Our final installment in the ST3 Level 1 alternatives commentary takes us through SODO. The industrial area south of downtown is notable in our series in that it is currently served by light rail, which runs along the E-3 busway between 4th and 6th avenues.

The new alignment, like the current one, would have a station at S Royal Brougham Way and another at S Lander St. Sodo is also where the N-S “spine” from Everett to Tacoma is split in two. A new line would be constructed in parallel, allowing for West Seattle trains to connect to the existing downtown Metro tunnel while trains coming north from the Rainier Valley (and eventually Tacoma) are re-routed into a new tunnel to continue on to South Lake Union and Ballard.

Map summarizing level 1 findings

All three alternatives under consideration run in parallel to the current tracks. Some of the relevant issues include:

  • Take the E-3 busway or try to leave it for buses
  • Whether to serve Stadium station
  • What impact to Metro’s Ryerson bus base is acceptable
  • Unspecified construction risks to the old INS building in Chinatown
  • Road bridges over Lander and Holgate to reduce grade crossing conflicts (for both the new line and the existing line)

Overall, the exercise seems to be about connecting West Seattle and Downtown with as little impact as possible.

What’s notable is what’s absent: any discussion of using an alternate N-S right-of-way, such as 1st Ave S. A 1st Ave S alignment would better serve the emerging nightlife and office space on 1st Ave, not to mention Safeco’s front door. Perhaps it was thrown out for technical difficulties or objections from the Port, but it’s unfortunate it wasn’t even considered as a Level 1 alternative.

Anyway, we have three alignments under consideration:

  • The representative project (red/green): analysis uncovered some potential construction conflicts, as well as some right-of-way issues with the WSDOT I-90 onramp and Urban Visions’ planned stadium district development.
  • Massachusetts Tunnel Portal (cyan/forest): skips Stadium station altogether and avoids the Metro base with a longer tunnel. The planner are also wary of tunneling in poor soil conditions not too far from where Bertha got stuck
  • Surface E-3 (purple/lime): runs at grade on today’s E-3 busway, right next to the current Link trains. Road bridges at Lander and Holgate would reduce grade crossings. Buses would not be able to use the busway, but Metro is planning to abandon it anyway (long-haul express routes like the 150 could truncate at Boeing Access Road or Rainier Beach stations).

Both new alternatives are superior on almost all measures to the baselines, so I would imagine both will survive to Level 2, where we’ll find out just how bad those soils are and just what impact we’re talking about with respect to the bus base, onramps, and the INS building. It sure seems like Surface E-3 is the favorite, though, outscoring the baseline on 9 criteria and losing in none. Add in the possibility of permanently closing Royal Brougham to cars and car/bike/ped bridges on Lander and Holgate, all while keeping Stadium Station open to both trains, and it’s probably the winner.

46 Replies to “Level 1 Alternatives: SODO”

  1. Easiest decision of ST3: E3 busway. If and only if a real First Hill Station was under consideration, then the Massachusetts tunnel would be worth considering. But between a busway Metro will no longer need and right of way Sound Transit will need, it sounds like a good trade.

    Additional suggestions: extend the tunnel a bit and build a trench under Royal Brougham so Link can be grade separated with Royal Brougham still usable. Overpass all crossings, skip stadium, and add a station at Holgate street on the line that skips stadium.

    1. For anything on or under the ground, Alex, remember that the soil is mostly mud. Not to say you can’t. But check out your implications.


    2. Alex,

      It is a multi agency decision.

      The parallel is that East Link is destroying the D-2 roadway in 2018, five years before East Link opens, imposing travel time cost on all I-90 riders. these costs are not discounted much as they are current. the stream of benefits of elevating Route 550 to Link in 2023 is discounted more as it is in the future. Was building a parallel and separate pathway for East Link and keeping the D-2 open costed out?

      For West Seattle, should the SODO busway be destroyed and a bus ROW with degraded speed and reliability be substituted. Again, the passenger cost will be current and not discounted much.

      The cost of an alternative pathway that preserves the busway should be considered.

      There is growing traffic congestion everywhere.

  2. I still fail to understand why the temporary West Seattle configuration can’t have trains running into downtown through the existing tunnel. If West Seattle is going to connect to the existing track anyway, why not run the trains on it into downtown. Yes, this might create a little bit of rush hour congestion when all the lines are running in one tunnel at their maximum frequencies, but this is something we can deal with for a few years, and it’s much better than just truncating West Seattle service in SODO. Outside of rush hour, when the lines are less frequent, this won’t even be a problem.

    I’m guessing the reason is political – that any admission that it’s technically possible to run West Seattle buses through the existing tunnel would undermine the case for a new tunnel and, therefore jeopardize ST3’s passage. But, now that ST3 passed, can this be made to work?

    1. I think you meant “run West Seattle trains” (not buses). I agree with you It seems silly to have the trains stop at SoDo.

    2. Capacity from the south may not be a problem, though I think it will be with East Link ridership and ridership from Tacoma and Federal Way if peak express buses largely go away.

      Regardless, there is no good way to get Ballard / SLU Link through downtown without the second tunnel.

    3. There is a time logic problem. It’s impractical to run East Link at 6 minutes with four-car trains before 2035. It will never be practical to run Rainier Valley at 6 minutes although it could be done; four-car trains will enhance capacity — but more riders from Federal Way or Tacoma could fill up the fourth car.

      Did tail tracks ever get designed north of the ID Station? Without a third track, reversing any train is very disruptive to operations on the high-frequency line. Just ask BART or Muni about their mistaken tail track omissions and the billions required to fix it later.

      The last point is that northbound West Seattle riders getting on a second train at SODO may not be able to fit because of overcrowding ! That’s on top of the transfer volumes crossing the tracks.

    4. “It will never be practical to run Rainier Valley at 6 minutes”

      It’s six minutes now. It just can’t go more than six minutes.

      Putting West Seattle trains onto the tunnel runs into the problem that East Link trains will be in the tunnel by then, so twice as many as now, and all 4-car trains.

      Even if the tunnel has capacity for three lines, it would be at the limit of design tolerance, meaning any little problem might detract from reliability.

      ST had two choices: build a second tunnel or make capital improvements to the existing tunnel to bring the maximum headway down from 3 minutes to 1.5. It chose the second and not the first. That was a good decision because two tunnels gives us a fallback in case one if them breaks; it gives plenty of capacity for unexpected ridership growth and population growth; and it gives capacity for an additional line or two later. That’s as forward-thinking as the DSTT, and may have helped ST1 pass in the first place because it didn’t have to pay for the tunnel. It’s easier to get a second tunnel now when it serves the entire west half of Seattle (Ballard directly; West Seattle by substitution), than later when those two are running and the tunnel would only serve Aurora, Georgetown, and Issaquah.

      Seattle, Pugetopolis, and the US have underinvested in transit for so many decades that I’d like to see then see on the side if overinvestment for a change. People can ride overinvestment and it allows them to fit more activities into the day (the same reason people drive rather than take transit). They can’t ride underinvestment (and that not only leads to more cars but demand for more car lanes and parking spaces).

      1. If each of the three lines runs every ten minutes at peak (3.33 minutes combined), it would seem possible in the DSTT. It’s at 6 minutes today with buses also in the tunnel. The system could go to 7.5 minutes for each of three lines but that probably would test the limits of the system. Of course, with so many new stations on extensions, the passenger loads get heavier, and a more crowded train has to stay significantly longer at a station platform to allow riders to push on or push off.

        The problem is that we have no good public data whether on overcrowding in 2030 scenario . We are speculating in absence of the missing load / overcrowfing analysis. As I think we both have noted before, a load factor analysis should be informing all of these studies and discussions and it’s nowhere to be found.

        ST seems to still rosily approach design as if Link has unlimited passenger capacity. It’s terribly naive. This will be a big ST issue for decades to come.

      2. It has never run at 10 minutes peak. Even at the beginning it ran at 7 minutes peak. It now runs at 6 minutes because ST doesn’t have enough cars for 4-car trains, and it’s currently pretty full around SODO and Stadium peaks. So Rainier Valley and Tukwila/SeaTac apparently need at least 7-minute 4-car trains in the medium term, and 10 minutes isn’t enough.

        Between downtown and Lynnwood, ST has determined that 6 minutes isn’t enough; that’s why the lines overlap so far. Originally ST was going to run East Link trains to Lynnwood peak and Northgate off-peak, but later it decided that it needed them in Lynnwood full time. So that’s two 6-minute lines.

        I’m worried that downtown to U-District has a 50% chance of being overcrowded, if not in one year then by 2040. If so, the region will have to do something to avoid pass-ups, and the only thing that can be done in the short term is to reintroduce express buses.I had an idea about that today. If buses come from Edmonds-ish and Shoreline-ish down Aurora to SLU station, that would divert some people from Link and avoid putting buses in I-5 traffic. Although it would only work after Ballard Link opens, and it would depend on buses having a place to turn around at the south end. Beyond that, more service on the E and an E express would divert some people from north-central and northwest Seattle. It would be a band-aid and would only divert a few people, but it’s something we may have to do if Link gets overcrowded. But then it runs into ST’s and Metro’s budgets. If ST has no money to add express buses because it’s put all that money into Link operations, then it would require additional funding, an ST 3.1 or something.

        One thing to watch: Everett Link won’t add a trainload of people. Most people who take Everett Link in ST3 will be on Lynnwood Link in ST2, taking a bus or driving to Lynnwood Station. So it won’t cause a second apocolypse. But the first apocolypse when Northgate and Lynnwood open is still a serious concern. Another thing to watch: those going to Paine Field will be coming from Everett, southwest Snohomish, or King County, so they’ll be either reverse-commuting or north of Lynnwood, and won’t be in the peak-direction crush. Unless they’re coming from south of downtown Seattle.

      3. ST had two choices: build a second tunnel or make capital improvements to the existing tunnel to bring the maximum headway down from 3 minutes to 1.5. It chose the second and not the first. That was a good decision

        How can you say that without knowing what it would cost to just run the trains more often?

        it gives plenty of capacity for unexpected ridership growth and population growth

        What if we never need it? It is quite likely we won’t. Besides, if we do, then that is the time to build it.

        ; and it gives capacity for an additional line or two later.

        Yes, for lines that will never be built. In terms of lines downtown, we’ve done it. It’s over. Oh, I suppose you could run a new train on Westlake, or Eastlake, but that is expensive, and simply not needed. What do you want to do — run a train through Georgetown or Boeing Field? That is ridiculous (obviously). The only thing left are things that should have been built *instead* of the secondary tunnel. Ballard to the UW and the Metro 8 subway.

        I have never seen an agency completely freak out over the possibility that people might have to stand up for part of their trip, while simultaneously cutting essential services, ensuring that capacity will never be an issue. ST has not only built a redundant line, but they have failed to add the stops necessary to make the line popular. This is a like a company freaking out about having too much cash, and then killing off their best product.

        Look, the cities that have crowded subways have successful subways. Boston moves half a million people a day on their subway — that is a good problem to have. So what did they do? They build a light rail system that carries a quarter million people. The light rail trains are sometimes crowded, but guess what? There is no way someone would trade one of those lines for a little more elbow room on the subway. Vancouver is the same way. The Millennium Line carries 180,000 people. The Expo Line carries 280,000. Yet everyone from the Millennium Line that wants to go downtown has to transfer to the line that carries over a quarter million people. So what are they doing? Sending the Millennium Line downtown, to avoid the crowding that occurs on the other line? No! They are sending it out to the university, to actually improve the network. That’s because serving neighborhoods is more important than a little crowding. Again, this is a line that will likely carry more riders than our entire system, even when ours serves places like Fife.

        If the goal is to be able to lie down and take a nap while traveling to Lynnwood, then yes, building an extra tunnel is great. But if you actually want to provide the greatest good for the greatest number, then it was a very stupid mistake. Many communities will have to wait years — quite likely forever — before they get relief from the congested bus service that serves their community. All so we can solve a problem that will likely never exist.

      4. So service to SLU and LQA is redundant with the existing line? Interesting.

        I’ll summarize your argument as such, “Only neighborhoods in Seattle merit light rail, and no regional centers outside of Seattle are worth serving. Further, everything north of UW should have their frequency cut in half to serve Ballard.”

        I liked your argument about the Millennium Line. I’m remember it next someone argues it’s “obvious” that the Issaquah line should go to downtown Seattle.

      5. >> So service to SLU and LQA is redundant with the existing line? Interesting.

        No, I said the tunnel between Westlake and SoDo is redundant. That should have been obvious. I’m not sure how you got confused.

        >> I’ll summarize your argument as such, “Only neighborhoods in Seattle merit light rail,…

        I never said that (nice straw man). Of course you run transit to the edge of the suburbs. You make sure that buses can connect to them. That is what most cities do. That is practically what every city does. The only cities that have done something else have very disappointing ridership outside the core, despite the extra investment in it.

        >> and no regional centers outside of Seattle are worth serving.

        I never said that either. Obviously Bellevue should be served. Redmond maybe. But Issaquah or Kirkland rail? Ridiculous.

        >> Further, everything north of UW should have their frequency cut in half to serve Ballard

        Again, nothing I said. Just make a spur, like so: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67869267@N07/9152772373/in/photostream/. If you really need to run the main line from Northgate every 90 seconds, then so be it. My guess is every three minutes would be fine. The rest of the day, it wouldn’t matter — you just interline (as shown).

        >>: I liked your argument about the Millennium Line.. I’m remember it next someone argues it’s “obvious” that the Issaquah line should go to downtown Seattle.

        It is obvious the Issaquah line should never be built. The Millennium Line is nothing like the Issaquah Line. The Millennium Line is sort of like Ballard to UW (especially if it gets extended to the university). The Issaquah to Kirkland Line is more like one of the San Jose (VTA) light rail lines. Not great ridership (similar to one of our top buses) along with pretty weak headways (15 minute peak, 30 minutes the rest of the time).

      6. Ross, Ballard-UW will never make sense as a subway. If some sort if surface or elevated line through Fremont could be pieced together, that would be good. But a subway isn’t cost-effective.

        There are currently 800 to 1000 seats per hour in each direction in the peak hours on the 44. That is abysmally below the ridership necessary to support a subway.

        We all know that you foresee riders from the E, 5 and 62 getting off the bus at Upper Fremont or Wallingford stations, riding the subway over to U-District and transferring to a Red or Blue Line train.

        Aside from the difficulty of the transfer at U-District which is undefined because ST has made no plans for it, there won’t be any room on the trains.

        And, not to put too fine a point on it, but why would a rider on the 5 get off a bus that”s ten blocks from “going express” in the bus lanes on Aurora? Ditto riders ob the “E”; they’re already ON an express.

        And any smart rider on the 62 from north of 55th would go north to Roosevelt Station for a two-seat ride.

        Riders on the 26 and 28 can’t get to the train because they have no station. Maybe the 28 would come up to Fremont Station, but then there’s a coverage hole to the west of Phinney Ridge.

        The bottom line is that your idea of curtain-like bus intercept doesn’t get enough new riders to make the thing viable. Simply replacing the 44 with a subway is not cost effective.

    5. A train every 3 minutes is 20 per hour.

      Every 6 minutes on the SeaTac line will take half of those slots. Or do you reduce this to every 9 minutes and provide additional slots for the Eastside and West Seattle lines?

      How much traffic will West Seattle need? Every 9 minutes? Every 15 minutes? It really depends on how much they develop in the next decade.

      The biggest problem I see with the second tunnel plan is that it doesn’t add that much service area. I understand why it does what it does, but it would be nice if if could not duplicate so closely the existing line through downtown.

      1. >> How much traffic will West Seattle need? Every 9 minutes? Every 15 minutes?

        It really depends on what you want to do with the buses. Anything more than 9 minutes and it seems like a major degradation for West Seattle riders. It is bad enough that they have to transfer, but that would mean a transfer to a train that is *less* frequent than the bus they just left. I think you need to run it every 9 minutes, and I’m not sure if that works for the south and the east. By the time this is done, Rainier Valley may have a lot more people while Federal Way may chip in with ridership (especially if they cut off express bus service). It all adds up, and I think it would be a tough sell (for either the south end or the east side) to tell them to run trains every 9 minutes (instead of 6) just so folks in West Seattle can avoid a transfer.

        That is why I don’t expect them to do anything different than what they planned. I also don’t expect them to truncate the buses. That means very low ridership on the West Seattle train, since it will be people who live close to the train headed to SoDo (or are willing to transfer there) which can’t be a lot of people. That will likely mean 15 minute headways at best.

        It’s not the ideal order (ideally you would build from the middle out — start with a line from Lower Queen Anne to SoDo) but the size of the package, and the financing involved prevented that. This proposal is huge, and so we are building things in the proposed order mainly because the West Seattle piece is relatively cheap (assuming, of course, it isn’t underground).

    6. Little conspiracy theory. Just for fun.

      Maybe the reason ST set this stub to open five years early is because they know WS will fight over every aspect of the alignment and demand the more expensive alignment. When this results in a five year delay, everyone will say, no big deal because it was only going to be a stub line for those five years.

      ST gets the arguments handled early. WS gets rail at the time it always made sense. No one is upset because the date early proposal was never good.

      1. Yeah, maybe, but if West Seattle asks for a tunnel, I will ask that West Seattle rail be built last. So that means Ballard to SoDo get built first, while five years after that we see West Seattle rail. The main argument for building West Seattle rail first is that the elevated rail is cheap, so you might as well build it as a first step. But if it isn’t, then it should be put on the back burner, and we should build everything else first.

  3. I’m really disppointed that an aerial stacked SODO station with a level for southbound trains and a level for northbound trains isn’t put on the table. That really is the best for both transferring ease and local pedestrian access.

    With only one new SODO station configuration, the omission of other configuration alternatives after the dozens of opinions supporting better transfers here shows a disregard for the public process. If the public can easily identify and support other configurations, why does ST only look at one other? The other segments are showing 5-7 options at this point!

    It’s still possible to design tracks with any of these alternatives to have a level platform if ST was willing to include a crossover track. It would require rebuilding the structure with the southbound track headed to Beacon Hill would allow for a track “swap” between northbound trains from West Seattle and southbound trains headed towards Beacon Hill.

    As good as the surface E-3 alternative looks for level transfers, it frankly is station access hell! Pedestrian riders would have to walk up an overpass and walk down to the each platform — or would be kept at the flat level and cross across four busy light rail tracks! That makes station access worse than today! Further, adding in wide over-crossings for vehicles is not cheap nor easy — and could easily cost more than having both Link lines as aerial here.

    I’m not opposed to having northbound trains at grade and southbound trains as aerial. However, the current track configuration doesn’t propose looking at that.

    Generally, ST should be rolling out individual track diagrams at this point. It will be logical to have an easy way for trains to cross lines no matter how stations are designed. That’s completely ignored here.

    When I talked to ST staff at the open house, they had no comprehension of the transfer access issue. Several people spoke up and staff looked annoyed. This clearly shows that no one making decisions is getting the station access issue!

    1. Al, best thing you and everybody else interested can do is let your ST Board member know that for every uninformed meeting staff member you encounter, you’re going to petition Senator Steve O’ban to cut your “tab” costs by fifty cents. For wasting your billable time.

      Everything technical, from soils to machines- engineers. Station access- somebody with both mental pictures and other useful information. For the project’s own sake. Because I really think that the deeper and more comprehensive knowledge that attendees take home, the better the feedback they’ll get in return for their own budget.

      Not least because a speaker wearing a hard-hat commands attention. Indicating first-hand credible information, in shorter supply than weapons-grade uranium.


    2. @Al S,

      Having both northbound trains on the same level doesn’t help for west-to-south transfers. See my comment below for how to make that happen. Having both north lines serving the same level at Stadium Station, would work just fine to enable south/west to north/northwest transfers, and allow the south-to-west transfers to happen smoothly at SODO.

      1. ST needs to inform its process by providing data on transferring passengers. I’ve never even seen what east-south transfers will be after 2023. Nothing in ST3 ever talks about transfer volumes.

        ST instead keeps talking about generic ridership forecasts by corridor but never gives any detail beyond that.

        Regardless of what transfers are prioritized, the current proposals lack any easy transferring between the two lines at SODO — period.

        A fully blended track configuration is best — to go along with having four platforms (already assumed). With that in place, ST operations after 2030 can have many ways to set up any platform directions and destinations. Without it, transfers will be made more difficult for decades.

      2. I was thinking a routing that uses the i90 eastlink line then goes aerial down the west side of rainier ave south before turning back to west through the beacon tunnel would be a REAL alternative.
        The turn back through beacon tunnel would make the West To south transfer a walk across the beacon station platform.
        And then, when eastlink capacity grows to the point of needing the full capacity of judkins to IDS track, the route 8 subway would have to be built up throug Capitol Hil

  4. The SODO and ID/CS interchanges are among the most complicated pieces in ST3.

    Ideally, West Seattle Link and South Link should be able to connect to both Ballard Link and Everett Link, because we can’t predict the future. And cross-platform transfers should be enabled.

    SODO Station ought to be stacked so that northbound West Seattle Link and southbound South Link serve the same platform, and southbound West Seattle Link and northbound South Link serve the other platform. There is no easy way to do this without West Seattle Link serving the western track on both platforms and South Link serving the eastern track on both platforms. This is regardless of whether the two lines both connect to North Link and Ballard Link.

    Such an arrangement minimizes the wayfinding confusion, at least for those headed back south, and minimizes transfer time between West Seattle Link and South Link.

    (to be continued … but put on your thinking caps)

    1. “West Seattle Link and South Link should be able to connect to both Ballard Link and Everett Link, because we can’t predict the future.”

      +20. If one of the tunnels becomes unusable, we need the option to reroute trains into the other tunnel. Even if not all of them.

      1. Are the tunnels going to have another interchange at the north end of downtown? I totally agree, for what it’s worth, but I’m just wondering if we’ll have the capability of using either tunnel for either line endpoint in either direction.

      2. Nope. The only place where trains could go from one line to the other is between Stafium Station and the SODO ST train yard. The ST2 system never anticipated a second Downtown tunnel and ST3 never identified a project nor funding to make that connection happen. The WSCC Convention Place giveaway dooms a connection there probably for eternity.

      3. It doesn’t require a “project” to just design Y’s and short connecting track. It would give ST flexibility in deployment and maintenance as well as emergencies.

      4. “The ST2 system never anticipated a second Downtown tunnel”

        Specifically, in 2008 ST2 was Lynnwood to S 272nd Street and Redmond. It was assumed it would be extended to Lynnwood and Tacoma in ST3 or later. The Ballard-downtown line was just a concept between Market Street and Westlake, with no specifics on what it would do at Westlake. Everything about expanding Westlake Station, a second Westlake Station, the existing tunnel, a new tunnel, elevated, or surface was punted to the indefinite future, vaguely assumed to be planned in the 2020s or later.

  5. I think ST may have gotten so focused on the current track and the E3 option that they may have never even thought of running a route up 1st Ave, and simply rejected it out of hand when someone brought it up.

    I’m sure their myopia extends to the station configuration too.

    Why oh why can’t they hire a professional design firm with experience designing transit systems to do this work?

    1. I’d lay the problem on ST hiring internal staff who have never designed a few other rail transit systems and learned from past mistakes. If they did, they would be telling design firms what doesn’t work before letting it go public. The firms aren’t going to question clueless staff because they want the bigger station design contract.

      1. I know I left multiple post-its on maps and comments on comment cards suggesting 1st Avenue be considered. SoDo isnt exactly an area that warrants two lines, but since we are going have a second line here why not have it take a different route and hit a baseball stadium, a large corporate headquarters and multiple smaller businesses in an underserved transit area???

    2. >> Why oh why can’t they hire a professional design firm with experience designing transit systems to do this work?

      Unfortunately, It is just not the way they operate. I am convinced that is the root of the problem with the organization. With all due respect to Mike, it shouldn’t be up to ordinary citizens to suggest things like a station at NE 130 or 1st Avenue. If it is obvious to ordinary folks (like us) who look at it, it would be obvious to consultants hired for that purpose.

      But ST doesn’t work that way. It is not really designed the way you would assume. It is not a regular transit agency, but an agency made up of politicians who know little about transit, and have far more important jobs. When they aren’t busy with their regular jobs (that are plenty busy) they spend time doing what politicians usually spend time doing: pleasing their constituents. The problem is, ordinary citizens don’t know squat about subway systems, and neither do mayors. So the folks in charge of ST are talking to people who know no more than they do. It is like having Congress convene a committee to discuss global warming, then inviting other mayors and folks off the street. You need experts. But ST feels like you don’t, except when it comes times to actually build the thing.

      So an ST board member spends a little time looking at a map, thinks in terms of freeways, and then talk to the folks involved. Shake a few hands of fellow mayors, maybe talk to a few ordinary folks, and all is good. Except subways aren’t like freeways. It just doesn’t work that way (as Jarrett Walker has explained numerous times). Rail isn’t always the best option either. Sometimes you just need to fix the problem with better bus service, or fix the bus delays with a bit of infrastructure (as folks around here figured out forty years ago). So things go unstudied, and we have seat of the pants planning. Sometimes it works out OK, sometimes it doesn’t.

  6. jas, and Al, for the sake of your own effectiveness, don’t tell yourselves that a decision you consider wrong stems from either stupidity or ignorance. Especially on the part of professional engineers, but even more, of the elected officials who hire them and give them their orders.

    Very often, a consultant’s main purpose is to confirm a decision that the officials have already made. My own pet example: the finding that using fareboxes in the DSTT would not slow service. Ignorance and corruption would’ve been easier to swallow.

    Real decider: For a temporary situation (in this case as long as buses were still there) off-board fare collection and Proof of Payment enforcement just cost too much money. Citizens’ remedy, and STB’s duty? Know cost of a minute’s service delay, and repeatedly remind politicians, officials, the Seattle Times, and your State electeds that, and what, you know.

    Same with First Avenue, E-3, and everything else. For effectiveness, tech details first. Political, make these public. Since in this case, Russian knowledge may even be useful, don’t worry about who Mark Zuckerberg leaks it to. These people can carry thousands on ancient trolleybuses coupled together.

    Some great first-hand info on YouTube. Forward it to the whole ST Board.


    Russian trolleybuses, streetcars, tramways.


  7. I agree with everybody who is saying the transfer stations need to be stacked, basically consolidated into a single station. Not only is it a huge waste having two stations right alongside each other each with separate access to the street (some redevelopment is likely, and there will be walk up passengers not just those transferring), but it creates poor transfer situations. Not having the West Seattle trains go at least to ID–effectively forcing *everybody* to transfer *all at once* brings up serious transfer capacity questions. I mean, c’mon Sound Transit–plan for success not low ridership!

    I would have loved to see a 1st Ave. route, but it looks like that ship has sailed:( Nevertheless, ST should at least plan for the possibility of adding an infill station at 1ST Ave. and the Spokane ST Viaduct. (“SoDo South?”)

  8. Personally, I think that skipping Stadium station is a good idea. It is the lowest ridership station on the entire existing Link system (what passengers it does have are mostly from sports games, not neighborhood demand), it would already be served by one line, and it slows down passengers going from Seattle to Tacoma via Link or vice versa.

    1. There are two major purposes for high-capacity transit. One is for everyday trips, the other is for surges of people. Ballgames are such a surge, exactly what high-capacity transit is designed for. So it would be silly to bypass a station where a lot of people get on/off at once, especially when you’re right next to it.

      1. There’s also the Greyhound station. Not a huge use case admittedly, but it would be a little silly to have to transfer to go one stop to get there if you’re coming from West Seattle, especially if the train you were on is going to drive by it anyway.

    2. Skipping Stadium station is not a good idea. You can probably can kiss the Mainer’s patronage goodbye as it is too far to walk to either SODO or ID/Chinatown stns. (CenturyLink Field is much closer to ID/Chinatown stn. for those patrons). Also Stadium station is used by KCM transit operators to get to relief points for operator reliefs at UW area (Route 44), Beacon Hill Stn (Route 60) and Mt. Baker Stn (Routes 8, 48). If this option is gone, then it is back to relief cars to perform these operator reliefs again.

  9. It would be nice if SoDo and Stadium stations were designed for easy transfers… SoDo for a cross platform transfer between outbound Ballard-Rainier Valley trains and inbound West Seattle-Everett. Then Stadium for a cross platform transfer between both inbound trains.

    1. This is a 100 year system. We and future generations will be paying for it and living with it for a long, long time. It should be held to the highest standard in terms of passenger efficiency and convenience.

      Platform locations notwithstanding, in the eventual ST3 configuration, there are 5 lines heading in and out of downtown Seattle, to/from Ballard, Everett, Redmond, Tacoma, and West Seattle.

      Riders on any one of these will be through-routed to one or two of the other four, so if their destination is any one of the remaining two or three, they’ll need to make a transfer. The natural transfer points are those after which the lines diverge: Westlake on the north, IDS and SODO on the south. Each of these should provide maximally efficient transfers in each *combination of directions* between the divergent lines. That’s a lot of transfers worth considering. Maybe some are more important than others in some quantifiable analysis, but all of them should be considered important because all of the people who need to make those trips are themselves important, as is their time.

      The most efficient transfer is cross-platform, but that surely won’t be possible at Westlake so we should see the best we can get while threading another tunnel under there. At IDS and SODO, the burden of proof should be on anyone who claims that the best possible transfer cannot possibly be constructed. Walk distance is a minus. A grade change is a bigger minus.

      My fear is that station access ends up receiving a fraction of the attention it deserves, at a time in the process after critical decisions will already have been made that limit options to a set of weak ones. How can we avoid this outcome in ST3?

      Someone should be taking a comprehensive look at other systems around the world and how they solve this, because it has definitely been solved before.

      1. Given ST’s record of poor escalator and elevator uptime, grade change should be an absolute last resort. A not inconsiderable percentage of these transfers will be to and from the airport or King Street Station, i.e.,people laden with luggage.

  10. Is it that level 1 is for general routing, and there will be a level 2 that will discuss things like operations and transfer/station details?

    1. Level 2 will have more details but not at that level. It will be more of the same. ST may give an operations outline like it did for Lynnwood Link. In the absence of such, I’d assume the same frequency as now on each line. Level 2 will lead into the Preferred Alternative, and the EIS will compare that to no-build and one or more other alternatives (probably from Level 2). The EIS will cover “environmental impacts”, and will include a basic outline of bus corridors, which you can already see in Metro’s long-range plan (2040 version). The EIS will cover the station position and the general location of entrances, and hopefully the transfer plan, but no details beyond that. After the EIS is finished, ST will choose an alignment to build from the options in the EIS (it can mix and match, but presumably it will choose the Preferred Alternative). Then it will go into design phase, and there will be open houses at the 30%, 60%, and 90% design. At that point you’ll get all the station details.

  11. Has ST considered the impact of the Seattle City Light transmission lines that are also in the E3 Busway, from Massachusetts to Industrial Way? These towers are large and there are several circuits. An elevated alignment would most assuredly require some modification to the transmission lines, and an at-grade alignment may need compromises that allow SCL access to the towers. Has the cost of relocating these been captured anywhere?

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