheap and still come up with a better system overall.

      5. Has anyone ever known why ST builds such large stations full of unused space? We have massive mezzanines with very little on them, seems like a waste of space and construction cost.

      6. The stations are huge because it is ultimately easier and less risky (meaning cheaper) to simply dig a giant hole in the ground the exact dimensions you need at the platform level (roughly 600 feet long by 60 feet wide), versus digging smaller access shafts and mining out the platform level like they did for Beacon Hill.

        The use of TBMs contributes to this, since it pushes the stations somewhat deep. Cut-and-cover system construction would be cheaper, as you’re generally much closer to the surface, but this requires significant surface impacts and the multitude of stuff underground close to the surface (utilities mostly, but also building foundations) combined with the difficulty in breaking the existing street grid make it easier to simply bore the tubes and go under everything.

      7. Thanks Jason, that confirms my understanding. I’ve heard people complain about our stations, but it really is our geography that is to blame (although giant above ground plazas at, say, Husky Stadium don’t make much sense). Our geography makes it much easier to bore a tunnel, rather than cut and cover. There are exceptions (and I believe the main downtown transit tunnel had some cut and cover) but for the most part that is just the way life is around here. Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill station sit a very long ways below the surface, so cut and cover would be kind of crazy (although we have done crazier things in this town, like leveling entire hillsides).

      8. That’s only part of the story… I was under the impression that part of what makes Roosevelt station so massive are the ventilation shafts, which were attached to the station as opposed to being placed along the route to save money.

      9. Ross,

        1 – correct, the Pine Street section of the tunnel was cut-and-cover.

        2 – Husky Stadium is probably the one place on the system where it makes at least some sense to have a “huge plaza;” where the station sits now was parking previously, nothing else was ever likely to be built there whether there was a station there or not, and 40-50 times a year between 5,000 and 70,000 people walk through and congregate in that area at least for a bit. For football games Metro transports some 20,000 fans to games, so I think we’ll see right off the bat a lot of people using that station on game days — more so when the line is extended north. (I have a game program from a game my mother attended in 1956, and it has a small map inside showing where around the triangle Seattle Transit buses would be staged to take people home — much like today!)

      10. “Husky Stadium is probably the one place on the system where it makes at least some sense to have a “huge plaza;” where the station sits now was parking previously”

        The parking lot and fields were previously a toxic waste landfill, so developing anything else there would trigger expensive cleanup work. I’m not sure if the landfill extends to the stadium and station but it may be why no housing or anything will be built there.

      11. I asked why Tuwila Intl Blvd Station was so large, and an ST rep said it had to be high up to keep the track level from the highway overpasses, and high implies large.

      12. The stadium (and station) was built on a fairly small peninsula (you can see this on 1909 maps of the AYP, which had an outdoor facility there although the stadium itself wasn’t built until 1920). Most of the area to the north, all the way to U Village, was wetlands turned into a garbage dump. Like you say, that wetland/landfill is the biggest reason nothing will ever be built there; well, that and the fact that–like the Airport–the UW probably makes money from its parking lots.

    2. @Ryan,

      I’m guessing that at some time in the future all these rail systems will go driver-less.

      Surely if we can build and deploy a self driving car, then we should be able to deploy a self driving LRV? After all, it should be a much simpler problem fewer DoF.

      So I don’t really see the need to jump to Skytrain type tech.

      1. Will someone who’s ever driven LINK down MLK provide some reality about whether they’d like to ride anything across those grade crossings without a driver’s hand on the controller? Say “fully reserved right of way whole route” and then let’s talk about anything with steel wheels automated.

        Mark Dublin

      2. I haven’t driven LINK down MLK. However, I can state that a computer would already be able to do it safer and better than a human driver. That’s a pretty trivial problem to solve.

    3. The bus tunnel is by far the most important, most cost effective part of our entire system. More people have saved more time with the bus tunnel (before it even carried a train) than has ever been saved by taking the train. Now that it will carry only a train, the set of stations is still way more effective than any of our other stations. Building a line from downtown to the UW has cost a huge amount of money, yet it wasn’t “built right”. It failed to add have a First Hill station. The Husky Stadium station is terrible. Spending billions on a tunnel and then skipping obvious stations (First Hill) while not even considering how to handle 520 traffic is worse than mediocre. It shows a singular focus towards “more miles” versus functionality.

      Building light rail to West Seattle is very similar. We can’t build light rail everywhere. So if we spend the money on mediocre light rail lines (and a West Seattle light rail would struggle to reach that level) we end with crap. We end up with a system that doesn’t serve Ballard that well, or the area north of the ship canal in general. It doesn’t even serve West Seattle that well! Again, it focuses on miles of rail over functionality. Meanwhile, when do we build the Metro 8 subway? ST5? What if there is no ST5? What if there is no ST4?

      It is a really bad idea to build things out of order. It isn’t clear if West Seattle light rail will ever make sense (given the low density, geography, the inability to create a good grid and the existing infrastructure which can be leveraged with bus service but not rail). But if West Seattle light rail is ever built, it should be built after we build more cost effective, more essential service. To do the opposite is not good for anyone, including those who live or work in West Seattle (especially those along Delridge, who would be better off with the WSTT than a West Seattle Junction light rail line).

      1. Before anymore discussion of a second downtown transit tunnel, let’s have two working maps: plan and section. Meaning seen from above and seen from the side. Including what-all foundations and utilities we’ll have to relocate or dig around or under.

        Second, one advantage of rail is that since railcars can be coupled together, a disabled train can generally be towed out by another train. Structurally harder to build into a bus. Meaning pulloffs, as the center lanes in stations are often used, and/or tow-trucks, neither one kind to service.

        So let’s face it that a bus tunnel will have to be wider than a rail only one, and discuss from there.

        There’s also the problem of emissions and noise from a combustion engine. Current DSTT fleet doesn’t belch noise and smoke like a standard diesel, but the air down there is neither quiet or fresh.

        When hybrid idea came in, Metro staff member told me: “Same air quality as Third Avenue.” He deserved same assurance for his office. Though by the time we’re ready to dig, there could indeed be batteries good enough for tunnel length.

        But finally, DSTT has taught us some things about joint ops. It’s very likely that some near-term busway lines will someday be put to rail. No need to put in fake rails in the meantime. But concrete pad under the pavement can be grooved for rails when the time comes.

        Mark Dublin

    4. You can relax, Ryan. The DSTT resulted from some conditions that no longer exist.

      1. We knew that our future regional system would eventually need electric rail. But because our streets are so narrow, and our blocks so short, regional transit above ground was out of the question.

      2. So the subway we needed would have to be partially financed by suburbs whose own residents would have no trains to ride for years- though mercifully, nobody knew how many. The system was lucky that taxpayers out there would settle for a single-seat Tunnel ride on something.

      3. Since the diesels of the early ’80’s might have well run on coal, we had to find a bus that would do highway speed and also run under wire- which the industry really couldn’t and didn’t deliver. But we had to run the Breda’s because we couldn’t get anything else.

      4. From the beginning the Tunnel itself was specked out for exactly the light rail we have. But it also had to be operable with buses, first by themselves, then along with trains, and eventually, rail only. We ran some interesting tests on how to design such a thing.

      One of them was a week where about 20 MAN artics went out to Seattle International Raceway to run between various patterns of orange cones space to simulate lanes. And a pickup truck with a drag-racing signal for dispatch. Too bad we don’t have it now.

      5. Lord knows how much money went into a signalling system intended to coordinate first buses, and then joint operations. A system which Metro proceeded to operate for about two weeks until deciding that everything that went in would generally come out. Fast and coordinated…well, other priorities like Metro and King County fighting for possession.

      Though behind it all, nobody imagined it would be nineteen years before train one cleared Westlake.

      So I really think that when we’re ready to dig DSTT II, we’ll have more than one electric rail line south, maybe express to Sea-Tac Airport in addition to West Seattle.

      I’ll still be sorry we couldn’t handle the joint ops we designed, built and wasted. But maybe in the new Ballard after the re-industrial revolution…to every kind of transit, its own location and decade.

      Mark Dublin

  3. Given Franks ‘6 truths’ about Transit, defining only 3 choke points in yellow as another given, I think the peanut butter plan is DOA – no second tunnel – no green line – and little deviation from ST’s Manifest Destiny of completing the spine at all costs.
    Hence, we are saddled with 50 years of debt, and stuck with less than a 5% mode share for all of transit in the ST taxing district, through 2040, according to the PSRC.

    1. Don’t dis the Spine, Mic. Look how well politics at all levels work without one. Also, I-5 from Everett to West Olympia is workers’ comp for life- or at least ’til its fixed. Definitely true, though, that East-West service is terrible.

      Which is mostly due to fact that while I-5 through Seattle is in a valley, everything perpendicular to it has to run over, or for speed through, hills. So whatever it costs to build, neither will reach anywhere near peak performance without the other.


  4. This is a no brainer. LR to WS is nothing without an extension to Burien and the higher ridership potential this brings which would help offset LR subsidies, otherwise LR to WS is a major drain for taxpayers beyond the construction cost. Ballard to UW is a great next step to serve Ballard to downtown as a temporary solution.

  5. Great post. For those with the time, I encourage you to read the detailed analysis of trip time comparisons I made here. I would also encourage folks to consider other common trips, and how long it takes to take them. For example, consider someone from Ballard trying to get to Microsoft. Assume that both rail lines were built (Ballard to UW and Ballard to downtown). Now compare the times:

    Ballard to Redmond via downtown:
    Ballard to Westlake 17
    Westlake to Overlake 33
    Total 50 minutes

    Ballard to Redmond via the UW:
    Ballard to Husky Stadium 13 minutes
    Walk and Wait 7 minutes
    Bus from 520 to Overlake 20 minutes
    Total 40 minutes

    Ballard to Westlake could be a couple minutes faster, and the bus to Overlake could be slower, but the times stated here for the transfer as well as the bus are actually on the pessimistic side, compared to the analysis Zach gave.
    This is for Redmond — for Kirkland there is even more time savings. For downtown Bellevue, the trip would be taken exclusively by train, where going via the UW would be only a couple minutes slower than going via Queen Anne. What is true for the East Side is true in general. Trips via the UW are at most a couple minutes slower, but can save substantial amounts of time (over ten minutes) depending on where you are going (e. g. Microsoft).

    1. The missing element in ST3 is the transit ‘no mans land’ between I-5 and I-405 at the SR520 crossing.
      As your timing points out, getting from Redmond or Kirkland to UW and further west or north will be much faster than taking a Link train through Bellevue, I-90 and the CBD.
      Therefore, why should E.Link turn north? Why not let it continue to the west?
      I think the Origin/Destination trips pairs for the Eastside would show this to be superior, continuing on to SLU, Interbay and ending in Ballard.
      If ST still needs more CBD to Lynnwood trains, there is still room for 3 min. headways from Lynwood to either SODO or beyond to West Seattle. That seems like a better pairing for trips too.

      1. With you this far, Mic: this east-west line should continue past UW station. But since it’s hard to see SR520 grow any density, would be better to put a rail bridge between Sand Point and Kirkland, headed to Redmond.

        True, good chance trains for the whole route from Ballard in will have to be “the heavy side of light rail” -meaning drivers in the cab. Depends,of course, on how fully we can reserve surface right of way. So multi-car light rail could be worth the trade-off.

        Personal advantage is that if system keeps on with present problems finding drivers, I might get rehired to drive this one, which will be really, really cool!


      2. I’m not sure if I follow you, mic. Are you suggesting another train crossing at 520? If so, the short answer to your question (why not?) is because it is really expensive and wouldn’t get huge numbers of riders. When the 520 bridge is complete, it can match it in speed. You do have a transfer penalty, but that could be minimized with work around the Husky Stadium station (as was suggested by Frank in his post a few days ago). It would probably be cheaper and more useful to retrofit a 520 station (where U-Link crosses 520) than it would be to build another line across the water.

      3. No to the LRT line across 520. You show current buses running from Kirkland/Redmond to be 10 min faster than taking the grand tour loop of E-Link through Seattle. I agree with that.
        The missing link is connecting those riders with North Link and NE Seattle with BRT service through the U-Dist and beyond. Transit only lanes could make those trips even faster with Bus only ramps bypassing the ‘Montlake Mess’ ™ [now that the Mercer Mess is a thing of the past]
        Also, because of the time penaly involved, turning those E-Link trains to terminate in Ballard, via SLU and Interbay is a better routing pair (my gut tells me, but would love to se OD data)

      4. I agree mic, that is the next big challenge for the city (and the state): getting the buses to and from 520 to the Husky Stadium station. It is not impossible since they are rebuilding the road.

        I’m still having trouble figuring out what else you are proposing. E-Link meaning East Link I assume. By SLU and Interbay I assume you mean the SDOT route for Ballard to downtown light rail. Yes, if that is what is built, then of course that is how they are paired. That would be an east-west sort of line and a north-south line.

        For someone in Market and 15th it would be a whopping two minutes faster to Bellevue. For someone on Queen Anne it would be about the same. But for many, many trips, what Frank propose would be way faster. Again, I encourage everyone to consider various trips and figure out which is faster — this, or the monorail route. For a handful of trips, the monorail route is two or three minutes faster. But for a lot of other trips (most of them, really) Frank’s proposal is much, much faster. It is just the geometry of the situation, which is not at all intuitive if you’ve ridden a bus or driven a car in this town. If you are in Ballard and want to go downtown, you would be crazy to drive to the U-District. But when taking a train, it really costs you very little time at all (a couple minutes). As Mike said way back when, that is the beauty of the UW to Ballard line — it does double duty.

        So again, just pick a couple common connections. How about Fremont to Ballard? How about Greenwood to downtown? Greenwood to the U-District? Greenwood to Capitol Hill? Greenwood to Queen Anne? Fremont to Queen Anne? Wallingford to Queen Anne? Rainier Valley to Queen Anne. Holy smoke, just consider the last few. We are talking about Queen Anne, which is really the feature location for the Ballard to downtown light rail route SDOT proposed. But the only place that is really much faster to it is 15th in Ballard (and that is assuming we don’t build a new Ballard bridge as Frank proposed). That is about it. From Interbay, the bus service would be just as fast and more frequent. From downtown it is also just as fast and more frequent. Meanwhile from the north end you can either get to the Aurora corridor, or ride a very fast train to either 15th or the U-District.

        The monorail route would only improve things in one tiny corner of the north end, while the UW to Ballard subway improves the entire north end, for just about trip imaginable. Meanwhile, the WSTT does the same thing for Queen Anne, Belltown, Madison, South Lake Union, the Aurora Corridor and two (or more) corridors in West Seattle. For areas where the tunnel will be built, it will be better, because the buses will travel more frequently. From Queen Anne to downtown you can expect buses every couple minutes. For Belltown it will be even more frequent. This is just the nature of a bus versus a train. You really can’t expect a train to run every five minutes in the middle of the day from 15th and Market to the West Seattle junction. There just aren’t enough people to justify the expense. But the combination of buses — which are also a lot cheaper to operate — can certainly be run that often if not a lot more often.

        It is easy to assume that every route has trade-offs, so every route could be just as good a value. While the first is certainly true, the second isn’t. Discovery Park to Madison Park would be great for a handful of people, but a terrible waste of money. The trade-offs aren’t as obvious here, but they exist. The combination Frank proposes will simply be better for way more people.

      5. What’s worth talking about now is things that haven’t been decided, namely ST3 projects. The board may have a bias but we can still do all we can to recommend what we want (and different people wanting different things, since I’d be satisfied with a few different alternatives). But East Link was decided seven years ago so it’s not going to go to Ballard: that would contradict the ST2 vote and not give north Seattle and Lynnwood the frequency it was promised. And ST would probably mutter that Lynnwood needs the capacity, although some here don’t believe it.

  6. I have a thought.

    It’s called…..Do Nothing.

    That’s right. Over the past 25 years we’ve spent billions of dollars on Transit Infrastructure.

    We’ve built tunnels. We’ve laid tracks. We created the Sounder.

    What did we get out of it?

    Is life better or worse?

    Did we gain (and by we I mean everyone who paid taxes, Federal ones, for these projects).

    Do we have “enough” transit…or too much….or still too little.

    For myself, I am not seeing anything in these billion dollar proposals that would make a qualitative difference in life around here.

    I would like to make sure that what we have functions, is maintained and runs on time with adequate staff.

    I don’t foresee the vast increases in population that others project, so I don’t feel a rush to build.

    1. Maybe it’s because you don’t live in the areas that will be served by transit. For those of us who do, the Cap Hill Station and later the UDistrict station will be absolute game changers not just for commenting, but for nightlife and other leisure trips.

    2. Well John, it doesn’t help that we’ve built things out of order and poorly. To a certain extent, that is the problem we are trying to correct. The bus tunnel, as a bus tunnel, has been a great value. It has saved a huge number of people a lot of time. It also serves as the most important part of our new rail line. But a rail line that serves one of the weakest corridors in the region is not a good one to start with. It is no surprise that the light rail line carries only 40,000 people. That is actually fairly high, and would be a lot lower if not for the huge growth in the region (first in the nation or close to it). It would have made more sense to start with Rainer Valley to the UW, along with proper stop spacing (First Hill, etc.). That would have carried more people (around 60,000 was the estimate, which means it would probably carry way more than that given our growth). This would have made it way more cost effective, more frequent and would have enabled a much better transit system (including buses and rail).

      But as Link finally goes to the places they should have started with (UW and Bellevue) it will finally start paying off. With this proposal, you would have a lot easier access to a lot more destinations. Lynnwood to Fremont. Kent to Queen Anne. Bellevue to First Hill. OK, the last one is not there yet because Sound Transit skipped a stop, but you get the idea. In many cases the time savings is huge. In many cases, the trip is much faster than driving. From Ballard to the UW would be faster than driving, even at noon! This means that a combination involving an extra bus is still faster.

      I think one of the big misconceptions about I-5 traffic is that everyone is headed downtown in the morning. But that really isn’t the big problem. Downtown has the lowest rate of single occupancy driving of any area in region. Of course it does — the buses are fairly fast, frequent and convenient. People drive because they are going somewhere else. I used to drive from the north end to Fremont. I would get on at Lake City and get off at 45th. Other people drive to Queen Anne, Ballard, the UW or dozens of other places scattered around the city. This is where a car becomes really convenient. Yes you spend a huge amount of time on I-5, but you don’t spend an extra ten minutes waiting for a bus, and an extra 20 minutes on the bus as it plows slowly through the city streets. This is why a more wide spread system is essential to reduce the number of trips that are taken by driving.

      It isn’t a crazy experiment. Quite the contrary. It is simply standard procedure, based on science and studies done all over the world. It is what Vancouver BC has done — they built a combination of very efficient rail along with good complementary bus service. It has allowed that city (arguably the city most similar to Seattle) to have three times the transit ridership per person than Seattle or Portland. Three times!

      On the other hand, what Link is doing is an experiment. No one has built the sort of line we are building (light rail miles and miles to suburbs without inner city infrastructure to support it). The closest comparisons are systems like BART, which is horribly unsuccessful outside the inner city, despite having very good transit in San Fransisco itself. The proposals here are solid and cost effective. They are much more like what Vancouver would do. They are much more likely to succeed — to cut huge amounts of time over a transit trip for a lot more people — than anything else they are currently considering.

    3. John, reason you don’t see true size of present population is because it spends most of its time stuck in traffic on I-5. Which for people with really good Entertainment Centers in their cars is actually their preferred way to live.

      One really sweet use I can see for driverless cars here: Since life expectancy is increasing, people of around ninety can still remember social activities in the spacious back seats of giant Buicks and Oldsmobiles. With 72″ screens, outdoor movies no trouble at all.

      Younger than that, with more liberal parents…make car interiors look like high school kids’ bedrooms.
      Given modern birth-control, population problem solved! Also, for all generations, digital systems can do vinyl LP’s no sweat. Shebop shebop , wooooooo…


    4. Doing nothing is what got us into this problem in the first place. We literally did nothing from the 1930s to the 1980s except build freeways and later P&Rs, and and when we finally started building a DSTT and Link and Sounder it was too little an partly prioritized the wrond places and didn’t address walkability enough. If the population is rising and you don’t build enough or the right infrastructure, you can’t blame the infrastructure that is built for not solving the problem: you have to look at the infrastructure that wasn’t built.

      If we had built the 1972 subway, which ran to several parts of Seattle, and Renton, Lake City, and Bellevue, it could have started a significant shift in people living/commuting/recreation patterns, with people moving closer to the stations and back to the city and driving less. New retail and jobs might have preferred areas near the stations, so our environment now would be significantly different. Maybe it would have had no effect, but maybe it would, and it wouldn’t have had the opposite effect which is what we got. Southcenter was originally going to be in Burien, but with I-5 built and 405 about to come, they decided to locate it at their intesection. That’s great for drivers and sprawl but bad for everything else. The early 70s was when Kent was built up from farmland and small towns. If there had been a subway, it would have drawn people to the traditional center of Renton rather than building up Kent so much. In the following forty years we could have built additional lines to other areas.

      Likewise now, if we hadn’t tried to make Link so minimal and suburban-focused, we could have really improved the transit situation in the area that would most use it. We could have built the Ballard-UW line in the 1990s if we’d wanted to. And if we’d built the WSTT a decade ago, that would have been a decade of lost time to waiting that wouldn’t have happened, and people would have been more productive and that would have improved the economy.

      1. What’s especially hilarious is the bus on 405 that made a token concession to transit. The 340 ran from the Shoreline P&R to Burien. I rode it sometimes from my high school in downtown Bellevue to where I was staying on Somerset, which involved a 30-minute walk from the Coal Creek freeway station. (It was the furthest of three routes that vaguely served the area.) In other words, the exit was in the middle of nowhere, as was NE 70th Street and NE 132nd Street in Kirkland. Never mind that the population centers were at 85th and 124th. It was “Just put a bus on the freeway and pat ourselves on the back.”

  7. How about this:

    Get the King county council to fund the new bus tunnel, then use ST3 funds to build a Ballard-DT line, a Ballard-UW line and BRT for WS. The KCCouncil paid for the first tunnel, so maybe we can get them to pay for the second, using their tax capacity.

    1. The proposed tunnel would mostly serve buses for Seattle. The existing tunnel serves equally buses from North, South and East King counties (while providing a nice, grade separated downtown service).

      How do you propose convincing the rest of the county to help pay for a new tunnel that serves only in-city buses?

      1. How did we convince them back in the day? Since Metro is losing one bus tunnel, it makes sense to replace it.

      2. We convinced them by putting suburban bus routes into the tunnel. Shoreline, Federal Way, SeaTac, Kent/Auburn, Renton, Bellevue, east Ballevue, Issaquah, Kirkland: that’s a lot of suburban constituencies being served.

      3. @Zach L

        Not certain how it happened in the first place, but the current tunnel being filled with buses that serve a lot of the suburbs (Bellevue, Kirkland, Renton, Kent, Auburn, and Tukwila) probably helped.

        As far as I am aware the new tunnel would largely be targeted to Ballard, West Seattle, and Aurora Buses. The only suburb that gets much out of this is Shoreline. Unless you replace those routes with suburban routes or extend all of those routes deep into the suburbs I doubt you will get many voters outside the city limits signing on to such a thing.

        Simultaneously the light rail spine we have already signed up to build will address a lot of the transit desire these suburbs have that a tunnel might address.

        I don’t see how you package this in a way that makes it desirable for the suburbs to pitch in for it when they would rather see transit investments in their own neighborhoods that would attach them to the growing light rail system.

      4. I could see some of the southern suburbs benefiting greatly from the WSTT if they were allowed to use it. Buses from as far away as Renton or Tacoma would basically need a ramp (which WSDOT has proposed in the past) from the HOV lane to the busway. Then a little paint to change the HOV 2 to HOV 3 (or more likely HOT). Suddenly the fastest way (by far) to get from Tacoma or Renton to downtown Seattle is in this tunnel.

        I’m not suggesting this. This is meant as a system for Seattle. I also don’t think it would help the county pass it anyway. At best you get the southern suburbs to go for it (Renton, Kent, etc.) and maybe Shoreline, but that is it. There are a fair number of people in the first group, but very few in the second. You do nothing for the bulk of the suburban voters (those east of I-5 to the north and those east of Lake Washington). The old bus tunnel did have suburban support (the Wikipedia page goes into it) and it is no wonder. It fits well with all major freeways, including I-90.

    2. I don’t think that is possible, unfortunately. I don’t think the county has the authority, any more than the city has the authority (and as Charles has suggested, the city would rather have it). The bus tunnel was built before anyone heard of Tim Eyman, back when we had a functional representative democracy (otherwise known as a republic).

      1. They have the authority. Whether they have enough reserve tax capacity is another question; that’s where Eyman comes in.

      2. And King County voted no to supplement Metro while Seattle voted yes, so there’s your answer there. The future of Metro is probably city-based supplements here and there, so that they can get exactly the service they want. Sound Transit is supposed to take care of inter-city service.

      3. The best bet for a WSTT or Ballard-UW rail if they are left out of ST3 is the monorail tax authority. This tax would apply only within the city limits of Seattle so would be “fair” as the people who benefit the most would pay for it.

        As I understand King County has a huge bonding capacity but no tax authority to use to service bonds.

  8. While I like the effort and thinking that’s gone into this, ultimately, I think this would be a very poor investment for our region.
    Fundamentally we’re talking about 2 options here:
    1. Make slow progress on building out a world-class rail-based network that will ultimately reach all the major neighborhoods in Seattle and the suburban centers in the Seattle vicinity (this will take a long time, admittedly)
    2. Invest (more quickly) in a much more mediocre system that will not accrue (at least without a lot of throwaway cost) to a world-class transit network.
    I think the type of progress that you’re looking at is great for Move Seattle type efforts. Meaning much smaller capital investment, but looking at the key bottlenecks and improving them. This is often much more of a political question than a money one. If the will is there we can get BAT lanes, TSP etc… for fractions of the cost you’re talking about.
    I truly believe that for ST3 we should be talking about large-longer term plans that make progress towards our ultimate goal, which should be Rail not BRT. I love that Move Seattle is investing in BRT in the short term, but for a many-Billion dollar project that will take 15 years, please don’t just give us better busses, give us Rail.

    1. No, sorry, but building light rail from West Seattle to Ballard does not achieve item #1. In fact, for a city this size, #1 can’t be achieved. No city has added light rail to the equivalent of West Seattle. D. C. is probably the closest to your goal, but it doesn’t have light rail to every neighborhood. It also has way more density overall and way more density in the areas that the rail serves. But perhaps most importantly, it had a huge amount of federal support. it has built way more functional rail than anyone, but even it doesn’t serve every neighborhood. Even in big cities like New York, they can’t afford every line, even though just about any improvement would be way more cost effective than our best line.

      For a light rail line to effective, it has to complement the bus service. Toronto does this. So does Vancouver, a city a lot more like us. But Vancouver does not have light rail everywhere. Vancouver does not have light rail to North Vancouver, for example, despite the fact that geographically it is very similar to West Seattle but a lot more densely populated. It just isn’t cost effective to build light rail there. What they do instead is build a lot of relatively small lines that serve essential neighborhoods and corridors. They work well with the bus service. The results are what every transit expert in the world would predict: great success. They have three times the transit ridership per capita of Seattle and Portland.

      But despite their success, there latest transit proposal failed. If Vancouver can vote down a proposal that is much better than ours in a city where three times as many people actually use transit, then we can’t assume that we will build rail everywhere. It is important to build the most cost effective systems first. Otherwise, you could end up with crap — the transit equivalent of ramps to nowhere. Vancouver still has a great system if they fail to build anything more. But in Seattle, if ST4 (or ST5) fails, then that might be it. Again, keep in mind that cities with way more effective proposals (in areas like Boston and New York, etc.) still sit on the drawing board.

      For light rail to West Seattle to be very good you would need at least two lines (Delridge as well as the Junction) if not three (Alki). Sorry, but that will never happen. It is easy to assume that trains are simply better — that building them is always a better long term value, but that simply isn’t true. No transit expert would suggest that. The geography, the topography and the population density of the region make the old monorail line a very bad value and a very bad idea. What Frank has proposed is simply better.

      We are starting to see why rail isn’t always better in the south end. Again, this is common and predictable. Do you want to trade your relatively fast one seat ride from Kent to Seattle for a transfer to slow train? Of course not. Now imagine if the WSTT was built, but we decided to replace it with a light rail line to the junction. Does someone riding along Delridge want to cut over to the junction and wait for a very infrequent train? Of course not. How about Alki? Same answer. This means that light rail simply isn’t a good fit for West Seattle. Now consider that is will cost a hell of a lot more. Do you really want to spend that money on a redundant line or spend it on a Metro 8 subway?

      You simply can’t have it all. Besides, if we decide that we really do want to have it all — if we want to build the most expensive light rail line per capita in the entire world — this doesn’t preclude that. The WSTT can be converted to rail. In the meantime, it, along with the other key piece (Ballard to UW subway) this would serve more people in a better way. More people save more time on more of their trips.

      1. “Vancouver does not have light rail to North Vancouver”

        It has the SeaBus, which is like commuter rail on water. It runs every 15 minutes, has a theater full of seats, and has entering and exiting on opposite sides aka the Spanish Solution.

      2. ….and at the North Vancouver end of SeaBus there is a very well designed bus to boat transfer facility.

      3. Exactly Mike. I should have mentioned that. Similar service to West Seattle would make sense (they have a water taxi, it just isn’t as frequent).

      4. ….and the population isn’t that close to the ferry terminal, like it is in North Vancouver.

        No city has added light rail to the equivalent of West Seattle. D. C. is probably the closest to your goal

        Cities have put light rail into that type of place. The thing is, Link really isn’t light rail for most of its design. Much of the station construction standards and right of way building is more like a heavy metro.

        Not to say that isn’t necessary, because at this point I think it is. Here, the comparison to BART or the DC Metro is appropriate.

        MAX and a few other cities have built light rail lines to some pretty light areas, but light rail on the surface and what Seattle needs are two different things. West Seattle could probably justify a MAX line, if there were a good surface route available and there were a dozen or so bus lines that intersected it.

        MAX to Milwaukie as a comparison:

        Milwaukie population density: 4,200 per square mile on average.
        West Seattle population density: 5,60 per square mile.

        Number of stations on MAX orange line: 10
        Number of stations likely to be put on West Seattle Light Rail: 3? Maybe 4?

        Bus routes MAX Orange Line intersects or has stations close enough to transfer within 1 block:
        4, 9, 17, 70 (two locations to feed several different neighborhoods), 19 (two locations to serve different neighborhoods), 29, 33 (two locations serving different directions), 34 (two locations to serve different neighborhoods), and a few rush hour only routes like the 66 and 99. This does not count the downtown transfers.

        Bus routes a West Seattle light rail line would likely connect to:
        probably 50, 55, 56 and 57, and possibly 37, 773 and the C Line.

        So, MAX orange line doesn’t just serve the several thousand people in Milwaukie. It also connects to bus routes that total somewhere around 20 square miles of southeast Portland. A line to West Seattle doesn’t intersect vast numbers of other bus routes, and those that it does are pretty much just West Seattle routes. You pick up maybe 5 square miles.

      5. Sorry, what I meant by my statement is that no city has built light rail to every neighborhood as densely populated as West Seattle. My comment was meant in response to what Stephen said, which is a very common misconception. If you assume that every neighborhood in Seattle will have light rail (which means several lines in West Seattle) than you might as well build it all now. That idea (perpetuated by such well meaning organizations as Seattle Subway) is simply wrong. It’s just not going to happen. There are plenty of neighborhoods more densely populated than any in West Seattle, with bigger destinations than any in West Seattle that will simply not have light rail close to it. Consider the SPU neighborhood. It is more densely populated than the West Seattle Junction, and it has a college. but it never going to get a light rail line. It just won’t happen. Greenwood will probably never have light rail, nor will Lake City. Consider that last one — more densely populated than any area north of the U-District and south of the Canadian border, yet it will probably never have light rail. If you build West Seattle light rail it is even less likely. First you would need to build the Ballard to UW line, then the Metro 8 subway (both of which should have been built a long time ago). By the time you break ground on anything that includes Lake City, you are spending way more — probably by a factor of two — than any city has ever spent on its light rail line (per taxpayer). Holy smoke, that is absurd. The spine would be way past done (the spine being another record breaker — this time in the miles per ridership category). It just won’t happen.

        Which is, again, why building the most important, most cost effective stuff first makes sense.

      6. Oh, and cities typically build high expensive light rail lines where they are needed most, and cheaper light rail lines when they can do a pretty good job. The Max orange is a good example of the latter. It is not that expensive because it manages to leverage a lot of the existing infrastructure. West Seattle rail does not (nor would it be as functional — as you explain).

  9. This wouldn’t fly at all. If you make this mostly King County, which this idea seems to be, you’ll lose Snohomish and Pierce County and it WILL be voted down.

    If King County (read, Seattle, West Seattle, Ballard, etc) wants rail, they should focus on that proposal and allow Sound Transit to continue doing what it was designed to do, be a regional transit agency.

    1. Those purple streamliners in Southern Sweden, Brian. As a railroad man, it’s worth a trip to take a ride on them. They’ll probably let you ride in the cab. Serious. Poge-a-tog, with o’s written as a’s with dots over them.

      For regional, that’s level of railroad we really need. Ovenight flight to Copenhagen, train across bridge to Malmo. You can also take the purple train to Ystad to see all the Kurt Wallander stuff.

      But still, at least from Everett to Tacoma, what we’re building is an intermediate level we’ll also need increasingly as our region populates.


    2. Who’s making this all about Seattle? This plan uses North King funds. It doesn’t affect anything Pierce or Snohomish might want to do, unless what they want is to do is use North King funds to complete the spine.

      ST3 needs about 50% in Pierce and Snohomish, but it has no chance of passing if it doesn’t receive heavy support (70%) from Seattle proper, so a significant component of the plan must address Seattle’s transportation choke points.

    3. There have been a few interesting articles about what the other parts of ST3 could look like, including an east county BRT network that could work pretty nicely. My hope would be this would be one of several similar articles

      It’s rather important to start off talking about this part though. There’s no point, for example, talking about an Issaquah to downtown line that interlined with the Metro 8 subway if there isn’t going to be a Metro 8 subway to connect it to.

      If the Seattle part of ST3 gets screwed up enough, it screws up what everyone else can do. If the Seattle part winds up good enough, then it makes everyone else have an easier time.

    4. Though transit viability, efficiency and equity all would strongly support Frank and Ross’s plan, what Brian points out is the elephant in the room. Given the conscious design by the Legislature to make Sound Transit entirely the expresssion of suburban interests, it is impossible to achieve such a system. Even were some miracle of selflessness by suburban representatives on the Board to take place, their constituents would vote it down.

      The Sound Transit regional model has achieved the optimum result given the physical nature of the region: Lynnwood to Midway with the branch to Overlake is just about all the “regional rail” that makes sense other than an all-day South Sounder which is simply not achievable because of carrier hostility.

      Whatever is proposed will fail, either because excessive pandering to the suburbs will lead to a backlash in North King or insufficient pandering will lead to a revolt in South King and Pierce Seattle has started down path to self-sufficiency; it can be paid for with impact fees on the development happening in downtown, but the fees need to be imposed soon to be useful.

  10. Great post. The only thing I might add is that the SDOT green line proposal has to go over or under the Ship Canal, which could/would be tougher and take longer to build than the tunnel ftom Ballard to UW.
    I think when SDOT took in SLU, it meant that the power of Amazon was fully behind it, and I doubt ST will buck the city. (I have in the past proposed portions of the peanut butter plan as a Plan B using the monorail authority- that is, if ST3 fails in 2016, Seattle votes on peanut butter in 2016)

    1. If you build a line from Ballard to downtown, then the SDOT plan is a good one. i would say a very good one (about as good as you can get for the money). I don’t think Amazon has anything to do with it, but I’m sure they want it.

      But as Frank has said, the WSTT would serve South Lake Union, and serve it about as well. It is important to remember what happens after the SR 99 tunnel project is complete. Once Bertha is finished, frequent bus service will connect the heart of South Lake Union (e. g. Thomas) with lower Queen Anne. It is quite possible that once the grid is connected, one of the streets becomes transit only or has BAT lanes. Since these streets don’t connect right now, there is no “taking”. A bus could quickly move east/west. Given the demand, such a bus would be very frequent. Thus the fastest way for people to get to a South Lake Union destination will likely be to get off at the Aurora stop and hop on a bus. Both the SDOT train route and the WSTT have this Aurora stop.

      For the long term, the best thing for South Lake Union (and Amazon) is to have a Metro 8 subway. This is another reason I support Frank’s proposal. I think it will be the next thing we build after this (in ST4). But if we build the monorail route, then ST4 becomes all about Ballard to UW subway, thus pushing back the Metro 8 subway.

      1. thus pushing back the Metro 8 subway

        If we build the Kubly line, we already have stops on LQA, SLU, and Capitol Hill. An 8 line would be largely superfluous.

        The most clever thing about the SDOT proposal is simultaneously addressing the need for service along Denny and to Ballard.

  11. Frank, couple answers will give me a lot of clarity: exactly what happens at Lower Queen Anne? E-line- busway looks to go straight down Aurora. Will it still leave SR99 right of way and wind its way over to Third, as it does now?

    Central Lower Queen Anne is about as non-Rapid as a Ride can get!

    Does heavy blue line mean tunnel, or surface running through very crowded area? Room for argument, but I don’t think it’s time to write off light rail from Ballard down Leary and through Queen Anne underground.

    Also for Ballard, I do agree with Mic about eastward continuation of the Ballard-UW line- as I think STB has discussed before. If line is mapped out to connect with EastLINK, whole ride will have to use street-runnable trains. Reserved right-of-way Ballard to foot of Phinney Hill at 8th NW. Same on Sand Point Way.

    If I don’t live long enough to drive it…Downtown Tunnel goes a block or two from the Pioneer Square Underground! “But chief, chief, I’m tellin’ ya, he’s got a brown uniform and a ticket punch!”….


    1. I’m not sure if Frank can answer your first question. That is basically part of the WSTT. But I believe the plan would be to have a special ramp from 99 to the bus tunnel. The other questions can be answered by looking at the WSTT design as well. In short, there would be a lot of tunnels under there. The connection to Aurora might be tricky, but the other one (towards Ballard) is not. That is a tunnel the whole way until it pops out at Elliot. Here is the diagram: http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WSTT-Initial-Service-Pattern.jpg

    2. A Y-shaped tunnel from the Stadiums to Mercer with an exit for Denny would reach most of the areas that lack good transit access to downtown: south, 15th W, Aurora, and Denny Way. The only area it doesn’t reach is the Central District and Little Saigon.

      1. Metro 8 subway would be first priority after this. Everything else would be way down on the list. A Metro 8 subway would finally serve the Central Area, as well as First Hill and the heart of South Lake Union. There is some question as to exactly how, but here is one option here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zq-vQCJbvN5w.kvjui0NlQ-Jw&usp=sharing. The map doesn’t include the Madison BRT, but it would obviously complement the other transit.

        To a certain extent, that is about it for Seattle. Everything else is a bonus. That would finally get us up to Vancouver BC levels. Of course we want more (just as Vancouver did) but if nothing else happened, it would still be excellent. Lake City remains under served, but not horribly so. Fairly fast and very frequent bus service would connect people to the NE 130th station, which isn’t that far away. Same with Bitter Lake. There are other “holes”, such as north Queen Anne (SPU area) but not very many, and they would still be much better off than today. In almost all cases, taking transit is about as fast, if not faster than driving during rush hour and often faster in the middle of the day.

  12. The magic of grade separation, not just rail, re. travel times of Ballard-UD-Downtown. I think we need to not back down on having a fixed Ship Canal Crossing whenever it comes time for rail to be built. If we’re going to make all this investment, we need to not have transit be affected by bridge openings. If we’re just talking about road, ped/bike, and bus, then yes, a lower bridge is fine as long as it has all day transit lanes. We need to somehow get the city to bite the bullet in terms of small business complaints or do a compromise that advocates might hate, such as a parking garage to cover lost street spaces.

    1. A drawbridge isn’t that big of a problem for light rail. There will be a train going through in each direction every 5 minutes at most. When a boat wants to come through, the operator can look to see if there’s a train on the way. If so, they tell the boat to wait a minute, let the train pass, and the bridge will probably open and close before the next train gets there. If building a lower bridge (that might need to open) saves a bunch of money compared to building a line elevated to the level it would need to be to avoid opening, I say go for it.

      But a new ship canal crossing really isn’t necessary right now anyway. We already built one to the U-District! Bring a train across town from Ballard to UW, with transfer stations for all the bus routes along the way, and you’ll have improved transit much more than upgrading the D Line to rail ever will.

    2. A 70′ bridge would be higher than the existing drawbridges and would only open a couple times a year they say. The Ballard-downtown studies had a 70′ bridge and a 130′ bridge. The problem is that ST started musing this summer about lower than 70′, so we’d need to find out how much lower and how many openings that would be.

      1. SDOT wants a sub 70′ bridge for all modes, which means more openings. Also, can the bridge operator tell the boats to wait or what is the extent of their ROW? If there is binding regulation that the bridge operator prioritizes 6 minute frequency Link then fine, but I’m not sure that’s what will happen. If we can get some sort of binding bridge closure priority-no opening once the train operator approaches the 15th/Market and 15th/Dravus stations from the north and south respectively, then fine. However, the feasibility of that kind of arrangement is unknown. We need to keep our eye on the ball here.

      2. The Coast Guard would control openings/opening times/procedures, etc. Ships have right-of-way; not sure how much they can fudge that in practice (after all, ships do have to wait until a drawbridge can be cleared and opened prior to proceeding, and I believe that the USCG agreed to rush-hour bridge opening limitations on most if not all of the city’s drawbridges).

      3. The Coast Guard requires openings on demand except where Seattle has convinced them to grant an exception, which is peak hours.

        (Late night I think the openings require an hour’s notice for bridge tender convenience; I think there’s one tender for several bridges.)

  13. My thinking is the Ballard-Downtown will be built first over Ballard-UW for the same reason the Downtown-West Seattle line will be built to connect to it. Maintenance. Not a trivial concern especially given that there is no way to service the Ballard-UW line since it will function independently of the spine. Even if the alignments connected there is no storage capacity in SODO to house the trains and it makes little to no sense to build two maintenance yards to service two separate and distinct lines.

    There is no space in Ballard or anywhere along the proposed alignment to build a maintenance facility so where is the next best place? Interbay. Across the water. Underground. At significant expense. Perhaps even a budget buster. Building a third base in SODO? A likely non-starter. Reality would seem to dictate the Downtown-centric lines would have to be built, or at least considered first heading downtown regardless of how well meaning a UW line stands to be. That’s not to say it isn’t important but for the money the UW doesn’t make practical sense.

    1. I don’t understand why UW – Ballard trains couldn’t be stored dt like WS trains. Couldn’t they make a connection to the spine for moving trains to dt?

      1. You don’t understand it for the same reason a six year old doesn’t understand why 7 doesn’t equal 5: it isn’t true. Why self proclaimed transit maintenance experts think we can’t build a little connection from the UW to Ballard subway to the main line is beyond me. That part I don’t understand.

        Simply put, this is a made up issue. It doesn’t exist. The amount of money we are talking about to connect the two lines (especially if we are talking about a connection purely for maintenance) is trivial in the grand scheme of things. It has been discussed and discredited numerous times. Sound Transit has never offered it, either, because to do would mean consulting the experts and the experts think such an idea is stupid.

        I really don’t get this line of reasoning. We have to spend several billion dollars so that we can save a few million on maintenance. Same with a tunnel. Save a few pennies making the stations a bit tinier (because they only serve trains) but ignore the cost of building a huge new bridge over the Duwamish and a completely separate, brand new tunnel right into West Seattle.

        This just isn’t an issue. Toronto has a spur line which has a connection to the main line which is used only for maintenance. TORONTO! Does everyone realize how bush league we are compared to Toronto? Digging, building, buying up maintenance yards in the fourth biggest city in North America is just way more expensive, but somehow they managed to build a cross town line. Amazing.

      2. Um, Ross–Les is asking why we can’t do the same thing that you are describing as possible. You are agreeing with him. Not sure the “six year old” comment was warranted (maybe from d.p.).

        Or maybe you meant to reply to lowkey74 but missed.

        You’re a top poster here…not sure why the misplaced vitriol.

      3. If Ballard-UW was built space could be found along the line for a maintenance/storage yard. I’m told when Sound Transit did it’s studies recently, staff identified potential O&M locations (even if they aren’t in the publicly released documents). Remember due to the rather short length of the line the storage yard wouldn’t have to be very big.

        As Ross said a non-revenue connection between Northgate Link and a Ballard-UW line isn’t rocket science either.

        OTOH there would be a good case for using fully automated high-floor heavy rail type equipment on a Ballard-UW line. (think Canada line) If the line doesn’t use the same equipment as LINK then track and O&M facilities really can’t be shared.

    2. It’s primarily the political support for a downtown line. they could site a maintenance base if they tried.They could also build a junction to Central Link as we’ve been asking for, and then the trains could reach any maintenance base.

      1. So WS politicians and Ballard Subway, oh excuse me, Seattle Subway, are just coming up with a lame excuse to ensure UW-Ballard takes a backseat to their lines.

      2. @les

        If you think Seattle Subway wants Ballard – UW to take a backseat to Ballard – DT you haven’t been paying attention. Did you not notice that the person heading up that org was the same person who was previously running the Ballard Spur movement?

        They came out with this very plan (new bus tunnel downtown) months ago when funding looked like it might not be there to support all three corridors (UW – Ballard – West Seattle).

        Now that the state authorized enough funding authority, they are pushing for more corridors to make sure Ballard – UW and other corridors happen in addition to Ballard to West Seattle.

        As far as I can tell, they seem focused on finding a good way to include Ballard to UW in this round of voting, not exclude it.

      3. So Mike you would advocate siting a maintenance base where? Where between Ballard and the UW as dense as these neighborhoods are would you legitimately site a base? I’m curious.

      4. “Ballard – UW to take a backseat to Ballard – DT you haven’t ” since the beginning of mankind Ballard subway has always had Ballard to dt as its top priority. But dream on if u like.

      5. @lowkey74 I’m not advocating for this at the moment, but the only plausible place to put a maintenance between Ballard and UW is in industrial Ballard between Ballard and Fremont.

        The short list of sites big enough is pretty small… Fred Meyer? Maybe the Post Office along with a number of adjacent properties? It would likely be pretty disruptive either way…

      6. @les

        Apparently you’ve constructed that opinion without ever talking to anyone involved in the organization. Try talking to people next time. Its not too hard, Seattle Subway is pretty responsive if you send them an email.

      7. Maybe Charles but I’m not sure I’d trust those soils there directly along the water. It may have some merit but it still wouldn’t be practical considering the WS line maintenance needs. Either way you’re right, very disruptive.

      8. @les — Charles is right. Seattle Subway is an organization with many members, and I’ve talked to a few. In short they are no more wedded to a Ballard to downtown subway than anything else. Quite the opposite. I think most would favor Frank’s proposal (as Charles said, they are the organization that got the WSTT idea published in the Seattle Times).

        As far as a maintenance yard, the best solution is to simply connect the two lines, even if only for maintenance. See my comment above (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/11/30/an-alternative-for-st3-with-something-for-everyone/#comment-662361). Yeah, I know, the tone is distasteful, but come on lowkey, it really isn’t an issue.

      9. Ross I think you understate the point even if your tone is a bit incredulous. I won’t debate Toronto with you either since one I know nothing about their spur line and two I doubt it’s completely analogous anyway.

        It’s also disingenuous to suggest at this point you could simply connect the lines unless you’re talking through Downtown and another maintenance facility per my original. I’m simply looking at what is; a capacity base in SODO, a satellite base in Bellevue that will cycle major maintenance through SODO and a gap posed with any Ballard spur from the UW. Sure the costs per scale are smaller but still hardly insignificant.

      10. “It’s primarily the political support for a downtown line”

        I remembered more of the details while I was out today. Mayor McGinn really liked Ballard-dowtown, the transit community rose up for grade-separated rail, and McGinn wanted to study a Westlake streetcar too. So the city gave ST extra money to accelerate the Ballard-downtown study and also study some streetcar alternatives alongside it. That’s what put Ballard-downtown in front. The other boardmembers said, “Hey, our constituents are asking for light rail now too, let’s accelerate all the studies.” So six corridors were studied, including Ballard-UW(-Kirtkland-Redmond). But McGinn’s favorite was always Ballard-dowtown-West Seattle, because that’s the part of the city that was promised a monorail and still has nothing and is furthest from ST2 Link. When Murray came onboard, he wasn’t as enthusiastic about streetcars but he didn’t contradict the Ballard-downtown-West Seattle preference.

        “So Mike you would advocate siting a maintenance base where?”

        I’m not a transit engineer. Are you? I refuse to get into this armchair quarterbacking, except to note where the transit needs are and what level of service would be transformational. We can ask ST to study it and see if it’s feasable. ST hasn’t done so as far as we know because it hasn’t been prioritizing the corridor.

        The junction at 45th is blindingly obvious: it will be the highest-volume transfer point in north Seattle whenever it’s built, and it would allow the Ballard maintenance facility to be anywhere, and it’s good insurance for whatever we might want to do in the future that we don’t know now. So that’s as far as I’ll go into “engineering issues”.

      11. ST has said there will have to be a third maintenance base if the Everett and Tacoma extensiosn are built. Since Lynnwood was one of the sites already considered, it will probably come back to be considered again. (Much as the Edmonds school district wants the land for an adminsitrative facility.)

    3. Ballard to UW is a fairly short line, and even if operated quite frequently would need maybe 8 or 10 cars at most. It is basically a margin of error in the existing facilities.

      It’s approximately 5 miles from Ballard to the UW, depending on what the route does. I measure from Market & 24th via surface streets to the current Husky Stadium station. Making this a straighter line than this gets you there in only 3 miles.

      Three trains shuttling back and forth at 20 mph (and you hope it will be faster) on a 5 mile line and giving the drivers a significant break at each end gives you service every 7 minutes. If you build the line to be only 3 miles long you get from one end to the other in 9 minutes.

      Therefore, it isn’t like the Ballard to UW line in and of itself is going to require vast amounts of equipment to be maintained, and really doesn’t justify any sort of independent shop complex. If you needed to you could probably grab a little track space from the lanes formerly occupied by parking the several dozen #44 trolley coaches each night.

      Ballard to West Seattle is closer to 12 miles. You’ll probably need close to 28 cars or so for that.

      As for the expense of building a tunnel junction somewhere around the UW, it will likely be well worth the operational flexibility.

      In any event, there is almost nothing required in terms of shop space for the additional cars on the Ballard to UW line because it is a short branch and (we hope anyway) in a tunnel and therefore quick. If it does wind up requiring vast amounts of equipment it will be because it has become so wildly popular, and in that case there is no point in begrudging a bit of extra track space for a few extra cars.

  14. I like this proposal. We need the political will to take general purpose vehicle lanes back from (mostly) single occupancy moving and parked cars and give them to transit, protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

    It is so much cheaper to re-purpose the polluting and dangerous over provisioned streets of the city to make a better urban environment and maximize mobility.

    Yes rail is great, but being sensible about our expensive existing right of way is important too.

    1. Yep. It is matter of building the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to transit. Other cities have done it in much the same manner. Our neighbors to the north, for example. Even before ST3, we will build way more miles of light rail (at more expense) than their light rail system, yet ours will provide less functionality. Enough of that. Quality over quantity when it comes to rail. Build what makes sense (Ballard to UW and eventually the Metro 8 subway) and leverage the existing infrastructure to build great bus service. It is the Vancouver way (patterned after Toronto) and it has been hugely successful (as the experts predicted).

  15. If all West Seattle gets out if ST3 is more of this “bus rapid transit” bullshit, West Seattle will not vote for it.

      1. @zach l,

        Politicians care about their votes. The ST board is made of politicians, and SDOT is appointed by politicians.

        You can’t say “who cares what they think” unless your plan provides a net gain in votes. Where are those places which would be more likely to vote yes on peanut butter versus rail?

    1. Good! Better to have ST3 go down in flames than to hold our collective noses and authorize incurring $15+ billion in debt to build a series of badly-designed, politically-expedient rail lines that fail to provide a true alternative to our crowded roads.

    2. Some people in West Seattle have said they’re open to BRT if it’s high quality (transit lanes and signal priority). I’ve been hoping to hear more about how West Seattle’s general views are evolving in light of the West Seattle Link cost estimates and the fact that one line can’t go down all of Delridge, 35th, and California. Since I have heard West Seattlites with less extreme views than yours, I assume your viewpoint is only a fraction of West Seattlites. I’d like to hear more about the general mood in West Seattle, from a more reliable source. By the way, one advantage of BRT is it can fan out from the trunk to all three of these neighborhoods and others, giving more one-seat rides to downtown.

  16. I’ve made this point before, and I’ll make it again: There is little operational utility about connecting Ballard with West Seattle. It simply is a legacy of the failed monorail concept — and they are the two legacy unserved rail corridors. There should really be more system options shown in your maps, Frank!

    One absolutely huge issue is if a Ballard Line should be operationally allowed to interline or at least be operable for maintenance needs with the existing light rail system! Related to that is whether we’ll need an expansion and messy creation of switching tracks and station transfers at IDS! these basic decisions about our light rail core will have major, MAJOR implications on the operations of the entire system!

    ST should be spending its time NOW to develop a system to present to the voters. The corridor-by-corridor approach to generally second-tier activity points won’t capture the excitement of the entire region like a system plan would. A lack of systems thinking will also give the opposition ammunition about the usefulness of the plan because system benefits aren’t being presented as the primary justification.

    One system concept: If we would look at connecting East Link with a transfer point adjacent to IDS and build the second Downtown Tunnel from there to a Madison Stop to one near Westlake and on for the SLU-Ballard line, we wouldn’t have to build all the new track in SODO to get to West Seattle. Then, we could use the existing DSTT to feed a lower-cost light rail terminus where West Seattle buses have a unified transfer point (Spokane St Viaduct? Single station at Delridge/Spokane?)

    That maybe (a big “maybe”) and opportunity to split East Link with one end to Redmond and the other end to wherever (Kirkland? Issaquah? Back across 520 to UW Station?)

    That would leave us four core Link lines:
    Red = South King (or Tacoma) to Everett
    Blue = Redmond to new Downtown Tunnel to SLU/Ballard
    Green = West Seattle (end point to be determined) to Lynnwood (or maybe even Paine Field)
    Orange = Kirkland or Issaquah or U-District to East Link to either SLU/Ballard or Lynnwood

    If the above Orange Line doesn’t use the existing DSTT suggested above, we can reopen the tunnel to allow one high-frequency route to Renton through-routed into a North Seattle alignment (like RapidRide E).

    When we have people who drive determine the package, the scheme looks like a highway plan showing merely new extensions like they are roadways. When we have people who use transit to determine the package, the scheme will look much more like a rail plan for rail users.

    1. “ST should be spending its time NOW to develop a system to present to the voters.”

      That’s what it’s doing. On Friday the board will decide which items from last summer’s menu to pursue further. The first system plan alternatives will be early next year. The ballot measure depends on a system plan, and ST has given itself a deadline of June to decide it.

      1. Let’s hope so, Mike!

        Everything that I’ve seen to date has been lines on a map like they were expanding the roadway network. I may be pleasantly surprised, but I kind of doubt it.

  17. Frank is to be commended for trying to stitch together lots of puzzle parts into a credible HCT plan for Seattle. My dismissal as being DOA earlier should have included a political gut check as to what the current situation is, having listened through a DOT briefing on Bertha’s pending startup.
    Under the best conditions, Bertha will be somewhere under Seattle, with everyones fingers crossed that all the fixes made will hold up to the end of the push. Digging a repair shaft under Pike Place Mkt is …well … problematic. I can’t see any politicians jumping on the stump wagon to champion another tunnel under downtown, until Bertha daylights on the north end. By then, ST3 will have a final project list and gone to the voters for approval and maybe even a scaled down second vote in 2017. The viaduct won’t come down until 2018.
    The other problem with the plan is spending 6 billion in just one sub area, when Seattle only makes up 20% of the population and generates only a third of the total revenue. Getting ST to commit almost half of it’s full authorization of $15 Bil over the next 15-20 years seems like a non-starter at the Board level – especially given most of the current spending has been in the Seattle sub-area since inception.
    It’s a great compromise plan Frank, but the stars and moons just don’t line up for me on it.

    1. The authorization is a maximum tax rate. $15 billion is just an estimate of what it would raise in 15 years. ST can approve a larger plan but it would take longer to complete because of the maximum rate. Also, $15 billion in tax revenue does not equal a $15 billion budget. ST has money saved for a down payment, the bond interest rate depends on investors’ moods that day, the bond ceiling fluctuates as repayments are made and actual revenue results come in (a dynamic “credit available”), and grant awards can add to the budget or give ST a stronger negotiating position for lower bond rates. Conversely, ST does not want to use the entire tax capacity both to keep a reserve for emergencies and to avoid the most unpopular taxes (i.e., MVET).

  18. What this post really says is that Seattle needs to ditch ST and go it alone for City of Seattle projects.The mayor of Schenectady doesn’t get a say on NYC subway projects. The Mayor of Sumner shouldn’t be deciding how Seattle builds infrastructure.

    What really strikes me as wrong is ST is now soliciting ways it can spend money given the authority to go to the ballot box and beg.Shouldn’t the need for something/anything be driving the need to ask for higher taxes? But what we have here is the authority to ask for more taxes and a call to the editor asking for ways to dream up ways to spend that new taxing authority. Kirkland wants a pony.

    1. Seattle wants a level of transit that achieves the maximum ridership and mode share for the cost; i.e., the top of the benefit/cost curve. If you look at what succeeds in other cities, that means frequent/fast transit between the urban villages and other pedestrian concentrations (e.g., stadiums, malls), on the order of 5-10 minute frequency. That’s the level where the most people will take transit and downsize their number of cars. This proposal, Seattle Subway’s, and others are differing opinions on what that level of service must be to reach the goal. This article does not address the suburban part of network; there are various opinions on what should be done in Pierce and Snohomish Counties and the Eastside. Also, the budget-and-tax hawks out there should appreciate that this alternative is lower cost than the others.

  19. ST needs to put a Spine II (bothell to burien) plan together and market as such otherwise will be pitting villages against one and another.

  20. That map is very misleading. Link goes right down the middle along i-5. You have it as if its serving the east side. It doesnt.

    1. You’re right, it probably should have jogged back harder to the left after the portage bay crossing, but it’s meant to be a sketch and I don’t think it really affects the argument.

      1. Just a little easier to continue advocating for liberally blanketing Ballard with gold-plated transit in all directions, while continuing to ignore and degrade service in Lake City.

        Yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder. But I have good reason.

  21. Is there a reason that adding a station in Ballard just south of the locks on the Sounder line never gets considered. BNRR owns property that is larger than the Mukilteo station. Building a parking lot & a train platform has got to be the least expensive way to get train service to Ballard

    1. Because adding a Ballard station would mean sending North King money down the drain on the wasteful Sounder North.

    2. there a reason that adding a station in Ballard just south of the locks on the Sounder line never gets considered.

      South of the Locks? Yeah, there’s no access to that tiny strip of land. Parking lot?? Who’s going to drive there, someone that lives on Queen Anne and works in Everett? Sounder is a commuter line. That’s all it’s ever meant to be; and damn lucky to get those time slots from BNSF. A frequent reliable Ballard to UW service is an investment to provide all day mobility between one of Seattle’s largest concentrations of housing and one of the largest job centers in the State. And, as a bonus connects with Link for trips to Capital Hill, DT, KSEA

  22. I never see a bridge proposal across 14th ave and then just leave the 15 th bridge alone. After all, this is where the original crossing was prior to the 15 th. This would also join to 14th ave ( Railroad ave ) which would make a direct path to Ballard High and a portal to beyond.
    We have now burned up 1/2 the Oil in the world and as the cost of the remaining skyrockets the advantages of Rails will soon take over.
    Arnt we about to scrap a floating bridge ? Couldn’t some new ends be made and we could have a Rail Bridge either where it is now or some place else. There is still a lot of I 90 parts laying around.

    1. We have now burned up 1/2 the Oil in the world and as the cost of the remaining skyrockets

      Reality check, gas is hovering just above $2/gallon, less than a gallon of milk. And where do you think that electricity comes from:

      Major energy sources and percent share of total U.S. electricity generation in 2014:

      Coal = 39%
      Natural gas = 27%
      Nuclear = 19%
      Hydropower = 6%
      Other renewables = 7%
      Biomass = 1.7%
      Geothermal = 0.4%
      Solar = 0.4%
      Wind = 4.4%
      Petroleum = 1%
      Other gases < 1%

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