The West Seattle light rail line proposed by Sound Transit as part of the draft ST3 package will revolutionize transit on the peninsula. The proposed alignment in West Seattle is excellent, with the highest possible reliability due to a fixed 140’ bridge over the Duwamish River and no traffic crossings in SoDo or on the West Seattle Peninsula. The extension to Alaska Junction will serve more than just the area around the stations; the line will enable a major bus restructure allowing Metro to refocus resources toward improved bus service across West Seattle. This is why we advocated for the North Delridge stop and were excited to see it added in later drafts.

While rail to the Alaska Junction is a great start for West Seattle, there are still opportunities to improve the draft plan for West Seattle and the region:

  1. Planning for a second extension from the Junction to Burien, formerly referred to as option C-13, must include funding for a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and record of decision, which would shave up to six years off future construction of this line at minimal cost. This would enable project delivery just 9 years after any future vote to fund the Burien extension. The “investment study” included in the current draft provides none of the engineering or environmental studies required to expedite construction of the line.

  2. The draft plan for ST3 provides voter authority for “provisional projects” if additional funding becomes available in the twenty-five year duration of ST3. The Junction to Burien and Ballard/UW lines must be designated “provisional projects.” Just this year alone, Sound Transit projects will come in $240M under budget receive $600M in unexpected federal grants. Our economy is booming, and twenty-five years of growth could add hundreds of millions of additional funding to ST budgets. Let’s authorize engineering and construction of “provisional projects” now, to maximize the benefits of any savings on other projects.

  3. Reach West Seattle as fast as possible. Did you know that if we work together, the line could be completed in 14 years or less? Here are some ways to speed it up:

-The draft plan promises rail reaching West Seattle in 17 years. As we have mentioned in the past, the City of Seattle can reduce delays in the planning process by classifying Light Rail as a “permitted use,” instead of requiring Sound Transit to apply for expensive (and slow) permits for every new line. Seattle should eliminate permitting requirements, today, so that voters are guaranteed faster delivery by November.  

-Seattle should also cooperate to minimize the number of alternatives studied during the EIS process by eliminating low-quality options (like at-grade rail) that should be rejected out of hand. This can speed up the process by as much as three years–cutting nearly 20% off the delivery timeline. To achieve this win, the neighborhoods, business community, and City of Seattle must be united and unswerving in their efforts to reduce local barriers to completion. This is much preferred to what happened in the Bellevue East Link process, where infighting delayed their project completion from 2021 to 2023.

-Allow 24/7 construction. Large parts of the West Seattle alignment are in industrial areas where there would be no impact from construction after normal business hours.  

-Financing has an impact on the project timelines presented by Sound Transit.  If the new downtown transit tunnel is funded as a regional asset (with contributions from all the subareas that will use the tunnel), it would clear the way for faster timelines in Seattle. Seattle would be able to spend its money on lines for its own residents in West Seattle, rather than subsidizing riders from the other subareas.

Transportation problems in West Seattle largely stem from a lack of access and resiliency. Entry points to the West Seattle bridge are clogged during rush hour. Whenever there is a disturbance anywhere near the bridge, it also causes a cascading transportation nightmare. The Link extension to the Junction will be a great step toward solving both of those issues, but not the final step. Join us in urging Sound Transit and the City of Seattle to improve the final plan for West Seattle.

How can you help?  Please do any or all of the below!

  1. Email the Sound Transit board with your input
  2. Fill out the online survey
  3. Attend the West Seattle Open House, Tonight, Tuesday, April 26th, from 5:30-7:30, with a presentation at 6pm.
  4. Email Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council (CMs Herbold, Harrell, Sawant, Johnson, Juarez, O’Brien, Bagshaw, Burgess, González) asking them to step up to the plate before November with clear commitments to remove barriers and speed Seattle lines to completion.
  5. Encourage community, business and neighborhood groups of which you are a part to support the best practices above to fast-track light rail in Seattle. It can only help us solve our transportation mess and get light rail to your door faster.

66 Replies to “Draft West Seattle Plan: A Good Start, Let’s Make it Great”

  1. This looks very good. Looking forward to seeing the details, especially for the bridge.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Add another station in industrial SODO. Give people the ability to get to industrial work by Link, eh? It’s crazy to go past all those warehouses and factories while making it impossible to get off there — it’s impossible to walk between them due to the highways already…

      1. I mean, I think they’re probably thinking a lot more about potential. Look at SLU for instance, lots of redevelopment because of transit access.

  2. I like Seattle Subway’s thoughtful details. But I wonder if turning south on Delridge for a mile or two would be more valuable than continuing west to Alaska Jct.

    1. If you’re going to build light rail to West Seattle, it doesn’t make sense to skip the densest (and getting denser) part. With a junction station, you can configure a bus line that runs from Admiral, to the Junction, to Morgan, to Westwood Village on a loop. You have another bus line that runs up Delridge to Westwood Village and onto Burien through White Center. That gives a large portion of West Seattle a one seat ride to most of the big destinations. It gives though same people two seat rides to Downtown.

      Also, having the station in the Junction makes the most sense for the future. If you expand it to Burien, you can continue up California to the Morgan junction, put a stop at Westwood Village, another in White Center, and then onto Burien. At this point, you only need two busses. One that runs from the Junction to Admiral (possibly continuing on to Alki) and a second that runs from Westwood Village to the Delridge stop.

      1. Good points. But it seems Delridge would be way better for future extension to White Center and Burien, since it’s a straight shot, as opposed to going west to California St and back east to Delridge again.

      2. Also, Delridge routing is passably close to South Seattle CC, although I doubt anyone wants to climb the mountainside to get there.

      3. Sure Delridge is a straight shot to White Center and Burien, but that misses where the people are. And the destinations people want to go.

        If all you are about are getting people from White Center and Burien to downtown as quickly as possible, that makes sense. But that shouldn’t be the goal of the system.

        Do you think people in White Center and Burien might want to go to Target in Westwood Village? Or the QFC there? Having a Westwood Village station makes that possible. Maybe they want to go to the Junction for dinner or shopping. Now they can. People from near the Delridge station can make both of those trips as well. I would guess the two places in West Seattle where most people want to go are Westwood Village and the Junction. So it really makes sense to build stations there.

      4. Westwood Village is designated as a hub urban village like Mt Baker, so it will be getting more businesses and housing over the years.

      5. If you’re going to build light rail to West Seattle, it doesn’t make sense to skip the densest (and getting denser) part.

        As of the last census, the densest part of West Seattle is around High Point. Specifically WA block group 530330107.022, which has a population density of 19,427.1 people per square mile. Second is a block in White Center, at over 16,000 people per square mile. I’m sure some other blocks have changed, and become more dense, but it isn’t clear whether they have actually caught up or passed those areas.

    2. Donde, it’s also worth pointing out that Sound Transit’s Delridge Corridor option is all at grade. This is repeating the mistakes of the Ranier Valley and would also have a 10 minute time penalty to anybody at the southern end the peninsula, in White Center or Burien once those get built. This is a nonstarter.

    3. Delridge is relatively low-density, and even if you count on future dense development it’s geographically constrained to a ~1-2 block-wide walkshed along most of its length. I suspect this is why SDOT’s Delridge concept had a two-mile span through North Delridge with no stations.

      1. I’m hard-pressed to find any density more than a block west of California Street in West Seattle either – except for Alki.

      2. @Al S

        There is density along California and a block West, and several blocks to the East.

        The Triangle is getting denser.

        There is room for major development at the corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska.

        35th and Avalon is getting denser.

        I happen to live two blocks east of California, and even my single family neighborhood is getting much denser. Homes are getting knocked down and replaced with 4 townhouses. If you put a light rail station in the Junction, even more of this is going to happen.

        Plus there is still plenty of room to increase density on California itself. The entire West Side of the street between Alaska and Edmonds could be redeveloped to be much higher (as most of the East side is currently doing). Both sides of the street between Alaska and Genesee also are prime for redevelopment.

        There’s a lot of room for improved Density all the way down California from Morgan to Admiral as well.

      3. Density like that is common all over Seattle, including many neighborhoods that aren’t getting rail in ST3. Lake City, Greenwood, 23rd in the CD and Fremont are all examples of that.

      4. My point is to simply suggest that since California is at the western edge of density and rail stations have a quarter to half mile catchment area. Those last few blocks may not be worth the added cost if tunneling is the only way to do it politically. Consider also that that short tunnel construction of several years would be disruptive to Alaska Junction businesses anyway. A north-south station at Alaska and Fauntleroy would be so much easier and would also be closer to more mid-rise buildings.

      5. @Al S

        I’m not arguing that West Seattle needs rail. I’m arguing where the rail should go given that ST is going to give West Seattle rail. I don’t think there is any ST3 package that can pass without strong support from West Seattle. While I am fairly rational and would vote for an ST3 package that doesn’t include rail to West Seattle (even though I live here), most people here are not so rational.

        So, if West Seattle gets rail, how can we make it as good as possible. The answer is to go to the densest parts and the parts that can become even denser over time.

      6. There may not be density a few blocks west, but at least you can walk further than a block west!

        If the decision is between California and Delridge, California is a no-brainer. But I agree with your point that Manhattan is overall a better place for a train :)

      7. Oh better and better. We have a cost estimate for a West Seattle line that’s aligned wrong for the planned extension. So add a half billion to fix that. And Seattle Subway is advocating that we maximize the required cashflow by going to 24/7 construction. Remember every dollar spent to speed up access to West Seattle is dollar that can’t be spent to get rail somewhere useful.

      8. Remember that SS’s proposal is only to spend a few million for design south of Alaska Junction, not billions for construction. We can just pass it now and argue at a later date what’s the right time for construction and who should pay for it. SS is also asking for a full EIS for Ballard-UW, which may interest people more. If we can move to a general standard that more controversial/less board supported segments get EISes, that puts us further along than we’d be without them. (Which brings to mind, an EIS for 130th Station. The Lynnwood Link EIS didn’t study it; it just has an option for it.)

    4. Donde, I think the schematic indicates a sharper curve at West Seattle Junction than would really be the case. Also, since it looks like we’re talking about a subway, the line will pass directly under the most important neighborhood in West Seattle.

      But this is a good illustration of the correct balance sheet for public works in general. In this case, the debit column for cost of further digging will be much more than balanced by the benefits of a station directly under that much activity.

      Good thing to remember when Congressional majority starts screaming about the deficit while our country is literally falling apart. Bankers don’t write crappy schools and collapsing highways-and second rate transit-in black ink.

      Mark Dublin

      1. William Aitken, 24/7 construction across the Duwamish saves money – it doesn’t cost more.

        With 24/7 construction, you could finish the project in a shorter amount of time, which gives you more flexibility in your project schedule. Although financing will still be the biggest factor in the project schedule, faster construction would allow you to start the project a little later than you otherwise would. That saves you money, which you can use to bring the completion date forward a little further.

        It’s the same for all of these other suggestions. One day less time spent on planning and permits may not bring opening day one day earlier, but ten days less planning certainly would.

  3. During my two years at West Seattle Community College, bus ride from the Spokane/Delridge stop,where LINK station could go, was about five minutes.


  4. As a project concept, the ST proposal here has a very reasonable purpose. It creates a bypass for a bottleneck and barrier that is challenging for a pedestrian. It has proven, all-day transit ridership already. Although a bridge is expensive, it is easier to build than a tunnel.

    That said, I think that there should be a step that looks at actual station layouts and bus-rail integration in a realistic way if ST3 passes. For example, the last few blocks between Fauntleroy and California is going to be challenging and expensive, particularly if the intent is to point the tracks north-south for a future extension.

    1. The station layout is the hardest, but it’s not impossible. You’d simply have a station at North Delridge, entering a tunnel there which heads Northwest to the triangle. There are plenty of spots to put a station between 35th and Fauntleroy. Once it leaves that station, it curves to due North to hit a Junction station that is probably near the corner of Edmonds and California.

      I would hope it’s constructed such that it can either stay tunneled to the Morgan Junction/Westwood village, run at grade, or elevated depending on what the proper method is 30 years from now.

      1. Due to the topography, the only reasonable way to get up to California is with a tunnel burrowed into the hillside. If the line must be entirely elevated, it would make more sense to use the Fauntleroy alignment for future extensions south, and site a Junction station north-south along Fauntleroy between Alaska and Edmonds Streets.

        Fauntleroy is only 4 blocks from California; redevelopment in the “Triangle” area is pushing the center of gravity for the Junction to the east; and the Fauntleroy alignment could host elevated rail better than California.

      2. I agree with your assertion; I also think that bus integration would suffer with a Fauntleroy & Alaska siting. I also fear that consideration of that piece of the puzzle will be ignored, if Central Link history serves as a model.

  5. These last several weeks, I’ve been insisting that the public see as many real-world details as possible- even very preliminary drawings. And also contact with the engineering team before the preliminary phase even starts.

    For this line, ST3’s chance of a positive vote could depend on an accurate picture in voters’ minds of what needs to be done, why, and roughly how much every alternative will cost.

    With the benefit column alongside. Because this is going to be ST3’s hardest, and maybe the most expensive part per mile. But also, for the route and every regional thing connected with it, the blackest credit column.

    Also, very much like the DSTT, possibly the most innovative. Thought: if, as with DSTT, its Downtown tunnel is finished years before the rest of the line, Ballard-CBD-West Seattle buses could go through Downtown traffic-free.

    ST3 will definitely get more votes if BRT advocates get something out of it, permanent or temporary. Which in the case of Central Link meant 19 years.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, are you arguing in favor of the WSTT or some hybrid version of it? Can it be revived from the dead (aka, not appearing in the draft?)

      1. mdnative, I’m mainly suggesting that DSTT could be an excellent model for how to deal with a problem that could very well defeat ST3 at the polls: public perception that they’ll have to wait 25 years for something they’re going to have to start paying for now.

        When the Downtown Seattle Transit Project, which included the DSTT, was gearing up, three things became obvious.

        One, Seattle CBD was too narrow, and the blocks to short, to run regional transit on a surface mall, necessitating a subway the length of Downtown.

        Two, financially, the project would need money from suburban cities, to pay for an expensive facility their residents would not be able ride to work on for until tracks reached them. In decades.

        And three, good information that someone had filed papers for a very tall building placed so it would make a future transit tunnel impossible.

        We dealt with the situation very well. Starting with building the most important, most expensive, and hardest part of the project first: a railroad tunnel graded and curved for trains much faster than streetcars.

        But with grooved rail set in pavement that could also run buses. And a signal system designed to allow buses and trains to operate the tunnel together, until lines got built out so buses weren’t necessary.

        But main thing was that meantime, we bought of fleet of trolleybuses with diesel engines in the trailers- letting suburban passengers use the tunnel they were paying for, to get a fast red-light free ride under Downtown Seattle.

        We carried thousands of taxpayers on the dual-power buses alone for 19 years. So I think we’ve at least got an approach to deal with a very similar situation with ST3. Starting with checking emerging plans for similar chances to build critical segments, like tunnels or bridges, so that they can carry passengers on buses until rest of the railroad arrives.

        One example might be the Ship Canal crossing at Ballard. Bridge or tunnel, the structure could get buses across the canal to temporary reserved lanes on Elliott, ’til it’s time to build elevated rail. Same with second downtown Tunnel.

        At this very early stage, I don’t think a good idea not appearing in the graph is dead. For this and a lot of other things, not yet born is more like it.


  6. I like this newly realistic and practical Seattle Subway. Recent posts have been much more productive then the pie-in-the-sky Kirkland crossing and Duwamish bypass posts of yore.

    The emphasis on completing EISes, if actually inexpensive, is really smart; the benefit for unit cost, and the benefit in getting people thinking about Ballard to UW, etc, is pretty darned high. Even more so with getting light rail zoned as an approved use – though I’m not sure the council would want to essentially cede their say in how light rail gets implemented, like that.

    The one part where I disagree is on speeding up funding. It is entirely appropriate to call the downtown tunnel a regional asset, as it is regional as much as local demand that drives its necessity, and it will be used heavily by all. However, any funds that that makes available earlier should be pushed into SLU/LQA/Ballard. Not only does Ballard have vastly better metrics, but also it is of regional value, with major employment and entertainment centers that residential West Seattle just doesn’t have. For we’re asking the region to help Seattle out, we should use that help to build something that is useful for the region.

    1. “I’m not sure the council would want to essentially cede their say in how light rail gets implemented”

      ST listens mostly to cities, and Seattle’s mayor and a city councilmember are always on ST’s board. So ST is unlikely to build any line or alignment that the council opposes.

    2. EHS, regional funding of the downtown tunnel will help both Ballard and West Seattle. The press has tried to pit those two neighborhoods against each other, but regional funding would provide Seattle enough money to give both neighborhoods what they need.

      It’s true that cities like the ability to influence projects through the permit process. However, those permits cost money and time which means the cities are harming their own constituents. If Seattle council members really want to bring the light rail to Ballard and West Seattle faster than Sound Transit’s timeline, they have the power to make an impact on that today.

    3. Really? You call 24 X 7 construction realistic? Has Seattle Subway also called for banning the concept of overtime pay?

      1. Three shifts. Ever hear of it? Sure, the folks working the graveyard get a little premium (or they’re the bottom of the seniority pole), but it’s not “overtime”.

      2. Leave it up to the contractors to assign the shifts, but don’t tie their hands by prohibiting work after 6 PM. You lose an hour of working time just prepping and cleaning at the end of the day.

  7. Would be careful about blanket statement that West Seattle will never be Manhattan. Remember the historic episode where a shipload of newly-arrived passengers who, upon seeing a community of sodden wood-piles in miserable rain’ started squalling like cats pushed in a bathtub.

    The promoter said “Well! New York Alki!” Having learned enough First Nations’ language to know that Alki meant after the Great Wolf swallowed the moon, newcomers howled louder, causing several to drown when they opened their mouths in the rain.

    Whereupon Chief Seattle, whose native belief held that every time somebody said your name after you died, your spirit would be stuck in West Seattle for another lunar cycle, silently laid a curse: That regional transit would always give the Manhattan busway priority.

    Anyhow: really want to come to tonight’s event, but need to leave car at Tacoma Dome. Can anybody give me a ride Downtown after the meeting? Pretend I didn’t say anything above.


    1. I’m not attending and I don’t have a car, but the 50 and 128 go right to West Seattle High School, or it’s a 20 minute walk south to RapidRide C.

      1. Thanks for transit info, Mike. Walked both ways from the Junction, though saw 50 and 128 go by. Home now after LINK from University Street Station to airport, 574 to Tacoma Dome, and 30 mile drive home.

        Getting closer to being an easy trip. BTW, comment above. Meant “draft”, not “graph.” Need buses to sleep on all the way to Olympia.


      2. What did you think of Link+574 vs the 594? I assumed you were going to take the latter.

  8. I prefer Seattle Subway’s proposed alignment for the White Center extension, following Fauntleroy to the ferry terminal, more than other proposals that serve High Point.

    A route that curves further inland would serve more current residents, but rail should be planned for the 100-year outlook. Stepping way back, what is the biggest draw to West Seattle: waterfront and water views. Future plans should work with the market, and not against the market (to appease current homeowners). Allowing lots and lots of future residents to live near Lincoln Park and Fauntleroy village with direct rail service is a better plan than requiring new residents to live inland in order to have rail access. Station areas in Fauntleroy village and the north side of Lincoln Park (47th/Lincoln Park Way) could become bustling new mid-rise urban villages. Fauntleroy village has the bones of a nascent urban village. There would be major demand to live in new housing in these areas if upzoned, and I can’t say the same for areas around 35th Av SW and Westwood Village.

    1. RapidRide C made the mistake of serving the ferry terminal because it’s “multimodal” even though most C runs don’t have a ferry, ferry riders take other express buses, and most of the potential ridership is east of there along California and 35th. Link shouldn’t make the same mistake. You’re assuming that Lincoln Park and Fauntleroy will be upzoned, but why would you assume that? The designated growth areas are the Junction, Westwood Village, and White Center. Rich people along the shore will want to keep their low-density housing, and I don’t see the city upzoning it until California, 35th, and Delridge are a lot more multifamily, if even then.

      1. Light rail reaches the Junction in 2033. Extensions southwards happen later than that.

        Who knows what the opinions of homeowners might be in the 2030s?

        We shouldn’t build a sub-optimal rail alignment in the mid 21st century because of the cultural outlook of Baby Boomers.

      2. Why is it sub-optimal? The only thing you’ve said is it would be nice to serve view homes along Fauntleroy Way, and they may become more dense if attitudes change in the next two decades. Why is that more important than serving non-view homes further east that may be just as dense?

    2. … what is the biggest draw to West Seattle: waterfront and water views. Future plans should work with the market

      Light rail to West Magnolia here we come! East Side voters should consider a Medina Spur.

      1. Alki called. It said it has water view homes too and would like a light rail alignment. It suggested a line from Burien to Alki, an Elliott Bay tunnel, downtown Seattle, SLU, the U-District, Laurelhurst, and Kirkland. Its slogan could be, “BART has one transbay tube — we have three!”

  9. I’ve been looking at the Seattle zoning maps, and though West Seattle has huge areas off the main corridors (Calfironia, 35th, and Delridge/16th/Ambaum) with SF 5000 plastered over them, so does virtually every other neighborhood in Seattle. Alaska Junction is a fairly dense urban center, and while Seattle has a bunch of other centers like it, virtually all of them (with the possible exception of the CD) benefit from current or proposed light rail in some way.

    The C, 21, and 120 are all frequent buses with very good ridership numbers – far better than you might expect considering the density here. The 120 is my bus, and it’s almost always full, even at 10:30 at night when buses running through far denser areas seem to have two or three people on them. Maybe it’s because of our unique geographic situation, but it seems that even our single-family neighborhoods make better use of our transit system than you might expect. The West Seattle line will unquestionably make all our lives much easier and stem our geographic isolation.

    I really don’t get it. What’s with all the West Seattle hate?

    1. There is a small pocket of density in the middle of West Seattle, true, but it’s not only surrounded by lower density areas, you have to cross many miles of essentially zero density to get there.

      A train *on* West Seattle wouldn’t be terribly good ROI, but a train *to* West Seattle is really bad ROI. Whereas with other areas, you get to go through density to get to density. I’m not a huge an of the DT-Ballard line (I prefer the Ballard-UW route for many reasons discussed and dismissed ad nauseam in STB comments), but even the DT-Ballard line goes *through* density (read: origins and destinations) to get *to* Ballard. Play around with this map to see these points in action.

      This fact means that we spend a ton of money on a West Seattle line to pick up not much ridership. The timing is pretty irrelevant. West Seattle fans will say this is an issue of fairness, and I agree: it’s not fair to peninsula residents to make them pay for (and wait for) a train that really won’t serve them very well. They should be given much more and much better bus service – they’ve been waiting a long time for good transit. The train won’t be it.

      1. Potential ridership for West Seattle light rail is about 2/3rds the projected ridership of the Ballard line, and we have room to grow density in ways that Ballard already has. The more important point is that West Seattle is reaching a capacity cap for bus service that will require rail or spending nearly as much to build completely grade-separated BRT to avoid the regular congestion areas BETWEEN West Seattle and everywhere else. I also agree with the commenter up above who suggests that we’re likely to have lower but more consistent ridership throughout the day than most other areas from the North Delridge station.

      2. And what do you propose to do about the actual issue I pointed out, which is that you have to build three miles of rail through nothing in order to even get to West Seattle? Ballard has origin/destination pairs on the way. West Seattle does not.

        Even at the same cost for BRT (which I seriously doubt), it would be a better solution for West Seattle, as it would allow far more of the peninsula to ride it easily. How are people who don’t live on the line going to get there? Splitting this line into three BRT lines that cover a lot of the peninsula is a far better solution for the population there.

        One service that Seattle Subway is sadly not providing so far is digging into the fantasy ridership numbers ST is putting up. I don’t for a minute believe the number for either Ballard or West Seattle. I’d love to see a deep dive into how ST generates that number.

      3. The fact that the area between Sodo and West Seattle is an industrial zone with no stops makes the line much cheaper and much easier to engineer – that’s why the West Seattle portion is scheduled to open before the Ballard end. It currently takes busses around 20 minutes to go between Downtown and Delridge. A transfer to Link would be much faster than both the current situation and whatever watered-down BRT lite that The Process would invariably turn your proposal into. It would be a ULink-style miracle.

        You can’t just look at this from the perspective of West Seattle – there’s also downtown to consider. Stand on 3rd during rush hour and watch the busses going south. How many are going to West Seattle? Aren’t we already running out of room downtown for busses? What’s the situation going to look like in 2033? West Seattle isn’t just one neighborhood – it’s a good-sized chunk of the city with multiple fairly dense centers (Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction, High Point, White Center, even Burien would benefit) with a history of solid transit use cut off from the rest of the city by an atrocious bottleneck. Simply put, we need rail-level capacity.

      4. Did you even look at the density map? The corridor Ballard-DT travels through, and especially the corridor Ballard-UW could travel through, blow West Seattle out of the water.

        Yes, it will a cheaper three miles of rail than three miles of rail though actual city. But it won’t be cheap. And it’s all to get you to your first stop.

        I am not advocating spending less money. Feel free to spend all the money on West Seattle. The West Side Transit Tunnel in particular is vital to make it work – that’s common to both the LR plans and the BRT plans, and it costs real money.

        Spend it, but please spend it on something that will move a reasonable fraction of the people who live there. Rail won’t.

      5. I saw it the map, but I’m not really sure what it proves. Yes, Ballard is a lot more dense than West Seattle. I’m 100% behind a completely grade-separated Ballard line. I think connecting Ballard to Link is the most important transit project we could undertake at the moment. But we’re getting two projects in the ST3 package, and I’d like both, please.

        One thing I did notice from that map is that West Seattle looks a lot like the Ranier Valley. Light rail seemed like a reasonable choice there, and not just because

        I’m extremely skeptical of BRT (the only time I’ve ever used a BRT system is in LA, and I remember being stuck in traffic a lot), but I also think that a lot of rail vs BRT disputes stem from BRT being a new concept that’s been extremely poorly implemented in the US so far. I’m not ready to trust that the implementation will be any different this time around.

        What is the cost difference between a rail-only WSTT as opposed to a rail-and-bus WSTT? I honestly don’t know. I’m also kind of worried that it’ll be like the current tunnel – it won’t take very much Link expansion for there to be no more room for the busses.

        One last thought – right now, the only real way for me to get to Burien to Alaska Junction is to transfer at a strip-mall-turned-bus-terminal and take the meandering C line up. For intra-West Seattle travel, a light rail line would give you an extra transfer point to escape whatever north-south corridor you happen to be stuck on. It seems like it would be difficult to implement the same thing in a BRT system.

      6. Have *any* of you looked at the job density in that industrial zone which you’re planning to bypass with no stops? I suggest you do so.

      7. What is the cost difference between a rail-only WSTT as opposed to a rail-and-bus WSTT? I honestly don’t know.

        I don’t know either. ST didn’t study it. That is one of the many problems I have with their planning process.

        I saw it the map, but I’m not really sure what it proves.

        What it shows is that like much of Seattle, the population is spread out. If the population were topographic, you would have rolling hills, not big peaks and valleys. Some of the bigger hills (the more densely populated areas) are in areas not touched by ST3. There are only a handful of blocks over 10,000 people per square mile, and they are all over the place. Alki, Duwamish Head, and the biggest one in West Seattle, High Point. That is just density. If you look at destinations, two of the big three (Alki and South Seattle College) are nowhere near a station. The only destination and dense area that this serves is the Junction. That is a whole lot of money for one good station — a station with less potential than Beacon Hill, for example, which has fairly good ridership, but still less than 3,000 people a day (last time I checked).

        This isn’t the end of the world. There are plenty of areas that make sense for a feeder system (e. g. Issaquah). But East Link isn’t dependent on Issaquah feeder service or feeder service in general. West Seattle rail is almost entirely dependent on feeder buses. This means that most of the riders will have to transfer. There is nothing wrong with a transfer — I love systems based on fast, frequent transfers — but I see a couple problems with this one. The first is that I don’t think this will be fast or frequent. This will be a deep bore tunnel, which means that the transfer won’t be quick. ST proposed maximum headways of 10 minutes, which sound reasonable to me given density there. There is value added by having buses travel across the peninsula more often, but nothing like the grid that exists and would be enhanced by Ballard to UW light rail. Many of the riders — all of them in the middle of the day — would be better off if the bus simply got on the freeway (which is fairly close to the stations after all). To them, the transfer will only cost time.

        I’m extremely skeptical of BRT, but I also think that a lot of rail vs BRT disputes stem from BRT being a new concept that’s been extremely poorly implemented in the US so far. I’m not ready to trust that the implementation will be any different this time around.

        You are right to be skeptical. But you should be skeptical of light rail as well. For the kind of money we spent, U-Link should completely transform transit in the Central Area as well as greatly speed up bus travel along 520. It doesn’t, because they didn’t put in enough stops. So while a lot of BRT systems fail because they don’t make an adequate investment in speed improvements, light rail fails when they put the stops in the wrong place.

        But one nice thing about BRT is that it is relatively easy to improve. A good example is Madison BRT. This will be a major investment in BRT, unlike RapidRide. Full off board payment, level boarding, signal priority and center running through much of the line. But it won’t run entirely in bus lanes. For part of the way, it will run in BAT lanes, and for the eastern end, it will share the road with cars. The engineers have basically said that BAT lanes through there aren’t necessary. But they also said that if they are wrong — if the bus does encounter congestion — then they come back with the paint. That is in great contrast to light rail, which can’t be moved easily.

        There is also a rating system done by ITDP, and we can simply require that the system adhere to a particular level (e. g. Gold). That reduces the chance that an agency will simply paint a few buses and call it a day.

        Back to your first point. While I don’t know the cost of gold level BRT, it sounds to reason that it would be significantly less than light rail. Consider what is involved with the rail line. A tunnel through West Seattle, a tunnel through downtown and a new bridge over the Duwamish. A lot of this is built because trains can’t go up steep hills. So with BRT, you wouldn’t need a tunnel through West Seattle, and you could probably just leverage the existing bridge. I proposed doing exactly that with ramp meters and an additional lane on the Spokane Street viaduct. That would cost some money (I estimate $100 million) but nowhere near the cost of the new bridge. There are other possibilities, such as this proposal by Troy —

        Either way you have to dig the tunnel underneath downtown. But if you took the money you would have spent on a tunnel in West Seattle along with a new bridge over the Duwamish and spent it on BRT improvements to the West Seattle bridge (and the various ramps leading up to it) you would end up with a system that is just as fast, more frequent, and far more convenient for the vast majority of riders.

      8. “The fact that the area between Sodo and West Seattle is an industrial zone with no stops makes the line much cheaper and much easier to engineer – that’s why the West Seattle portion is scheduled to open before the Ballard end.”

        Most of the cost and time for the Ballard project is the downtown tunnel. West Seattle can terminate at an existing surface station. Ballard can’t terminate at a surface station next to Westlake or in SLU, or at least it really shouldn’t. It would have to terminate at an underground station at Westlake, which would either have to be the permanent station or an expensive throwaway temporary station. Or it would have to terminate at Elliott & Mercer and people would have to transfer to the D to bridge the gap to downtown. That would be practically useless as an interim segment because most of the D’s bottlenecks are south of there.

    2. There is no West Seattle hate. There is only the realization that it is a textbook example of an area appropriate for BRT, not rail. I mean that literally. I’m sure some professor somewhere will be able to use this as an example of why picking the right tool makes all the difference. Just as a review, rail has trouble going up hills and is best suited for dense urban environments with lots of stops along the way. Buses can leverage existing infrastructure (e. g. freeways), can cover a wider area without requiring a transfer (i. e. Open BRT), and can go up and down steep hills. This is why BRT makes sense for West Seattle, not light rail ( It would be better for the vast majority of people who live or visit West Seattle.

      1. Can we get a rule implemented at STB that anybody opining on West Seattle has to check a box stating that they’ve read Ross’ article he linked here? Cause it would save him a lot of trouble. (I’d have posted it, but was on my phone. :))

      2. I agree with everyone else here and we need some kind of banner warning everyone of RossB’s strong West Seattle opinions.

  10. If you do not like rail to West Seattle, you should probably lobby ST to terminate rail at Lower Queen Anne and not build on to Ballard.

    The majority of the ridership on the Ballard line is in the portion from LQA south through downtown.

    The costs/ridership are not that different north of LQA from that of the line to W. Seattle Junction.

    Ballard is not Capitol Hill or the U District. It is a pocket of density in the sea of SF that is NW Seattle, slightly bigger than the WS Junction/Triangle area and with a head start in building skyward.

    1. Like a lot of people — including Seattle Subway, in a rare moment of frugality — I lobbied ST for a new bus tunnel ( The bus tunnel would provide greater transit service than the rail line (by a large margin). It would also be a lot cheaper (no bridge over the Duwamish, no tunnel through West Seattle, no new bridge over the ship canal). There would be a greater loss of functionality for some Ballard riders — a bigger trade-off — because of the lack of a new bridge.

      But most of those trips would be greatly improved by the addition of Ballard to UW light rail. It would still be less than ideal for getting from Queen Anne to Ballard, but even without a new bridge, it would still be a lot better (e. g. new stop for Interbay). Meanwhile, for trips from Ballard to downtown, you would have your choice — either take the train around (a mere two minute penalty versus the proposed rail line) — or take a bus. The train, meanwhile, would cut through much of the density that exists in this city, completely transforming transit in the entire region north of the ship canal and west of I-5. Even in the middle of the day, trips from just about anywhere to anywhere (e. g. Lake City to Ballard) would be much faster than existing transit and often faster than driving. If you are going to spend billions on a light rail line, then that is the type to spend it on.

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