This is part of a series of posts looking at Sound Transit’s candidate projects for ST3.


Sound Transit has made it clear they would like a light rail extension to West Seattle part of this fall’s ST3 vote.  Not since the days of the Monorail has a rapid transit extension stirred up so much debate amongst the armchair planners.  While some believe that current bus ridership is too small to justify a multi-billion-dollar light rail line, others note that the peninsula’s recent housing growth, access chokepoints, and cache of transit-friendly voters make it a no-brainer to lay tracks.

Sound Transit has presented three options for West Seattle.  All three Two would connect to downtown at International District station, and use the existing downtown transit tunnel to continue to Capitol Hill, Northgate, and eventually Everett, while the third would continue up 1st Avenue on the surface.* The split-spine tunnel is now part of the Ballard project, so the West Seattle options all start from the South end of downtown.

Option 1 starts from a downtown tunnel, stops at Stadium Station, crosses the Duwamish on a new elevated bridge, and terminates at Alaska Junction with stops at Fauntleroy and Delridge. It would cost between $1.7 and $1.9B and serve 39,000-50,000 riders in 2040.

On a recent podcast, Martin and I wondered whether it would be controversial if there are elevated light rail tracks running up to the Junction, along with Mount-Baker-like elevated stations.  It’s unclear whether that would be resolved before the extension goes to the ballot, but local advocates are already expressing interest in studying a tunnel.

Option 2 runs at-grade along 1st Ave and then follows the same path as Option 1 to the Junction.  It would cost $1.9B for 20,000-24,000 riders.  ST says that the cost of rebuilding 1st Avenue to accommodate surface rail makes this about as expensive as Option 1 for half the riders, making it the weakest of the three options.  Barring some weird issue where ST decides they won’t build a second downtown tunnel, I have a hard time seeing this one advance.

Option 3 would emerge from a downtown tunnel like Option 1, but instead follow Delridge Way down toward White Center.  It’s a much longer route that skips the Junction, but has stations at SW Thistle and SW Roxbury in the heart of White Center.  A travel time of 18 minutes and a cost of about $2B is good for 34,000 to 40,000 riders.

Option 1 vs. Option 3 sets up a Junction-vs-Delridge/White Center fight.  Whichever neighborhood is chosen, the other would have a bus transfer before the bridge.  Option 3 is slightly more expensive and has slightly lower ridership, but serves a more economically disadvantaged and diverse neighborhood.

ST also looked at a light rail extension from the Junction to Burien via Morgan Junction and Westwood Village. This was not presented as an official “ST3 candidate project,” but it was studied.  It would cost about $2.8B for a 9.1 mile elevated extension. The 22-minute ride would serve 10,000 to 15,000 riders.

*Update 10:52am: Option 2 would continue on the surface, not in the tunnel.

160 Replies to “ST3: Link to West Seattle”

  1. “The split-spine tunnel is now part of the Ballard project, so the West Seattle options all start from the South end of downtown.”

    Well, that’s one way to make West Seattle look like it costs less.

    “[Delridge] serves a more economically disadvantaged and diverse neighborhood.”

    Beware that fortunes can change in the 10-25 years before this line opens. Currently Delridge is just beginning to be discovered, but that’s what the Central District and Columbia City were like in 1990. So it may be less disadvantaged and diverse by the time Link opens, and the reason for the line bypassing the commercial center of West Seattle may be gone. On the other hand, even if it gentrifies it will probably remain less affluent than the Junction because of the lack of businesses and views. Speaking of businesses, are there any moves to make it more mixed-use and at least get a supermarket into the area, or is it to remain in residential-only monozoning?

  2. Why is a new bridge necessary? I never could find the reason the current West Seattle Bridge was ruled out. Anyone have a link to the study? Utilizing the current infrastructure (like the East Link on i-90) could save some serious cash and make serving West Seattle much more appealing.

    1. I’m guessing they decided that the construction impacts of using the existing bridge would be unacceptable. At a minimum, the bus lanes in both directions, plus the adjacent traffic lane, would have to be closed for several years, during which buses would have to slog it out in the remaining lanes in mixed traffic.

      EastLink is a bit different because the I-90 express lanes are already separated enough from the regular lanes that construction on the express lanes doesn’t have to impact the regular lanes. They are also doing work to squeeze in an HOV lane on the regular lanes before starting the light rail construction on the express lanes.

      1. There is no reason why digging up asphalt/concrete to lay tracks, finishing the tracks and hanging catenaries would take “years” for a bridge. forgive an odd analogy, but a bridge recentrly crossed the Danube river in Bratislava, Slovakia (granted, it was a purpose built bridge for a new rail extension, but the thing is, when the bridge was built, there were no rails on it – no catenary.

        Putting the rails in (covered in concrete, as this is also to serve occasional busses and EMS) took less than 2 months on a 1km/ 3k ft bridge. This is not entirely apples to oranges — this bridge was closed for construction, so construction could go on uninterrupted, etc, but for the West Seattle Bridge (length 3k ft, we would likely look at closure of each bus lane for 3-4 months, and then weekend/evening closures to finish catenaries — far from “years” of closure.

        (all of this assumes that the bridge can take the tracks + up to TWO heavy 400ft long / 400,000 lbs heavy train sets. I have no knowledge that relates whether such would indeed be possible)

    2. I-90 was designed from the start to take rail, the WS Bridge was not. The monorail study that said otherwise was monofail level engineering (not to be believed).

      This isn’t to say it wouldn’t be possible, just that it is probably better and cheaper to build a new bridge. And there are probably other advantages too.

      1. @RossB … There are many, many very steep streetcars and light rails (all without being racked) that would like to disagree with you. You need powerful engines to climb (which ought to be no problem given the ST Link’s high voltage), and I sincerely doubt the slopes are steep enough to break the friction.

        Again — the bridge may not be structurally capable of up to 800,000 lbs swinging through it, but that is separate from grades.

  3. The success of a line that chooses the junction over Delridge is wholly dependent on an A+, shining star, Atlantic Cities post-worthy transfer from the Delridge bus. That’s where the bulk of the riders are coming from. Those arguing for the Junction need to also argue for slap-your-mama good transfers at Faultnerorrory (or however that is spelled) and Delridge, especially.

    1. As sketched, the options to the Junction leave the bridge and run south on Delridge to the vicinity of Genesee before turning west again. The DSHS property at Dakota seems like a decent spot to build a transit center directly under the line for a seamless and quick transfer. The Triangle is more difficult since it’s more developed, but the stretch with the KFC and lumber yard could efficiently connect the 21 to a station built there.

      Even if the line runs down Delridge to White Center, you need an excellent transfer from RR C, the 21, and the 53/54/55 series in the same vicinity of North Delridge (and that total ridership is equally large), so you’re facing the same dilemma.

      1. “Even if the line runs down Delridge to White Center, you need an excellent transfer from RR C, the 21, and the 53/54/55 series in the same vicinity of North Delridge (and that total ridership is equally large), so you’re facing the same dilemma.”

        Good point.

    2. It should be one of those transfers where the bus enters the mezzanine of the station. Toronto, Boston and believe it or not, Atlanta’s MARTA have good examples of this (Art Center & Lenox).

  4. Another question not answered is what happens to the existing bus lanes on the West Seattle bridge if a parallel light rail line opens and buses aren’t traveling on those lanes anymore? Do they convert to HOV or revert to general-purpose lanes? If the bus lanes are still used by a fringe route, such as the 50, is that enough of a justification to keep them bus-only lanes?

    1. If by fringe routes you mean ones that don’t exit onto 99, then yeah the bus lane really wouldn’t be necessary any more. There’s not that much congestion trying to reach the 1st Ave exit, at least compared to the 99 exit backup, and there’ll be even less once rail is running from the junction to downtown.

  5. Why would a junction line be mutually exclusive with a delridge line? Couldn’t we build both? Looks like in terms of ridership this would be a much better investment then say, link from Federal way to Tacoma or link to (not downtown) Kirkland.

    1. Subarea equity.

      In the past it was believed that ST had to make sure the project spending was proportional to each subarea’s tax contribution (North King, East King, South King, Pierce, Snohomish). That was recently clarified that ST only has to disclose how much of the money benefits the subarea. So ST3 will probably have relaxed subarea equity, but not to the extent of excluding Federal Way Link or Kirkland HCT completely.

      1. But that doesn’t quite answer the question. Why can’t we have a line that hits both the Junction and Delridge? I’m assuming its some kind of geography or technical limitation?

        Kinda like a “porque no los dos” commercial

      2. Because Delridge is a corridor, and the Junction is a point outside that corridor? There could definitely be a line serving the Junction and part of Delridge – the north part, specifically. I guess there could also be a question-mark-shaped line heading to the Junction and then straight back across the greenbelt to the south part of Delridge, but no one would want to ride it due to the significant out-of-direction travel. Once you’re at the Junction, the best thing to do – if you aren’t just going to end it there – is either head north to Admiral or south to Morgan Junction.

      3. Lol William, as if zig zagging all over the place weren’t a specialty ST is hell-bent on perfecting.

      4. A 45th line can zigzag to Fremont and Ballard because they are concentrated neighborhood centers. But “Delridge” and “California” are linear corridors that are parallel, so a single north-south line can’t serve both of them. It can serve one and have a station at one or two ends of the other, but that’s the closest (and what an Avalon-California-Westwood Village-White Center routing would be). In contrast, a Delridge routing can’t really serve central West Seattle at all. Also, with Link’s stop spacing if can’t fully serve a linear corridor anyway, so they’ll both need shadow buses in any case.

    2. If the Junction line were to be never extended, it would make sense to branch and have a line to each destination. However, a more sensible long-term plan is to extend the Junction Line south in the future to serve Westwood, White Center and Burien. There aren’t any anchor destinations along Delridge between the West Seattle Bridge and the vicinity of Westwood that would be missed by a Junction-Westwood-White Center light rail line.

  6. Missing the junction is one of those transit decisions you regret for 30 years and spend 3x as much money to fix retroactively.

    That said, for voting and future planning purposes, it might behoove ST to demonstrate a plan for a West Seattle “Phase 2” which would continue south down to Burien, even if its unfunded in this package.

    1. I live in the Junction, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. But I would think you’d build to the Junction with the intent to extend to the Morgan Junction -> Westwood -> White Center -> Burien. If that is built, you could run frequent bus service that just goes up and down Delridge between the White Center and Delridge station.

      I agree that missing the Junction would be something you don’t want to do. It’s the densest part of West Seattle, and it’s only getting denser. There are still quite a few spots for fairly large mixed use developments. And three mixed use developments are near opening. Even the single family homes in the area are slowly getting phased out. There are 4 or 5 houses near me that have been converted to 4 townhome plots each. And I recently got a letter trying to get me to sell my house for a similar development.

      1. On top of that, missing the Junction and choosing to serve White Center instead means spending more money to serve fewer riders. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

        Yes, yes: it’s slighting low-income people in White Center. There is no win on this one. If you build the light rail to White Center instead, then you’re using light rail as a tool to gentrify low-income people out of their homes. Whichever option you choose can be attacked as insensitive to the poor.

        The real way to help the poor is to attack the obscene and growing level of inequality in our society.

      2. From a North Delridge perspective, I see great benefit to having an easy connection to the Junction for shopping and the other services currently lacking in the neighborhood. A line down Delridge to Thistle would need to cut over to Westwood Village to provide similar access to services, but with no stops between Genesee and Thistle it ends up being useless to most of the corridor between the bridge and White Center, so the 120 (or a local equivalent) will still need to provide frequent service on that corridor to connect to the light rail stations.

      3. I’m curious as to why they run a line significantly farther, but don’t add more stations. I’m also curious as to how they get higher numbers for one route, when, even when you account for the poor stop spacing, both areas look identical from a population density standpoint. It is if as they favor one route over the other, and cooked the numbers (and the station placement) to support the case.

      4. “I’m curious as to why they run a line significantly farther, but don’t add more stations.”

        Because it’s just a concept to compare the alternatives and projects and illustrate the must-serve neighborhoods. Some of the materials specifically say that. It stops at the Junction because it’s trying to stay within a certain budget… again for comparison. When the draft system plan (=entire network) comes up, we can say we want stations at 35th or wherever written into it, and we want it to go to at least White Center (if we do), etc.

    2. Agreed, but a whole lot of buildings to snake through or knock down if ST wants to go elevated through those sections of WS/WC. Underground would be way more politically palatable.

    1. At least to the mercury and PCB’s., plus there’s a big hill on the west side. Never too soon to start climbing.

      1. Good example of some pertinent underground considerations, Mic. Not only poisons themselves, but fumes.

        But remeber, the Alps got tunneled only after millenia of cross-traffic now being taxidermized before they start to thaw.

        Maybe the ill-fated Beacon Hill attempt will come out from under the glacier around the time average driver Everett driver entering I-5 in 2040 will arrive at the Ship Canal.

        Cable-way possible. Though to avoid poisoning workers, pillars have to be dug in by robot machines fast enough to get the work done before the machine itself becomes a toxic brillo pad.

        High – speed hydrofoil ferries like the ones between Finland and Estonia might be best. So long as they land at Alki and stay out of the Duwamish.


      2. I always enjoy Mark’s picturesque and evocative comments, though I must confess I rarely have any idea what he is actually talking about.

    2. The turning basin by the Museum of Flight is the end of navigable waters. After that there are some fixed low bridges.

  7. What’s the combined transit ridership at present from W. Seattle to DT? Those estimates make W. Seattle out to be a destination on par with UW. W. Seattle has a population of 58,964. We’re to believe that half the population is going to ride the train everyday to DT? Right… pass the Kool-Aid.

    1. It will be crazy easy to get downtown for meals and things so that’s at least 3 trips per day each direction, so x6..

      1. And it’s not like Roxbury is a magical barrier that people won’t cross. There are people who live in White Center and the other side of Roxbury that would transfer from a bus to the rail.

      2. The important number is how many are going to be in the walkshed or have a frequent short bus connection to where ever the line goes. And as the dueling options point out, one line does not serve West Seattle / White Center. Of course if you were building a rail line from DT to White Center it would be pretty silly to build a high level bridge over the Duwamish instead of completing the missing link and connecting to “the spine” at Boeing Access Rd. before pushing west.

      3. Either line would serve Westwood Village and White Center when it gets that far south. I can’t see the Junction line going to the ferry terminal and missing them.

    2. Many West Seattle residents that normally drive to work in places other than Downtown would be potentially well served by LRT that connects them to the broader system of N/S and E/W LR routes, and would allow them to ditch their cars for work commuting.

      It’s practically a stereotype to assume that everybody that commutes off of the peninsula works downtown, particularly when you look at the car queues going to I-5. If I had to commute from WS to work in a place other than downtown (and have done so in the past) given the lack of timely public transit access, I would drive since it would be the most time efficient, if not the most environmentally friendly means of travel.

      1. Good bus service would do exactly the same thing, at cheaper cost, with fewer transfers. It is really silly to think that huge numbers of people from all over West Seattle will flock to the one line at all hours of the day to get to where they want to go. Oh, did I mention — most of the hours of the day the bus moves just fine — way faster than a bus/train combo will.

      2. Many West Seattle residents that normally drive to work in places other than Downtown would be potentially well served by LRT

        With a transfer it would save ~8 min over the existing RapidRide C. Is that significant enough to make people leave their car at home? Some yes and the system will be much larger by the time this ever gets built. And congestion on the roads will undoubtedly be worse.

        Currently the West Seattle Bridge has the highest traffic of any City arterial

        That’s an impressive volume of traffic. It’s hard to tell from the blob maps but some is headed south on 509 and some over to I-5. So it’s hard to infer how much of the traffic is into DT. I don’t know all the bus routes that use the bridge but as a rough estimate I’d guess ~20% of the trips are made by transit? Page 9 of the 2014 SDOT traffic report says overall 30% of trips in Seattle are by transit. Of course commute share and all trips are two different beasts.

      3. There’s no connection from the WS bridge eastbound to 509 southbound. The only ramps there are WS bridge east->99 north, and 99 south->WS bridge west.

      4. That’s strange but I see now that to get on 509 SB you exit the “West Seattle Bridge” west of the Duwamish. So, that begs the question as to where the traffic count screen point is and if it captures any of that traffic and traffic on the Spokane St. bridge. Traffic dependent of course but if the roadways are clear according to Google the fastest route from the Junction to SeaTac Airport by a couple of minutes is going all the way over to I-5 even though it’s 2 miles farther.

    3. The West Seattle population is actually higher than that city-data link because West Seattle extends to the Duwamish, which the link didn’t account for.

      1. You can expand the definition of West Seattle to be whatever you like but all of the stations for option 1 are in the area Defined by City-Data as West Seattle and they are all in the far northern half. Option 2 looks to be entirely in the neighborhood defined as Delridge, pop. 32,459. The ridership estimates just don’t scale with the number and location of stations. They’re playing it as if West Seattle Junction in 2040 is going to have the ridership of today’s DSTT. The area doesn’t have vast tracts of unused land, it’s already expensive and it’s isolated. I just don’t see this happening even if Metro decides it won’t run any buses across the West Seattle Bridge and force transfers for everyone trying to leave the bubble.

      2. I agree Bernie. The numbers are ridiculous. From a per station basis, these would exceed our highest stations (Westlake, SeaTac, etc.).

        Outside of downtown and SeaTac, our highest performing station is Mount Baker. It has less than 2,000 riders boarding and alighting. Each station would have to more than triple the performance of that station. That just isn’t going to happen.

        Even if it does, since when is spending 2 billion so that 40,000 can get to their destination marginally faster a great value? Our much maligned RapidRide carries more people than that and saves more people more time than this ever would. The only way you would ever come close to carrying 40,000 people is if you force people to transfer all day long. If folks don’t want to get off the 7 and ride Link downtown, why would they want to transfer to this train? The 7 encounters traffic all the time getting to downtown. But for West Seattle, most of the day, a bus at the transfer point would get downtown by the time a rider got to the train station platform. Either you are going to force people to transfer (and thus worsen performance) or ridership won’t be even close to what they are projecting.

      3. RossB — Wouldn’t it be much less expensive, operationally, to have one driver steer a 4-car train downtown than 6 drivers steering their RRC, 57, 56, and 55 trains downtown? This also hints at how they boost overall ridership: Every bus currently serving West Seattle spends >1/2 its time zooming up and down 99, then crawling through downtown, with a lot of deadheading on the non-RR routes. If they’re all transferring at the junction, they can recirculate around WS and boost frequency.

        The other consideration is that the current super deluxe high-speed special access route for WS buses into/out of downtown, the Seneca/Columbia ramps on the viaduct, will no longer exist. Instead there’ll be some sort of useless, horribly congested surface street crawl to get through, so the bus travel times are gonna be much longer than current ones. The new downtown tunnel would solve that.

      4. Every bus currently serving West Seattle spends >1/2 its time zooming up and down 99, then crawling through downtown

        Which is exactly why ST should make it their #1 priority to replace the Bus Tunnel. It’s not just West Seattle but every bus in the City (the part with tall builds) that is reduced to a crawl because ST appropriated the Bus Tunnel for their trains.

      5. @jt — We see in our system right now that people are not too eager to abandon the bus downtown, even if it is slow, as opposed to making a a transfer. You could have huge operational savings by simply turning around every south end bus at SoDo (where people could take the train) but no one wants to make that transfer. It is this way for most bus routes. Just end the north end buses at Westlake and see how that flies. It is my understanding that we are not unique in that regard. Systems that ask people to get right to the edge of downtown and then transfer are not that popular, even though the operational savings are huge. This would be a similar system, because from a practical standpoint, a West Seattle on ramp (where the big transfer station would be) is right on the edge of downtown.

        But yes, this would save money operationally if you truncated the routes. You would spend billions to save millions. You could have similar savings by building the WSTT, and make a handful of improvements to the West Seattle Freeway and Spokane Street Viaduct. These would not be cheap, but they would be much cheaper than building a light rail line. Regardless, though, the operational savings from light rail are minor compared to the capital costs.

        One thing to keep in mind is that it is more expensive to run a train than a bus. I don’t know the number — it certainly isn’t six times — but it is more expensive. But from a user standpoint, high frequency on a shared line is better, if that shared line is where the demand is. In this case, it most certainly is. For the WSTT, the bulk of the ridership would be between South Lake Union/Uptown and SoDo.

      6. One thing to keep in mind is that it is more expensive to run a train than a bus. I don’t know the number — it certainly isn’t six times — but it is more expensive.

        IIRC the factor is ~2:1. It’s complicated though. ST reports every caterpillar LRV as a separate entity for service/platform hour purposes. So one two car train running for an hour is 2 service hours, 4 car trains generate 4 service hours. Trains scale up really well; they don’t scale down. So if you run a 2 car train it’s cost per hour per vehicle is roughly the same as a bus. You get the savings of only having one operator offset by the cost or running the train. So, the key is to be running routes that exceed the capacity of a single bus to make the break even point. That doesn’t touch on the capital costs which are higher to build out for rail but perhaps less over say a 30 year time span. It’s really hard to say because Metro/ST doesn’t have to pay for road repairs (or purchase highway ROW) which isn’t cheap and buses are really hard on roads. But ROT, if you’ve got 2 car trains better than half full you’re at the point that rail makes sense.

        The other model where rail wins is the peak capacity case. If the roads are stretched beyond capacity then commuter rail starts to look pretty good vs adding lanes that sit empty 75-80% of the day. That’s of course especially true if you can leverage existing rail lines.

      7. It’s very difficult to determine what the cost of running a train vs a bus is as there is quite a lot of that cost that is wrapped up in expenses not associated with actual train operation. The Checkpoint Charlie border patrol agent at the south entrance to the DSTT would be there if there were one train or 100. Escalators run and break down if there are 0 passengers or 700 passengers. Platform lights? Park and ride cleaning? All that shows up as operating expense that will be the same if Link had rubber tires or steel wheels.

      8. “ST appropriated the Bus Tunnel for their trains”

        It was always intended for trains to fill it completely someday.

  8. While I firmly believe silver or gold level BRT would be a better deal for West Seattle, if rail is built I agree it needs to serve the Junction directly rather than Delridge.

    Looking at the ST estimates I will say West Seattle rail is still a better deal than “completing the spine” or building a Kirkland-Issaquah line.

  9. As priorities go, the second Doentown Seattle + Ballard seems to be the highest. I think we should see how that pencils out before agreeing to an expensive West Seattle option.

      1. Given cash flow constraints, I suspect the line to WS would be the last of these to turn a shovel of dirt.

      2. The goal is bigger than that. The goals are Ballard to DT, 2nd tunnel DT, DT to West Seattle, Ballard to UW, and very importantly, contingency line planning. If federal money comes in we should be able to use it to build a larger system, not just pay down the bonds faster.

      3. It will be interesting to see what order the projects are in. I don’t think we can fully predict it. But the DSTT2 would probably have to begin first, both to avoid throttling the existing ST2 ridership and to get more circulation downtown as quickly as possible. If DSTT2 does not open by 2023, then Federal Way and Redmond will both be using DSTT and there’ll no room for West Seattle or Ballard. If it opens a few years later and Ballard is not ready yet… then it gets complicated, especially if West Seattle is ready in the meantime. Putting Lynnwood-Federal Way in DSTT2 would split the north end service between two tunnels and lead to unevenly-full trains and longer waits (because people won’t know which train will come next or be emptier). Putting West Seattle in DSTT2 as an orphan line would require it to be moved later. But Federal Way will have to be moved sooner or later anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter if West Seattle has to move too.

      4. Interesting thinking, Mike. I doubt anything will open by 2023, especially DSTT2 – the density of existing infrastructure downtown makes the work far more complicated than other projects, and 7 years from ballot to train is already record breaking. But I agree, it will probably be done downtown first, as that’s the segment that makes West Seattle and Ballard work.

        Of course, there’s a whole other layer due to construction and financial logistics, about which the best I can do is speculate. I’d imagine, for instance, that the space constraints downtown would lead to them to keep TBMs in the ground from the industrial district to 15th ave NW, if possible, which could favor opening that whole length at once. Or not.

      5. If ID-West Seattle were ready more quickly than DSTT2, it wouldn’t be impossible to accommodate the trains in DSTT1. DSTT1 isn’t forecast to be at capacity until 2035 to 2040, and if Option 1 were selected the stretch to Alaska Junction could surely be completed by 2028 or so. Even if the second tunnel didn’t come online for three or four years there would be “room in the inn” for West Seattle-bound trains.

        Now the manure would hit the air impeller when DSTT2 opened at the south end trains move to it. It will not be popular for North Seattle, Shoreline and SnoHoCo to lose direct airport service.

        No, I’m not advocating keeping it, because it makes more balanced daily loads to do the “big X”, but people will hyperinflate the importance of that easy trip to the airport, even if they only take it twice a year.

      6. “If federal money comes in”

        “Stop! Stop! My sides hurt from laughing too much. Please.”

        See Seattle Times front page today (Feb 10). Lynnwood Link grants are doing well, along with CCC and Swift II. They aren’t decisively funded yet but they’re on track… if Congress passes the next transportation bill and doesn’t gut transit from it.

  10. Op1ion 1 all the way.

    Option 2 surface option is a non-starter, similar to the at-grade Ballard option… and there are no savings for the impending delays and iefficiency.

    There are some good things about the delridge route. I have a hard time imagining that there would be much off-peak traffic. There’s not much retail or anything resembling a neighborhood center along Delridge that woud serve as an attraction for people that don’t live nearby. Mostly it’s relatively low density postwar housing, with smallish parcels. The Junction, Morgan Junction and Westwood have sufficient retail and potential for density that the could be destinations in their own right. If I lived along the line I would use it to go to Target, or the Junction retail center. It’s hard to imagine that occurring in Delridge. A poster above mentioned Delridge being similar to Columbia City or Mount Baker before light rail years ago, but the difference is that CC and Mt. Baker and Hillman City have always had old, pre-war centers of density and services that are lacking along delridge. Grade separated transit along California or Fauntleroy seems like it would be more of a necessity than along Delridge. A Rapid Ride connection from the Delridge station to a future White Center station with good transfers would seem sufficient to serve southern reaches of Delridge. Delridge is also isolated. There are few roads that go up the hill to the rest of West Seattle to provide bus connections to the stations.

    In terms of social equity, High Point is an SHA development like Rainier Vista and New Holly. The option 1 line could eventually achieve some social equity by getting to High Point/Morgan Junction if the station was closer to Fauntleroy or 35th). I wonder what the cost and ridership gains would look like to extend option 1 to Morgan Junction/High Point? I also wonder if ridership numbers for a Highpoint area station would be accurate. The SHA redevelopment (which has increased the densty of the neighborhood significantly) has occurred since the last census, so census data is not likely to paint an accurate picture.

    1. ” A poster above mentioned Delridge being similar to Columbia City or Mount Baker before light rail years ago,”

      Only in the demographic sense, the income level of the residents, not the types of buildings and services.

      “but the difference is that CC and Mt. Baker and Hillman City have always had old, pre-war centers of density and services that are lacking along delridge.”

      Yes, that’s what makes me hesitate about a Delridge line as the only West Seattle line. High-capacity transit needs to connect the urban villages because those are what generate the ridership demand long-term. Both directly (going from village to village), indirectly (taking a bus to the village and transferring to a train), and hybrid (taking a train to the village, doing daily shopping and errands there, and a bus home). If people have to take a bus from the village to a residential (especially single-family) area to transfer to the train, that will feel like backwards, time-wasting, bad design and they’ll wonder why they aren’t driving. Especially when they’re waiting for the bus and thinking, “I could do my errands now if the transfer were in a shopping area.”

      1. Right, I agree completely…The first line of the comment should have said. There are some good things about the Delridge alignment, BUT…

    2. High Point is the most densely populated area in West Seattle. Option one does not go there. Option three comes the closest, but ST, in its usual way, would not provide a station that would connect bus service to it. The 128 would literally cross right over (or under) the light rail line, but Link would not have a connection. The 128 connects the Junction, High Point and South Seattle College; it makes sense to connect it to the multi-billion dollar train. It is as if they are trying to make the other route look better.

      1. These are concepts, not precise streets, and the 128 could be rerouted, or be turned into two routes that both go to a station.

      2. Right. Just like light rail to Lynnwood is a concept. No need to spell out exactly where the stations should go. Obviously you would have a station every mile or so. NE 130th is a given. Anyone looking at a census map or a street map would put a station there.

        Sorry if I am cynical, but I have seen ST ignore bus to rail interaction too long. Yes, you can change the bus routes, but why? Why make the bus head the wrong direction — something that riders always oppose — just to get to Link?

        My biggest complaint is that people are looking at the ridership numbers, and ignoring this. Why should we trust the ridership numbers if they are obviously ignoring bus service?

      3. You’re comparing an ST ballot map with preliminary ideas. The ideas are just to decide which corridors to go with. The big issue is to get the stations you want into the ballot map. That would turn the burden of proof around so that ST would have to justify deleting them rather than adding them. That’s what we missed on 130th, which started as an “extra” station in one of the post-ballot alternatives.

    3. Option 1 is indeed the only one which makes sense. The most riders, the cheapest, the shortest, the simplest, the most grade separated…

      It should have LOTS of stations. There should be at least two more: one on the bridge and one more on the mainland.

  11. 1. Starting with another transit tunnel Downtown, this whole project may depend most on conditions underground along its route. For instance Jackson used to be an inlet of the Sound, and really still is. The DSTT project had to pump sticky cement into the ground for months to hold a tunnel before boring could start.

    2. It’s time to investigate how many studies the late Monorail project left behind about both soil condition south of Downtown and transit capacity of the existing West Seattle Bridge. Not expecting much, but for tax money collected we deserve to check.

    3. Built at the bottom of Beacon Hill, Mount Baker Station really had urban development on the Rainier Avenue side only. Elevated close to the Junction would need to buy some property, and much tolerance for a lot of structure.

    4. San Francisco MUNI N-Judah line at 9th and Irving illustrates perfectly a 180′ 2-car LRV turning from Alaska to California. The very sharp turn at the Junction, will be make any surface train a streetcar, whatever car length. Give me enough WordPress training not to cash Page 2 again, and I’ve got a really great pic.

    As buses now do, line could follow the square loop back to California. But neither smooth nor fast. We could temporarily (decades of maybe less) terminate a light rail subway at the Junction, and operate North-South service with buses ’til development justifies more digging.

    But- now that West Seattle has finally decided it needs real transit, the only questions left require skill with unusual conditions. Which the DSTT has long since proven we can handle a lot faster than we can decisions.

    Mark Dublin

  12. So pie in the sky option here.
    What if the line after crossing the Duwamish, enters a stacked tunnel and proceeds to the first station location and then splits with the main line surfacing and continuing on either of the two defined routes, and the other leg ending in a stub that could be extended to the other destination in ST4?

    1. To an extent it’s already designed that way, with either line turning south and running elevated on Delridge to Genesee. It would behoove ST to study the added cost of building a junction and stub into the line at that intersection for future expansion of the unfunded leg.

    2. A stub would be a good idea. That’s exactly what’s missing at U-District Station, as I’ve tried to tell ST for years to no avail.

      1. For whatever reason, rail planners in this city seem to loath stub junctions, even when their eventual use seems eminent. Look at FHSC as an example. While the line was being designed, there was already discussion of extending the line further north to the end of Broadway. By the time tracks were being laid, the preliminary engineering for this extension had begun. But did they install a switch on the northbound line at Howell street to accommodate this? No. Instead, when the line gets extended they will have to remove a section of track to put in the switch, thus halting service for whatever length of time that requires. The same goes for the other end of the line when they build the City Center Connector. There seems to be a condition where rail planners are unable to look beyond the end of their current contract.

      2. Serving SLU with a stub from the Ballard line would also make a lot of sense. Rather than skipping over Belltown to serve SLU, you could get both. The stub could be also be the terminus for the Blue Line and eventually extend up Aurora.

      3. Instead, when the line gets extended they will have to remove a section of track to put in the switch, thus halting service for whatever length of time that requires

        It should not take long. There are methods of doing this reasonably quickly. Witness the replacement of switches on the BNSF main line for higher speed crossovers between the two main lines.

    3. Excellent example of the over-under arrangement is the Skytrain tunnel under downtown Vancouver BC.

      As with their whole subway, though Vancouver lucked into an existing tunnel built in the steam-locomotive days, when rail tunnels needed a tall roof to vent the exhaust.

      So as with just about everything on this project, all the planning has to start with the toxic waste levels, and work upward from there.


      1. Vancouver’s luck was minimal compared to Sound Transit’s. Sound Transit was given a complete downtown transit tunnel, ready to go.

      2. … and ST still managed to delete one station of it. What a feat.

        (Yes, yes, I know that the undercrossing of I-5 wouldn’t work from there. Still, they should’ve replaced it.)

      3. You mean the station that’s across the freeway from its ridership market? I walk that several times a week. It’s not fun. Often I take a bus from downtown to avoid it, or the 43 or 49 from the U-District. Plus there’s the fact that the southbound routes are split between three bays, so you don’t know which one to go to for the next bus going south.

  13. If the CCC is built, then accommodating light rail on 1st would be practically impossible without turning the entire street transit-only and having four tracks running on it, right? I guess that’s another reason why that option probably won’t happen.

    1. I think it just means 1st Avenue S, not necessarily 1st Avenue all the way through downtown. ST had a downtown surface option in the 2014 Ballard study, and it was pretty universally criticized. A streetcar track could be designed to share with light rail since they’re technologically pretty close… well actually they do share in Portland now. But 4-car surface trains would probably be impossible because they’d span two blocks and block cross traffic, and you can’t close off cross streets downtown like you can on MLK. So it would have to be one- or two-car trains. That then gets into whether that’s enough long-term capacity, especially if the line might eventually be extended to Renton and Bothell.

      1. you can’t close off cross streets downtown like you can on MLK.

        Sadly, you can. It just pisses everyone off. Witness highway 99 and the blockade it make for any hope of local traffic (transit or pedestrian or anything else) to avoid Denny or Mercer.

    2. I’d agree that the First Avenue alignment seems like a non-starter and should probably be dropped. It was developed before the December operations plan was presented, so now it just appears to be a legacy option that doesn’t integrate easily into the new systems plan.

  14. Eds: I think you need to edit the post: “All three would connect to downtown at International District station, and use the existing downtown transit tunnel to continue to Capitol Hill, Northgate, and eventually Everett.”

    Option 2 actually goes through downotwn on the surface via 1st Ave, not in a tunnel.

  15. If light rail gets funded to West Seattle in ST3, I think there should be at least 10-12 variations that should be studied.

    1. With very little of Alaska Junction at high density west of California Street, it doesn’t do much for ridership to reach California Street as a station location yet those few blocks could be quite expensive to build. Also, the station needs to be oriented north-south (rather than be a mere dot as shown here) so that a southward expansion could be possible. Being a few blocks east would likely produce similar ridership.

    2. Like it or not, with so much of West Seattle in single-family houses, park-and-ride is going to emerge as a desire if this line is to be productive. If we don’t plan for that, neighborhood parking intrusion issues will be profound.

    3. Land for high-density redevelopment is needed and this needs to be considered. While there is some density in West Seattle, it pails when compared to even Lake City.

    4. Race and income equity issues are going to have to be acknowledged.

    Let’s encourage ST to present this as a general concept and to not lock us into a specific alignment until after ST3 is voted. If passed, ST would need lots more study of West Seattle options.


    1. 1. This is a high-level concept. ST’s ballot measures are vague to allow flexibility as more engineering studies and public debate are done and demographics change. After the corridors are approved, they’ll go through an EIS process which must consider all reasonable alternatives and modes, in order to be eligible for federal grants. The distance between California Ave and Delridge Way is comparable to the EIS alternatives that were considered for East Link and Lynnwood Link.
      – East Link: Bellevue Way, 112th, Eastside Rail Corridor, 405.
      – Lynnwood Link: Aurora, I-5, 15th Ave NE, Lake City Way.
      All of these were considered valid realizations of the ST2 corridors

      These concepts only illustrate the neighborhoods served and the initial alignment assumptions, not precisely which block the stations will be or which direction or how many stations. Those would be done in later phases in the EIS, after more detailed engineering studies are done.

      2. Park n rides didn’t happen in Rainier Valley so they won’t happen here. The city has a policy against new P&Rs. Only existing P&R are considered for upgrade.

      3. Zoning is the issue in West Seattle. It would be nice to say, “No light rail unless you upzone,” but in reality West Seattle has officials on the ST Board and city council who can override that.

      4. Yes, but what specifically does that imply? Delridge yes, Junction no?

      1. 4. Extend Option 1 to Morgan Junction. A Station Running E-W on SW Morgan Street. might be able to allow the West end of the station’s walkshed to cover Morgan Junction and the East end to High Point. Including High Point would provide access to a large low-income housing development. Of course, whether this works depends on where the alignments want to be north and south Morgan (under California, or Fauntleroy or somewhere further east), and potentially would decide whether an extension would serve the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal or head directly to Westwood/White Center.

        You could also run a N-S station under Fauntleroy or 39th Ave S @ Morgan but it’s a bit far to the eastern fringes of High Point.

      2. Seriously? This is one situation where a P&R is justified. I suggest at the steel mill with its huge, empty parking lots which will never have TOD due to contamination.

    2. 2. In lieu of P&R’s, many metro lines running through West Seattle could be routed as feeder buses to/from the light rail lines.

    3. If you think about what bus service along California might eventually look like after putting in a rail line to the Junction, the importance of the rail actually making it to California becomes more apparent. It’s pretty easy to imagine the C Line turning into a California line, directly connecting the points south of the Junction to the Admiral District and maybe Alki. Making everyone accessing the station walk three blocks up/down a decently steep hill or forcing a painful meander off California for the route would really kill bus-rail integration, which is pretty key for adequately serving West Seattle via transit.

      1. I’ll simply point out that buses can be rerouted a few blocks, and that bus-to-rail transfers should be carefully planned (as opposed to grand mistakes like Mt. Baker and UW stations). There may even be a better way to design a transit center for West Seattle if it isn’t on California; there hasn’t been enough study yet.

    4. #2 West Seattle already has a park and ride, thats underutilized, under the bridge between avalon, and chelan street.

      1. I tried to get a vanpool going from that P&R about 15 years ago, but no one felt safe parking their car there.

  16. My dad grew up in Highland Park, and my grandparents still live in White Center, but to consider bypassing the Junction for Delridge/White Center is idiotic. There are actually bustling parts of the junction…big city, people filled sidewalks, with lots of multi story residential and places people really want to go/shop/eat. I travel to White Center almost every week to visit the grandparents, love Zippy’s burgers, and McClendon’s is my go to for hardware, BUT this should not be where the first beachhead of light rail into W. Seattle is – it’s eons behind the Junction’s urban node-ness…you would be punishing one of the few places in Seattle that’s doing it right.

  17. I’m curious about the construction impact of a Delridge surface line. The Delridge corridor in places is so narrow that there would need to be significant use of eminent domain (especially south of Home Depot) and the east-west walkshed is already only a few blocks along much of the way. In addition, some of the densest development in the corridor is right on Delridge, and would probably have to be demolished to expand the right-of-way enough to fit at-grade rail plus traffic lanes and sidewalks.

      1. In some sections, there is only one lane in each direction. Take a look: http:// Where is rail going to go? Compare this to MLK due east of there: http://

        Judging by eye, I’m pretty sure that at-grade rail along Delridge is going to require some significant widening of the right-of-way.

    1. Two traffic lanes (one per direction) and two light rail tracks can fit throughout the corridor. On-street parking would have to be sacrificed, however.

      1. Are you sure? Compare this stretch of Delridge to this stretch of MLK I would have trouble believing you could fit two at-grade rail lines, two general lanes, and sidewalks there without significantly expanding the right-of-way.

      2. Actually, it is a bit tighter in there than MLK was.

        However, when ST was building through the valley SDOT required them to keep all 4 traffic lanes. “Thou Shalt Not Harm Traffic” was the mantra back then.

        Delridge could sacrifice on-street parking and the center turn lane for most of its length.

        Unless we’re still praying at the Altar of the Auto.

      3. Delridge is already one lane each direction. Even sacrificing the turn lane, bike lanes, and parking (and maybe even sidewalks), I’m not convinced you could fit at-grade rail without a significant expansion of the right-of-way.

      4. Don’t sacrifice the bike lanes, just the lanes for auto storage.

        Plus, the center turn lane running the entire length is not necessary.

        The adjustments for turning can be made at intersections, and the impact won’t be as significant.

      5. Center turn lanes don’t run the entire way. Take a look at the streetview link above: there is a parking lane, two general travel lanes, and a bike lane. Where are they going to build rail without shutting down the rest of the road?

      6. Your link shows the most challenging part, the 2/3 mile between Trenton and Henderson.

        The portion on Delridge Way is 4 miles.

        That’s doesn’t strike me as being a ‘significant expansion of the right-of-way’.

      7. My point all along has been that the right-of-way through that section will have to be significantly expanded in order to accommodate rail. Nothing more.

      8. @LWC, in the case of MLK, SDOT required and will require along Delridge that the arterials level of service (LOS) be maintained. As a matter of transportation concurrency, ST can not materially worsen an existing arterial condition and must mitigate to preserve it. You are correct they would have to widen the road in all likelihood like they did along MLK. MLK also had enormous amounts of ROW available and was able to expand without too much impact on neighboring properties. There is existing ROW in reserve along Delridge to accommodate expansion, but whether or not ST would need to acquire additional property rights beyond that is too early to tell at this stage.

  18. Option 1: The only reason to build surface rail downtown is if you intentionally want to make the service as bad as possible. Who comes up with this junk?
    Option 2: Only going as far as the Junction is silly. This needs to be extended to Westwood, White Center, Burien, and connect to Tukwilla station for airport transfers. That would also set the stage for furher extention to Southcenter, downtown Renton, Boeing, andthe Landing. If that will ever happen, we have to start with more than just serving the Junction.
    Option 3: Skip the largest populations anb business centers of West Seattle? Who comes up with this junk?
    All options: Of course, the West Seattle NIMBY will shit themselves over elevated rail, so whatever we get is going to get sued and compromised into near uselessness.
    Conclusion: Given these options, I don’t have much hope for West Seattle ever getting effective rail transit. Sound Transit needs to do a lot better than these options if they want West Seattlites to vote for ST3.

    1. “Who comes up with this junk?”

      People who want to keep their taxes low.

      “his needs to be extended to Westwood”

      That depends on how large ST3 is, which gets back to the tax issue.

      “Skip the largest populations anb business centers of West Seattle? Who comes up with this junk?”

      People who want the line to serve lower income, minority, transit-dependent communities. Also, they believed it would be higher ridership than the Junction.

    2. Who comes up with this junk?

      If this gets as far as an EIS then they have to compare alternatives. Hence, the cards are held close to the vest until the hired consultant comes back with the results showing what a brilliant idea the preferred alternative is.

      From Google directions it’s 5 miles from Trader Joes to King Street Station (12 minutes) via existing roads. Of that 5 miles and $2B it looks like about 4 miles of it is fly over country. That’s the same (original) estimate as the Hwy 99 two mile DT bypass. An additional Billion is for surface work and removing the viaduct. But it sort of points to the fact that for the money ST could build a new bus tunnel with room for one if not two future light rail lines.

  19. Just once, I wish that an alternative demonstrated an accompanying conceptual transit system plan complete with feeder RapidRide routes and perhaps feeder streetcar routes. Not only would it help the average resident feel good about investing in the project and not create neighborhood feuds, but it would also help ST focus and highlight the need to be planning better transit transfer locations as part of the system.

    For West Seattle, concepts to link all the communities and key locations (Alki, Admiral, Morgan Junction, White Center, Westwood, Fauntleroy Dock, Burien, etc.) by a RapidRide or streetcar would build much more enthusiasm than just showing one light line that doesn’t tie in anywhere else.

    1. I wish that too, and Jarrett Walker said the same thing about ST1 and ST2 at the, I think it was the Metro long-range plan kickoff maybe. But that requires more integration than we’ve ever seen. Metro still doesn’t have a long-range plan yet so it doesn’t know what it wants. The EIS will include samples of feeders, but not commitments of specific routes because ST can’t commit other agencies.

      1. Yeah, if only the agencies were somehow linked. If only the person in charge of Metro got together with the head of Sound Transit. Oh wait, it is the same guy. And some folks want him to be governor. Ugh.

  20. Would there be any benefit to making this a mixed bus + light rail bridge, and send the 50 across it, and maybe route RapidRide C to the Mt Baker Transit Center?

    1. My guess is a completely new bridge for buses would be cheaper than either option. This is because a bus can climb grades much steeper than a train. So one way to do this is to build a transit bridge (and tunnel) and then decide what to put into it. Ask the folks in West Seattle if they would rather transfer, wait ten minutes (or longer in the middle of the day) to take a train or just take a bus that travels just as fast. But building something like that (similar to what we did years ago with the bus tunnel) just makes too much sense. We have delusions of grandeur in this town — and many in West Seattle think they live in Manhattan because there are people walking around in the middle of the day. Rail is extremely inappropriate for this area — really a textbook example — but Sound Transit is fixated on rail, and feels the more the better. The complete lack of reasonable bus options is telling. It is OK to spend billions on a handful of people if the money is for rail, but spending half that to move twice as many people by bus would be too extravagant, I guess.

      1. People in Ballard seem to think they live in Manhattan too!

        Seriously, the bus infrastructure you are talking about would be more than half the cost of light rail once you figure out all the ramps and everything to build a dedicated corridor. And then you have the long term operating costs of providing one seat rides to various places in SW Seattle, overlapping significant portions of their routes going into and through downtown Seattle.

      2. OK, assume it is more than half the cost of light rail. It is still cheaper than light rail, and it would carry way more people — saving each one way more time. It would not force the transfers that this would force.

        Again, that is for a completely new bridge. I think building a completely new bridge is ridiculous — as is light rail. You only need to leverage what is already there. Add ramp meters and modify the Spokane Street Viaduct ( If you don’t like ramp meters, than how about new ramps — Not cheap, but way cheaper than light rail. The WSTT is the big cost, and it would benefit way more than West Seattle.

        Overlapping bus service is minor compared to the cost of building and maintaining a light rail line. There is no way you can fave the kind of frequency with this train that a bunch of buses can have (it costs too much to run them). Besides, the overlap is really pretty small. From the Delridge on ramp to SoDo is a little over 2 miles. That is a really long ways for a light rail gap, but it is minimal in terms of overall service time. It is about three minutes, that’s all. Compared to the time a bus spends coming from Burien, Alki or Fauntleroy it is minimal.

        You would have overlap in the downtown tunnel but that is a good thing. It means someone could hop on a bus at Belltown or Lower Queen Anne and be anywhere downtown without waiting. Compare that to a train that runs every ten minutes, or even five minutes (assuming it stubbed out in SoDo).

      3. It is usually around this time that folks suggest I’m anti-transfer. I’m not. I am strongly in favor of the UW to Ballard subway, which is all about making a transfer. But there are a few significant differences:

        1) The UW is a major destination, unlike the transfer points here. One transfer point would be the West Seattle Junction, which is a minor destination. But the big transfer point would be at Delridge and the freeway, which is simply not a place people want to be.

        2) The transfer from the Ballard to UW subway to North Link would be like any train transfer in the world — a small inconvenience (

        3) Even in the middle of the day, everyone benefits from the bus to train transfer. Again, the UW is a major destination (unlike the West Seattle freeway). But even if you are going downtown, in many cases it is faster to get off the bus, get on the train and be downtown without ever encountering a traffic light (or a bridge opening). So, for example, it makes sense to get off the 28 and take the train even at noon, even if you are headed downtown. Of course it makes even more sense if you are headed to Capitol Hill. This isn’t the case with West Seattle. There is nowhere the train is going that the bus wouldn’t go, and get there just as fast or faster (because it would avoid the transfer).

        The area north of the ship canal is broad, and demand goes all over the place. There already is a major grid, with several buses going east-west. The demand follows this grid pattern, and a Ballard to UW subway would be a major element of a very successful grid (because north-south buses travel much faster than east-west ones).

        West Seattle is simply not that way. The 128 does not encounter major traffic, it runs fairly often (and serves a college) but it still only carries 4,400 people a day. The demand pattern is more trunk and branch. A new light rail line wouldn’t change that. It just doesn’t make sense to build light rail to follow that sort of pattern unless it is fairly cheap to build, there is a huge amount of demand and no plausible alternative. West Seattle light rail fails on all counts.

  21. Doug Trumm has a good post over on The Urbanist, LRT vs BRT: West Seattle Needs A Full And Unbiased Analysis. The density map is pretty interesting along with the observation:

    even if West Seattle grows significantly, its transit demand still won’t catch up to denser areas in the central core of the city or the dense urban swath found from Ballard to the University District.

    One of the commenters pointed out that the ridership numbers were significantly inflated from a previous corridor study and current transit ridership is; RapidRide C 8,300 weekdays and the 120 9,200. Just what does the PSRC believe the population of W. Seattle and Delridge will be in 2040?

    1. You are aware that West Seattle has more than those two bus route running across the Bridge every day, right?

      1. You are aware the most of the those other bus routes would not benefit from this new light rail line, right? Do you really think someone at noon wants to stop, get off the bus, and wait ten minutes for a train?

      2. I would. I budget 1.25 hours to get from Seattle Center to the far south end of West Seattle during midday. I would gladly take 2 trains and a bus to get home if that was an option.

        Do you think someone in Lake City would get off a bus at 130th and wait 10 minutes for a train?

      3. OK, first of all, most of this project would do little for you. This doesn’t go to the Seattle Center, nor does it go the far end of West Seattle. But compare the two scenarios:

        1) Walk to the undergound bus station in lower Queen Anne.
        2) Wait ten minutes for your bus and then move quickly through downtown, onto exclusive lanes on the freeway, then to the south end of West Seattle.


        1) Walk to the undergound train station in lower Queen Anne.
        2) Wait ten minutes for your train and then move quickly through downtown and West Seattle. Exit at the Junction.
        3) Wait another ten minutes for your bus.

        Now assume that your bus doesn’t go to Queen Anne:

        1) Walk to the undergound bus station in lower Queen Anne.
        2) Wait less than a minute, and grab the first bus headed south. Get off at Belltown (where the lines converge).
        3) Wait ten minutes for your bus and then move quickly through downtown, onto exclusive lanes on the freeway, then to the south end of West Seattle.

        The buses traveling in a tunnel would be just as fast as a train and more frequent along the shared corridor. That’s really the key here.

      4. I would stop, get off a bus, and wait 10 minutes for a train w/ right of way access which would be faster than waiting for a bus that would slog through traffic at slower speeds and not reach my destination as quickly.

      5. @EAC — Did you read my post? Build the WSTT and the buses run as fast as the train (and avoid the transfer). Even with zero improvements in West Seattle, in the middle of the day the WSTT alone would make such a transfer silly. With a few improvements to the West Seattle freeway and/or the Spokane Street Viaduct, the bus would be as fast all day long. Even at noon, today, with our current system, you are better off staying on the bus. You can wait for train. I’ll be at the north end of the downtown by the time you get on it.

        Besides, how many people do you think do that right now? How many people get off the 21, walk over to the SoDo station, and then take the train? A lot, right? Just like the hoards that get off their bus as it begins the slog south through downtown, and get on the train at Westlake.

        I suppose we can save a huge amount of money by just terminating all those buses at both ends (Westlake and SoDo) because everyone likes to make that sort of transfer. I’m surprised Sound Transit is thinking about spending huge amounts of money digging another tunnel. Why bother? I know the trains can’t interline, but obviously there is no need — just run rail to SoDo and Westlake and terminate there.

  22. A Metro 8 makes soooo much more sense than this. It would connect more people in a more dense area for less money.

    1. Agreed. It’s really the crucial need of the City given the hypersonic densification of the near-downtown arc. All the complaints about forcing transfers that Ross and others are making about LRT to West Seattle are equally valid for LRT to Ballard. Yes, once one gets within a couple of blocks of Denny from the North, throughput goes in the toilet. So the WSTT would have been a great fix, as long as the western arm projected out into the air somewhere along Thomas or Republican and swooped down into 24/7/365 bus lanes along the west end of Elliott and 15th West.

      But ST doesn’t want to do that, and its charter is not to do things like that. So even though it’s the best use of funds, some narcissist in the suburbs would scramble up some kind of “class-action” claiming (at leasto to some degree rightly) that ST was not following its mandate.

  23. I may sound a bit naive asking this, especially since I don’t West Seattle well, but: why not go to both the Junction and Delridge with a single line? This would require a kind of loop around the golf course area and probably a long tunnel, but you would hit both of the growth areas in one go!

    1. Because it’d be very expensive (due to constructing two tracks across the greenbelt), time-consuming (for South Delridge riders having to detour through the Junction), and indirect?

      1. How is this much different from the Link line to SeaTac detouring indirect through Rainier Valley?

      2. If it’s in a tunnel it would still be considerably faster than riding down Delridge, even in bus lanes and with signal ticklers. And, well, the stations at High Point/Morgan Center and Alaska Junction are features not bugs. Folks from White Center would probably very much like to visit those places much more frequently if the means of getting there were more friendly and quicker.

        All that said, it’s probably to expensive to do Ballard-Downtown (including the Fourth/Fifth Avenue tunnel) AND “ID to West Seattle” both as rail lines.

  24. @Frank, I absolutely love STB. I am therefore truly SHOCKED that you fail to even mention a HUGE difference between Option 3 and the others: that is that Option 3 is AT GRADE all along Delridge, just like Rainier Valley. The result is a 10 minute time penalty to White Center and Burien residents should the line ever be extended, in comparison to grade separated options 1 & 2 (in WS at least).

    Reliability and travel time: aren’t those core to any STB discussion about transit? If we aren’t paying attention to long-term systems impacts of these options, who outside of ST is? Let’s ensure our analysis lives up to the key role that STB plays in this important discussion.

    1. Option 3 is on the surface because it goes farther. Option 1 and 2 end at the Junction. Assuming this line would be extended underground south from there is really silly, given the population density of the area (not that this line to the Junction isn’t silly).

      1. Ross, be careful about assuming that population stats, especially on the low side, are going to last more than 15 years.

        Had we known how fast Ballard was going to be destroyed, I mean densified, it would have been possible to either fight back-not by NIMBY-ism but by keeping economy small industry rather than heavy speculation- or escape leaving fewer possessions in the dumpster.

        So really do think that smartest way to build transit is to do like a pencil drawing- lay out and run transit lightly, and darken the lines as demand intensifies. Or change direction while pencil is hard and light.

        DSTT was excellent example. We new we’d eventually need electric rail large enough to forbid street running, meaning tunnel thru CBD. Before anybody built a skyscraper making it impossible.

        But we also knew that both terrain and light population would make build-out slow, And we also knew that suburbs would only pay for something that gave them immediate transfer-free travel.

        Nobody liked idea of diesels underground. Some of us hate hybrids for same reason. Likely used because economy brought trains in about ten years later than planned. Good thing some of us considered trolley buses a fine old antique skill that we could convince the rest of the union to like too.

        But even working slowly, every stage was progress. Until rail is now both serious and justified. Tunnel technology is now 30 years better- meaning construction pace can better handle population change. And also make it easier to shift modes as needed.


  25. Why does Option 3 not list a station at Austin ( This is where the 128 intersects Delridge. It is where the riders from High Point — the most densely populated area of West Seattle — would connect to light rail. It is where folks from South Seattle College would connect to light rail. It seems like a logical place to put a station.

    Of course this could be added later, but by skipping it now, the numbers for Delridge look worse than they would. If ST picks the Junction, they of course will say “it is expected to pick up more riders”, but only because they skipped an obvious station.

    1. Densest part of West Seattle? It may be relatively dense in High Point, but it pales in trip generation compared to the Junction.

      Austin may be a decent point for a station, but I doubt it would tip the scales much.

      1. As of the last census, High Point is significantly more densely populated than the Junction. I’m not sure what trip generation you are talking about. Do you really think there are tons of people headed to West Seattle from rest of the city? I drive over there all the time, and even during rush hour there is no “reverse commute”. Without a doubt, though, since one of the lines actually serves the Junction and the other one skips High Point, the former would have higher walk up numbers.

        But there is no way you get 40,000 walk up passengers with either line — you would be lucky to get half of that. The only way these numbers sound even plausible is if you count on transfers. Austin would be one of the better places for that.

    2. @RossB,

      These ridership numbers, as I understand the process, make no assumptions about walk-up vs transfer traffic. The regional model operates at the level of the FAZ (generally a Census tract). A station within a FAZ serves all the potential ridership in the FAZ.

      If you think the transfers will pull in riders from across the FAZ, then that’s not a big deal. If you think the transfer penalty is meaningful, or that lack of walkability around a station will hurt the ability of the line to serve riders from elsewhere in the FAZ, then you’re not going to get the ridership that’s reported.

      The lesson, I think, is that the models are good for thinking about general travel markets. But don’t try to pull any insights about station location from these numbers. The regional model isn’t set up to operate at that level of detail.

  26. I don’t understand how the 1st Ave option would interline with the current system. Can someone explain.

  27. I’m looking closer at the map, and I see that the SODO options that follow link assume an elevated station up to about Stadium station. That would be great for train reliability, but it does add to cost and it could be a problem if a Lander Street or Holgate Street overpass is ever built.

  28. “Mars Saxman says

    February 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I always enjoy Mark’s picturesque and evocative comments, though I must confess I rarely have any idea what he is actually talking about.”

    I’m sorry I couldn’t find a slot to answer you sooner, Mars. For manners’ sake, really do need better control.

    I read a lot, and fast, with huge concentration on history. Which in addition to books not being boring anymore, generally makes it easier to understand life and death results about current events. Transit-wise, most of the past is good guide to consequences of immediate actions.

    For eons, hundreds of thousands of people froze to death crossing the Alps, up to the invention of railroads, dynamite, and tunnels cut the death toll. About 20 years ago, the Swiss found someone from the Bronze Age, frozen in condition to study his clothes and weapons, and death from a half dozen bronze spears. Proving only thing that changes is the weapons.

    I also turned five in Chicago in 1950, falling in love with high speed streetcars, which like the rest of electric rail transit were already ‘way-past starting to die. The “Electroliner”. First Avenue to West Seattle? Interurban Building meant stuck in traffic before Freeway speed to Tacoma.

    Need a way to get pics onto these pages. Bullet trains came from someplace.


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