58 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 2nd Ave Subway”

  1. I do wonder when we’ll be hearing about phase II for this project. Seems like it should’ve been a priority to establish a timeline toward the end of construction of phase I but who am I to judge?

    1. Sean, question to ask is why service area of the Second Avenue Subway has had such low priority for so long. Anybody from New York City, help us out here!


      1. It’s hard to say it’s been low priority, so much as it’s a pretty mammoth and expensive undertaking to add a new line through Manhattan. There have certainly been long stretches where transit as a whole was not a priority or adequately funded. But there haven’t been whole lines elsewhere in NYC that were prioritized and built first.

        I may be forgetting or overlooking but other than the recent extension of the 7 by one stop, this is the only significant expansion of Manhattan service that I can think of in at least the last 50 years.

      2. Ken is correct–it’s not that the SAS has been low priority but rather than capital expansion as a whole has been a low priority in New York for decades (really since the advent of the highway age.) The IND Second System was a massive proposed subway expansion that would have added several new lines throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, but was scuttled by the Great Depression and World War II (the SAS was part of this plan.) When money was available again, it was all sucked up by highway projects, and then you had the decline of New York City throughout the 60s-80s. By the time the city was back on the upswing, decades of deferred maintenance meant that the vast majority of capital construction dollars had to be spent on getting the already-extant sections of the system back to some sort of state of good repair (which, unbelievably, is still not met!)

        The only real expansion of the system in this dark period was the Archer Avenue extension, which added three new stops in Queens.

    2. Interesting to note that the first phase is integrating the 2nd Ave Subway with an existing line. However, a similar connection at UW for a UW to Ballard line isn’t possible.

      1. Good point, Glenn! It appears that while the project is an operational extension of the Q line but it has to be interlined with other lines to and from Queens. I’m not sure if they were simply able to attach to an existing tail track or if they had to build a new connection to the mainline.

        I would also note that the main trunk line that connects the SAS has four different lines on it through Midtown Manhattan. The nearby Lexington Avenue subway has three. Yet, anytime anyone here suggests that ST could have more than two lines on a track, there are declarations about how it’s also just not possible!

      2. “I would also note that the main trunk line that connects the SAS has four different lines on it through Midtown Manhattan. The nearby Lexington Avenue subway has three. Yet, anytime anyone here suggests that ST could have more than two lines on a track, there are declarations about how it’s also just not possible!”

        All the trunk lines in Manhattan have two sets of tracks in each direction (except the SAS!), which makes interlining a bit easier, though.

  2. Came across this article at Geekwire.com titled: “Sound Transit in talks with Amazon to place package delivery hubs at Seattle area rail stations.” Sorry don’t have the skills to produce a link.

    In summary, Amazon has approach ST wanting to build package lockers at Sounder stations. They have specific interest in stations in Eastern Pierce County stating that marked traffic variability makes it difficult to deliver packages predictably there.

    The article quotes Peter Rogoff where he notes the difficulty of having a private company build something on a publicly funded property. Rogoff, nonetheless seems hopeful that a solution could be found.

    1. Rob, coin lockers went away about the same time all the platform wastebaskets did. For same reason, only more urgent, considering results of detonation in confined in metal.

      Trash baskets seem to be coming back, probably because somebody noticed that modern explosives can look like trash, old pizza boxes, old pizza, and spilled soda pop.

      But still curious that anybody, especially a private contractor, would be able to give themselves what we the public, for safety reasons, can’t have. Have a feeling that this next Federal Administration is going to look favorably on many things like this.

      From which We the People will have to insist that our local agencies protect us as best they can. Same answer as for drones, Amazon. In spades.

      Mark Dublin

      1. In this case everything that would make it into Amazon’s lockers would be traceable.

        Most of what comes into Amazon’s lockers is sent their from Amazon’s warehouses.

        The only loophole? Returns are accepted at Amazon Lockers, so thats one spot for the security risk. If Amazon made them pickup only, the security risk basically disappears.

  3. Maybe this belongs as a page 2 submission but since we’re on an open thread here, oh do I have my gripes with Westlake Station. Westlake Station for some time was the northern terminus of Link Light Rail until ULink this March. Westlake Station’s also the closest light rail station to South Lake Union Streetcar. For such an important transit hub in downtown Seattle; Westlake Station sure is dark, could use more public restrooms, better directions, and maybe a TransitScreen.

    First, Westlake Station really could use some LEDs on it’s roof. The station is really kinda dark and not too inviting. Also being so dark, Westlake Station isn’t that great for transit photography.

    Second, sometimes I just get off a long 510 or 512 bus commute and I really need to use the restroom. Damn shame there isn’t a public place to deal with bodily needs until the Sound Transit HQ Building a few stops down. Damn shame.

    Third, I really would like to see nice arrows painted on the floor and otherwise showing where to go to the Monorail, where to go to each transit station entrance/exit and obviously where to go to the South Lake Union Streetcar. It’s a station where one can easily get disoriented as there’s no natural sense of direction once you descend into the station. I realize it’s probably an issue of underground stations that load from the side – but some paint & durable decals would go a long way.

    Fourth, with LCDs and such being cheap – especially used, I am a big advocate of installing TransitScreens everywhere. It would be nice to be able to look at a screen and see next transit arrival.

    Ultimately I hopefully have ratted off a few suggestions for Westlake Station. Mainly I want to know where I’m at, where I need to go, be able to go relieve my waste bodily fluids and know when the next transit will arrive.

    1. I don’t think any Light Rail stations have restrooms other then SeaTac and those are located on the ticketing level.

      The reason they don’t and especially at Westlake is that unfortunately they would be used for other then their intended purpose and primarily it would be used by people dealing or using drugs. They would require a constant monitoring by security personnel and probable neither Metro or Sound Transit want to deal with that.

      In a number of food establishments in the downtown area and also elsewhere in the city they keep their restrooms locked and customers have to ask for the key.

      1. Jerr;

        With respect I hear that complaint a lot. My response is two-fold:

        1) How expensive is it to have a porta-potty or something simple versus say a potential Washington State Human Rights Commission complaint?

        2) There are a lot of security folks already patrolling these stations. It wouldn’t take much to keep a cheap restroom available.

        With respect, I also said a lot more than just the restroom issue. I wanted to come forward with more than one concern.



      2. A restroom in a transit station especially Westlake would be horrific. Just the stairway alone from the station to the monorail requires heavy security and hourly cleaning, I’m always walking right through a drug deal in that stairway, luckily this burden lays on the mall owner. A station restroom would be a huge financial and maintenance burden. It’s not required by code so it’s not a human rights violation.

      3. poncho;

        In all the times I’ve rode the light rail I have yet to see a single drug deal go down. Not one. Be careful with that kinda stuff… gives political ammo to the anti-rail folks.

        I just feel like this is a basic human decency issue. I do appreciate though the tips on where a restroom is from everybody.



      4. Sorry Joe, I’m not exaggerating, I’m just calling a spade a spade. I use the stairway many times every workday. There’s always people hanging out in the stairway and this is not a stairway you want to hang out in otherwise (save for its hidden qualities). And that’s when I don’t walk through an outright drug deal.

      5. Maybe Seattle should take a clue from Portland: http://theloo.biz/

        Portland Loos are deliberately designed with a Seattle-like environment in mind. (What’s more Seattle-like than Portland?) That is, they’re designed for moderate climates where “misuse” of traditional public restrooms is a problem.

        1) Being made of metal and with as few moving parts as possible, they are as close to vandalism-proof as is reasonably possible.

        2) They provide just enough privacy that passersby can’t see your genitals as you use the Loo for its intended purpose; *but* they can hear everything that goes on inside, and can see your legs at the bottom. (More importantly, *how many* legs are in there!) Openness at the top doesn’t enable breaches of privacy at normal passing angles, but significantly decreases the *perception* of privacy. This tends to keep “non-traditional” users away!

        3) They are designed for minimal comfort. Metal construction and no heat (or in climates that freeze, just barely enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing). This at least doesn’t encourage the homeless to use them as unofficial shelters.

    2. Restrooms are on the top floor of Westlake Center and in Nordstrom’s and Macy’s. Not very convenient but that’s what we have. After Westlake Center is closed I used to use the restrooms at the top floor of Pacific Place but they were locked last time I checked.

      TIB has a restroom. ST has said it will only build them at transit centers. Bellevue TC has them in the customer service building but they close at 5 or 6 pm and are closed weekends.

      1. There are also public restrooms on the lower floor (the Barnes & Noble floor) of Pacific Place. Also the main floors of most downtown hotels. Just act like you belong.

      2. Don’t try to use the restrooms in the Hyatt Hotel on Pine street because they are for guests only and you have to use your card key for your room to open the restroom door. I found that out when I tried to use them.

    3. All it would take is replacing the light bulbs to dramatically improve the lighting situation in Westlake Station. My gym which in the basement just replaced all their light bulbs and it’s vastly better and brighter.

      Personally Westlake Station is my favorite station in the system.

      1. Thanks Poncho. I kind of agree with you that maybe just changing the light bulbs might be the trick ;-). Sure would like Westlake to be better – it’s a vital transit hub for folks transferring between many buses & light rail & streetcar & monorail.

      2. Personally, I’ve never thought it was dark or has trouble with the signage. Not having a restroom is definitely not a human rights violation. Lok

    4. ST3 contains funds to upgrade stations. There doesn’t appear to have methods to assess station needs yet. We badly need one! We needs DSTT upgrades.

      I would suggest using the top floor restrooms at Nordstrom in the mean time. They seem to be the cleanest and most luxurious of those public restrooms near Westlake. Go through the men’s store and take the elevator.

      1. To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, there probably needs to be “eyes” on public restrooms (allowing for privacy of course). It could be more strategic to figure out a public-private partnership (coffee house?) or agency partnership (library? Post office? Police station?) that would provide some monitoring. Between terrorist fears, illegal drug activities and other challenges, purely unmonitored transit station restrooms may be a thing of the past.

      2. I sure hope they don’t remodel the DSTT stations. I love the DSTT stations with their stonework and details, yes they are very circa 1990 but I’ll take them any day over the generic tiresome metal box look going up everywhere in Seattle now.

    5. Please, no LCDs. The dot-matrix LEDs work so much better as real-time arrival screens. It’s much easier to see the dot-matrix displays from across the platform, they’re easier to read in direct light, and easier on the eyes at night. Sure, LCDs are fancy while dot-matrix displays are ‘old’ and ‘outdated’, but they are so much nicer to get information from. Look at the DC subway displays for what a proper real-time arrival display should look like. Minneapolis/St. Paul is rolling out LCDs and they’re just awful. No one relies on them, we all look at the dot-matrix ones instead.

    6. An unrelated observation of the Westlake Station, in particular, the escalator entrance opposite Macy’s (Pine Street between 3rd and 4th avenues): The hanging vertical installations above the escalators not only attract pigeons (who deposit their waste on commuters and escalator equipment), but they don’t seem very seismically safe. They’re a hazard that should probably be removed or otherwise adapted.

    7. Hey Joe, plenty of commentators have helped you out, but let me add my voice to the chorus. Yes, Westlake Center could use better lighting. Closest restrooms are on the 3rd floor of Westlake Mall. +1 to the Portland Loo though, Westlake Center would be one of the best places to put one. YES BETTER SIGNAGE. I just can’t believe what a bad job was done – I feel like a bunch of high-school interns with construction paper could more effectively guide people through the station. And I think Transit Screens would be better placed at the bus stop above ground (though, yes, I WANT them there) as we’ll have only trains every seven minutes in the tunnel before too long. Thanks for being a cheerleader for our system! :)

      1. Yeah, I agree completely. Signage is by far the biggest problem. I know I’ve used that station dozens of times, but I still get confused. I’m sure if I used it regularly I wouldn’t have a problem, but it shouldn’t be that hard. It isn’t just the signs inside the place, either. Sound Transit’s web page for the station (http://www.soundtransit.org/Rider-Guide/Westlake-Station) is terrible. They link to a Bing Map and driving directions. Who the heck is driving to Westlake Station? How about a map showing entrances and exits? How exactly do you get from the bus or train to the monorail? There is none of that.

        Metro does a better job, but they cover the whole tunnel (http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/tunnel/). So while you can see entrances (more or less) you really don’t have the detail that would make things easy on people. For example, there are no labels on the station entrances, so it isn’t clear where you should head, even after looking at the map. There should be logical names for the entrances (e. g. 5th and Pine) and it should be listed on a map (and inside the station). The map should be available online, and printed versions should be under directional signs. Look at the map, follow the arrows — easy, shmeezy.

  4. Still waiting for an investigative report on the UW and Capitol Hill escalators. Why are they breaking down more often than any other escalators in North America or the industrialized world? , to say nothing of the older Link stations. What is ST doing to fix them? What steps is ST taking to ensure this won’t happen at future stations? What is ST’s performance criteria for escalators?

    1. They often break down in older transit systems too, the difference is they have a lot more spares and also old fashioned stair cases…

      1. Washington Metro seems to have three or four at major access points.

        Not only does ST not provide for more escalators, they don’t even provide placeholders in their designs to add them in the future!

    2. And why do they schedule the trains in both directions to arrive at the same time in Capitol Hill Station so that you have to flush 6 carloads of people at once through 1 or if you are lucky, 2 escalators!!! Are there really no non emergency stairs at Capitol Hill Station?!?

      1. Have been told that- like DSTT stations, Capitol Hill and UW have emergency staircases at each end of the platform area. And the guards trained and drilled to use them. Knowing reputation of Securitas, headquartered in Sweden, that’s probably right. But public needs to be in the loop on these stairs too.


      2. Sorry I missed your topic, Poncho. I think Capitol Hill has regular staircases. But that or the other one, I almost passed out climbing to the surface. Same with Angle Lake. Not only narrow, but literally lethally steep.

        Fifteen years ago, counted hitting 24 real sharp steps on my way down to platform. Downside is I couldn’t sue anybody for a dime, let alone air fare to see world transit systems because I took enough Aikido to roll by reflex. Three elderly ladies also went into shock because I didn’t get killed.

        Wish I could get an engineer from Sweden or Finland to come check out Captiol Hill and UW to see if we’re getting any air raid protection. If not, recommend checking behind walls for coal, and adding elevators big enough for draft horses, with huge wheels at the top.

        And everybody getting a pick-axe and a helmet with a light. But remember…



      3. Getting off the platform at CHS has always felt cramped. The lack of stairs is bizarre. Just wait until the trains are twice as long and come twice as often.

    3. Unless someone can prove they have been harmed by a broken escalator, no one is going to investigate a technical issue at stations that just opened.

      1. STB exists to advocate for transit and to hold the agencies accountable. This is holding ST accountable.

  5. Any speculation as to what it would take to convert Pronto stations and bike to be compatible with Biketown?

    Besides orange paint.

      1. Depends on what the city of Seattle decides to spend the money it gets if it is practical to sell everything to Portland to expand Biketown.

    1. Too much to be worth it. The stations are useless to portland’s system because in Biketown the brains are on the bikes, not in the stations. The bikes themselves would require structural modifications to accommodate the on-bike locking mechanism and keypad/display. Even then, you would be introducing a second set of components, which would complicate maintenance.

  6. You’re right about every single point, Joe. But another DSTT advisory committee appointment besides Operations, this one on public art, gave me some perspective on design of all the Tunnel stations.

    The reason that layouts for the three fully underground stations, especially Westlake, are so convoluted is that technically, we had so little underground space in any direction that where other systems excavated and tunneled, we did root canals.

    One reason we picked architects and engineers who’d recently put light rail through Downtown Pittsburgh. Stations very similar. Since Pittsburgh system was brand new when last I saw it, not sure if their “wayfinding” (another term I hate) is any better than ours,

    But as much as our spatial considerations demanded our architectural approach, resulting passenger needs for movement, comfort, and safety demand emphatic directions to negotiate the interiors. Also escape under stress.

    27 years later last September 15, Fire Marshal and similar authorities must be going through a really pushed quarter century. So meantime, easy measure not requiring a bolt of hardware: hire and train enough people to walk around through every station, especially Westlake, and help people navigate.

    Since Lord of The Rings itself probably comes from those days, doubt enough people remember Gandalf not to freak out when approached by a beared stranger with a huge hat and a giant wood cane. Has Harry Potter got anybody like that? Or a friendly gopher impersonator?

    Was told that when recent overhead power problem necessitated turning UW and Capitol Hill trains back at Westlake, a difficult situation went exponential from complete lack of passenger information in any form. No plumbing to install. No lockers. Just competent people.

    Joe, find whatever agency shuts businesses down for this level of performance and if they have public comment, be there in person. Lighting at Westlake tends to darken over time. Probably some bulbs out. Mention that at same meeting. Any disrespect, threaten to give your time to Alex.

    Topic video interesting on public art. Much bigger venue in New York. But Downtown Seattle Transit stations, and South LINK at least to Sea-Tac delivered some seriously intensive quality. I think that the artists who did the stations can add direction symbols to the stone and tile work itself. Well executed and placed, shouldn’t take many.

    And Public Comfort. Short term? Every elevator gets porcelain or tile floor, a drain, and a flush handle.
    Probably neither space nor plumbing in any Tunnel station, platforms or mezzanines. Restaurants close at their own hours, and hotel patrons won’t tolerate. Anymore than passenger public will accept porta-potties.

    Worldwide, “World Class” means transit with bathrooms. For Seattle, either in nearby buildings, or its own structures at station entrances. At Westlake Park, a smaller building with same materials as Starbucks’. IDS, similar on plaza. Same for rest of system. Omitted toilet seats? Write your own obscenity. Convicts probably riot instead of use them, but media keeps it covered up or nobody will let THEM use bathrooms.

    But above all, close, well-staffed, professional human supervision. Only way anywhere to keep public toilets fit for human beings. Some places have custodians hose and mop stalls after every use. And also a desk at entry where a uniformed attendant collects sufficient money to pay the cost.

    No reason ORCA cards can’t work. Making cash unnecessary, and no problem making adjustments for age and income. But I think ordinary adult users would be willing to pay what clean and safe comfort stations are worth to transit riders. It’s worth some overseas travel to learn how much. But think figures will speak generously for themselves.

    Thanks for bringing all this up, Joe.


  7. Stop a douchebag. Russian activists confront people who illegally drive on sidewalk or streetcar tracks, if they don’t agree to drive back the way they came, they get a sticker on their windshield, “I don’t care about anyone else, I drive wherever I want.”

    Game of trains. Driving on streetcar tracks, stopping streetcars. Accident.

    Diplomatic threat. Cars parked in bike lane. Clips of Moscow bikeshare, bike-lane riding, and a bike-jumping skatepark. Foreign diplomat.

    MMA fighter. Fighter doesn’t like getting a sticker, apologizes afterward.

    Animal. Taxis parking in bus lane. Violent guy in Animal shirt.

    Anger management. Fake FSB agent. Nissan driver, Foul-mouthed taxi driver. Foul-mouthed celebrity, accident, police.

    I want it that way. Driver drives on sidewalk every day, promises to keep doing so.

    Sticker for the lady. Women drivers.

  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06zlOoTHv4g

    Right after “perestroika”, speaker who’d just visited Russia told us: “Russians pretty much look like us, dress like us, go to work, shop, and drive cars. But we have to appreciate what different people Russians are. This is a country where the Renaissance and the Enlightenment never happened.”

    I suspect that in the early days of this sport, entire populations of two villages went running down the road ’til they collided midway between, and spent a month with each village trying to clobber the other village back into their own town square.

    Have also read that sometimes there was a ball size of a weather balloon involved. Forget whether that was how soccer or rugby got invented. Right now, can envision both teams above after the fight storming into local internet cafe to compete in obliterating Democratic votes in Pennsylvania.

    Russian Mass Fighting. Now that Vince McMahon’s wife Linda has been appointed to head the Small Business Administration, could be good time to open a new outdoor vista for WWF. First step is to get satellite pictures to identify Vladimir Putin among the team with no shirts on.


    1. The biggest thing we can learn from Russia right now is the consequences of inequality. There’s growing research that a larger rich-poor divide leads to diminishing trust and cooperation between people, and desperation which leads to violence, stress, sickness, etc. Americans debate how important inequality is and what would happen if libertarian and other conservative proposals make it wider. The answer is we become more like Russia and Mexico. People look out for themselves, they fear trusting people because they’ll take advantage of them, the rich do nothing for the poor, strongman authoritarian presidents are attractive. Even those who care feel they can’t do anything about it.

      The original Renaissance and Enlightenment didn’t happen but a lot of western ideas came in the 17th-19th centuries. Russia went directly from feudalism to communism without the mercantile stage in between. For many peasant villages communism was no real change, just a replacement of the leadership. That changed with Stalin’s collective farms that uprooted people from their communities and broke their mutual-help networks, like how freeways and urban renewal here uprooted and scattered the communities they displaced. Distrust grew in that era, and inequality grew in the post-Soviet era. This “everyone for himself” mentality is what I believe leads to people driving on sidewalks.

      What surprised me about Russia was how much people look like Americans: the multicultural crowd in a subway passage is often indistinguishable from New York or another American city. In England I found more differences.

  9. The way that the SAS line was built as shown in the video reminds me of the challenges that we’ll face on our new second Downtown line, including putting curves in the line. We also will be building light rail with catenaries on top so our tunneling will have to be slightly taller.

    I think there will be some complex issues in years to come about how and where to build our second tunnel. I could even see it being a few blocks off of the current concepts.

  10. Mike, that was the greatest comment I’ve ever seen anywhere, let alone on Seattle Transit Blog! They’re wonderful! What’s most impressive is the general civility of the whole series. I don’t think matters would end this politely here in the States. A lot easier to imagine someone getting shot here.

    Sorry now for my comment above. Talking only about national historic political experience. Though begging the question of how the United States just got taken over by a political movement determined to reverse the Renaissance on the Enlightenment.

    The sport seems to be very, very old. And I was really wrong to put it in the same thought as commercial entertainment wrestling. A few months after leaving Metro, I took several months’ martial arts with a man who’d been a Russian navy “seal”.

    And is also a sculptor. And has won awards for philosophical essays. During these sessions, I picked up the reflexes to fall down granite stairs without a scratch. The group in your videos reflects same serious courtesy. Where did you find these?


    1. No need to apologize, your first paragraph was good thinking even I’m not sure about the conclusion. The other paragraphs I didn’t understand. Yes, group fights are common in Russia. The British working class was also violence-is-normal until social changes in the 1960s caused things to diverge, and even now street fighting seems more common in Britain than in the US. British football hooligans partly inspired the fights in Russia and Eastern Europe. You could say that when MMA came around, it was just their cup of tea.

      I don’t remember how I found the videos; I just encountered them several months ago.

  11. The 2nd Avenue Subway has already proven useful: during the Jan 4th stalled train incident it was a key piece of the reroute network.

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