Credit: Sound Transit

The 4.7 mile Link extension isn’t scheduled to reach West Seattle for at least another 13 years, but residents aren’t wasting any time preparing for light rail expansion.

Not wanting to wait for Sound Transit to launch the formal public process scheduled to begin in early 2018, on Wednesday the Junction Neighborhood Organization hosted the transit agency to discuss the project which includes three new stations (plus the expansion of two existing stations) and a rail-only fixed span bridge crossing the Duwamish River.

To speed up the project timeline Sound Transit wants the preferred alternative identified by early 2019, before the environmental review process is completed. Construction is anticipated to start in 2027.

Focusing on the current stage, the planning process, Cathal Ridge, project director for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension, told the large crowd gathered at the Senior Center of West Seattle that Sound Transit plans on setting up three groups to facilitate engagement for both the West Seattle and Ballard extension projects: an elected leadership group, a stakeholder group and an interagency group.

The elected leadership group will be comprised of elected officials, mostly coming from the ST board, and will meet at key project milestones. That group will appoint about 20 transit riders, residents, business owners, etc. to a stakeholder group, which will meet every two months. The stakeholder group will make recommendations to the elected leadership group, which will then, in turn, make recommendations to the full Sound Transit board.

The interagency group will include staff from Sound Transit, Seattle, King County and transit agencies charged with examining and tackling technical issues.

“I really want to stress this again. Many people look at this project and say, ‘West Seattle 2030 that’s a long way off. I’m not going to get worried about that until 2029,’” Ridge said. “But by early 2019, we really want to have a very good idea of what we are building. And it will be to your benefit to get engaged in the process over the next year and to be able to influence what is ultimately built.”

Leading the discussion in the community is the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC). The group hosted a community open house in June to gather feedback on the current representational alignment.

The WSTC launched four years ago in response to a threat of budget cuts to King County Metro Transit and now the group is focusing on shaping light rail as it comes to West Seattle. The group endorsed ST3 and says the community overwhelmingly supports the project.

According to feedback from the June workshop, the community is pushing for an underground line for both aesthetic and practical reasons. And many residents wanted park-and-ride structures built near the stations.

However, the ST3 vote assumes an elevated line, not a tunnel, will be built, and current city policy prohibits publicly-funded commuter parking.

Some residents expressed concerns, including right-of-way acquisitions impacting homeowners and businesses, which is still years off, and the location of a station in a single-family neighborhood.

65 Replies to “West Seattle Begins Planning for Light Rail”

  1. Do we need a Ballard/Interbay/SLU/downtown Transportation Coalition? Or perhaps Ballard/Interbay and SLU/downtown. It might make ST more responsive to those areas’ concerns. it would certainly be an entity that could invite ST to talk with them the way West Seattle is doing.

    The West Seattle process will ultimately lead to a collision between the elevated line that ST’s budget is scaled for, and the underground desires of some residents. I have no specific opinion on the alignment; I’ll wait to see what emerges when the clash is underway. I’m just noting that it’s inevitable and is coming soon, in the next year. And my prediction is that the full-underground supporters will be disappointed so they’d best prepare a second-best position to fall back to if necessary.

    As for the station in a single-family neighborhood, which one is that? Delridge? What, um, is the feasibility of upzoning it? Delridge has an undersupply of retail, especially supermarkets, and this might be an opportunity to address it. Or is this the 35th station? But I don’t see that as likely because 35th & Avalon is already densified, and the under-retailed part of 35th is further south.

    1. The Delridge station must be the one they’re talking about. All the logical places to drop that station are developed mostly as single family, but zoned as LR1. Single family zoning encroaches awfully close, but that’s true of all the station areas.

      Delridge has the smallest potential for development because the area is tightly hemmed in by terrain, parks, and industry. In my opinion, it’s primary purpose is to facilitate transfers.

      Based on the dot on the representative alignment, the Avalon/35th station is smack-dab in the center of an existing midrise neighborhood. However, an elevated alignment between those midrise buildings seems difficult and unlikely. Shifting a few blocks to the north lands it in pure single-family, which would ease construction costs but require politically impossible rezonings to make it a worthwhile station.

      The same mostly holds true for the Junction station as the Avalon station – to put a station in the heart of the developed Junction, the elevated line must thread the needle between existing dense development, while moving a few blocks north or south eases construction but puts the station in an SF zoned area.

    1. The WSTC will ask:

      1) Can the gondola reach this stop?
      2) How much parking and/or street space will be lost? If answer is more than zero, they will advocate for canceling the line completely.
      3) Can’t we just build a tunnel from the Junction to downtown? I don’t care how much it costs; I think it’s icky to look at a train above the ground.

    2. If the platforms at SODO and Stadium end up being stacked, then I would hope that nothing would preclude creating elevated cross-platform transfers in ST4. The biggest benefit in my opinion would be removal to two more grade crossings.

      I don’t know if there is room to do elevated at Stadium. It would be a tight fit under the highway ramps. (SR-518, I think?)

  2. It is very, very, very, very, very important to note that the West Seattle Transportation Coalition has strayed significantly far from its original purpose and has become primarily an automobile advocacy organization. They’re also beginning to assume the usual single-family homeowner neighborhood advocacy stances.

    In the past year or two, the WSTC board members have expressed some form of opposition to nearly every single road change that would cause any kind of detriment to personal cars. They’ve opposed road rechannelizations, they’ve opposed the addition of bike lanes, they’ve opposed nearly every safety measure proposed on the peninsula — all because they think SDOT is not doing enough to protect the commutes of car drivers. Several board members advocate for INCREASING speed limits on residential streets. They oppose bus prioritization measures like bus bulbs. They opposed Move Seattle.

    They are currently discussing whether the Sound Transit board should launch a special project investigating the feasibility of a GONDOLA from West Seattle to downtown (I am not kidding). And, of course — they wants PARK AND RIDES at our urban village stations. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    They are also planning to do whatever they can to slow down the design process so that they can ensure their favored outcome – tunneling – is accomplished. Tunneling, you see, impacts their car commutes the least.

    WSTC was founded under noble principles by passionate community members. It has morphed into a board of mostly angry, aging highway engineers and anti-HALA homeowners. It is my great hope that Sound Transit 3 is completely and actively blowing off any “feedback” they get from this group. They are absolutely unrepresentative of our neighborhood.

    1. Jort, has the Gondola discussion from WSTC changed in the past month so? Two months ago, WSTC agreed they would not waste time on investigating a gondola (phew!) but one member wanted to take up discussing it on a personal basis outside of WSTC.

      1. The recent WSTC meeting featured board members having extensive discussions around the magical, fantastical gondola theory.

        Did the WSTC spend time talking about improving bus and pedestrian access to the Light Rail stations? About train frequency? About station amenities? About speeding up the construction timeline? About how to streamline the feedback process? About bus integration? About mitigating impacts to bus service during construction?

        No. They spent time debating the pros and cons of a ridiculous-on-its-face gondola proposal. Whether they made a formal recommendation or not — the fact that it was even a main point of discussion reveals how far off base from ACTUAL transportation advocacy the WSTC has gone.

        Board member Marty Westerman (who literally asked, “Do we even WANT light rail AT ALL?”) and Chas Redmond (who insisted on having parking near the light rail stations, saying that the Seattle rule against it is “a stupid issue of the Seattle City Council, that’s all it is.”) have promised to spend their personal time researching the magical, fantastical gondola proposal, and will report back to the WSTC at a later date.

        So, the issue isn’t resolved yet, even though it probably SHOULD have been resolved quickly at the precise moment when somebody opened their mouth to say “gondola.”

      2. Thanks Jort. I might have the timeline in my head wrong from the recent reports out. I tend to stay very far away from JUNO meetings of any sort.

      3. Sound Transit should offer to tunnel if the four blocks surrounding Junction Station are zoned for 20 stories, and the eight outside for 10. I agree with people who want to tunnel, but only if the eventual stations serve genuinely dense neighborhoods. Otherwise, build a bus bridge and make them transfer at SoDo.

    2. Thank you for calling this out. WSTC really is exclusively an automobile/parking advocacy organization. I don’t have any expectation that they will contribute to light rail planning in any constructive way. I also want to point out that the Junction Neighborhood Organization is an explicitly anti-urbanist house owners organization and has consistently opposed housing construction, density, renters, and anything they feel impacts cars/parking. Although I appreciate them hosting this open house, JuNO is also unlikely to contribute in any constructive way. These two organizations represent very narrow interests, specifically cars and house owners, and they are, unfortunately, the loudest voices in West Seattle. It’s up to us as individuals to speak up for the most effective light rail; there is no existing organization in West Seattle that will do that.

      1. Yes, when I saw that “JUNO” was hosting the meeting, I reflexively cringed.

        JUNO is one of the most effective concern troll neighborhood organizations I’ve seen in Seattle. (“It’s not that we oppose density, but we just need to be SMART about it.” … “We don’t oppose HALA, but we need to refer to the community guidelines document we wrote in 1983 and, gosh, that supersedes any changes in the last 30 years and shucks we can’t build anything so, yeah.” … “We’re concerned about how the neighborhood character will be impacted by the visual impact of a train that can bring new people to West Seattle”)

        One thing I do know is that, if people are REALLY pushing to get a tunnel, then the trade off is going to be massive, unbelievably large, community-altering rezoning. Do you really think they’re going to build a tunnel to a neighborhood with an 80 foot height limitation? There will be an expectation that, if Sound Transit is going to invest significant expense into tunneling, then we will need to SIGNIFICANTLY expand our population base in that area.

        They don’t build TUNNELS to the suburbs, JUNO.

    3. “They are also planning to do whatever they can to slow down the design process so that they can ensure their favored outcome – tunneling – is accomplished.”

      It doesn’t matter to me if West Seattle Link is deferred, yawn. It’s not a core regional necessity like Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond. They could ask ST to defer it to ST4 when they might have more money for a tunnel. But note that it would have to compete with the 45th line and Lake City/Bothell line at that point. Or even a Seattle-Renton line if such a thing gains support. Or Metro 8… Or that Ballard-Redmond monstrosity.

      1. Deferring it within the context of ST3 seems like a reasonable compromise. If the local community demands an underground Junction station, I think that’s reasonable, and if ST says “OK sure we can do that, but we’ll need to open it a year or two later for the finances to work,” that seems like good give-and-take.

        Further, given the fact that the WS link will be a stub line for several years, deferring it until closer to the 2nd tunnel opening isn’t terrible.

      2. I agree – if West Seattle doesn’t want it, I’d be happy if they switched it to a Metro 8 subway, the 522 corridor or the UW-Ballard corridor. If I recall correctly, WS isn’t actually the most urgent place to serve by the numbers, but West Seattle was more about politics.

        This could get interesting!

      3. Oh trust me, the organizations that show up, like JUNO and WSTC, will fight this project at every step of the way. Here is a sample sentence we are about to hear about one billion times in the next 10 years: “We support light rail, but we have CONCERRRNNNSSSSSS about what is being proposed.” And then they will diddle around for years and years trying to slow the process down. And they will be quite pleased with their work.

        This is why it is so VITALLY, CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that Sound Transit (and the Seattle Transit Blog!) recognize that WSTC and JUNO are NOT allies in the fight for light rail. They are actively engaged opponents.


      4. If the goal is to find money to build a tunnel, I don’t think deferring the project by 3 years is going to make much of a dent. Not with what tunnel digging actually costs.

      5. If the suggestion is to postpone Link to West Seattle to pay for a tunnel, those financials don’t work unless ST similarly postpones every other North King project behind that. West Seattle would be taking money from what would otherwise be the start of the Ballard and 2nd tunnel projects, and the only way to make good would be through extended taxes at the end of the program.

      6. By deferring I meant putting it on hold until ST4, when a new vote could give it additional tax money. That could be done by sunsetting ST3 early (if it balances with the other subareas), or by continuing to collect the ST3 taxes until the end and saving them as a down payment for West Seattle in ST4. That assumes that there will be an ST4, and that West Seattle will remain at the top of the list for it. Both of those are uncertain assumptions. Looking back, the reason ST3 wasn’t scaled for a tunnel was that it had already reached $54 billion and some people were saying that’s already a lot, and increasing it beyond that might have lessened its chance to pass. Plus they’d have to find things in the other subareas to match it, and when you’ve already got the silliness of an Issaquah line and a hat-shaped Tacoma Link (“hat” in the sense of The Little Prince; i.e., a boa constrictor that had swallowed an elephant), what more silliness can you add?

      7. My very speculative predictions:

        – West Seattle will continue to be obsessively fussy about the Alaska Junction area. There will be ugly public battles between merchants and residents and property owners and ST designers of all the minutia from station entrances to track aesthetics to ground vibration to construction impacts. There will also be an interest in a mega parking garage somewhere in West Seattle too, and side battle will happen on that. A tunnel will be the only solution that locals will accept.
        – In the middle of the obsessing, the overall project costs will escalate (as it becomes increasingly understood how ST doesn’t set aside sufficient contingencies in the first place although no one on the board will dare complain before the bad news arrives). There won’t be enough money to build to Alaska Junction as a tunnel without cutting major money somewhere else from ST3 (just dropping infill stations won’t be enough) and that just won’t happen.
        – As a compromise, the final Link station in ST3 will be between the proposed Avalon and Alaska Junction stations, somewhere around Oregon and Fauntleroy, as one of two West Seattle stations. The Delridge station will end up to the west of Delridge — possibly with a pedestrian entrance off of Delridge — to further mitigate the distance gap between the two stations. The caveat will be that ST will promise a north-south subway station under California and Edmunds if tunnel money ever emerges (which it probably won’t until well after 2040 or until an ST4).
        – The idea of a north-south West Seattle Streetcar in mostly exclusive ROW will suddenly be floated as an alternative to the final tunnel section (with about the same price). It will have one end at the last Link station and the other end at either Westwood Village or the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. The debate will go on for a few years — until ST4 quickly goes to the voters, at which time West Seattle interests will have to choose what goes on the ballot. Either this, or shared driverless vehicle technology will be good enough to promote a driverless shared vehicle hub in West Seattle, with a fleet of driverless vehicles headed in multiple directions from the hub (Admiral, Alki, Westwood, Fauntleroy, Morgan Junction, etc.) — and Link will end near Fauntleroy and Oregon for decades.

        Am I too cynical or too outrageously visionary? LOL

      8. Driverless vehicles sounds promising. It may be possible to convince people that a driverless bus does not have the cultural connotations of a traditional bus: it’s the exciting new thing. I guess that gets us back to the Chinese swooshbus RossB mentioned in the News Roundup.

      9. PS. Have we reached a threshold where the US will increasingly be using new technology from China? I guess if we refuse to research and pioneer it ourselves…

      10. I still think that in spite of the whining, it’s going to get built, and it’s going to be elevated. I think there’s enough people out there that would not accept an indefinite deferral for a future tunnel.

    4. Jort gets it. The WSTC should be sidelined. You don’t want a NIMBY car-head group leading transit planning.

  3. So there will be a 5 year period when Tacoma Dome Link, West Seattle Link, and East Link will all be sharing the downtown tunnel until Ballard opens between 2030 and 2035 – is that correct? I wonder how they will do that!

    1. West Seattle Link is never going to be in the DSTT. The tracks, as planned now, will never merge (though there’ll probably be a couple connections for car transfers to and from the maintenance facility). It’ll continue on into the Green Line tunnel once it’s built and opened (which may or may not be before or simultaneous to the Interbay/Ballard side going up, planning hasn’t reached that stage).

      1. Yes, AJ is correct describing the current ST concept. When the line opens, it is proposed to truncate at SODO. When the second tunnel opens, it is proposed to use the DSTT and the current line from the airport will shift to the new tunnel.

        I think that ST is supposed to be taking a harder look at the operational plan during this next year. There is a lot of balancing between scheduling and demand forecasts that need to be done. That could change things.

        In any case, this is why the effort that riders must make transfer at SODO, IDC and Westlake is very important.

      2. This is why we’re building it backwards. DSTT2 and SLU/Ballard should be built first because that’s where the highest transit need, ridership, job growth, and support for ST3 is. West Seattle went to the front of the line for political reasons, because their activists are so loud and a lot of (ex-)councilmembers live in West Seattle. And this in turn leads to a ridiculous West Seattle stub because DSTT2 is depriroitized and DSTT1 is full. Any guess on what the travel time of transferring in SODO will be compared to the C, 21, and 120?

      3. West Seattle went to the front of the line because building a tunnel is a lot more complex, expensive, and takes a lot longer.

      4. @Paul — Fair enough, but what does it accomplish? You have a train from SoDo to the Junction. Big deal. Imagine a trip from High Point to Bellevue. First you take a bus, then transfer to the new train to get to SoDo. Then take a train north, then a train east to Bellevue. That’s a four seat ride! Just from West Seattle to downtown Bellevue.

        It isn’t much better to other places, either. To get to downtown Seattle is a three seat ride. I really don’t think people will ride this until it can get downtown. It is practically useless until you build a tunnel through downtown, which means you might as well build the other parts first.

    2. For five years, transfer passengers to buses- even if we have to add special express ones- at most convenient stations? Really good example of the kind of flex-response we should always be planning and prepared for.

      But relax. At least one measure already accomplished is the end of (got to tell the true horror of the danger, Jort) angry, aging joint-use pioneers demanding we don’t drop it ’till we get it right! Even John Henry fighting the steam drill in the folk song couldn’t defeat dwell-time.

      However, two life and death points for West Seattle transit advocates to go into survival mode about.
      One is that there’s only one way be angry but not old. Whether you’re a highway, tunnel, or elevated rail engineer.

      To paraphrase Woody Allen in”Love and Death” being dead is worse than the chicken in the worst restaurant in rural Russia. Since you’re already in West Seattle….you probably already know the equivalent restaurant. But positive side is you won’t be old anymore.

      But, for what it’s worth, driver on Sacramento light rail pointed out a stretch of track on top of several elevated miles built for a freeway. Told me that if it’s structured for highway, it’ll take rail just fine. But not other way around. So terrific tactical opportunity! Start hanging around with those highway engineers.

      You’ll not only learn how people are still gonna finally find out consequences of paving Texas without an off-ramp to New Mexico. But you can get a plaid shirt and some suspenders at Goodwill, and a beat up briar pipe you don’t even need to smoke if it’s dirty enough.

      Then start steering the conversation into how great a freeway they can really build in West Seattle, failing to mention it’s along self-same line as you want elevated light rail to go.

      When they get to pick which one of them will throw down the throttle of the first train inbound from Alaska Junction, they’ll crack up and admit they were the ones who convinced you to get them thirteen years worth of highway engineering work building your elevated rail line.

      Up to you, Jort. Stamp your foot into the ground like Rumplestiltskin and art program will have you bronzed, looking really angry. So good idea to keep up the old engineer part, slap your knee, and admit, that by gum they got you! You might even get to drive the train for being a good sport.


  4. Would like to talk with an engineer or two about the soils and the geology between where second subway crosses Jackson and the West Seattle Terminal. As noted before, Jackson Street used to be beach-front property, and given the dirt to water ratio from Jackson south, still is.

    In earthquake country, given the right underground conditions, a tunnel will survive a ‘quake that an elevated viaduct can’t. This is the reason I keep insisting on changed ratio of tunnel and structural engineers to event-planning staff at public discussions.

    Maybe if it was somebody besides me advocating it, better cooperation. But if you promise that I’ll promise to stay away completely, the engineers are already rolling westward pedal to the metal.


    1. Of course it matters. $$$ is a scarce resource. Sound Transit isn’t authorized to print more of it.

    2. I was trolling. And if you consider the lines 100 year investments, if you spend an extra billion on tunneling it doesn’t really matter in the end.

  5. Could West Seattle vote in a LID to pay ST the extra cost of a tunnel. The anti elevated would be placated and the line would likely take longer to build so it would open after it at the same time as the new tunnel ridding us of the transfer in SODO nonsense.

    1. It could, if West Seattle alone can raise enough money for the cost of a tunnel, and if it doesn’t raise the property-tax rate past limits.

  6. Please, ST, do not plan a West Seattle extension to LINK. I grew up there, and still house-sit there 80+ days/year. The vast majority of folks there are ONLY interested in getting all buses and all but their own cars of the high bridge so they can get wherever 3-5 minutes sooner. A tiny minority are actually in favor of rapid mass transit and the density not takes to make it work – a very tiny monitory. Planning this line is only a waste of ST money.

    1. Planning is cheap; it’s construction that’s expensive. I worry that this may be the most unattainable goal ST has set.

    2. @Lloyd, whatever the minority numbers are for West Seattle, they are certainly not small. And we’ve got more and more people moving here every day, every week. The bridge will not accommodate the growing numbers of commuters that need to get to other places beyond downtown for work by car. When you get on the main drags—the junctions, California Ave, and 35th Ave SW—and see the construction of apartment buildings, you should know for sure that you are not dealing with the West Seattle that you grew up with for which the status quo sufficed, but rather an increasingly dense and urbanized one that needs to be served by right of way modes of transportation other than the increasingly slow car conga lines on the bridge going to I-5 and the increasingly slow bottle neck of an entrance to 99N.

      Besides, we’re already baked in the cake pretty much for link.

  7. Why do these “community groups” get any say in this process whatsoever? Why are we wasting time with this community input garbage?

    We voted for ST3. It’s done. Now it’s time to let the people that actually know how to design and build Link actually do it. I couldn’t care less what a bunch of neighborhood activists think about how to design a subway. They aren’t engineers. Let the engineers and the people who are actually employed to design a transportation system make the decisions.

    Public process… what a waste of time.

  8. They’re saying what they want the community-train interface to be. Those are design decisions, not engineering issues. Engineering
    Issues are things like the space required for the stanchions and the maximum incline and
    whether the soil will support a tunnel. All residents and taxpayers have the right to state their design preferences and to try to convince the board. Staff attending an outreach meeting is not the same as giving the group 100% control of the design. In the end ST will most likely defer to what the city of Seattle wants if it can afford it. I think Seattle preferred a tunnel for cost-saving?

    PS. My phone has an emoji for Seattle:an umbrella with raindrops: ☔.

  9. The Duwamished fixed bridge needs to include a multipurpose trail for biking and peds! Think Tilikum Crossing.

  10. Sound Transit’s proposal is terrible west of Avalon Way. There is no way to make the necessary turn southward at California and Alaska for a Burien extension.

    If the agency’s long-term plan is to turn south along Delridge to serve Burien, I suppose that becomes moot, but that means that the Delridge Station then must be stacked so that the junction directly to the south meets system standards. I see nothing in the plans which discusses that.

    It looks like California and Alaska is planned for an elevated station on an east-west heading, which would forever doom the line to be a stub.

    If the line is ever to extend to the south from California and Alaska, it must be tunneled and approach the intersection from the north. That then implies that the 35th and Avalon Station must aldo be underground.

    The stations don’t have to be palaces, though.

    1. Early studies of Delridge as a N/S rail corridor indicated the costs would be astronomical and ridership underwhelming. The existing ROW is too narrow to support anything without knocking down absolutely every building on one side of the road for the entire length.

      Likewise, the most practical path to reach downtown Burien is via 1st Ave S, because that’s where the excess ROW is – Burien isn’t going to give up a travel lane on Ambaum, which would be the most direct connection to Burien from a Delridge alignment (although the new city council majority in 2018 might have different opinions). Given these constraints, the most likely future plan to reach 1st ave for Burien service is a Georgetown/South Park/Burien line (which showed up as a high-ridership alternative in a previous study), with the West Seattle line terminating near White Center.

      For a southward extension of the west seattle line, it doesn’t necessarily have to make the right turn right there on California. The next logical stop is Morgan Junction, and so it could shoot a block or two further west before making the turn, then turn back east when it’s closer to the destination. Plus, we don’t know that the station will actually be on Alaska, just that it will be nearby. Representative alignments are not set in stone, they only serve to estimate costs and indicate general areas for stations.

  11. The dialog between the ST officials and West Seattle is hilarious. To be fair, I’m sure most of the people in West Seattle didn’t know about any of this. They just figured ST hired planners who were tasked to build the most effective improvements to our transit network. They weren’t. They were simply responding to public input, that went something like this:

    ST: What do you want, West Seattle?
    WS: We want a train!
    ST: OK, that could be expensive though. Are you sure you don’t want a new bus tunnel, and improvements made to the freeway so that buses never experience congestion?
    WS: We want a train!
    ST: OK then. Let’s run some numbers.. Hmmm, yeah, well, as it turns out, we can’t built a tunnel for the train. That means it will run elevated, right through (arguably) the nicest part of West Seattle. Are you ..
    WS: We want a train!
    ST: All right, all right. That’s the plan. A train will run to West Seattle. Time to vote.

    A few months later, ST3 Passes. A bit after that, about a year after that, they start the planning process, and ask for community input:

    ST: Congratulations, West Seattle, you are going to get a train. Looks pretty good, huh?
    WS: We want a tunnel! … and parking!

    1. That’s how all Link corridors work. The region won’t allow ST to just make the best network by fiat, not did it structure ST to encourage that. Instead it’s all based on what the cities and counties want. It’s called too much democracy, or being unwilling to tell people they can’t have what they say they want. A few transit ideals have gotten in because this is the 1990s/2010s, so some things like urban villages can’t be avoided. The most obvious ideals are the Broadway-University Way tunnel (the highest-ridership transit axis in the region), and no new P&Rs in Seattle. And ST backed into advocating for station-area density, which it didn’t at first. But everything else is more or less micromanaged by the cities and counties (or dictated by the UW). and the public hearings and feedback are part of the input. The problem with designing it that way is that the public and most politicians have an unrealistic idea of what transit can and can’t do. They think P&Rs are essential and free and don’t have any negative consequences. (Indeed, the consequence of not building it is not having a parking space!) And the station is a negative impact on the neighborhood, so it’s ST’s responsibility to mitigate it with parking so that people don’t park on side streets. People want the trains but not obtrusive tracks, and the only way to reconcile that is tunnels. And I would support a tunnel if we could afford it, why not? But we had to squeeze Ballard and DSTT2/SLU into ST3 (that’s another transit ideal), and that’s why West Seattle can’t get a gold-plated tunnel. People are already saying ST3 is high and the MVET is high, and increasing it would just make it higher.

      This all goes back to my fundamental idea that ST should have started with a transit-best-practices conversation, and coordinating a regional+local transit plan, and said, “If you want trains, this is what you’ll get.” But that would have required a different charter and mandate for ST. In a way it’s like how the Federal Reserve is insulated from politics by being an independent fixed-term appointment. Neither the current federated board nor an elected board will get you that. The only way I’ve seen is for somebody to appoint a transit leader based on the highest transit credentials, and to give them the freedom and budget to be successful. The public could still say yes or no via taxes, but not insert self-defeating features into the plan.

      1. Guys,

        There’s nothing wrong with elevated, except that it means you end up with squealing tight corners or nuke 1/4 of a block.

        Well, and the pigeons.

  12. *SIGH* There’s a reason I don’t come here as much. I’m tired of the utter lack of understanding about places other than where the frequent commenters here seem to live. And I have absolutely no idea what Jort’s problem is — other than that he likes to rail online against virtually everyone in West Seattle unless they support whatever it is that his idealized future vision for our City seems to be.

    First, Link to West Seattle — The West Seattle Bridge literally has the highest traffic of any City arterial. And the RR C and 120 are two of the highest ridership Metro routes in the City limits. Density continues to increase on the peninsula, and ferry traffic across it is increasing. I don’t know why people persist in this fantasy that West Seattle has no people, isn’t a regional transit concern, and isn’t 1/7 of the City’s population. There aren’t many options for increasing vehicle capacity on the West Seattle Bridge (although the WSTC has suggested SDOT look into one possibility), and because of existing chokepoints and traffic, there is not much more room for increasing bus frequencies.

    Second, BRT to West Seattle — BRT has been suggested by a number of folks in the past, and looked at. The problem is that a real BRT solution would still require building a brand new bridge and some significant infrastructure improvements in SoDo. So, by the time you spend that money, the additional cost to do light rail is worth it for the significant increase in transit ridership and the ability to pull the buses off of the Bridge.

    Finally, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition — Much to Jort’s dismay, it seems, the WSTC was not founded to be a TRANSIT Coalition. We don’t only look at buses or trains. We also concern ourselves with ferries, bicycles, pedestrians, and — yes — CARS. We focus on all forms of transportation utilized by West Seattle residents, workers, and visitors. And our primary focus is on improving the connections between West Seattle and Downtown. It should come as no surprise that with close to 100,000 vehicles crossing the Bridge every day that — yes — we might be concerned about SDOT’s impact to that traffic flow.

    I won’t speak to Jort’s many ridiculously incorrect claims about what the WSTC does and does not advocate for, but I will admit that we have some single-family homeowners and traffic engineers on the Board, and some who like to pursue any and all ideas. That doesn’t mean the WSTC is pursuing a gondola or asking ST to do so. We also are not simply an advocacy group, but a coalition originally formed by members of the neighborhood and district councils in West Seattle. We believe strongly in educating residents about what is happening and how to get involved. While I am personally an advocate for a tunnel from Delridge to The Junction, I will advocate for what our supporters ask us to advocate for. Unfortunately, if we hold a community open house and the people who show up say they want ST to look at Park and Ride spots, then we’re going to tell ST that is what we heard. And, in all cases, we’re going to do our best to educate our supporters on the pros and cons of different options.

    Jort can feel free to yell at people all he wants and call them out, but I don’t imagine that is going to win people over to the things he is advocating for. I’ve been conducting community outreach on transportation issues in West Seattle for well over a decade now, and I can assure you there’s still lots more work to do over here to educate people on the significant growth and demographic change that is reshaping the southwest corner of the city just as much as Ballard and points northwest. If Jort cares so much, he might come join me on the WSTC Board, instead of just complaining through his computer screen. We’re just a bunch of neighbors volunteering our time, and EVERYONE is welcome.

    Michael Taylor-Judd
    Chair, West Seattle Transportation Coalition

    1. Michael,

      I know that you’ll be unable to answer this, but I’ll ask it anyway:

      Can you name a single position that WSTC has taken in the last two years that would have resulted in the diminishment of personal automobile traffic? I know you can’t, so it’s probably not worth even asking.

      WSTC always adds exceptions and asterisks for projects — because they refuse in any circumstances whatsoever to impede the perceived needs of private vehicles. WSTC does not take positions that conflict with the homeowner-focused neighborhood associations and WSTC does not take positions that conflict with the priority of private automobiles. EVER.

      There’s a reason why people in West Seattle are growing more and more skeptical of WSTC. It’s because, given the choice, you consistently advocate for prioritizing the automobile.

      Also, FYI Michael — when people in your “meetings” start talking about fantasy-land, looney-toons ideas like “gondolas,” you have the power as chair to redirect that discussion toward actual, meaningful transportation topics. Your board has the power to say, “You know what? Gondolas are ridiculous on their face, and if we want to be taken seriously as an organization, we’re going to shut this down now.”

      If somebody can round up 20 or 30 yahoos to show up to one your sparsely attended “meetings” and they collectively demand that the light rail platforms be constructed exclusively out of colorful Lego bricks, then you as an organization have no obligation to just forward that along to Sound Transit with the cowardly excuse of, “Well, people at our meetings asked for Lego platforms, so we want Lego platforms!!”

      People aren’t attending your meetings because they’ve largely devolved a clownshow of aging, cranky old highway engineers who are concern-trolling their way into our transportation discussions.

      1. The WSTC does not have “the diminishment of personal automobile traffic” as a part of its mission — as I have explained above. We would support such ideas where it improves the flow of people and goods between West Seattle and Downtown. This is why we have advocated for transit-only lanes and reduction in parking, and expansion of bus-only facilities ahead of car lanes. In cases where we have -protected” car lanes, we have taken positions because we believe the changes would NOT improve that flow.

        The City may have perfectly good reasons for wanting to promote development, slow down cars for pedestrian safety, etc. but then they should indicate that these are political choices that do not meet transportation standards and/or actually show down traffic — including buses at times.

        Where we previously raised concerns about supporting Transit ballot measures, we have been clear that our objections were to the funding mechanisms and their impact on our supporters. We have not opposed more funding for buses, nor did we oppose Sound Transit. We are not advocating changes to light rail plans without being clear and upfront what the tradeoffs could be for asking for a 1-1.5 mile underground tunnel.

        Our purpose is to educate and advocate on behalf of folks – not impose our opinions.

      2. Gondolas aren’t ridiculous. A Gondola from Uptown to SLU to Summit to Broadway to 15th is worth exploring as a way to get around the Denny Way bottleneck. It’s probably not feasible in West Seattle which is a longer distance so a gondola’s slowness would be more impactful, and the stations aren’t high density. But the main reason against it is timing. Those who wanted a gondola should have pursued it 3-5 years ago when we were planning ST3, not now when we’ve already decided on light rail and voted for it. Saying let’s go back to the drawing board and have a gondola instead of light rail is just obstruction.

      3. I’d add that from what I’ve read in literature, gondolas don’t go faster than 15 or 20 mph and require somw labor to operate. Mike is right that they have some usefulness. It’s just not so attractive for West Seattle.

        Also, a bit of a reality check about tunnel cost is needed They usually cost 3 to 5 times more per block to build than aerial, and station pits add substantially to costs. In other words, 1 mile of tunnel is as expensive as 3 – 5 miles of aerial. On top of that, there are rail track needs! Adding a last mile tunnel in West Seattle will likely double the entire project cost!

    2. Problem with having light rail vs BRT is that once the line is built, you wind up having to transfer from buses to Link to get across the river, then until the second tunnel is built transfer again at SoDo.

      With BRT the lines could be organized for a single seat ride into downtown.

      You’re never going to get the 50,000 or so parking spaces at the end of the line that is needed to get decent ridership from all over West Seattle.

      1. That was well-aired in the run-up to ST3 but West Seattle said we want Link anyway and the city said we want West Seattle to have Link. So transfers come with it as a corollary.

        But Metro’s long-range plan leaves some one-seat rides by shifting them into new transit markets. The 116 becomes an all-day express on Fauntleroy – Alaska Junction – Deep-Bore Tunnel – SLU. The 120 becomes RapidRide to Intl Dist.

  13. Comments above mention the West Seattle extension needing a transfer at SODO or downtown. The ballot measure documented the West Seattle extension linking to the line to Everett through the current downtown tunnel. The Ballard extension will use a new, second tunnel downtown to link to Tacoma.

    1. In 2030 West Seattle Link opens terminating in SODO. In 2035 Ballard Link and DSTT2 open, West Seattle is connected to Everett in DSTT1, and Ballard is connected to Tacoma in DSTT2. So for five years West Seattle will terminate in SODO.


    I’m not a tunnel absolutist or a wack gondola solution for West Seattle. If there’s only money for elevated service for WS ST3, then I’m all for it and would not like to wait for ST4 (I’ll be dead or checking out the coffin selections in funeral homes at that point) to get light rail if possible.

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