Credit: Sound Transit

Sound Transit laid out a new process to streamline project development for the Ballard and West Seattle Link Extensions, emphasizing the need for key decisions to be made this year to expedite the delivery of light rail. Major considerations include two water crossings, the configuration of the new downtown transit tunnel and the locations of the future stations.

To reach consensus on a preferred alternative by mid-2019, ST convened two new advisory groups to facilitate public engagement. One, an elected leadership group, is comprised mostly of Sound Transit Board members and Seattle city councilmembers. The other, a stakeholder advisory group, will consist of transit riders, residents, business owners and community organizations. The agency announced ths Thursday during a joint meeting of the Seattle City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee and Sound Transit’s elected leadership group on January 4.

Of the 25- to 30-member stakeholder advisory group, 5 will be chosen by an open application process and confirmed by the elected leadership group. The rest will be appointed by the elected leadership group, 19 of whom were announced during Thursday’s meeting. (See below for names)

The stakeholder group is scheduled to meet roughly every two months beginning in February and will be tasked with recommending a preferred alternative to study during an environmental review phase to the elected leadership group. The group’s application deadline is January 22 at 5pm; for additional questions contact Sound Transit at 206-903-7229 or email wsblink@soundtransit.org.

Credit: Sound Transit

The agency said in a statement, “The West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Stakeholder Advisory Group will provide a forum for community members to inform the development of alternatives for extending light rail to West Seattle and Ballard. Advisory group members will work through project issues and build consensus around key project decisions, highlight specific issues and trade-offs in the corridor, and make recommendations to help identify alternatives to study during environmental review.”

During the joint meeting, Mayor Jenny Durkan asked that more diversity be added to the stakeholder advisory group moving forward.

“In the recruitment for the next step, we really have to — within our guidelines — be looking to involve more people of color,” Durkan said.

The elected leadership group is charged with making its own recommendation of a preferred alternative to the full Sound Transit board, based on input from the stakeholder advisory group.

ST has set a goal of having a preferred alternative approved by the Sound Transit board by April 2019. In the past, this has generally taken 2-3 years.

During his opening remarks, Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit, hinted that the schedule for the two light rail extensions could be sped up even more.

Referring to a partnering agreement reached with the city of Seattle, Rogoff said, “It’s a great first step on how we can move forward to stay on schedule and even tee up a conversation on how we might, through a permitting process, be able to expedite the schedule further.”


Stakeholder Advisory Group:

  • Becky Asencio, Seattle Public Schools
  • Willard Brown, Delridge Neighborhood Development Association
  • Lynn Dennis, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce
  • Abigail Doerr, Transportation Choices Coalition
  • Colleen Echohawk, Chief Seattle Club
  • Dave Gering, Manufacturing Industrial Council
  • Ginny Gilder, Force 10 Hoops/Seattle Storm
  • Erin Goodman, SODO Business Improvement Area
  • Paul Lambros, Plymouth Housing
  • Steve Lewis, Alliance for People with Disabilities
  • Mark Nagle, Expedia
  • Greg Nickels, former Seattle Mayor
  • Savitha Reddy Pathi, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience
  • Scott Rusch, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association
  • Peter Schrappen, Northwest Marine Trade Association
  • Mike Stewart, Ballard Alliance
  • Maiko Winkler-Chin, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation & Development Authority
  • Bryce Yadon, Futurewise

Elected Leadership Group:

  • Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold
  • Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell
  • Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
  • Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien
  • Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez
  • Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson
  • Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman
  • Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine
  • King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

50 Replies to “ST Launches Advisory Groups for Ballard and West Seattle Link Extensions”

  1. One idea I have for the SODO portion of the West Seattle line is this: The red line gets built in the current SODO busway (cheap ROW), and has stations at Holgate and Spokane streets, while the line to SeaTac (currently the red line but the future green line) will continue to have stations at Stadium and SODO (S. Lander street) stations. That way, four SODO stations are covered with just two stops for each train, and each station has the service level of one link line.

    The only issue I can think of is the feasibility of a Spokane street station, which would be really close to where the line has to turn.

    1. If both lines don’t stop at SoDo you lose the last chance for a convenient in-direction transfer. Both IDS and Westlake as envisioned in the original designs will be horrible transfer points, nothing at all like the “big three” transfer stations in WMATA. Both will involve not just a change in level, but a lateral hike of a block or so. IDS may involve two changes of level up to the street and back down because there’s no mezzanine in the existing station. Westlake may involve two levels; the cross-section showed a mezzanine below the existing tracks under Sixth Avenue. That would mean up to the mezzanine and then up directly to platform level in the best scenario. In the worst it would be up to the Green line mezzanine, up to the existing mezzanine and then down to track level. Or vice versa, of course, depending on the direction of transfer.

      Assuming that the new trackway at SoDo is elevated with a center platform and no mezzanine, a transfer there would require a single level change and at most a horizontal walk of a bit more than three tracks’ width distance.

      SoDo will be the preferred in-direction transfer for everyone coming from anywhere south of it.

      1. Good point. It’s probably best to swap out Spokane street for SODO then. It’s tricky because current SODO station is side platform (why?), but that would make a WS-SeaTac transfer easier.

        I think the more significant thing is taking over the busway and replacing the crossings of Lander, Holgate, and Royal Brougham with overpasses over the tracks. This saves costs associated with elevating the new tracks, replaces dedicated bus lanes that’ll probably be rarely used (if ever) after WS Link, and fully ROW separates both SODO tracks, not just the new one.

      2. Regarding the station at IDS, I’ve been wondering if it might be worthwhile to look into ped underpasses under the tracks. The structures are likely on tightly spaced piling and the whole area is not much above sea level and tidally influenced, but waterproofing, anti-buoyancy design, and pumps should be able overcome this issue. BNSF also would require the vast majority of work to occur without influencing their track stability or operations.

        Considering IDS is the primary transit hub for the region and the time savings for transfers between the various parallel platforms (including Amtrak/Sounder) and the Stadiums (with their massive peak loads) would be much improved by a tunnel, It seems like an option worth exploring.

        I think there would be widespread public support (anyone who’s waited to cross the existing ped bridge and 4th avenue after Seahawks/Sounders game).

      3. That’s a good idea, and if it ran into a Green Line mezzanine from the side, it would be good. The cross-section showed a fairly deep track level for the Green Line.

    2. There was a good SODO cross-platform discussion on Page 2 a few months n ago.

      https://seattletransitblog.com/2017/10/05/providing-sodo-cross-platform-transferring/

      All of Seattle that uses Link would benefit substantially from a cross-platform, 25-foot-walk, same-level transfer at SODO. It could even be timed, especially for weekend and evening trains. Transferring at ID and Westlake will require changing levels and further distances, and this simple design change would not that expensive to implement. It’s just reconfuring the four platforms already planned at SODO.

  2. The only people on the “Stakeholder Advisory Group” who have any technical transportation knowledge arguably are Abigail Doerr, Transportation Choices Coalition, Bryce Yadon, Futurewise, and Peter Schrappen, Northwest Marine Trade Association. Certainly the other groups should be included, but the Stakeholder Group needs to be expanded to include a few disinterested but talented amateurs.

    I would suggest (any that can be accommodated of) Martin, Frank, David Lawson, Brent White, and, even though he scorns me consistently, Bruce Nourish.

    The non-elected group needs some people with at least some degree of technical knowledge or it’s going to be steamrollered by the engineering staff.

    1. I’m confused, the first part of the article says the stakeholder group will be chosen, but the second part lists the members as it’s already been chosen?

      The main criteria I care about is that it should have a few people with transit-network expertise, and not too many Ballard/West Seattle residents/homeowners. This is a too major issue to revolve around golf course views or not considering future residents’ needs. By “expertise” I don’t necessarily mean having worked in the industry, but having an intuitive understanding of pedestrians’ trips and mobility needs.

      1. 19 have been chosen, 5 are open to submissions from the general public (subject to approval by the elected group), and between 1 and 6 haven’t been picked.

    2. Jessyn Farrell would be great for this.

      IIRC, the Ballard Alliance guy is big on tunneling under the ship canal.

      1. Thanks. I agree that Jessyn Farrell should be on the list. My apologies for omitting her.

        If the “Ballard Alliance guy” is down with a tunnel, good on him!

  3. Very glad to see Rob Johnson on the team. Futurewise also looks good. But for heavy-duty transit, really great to see someone from the world of soccer, for two reasons.

    One, read that in England, to prevent worse damage to London’s subways than the Luftwaffe, the police have to supervise post-game train boardings so fans of either soccer or rugby teams, I forget which has higher body-count, never get on the same train with their worst enemies ,who just won.

    Early in the process, I know. But best to catch this one in the conceptual stage. However, best of all, when somebody has to make engineering decisions where interagency cooperation is mandatory, Ginny will know how to reach Hope Solo.

    And Greg, you can fill Mike O’Brien in on these two things. One, our Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel joint-use operations prove that the Route 44 can now have the really fast express turn-back it’s always needed. It always belonged in the Tunnel anyhow.

    But two, it’s an existential National threat to interfere with placement of an antique fire truck with a really high ladder flying the Norwegian flag in the intersection of Market Street and 24th Avenue NW every Norwegian Independence Day, Syttende Mai, May 18.

    Joint Chiefs won’t go for a two-front war involving North Korea and Norway. But In honor of the Ballard my late wife Virginia and I both loved, deepest thanks to all of you.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Having lived next to a train station and en-route to a soccer stadium in the UK, this is not so true these days. I’ve only seen police separating fans once.
      Back in the 80s, at the height of hooliganism then it was more likely I’m sure, but today its mostly general crowd control.

    2. “the police have to supervise post-game train boardings so fans of either soccer or rugby teams, I forget which has higher body-count”

      Rugby is played by thugs and watched by gentlemen, and soccer is played by gentlemen and watched by thugs.

      1. In Seattle, soccer is watched primarily by dot.com bourgeois, who if not thuggish tend to be rather inconsiderate in standing while holding their scarfs in the air and blocking the view of others while the game is going on and nothing of great consequence is happening.

  4. And again, there is a way to build between the LQA tunnel portal and the Ship Canal which would save enough money to build a drag-and-drop tunnel into Ballard, placing the station at 17th and Market instead of in the middle of the traffic wasteland at 15th NW.

    Build the trackway in notches along the base of the hill behind the current dribble of low value buildings west of Mercer Place and the access to the Magnolia Bridges instead of down the middle of Elliott. Then once past the need for 100′ high overcrossing of the bridges, run elevated across 15th West just north of Whole Foods, descend along Armory Way and then run between the existing rail yard and the Playfield, South of Emerson begin to descend into the trenched tunnel. The alignment leads directly to 17th NW from there.

    This also has the value of moving the Dravus Station to equal distance between the developable east side of Magnolia and the already-too-expensive west side of Queen Anne.

    I know that was a horrible run-on sentence.

    1. Some advantages of 15th over 17th:

      1) You can build entrances on both sides of the street so that people from both west of 15th and east of 15th can get to/from the station without needing to wait for the interminably long traffic signals to cross 15th.

      2) 15th allows for the possibility of extending the train further north in the future, MLK-style, right down the middle of 15th, without needing to demolish the entire neighborhood or pay for tunneling.

      3) Based on the Link stations we’ve seen so far, the Ballard station is probably going to need a large construction footprint, and it’s better to condemn parking lots and single-story retail, than to demolish large, brand-new apartment buildings where lots of people actually live. Looking at Google Street View imagery of 15th and market, the likely construction casualties would be the Safeway parking lot, the Wallgreens store and parking lot, and an empty lot on the northeast corner of the intersection, which Sound Transit could theoretically buy up before they start construction on a large building there. Yes, Safeway would probably scream about losing their precious parking, but that’s what the money Sound Transit would be paying them is for.

      17th/Market, there’s a lot less low-intensity property that could easily be taken to dig the pits in the ground that would turn into station entrances. I see a 7-11 in one corner (which is not big enough), and that’s about it.

      1. 1) There is no reasonable objection to a pedestrian tunnel from the mezzanine to the east side of 15th NW. Put a couple of shops in it like London does and it becomes perfectly “safe”.

        2) The wide spot north of 65th where 15th jogs is perfect for a transition to surface (or elevated) running.

        3) This is a genuine difficulty, there’s no doubt. However, in order to accommodate a potential junction to the north of Market the 17th Avenue station could be stacked to minimize the size of the excavation. If Ballard-UW is to be independent or connected only by a service track, the Green Line could be the lower level and Ballard-UW the upper.

        Doing a crossing station in the air would be a fustercluck of the first order. Nobody would allow that.

      2. 1) A pedestrian tunnel from 15th to 17th is going to be much more expensive (and much more disruptive) to construct than a shorter tunnel that simply goes from one side of 15th to the other.

        2) That adds another mile of tunneling, which means another billion dollars. On 15th, the train could surface immediately north of Market. Or, maybe a future extension will turn east instead of continue north and head towards the UW.

        3) Given the stations that ST has constructed so far, they don’t seem capable of building anything without a huge excavation. And, the construction footprint of any large project is always considerably larger than the size of the thing being constructed, to allow space for the storing and staging all the construction equipment.

      3. Also, I looked at the map again and just realized that there isn’t going to be any tunnel around Ballard at all. The station is going to be elevated.

      4. It is not a billion dollars per added mile. If you include all the infrastructure to bore a one mile tunnel, it might be a billion dollars. But ST has been putting miles down for half that per actual mile bored.

        Yes, things are more expensive now. But Seattle will forever regret putting an elevated railway above 15th Avenue NW.

      5. You didn’t read my original comment. By building at-grade behind the throw-away buildings on the north side of Elliott, and behind (east of) the approach to the Magnolia Bridge, then building on the ground from half way up Armory Way to a tunnel portal midway between Dravus and Emerson, enough money can be saved to pay for the tunnel under the Ship Canal.

        Trench-and-drop tunnels are not very expensive at all, especially in non-tidal waters. Such a technology is almost perfect for Shilshole Bay.

        Now the station would be more expensive, I grant that. Seattle would have to stump up some, or sales tax revenues would have to (continue) exceed(ing) expectations.

        But BUILD FOR THE FUTURE!!!!!!

      6. Ooops. Closed the bold with a slash “i” instead of slash b. My apologies.

        The Build for the Future is supposed to be bold, though.

      7. The northeast corner of Market and 15th is going to be a 6 story office building. They are pouring the foundation this week

    2. I might add that a light rail tangent segment directly parallel to (and potentially able to interline with) the BNSF mainline in interbay could end up being very useful in the the future.

  5. Richard, excellent idea about the notches. But check the soils. Apparent cliffs in that part of Seattle- like Perkins Lane, I think, on Magnolia- the ground is small pebbles and wet sand. Sentence is good concentration practice for both writer and reader. Next, try doing one with a goose-quill pen.

    asdf2, I’m sensing positive surprise for the future. By the time construction starts, Safeway’s business plan might accurately foresee that transit will deliver mores passengers than cars. Same calculation passengers will be making for businesses to patronize. I

    I’ve always looked forward to a time when transit will be good enough that a blizzard will be a perfect Christmas holiday background for days and evenings shopping, dining, entertainment, movies….with breakfast in Bothell, lunch in Burien, supper on Mercer Island, and then home to Olympia or Ballard, wherever I live. Will deal with you in a minute, Mike.

    Richard, it’s so great somebody remembers the rhetorical presence that steamrollers used to be. They really did once run on steam, and have whistles. But they never got their deserved place of honor until Mad Magazine award-winner Don Martin fully mastered the art of conveying the sounds of people getting run over by them.

    “Clunka chunka puff puff fweeeeeeet! Squishsplurrrkle Blort!” pretty close. But maybe that was only in Queens. Every New York burrough had its own distinctive intonation.Know there’s a Don Martin website with complete dictionary of them.

    But luckily, what Don also discovered was that death rate was just about zero, no matter what all other sound effects victims also experienced. Because kind-hearted passers-by always peeled them off the pavement (Shlurrrrrkkk) folded them into a paper airplane, and flung them into nearest Emergency.

    But about engineers, won’t say “Blaming the Victim”, because engineers I’ve known have a professional reflex protecting them precisely from victim status. Verbatim from top of the DSTT team: “An engineer will always give you his best estimate of the choices available, how long each will take, and what it will cost. But what he’ll never tell you is what you SHOULD do.”

    My suspicion is that non-elected stake-holders (“Dracula” author gave the genre’s most famous one, Doctor Van Helsing, literature’s worst Dutch accent. And no logging company in Forks even hires them anymore) think that an engineer is violating his oath with overbearing reminders of sum of two and two. Really insulting is the way they drop things to illustrate which way is up.

    But saving you some wasted effort, Mike. You don’t have Route 44 wires outside your window for twenty years and a driver’s badge in your wallet for thirteen, and not pick up enough transit-network expertise to park on Hilltop, be in Ballard for a stakeholder’s meeting (remember, in the book they had to kill me with a Bowie knife) and back in Evergreen Park before dawn without a snow tire-tread north of Tacoma Street!

    Just please have caterer go light on the garlic in the pizza.

    Mark

    1. Mark, Yes, absolutely, there would be a need for retaining structures. They’re not pretty, but they’re less visually intrusive than an elevated railway down the middle of a major arterial. And, I think a lot cheaper than elevated structures.

      Also, the Smith Cove station could be at the end of an extended pedestrian overpass lining up with the one over the rail tracks.

    2. At least in urban areas, what grocery store traffic that doesn’t come from driving is primarily walkers, not transit riders. For the most part, any area dense enough to warrant a subway station is going to be dense enough to have its own supermarket, so the need to actually ride the train to the grocery store is less than it appears. In the case of Link, for instance, every planned station location between Ballard and downtown already has at least one grocery store.

  6. I’m looking at satellite imagery, trying to imagine the most expedient alignment from an engineering perspective, since that seems what’s most likely to actually get built.

    The easy right-of-way through Interbay is the railroad yard west of 15th, so we probably have the train tunneling underneath Mercer and 15th, then curving north and resurfacing. Then, the train travels alongside the railroad yard, underneath the Magnolia Bridge and Dravus. North of Dravus, the most logical path is to follow a spur track that already angles slightly east (rebuilt for Link, of course), go under Emerson, then do a steep climb to cross the ship canal at the height of the existing Ballard bridge. The climb will need to be steep, since the train has to pass underneath Emerson before it can start going up. On the Ballard side, the train would pass over Leary just west of the existing Ballard bridge, then return to the surface (with a relatively flat profile because the ground, itself, is sloping up) along a path at ST would carve out by demolishing the buildings currently in the way. Fortunately, the plots of land immediately west of 15th between Leary and Market are relatively low intensity – single story, with parking lots larger than the buildings, themselves. The train would finally come to a stop
    at a station located on the surface, in the plot of land currently occupied by Wallgreens, at the southwest corner of the 15th/Market intersection.

    While this station arrangement is certainly the most expedient from an engineering perspective (no tunneling, no crossing of 15th), it has the drawback that any future extension of the line would become very difficult, with Market St. and a large apartment building on the other side of Market St. right in the way.

    But, if you think the way ST does, and refuse to consider that any extension not already voter-approved might ever happen, the at-grade, southwest corner idea is probably what we’re going to get.

    1. You don’t need to tunnel any farther than the intersection of Mercer Way and Elliott. You can lay track at the base of the hill behind the trivial buildings on the north side of Elliott. Yes, there are places where you’d need to stair-step the northbound track up the hill a little way. And you can cross 15th West just north of Whole Foods using Armory Way to get over next to the rail yard.

      If you’re on the ground between Dravus and Emerson it’s a LOT easier to go down than up. You don’t have to worry about the Emerson elevated structure and you don’t have all the problems on the Ballard side to which you alluded.

      BUILD FOR THE FUTURE.

      The ST Board and Engineers seriously screwed the pooch at U-District by neither stacking the tunnels for a future branch to the northeast or west OR preparing the mezzanine for connection to an east-west line. Please, please, please don’t make the same sort of mistake in Ballard.

      Or, for that matter, in West Seattle. The current design of a stub end station at California and Alaska says loud a clear “Nope, we’re never going to Burien!”

      1. Yeah, that’s what I meant. You tunnel underneath Elliot, then immediately resurface. Then, go under Emerson, then start going up immediately north of Emerson.

        A tunnel under the canal and underground station would solve some nice problems, such as making the line extendable in the future, and having entrances on both sides of 15th. But, it would also increase the cost, and Sound Transit is going to argue that they cannot increase the cost to support future extensions, since those extensions have not been voter-approved yet – at least that’s they way they’ve behaved in the past, and I don’t see it changing.

        So, realistically, what we’re going to end up with is probably a surface-level station occupying the Walgreens parcel.

      2. ST did replace an up-and-down-up-and-down with a tunnel between 63rd and 95th because it found it was cheaper to remain underground than to weave around the highway ramps. That didn’t involve a Ship Canal crossing but it may be a hopeful point for those who want a longer tunnel.

      3. asdf2,

        Pardon me, but WTF? You would not underpass Emerson and then rise to bridge over Shilshole Bay. An LRT bridge will have to begin well south of Emerson and extend well north of Leary Way. I think that’s why the City believes that it makes sense to rebuild the 15th West Bridge at the same time, though it’s not clear how that would work with the existing traffic.

        If Sound Transit “argues” that they cannot plan for the future then shut the damn thing down, and let the City do it itself. After all, City residents are paying for the improvements within the City, because the City is 80% of North King’s population and probably 90% of its tax revenues.

        Mike,

        Thanks for that information. People think tunneling is super-expensive. It is super-expensive to buy a TBM, ship it to the worksite, and dig access and retrieval pits. But if the machine selected is right for the soils encountered, it doesn’t cost that much more to add a mile. No, it’s not nothing, by any means. But it’s worth considering first in any urban environment.

        If there’s decent at-grade but exclusive right-of-way that’s available use it first. If there is an option for an elevated line through and industrial district that won’t disrupt traffic, use that. But if neither is available don’t do something half-assed that people will bemoan for a century. Dig.

      4. >> The current design of a stub end station at California and Alaska says loud a clear “Nope, we’re never going to Burien!”

        Arguably the smartest thing ST ever said. OK, to be fair, while it doesn’t make sense to build a subway line to West Seattle, if do build a subway line to West Seattle, you should be able to extend it farther south (you never know).

        Anyway, the big mistake in lack of future proofing was the one you mentioned. Failing to seriously consider how the U-District station was going to handle a Ballard to UW line — despite the fact that a Ballard to UW line had been discussed for decades — was really stupid. That would have cost a very small amount of money, and the payoff would have been huge. We still need a Ballard to UW line and we still need a good connection between that line and the main line.

        But your contention that a tunnel is necessary rests on several, questionable assumptions. First, that this connection is vital. While this connection is important, I don’t see it as being as common as just about every other connection. Westlake is the biggest one, followed by I. D. and SoDo. The U-District transfer is also more important than this one. Why that is the case is not obvious, but consider the stops involved.

        Between Ballard and downtown, the stops are fairly low demand, except the last three close to downtown (Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Denny). Meanwhile, between the U-District and downtown, travel is fast (there are only a couple of stops). That means that someone who is in the U-District and wants to go to Queen Anne will transfer at Westlake. What is true for the U-District is true for other parts of the main line (e. g. Roosevelt, Northgate, Lynnwood).

        Now consider the stops on a Ballard line. A stop at 8th is relatively small, while the stop by Aurora is bigger. But if you are on Aurora, headed for South Lake Union or Denny, you just ride the RapidRide E bus. Wallingford again is relatively small (although bigger than 8th). From 8th, if you are headed downtown, it is pretty much a wash (going east or west). From Wallingford, it makes sense to go east.

        So that means that the trip combinations that would result in a transfer are relatively small. Wallingford to Interbay. 8th NW to Smith Cove. The numbers would grow as the Ballard line is extended (e. g. Ballard High School to the UW) but still nowhere near as many as would make the transfer at the U-District.

        The point being that while a sub-optimal transfer (probably involving an elevator) is bad, it isn’t the end of the world, nor even close to the worst thing we have done, or will likely do. It may only effect a relatively small number or riders, so costing them extra time is unfortunate — and should be avoided if possible — but it isn’t necessarily worth the extra money (assuming it is extra money).

        You also assume that going on the surface and then going underground is cheaper than just running elevated (or running surface and then elevated). I have no idea if that is true, but that issue should be studied. I really can’t say whether this is worth it without putting a price tag on it or actually comparing the two proposals. If it costs an extra billion to go underground, and each transferring rider saves a couple minutes, I don’t think it is worth it.

        The other assumption is that if they build underground, they will necessarily plan for a transfer. We’ve already seen that with the U-District (a spot that is clearly more important for a transfer) that wasn’t the case. They had a chance, and blew it. What makes you so sure they won’t do that again? It seems quite possible that they will go underground, yet still ignore the primary benefit (that it would make transfers easier).

        We also don’t know how much an expansion to the north will cost if it is above ground or underground. But it does stand to reason that a new underground extension would be a lot more expensive than an above ground one.

        All of these issues should be studied, and we should have numbers attached. Not only the cost, but the time per rider. We should plan for an extension to the north, as well as the new Ballard line, and then be able to look at the cost benefits involved. I have a feeling that when all is said and done, the above ground option comes way cheaper.

        If that is the case, I find it hard to justify the extra money, now or in the future. We still have major transit needs that make more sense than what we are building (e. g. Ballard to UW subway, Metro 8 subway) and progress on those projects seems like it is likely a better value than improving the transfer time at Ballard and Market.

  7. I am not sure the advisory group needs technical expertise so much as transit using experience. Most seem to be representative of interest groups and not actual riders. the consultants, ST, SDOT, and Metro can provide technical expertise.

    I hope the governments take account of the pain and cost of destroying current transit infrastructure to build the future. The examples we are about to experience: first, East Link will destroy I-90 service in order to save it post 2023 (e.g., South Bellevue parking, I-90 center roadway, D-2 roadway). six years of pain is a long time. second, the CCC streetcar will be quite disruptive and may not make up for it with its circulation service. Can the second Link tunnel be constructed in a way that keeps 5th Avenue South and the SODO busway open and in use by existing transit?

    1. The answer to your last question is “No, at least not cheaply.” The elevated trackway will be built above the existing two lane roadway and will probably be built using standard “T” stanchions. Obviously, those stanchions will have to be somewhere in the existing roadway. If inverted “U” supports were used, ST might just be able to squeeze them in between the busway and railroad tracks on both sides, but it would be a tight fit.

      I expect that the power lines above the busway mean that the trackway will have to be over to the left to stay clear of the high voltage wires.

      Wherever they build the supports, they’ll take enough of the busway that it won’t be usable. And I doubt they’d like to build them “under traffic” anyway.

    2. Yes, the advisory group needs at least a couple of people with technical expertise so that the engineering staff doesn’t just roll over the group with carloads of technical information that they don’t understand.

      Of course other stakeholders who are primarily users of the system need to be included. But please understand, the decisions that are made by these two groups will affect the rider experience for tens of millions of people over the next century. Spending even 25% more to optimize that experience is worth massively more than it will cost.

      1. I disagree about the need for technical expertise. What they really need are people who ask the right questions, along with an open discussion of the results. As an example, consider the U-District station. If I was part of that committee, I would ask the following: How much will it cost to build a station that would enable easy transfers from two different lines there? Are there actions that can be taken to allow a spur line in the future (so that the two lines can merge in the vicinity of that station)? What are the various options from a cost and user perspective?

        The engineers can come back and tell me that, along with details that might be over my head. As long as that study is published (so that other engineers can question it) then it doesn’t matter. Either the study is accurate, or it is doubtful, and we can do another study. Once I have the numbers, then it becomes a question as to whether it is worth it. For that, an experienced transit advocate would be fine, as they would be able to understand the trade-offs involved with a system like this.

    3. Thanks for saying this!

      It really frustrates me that we tend to put so much more weight on what non-riders who have positions of power say than on what actual riders say. Sure, some riders don’t have the talent or interest to vision the future — but many riders do!
      Even more importantly, the riders will end up using — and justifying — the service. They will enjoy things done right. They will be punished DAILY for things that were done wrong. Other people can simply retire or shake it off much easier without it directly affecting their life that much. We’re not building some building or sculpture or even a community building; we’re building rail transit lines and rider usability should be the top priority and consideration because that’s why we’re doing it in the first place. If any of these “stakeholders” aren’t riding Link at least two to three times a week, they should resign and volunteer their time to another public good!

      Finally, I’d make a plea for current or former driver participation of both urban rail and bus! Someone who has seen day in and day out the joys and hassles and problems and unpursued solutions of operating a bus. Things that planners and interest group reps don’t see is how the little things — badly designed stops, terrible lighting, multiple turns in a short distance, transfer hassles — can have a big impact as well as be solved before a shovel of dirt is dug. I note that there is no representative of drivers on the stakeholder panel when they are the ones that will spend the most time of their waking hours operating these planned transit lines!

      1. So so true. I served on a transit advisory group some years back and was surprised that there were no drivers included. Drivers (and riders of course) are the folks who have to live with daily what others have designed and determined what is best for them.

    4. I very much agree about active, experienced driver (or recently retired, long-time driver) and rider representative(s).

      But not just any rider or driver. We need them to represent Drivers and Riders, not only their own opinions/concerns/experience. That’s why I found the suggestion of Martin/Frank/David/Brent/Bruce/etc,.intriguing. I don’t know them well enough to be sure that they would ably represent the broader spectrum of concerns/views (I think they would), but they are at least in contact with that spectrum, which is the first requirement.

      I hope Dow and at least some of those involved in selecting the advisory panels are reading this thread.

  8. If we build bridges that open for boats, we can’t keep continuing in that direction with new track and stations, because there’s an artificial cap on train frequency. We’re building long-term infrastructure here. I’m sad our budget is so constrained that we have to build crossings that only work for the next station we have planned.

    1. You could add plenty of new stations, and still never have an issue with boats. Consider:

      1) The bridge doesn’t open during rush hour (this is the case now).

      2) Outside of rush hour, this won’t operate that often. For a corridor like this, you really can’t expect very good headways. You aren’t going to see 3 minute headways at noon. If it is paired with Rainier Valley, then the best you can hope for is 6 minutes. The existing system — despite covering the most important sections that our system will ever cover — operates at 10 minute headways, outside of rush hour. Six minutes would be a major accomplishment for this line, even if it included 65th and 85th. My guess is we will be lucky if we get 8.

      3) The bridge will be higher, which means that openings will be less frequent.

      4) A bridge opening is usually fairly short, which means that an operator should be able to time it so that there is no delay at all.

      5) If there is a delay, it won’t be that long, and the train will go merrily on its way. The delay caused by openings will likely be less than that caused by passengers, or mechanical failures that have occurred several times this last year. It won’t be like the current opening, which causes delay primarily because it causes backups (congestion). Backups don’t exist with a train system like this.

      1. It might cause a horrific uproar, but my understanding is that vertical lift bridges are faster to open and close than other movable types. Seattle doesn’t have any of those right now but other than the ugliness factor I don’t see any reason not to use one of those in this location. So, it may also be worth considering what is the fastest to move.

  9. I can see the advantages of Ballard station at 15th Ave, but only if the intersection design is changed to something that is appropriate for a terminus/major transit station. Based on Google maps it’s not a place where I would want to walk every day. Especially if the station were to be in the corner with only surface crosswalk access to the three other corners. Then there is the issue of bus transfers – you probably don’t want people running across those long crosswalks to catch a bus on the other side. How you do this, we’ve got plenty of time to sort through, but IMHO the station access at 15th is just as important as the decision between 15th and 17th and it’s worth starting the discussion now, so we don’t get a situation like U District station which as far as I can tell doesn’t seem to come with much improvement to 12th Ave and 45th ST NE.

    1. The main advantage of a station at 15th is that the line can be extended up 15th, to serve 65th or 85th. Otherwise you might as well go west (all the way to 24th, depending on cost). Going up 15th is much easier than going up a side street (e. g. 17th) and the destinations are bigger along 65th than they are on 24th. Ballard High School is on 15th, and there will be a new urban village on 85th and 15th. You could move the urban village west (to 24th) but that puts it farther away from Greenwood. If you extend this north, the best place to do so on 15th.

      1. Yes, definitely go up 15th! Just saying street configuration updates and ped/bike/bus rider access (from bus stops probably not large bus bays) should be part of the conversation sooner rather than later, so that these improvements can be in place by the time the station opens. Same goes for the SODO and Stadium stations, it would be a huge waste to have four stations that close without good ped and bike options.

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