Sounder Bruce (Flickr)
Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Sound Transit 3 (ST3) kicked off in earnest today with a Sound Transit Board Workshop. The bulk of the information involved more detailed corridor studies to further assess various alternatives against the criteria the board set out. However, there was also an interesting look at the benefits of expanding the package from 15 to 20 or even 25 years, as well as absolutely fascinating operational concepts for the final system. We’ll have a much more detailed look at financial models and operational concepts in the coming days, but here are some project highlights.

In the charts below, the five metrics we’ve shown are Spine (Yes/No), daily ridership, capital cost, annual operations and maintenance cost, and travel time for that segment. Click on each image for full details.

Snohomish County

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Three main options were presented for getting to Everett, via Paine Field (N2A), SR 99 (N2B), and I-5 (N2C). There were few surprises for observers of last year’s corridor study.

  • Cost: Options range from a minimum of $2.9B for a a low cost I-5 alignment to nearly $5B to serve Paine Field. Depending on the options chosen, annualized cost per rider (over 30 years) would be $4-$7 for an I-5 alignment, and $7-$10 for Paine Field.
  • Ridership: Relative to I-5, Paine Field increases cost by 50-70% while only generating 2,000 more riders. Projected ridership is 42,000-58,000 for all options on the table, numbers that are likely to be highly competitive for federal funds.
  • Travel Time: Paine Field also costs riders 10-13 minutes of additional travel time. Travel time from Lynnwood-Everett ranges from 25 minutes for I-5, 31-34 minutes for ST 99, and 35-38 for Paine Field.

Downtown to Ballard

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Four options were presented for Downtown to Ballard. Option C1A is a fully at-grade line that would reach Downtown via Interbay, Belltown, and then be interlined with the Center City Connector (CCC) on 1st Avenue. Option C1B is fully grade separated, elevated from Ballard to Lower Queen Anne and tunneled through South Lake Union and Downtown. Option C1C is identical to C1B except for running through the west side of Interbay rather than along 15th Avenue West. Finally, Option C1D is the “Westlake Rapid Streetcar” option, which like C1A would also interline with the Center City Connector on 1st Avenue.

The grade separated options accept SDOT’s suggestion for a South Lake Union at Westlake/Denny, although they treat SDOT’s other station requests (SR 99/Harrison and W Newton Street) as separate projects.

In a departure from ST’s Conceptual Studies from last April, there is no longer an at-grade option for Ballard that includes a new Downtown tunnel, as ST has determined that due to the elevation of any Lower Queen Anne tunnel portal, descending to at-grade only to elevate again over the Ship Canal is actually more operationally complex than a pure elevated line.

  • Cost: There is a huge range of estimated costs, from as little as $1.7B for the Westlake Avenue option to as much as $5B for the fully grade separated options, or nearly $700m per mile (15% more per mile than ULink!).
  • Ridership: By grouping a new Downtown tunnel into the Ballard project, instead of West Seattle as in previous studies, the ridership results are truly astounding for the grade separated options, 102,000-133,000 per day*. At grade options produce less than half that, 39,000-48,000 for Westlake and 44,000-54,000 for the Belltown option.
  • Travel Time: Travel times from Ballard to Sodo range from 18-19 minutes for grade separated options, and 23-25 minutes for at-grade options.

Downtown to West Seattle

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Three options were presented for Downtown to West Seattle. Option C3A would emerge from a new Downtown tunnel and run elevated to Alaska Junction, with a new fixed structure over the Duwamish River and new stations in Sodo and Delridge. Option C3B would run at-grade along 1st Avenue before elevating to reach Alaska Junction. Option C3C would emerge from a new Downtown tunnel and run elevated to Delridge, where it would turn south and run at-grade to White Center.

  • Cost: There is little variation in project costs for West Seattle, with a range from $1.7B for a purely elevated line to Alaska Junction up to $2.0B to serve the additional 3.5 miles to White Center. Amazingly, the at-grade option to West Seattle is more expensive than the elevated option, due to freight conflicts, increased property takings, and the likely need to widen 1st Avenue South. The highest possible ridership Ballard to West Seattle line would cost no more than $7.1 billion.
  • Ridership: Ridership varies wildly depending on the option chosen, from as few as 20,000 for the at-grade option to as many as 50,000 for an elevated line to the Junction.
  • Travel Time: Travel time is 11 minutes from Sodo to the Junction, or 18 minutes from Sodo to White Center. nearly 3x faster than today’s Route 120.


Perhaps the most sure thing in all of ST3, the Overlake-Redmond segment of East Link is included as Project E1, but with a new station shown near Marymoor Park. Ridership is 8,000-10,000 and comes in at $1B with a travel time of 8 minutes.

Totem Lake-Issaquah

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Frustratingly, there’s no direct comparison between BRT on the Cross Kirkland Corridor (E6) and Light Rail (E3) on the same span. Both connect to East Link at Wilburton, and Link continues on to Issaquah. Alignment details aren’t cast in stone yet, but failing to directly serve Downtown Bellevue in the Link alternative seems like an early unforced error that can and should be fixed.

  • Cost: Link from Totem Lake-Issaquah would cost roughly $3B, while BRT from Totem Lake to Bellevue via Downtown Kirkland would cost roughly $700m.
  • Ridership:  Ridership is lackluster for both Link and BRT, partly because they miss the heart of  key demand generators. The BRT project is estimated at only 2,500-3,500 per day, while Link is estimated at 12,000-15,000. In either case, costs per rider for these projects are by far the highest of any major ST3 project under consideration, at $18-$27 per rider over 30 years.
  • Travel Time: Link is estimated at 31 minutes from Totem Lake-Issaquah, and BRT is estimated at 35 minutes from Totem Lake-Bellevue.

I-405 BRT

All four I-405 BRT alternatives perform better than the Cross Kirkland Corridor projects. Yet interestingly, the study found no ridership difference between the high-investment and low-investment scenarios, apparently discounting the possibility that reliability would impact ridership. Ridership is 13,000-18,000 no matter whether ST spends $300m (Option E2A+E4) or $2.1 B (Options E2B+E4).

South King/Pierce

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Including the unfunded segments from ST2, the study looked at I-5 and SR 99 alignments from Federal Way to Tacoma. Using SR99 adds nothing but cost because the two roads are so close together.

It’s barely a “study,” because all the numbers depend on BNSF negotations, but ST Executive Ric Ilgenfritz told us that expanded South Sounder would have the intent to move towards hourly all-day and evening service. The project would probably involve a third track to avoid freight conflicts. “We have enough train sets to do hourly, and once the track’s there it’s not that expensive to use the trains as much as you can.” Along with more Sounder runs, bigger platforms, Tacoma Link to TCC, bus reliability projects deep into South Pierce County, station access improvements are all under consideration.


Over the next week or so, we’ll describe interesting operations and transfer concepts in store for Link, Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the finance options, and we’ll dive into some interesting  study results in more detail.

*A major caveat here is that the Ballard ridership numbers include significant network effects and different operational scenarios for a 2nd Downtown tunnel, something we’ll be writing about in the coming days.

236 Replies to “Sound Transit Presents ST3 Options”

  1. Great post, especially on such short notice.

    Six-figure ridership for the grade-separated Ballard options is just mind-melting. Hopefully those numbers will help show that even more investment in Seattle core corridors is warranted.

    1. Yeah. Also, the pop numbers are still too low. The ridership there is pretty conservative.

    2. if we get non grade separated in Ballard to downtown (and no Amazon stop), does tge horde (And Seattle Subwat and STB) grab our pitchforks and vote no

      1. Given the choices here, a definite yes. An at-grade Ballard line implies an at-grade LINK segment through 1st ave, interlined with the streetcar.

    1. 3.4 miles, $2.9-3.2 billion, 19,000-24,000 annual riders, 7 minute travel time. All tunneled, with a transfer required in the U District. It was an afterthought, presented with the “other” North King (Central) projects.

      1. @Lazarus

        Not really. Its clearly not going to be done in place of Ballard to DT, but ST has not made it clear what they are pushing for past Ballard to DT.

        Both Ballard – UW and Ballard – Ballard Highschool (towards Crown Hill) appear to be on the table. SDot asked them to study splitting the line at Market Street and they may still do that.

        Given that both corridors (15th to Crown Hill and 45th/65th to UW) are growing fast now, both are feasible as line extensions. It depends entirely on how bit the overall ST3 project list is.

      2. Ballard-UW is still in the project menu, it just wasn’t emphasized. ST has made no decisions, and is starting to consider options that weren’t present in June (the “interesting options and transfer concepts” later today), so that makes an opening to suggest even more options. It looks like Ballard-UW’s fate depends on a larger number of total projects: it won’t replace Ballard-downtown unless the board changes direction. One boardmember, Fred Butler of Issaquah, expressed interest for ST Complete (Seattle Subway) or something like it, which would include Ballard-UW.

      3. I think it is there in a “go big or go home” scenario. While not as cost effective as grade separated rail between Ballard and downtown it is still very cost effective compared to several other potential projects.

    2. No Love — which just shows ST, like Metro, has no idea what they are doing.

      Sorry, that ain’t fair. Metro is being
      thrown around by transit preservationists. Sound Transit has no excuse

      1. One might ask why Mukilteo and Puyallup and Federal Way should love Ballard. It doesn’t help them get to Seattle any faster, which is what they care about.

      2. But a significant number of people from Mukilteo are going to Ballard or Fremont, and the Ballard-UW subway will let them get there much faster.

        Unfortunately, I don’t think they realize this yet.

      3. What William said. Seriously, Mike, what kind of sense does that make? No one in Mukilteo and Puyallup and Federal Way will pay a dime for any sort of transit to Ballard, even though they would of course benefit from it.

      4. That’s not how they see it. They may never go to Ballard. And that’s how their boardmembers and voters make decisions, without love for Ballard.

      5. Well actually the Sound Transit CFO blew a huge hole in any notion of sub-area equity as we know it.

        The good news is it means there isn’t necessarily a need to find loser projects to fund in East King in order for the other parts of the region to have the projects they need/want. (Note that spine completion or even light rail to Burien looks much better than a Kierkland-Issaquah line)

        It is also interesting that the board member from Issaquah was the biggest advocate of “going big” given the lack of decent East King projects to spend money on.

      6. @Mike — They may never go to Ballard, and they may never go to Seattle. What difference does it make? Do you seriously think that all those people on I-5 are headed downtown? Of course not. Those are the people on the buses. The folks on I-5 are the ones that head to Ballard (and Fremont, and First Hill …). Those are the ones that won’t care if the train goes farther north, because it won’t make a bit of difference to their commute (or any other aspect of their life).

      7. So you know how everyone in Snohomish County sees everything? Ridiculous. Isn’t it possible that the political leaders are clueless when it comes to transit, and clueless when it comes to gathering input that could actually help people when it comes to transit? Again, it is obvious that thousands and thousands of people in Snohomish County would benefit immensely if we built a really good inner city transit system (whether their leaders understand that or not). They wouldn’t pay a dime for it. It is also obvious that very few will benefit that much if we extend the spine (and they would pay a lot for it). This is just obvious travel patterns and transit geography backed up by years and years of experience.

      1. Yeah but they put it under “other possible projects” which basically means they killed it.

      2. I thought this was interesting: “terminating at approximately 15th Avenue
        NE. This alignment would not be interlined with existing light rail at U District Station.”

        Sounds like they want to make it Sandpoint ready maybe?

      3. @les,

        Future eastwards options might be possible by stubbing as opposed to interlining, but I think the reason for doing that is really that the UW-DT line doesn’t have the capacity to support an additional line. The engineers at ST are pretty firm about that.

      4. They didn’t kill it. It depends on the total phase length. If it’s 20 or 25 years instead of 15 (these were studied; 30 years wasn’t), it’s more likely Ballard-UW would be included.

    1. At $3B with 20K-25K riders, it makes completing the spine (north or south) and WS look like a great deal.

      1. There’s something fishy there because they added a station to it and the projected number of riders went down. Makes no sense.

    2. Some realism about transit between Ballard and UW: Considering grade from 8th Avenue to Phinney Ridge, and no room for a transit reservation of any kind on 45th through Wallingford and across I-5 to the U-district, this connection will have to go underground by the time it reaches 8th.

      Doubtless with at least two stations, and maybe more, through Wallingford and across the freeway into the U-district. This is not to say don’t do it. Or that in the future, no one ever will. But unlike proposed surface alignment to Downtown- which I don’t think is a very good idea- this is a seriously major engineering project.

      It’s an understatement to say it’s an understatement that this subway will be expensive to build- though with enough positive results to repay its cost. But in addition, however much luck we’ve had so far, tunnels are subject to unpredictable delays.

      So while it’s much too early to get angry with ST for not including this element in current plans, I think that it might be a good idea for proponents and advocates to start researching as much solid real-world information about what’s involved as possible. It’s good for transit advocates on any project to start learning what’s necessary for discussions with engineers.

      One very good result will be advocates who can carry these discussions back to the public in language they can understand. Start handing in line-and- dot-free presentations, and however long ’til the cutter hits the dirt, the project will be underway. This isn’t work for Event Planners anymore.

      Mark Dublin

  2. As to Spine Destiny, North Edition let me just say this:

    a) Alternative 3 is a nonstarter for Mukilteo and for a lot of people. So it’s really Paine Field or Evergreen Way.

    b) Paine Field doesn’t look so bad – if transit is marketed more and more buses are deployed to feed the stations – in comparison to Alternative 2. Might actually be worth the extra money…

    c) I fully expect my e-mail to blow up to overflowing with comment notifications.

    1. While I await the article talking about finances, I don’t see how Snohomish stretches enough to be able to afford anything beyond Option 2 via 41st. Both of the Paine Field options are in the $4.5 billion and up range. Even taking grants into account, that seems like it must be at least a half-billion dollars beyond the capacity of the subarea, and it would also be the sole thing Snohomish is doing.

      1. +1 against subarea transfers; they would make me for one actively campaign against ST3.

        And I would also oppose applying for any grants to Snohomish before all Seattle projects have applied for grants. As we can see, they’re simply more effective.

      2. William C, I can understand the first part of two. But to demand Snohomish wait in line before ALL of Seattle… no, both apply at the same time.

        I do think if it gets down to subarea transfers, then why are we not discussing an option 4 for the North Part of Spine Destiny? Truncate light rail at Paine Field until an ST4. ST4 – which could just be reauthorizing ST1 authority – could complete spine destiny at least to Everett plus build west-east trusses on the spine.

      3. It was mentioned on Twitter that ST doesn’t believe subarea equity was ever more than a transparency measure as opposed to actually locking in what they can do with the money.

      4. Yes, more transit, more places, more often, more useful! I’m holding out for Seattle money to be used in Seattle, and East King money to be used in East King, rather than to be shipped off north to Snohomish!

      5. Thank you William C.

        Yes, more transit, more places, more often, more useful also means helping people who work outside of Seattle for Seattle companies & shop in Seattle stores who need more transit. So I wouldn’t get too upset.

        I do think Snohomish in a ST4 is going to have to pay back King County in a big way. Even if the spine is truncated at Paine Field.

      6. Paine Field will attract 2,000 additional riders compared with the I-5 alignment that SnoCo can easily afford.

        Ballard is forecast at 100,000 riders. All other Seattle projects are over 30,000 riders.

        That explains why people oppose putting Paine Field in front of the Seattle projects.

      7. Perhaps. But at the end of the day, to be honest, I am skeptical of serving Paine Field unless I hear from Community Transit and Sound Transit a plan to slap a lot more bus hours to feed the many Paine Field tenants you normally don’t hear from… you should be demanding that AT FULL VOLUME. Starting with writing the Everett Herald editor. Details below:

        Have your say

        Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald – Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at or 425-339-3472.

        Evergreen Way would be best due to the need to feed the stations and respect the investment. But I do think we do need more Spine Destiny.

      8. @Morgan Wick – Sound Transit’s enabling legislation requires transparency regarding relative revenues and spending between counties, but does not require subarea equity as we know it. The Board adopted financial policies for Sound Move and ST2 which establish subarea equity, but ultimately it is the Board’s discretion. Not adhering to subarea equity as we know it would be legal.

        @Joe – If you want to argue “more transit, more places, more often” then the North King subarea should simply add the Ballard HS/NE 65th St extension instead of sending money to the Snohomish subarea to pay for a Paine Field option. It would be cheaper and add the same number of riders. I don’t think there is much appetite on STB for subarea transfers.

      9. Jason, I’ll be honest:

        We need Spine Destiny thanks to I-5 congestion and we needed it like 10 years ago. Or at least start turning shovels 5-10 years ago.

        As I just said above, it’s time you folks told the Everett Herald and every other place you can you demand these stations be properly fed and Evergreen Way is your preferred alignment (I-5 alignment will likely never happen, I have my sources I will keep to me). Volume matters and this blog won’t cut it.

      10. Joe – Are the HOV lanes seriously congested north of Lynnwood? Things generally look clear online, but I’ve never been there during rush hour. It seems to me that if you add north-facing ramps at Ash Way, and maybe a few more flyer stops, things would be good.

        But, then, I might be wrong.

      11. William C, we got a real problem all the way from Seattle to at least Everett, and occasionally as far as Stanwood. I’ve rode Skagit Transit 90X quite a bit this year, and occassionally Sound Transit Everett-Seattle both on the Sounder and on bus.

      12. In other words, state law requires ST to disclose how much money is collected in each county and what it was spent on. Subarea equity was ST’s choice. Subarea equity requires that projects benefit the subarea, but what “benefiting” means is also ST’s choice. This seems to leave an opening for saying that the Everett extension benefits North King.If that comes up we should say the benefit is 90/10, not 50/50.

      13. And, Mike, we should also argue that the Ballard line benefits Snohomish and South King as well. Considering all the South King cars piling onto Mercer Street, we’d have a very good argument there.

        (Maybe we should try it anyway?)

      14. You could use the number of jobs each given project adds access to from the network as a proxy for the value added to those in other subareas by a project. Quantify the network effect.

      15. “More transit, more places, more often”

        Maybe. If by “transit” you mean, “buses to lots of places and a few, very few, places with trains”.

        Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that you mean that.

        Now far be it from me to oppose buying the right of way needed from Link north of Lynnwood within ST3, and extending it to 164th in an extension-neutral manner makes a great deal of sense. Interfacing with the buses a little way north of the congestion around the I-405 wye and Alderwood Mall makes sense.

        But who knows what’s going to happen in mid-Snohomish County in the next thirty years? If Link gets built through there along I-5 or via Paine Field where there’s no opportunity for genuine TOD, it will just enable more and worse sprawl across the County. The exciting ridership numbers which are being projected are nothing but fluff. Once in the car most people don’t want to get out at a Park and Ride.

        But, just as in South King County the used car dealers’ cabal demanded that the County Council kill any option which used SR99 with all the potential development which might follow it. They don’t want to pay higher leases for their flashing bulb-bestrewn junk yards.

        So, “No”, not“more transit, more places, more often”. “More transit [e.g. ‘trains’ in the right places more often”.

      16. Great comment, made me stop and think.

        Nice thing about online conversations is one can do that if one chooses wisely.

        As to, If by “transit” you mean, “buses to lots of places and a few, very few, places with trains”, uh yeah. Buses to feed the trains.

        I’m just resigned that part of Spine Destiny includes Paine Field. I’m resigned to it. Especially as I don’t see a Snohomish County leader willing to take ideas here and make them constructive alternatives.

        I get your concerns about sprawl. But even a I-5 alignment includes enabling sprawl, perhaps I argue much more than one that cuts through to Paine Field or preferably Evergreen Way.

        The question becomes: Does the good stuff of ST3 (e.g. congestion relief, Ballard-Downtown link, additional funding source, more transit for Tacoma) outweigh the issues with a Paine Field route? I thin barely and only with reassurances buses will feed the trains.

        One last thing: I know on the county connectors folks park their cars to get on/off the county connectors. Skagit Transit currently due to lack of revenue does not have the early morning buses to feed the county connector 80X-90X-40X peak hour spine.

      17. “If Link gets built through there along I-5 or via Paine Field where there’s no opportunity for genuine TOD, it will just enable more and worse sprawl across the County.”

        Link can hardly enable more sprawl. The sprawl is coming anyway, with or without Link. Link and Sounder go nowhere near Marysville or Canyon Park but they’re sprawling like crazy. Link’s influence is just overwhelmed by I-5’s influence by 10 to 1. The only thing we can do is get trunk transit to the growing population areas so that more of them will use it and cap the number of people driving which has environmental impacts on us all. I’m not suggesting any particular terminus: there are arguments for any of Lynnwood or 164th or Payne Field or Everett. We just need to get Link up there somehow.

        Especially because lower-income people are being forced out to Snohomish County and driving is more burdensome to them than to others. They need an alternative to driving and unreliable buses.

      18. Thank you Mike. I think the “enable sprawl” argument is ridiculous anyway and a means of divide & conquer to kill ST3. I just hope folks realize what no ST3 will mean versus a Paine Field diversion. A lot worse than annoying and a Billion.

      19. Mike, Joe,

        I’m advocating for SR99 if Link is extended. I realize that some of the syntax was a bit garbled by my worrying about the damn cursor when typing on an iPad, but basically I said: extend Link by two stations to 164th. That would serve Alderwood Mall and allow buses using 405 to connect directly with Link without a “double back”.

        Then buy the necessary right of way for the best line to the north, but don’t build yet. Wait to see if it’s really needed by growth up there.

        Then I said that both I-5 and Paine Field would ONLY enable sprawl. By process of elimination then, implicitly SR 99 is given a pass on “enabl[ing] sprawl” because it can have walkable development all along it with frequent stations.

        In addition, an I-5 alignment simply can’t be well-fed by buses. Just like at 145th there is too much freeway traffic at the major interchanges, and the transfers will be unpleasant, noisy and dangerous. Freeway transfers almost always are. Are there feeder buses to any I–I-5 bus stop in Snohomish County other than Lynnwood? Why would it be different with a train? An I-5 alignment will just be a long chain of huge garages.

        And who wants to live in an apartment next to a freeway and far from food and entertainment? Not very many people, so there won’t be any walk-up ridership.

        On the other hand, going via Paine Field is frankly ridiculous. NOWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES — NOWHERE! — is rail service to industrial parks successful. Even if you could capture 15% of the work trips to the place, the stations would have boardings and deboardings during only three one hour periods per day. The rest of the time it would be crickets.

        And, “No, Joe, The Future of Flight is not going to fill up any Link trains.”

        You are a great guy who listens to other peoples’ points and adjusts when it makes sense to you, Congratulations; that’s much more than most people do. But your love of flying completely blinds you to the reality that 95% of the public simply does not give a damn about it except to ride on airliners. What was it you said the Museum gets per day — 2500? Something like that.

        And the vast majority of those are families coming with the kids or the grandkids, and almost none of them will take transit to do so no matter how good you make it. It simply costs too much, both in money and time, especially if there is not already a transit user in the house to navigate the system.

        Nearly every family with children in America has at least one car, and a family visit to a place like TFOF is probably the very highest and best use of that car. It’s certainly a hell of a lot more defensible than commuting five days a week on a completely predictable path using it.

      20. Anandakos, thanks for your long comment. Much appreciate. You can rest assured I don’t think the Future of Flight is justification for a Paine Field rail deviation. A bus stop, yes.

        I do think that for the staff and volunteers and plane-spotters they all would like some good transit service. There also are a large amount of transit service requests to the Future of Flight.

        I just agree that light rail is not the way to go about it. I do think though we may have to put up with a Paine Field deviation in ST3 to get it (I, like you, prefer Hwy 99 and buses to/from Paine Field to feed those stations). It’s not like we haven’t been compromised already to get ST3 taxation authority…. and with faint hope of a ST4 package, I’m not so sure voting this down would be a good idea.

      1. I meant to say the City Government of Mukilteo. I’m also sure that many folks aren’t too happy at the idea of light rail just paralleling I-5, which means it just replaces Sound Transit & Community Transit commuter routes.

      2. Right Mike Orr, but just upgrading from express buses to light rail begs the question – if you guys wanted to do that, why not just BRT with “specialized design, services and infrastructure to improve system quality and remove the typical causes of delay. Sometimes described as a “surface subway”, BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system” along I-5?!? Cost a lot less.

        Just because I ask does not mean I am championing this. I know many transit advocates know BRT is proposed by [mostly] transit opponents to obstruct light rail… and will vote it down. Me personally, I prefer light rail that serves some destinations besides Park & Rides.

      3. BRT as a “substitute” for rail uniformly costs more than light rail for worse service. Period. It combines the inflexibility, high cost, and complexity of light rail with the low capacity and slowness of a bus system.

      4. Nathanael, yup. There’s a reason why there’s a Spine Destiny to Everett, and for the reasons you just gave it’s because there is so much demand for the express buses between Everett & Seattle.

    2. Transit routes should be as straight as possible. Not only is it faster, but it sucks being on a train making multiple sharp turns. Especially if you’re having to stand because it’s crowded.

      It’s Jarrett Walker’s “be on the way” philosophy. Deviations from a direct path suck. Especially significant ones that would add 5+ minutes travel time each way.

      1. Considering I have inside sources that don’t see I-5 alignment as a realistic possibility; “31-34 minutes for ST 99, and 35-38 for Paine Field” is the real choice. Only a few more minutes…

        I’m just trying to get ready to defend what I fear is the inevitable that Paine Field will be the preferred ST3 route. Let’s at the least demand these stations be fed with buses to/from flight schools, museums, and other manufacturing.

      2. Joe, are you considering the city of Everett’s comments that it does not support and will oppose an SR99 alignment? Seems to me the I5 alignment may be the least unpalatable option if the $ won’t stretch to Paine.

      3. Rick, thanks for reminding me of my vague memory of such postering. I do know there are others who do not want an I-5 alignment.

        So the thing to do is one of the two since it seems we’re stuck with a Paine Field alignment:

        1) Demand ST3 Spine Destiny end at Paine Field
        2) Demand publicly and en masse buses feed the Paine Field stations.

        I-5 is not happening. I would be shocked and misled if it did somehow happen.

      4. Taking the recent board session as a whole and combining with the stated desires of the counties and cities I believe Snohomish will get Link via Paine Field. Personally I think the evergreen way alignment is superior but that isn’t very likely given the politics.

        Yes in most scenarios this will require throwing sub-area equity out the window. The real problem is there simply aren’t very many good large projects for East King. Even if you “go big” with east link completion, I-405 BRT, SR-522 BRT, and even Kirkland-Issaquah LRT this doesn’t add up to much compared to the revenue. This just gets worse with a “go big” scenario.

    3. Sorry Joe, but I don’t think Paine Field should see any kind of light rail service until ST5…or 6. Until they can prove they have an adequate ridership base for transit (they have their chance with Swift II) and until the companies there (mainly Boeing) can pony up cash to provide for some of the cost of serving them, we should not saddle Everett residents with a costlier and slower train for the sake of their non-commercial airport.

      Swift II + feeder buses to Seaway TC should suffice for now.

      1. SounderBruce, to be honest, if we can get ST3 to do just that I’d be for it.

        I’m as of tonight beginning to be resigned to the sad reality we transit advocates will either wait 4, 8 or never to get all the good stuff of ST3 (e.g. more Spine Destiny, better transit for Tacoma & vicinity, three rotating sources of taxation authority), we will have to advocate for a ST3 that will “saddle Everett residents [and transit users further north like us] with a costlier and slower train for the sake of their non-commercial airport.”

        I really don’t like this. I think in an ideal world the Sound Transit planning staff would object to the Snohomish County elites thrusting on us this…………………………………………………………..

        At the least, we should demand they end light rail at Paine Field since it’s so damn important at ST3 so the ST4 ballot measure to renew the ST1 taxes has things in it for Everett that Snohomish County wants. We all know serious east-west trusses are needed to this spine, after all.

      2. Terminating at Paine Field would be a grave mistake that would cost support for ST4. It has to end in a more logical location (think about the bus-train transfer), even if it ends up not being Everett Station.

        I don’t think Snohomish County is going to warrant having more than one Link line for a long time, so it’s really important to get it right the first time. No freeway, no Paine, max. TOD without slowing it down with at-grade crossings. I could be proven wrong with an absurdly high-performing Swift line somewhere that could warrant an “express” service in the form of Link, but it’s really unlikely.

      3. “in an ideal world the Sound Transit planning staff would object to the Snohomish County elites thrusting on us this”

        How do you know they don’t? But the planning staff don’t have the authority to choose the corridors, only the board does.

        However, I have heard (by hearsay from one source, so don’t take it as confirmed), that the head of ST’s planning is hostile to urban interests and pro BARTesque extensions. So that may be part of it.

  3. Here we go! I missed half of the meeting, but was able to catch up with the archived video.

    My pick for the north end is Option 2 via 41st. It has the lowest cost of the 2 Evergreen Way options and also has the benefit of entering Everett Station from the south, allowing for a potential northward extension through downtown Everett and to the community college.

    Ballard and West Seattle must be on 100% grade separated right-of-way, with no compromises that we could regret in the near (and far) future. Ballard’s ridership (equal by itself to the entire daily ridership of DART, the nation’s largest light rail system by track-mile) is something that should be touted when explaining why grade separation matters (among other things).

    The presented operating scenarios are quite interesting, and I like the idea of the “split spine” but I can’t lend full support until I can see just how transfers at the new, 4-track Chinatown Station plays out. If Union Station could somehow be utilized as a mezzanine or something, it’d be a spectacular monument to transit in the city. Even better if King Street Station is nicely integrated to ease transfers to the hourly service on Sounder South (Weller Street cross-station mezzanine, anyone?).

      1. Link really is engineered as more of a “Light Metro” compared to most other LR systems. And despite the spine we are still connecting some very high demand areas that don’t have very good service today.

        So, ya, comparing to “heavier” systems might make sense. Of course it will take awhile for all of this to come on line.

      2. Be careful of using MUNI Metro for any comparison with what we need.

        When BART was built, some very old streetcar lines also went underground for part of their trip. Now LRV’s – unfortunately from Breda- have to contend with same conditions as the much better built but much smaller PCC’s.

        Meaning that MUNI Metro really does carry very large number of San Franciscans. Very slowly.

        Mark Dublin

      3. I just read a study on the internet somewhere that said that Seattle will be bigger than New York City in a couple years. Should we be excited, or question the study?

        To think that one line through Seattle, with only a handful of stops (in places like Interbay and Alaska Junction) will exceed the 6 lines and 33 stations of San Fransisco Muni is absurd. San Fransisco is a city with more people and way more population density. A lot more — more than double ours. The density spreads from sea to sea as well. Just look at the density map. Not a single single census block in West Seattle is over 25,000 people per mile. San Fransisco has dozens if not hundreds of them. Think Belltown is impressive? It is, after all, the most densely populated spot in Washington State (as of the last census). San Fransisco has over a dozen census blocks like that, some twice as dense. Then there are the lines themselves. Muni covers most of the city — intersecting well with less dense areas (although more dense than West Seattle) via buses. This would not.

        The numbers are a fantasy. It is nice to dream sometimes, but don’t be ridiculous.

      4. We’re biased by living in the anti-transit, anti-tax United States. Even if we’re pro-transit it still influences us. Every city of three million should have a subway like New York’s and all-day commuter rail to he surrounding areas. Every city of one million should have transit like one of NYC’s boroughs. Germany doesn’t do all this hand-wringing: it puts the streetcars underground in city centers even for cities of 500,000 or 300,000. If you want the majority of people not to drive, then you need a transit system as extensive as American cities had before WWII.

      5. Most of the European cities started well before us. A lot of the older cities started before us. Toronto and Montreal don’t do a lot of hand wringing, but they still don’t build everything. They would have fewer miles of rail than us if we continue with this nonsense. Let that sink in a bit. We would have more rail than Toronto and Montreal (3rd and 4th in North American subway ridership behind New York City and Mexico City)

        Vancouver has done some hand wringing lately, but they still managed to build a system way more effective than ours, without building a hundred miles of rail. DART is a ridiculously inefficient system, but at least it was relatively cheap (ours is not). If things go as I fear we will have a system that sets all sorts of records for poor performance. Extremely expensive per rider. Extremely low ridership per mile. Extremely low ridership per hour of service. Extremely low overall transit ridership (because, of course, the train lines completely ignore the bus lines).

    1. Union Station is on the wrong side … the new tunnel wold be under 5th ave (east of existing track/tunnels)

      1. There’s no reason we couldn’t have a WSDOT project to extend connections between Amtrak/Sounder and ID/Chinatown.

      2. Or imagine closing that part of 4th Ave S and creating a huge open-air but covered 10-track station for Amtrak, Sounder, and Red/Green/Blue line trains, with King St and Union Station as grand waiting and ticketing halls and all current office space retained. #dreaming

      3. The view of the skyline from 4th Avenue alone would make it a really nice area to wait in. Add in a few midrise buildings above the tracks at King Street Station (made possible by moving the tracks around and adding gaps for columns like Hudson Yards in NYC) and you have a nice little space on the edge of downtown. Move the streetcar stop to the current 4th/2nd Ext/Jackson triangle and you have an extra service for this new pedestrian mall.

      1. BART is a heavy rail system (in the Bay Area) that carries over 400,000 riders per day. Link will not be carrying that many riders for a long, long time.

        DART is a light rail system in Dallas that carries about 100,000 riders per day.

        I’m pretty sure he meant DART.

      2. Both DART and BART are similar in a way: build these far flung rail extensions out into the exurbs for very little ridership with crappy frequency and huge subsidy. Except that BART costs even more than DART to build per mile.

        Another important point about Ballard vs DART is building where existing transit demand is, like what Houston did. That’s why Houston’s shorter rail line outperforms DART’s. The higher intensity of ridership (or riders per mile) means your investment is more worthwhile and justifiable.

      3. DART has one station that has even an inking of a TOD neighborhood near it. The rest of Dallas is like the Eastside but worse. Six lane boulevards every mile, with car-oriented development. Large surface parking lots for $1 right downtown. SE 192nd Street in north Kent gives an idea of what a Dallas residential neighborhood is like.

      4. Actually, BART carries 422K riders per day, per the latest ridership reports. When you combine that with MUNI rail (125K), Caltrain (60K), and VTA light rail (35K) you have nearly 650K daily rail riders in the Bay Area

        For a metro area of nearly 8 million, by international standards, that’s not great. But it’s still better than any US metro area West of Chicago. In other words, for all its flaws, BART is still a pretty high-performing system.

        DART on the other hand – not so much.

      5. BART and DART are very similar. The only part of BART that performs even moderately well are the San Fransisco and Oakland/Berkeley stations. The highest performing station outside of those is Daly City. The Daly City station is outside of San Fransisco, on the far end of the city from downtown, yet is only seven miles away. So similar to Ballard (once its own city) except with more density and more density and attractions along they way. Yet is still has less ridership than the 41.

        The highest performing station outside the urban core is El Cerrito Del Norte, which is the terminus for two lines (with good connections to the suburbs). It has a ridership well below the 41.

        BART is a failed system. Despite the fact that it serves an area much bigger than us, it fails to serve people effectively, outside the core area (much of which it shares with Muni). It should have built something to serve the core, dense areas of Oakland and Berkeley, instead of assuming that 20 minute runs out to Fremont would ever be a huge winner. Fremont, California, by the way, is bigger than Tacoma (and thus twice as big as Everett) and way more dense. But despite the fact that it is serving an area with worse traffic, tougher parking problems and way more people, jobs and attractions, the station serving the city fails to keep up with the 41 in terms of ridership.

        it may not be fair to compare a station to a complete bus line, but not really. The 41 is a commuter line. The number of people who ride it from Lake City is relatively small. The bulk of the people get on and off at Northgate, and there are no stops between there and downtown.

      6. “The number of people who ride it from Lake City is relatively small.”

        … because they have the 522. The 41 not only takes its time going to Northgate, it sometimes meanders down to 75th before getting on the freeway.

  4. Out of curiosity, where does option 3 of Ballard to downtown start– 22nd and market or 15Th and market?

  5. I see an estimate of 67K-87K for the Ballard line on Sound Transit’s sheets the grade-separate options. Where are you getting 100+K ridership?

    1. Let me clarify – the estimates on the Sound Transit sheets say 67-87K for the grade-separated Ballard options. Where are you getting 100+K?

      1. 100k+ includes the new downtown tunnel. Ballard-Downtown as an individual segment is 67-87k.


  6. It’s interesting how the Ballard lines that avoid Belltown have the highest ridership. Ja, they aren’t exactly at the same level of engineering, but the differences are striking.

    1. I just don’t think the numbers mean much really

      PSRC has not done a halfway good job at generating impartial numbers

  7. Could someone explain, “The grade separated options accept SDOT’s suggestion for a South Lake Union at Westlake/Denny, although they treat SDOT’s other station requests (SR 99/Harrison and W Newton Street) as separate projects“? Does that mean the stations won’t get built (e.g. Graham St), or won’t get studied now but still might be built along with the line?

    1. They’d have to be added in the System Plan but considered separately, whereas Westlake/Denny comes with the line.

    2. A system plan doesn’t exist yet, so it’s a question of putting ten vs eleven projects on it. Being a separate project just means it gets a separate budget and impact estimate. And these are just the projects for planning. They may be combined into inseparable units for construction.

  8. Are C-01c and C-01d the only options with a fixed Ship Canal crossing?

    Also, it would seem that Ballard-UW is off the table?

    1. It doesn’t look like Ballard-UW is off the table, but it looks like it would be an expansion of the Ballard – Tacoma line. The line might split at Market Street towards UW and Crown Hill.

      Clearly ST has no intention of building Ballard-UW in place of Ballard-DT

      1. >> It doesn’t look like Ballard-UW is off the table, but it looks like it would be an expansion of the Ballard – Tacoma line.

        I think Sound Transit flunked geography.

    2. Zach – can you point me to where you’re seeing 100K+ ridership for the Ballard line? I’m seeing 67-87K for the full line including the Downtown Tunnel.

  9. Thanks for the analysis, Zach. Can’t wait to read about the “operational concepts.” The map in Seattle Times shows a “Tacoma to Ballard” line and an “Everett to West Seattle” line. Whaaaat?

    1. They want to split the lines. Get rid of 2 hour trips for drivers from Everett to Tacoma and in the same stroke intensify downtown frequency to a level we have never seen.

      1. “Even if it completely undermines the very concept they want to prioritize above all else for no good reason.”

        That sounds like Tacoma to Everett trips. But ST said there would be few of those, so a one-seat ride from Tacoma to Everett is not a priority. Serving both Tacoma and Everett is.

      2. Those damn unions that have gotten jobs above minimum wage, and weekends, and health insurance, and workman’s compensation…

      3. Anandakos, I love a lot of individual teachers. I hate the WEA HQ’s tactics, opposition to charter schools and outrageous demand we take Sound Transit money, put it in a wheelbarrow and give it to the education industry instead of Sound Transit local-level transit districts like Community Transit, King County Metro, Everett Transit, ET AL.

      4. The surcharge on ST3 was to backfill money in the general fund when highway projects were exempted from the sales tax (to prevent gas tax money from going to non-roads). The education coup earmarked the money for education instead of the general fund. It would not have gone specifically to transit in any case. Part of it would have gone to education anyway, because that’s what a large part of the general fund does. You can blame the legislators and transit interests for not getting the money earmarked for local transit, but that’s not the teachers’ union’s fault.

    2. Yes, you’ll have to switch trains if going from Tukwila to UW, or even Capitol Hill to Uptown. But that’s not terrible compared to riding the 8.

      1. Indeed, with an underground transfer between a 6-minute and a 3-minute line, your average transfer wait would be 90 seconds SLU->Capitol Hill and 3 minutes Capitol Hill->SLU. That’s pretty world class.

      2. You’d need to switch trains between Capitol Hill and Uptown anyway, under any realistic model.
        But, note, you won’t have to switch to go between Ballard and the airport.

        I suppose East Link will still be going into the Capitol Hill-Everett tunnel… did they ever consider sending it up to Ballard, I wonder?

      3. That’s one thing we’ll have to look at: who transfers and who doesn’t. Generally the highest-volume trips shouldn’t transfer. That concerns me about West Seattle – Everett; it gives West Seattle a one-seat ride to UW while Rainier Valley and others would have to transfer. That sounds like giving West Seattle an extraordinary privilege for its population and density. But on the other hand this may be intended as political favor for West Seattle, where a lot of government officials live, and it would succeed in doing that.

        I thought of Ballard to Redmond but it hasn’t come up officially. But that in itself wouldn’t meet the goal of splitting the spine.

      4. If the transfer really is a 300-foot underground walk and a 90-second average wait, no one will care.

        Such a transfer will be a revelation for Seattleites who haven’t experienced it in other places.

      5. It’d be nice to have some East Link trips sent up to Ballard, though it would reduce headways in the U District and Northgate.

      6. ST is also predicting that two north lines will be at capacity in the 2040s, so if East Link runs are diverted to Ballard something would have to replace them.

      7. “At capacity” meaning a 2.0 load factor, or as many people standing as sitting. They compared Tokyo squeezing as a 3.0 load factor.

  10. If we do end up skipping Belltown for a mediocre SLU stop, we would need to have a serious discussion about extending CCC to Belltown and having a reasonable replacement for Metro 8… one that actually moves people across town at a speed faster than walking.

      1. SLU is the fastest growing area in the state. Belltown would be served almost as well by extending the CCC to the Uptown link station.

    1. That would be consistent. Totally ignore one area of town, then try and patch it together with a stupid streetcar. Belltown is only the most densely populated area in the state of Washington, and First Hill is just a hill. Nothing special. Not like the West Seattle Junction. Hey, when I can take a train to Fife?

      1. Exactly. Its crazy to think that we will hit all these neighborhoods, but in the process have managed to skip the TWO densest hoods

    2. totally agree. light rail to belltown is dead forever, but a high capacity option is necessary. streetcar along 1st please, ST!

  11. I’m also seeing on the Overlake-Redmond map that they aren’t considering any station at 51st Street? Leaving it out would be a terrible idea; it’s close to numerous Microsoft and Nintendo buildings, and the existing express bus stop there is very frequently used. How can we tell Sound Transit to include that?

    1. Okay, I just emailed the Microsoft Commute team to warn them: “… The train will be running along 520 next to 51st St, right by the existing 51st St flyer stop, which is near numerous Microsoft buildings and highly used. I don’t use it much myself as I work on the south side of campus, but I know that I would if I was on the north side. Please impress on Sound Transit that they need to add a stop at 51st Street.” Hopefully, this will get to Sound Transit’s ears.

    2. I worked in that area for years. The stop is used during peak commute but really not what you could call heavy. certainly not something that requires trains. It will not be a “flyer stop” when HOV lanes are moved to the center (where they belong) which is happening in the next couple of years. RR B stops on 148th which will provide feeder service to Link. Alternately it’s not that long of bike ride on the bike 520 trail. I suspect that to get down to Marymoor Link will already be below the level of 520. Putting at station there would be expensive.

  12. So, going by that old post on subarea budgets, where if revenue in Snohomish =$1, then North King =$2.4, South King =$1.2, East King =$2.0, and Pierce = $1.4, then if Snohomish goes big with Paine Field at $4.7b, then:

    North King has 11.3b to play with:
    -5b for Ballard-Downtown
    -2b for the Junction (round up for a stub cut’n’cover tunnel under Alaska)
    -3b for UW to Ballard
    Leaving another billion for Madison BRT, extra stations, 522 BRT, etc.

    South King has 5.6b:
    -2.5b to go KDM to Fife
    Leaving well more than required for all other extra stations, Sounder improvements, etc.

    Pierce has 6.6b:
    -1.2b for Fife to Tacoma Dome
    -1b for Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall
    -.7b for Tacoma Link extension
    Leaving 3+b on the table for PT and Sounder capital improvements, Sounder to DuPont and Orting, etc.

    East King has 9.4b:
    -1.1b for Redmond Link
    -3.4b for ERC/Issaquah light rail
    -2.0b for 405 BRT
    Leaving about 3b on the table for ???

    That’s $37.6b total. So, it looks like if Snohomish really fights hard for Paine Field, subarea equity is going to have to go out the window if this is going to fit into a $30b 20 year package. Plenty of unused capacity even with all the little $20-$100m projects included in South King, Pierce, East King. North King’s got enough good projects to use the rest of its allotment.

      1. But extending the time horizon doesn’t solve the subarea split issue, right? It looks like there just aren’t enough East King candidate projects to use up the funds from that subarea in a 20- or 25-year package, much less a 30-year+ package. What other projects (that could realistically be included in a ballot initiative less than one-year away) would East King get beyond what is identified above?

      2. That’s what I’m thinking. SnoCo wants Paine field? That implies huge unused $ in East King, and to a lesser extent in South King and Pierce. I think staff realizes this and that’s why they were playing down subarea equity today.

        I don’t think even the conceptual projects could take up the excess. A new Sand Point bridge? New 520 was only 1.5b! Sounder is a potentially bottomless pit of possible improvements in South King and Pierce, so they don’t have the same problem.

      3. Joe, what on earth does the gender of the planner or her marital status have to do with anything? Can you try to stay on topic, please?

      4. kptrease, my point is the planner in chief is not going to go down fighting for us transit advocates. Not willing to get fired on a transit advocate’s cross when no longer a fire-breathing bachelor or bachelorette. Look, I’ve worked with this type of professional for almost 10 years.

        The problem and I’m most of these things so I can say this is that you folks need to get out from behind the fake handles, the anonymity, et al and start taking our case to the grumpy, old, ugly, white males (I’m not old, I’m certainly grumpy, my beauty is questionable and I’m kinda white and I’m absolutely male) who sadly make transit policy. Quickly. Expeditiously. Loudly.

      5. Joe that whole first paragraph of yours can just go somewhere and sit down. No need for sexism

      6. Just trying to put you guys in her shoes, ok? OK? Walk a mile in the planner’s shoes and understand they’re at the whim of grumpy, ugly old white men (I’m not old but am certainly grumpy, likely ugly and possibly white and certainly male).

        Plus I’m all for transparent government.

      7. I really am failing to understand why this (and the rant about unions above) aren’t getting moderated as [ot] at the very least.

      8. You’re a straight shooter, Joe, speaking truth to power. Perhaps a guest post explaining to us all how there’s a particularly female way of planning transit?

      9. kptrease, I am flattered by your kind words. But my comments were, are, and will remain, I can assure you, socioeconomic & geopolitical to put us in the staffer’s shoes and not gender-based. I appreciate though you taking up this line of questioning as…

        My hero is Captain Katie Ann Higgins, USMC. Yup, The Great One who can fly a C-130 and make Fat Albert dance.

        I have a part-time boss who is female. I have had other female supervisors who I think quite frankly can do a better job than given credit for.

        The staff liaison to the Skagit Transit committee is female, a young mom who will only go so far to rock the boat, and a friend of mine.

        I consider the women friends in my life capable, valuable professionals.

        I apologize once and completely for any implied sexism. It was unintentional.

  13. I’m predicting the ballot will carry Option A for us in West Seattle. It’s the one that gets us the fastest service, greatest ridership, and the best long-term (generational) bang for the buck. And it’s the least expensive, for ST3. I personally don’t have a problem with part of it being elevated, and then this opens the door for us to tunnel south to Westwood, White Center, Burien, and then to connect eastward toward the Tukwila Station (Sea-Tac access) and then the future Southcenter/Renton line.

    I would vote for that in an instant. Then you can just reconfigure West Seattle bus service to heavily feed into the rail service.

    1. Agreed. That’s a good project. Elevated to 35th and Alaska, short shallow cut and cover tunnel under Alaska with entrances at California and 40th. Reroute the C line to serve admiral and alki instead of downtown, and you got yourself a stew going.

      1. Aim that new tunnel southbound in whatever manner is most sane, to angle toward Westwood and White Center (it’s only like a mile, but that’s fine) and then from there onward to Burien. This could work.

    2. It’s there, it’s just an “additional project” (aka an afterthought) so it’ll be in another post. still on the table, esp since the 25 year financing plan makes the most sense.

    3. um, there’s not going to be any tunneling in west seattle. too sparely populated for that to make any sense at all.

      1. An elevated alignment in the Junction west of 35th is a non-starter. I think you’ll see this concept get ‘refined’ with a short tunneled segment.

      2. Beacon Hill had to have a tunnel. It would have been completely impossible to rise from near grade in the Duwamish flats to an elevated alignment above Beacon Hill. The stilts leading up the hill would have been hundreds of feet high and the grades would have been in the 10% range or higher.

        Even with relatively steep grades on both sides the station box is over 100 feet below the street level.

        Nobody is “picking on” West Seattle. ST is not too subtly saying “this is a political line which will never be extended to the south”. So elevated along Fauntleroy Way is not an unreasonable burden on the community.

      3. “Beacon Hill had to have a tunnel.”

        It could have gone around Beacon Hill like I-90 does and East Link will. A better comparison is, “Roosevelt got a tunnel!” The original alignment was going to go alongside I-5 closer to Greenlake, but Roosevelt insisted it wanted an underground station right in its neighborhood center. That’s very urbanist and an example for other neighborhoods, although Roosevelt is having trouble with the density appropriate for such a station. But it raises the issue of why middle-class white Roosevelt got its tunnel when poorer browner Rainier Valley didn’t.

        West Seattle has to tunnel or go elevated because of the many hills. The only reason Delridge can be at-grade is it’s a flat ridge there.

  14. No Ballard-UW/U-Village makes me a sad panda. Why is Seattle city so against good east west transit? Its like Manhattan but worse

      1. If we complete the spine in ST3, why would there ever be any need for an ST4? If we’re going to use Sound Transit taxing authority to build Ballard-UW, it must go into ST3.

      2. Eric, I have a solution to this problem: Truncate the ST3 Spine Destiny at Paine Field………………..

        Come up with something to the south.

        Then you now have a plan for ST4 starting right… there.

      3. Eric is completely correct. The suburban voters would vote against it just out of spite even if there were useful projects for other subareas.

      4. People will vote based on whether it reaches their area, or whether there’s hope of a future phase reaching their area. They won’t vote out of spite because transportation is too critical an issue; it’s the biggest thing people talk about and demand of government. The tax-haters will vote against ST3 because they’re tax-haters, not out of spite. Suburbanites won’t vote based on whether it goes to Ballard or the Central District or not because urban transit is irrelevant to them (even if they go to Ballard sometimes). If they cared about things like urban transit, they’d live in the city.

      5. @Mike — The folks in the suburbs who drive to into the city do so for several reasons. Some of them will never take transit. But a lot of them work somewhere besides downtown. Transit ridership to downtown is very high from everywhere. But for people who work in First Hill, Belltown, Fremont, SPU, Ballard and the like improvements in the city system would make a huge difference. Running trains every 20 minutes out to their burb would not.

    1. Seattle is not against east-west transit. Sound Transit is against Seattle transit that doesn’t serve the suburbs no matter how nonsensical it may seem.

  15. I still have an issue with the whole no Belltown station thing. The second densest neighborhood in (the US portion of) the Pacific Northwest and it gets no station? I know SLU has growing employment density, but Denny and Westlake is basically a glorified office Park. You can’t tell me it’s a much worse spot for a station than, say, 4th and Bell.

    1. I’m also disappointed about the lack of a Belltown station. The powers that be have made an explicit decision to prioritize South Lake Union over Belltown. It’s become an either-or situation and Belltown is getting the shaft. Ironically, Amazon’s growth is actually concentrating in the western part of the Denny Triangle near Belltown, and a stop near 5th and Bell could effectively serve Belltown, Amazon’s high rise campus, and the condo/apartment towers going up in the Denny triangle.

    2. Yeah, given the new service configuration, light rail to belltown is dead unless Frank can come to the resuce a figure out some ultra clever way to modify his multi-polar solution to work with the new alignments. tbh, i think our best bet as belltown residents is to demand streetcar funding along first to connect us to downtown and uptown.

      1. A streetcar extension to Seattle Center is still an official option, and it would serve Belltown. So leverage that.

    3. What does serving Belltown mean? Which part? A line on 5th, 3rd, 1st, or Western would each serve a slightly different constituency.

      (Western is the most needful, since it has highrise apartments but no transit at all, and it’s a hill up to 3rd.)

    4. This plan barely skirts South Lake Union. The stop is actually fairly close to Westlake. What makes the most sense is to serve Belltown with a Ballard to downtown line and serve South Lake Union (the heart of South Lake Union) via a Metro 8 subway. This map here assumes a WSTT, but even with a singe subway line to Ballard it works and serves a broader area: So, basically, roughly this.

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. Crossing Spokane will be a difficulty, but they’re doing the right thing by curving around the point on the ridge between Delridge and West Marginal and having the transfer point a few blocks to the south.

  16. Paine Field route is completely ridiculous. And it looks like they’d have to loot funding from the other subareas in order to build it. It would be the kiss of death for the ballot measure, so it shouldn’t happen.

    1. But Nathanael, you would kill it if it was on the ST3 ballot measure and wait four more years?

      I want you guys to start thinking of plan B, plan C and plan D here. Or how to make lemonade out of lemons.

      Four more years of delay is a huge risk just because many here don’t like a certain Paine Field tenant.

      1. Joe, with the enormous new property taxes that will be filling Seattle’s coffers in the next decade plus the unintentional but nonetheless powerful expulsion of low-income people from the city, Seattle can forget about the ‘burbs and build its own system.

        Sure, contract with Metro to drive and maintain the trains just as ST does; make it part of ORCA. Make it seamless for regular riders.

        I’m expecting to see Seattle accelerate away from the rest of the state over the next twenty years. I hope I live long enough to see the rest of the rubes in the outback begging to be let in on the Seattle way of life.

      2. Mike,

        I hope people making less than $125K will be able to afford to live in Seattle then.”

        So would I, but I really can’t see it as possible in a couple of decades, except for a lucky few in massively subsidized housing. Look at what’s happening in San Francisco because of tech gentrification. The only difference from what’s happening here is that SF is a decade ahead of Seattle and had considerably more low-income multi-family housing to start with. Much of it has been gentrified into $2,000/month studios, and the same thing is happening in Seattle, Shoreline and Bellevue.

        Poor people are being priced out of the inner core; once a city becomes a “global hotspot”, especially for tech, that happens. Land becomes too valuable to continue providing low-income housing. Older stock is renovated or replaced and the former residents can no longer afford the greatly increased rents.

      3. P.S. In case anybody reading doesn’t know, I used to live in Seattle but made the decision once married that my wife and I could not afford a house anywhere desirable there and so moved to cheap old Vancouver.

        So I’m among the rubes in the outback and know the deep jealousy and resentment they feel toward Seattle’s success. Even though you folks largely pay for our schools and highways.

      4. Seattle is building a lot more to accommodate the population growth. It’s not enough but at least it relieves the pressure somewhat. The new buildings have 2-4 times the number of units as the old buildings, so it’s making a singificant contribution to the housing supply and not just gentrifying it. But ultimately we’ll lose most of the old cheap buildings, and I think that means people who want to live in Seattle will have to make close to the median income (currently $68K I think). There’s still a chance to keep it from going up to $125K (in today’s dollars).

      5. Anandakos, I think you’re right about what’s happening to Seattle. It could be prevented *if* it were legal to build lots of tall buildings. By doubling, tripling, quadrupling, quintupling the number of apartments per square mile, it would become possible to accomodate all the rich people and still have room for the middle class and even the poor.

        But it isn’t legal to build lots of tall buildings. As long as that is the case, your fate is the same as San Francisco’s, only worse: spectacularly expensive housing.

      6. Please note that there are plenty of fairly poor people living in Manhattan even in unsubsidized apartments (though not midtown or downtown). This is because there are *no short buildings*, with 4 stories being the absolute minimum throughout most of the island, and there are no lot setbacks, either.

        If Seattle relaxed its draconian zoning laws, developers would build enough housing for the upper class, the middle class, and the working poor. Right now, the restrictions on building in Seattle, as in San Francisco, mean that any new construction is targeted at the top end of the market; developers have to be allowed to *saturate* the top end of the market (like the developers in Manhattan do with 100-story Midtown skyscrapers) before they will start moving into the next market segment down.

      7. I’m a skeptical voter. I’m not in the Puget Sound area, but if I were… I’d look at my priorities. If the ballot measure included the actual priorities that I cared about, then I’d probably support it even if it included stupid extra things. But if a ballot measure somehow omits the priorities while including the stupid extra things, I tend to vote no.

        Subarea equity was a method of making sure that each area got its priorities addressed. If Snohomish can fund Paine Field on its own and wants too, great. If Snohomish is “borrowing” tax money from Seattle to build its Paine Field diversion, then Seattle will get shortchanged on its priorities, and I would vote no in disgust. So would many Seattle voters.

        Don’t forget that “Roads and Transit” failed. If you hook something nice to something people don’t like, you may get fewer votes than if you put it on the ballot by itself. If Paine Field requires “borrowing” tax money from other subareas, it is likely to be a *drag* on the ballot.

    1. Because SoundTransit sales taxes from North and East King are like crack to suburban politicans: one puff and they’re on a deep downward spiral. If they get a train they know they can’t pay for, it’ll have to come from somewhere else. What’s not to like?

      1. Wouldn’t subarea equity prevent North King and East King money being used for the Orting rail line, through? They would have to take money from Tacoma’s projects in that case………

      2. @Bob unless they can make “network benefit” arguments as the financial guy was going on about at today’s meeting. If North and East King riders would “benefit” from an extension apparently we can be charged for it.

        In order to say that with a straight face though, they’d have to at least have all day bi-directional routes.

        I really have a hard time seeing any Orting route being any kind of benefit to a King County rider though…

      3. There seems to be a clear stated intent to loot sales taxes from the dense part of King County to pay for lines to the boondocks. Without building lines in the dense parts first.

        This is really no good and you should nip it in the bud.

    2. ST’s Long-Range Plan is just a collection of things it might possibly want in the next hundred years. It’s not a definite plan. The reason it exists is ST can’t legally build anything that’s not in the Long-Range Plan, so it throws everything it might possibly want into it. It’s also horse-trading: it makes the exurban boardmembers more willing to approve the central projects. The exurban boardmembers know that some of the projects like Orting and Spanaway aren’t very likely; they’ve said so in board meetings. But they want it in the Long-Range Plan to keep open the possibility. The boardmembers realize they’re more likely to get ST Express or BRT than any kind of rail.

      The ST boundary was drawn to include more exurban land in Pierce County than in King or Snohomish County. Orting and Bonney Lake and Spanaway and Du Pont are in, but Covington and Duvall are out, and Marysville and Snohomish and Lake Stevens are out. That shows astute bargaining by Pierce County politicians. But it’s why Orting has a potential line and Smokey Point doesn’t.

      Also, the proposal is for DMUs. DMUs look like light rail but have a diesel engine in each car. Those are cheaper than Sounder. The reason Sounder has heavy locomotive-driven trains is the feds wouldn’t allow DMUs on tracks shared with freight, unlike in Europe. That has changed recently with railroads getting Positive Train Control which can stop a train remotely to prevent a collision. So DMUs may become more widespread on routes which were too expensive for Sounder, and Sounder itself may have DMUs someday (but it already spent a lot of money on conventional trains which are still new, so not anytime soon).

      1. Or (he said hopefully) we’ll be rid of diesel pollution by the time the Sounder locos are ready for replacement, and can move to EMUs and OHLE instead. A guy can dream.

  17. Anyone notice that the Ballard-Downtown via at-grade on Westlake actually includes a tunnel under the ship canal and in the heart of Fremont?

    Option 3/C-01c: Downtown Seattle to Ballard (Market Street vicinity) LRT, primarily elevated/tunnel options – this would be located where through Interbay? Which side of the tracks? Might it allow for, gasp, TOD along the east edge of Magnolia? I do like that this alignment also works well for UW-Ballard as it comes into Ballard from the SW and aims it eastward.

  18. For downtown to West Seattle I strongly endorse option C3C.

    Delridge and a White Center has to be a priority. The Junction is well connected as is and can be more easily connected to a C3C Delridge light rail line than trying to connect white center and Delridge to an end point at the junction.

    It also provides a possible line to Burien, des monies, and Seatac.

  19. In south King, Pierce, and north Snohomish counties, the spine could be frequent express bus. Why build Link at tremendous cost, provide excess capacity, and forgo better transit projects?

    1. That’s what the opponents are saying. Run BRT from the various Snohomish cities to Lynnnwood, and from the various Pierce cities to Des Moines or Federal Way. And do that big Sounder South project (third track, hourly service from Seattle to Lakewood), which could also reduce travel time. That would greatly benefit all the cities on Sounder South. Southern BRT to Link without the Sounder enhancements might still necessitate the express buses to downtown peak hours.

      However, the ST board has not shown any interest in this direction. Although maybe we can cross or fingers on the big Sounder project.

  20. Using SR99 adds nothing but cost because the two roads are so close together.”

    Actually, it does, because it at least potentially allows the stations to be on the north and west side of SR99 where there is the opportunity for some human-scale development. The space between the freeway and SR99 and the land to the east and south of I-5 is completely filled with auto-sprawl and will forever be immune to muscle powered access to the stations.

  21. Why should we assume that ridership numbers here are accurate if Sound Transit has had so many problems in the past achieving those numbers or even coming up with logical ones? There failure in the past has lead the editor of this blog to essentially dismiss the importance of those numbers ( Their failure to account for a ridership increase with a station at NE 130th was legendary. They simply failed to account for bus to rail interaction, and they seem to be doing so again.

    1. Uh, Ross, I think you should remind yourself what the post you linked to actually says, which is that the way they are useful is in comparing potential projects.

      There may be serious flaws in the analysis, but it most certainly beats whatever we happen to feel in our guts.

      Furthermore, in light of recent events the assumption that Metro will aggressively integrate with Link seems… dicey.

      1. Lets’ build a massive 10 lane freeway between Wenatchee and Liberty because with population growth, sometime in the next 500 to 1,000 years they will probably need it.

        When they built MAX Orange Line, they knew that there were going to be transfers to and from the trains at Bybee Blvd. So, they rebuilt the Bybee Blvd overpass of highway 99E and the Union Pacific to include bus pull-outs on the north and south side of the bridge as well as an elevator and staircase on both the north and south side of the bridge.

        How is it possible to plan the correct amount of infrastructure to build into the light rail line if you don’t know how many passengers are going to be delivered to it by the buses at the various stations and where those buses will be when they get to those stations?

        This is beside the issue of planning the bus network feeding the light rail line so that ridership on both are maximized.

    2. Modeling is important. Of course modeling is important. Quality modeling is among the most powerful and persuasive tools planners and urbanists have, should they truly desire to seek outcomes rather than talking points.

      But quality models are absolutely dependent on the quality of the inputs given and the algorithmic approach taken. This is just as true if using the numerical outcomes for comparative purposes between options as it is for citing them for raw marketing.

      Bad data + bad algorithms = bad results.

      If the inputs and algorithms are shackled by politics and wishful thinking (see: PSRC growth areas, “rail bias” bonus independent of access quality, etc.) rather than attentive to trends on the ground and studied human rational mode-choice behavior, then the numbers they yield — high or low — aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

      Check out these two documents:

      Each time you peruse them, you’ll discover new troubling things, such as the downtown line’s emphasis on passing through PSRC-favored areas like LQA and the “Ballard-Interbay Manufacturing Industrial Center” (because low-scale light industry is awesome for transit demand).

      Remember, of course, that Ballard Proper, which has now been the prediction-exceeding residential-growth capital of the state for nearly 2 decades (300% of growth predictions and counting!), is not considered by the PSRC to be of any “regional” importance whatsoever.

      Meanwhile, the north-south line gets (it seems) bonus tens-of-thousands for being more industrial than the east-west line. But then you go to the last page of east document, and you’ll notice that the north-south line scores “high” for multimodal transit integration, while the east-west line only scores “medium-high”.

      Holy cow, that is ridiculous! The sole north-of-canal station on the radial line is literally impossible to integrate into the rest of North Seattle’s route network. It guarantees Metro’s future failure to serve it well, far more even than the Capitol Hill single-stop debacle guaranteed failure there (that you blame on the wrong organization).

      Somehow the north-south line gets the highest possible “integration” ranking, with all the attendant bonus rider numbers. Even though the access is bad for 3/4 of the route, and the failure you fear in inevitable. But the Ballard Spur, crossing every single radial gridded bus route in North Seattle (NOW — Without a restructure), and passing through a continuum comprised of five multi-purpose activity centers (but none PSRC-endorsed) and with consistent density throughout, gets a lower “integration” ranking.

      Remember, this is the organization (Sound Transit, not Metro) that said that only a handful of riders will be added to the system if we add a station at NE 130th. Do you believe that to be true? If not, why do you think they are telling the truth now?

      1. RossB,
        I don’t think you can just dismiss LQA with a hand wave. It is a very important activity center with decent employment, entertainment, and residential density nearby. It is no Totem Lake.

        Passing through Interbay is simply because it is on the way. That said Interbay has a lot of potential for TOD.

        That said the high numbers for Ballard-downtown are likely based on 3 things:
        1. Demand to/from Ballard
        2. Demand to/from LQA
        3. Demand to/from SLU

        The “high” multi-modal score is most likely due to serving downtown.

        All that said I’d love to see the tenative per-station boarding numbers for both corridors serving Ballard. This would give us a better understanding of the assumptions ST is making.

      2. The PSRC model appears to be completely defective and obviously broken: its growth predictions have been categorically wrong everywhere for the last 10 years, overestimating some places by factors of 10 and underestimating others by factors of 10.

        To the extent to which Sound Transit is basing projections on the PSRC model, Sound Transit’s projections are also worthless, and our gut instincts are better.

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