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Seattle Subway released a new vision map a few weeks ago outlining proposed LRT alignments throughout the greater Seattle area. There were a handful of decisions I thought didn’t make sense – alongside additional lines and options I mulled over. This *train* of thought led to designing an alternative Greater Seattle LRT Network.

Some disclaimers:

  • This was just as much an alignment/routing project as it was a learning experience in building an effective transit diagram. It’s my first time attempting something like this and I made it from scratch, so design feedback is welcome and appreciated.
  • This map is expansive, I have no responsibilities to convince or affect policy – therefore some decisions might not acknowledge political/economic/geographic realities. If it were to be built, the timeline would probably be around the next 70 years.
  • I have no legitimacy as a transit planner and I definitely don’t pretend to know more than Seattle Sub/Sound Transit. All research is 100% armchair.

Most of this map should look familiar, here are some notable changes:

A smarter 8 Metro (ORANGE LINE): A connection to the Cap Hill makes this line much more effective and resolves one of the most inexplicable decisions on Seattle Subways map. Additional stations on Union and Fairview will increase access to bus corridors and growing dense neighborhoods. The connection in Tacoma has also been extended, traveling further south from the Tacoma Mall to Lakewood.

Bellevue Loop (BLUE LINE): Seattle Subway claims a floating tunnel from Magnuson Park to Kirkland would be a similar price as outfitting 520 for LRT. This is non-intuitive, but if built continuing from Kirkland across to Redmond (vs down to Bellevue) would help justify this northern alignment. A 520 alternative might look something like this

Issaquah Line (PINK LINE): Instead of turning towards UW, the Pink line travels north to Bothell. Intersecting the Blue line it builds an Eastside grid – connecting Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond. (Look how far out of your way you would need to travel to move from Redmond to UW on Seattle Subways map). The Pink line would continue from Bothell to Lake Forest and turn NW, following 104 to Edmonds and intersecting the Purple and Red lines.  

A 99 Metro (PURPLE LINE): A line down Aurora seems a no-brainer, it’s straight and flat, has huge density growth potential, and currently is serviced by the busiest bus line in King County. Reaching Fremont, UQA, Belltown, both downtown tunnels, and First Hill this line completes and connects almost all Seattle’s downtown destinations with one line. Especially the two most notable misses from any Seattle Subway plans, Belltown and First Hill. The Urbanist has written a great piece on the idea’s merits (and challenges) here. As a bonus, it also maintains the subversive agenda of each and every Dick’s Drive-In being served by rail. 

Kentplete Lake Loop (LIGHT BLUE LINE): This line fulfills the aesthetic and superficial purpose of a complete LRT loop around Lake Washington. It also provides a connection to Kent’s Sounder stop and higher density eastern side. The present demand certainly doesn’t merit its construction, but with Renton and Kent’s growth this might pencil out eventually.

Both the Seattle Streetcar and Tacoma ‘Streetcar’ have been expanded. In Seattle, the Center City connector continues up first to LQA, while in Tacoma an expansion in the vein of this map has been included. Both expansions are obviously optimistic due to the present systems underperforming.

There were two additional lines I considered but not included. The first would be a Delridge spur in West Seattle. The second would be another downtown tunnel, running from the Mt. Baker Station up Rainier to Judkins, then to Little Saigon, Yesler/Harborview, and the First Hill station. It would cross I5 to a Denny Triangle station (maybe a Convention Center station?), connect to SLU, and then proceed up Eastlake to UW. Here is a potential alignment. 

9 Replies to “Greater Seattle LRT Map”

  1. I am very impressed! This looks like what I would do if I was supreme transit czar of our region. I especially like what you did with the Aurora/99 line through Belltown, Downtown, and First Hill. That alignment serves two high density neighborhoods that would otherwise be skipped without overloading the downtown tunnels and Westlake station in particular. I also like that the Orange line that skips the Rainier Valley is the line that goes all the way to Tacoma. In your system the riders commuting the farthest into Seattle get the express routing. That faster routing might also make riding Link into Seattle from Tacoma and/or Federal Way more competitive.

  2. Lots of great ideas. I especially like the Issaquah-Edmonds line, which fills a number of needs that are often overlooked in transit planning. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the Bellevue loop is possible. To the best of my knowledge, Light Rail trains need periodic layovers for cleaning, systems checks, operator changes, preventing delays from snowballing, etc. That is why Sound Transit 3 splits the spine into two lines, instead of one very long line from Everett to Tacoma. I like the idea of the Bellevue Loop and the many one-seat rides that it offers, but I doubt that it will ever come to fruition.

    1. Also a way loop seems inefficient. A loop would be cheaper if it was on lane, and save a lot of money. The line should split and go north a long the 405 corridor up to Lynnwood. the 132 stop cut and continue from Redmond follow 202 to 522 and hit Woodinville, Maltby and Monroe. The Issaquah Line should continue up to Sammamish (2070) Then go right down 202 to fall city then back to i-90 for Preston Snoqualmie and north bend. We should throw in some spurs to connect carnation and Duvall. The south is looking a little light maybe some spurs out Renton to Covington and maple valley and one spur from Milton to Edgewood. 50 years from now they will all have the density required for light rail.

  3. I’m glad to see a map that is clearly conceptual and looks like a rail transit map that I would find in other cities!

    Sure there are a few typos (Southcenter and Angle Lake, for example) but that’s what independent reviews recognize.

    It’s too bad that we didn’t get an analysis with a more discussed map like this when developing ST3. It helps to begin with a very ambitious plan and then evaluate it to develop a scaled-down set of projects — looking at things like latent demand, value of adding wyes in the system, places for three or four-platform stations, and shorter versions of lines versus longer ones.

    I would particularly point out that except for the north line, the SODO segment and for a segment of the Bellevue line, there aren’t double-loaded line segments proposed by ST in ST3. There probably should be as you show. Determining how to do that is a matter of studying ridership and operations requirements, but the fact that you portray that is a good thing.

    Since it’s clearly a broad concept, I would mention just a few missing direct movements that I would ask about — admitting that it is just my own idea to tweak the map:

    – Renton to Downtown Seattle is a predominant movement and will likely grow. Rather than end the green line at Renton Landing, I would instead feed it back to Boeing Access Road station and add a station called Skyway on the way. Forcing Renton people to transfer at TIBS or in Bellevue is still quite out of the way. Alternatively, some new line that goes directly in Downtown from Renton would be quite tempting.

    – Issaquah/Eastgate to Downtown Seattle is also a very predominant movement. I realize that there are issues with Mercer Slough, but there will likely be interest to have a line that goes directly between these two places too. At some point, a new direct line added to the ones shown here could be strategic.

    – West Seattle has lots of needs but there really isn’t an easy way to serve it. It may be that one solution would be a surface streetcar system that supplements Link in West Seattle, going through Alki, Admiral, Alaska Junction, High Point and ending at Westwood or White Center.

    – With South Sounder carrying 15K today with running only limited trains, I could see elevating it to be treated as a full-time frequent rail line. I’m not sure how to transition away from the privately-owned rail tracks — but given the demand there, it would seem like it should be something to think about.

    – South King commuting to Redmond is also important. The light blue line should probably extend beyond Wilburton and extend to Downtown Redmond.

    I won’t comment about what lines or stations may be too difficult from an engineering or topography standpoint, or too unattractive from a ridership forecast or operations standpoint. I find that transit advocates too often opine themselves out of options, and that invites decisions made on elected official opinions rather than analyses. We must think big before we think strategically!

  4. For the 99 Metro line, a junction with the Lynwood transit center makes great sense, but why not continue follow 99, perhaps to Airport Rd if not further north into Everett? That seems more useful than an I5 “bypass” of the Paine Field diversion.

  5. I like it. Your purple 99 line, though, misses the Lake City Dick’s Drive In. Not each and every unless you know something I don’t.

  6. Can I ask what program you used to make the maps? And where did you get the base stylized map? Did you make it?

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