Convention Place Station

On May 1st, Seattle’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee reviewed the alley vacation for the Washington State Convention Center expansion, which will close the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to buses. The core measure passed unanimously, but the most interesting discussion centered around exactly when buses would have to leave the tunnel.

The question has come down to the tunnel closing in March or September 2019. Either date would coincide with the regular Metro service change. If the WSCC gets its master use permit from SDOT by July 1st, it can start in March. However, SDOT cannot guarantee that the remaining street improvements meant to mitigate the bus congestion will be ready in time. Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s legislation would have attached the condition that the developer could not kick buses out prior to September. Councilmember Rob Johnson introduced an amendment that would strike this language, making the city’s position neutral in discussions between King County and the developer. The amendment passed committee 4-3*, so it will go before full council on Monday without any timing conditions attached.

Prior to Council deliberation, SDOT staff presented the state of affairs and answered clarifying questions. The One Center City process is intended to address the “period of maximum constraint” — making sure people and buses can still flow through downtown when buses leave the tunnel, the viaduct comes down, and SR99 tunnel tolls divert traffic. This period would end as they haul away the viaduct debris and light rail gets to Northgate in 2021.

Of many ambitious ideas, the short-term SDOT plan has whittled down to three main things (see 54:00 in the video):

  1. Signal improvements on 2nd and 4th Avenues for greater transit priority and pedestrian safety. SDOT Interim Director Goran Sparrman and his staff felt confident this would be done by March.
  2. On 3rd Avenue, more ORCA readers, and possibly longer hours of car restrictions and/or the zone stretching further into Belltown. SDOT said this might be complete by March but thought September was a safer deadline.
  3. Extending the 5th Avenue contraflow bus lane from Cherry Street to Marion St, and then continuing further North on 6th Avenue. This has interactions with the reversible I-5 on-ramp at Cherry, which requires coordination with WSDOT and FHWA. While not a huge project that digs up the street, staff were less than certain this could be done by March.

In addition to the SDOT work, of course, there is a Metro/Sound Transit process looking at restructures to stop buses at Link stations before they reach downtown. Those were out of scope for today’s discussion, as decisions there are not even close to final.

WSCC Developer Matt Griffin (1:34:30), a self-identified “bus guy,” nevertheless made the case against another six-month delay for his project. It would introduce further uncertainty in an already complicated project, raise costs, and delay delivery of urgent public benefits like middle-income jobs, $16m for the bike master plan, and affordable housing.

Metro’s Bill Bryant stepped in to clarify the numbers. In the afternoon peak, 40 buses per hour travel in each direction in the DSTT. The 5th/6th transitway is expected to absorb half of that, and 3rd avenue improvements might recover just enough capacity for the rest.

The committee then engaged in an interesting and thoughtful discussion (2:19:00). Everyone is interested in an early start for the WSCC, to varying degrees. Councilmembers Bagshaw and Gonzalez seemed dissatisfied with the squishiness of SDOT’s estimates, interested in more stringent car restrictions on 3rd, and observed that if we give them six more months, it will likely take six more months — a dynamic familiar to anyone who’s ever run a project. They speculated that the earlier deadline might concentrate minds and allow early delivery, or at worst a very short period with no transit priority.

Asked later if he was concerned that an early deadline might hurt transit riders, Mr. Johnson said, “When we give SDOT a clear timeline, they do it… 11 months seems doable. If the outcome is [Metro and the WSCC agree] that it doesn’t start till November, that’s a good thing for transit riders. If some pathways are open in March, that’s also a good thing for transit riders.”

Other members, notably Mr. O’Brien and Lisa Herbold, were reluctant to overrule the estimates of their in-house technical experts. O’Brien, in particular, pointed to a recent project briefing that suggested that even an immediate start would allow buses to use the right-of-way well into summer 2019, meaning keeping buses in the tunnel till September would only cost the WSCC a couple of months. He also argued that keeping buses in the tunnel longer will shorten the period of maximum constraint, provide flexibility to respond to unexpected developments, and lighten the resulting congestion problem overall.

In a later conversation with STB, O’Brien emphasized the flexibility point. Even if the 5th/6th transitway were complete by March, there would be value in having the DSTT capacity to respond to problems with the introduction of SR99 tunnel tolling and shortening the time where transit will suffer most. “I would like the public to know that the City Council thad the option to delay [maximum congestion] for six months and chose to prioritize other things,” O’Brien said, “I hope I’m wrong, but I think we’re going to regret it.”

However, he isn’t planning to reopen the issue in Full Council on Monday. Instead, he may introduce an amendment requiring $50,000 from the WSCC to fund the creation of a plan for spot improvements. There were would be specific congestion metrics that would trigger a further $1m payment to fund items from that plan.

* Johnson, Bagshaw, Gonzalez, and Mosqueda for the amendment. O’Brien, Herbold, and Sawant against.

76 Replies to “Council Debates Convention Center, DSTT Closing to Buses”

  1. My call: Leave the 550 and the 41. With some 30 years’ overdue attention to signalling and training, we should finally be able to keep buses out from under the trains- really main consideration. Council’s whole attention needs to be how badly those buses are needed down there. And off the streets.

    Let’s quickly get some figures in front of the council as to average rush hour passenger load. Might remind the man how many working people need those trains to get to work on time. Worth some serious political effort on this one.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s a physical blocking of Convention Place Station: they can either keep all buses or none. There’s no scenario I’ve heard of where they can keep two routes and kick out the others.

      1. Why not? Blocked for ten, blocked for two- site still blocked for construction traffic. With what these two routes carry, I’d think of them as a through LINK line run with buses. Could run them in platoons like trains- as DSTT design originally intended.

        Though as I said, question is really whether these extra buses can still assist trains- rather than slow them down. At best- idea would presume a lot. Starting with faster wheelchair securements than may be available anywhere. I’d accept a finding of Zero Tolerance from rail side.

        Really don’t care what Convention Center interests think. Transit was into CPS first. But a few nights ago- and I was lucky to be stuck at Capitol Hill station where I could escape, no tolerance of my own for anything in the way of LINK. Including slower loading, but especially leaders running into cars out on MLK.

        Security man told me he’d call Lyfft for me- irritating that they might be encouraging transit to get slack by rescuing people from our failures. Though equally likely, people will be more likely to ride transit knowing that in an emergency, they’ll have an escape set up with a screen-touch.
        Anyhow, no harm in trying.

        Any reason to remind Rob Johnson of his transit past, Seattle is the better for. Too bad train drivers don’t wear hard hats, because this isn’t first time in US history our elected leaders have gotten shaken up buy guys wearing them and yelling. Construction guy in South Lake Union gave me a yellow one. Will wear it if I can get an appointment with Rob.


  2. And I also think it’s a good idea to put the Sound Transit colors on the 41. Just to convey the idea that these buses are part of the future, not the past. Which will be a lot easier to do the faster we start running them as if that’ll be the case long as they’re needed in the Tunnel. And off the streets.


      1. Or 550 either, Brent. We’re talking about the years ’til LINK arrives, that’s all. Watching those buses load at PM rush, really do think it’s worth it to keep them running long as possible. But once again, if LINK says they’re in the way, not a tear of goodbye.

        One summer forty years ago or so, worked with a logging crew using a giant Sky Crane helicopter to bring ten ton logs out of the woods and set them down in the truck parking lot where us “choker chasers” ran out and unbuckled the cables so they could be loaded on trucks.

        If police mounted every major intersection with cameras, could have enough of their investigation complete that the ‘copter could clear the intersection every time the Washington Guard makes an illegal left.


      2. Metro’s 2025 plan says no. At 125th & Lake City Way:

        * RapidRide 372
        * Frequent 75 to 5th and Northgate.
        * Frequent LCW – Northgate Way – 85th – 15th NW – Ballard (“the route from Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer”).
        * Frequent Shoreline CC – Greenwood – 130th/125th.
        * Express Woodinville – Lake City – SLU (Fairview Ave N) – Boren – E Cherry St to 18th & Jefferson.

  3. The Fifth and Sixth proposal is stupid, it’s bad for operations and bad for customers. The last thing buses should do is make left and right turns and route across a series of freeway entrances and exits on Sixth, while requiring passengers to walk two blocks up very steep hills. To call it a transit improvement or mitigation is dishonest; this proposal was only floated to allow transit to survive when SDOT would take two lanes of Fourth Avenue for a cycle track. Now that they’re not proposing the cycle track and Fourth Avenue can still have skip stops, there is no rational reason to make this change.

    I’m not sure why transit people keep talking about the One Center City plan as a way to keep buses moving during the period of maximum constraint, which is a constraint primarily for buses, when almost all of the prominent street changes would have removed traffic and transit capacity for bikes and trolleys.

    1. Quasimodal is hot!
      Mayor Durkan has made two good moves: delaying the two-way cycle track on 4th Avenue until after Northgate Link and pausing the CCC Streetcar. Next: killing the CCC Streetcar and providing two transit lanes on 1st Avenue solving the OCC crisis.

      1. Why can’t streetcars and buses run the same transit-only lanes, exactly like they’ve been doing in the DSTT since, what, 2009?

        Also, should we take out the other two legs of the line- South Lake Union and First Hill? Because they’re worth a lot less in every way terminating at the edges of Downtown, with no way through it.

        Every tool has its use. No transit mode belongs everywhere in any city. But from thirteen years looking at arterial transit, most of it under trolleywire, I think, with lanes and signals above, the kinds of neighborhoods the car-line will be running through- Broadway. The International District, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, and South Lake Union are exactly what a streetcar line should serve.

        Whatever comfort- except for the Waterfront- I can’t think of anyplace else in Downtown Seattle that needs them at all.


      2. >> Also, should we take out the other two legs of the line- South Lake Union and First Hill?

        Yes. Think of the streetcar lines like bus routes. Very poorly performing routes, with buses that are somehow incapable of avoiding small obstacles. We can do better with normal (i. e. better) buses.

    2. What does two lanes on 1st Avenue have to do with overall traffic bottlenecks? Are people on 3rd, 4th, and 5th supposed to go to 1st to get to the lanes? Is First Avenue really the street that most needs transit lanes, or is it just where the city decided to put the streetcar?

      1. First Avenue is just another street. But two lanes anywhere helps relieve bus congestion. The advantage of First is that folks have already studied it — we are ready for it. There are no big surprises, unlike fifth and sixth. The only difference would be BAT lanes instead of middle lanes (for now). I assume that could be done fairly quickly.

        Some would have to walk a ways, but that is true for any street. If you put the bus stops on sixth, those on second have to walk four blocks. Something like third is ideal, but the assumption is that third will be at capacity — we need to run buses on other streets.

    3. Mark Dublin: the Center City Connector streetcar was designed to use center platforms in the center lanes using left-side doors, so buses would not be able to share them.

  4. Enough. Just move the buses out of the DSTT at the next available opportunity. No more delay.

    We’ve had ALL the buses on the surface before and it worked just fine. And that was BEFORE Link was operating. Link will still be operating during this period and it will still be the quickest and most reliable way of getting into,out of, and through downtown. And with buses out of the DSTT Link can do an even better job.

    If there is any problem at all with downtown congestion it will occur when the tolls finally go on the DBT. But that can be solved by delaying the tolls, or by congestion pricing downtown.

    This issue of the “period of maximum constraint” is a nothing burger. All the city council is doing is trying to use it to extract a few bucks out of whichever party they set their targets on next. Our SCC has become an embarrassment.

    1. You may have noticed there’s a few more people downtown than there were in the early 2000s.

      1. And it was not an issue then even with ALL the buses on the surface and NO Link. Now with Link operating we have a huge asset that we didn’t have back then.

        And, if you follow the data, the increase in employment downtown has come without a linear increase in the number of cars DT. In fact, the number of SOV commuters traveling DT has been FALLING of late. So where’s the problem.

      2. I also did not think it was the end of the world when the DSTT was closed temporarily, I think twice. On the other hand, Seattle’s population has increased 30%, and downtown/SLU jobs have increased more than that, maybe even 50%. So I don’t see doomsday if buses are simply moved to the surface, although I do see more traffic jams than then. Another issue is how much traffic at the Stewart-Denny exit and down Stewart Street has changed.It has long been bad, and in the early 00s I got in traffic jams a few times a week and collision blockages a few times a month. I’m not sure how quantitatively it has increased since then.

      3. @Lazarus — Again, get your facts straight. There are way more buses on the surface of downtown than there were in the past. They carry way more people. They already encounter a lot of congestion. Sending more buses to the surface will only make the situation worse, for both the riders of the buses that run in the tunnel now, and those on the surface. Lots of Link riders will also be inconvenienced, as many transfer from buses that would be delayed. Meanwhile, there would be no benefit at all.

        You are basically just suggesting we have a major degradation in our system for no reason. Sure, we would survive. We would also survive without Link (using the same logic). But what is the point? Why close Link — to just save a few bucks? Except in this case, your suggestion wouldn’t save a dime — it would cost us money. It is just a nonsensical overly optimistic suggestion that ignores the studies (made by various agencies) and seems to be based on your vague recollection of how things used to be way back when.

      4. @RossB,

        What you just said was that buses on the surface are the problem. I thank you for that moment of clarity, but I personally would assign some blame to cars too.

        But the future is known, ALL the buses will be coming out of the DSTT, and in the not too distant future at that. We need to plan around that reality, not fight the inevitable.

        No more delay, it is time to put our big-boy-pants on and deal with what we know is coming. We need to drop these silly mode wars and move on. The buses are coming out of the DSTT, let’s deal with it.

      5. @Lazarus — The buses will come out when Link can actually replace a bunch of them! That is the point. Link is still tiny. It still covers only a very small part of the urban landscape (despite sprawling for miles and miles). Of course there is no objective turning point, but Northgate is a fine choice. There are a lot of buses that come from the north end now that won’t once Link gets that far. It is also when ST can actually ramp up their headways. In other words, it is when Link can actually benefit (instead of being hurt) by the buses leaving.

        Making the buses leave early is like shutting down the viaduct now, before the tunnel is built. Yeah, sure, in a few months it is going away — but that doesn’t mean we gain anything by shutting it down early.

    2. It still amazes me that rather ask the WSCC to contribute to our long-term recent and future transit reliance on Link, Council thinks that losing Convention Place is only about buses during this interim period.

      Why isn’t council requiring the WSCC to add escalators and elevators to Westlake? Why isn’t Council requiring the WSCC to fund a mezzanine extension actually to the WSCC?

      A bigger WSCC means bigger impacts to Link and more specifically to Westlake. Council has a big chip to play, and yet they act like they don’t. Council needs to wake up and see the future — and it’s all about direct rail station access!

      1. They aren’t asking anything related to Link because they are stuck in the past.

        For a long time the two most bus dependent cities on the west coast were Seattle and Tijuana. We just convinced ourselves that that was a good thing, and the SCC members are holdovers from that era.

        But with the buses out ST should be able to improve service levels, even within their current rolling stick limits.

        Solve he period of max constraint by focusing on Link. It is a good ask. The SCC should at least suggest it.

      2. They just haven’t thought far enough to that aspect. And they focused mitigation negotiations on a freeway lid study and beautifying Pike/Pine and maybe housing, and didn’t focus on connecting the Convention Center to Link. Although I don’t think it really needs to be connected. It’s three flat blocks from 8th & Pike to 6yth & Pine, and the same from 9th & Pine to 6th & Pine. If I had a walk like that from my convention center to the subway I’d be jumping for joy. We don’t need to give it a special exit or ramp, we just need to keep it within the 5-minute walk circle.

      3. I should add that there has been no capacity study looking at station circulation when the station not only starts having two four-car train lines arriving at a combined frequency of every 90 seconds on the currrnt line, combined with another arriving train at least every 180 seconds on a second set of tracks — and tens of thousands of transferring passengers. The utilization of escalators and elevators is about to grow exponentially. There’s simply not enough pedestrian circulation room there.

      4. Al S: The current DSTT is limited to 3 minutes per train. 90 seconds requires capital improvemnts. which ST considered for ST3 but rejected when it decided on the second tunnel.

      5. Three minutes in each direction, Mike. That’s a train every 90 seconds when combined. All those riders will be using the mezzanine and conveyances to the surface.

      6. Well, OK, but there’s no relationship between one direction and the other — they’re like separate roads — so you can’t expect both directions together to be evenly spaced. So I don’t see how useful it is to average them like that.

      7. Why close Link just to save a few bucks

        Hmmm. Isn’t that true of the streetcars which are already there? They carry some people who simply won’t ride a bus for whatever reason. I’d agree that most of those “reasons” are probably irrational, but they exist.

        You’re constantly on jihad against the streetcars, advocating that the tracks be ripped up simply because the current vehicles are smaller than you think optimum, scorning arguments that they can be turned into longer trams with relatively small investments lengthening the stations. And of course, obtaining the vehicles. .

      8. The size of the streetcars is not the problem. The problem is that they’re ineffective transportation, slower than trolleybuses, and they cost more to operate, which displaces a larger number of bus runs that could be running. The time to use trains is when we give them exclusive lanes or grade separation or we really need their capacity. In other cases we should use buses and save our money for other train corridors.

      9. Mike, if I’m not mistaken, the recent travel time numbers from the SDOT Broadway improvement project showed current streetcar travel times slightly faster than bus travel times. If anything, bus vs. streetcar travel time is a wash, and BOTH depends more on how much transit priority there is in the ROW. Basically, priority over cars. Of course, a bus line requires less capital investment (esp. up front), so more “bang for your buck.” But it’s not significantly *slower* than a trolley bus operating in the came corridor with the same transit priority.

      10. @B – Of course it is slower than if it was a bus operating on the same path. A bus can move out of a lane, a streetcar can’t.

        @Richard — The current vehicles are the only vehicles that can serve the stops. It would cost a lot more to buy and operate larger vehicles (i. e. light rail trains running on the surface). Not that it matters — the streetcars are nowhere near capacity. This isn’t Vancouver, where you can make a good case that they should replace a bus line carrying 50,000 a day with a surface light rail line. Of course Vancouver isn’t going to do that either, but will instead extend their subway.

        It really isn’t that complicated. The current streetcar system is flawed. The vehicles themselves are inferior to the buses (offering no advantages, and several disadvantages). Parts of the route are good, but overall, the route has major flaws. Service along those parts (e. g. Broadway) could be improved dramatically by changing the route. Bus lines change all the time (for the better). But trying to do that for a streetcar is extremely expensive. It is much cheaper to just sell all the equipment, and run a different bus line that direction.

        In other words, your analogy is ridiculous. I’m talking about replacing the streetcar with something better (a more effective bus line). You are talking about replacing a light rail system with nothing.

    3. Moving the buses out would make a small difference if any to link riders, but will add significant delay to bus riders, who are still a majority of tunnel riders. Does that not matter because rail passengers are more valuable?

      1. Somehow this wasn’t posted with the comment I was responding to… whoops

      2. I made the same mistake. It is possible the site is acting quirky again, or it is possible that we both made the same mistake. I’ll admit I sometimes get a little heated when replying to anti-transit comments like the one that Lazarus made. When people say things like “what’s wrong with HOV-2” or “why have bus lanes anyway” I write things fairly quickly and maybe I didn’t put it in the right place.

      3. The core problem is that Council is discussing short-term mitigation’s for a permanent vacation. Permanent impacts deserve permanent mitigation’s.

        After 2021, the number of Link riders at Westlake or riding through Westlake will almost certainly be much more than all the evicted bus routes. Link will be carrying 100K to 120K average weekday riders in just three years, with probably 60K to 90K riding to or through Westlake.

      4. What permanent mitigation is necessary? Three Link lines and more RapidRide lines is the mitigation.

      5. Simply put, more ways to get in and out of Westlake station at both the platform and mezzanine levels.

      6. Quasimodal, at this stage of operations, increasing DSTT and street bus ridership is taking speed rapidly to zero on both sides of the concrete. Enforced lane reservation and signal pre-empt will let surface buses run faster.

        But what’ll get fastest ride for a lot of current DSTT bus passengers is that as rail extends, it’ll be much faster for them to ride trains through the Tunnel on their way out to the transfer points where they pick up the buses to finish their journey.

        DSTT was designed from the beginning to transition through joint-use to rail-only, for just that reason. When Northgate is finished, let alone any of EastLINK, for anything at all to move in the DSTT, buses and trains will both finally be forced to run where they were intended to.

        You’ll have noticed that if at all possible, I’d like to keep the 41 and the 550 in the Tunnel long as possible. The loads they carry seem to me like they’re carrying close enough passenger loads to railcars that I think we could run platoons of them exactly like trains without couplers.

        Also, of all DSTT routes, these two seem most like the rubber-tired precursors to LINK trains in our heaviest regional corridors, ’til the tracks get built out to where passengers no longer have to ride anything but a train into the DSTT at all.

        For me, most important thing to come out of the last 35 years building regional transit is its example of how to keep carrying passengers through an unpredictable future. Which is only kind there is. We’ll doubtless face future situations where we have to improvise to stay in motion.

        With only two (or you could through route it and call it one) routes still working with buses, I think we could finish out this last three decades’ phase with enough experience and good habits for swiftly handling whatever repeats of Forward Thrust defeats the future’s got in store.

        Mark Dublin

      7. >> After 2021, the number of Link riders at Westlake or riding through Westlake will almost certainly be much more than all the evicted bus routes.

        What matters is not how many riders are evicted — what matters is how many have slow rides through downtown. In other words, the buses could all be empty, but sending them to the surface causes problems (for other buses). In terms of ridership, my guess is the number who ride buses to downtown will still greatly exceed the number who ride the train to downtown (after 2021, and even 2023). Not all the buses are going north-south (many go east-west) but there are still bus congestion problems, and it makes sense to deal with them now, because the problem will likely be biggest when they kick the buses out, but still haven’t expanded to Northgate (or the East Side). Any changes they make will likely benefit the system long term, as well. If they kick out all the on Third, then the E will always run quickly there, whether it shares space with the 41, or if the 41 doesn’t exist.

        That doesn’t mean you don’t have a point. It is quite possible that we will have problems in the stations, especially Westlake. But I’m not sure if that really is the responsibility of SDOT. Building more escalators sounds like a fine idea, but ST should be doing that. It would make sense to optimize the Westlake Station as part of the ST3 planning. Make it great for transfers, and also capable of handling huge volumes. The only area where ST really needs cooperation with the city is with the monorail. That should happen as part of the Key Arena planning, since the monorail will be the key connector (no pun intended) for folks attending hockey and basketball games.

        Personally I think capacity issues are overblown. By all means, we have to get these escalators working, especially in areas that don’t have stairs. But if memory serves, Westlake does have stairs — along with a mezzanine level which can at least spread people out. I think it can handle the load.

      8. Mike, he’s making the important point that on average a train will arrive every 90 seconds at one or the other of the DSTT platforms at Westlake. In the AM peak most of those trains will mostly discharge passengers, either to the street or the Green Line. That will be many more people than currently deboard from Link and all the buses still using the tunnel. Al is concerned that the station was not designed for that level of traffic flow. It’s certainly worth a study.

      9. Thanks for admitting there might be a problem, Richard

        There are many issues and factors:

        1. The lack of down escalators to the platform means that stairs and elevators will be full of riders going down to the platform. That restricts the capacity offload that stairs can absorb for those going up.

        2. The 95 percent standard that ST uses for escalator performance means that an escalator can be down 1.5 days a month. With two up escalators, that standard is that 3 days a month, there could be only one escalator going up.

        3. Incidents happen! If a train has to go out of service one of those three days (see above) and lots of people get off a train, there could be a surge of 300-500 riders.

        4. KONE reports that a reasonable escalator capacity for a 40” escalator is 3000 per hour. That’s 50 people a minute. Stairs+elevator can add maybe another 20 or 25 per minute. At three minutes per platform per train, 150-250 people would need to clear the platform and walk past people waiting for a train before the next one arrives.

        5. Of course, this doesn’t even consider the impacts of wheelchairs, strollers, bicycles, luggage and all sorts of things which reduce capacity.

        6. The transfers at Westlake with the second tunnel will increase the number more significantly. ST has not rolled out any study of station layouts, but all of the current alignment options will be either at or east of the current station platforms. Riders may then be using existing escalators for transferring from one Link line to another.

        People may point to WMATA, MARTA or BART/Muni stations which handle more people, but they generally have more and/or wider escalators (like two up and two down so one can be reversed if one goes out of service) and stairs at high volume stations.

        Finally, it’s in the WSCC’s interest to optimize Link connections — and because most Link riders are Seattle residents or workers at Westlake, it’s in the City’s interest too! If Metro buses are of concern to City Council, so should ST trains.

      10. Some comparisons of average weekday riders:

        Westlake today is 11-12K

        Westlake after Northgate is probably 16-19K

        Westlake after Eastlink, Lynnwood and Federal Way is probably 25-35K

        Westlake with the second tunnel platform (just boardings and not transfers) is probably 40K-60K

        Other stations with double the number of escalators:
        WMATA Union Station is 28K
        WMATA Metro Center is 24K
        BART Embarcadero is 45K
        BART Montgomery St is 45K
        MARTA Five Points is 20K

        In sum, we have committed a smaller station to serve as many riders as much bigger, major stations in the US do.

      11. “In sum, we have committed a smaller station to serve as many riders as much bigger, major stations in the US do.”

        So this is similar to the issue that some people are concerned the downtown – UDistrict segment will run out of capacity, and we’re trying to do too much with one light rail corridor. (Or at least a corridor with a 3-minute frequency constraint.)

      12. Yes, Mike. This is another looming capacity issue. Actually it is several — platforms, level changes, mezzanines, elevators.

        I think that the root problem is that the prevailing political mindset is that building rail solves our transit travel time problems. It’s not yet fathoming that we have not adequately faced the next problem of wonderfully successful rail — overcrowding. We’re growing a much bigger body but making it still fit in pint-sized clothes.

        Solutions are possible. However, because this is underground, it means more advanced planning. More importantly, the solutions are unfunded. Heck, even the analysis is unfunded!

    4. Lazarus, does the term “Wall of Buses” mean anything to you? Every weekday rush hour, crawling-speed parade down Stewart, down Third, up Yesler, counterflow on Fifth and onto I-5. Would’ve worked better if they’d had huge ears and trunks gripping the tails ahead of them.


  5. >> We’ve had ALL the buses on the surface before and it worked just fine.

    Since when — thirty years ago?

    Look, Link carries a lot of people. But the buses carry more. If we simply move all the buses to the surface, there will be major delays for thousands of transit riders (way more than use Link). I don’t know why you want to propose a major anti-transit plan, but you really came to the wrong blog for that.

    1. He’s probably referring to the period in which the tunnel was closed for 2 years between 2005 and 2007 for upgrades in the tunnel for Link Light Rail

      1. Aren’t there a lot more busses using third now. than there were in 2005~2007?

      2. Yes, maybe not “a lot”, but certainly more. The RapidRides have begun since then. Of course, the 15, 18 and 306 that they replaced used Third as well, but didn’t run as often.

      3. between fall 2005 and fall 2007, there were many days in the p.m. peak that either 2nd or 4th avenues or both were gridlocked. In turn, the east-west streets carrying the First Hill trolley bus routes were jammed. and yes, there are more transit trips and transit riders now than then. The CCC streetcar project may take out 1st Avenue, diverting traffic to 2nd and 4th avenues; SR-99 tolling may divert traffic to 2nd and 4th avenues. ST has only 62 LRV.

        I wish the WSCC expansion was on a different block.

      4. Frequent RapidRides may have a smaller footprint than the spaghetti of bus routes they replaced, as well as circulating people who would otherwise crowd the sidewalks for longer (or drive). The city’s plan for Third is some five more RapidRide lines (7, 40, 62, 70, 120, and maybe another one or two I don’t remember), and truncating or rerouting most other routes from 3rd, some by diverting them to SLU or First Hill.

      5. Mike,

        They won’t divert the trolleys, surely. That’s most of what will be left after RR’s are fully built-out.

    2. I remember the period 2005-2007 when the tunnel was closed to upgrade it for light rail, and all the buses ran on the surface. Basically, bus performance was terrible. Typically it took 3-4 times longer for the 41 to go from the ID to I-5 on the surface as it did in the tunnel. You don’t need an elephant’s memory to see this though–buses on the surface today take far more time than buses in the tunnel.
      I also remember the constant drumbeat from Metro that bus travel times weren’t measurably longer. Such an untruth! I lost a lot of respect for Metro in those days.
      In 2019, add way more people and a lot more buses, and what do you think will happen?

      1. I think it will be OK in 2019. I remember the drumbeat of worry and panic leading up to the period from 2005 to 2007 when all the buses would run on the surface. John Niles and the Seattle Times had everyone pretty much whipped up into a state of panic about impending gridlock and the doomsday that would occur on day 1 of the closure.

        So what happened when they actually closed the DSTT? Pretty much nothing. Niles disappeared into the shadows and has hardly been heard from since, and the Seattle Times just sort of dropped the topic and moved onto something else.

        Yes, things were marginally slower on the surface, mainly because of those pesky things we call traffic signals. But the average rider doesn’t drive end-to-end across DT like you professional drivers do, so the average rider doesn’t see the full impact and doesn’t care as much. It was basically a nothing burger, and it will be again.

        Make your small tweaks to the surface plan, and hopefully ST can make some tweaks toLink too. But there is nothing in this that is a showstopper or even marginally difficult. It is simply time to move on.

  6. Has ANYone at KCMetro, ST and SDOT discussed with SPD the absolute necessity of a strong SPD Traffic Enforcement presence on the streets of Downtown Seattle every damn day after the tunnel closes to buses?

    1. ROTFLMAO. A “strong SPD Traffic Enforcement presence”! Well played; that’s a Joke for the Centuries!

      1. Police enforcement absolutely necessary, at least ’til people get used to the new regime. Good source for them, too. Let the South Lake Union corporate world hire its own parking lot attendants at PM rush.

        But a few observations I hope are helpful. As with everything in life requiring swift decisions as to what has to go precisely where and exactly when, really think work is more natural for women.

        My own favorite example, however, was when I had to pull my Route 7 over and help another driver whose school run full of ten year old girls had mutinied and were hanging upside down from the handhold bars calling him a butt-head.

        Could’ve been because she wasn’t one, or also because nobody dared call her that, but bus was peacefully underway five minutes later. Mean this as a compliment, but think it’d really bring crowd situations from hostile to friendly if men officers came on-scene with yellow labs.

        While a joy-powered tail can take somebody’s legs out from under them faster than a baton, nobody’s going to be mean to a Gooooooood Boy. Works for the dogs too.


    2. The police have a few more important things to take care then traffic like crime . You know like gang shootings, robberies, assaults. In other words trying to keep the city safe for its residents and visitors. .

      1. Maybe the city should consider petitioning the state about taking less money per traffic ticket to make traffic enforcement more self-sustaining? IIRC the state takes enough that the city effectively loses money on each ticket that an officer writes, to avoid cities becoming ticket mills, ignoring the fact that traffic offenses have real economic and safety consequences.

      2. Jeff, do enough of these incidents occur at rush hour to make any difference? Also- doubt traffic patrolmen are the ones sent into action on violent crime.


      3. Statistically more fatalities and injuries happen from crashes and traffic violence, so it it is a “real public safety problem” that goes beyond inconvenient bus delays.

    3. You mean the gang shootings, robberies, and assaults that have been decreasing for two decades? Keeping the city safe also includes enforcing transit lanes (to give people an alternative to road rage), and taming the street crimes and intimidating atmosphere at 3rd & Pine — where police could simultaneously watch errant loiterers and cars.

      1. I agree. In general we don’t have enough cops in this city, and we certainly don’t have enough traffic cops. Compare us to a similar city (like Boston) and there is a world of difference. They have a much more successful transit system (with trains that carry about ten times more people than ours do) but they have plenty of cops to make sure the buses (and even the cars) keep moving. It isn’t like Boston doesn’t have other things to worry about, either.

  7. If Link or Westlake Station does become overcrowded sometime between 2021 and 2040 (meaning people can’t get onto the next train or onto the platform because of crowds), is that better or worse than the status quo, or the pass-up crisis in 2008? On the one hand, the total number of people effectively circulating will be higher. On the other hand, it would show a severe underestimate in capacity planning. And if it happens it may take several years to implement a solution, both because of the general approve-plan-build process and because ST3 is maxed out until 2040 and people may be less willing to approve additional taxes after a failure (and the higher cost of living by then, assuming that’s not fixed).

    1. The Westlake capacity problem will probably be a topic for the final expanded transfer station design occurring about 2024. The North line post-2021 overcrowding as well as Westlake platform and escalator overcrowding will probably be obvious enough so that it will be on everyone’s mind. The added East Link riders in the station after 2023 will really make the problem obvious! The easiest solution will be to add new station entrances at/under Westlake Park. Funding will be the issue.

      I suspect that overcrowding solutions will be included in ST4. There aren’t many more extensions to fund and everyone in Seattle will be fed up by overcrowding and frequency issues.

      I predict that lots depends on if ST4 is scheduled for 2024 or later. If it’s 2024, the openings will be so new that capacity issues won’t yet be the focus of preparatory studies from 2022 and 2023. If it’s later, overcrowding will be a big rallying cry for ST4.

      Meanwhile, I’m not sure many elected officials care. Many are early baby boomers and will be retiring from public office by 2024 or 2038. They won’t be taking any blame for ignoring capacity issues — using the line of “we never dreamed Link would be so successful!” — even though the forecast data all along has pointed to the problem.

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