Train stations, circa 1911

by Jon Scholes, President / CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association

Thanks to businesses, elected leaders and community groups that shaped and endorsed it, Sound Transit 3 is moving forward, with planned expansion to Ballard, West Seattle through downtown in the form of a new tunnel.

Community leaders from across Seattle have thoughtfully considered the future of our growing city as they reviewed numerous options for stations and alignments. Their recommendations for additional study are excellent and should be adopted by the Sound Transit board.

ST3 was a bold bet on the future of our city and region, and the vision and leadership that got us to this point must continue as we design and build the system.  Light rail helps make a place, meaning we have an obligation to build a system that thoughtfully integrates into the communities it connects. Light rail helps make a city, so we must consider how our city will be in 20-50 years and build the system for that need. Light rail helps people make connections, meaning the system we build should maximize connectivity for the most people with the greatest ease.

As Sound Transit stakeholders and leaders make decisions on next steps, the following considerations are important to realizing these principles:

Improving what currently exists

  1. Jackson Hub. This hub, which straddles the borders of Pioneer Square, SODO and Chinatown-ID, will be the largest transit hub north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. Two grand, meticulously renovated stations (Union & King Street) already exist at this hub, but they are poorly activated and disconnected from the surrounding community. As Denver has shown, a city can fix this with bold vision and community collaboration. A hub with Union Station in a starring role and an invitation to the Chinatown/ID community to help activate this hub would be appropriate.The best options will achieve this and minimize disruption to 5th Avenue in the Chinatown-ID community.

Building for a Future Seattle

  1. Provide meaningful alternatives in SODO. Seattle’s industrial areas are not currently well-served by transit and are overwhelmingly car-dependent. This contributes to freight delays—a problem that will only worsen as our population grows. Finding a way to locate SODO transit investments closer to where employees are is our best opportunity to improve freight mobility and prepare for the future.
  2. Prepare for Future Expandability.The region voted for transit expansion in 1996, 2008 and 2016. ST3 will likely not be our last transit expansion. We should consider future station expandability throughout this process.

Connecting the most people with the greatest ease

  1. Keep our promise with voters. Planned stations in South Lake Union and Midtown (roughly at Madison St.) will serve some of the highest density areas in the region.  They are key to a successful system.
    • Maintaining the Midtown Station is critical, and exploring a station location on 8th Avenue is valuable. The area around this future station has seen more than 2 million square feet of office space added in the last three years. This station would serve the highest concentration of jobs of any light rail station in the region and a rapidly growing number of residents. This will also be the only station adjacent to the future Madison BRT.
    • A station near Harrison / Highway 99 would be located in the fastest-growing area of the city.  The residential population in this area alone is projected to increase by 106 percent by 2035. Jobs are expected to increase by nearly 40 percent  in the same area. This station is also uniquely situated to reduce bus volumes in an already-constrained downtown.
    • The proposed station near Denny / Westlake would be in the center of the Denny Triangle — the fastest- growing neighborhood in Seattle. Residential population near this future station is expected to grow by 70 percent by 2035.  Jobs are expected to grow by 44 percent in this same area.
  2. Plan stations from the outset with high quality bus/rail/bike/walk integration. Sound Transit is building one of the best transit systems in the United States. We should ensure our multimodal integration is best-in-class as well. This means station investments located and oriented to maximize quality bus, bike and pedestrian connections.
  3. Maximize future riders.Not only do Sound Transit stations need to be placed where the people are, our elected leaders should commit to maximizing the number of people that can live or work above or near light rail. When we make a $7 billion investment, we should ensure our zoning maximizes use of this investment by citizens of all income levels.

Building light rail in a dense urban environment is no simple task. That said, we are planning a 100-year investment with all the responsibilities that entails. Let’s ensure this — one of the most courageous transit expansion in the country — creates places that inspire us, welcome us and move a majority of us at one time.

Photo via the Seattle Municipal Archives on Flickr

76 Replies to “Designing ST3 for the Future”

  1. “A station near Harrison / Highway 99 would be located in the fastest-growing area of the city.”

    “The proposed station near Denny / Westlake would be in the center of the Denny Triangle — the fastest- growing neighborhood in Seattle.”

    Ah…using superlatives can be so enticing at times.

    1. What about some love for Westlake? Intl Dist may be the largest multimodal hub but Westlake has more destinations that are relevant to a wider cross-section of people. If you don’/t use Sounder or Amtrak and don’t shop in the Asian markets or attend ballgames, you might hardly ever go to Intl Dist. But if you shop at the department stores or surrounding retail or watch movies or go to Pike Place or SLU or Capitol Hill or Seattle Center/Uptown, then you have reason to go to Westlake.

      1. Anyone traveling down the I-90 corridor by bus it the first major transfer point. Also its were the Bolt buses are to get to Portland and you have to transfer to something going south for gray hound bus.

    2. Well, in the author’s defense, the Denny Triangle IS a “neighborhood” within the SLU “area”, But, yes, there is a genuine over-use of “fastest-growing”.

      1. nah,…. South Lake has always been anything north of Denny south of the Lake… it has the same general boundaries as Cascades…it’s actual neighborhood name. Denny Triangle is still a lot more different from SLU, more residential for one, has (at least for now) legacy nightlife.

      2. Term “fastest growing” often carries a sense of a hussle. A political party, or a religious movement can have five members one minute and six the next. And zero the next, and three thirty seconds later. Prefixed with “has a chance to become”, lot less urgency to stop listening.


  2. I’m disappointed that the author didn’t mention capacity issues. With the significant increase in ridership expected, escalator/ elevator/ stair usage and possible platform and train overcrowding, Link’s anticipated robust ridership forecasts will heighten these problems. As subways, fixes are expensive and take years of planning.

    1. things I find interesting from the stakeholder advisory group report that is linked to by the author of the post.

      (by the way the first slide says a full report to come out in mid may. Well.. we are there!)

      Interbay Ballard: wow a lot of options to carry forward!

      Downtown: a decision not to carry forward any design for potential north or east extensions. really? seems shortsighted

      Sodo: a decision to look at a possible 4th Ave station in chinatown.

      West Seattle: the inverse of Interbay. very few options carried forward: oregon st and pigeon ridge tunnel are about it!

    2. I’m disappointed that nobody has asked Mr. Scholes for some help for the DEA in getting transit the amount of lane priority our buses need to get ST-3’s passengers to any of the stations he’s proposing.

      While I’m not advocating for prolonged joint-use because I think we’ve reached the stage where our trains need the DSTT for themselves, some emphasis is in order that at least two of our heaviest routes, the 41 and the 550, will have to use the streets. and service will need all possible help to make that happen gracefully.

      Might remind the CEO that in 2005, his organization was a great deal more enthusiastic about an emphasis on buses than were some people at Sound Transit. Both agencies were right in their respected priorities.

      Let’s have that happen again.


      Mark Dublin

  3. I agree with Jackson Hub! It’s a cluster mess for Sounder, light rail, buses, streetcar, and Amtrak. There has to be a better way to connect them all and utilize Union Station. And we will be adding a second light rail station for ST3 somewhere around there too!

    Hopefully, they will design better flow and easier connections between all modes when they build the new station.

    And hopefully leave room for a future high-speed train line too??? I also like the name Jackson Hub. So many different station names in this two block radius.

    1. Yes, let’s please better integrate all these stations! Underground passage ways could work wonders. Imagine connecting ID station under 4th Ave to Amtrak, Sounder, and ultimately an easier connection to the Ferry Dock!

      Can’t support the name “Jackson.” I think the city should even rename Jackson Street. Andrew Jackson was against abolition and started the “trail of tears” Indian Removal. There are so many other figures that could better represent the values of Seattle in the name of such a major road and hub. Chief Sealth, Princess Angeline, Ernestine Anderson, Barack Obama even, the list goes on.

      1. With FHSC, King St, two different Link platforms, and on-street loading for Bolt, it could be called the Jackson Five! It could have lines ABC, 123, do-re-mi for you and me! Lol

      2. Oh, c’mon, ID. “Jackson” probably edges out “Jones” as most common name in our country!

        Now, given recent excellent Civil War movie about “The Free State of Jones”, where southern soldiers mutinied against their rich-planter officers and seceded Jones County Mississippi from the Confederacy, really good case to call it either “Jones Street” or “Newton Knight Avenue”, after the hero. Star actually looks like him.

        But hey, it’s already named after Jesse! Leave it alone before the Southern Democrats who when they couldn’t take DC in 1864 got the Republican Party instead, turn it into General Pierre GT Beauregard Promenade! Rufus DeVane King County was bad enough!

        Mark Dublin, whose Dad’s name was Jack, so watch it.

      3. “Underground passage ways could work wonders”. You give ST too much credit. They couldn’t even make a safe passage under montlake to connect two underground facilities (UW station and UWMC Parking garage). They’d rather have pedestrians and cars mix wherever possible.

      4. UW refused to allow extending its tunnel, saying that it would increase UW’s security costs for the benefit of non-UW persons. ST can’t tell UW what to do because UW is an “essential state service”.

      5. As I read up on Princess Angeline, I see that she lived close to University St Station.

        Finally, a great replacement name idea for that station!

      6. I’m all for underground passage ways! In particular downtown where 1st is about at the level of the transit tunnel. I like what they did at University street under the Opera. I wish they had done the same at Pioneer Sq Station. If I come up from 1st atm, I need to climb up the hill to the station entrance and then go downstairs again to get into the tunnel station, what a waste! (and total barrier for people with disabilities)

      7. “non-UW persons”. What does this mean? Every person crossing to UWMC has a reason, whether it be a patient, employee or other UW associated visitor, why else would they be there. If not going to MC then I assume others would take the Montlake overpass to campus.

      8. ““non-UW persons”. What does this mean?”

        People transferring between Link and a bus route.

      9. Then this doesnt make sence: “it would increase UW’s security costs for the benefit of non-UW person”

        These people wouldnt be using the tunnel and hence not an extra cost.

      10. Has anyone told the UW that you can already easily enter that garage from multiple places without anyone noticing? I’ve skulked in that garage before. It is by no means secure. Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything illegal.

      11. “Then this doesnt make sence: “it would increase UW’s security costs for the benefit of non-UW persons”

        “These people wouldnt be using the tunnel and hence not an extra cost.”

        The existing tunnel goes from the UWMC plaza to the east side of Pacific Street and the underground garage. When ST suggested extending the tunnel to the Link station, UW got all worried about security costs and shortened the tunnel instead to prevent any future possibility of that. There used to be an entrance at the bottom of Rainier Vista but it was eliminated in the bridge renovation. There’s a stairway down from the west side of Montlake Blvd but I don’t know whether it’s open or still goes to the garage or tunnel. If it does you could cross Montlake Blvd on the surface and go down to the tunnel and under Pacific Street. Those entrances are for the parking garage, and thus UW has already assumed their security costs because the garage couldn’t exist without them, and most of the people are presumably safe car drivers and going to UWMC. Extending the tunnel to the Link station would mean that everybody from Link would be using it, so it would be supporting a lot of non-UW people who might be security problems and in any case would require more patrols. Whereas if they cross on the bridge then they’ve visible from wide around, and if they cross on the surface then they’re on city or WSDOT land so they’re city’s responsibility.

      12. The water under IDS doesn’t have enough dirt in it to hold a passage. So really good structure would be an elevated horizontal glass and steel indoor street from the plaza over IDS to Pioneer Square, with additional access at King Street Station.

        For its whole length, structure could include cafe’s, news stands, and variety of other uses. And depending on path of the second subway, could also have a vertical entry from the Jackson Street Station for that one too.


      13. Replying to Al S. RE: name changes.

        Any idea how to petition name change ideas? I think it’s a great idea to rename “University Street” since we also have a “University of Washington” station.

        I honestly think that Princess Angeline is a good candidate, since she is such a prominent figure in our history (Chief Sealth’s daughter), but in nomenclature is only remembered on some tiny ho-hum street off Beacon Ave.

        I’ve been irked for a while by the whitewashing of Seattle’s street names (Denny, Boren, John), all named after white settlers and their families. We have such a great and diverse legacy here with the Salishan Peoples, Spanish and French Explorers, settlers, loggers, fishermen, explorers, pioneers, African Americans and Japanese, Chinese, the list goes on and on. Would love to see that heritage sewn into the fabric of the city.

      14. Ever since the DSTT opened many of us have been asking the agencies and county to rename University Street Station. One because of confusion with UW, two because it’s a single street as if that’s the only purpose of the station, and three because it’s essentially a default name because they couldn’t think of anything better. “Pioneer Square Station” tells you that this is the station for the Pioneer Square neighborhood, but “University Street” is not a neighborhood. King County owns the tunnel so it’s their call. They’re in the middle of turning the tunnel over to Sound Transit, which will be completed when buses leave the tunnel. During the run-up to ST2 or 3 ST said it would the county to consider renaming the station but nothing on that has happened yet that we know of.

    2. Jackson needs an integrated mobility plan similar to what is currently on-going in the U District. Unfortunately, that plan was not initiated by ST or the SDOT, but by a community group who raised money and received matching funds from the City.

  4. Sound Transit should consider “expandability” of more than stations. If there is a 25% probability that a line will need a junction to link in a future expansion line and it can be done for less than $100 million in a tunnel, the bell-mouths should be constructed. If on aerial structure the turnout stubs should be included so that the future integrity of the junction can be ensured.

    These are high capacity transit design 101 issues, and ST has so far failed to allow for them except at the south end of IDS where WashDOT conveniently left it two separate ramps between the tracks.

    1. They should also ensure that there are straightaways on the ends so platform extensions could, if necessary, be done.

  5. Is the author advocating the truncation of Aurora-corridor buses at Harrison? That’s surely what it sounds like, and it’s a non-starter. You don’t force tens of thousands of people a day to transfer in sight of their destination when the bus could just complete the journey.

    Should there be a good bus-intercept there for people who are traveling farther on the regional system? Certainly. But the Aurora RapidRides should continue as they do today. Of course, if there is ever true HCT in the Aurora corridor most of those buses will transfer to it farther north.

    1. I think he’s advocating for the 99/Harrison station alternative, as opposed to other alternatives that move the station or consolidate two stateions.

    2. This station is also uniquely situated to reduce bus volumes in an already-constrained downtown”

      Doesn’t sound like he’s advocating for an Aurora line. And if he is he should have challenged the “recommendation” mentioned by Jas “not to carr forward any design for potential north or east extensions”. This needs to be stopped cold, NOW!!!!

      The Second Avenue Subway which everyone loves to hate will save roughly $3 billion by using connections and tunnel segments built with it in mind in the 1970’s. I don’t have figures for what they cost then, but it was certainly less than $300 million.

    3. I agree Richard — there is no way the E (or a similar bus) would be truncated at Harrison. The sentence is unnecessary, and like a lot of this, just hyperbole.

      But the station is still very important as a transfer point. You need to make it appealing. Otherwise very few — even those headed to the south end of downtown — will bother with a transfer. If a transfer requires an extra block or two of walking, and the station entrance is on the wrong side of the street (and very deep) then no one will bother. It is also very important that Metro and ST cooperate on this — making this connection is not obvious. It isn’t clear at all to me what the E will do one year from now (when the SR 99 tunnel project is complete).

      A lot of people will stay on the bus regardless of Link because the bus serves Belltown (while our subway does not). I will say that the author has a point (although it is stated in a misleading fashion). If this transfer is really good, then it would be quite reasonable to send the E (or other buses) to somewhere besides Third Avenue. I could easily see the E going down First (in a center transit lane). Stay on the bus if you are headed to Belltown or the west end of downtown, but transfer if you are headed towards the east end and want to save yourself a couple blocks of walking. Making this a very good transfer point increases flexibility with the buses, even if we still have a lot of them running downtown.

  6. When I visited Dubai, I had expected lots of sky scrapers everywhere, but I found that they are clustered along Dubai Metro stations with low rises in between the stations. Seattle should allow the same. btw their Metro is driverless and 2.5min headways, currently only has 2 lines so comparable to Seattle.

    1. Flying blind here, but a couple of guesses. Deserts tend to be flat with a lot of room, making construction reasonable even for trillionaires. Though there are jagged rocky mountains in the Middle East, which are also unlikely to cause a car-tab revolt. If it knows what’s good for it.

      Also, arranging land-use along a transit corridor, along with utilities like electricity, water, and sewers, is the world’s best counter-move to sprawl. Which even shiekhs protected by the US armed forces realize could do same economic, social, and aesthetic damage to them as it’s done to the United States.

      Am I close?


    2. Transit fans agree with you but the city council doesn’t. Vancouver’s Skytrain stations are a good example closer to home.

      1. Mike, anybody who agrees with me needs to be sure they read the fine print. Persuading development to happen within a relatively narrow corridor along regional transit is part of what I think is our most critical job. Which will be on the impossible side of hard.

        Reorganizing land-use that has spent decades paralyzing itself through its own brainless expansion. Cold, but in return for its devastating effects on those who could least afford dislocation, hoped that foreclosed and failed subdivisions could be leveled, re-forested, and reorganized so line-haul transit could work at all.

        Short-term, reason I keep asking for regional transit to get the law’s permission to get same development rights that created amusement parks and cemeteries with their own streetcar lines. And also Shaker Heights.

        Considering the over-priced structural quality I’ve seen, we’re technically more than ready to restore those forests. Should be many times easier for cities- if DSA lets me pick what gets demolished. I want to be able to see Smith Tower and the King Street Station clock again.


  7. I’m concerned about the capacity of the tracks themselves. We’re planning all this 2-track ROW, which makes it exceptionally difficult to offer any kind of express service in the future. If a train is full leaving lynnwood, sorry northgate, you’re just hosed, because we can’t easily have that train continue into Seattle as an express. I’d like to see a third track going through stations so that we have the option of bypassing underused stations some of the time and/or making some trains an express.

    1. Yes, agree!

      It’s too bad Everett Link won’t have 3 or 4 tracks all the way into Seattle. I know it wasn’t in ST3’s scope…but it would’ve been visionary to include enough ROW for local lines, express lines, and eventually high speed rail that are all compatible to use on the same tracks. There should’ve been a time requirement – like Everett to Seattle in 40 minutes. But with the current alignment and no-express service it will be 61 minutes.

      Same idea for the south end from Tacoma.

    2. Before there can be a third track, there has to be a load factor forecast. To date, I have seen no forecast published by ST to inform these decisions.

      I’ve been told that there will be a tail track north of Northgate. I’m still not sure if there will be or not. If not, turning around any train will be next to impossible.

      I don’t think ST has even publicly discussed what happens in 2021 — before Eastlink opens and the single line is maxed out at six minutes because of the MLK median. Today, three-car trains at six minutes fill up headed north from Westlake. Imagine what will happen when ST is only able to add one car — but ridership on that segment doubles as the three stations open headed to Northgate (going from two stations further north to five stations further north).

      They may have to run Eastlink trains early — at least to Stadium or to the yards south of SODO — to meet the demand so that they can have three minute headways. The question is whether they’ll figure this problem out before Northgate Link opens or they wait until they have a problem — when they would say “we didn’t think this would happen” and everyone is stuck riding crush load trains until ST can figure out a temporary operations schedule that will take six months or a year to implement.

      We saw this charade play out in 2016-17 over the three-car trains. Will se see it again? Elected officials and senior administration heads should roll is this overcrowding happens to us riders again!

      1. Al, if it’s an HO gauge railroad on a plywood board, odds say that if you don’t put an extra track onto every tail, you’ll spend at least 300 years of your own life waiting to get off your train.

        So might also be good to advocate that every train has a toilet every other car like the purple ones in Sweden.


      2. You can double this when Lynnwood Link opens a couple of years later. The folks who crowded into the trains at Roosevelt and U-District will be pushed back onto Metro by the completely full trains from Lynnwood. Metro and King County will not be able to do a thing to stop it, because it’s CT’s territory. They’ll take all those bus hours saved not running downtown and run shuttles to Lynnwood from all over the CT service area. Thousands of people who fight traffic today will take those shuttles, which they have every right to do.

        So Metro had better budget for a resumption of all the north end peak hour expresses two years after they remove them.

      3. Al, So far as running turnbacks when North Link opens, if ST has enough vehicles on the Seattle side of the lake, and that’s a “big if”, the way to turn them back efficiently is to continue south to the MF and run around the loop. There’s no need to change ends on a four car train which can take ten minutes with the inspection. Instead, the operator just runs around the loop and waits for a green at the northbound access junction, returning to service at SoDo. She or he gets a break at Northgate.

        If there is a pocket track at Northgate the turnbacks can continue once Lynnwood Link opens guaranteeing some seats for Seattle passengers. It won’t be popular in Snohomish County, though.

      4. If it were me I’d push for a third track and platform at Mt Baker to turn trains there.

        To run trains through the shop loop you’re looking at what? 10 minutes of dead operating time?

        If you want a quick turn around put an operator at SoDo and have them get on the rear cab, put the train into the siding, then change operators by changing operating cabs, and have the first operator get off on the return trip.

      5. I checked here and it shows a picket track north of Northgate station:

        One other option could be to use early East Link tracks as pocket tracks. I’m not sure if the signal system could allow for this without advancing the signals and safety systems though. Technically, trains on this track segment would be “out of service” so the difficulty of opening it early for reversing trains seems doable with advanced planning. In fact, put-of-service train testing for East Link trains will be starting in 2022 anyway.

        A variation on this option would be to open East Link to Judkins Park early. Again, it would mean that some signal and safety testing would be needed and the station would have to open early.

      6. @Richard Bullington
        “They’ll take all those bus hours saved not running downtown and run shuttles to Lynnwood from all over the CT service area. Thousands of people who fight traffic today will take those shuttles, which they have every right to do.”

        If I’m still working by the time 2024 (2025?) rolls around and Lynnwood Link opens, I’ll be happy to join that crowd of thousands and leave my vehicle at home.

      7. If they flat out opened East Link early just from downtown to Judkins Park that could make some interesting possibilities.

        Obviously it’s a different agency, but TriMet was able to move trains in the West Hills tunnel several years before the line was finished enough to open to the public, and the section to the stadium opened to the public much earlier than the rest of the line.

      8. Glenn, if you’re going to use a pocket track, one already exists just south of Stadium; that would be the one to use. You could do the double operator tango there. I am concerned that pocket may not hold four cars, though and was included just for game day extra trains in the two-car era. Looking on Google Earth it appears considerably shorter than the adjacent station.

        It wouldn’t take ten minutes to run around the MF loop; during the times that the turnbacks would be running the MF will be essentially empty so trains could run at 20 miles per hour. It’s a bit more than three blocks long so the loop is less than a mile in length. That’s four minutes in the loop and probably another two each way between SoDo and the access junction. Total eight minutes. But going all the way to Mt. Baker would take at least that long because even out-of-service trains stop at Beacon Hill Station to request the next block. That’s standard LRT operating procedure.

        That’s why trains rarely go in- or out-of-service at the terminal ends. They have to stop anyway on their trip to or from the MF so why not carry the odd person who wants to ride in the off-peak direction?

      9. Tlsgwm, and so will at least a couple of your close neighbors, and that will be a great thing. But it will be hard on the recently happy northeast Seattle riders.

      10. Glenn, I like the idea of opening Judkins Park early because it improves access from all over southeast Seattle quickly. The station accesses from 23rd and Rainier will be much closer for northbound 7’s at Judkins Park than the horrid transfer at Mount Baker. Smart 7 riders will change to East Link at JPS and from Central Link at MBS once Judkins is open.

        So, if there’s a scissors cross-over just west of JPS, opening it early to accommodate the rush from the north would be a big win for many parts of Seattle.

      11. You can’t have center platforms — nearly always good on subway or elevated lines — and center bypass tracks.

      12. Why not just us the OMF just south of SODO Station as a Pocket Track. There would be a place for the driver to break and extra help to clean and sweep the train

      13. 4 cars trains every 6 minutes @ 250 people per car = 10,000 riders per hour.
        If rush hour is from 6-9am and 4-7pm, that would mean the new Northgate station would need to have a ridership of more than 60,000 people per day to max out capacity at 6 min. headways. Thats 4 -5 times the current max at Westlake.

        An ST study for Lynnwood Link published in 2012 predicted 14,300 total riders northbound to Northgate during the PM peak (estimated for 2035), which equates to about 4,800 riders per hour during peak hours. Once Lynnwood link is completed that increases to about 7,100 riders per hour. Even if the estimate is off, it would need to be off by more than double for there to be a capacity issue prior to Eastlink opening. There will likely be an occasional full train, but if that were not the case then we’d be howling over wasted capacity.

      14. The pocket track south of Stadium is sized to accommodate a 4-car train (e.g. 380-400 feet long), as is the one south of SeaTac Airport. The pocket track south of Rainier Beach is sized to accommodate two 4-car trains (~800 feet long). I believe the future Northgate pocket track will hold a 4-car train, as will the Judkins Park pocket.

        Driving trains through the yard in-service may require some signalling upgrades; yards are generally dark, hence the low speed limit and drivers operating in full manual control.

      15. Michael, you may want to check your data.

        1. There is no way a Link train car can hold 250 people. People have to be able to enter and exit a car quickly and people sometimes carry things which take space. It’s been often discussed here before that 200 is probably the practical max for a crush load. Otherwise it will take several minutes at every stop just to get riders on and off.

        2. Riders don’t load evenly across a three-hour period. If they can’t get on a train after one or two come by, they’ll be very frustrated! The peak HALF HOUR is probably 25 to 30 percent of the peak period volume you reference and is probably the longest time period that should be used for capacity issues.

        3. The ridership data you report from 2012 is an average. We already know that weekday averages on Link vary by 10-20 percent on different months and probably vary by 30-40 percent on a given weekday, especially on game days.

        4. 2012 studies are dated. We have empirical evidence that things are worse than that today. Still, even by the data you report, we will have more crowding after Northgate and before East Link opens then we will after East Link opens — the point of my earlier post.

        5. Station capacity is not train capacity. I don’t think anyone debates whether Northgate Station itself can handle crowds.

        I appreciate that you are thinking through the math. I’d just advise that you don’t use mere averages for a rider capacity study.

    3. You don’t need a third main line to run expresses, especially on low frequently lines like what Everett will having running to it.

      You could just build bypass tracks at or near the stations that will be skipped and that’s all you’ll probably ever need.

      Much, much higher capacity lines world wide already do this.

      1. How about we at least leave room for it? Bet neither Forward Thrust estimated a population episode that would make Centralia part of Metropolitan Seattle.


      2. The Shinkansen has what? Three minute frequency and it gets by with station through tracks.

        If you have, say, a mixture of 30 mph freight trains and 80 mph passenger, then things get more interesting. Everything running at the same speed is a different matter.

      3. Even more impressive is the Nara Line, which runs locals, expresses, and super-expresses on a line that’s *single* tracked with station bypasses for about 25 of its 30 miles

    4. If you want anything faster than the current, then we should have built heavy rail which could run at 85 mph instead of 55. But ST chose light rail because it could run on “surface, elevated, or underground”, and ST originally envisioned a lot more surface segments (e.g., Mt Baker to SeaTac) to keep capital costs similar to other American light rails. But one by one the neighborhoods said they wanted something better than surface, especially after seeing Rainier Valley, even if they had to pay more for it. So elevated is now the default, or at least no level crossings. So ST backed into this surface-designed technology even though it’s building mostly grade-separated track.

      1. East Link includes a number of at-grade crossings east of 405. The path through the Spring District will be similar to the RV. So ST is still realizing the cost-savings of Light Rail technology.

        The shift to fully grade-separated is really only arriving in ST3, but at-grade running may return in future plans – in Ballard, north of 45th or 65th it might make sense to run at-grade through Crown Hill, particularly if there’s a junction to UW in Ballard and the Crown Hill section along 15th/Holman has half the frequency of the main line. I could also see future segments like Tacoma Mall or Burien-Renton consider some at-grade running to ensure costs pencil out. Running at-grade is very reasonable if it’s done on lower-frequency branches away from the urban core, as is common is many European systems.

    5. Northgate will surely have a turnback. There’s no turnback between Stadium and Northgate which is already pretty far, and a turnback will be essential for dealing with special operational needs like ballgame surges, breakdowns, blockages, etc.

    6. I don’t think it’s that big of a concern. Seattle still has the express lanes, which we can convert into LRT like the original ST plan called for, if this really becomes a serious issue. Once we get 2-3 minute trains, we can talk about this. Maybe we could even get platform extensions to allow for 5 car trains! Exciting!

      1. This is an interesting idea for at least a single express track as far a Northgate. Since the platforms are three lanes apart at Westlake it’s possible to envision putting turnouts at the east end of each platform into the center section and punching a tunnel from below into the space. It might require widening the existing tunnel a bit and keeping the tracks against the walls which would be tough to do under traffic but not impossible.

        The biggest problem is that the Express Lanes are heavily used by through travelers and you’d be accessing from the west side on the south end and the east side to the north. Maybe there could be an overcrossing of the track between the Lake City Way ramp and the NE 50th overcrossing of the freeway for the “through” lane which is continuous to the right-hand exit lane at Northgate. So the Lake City Way ramp would continue to be the Stewart/Mercer exit lane, Pine Street would be taken for the train as far as 50th where it would switch to the right hand lane. The “through” HOV connection at Northgate would be the middle lane south of Lake City Way and would rise up to overpass the track and continue as the “through” exit to the freeway at the south end. Forty-second would continue as the Cherry/Columbia exit.

        There would be quite a bit of mixing just south of Lake City Way as people from the north who wanted to use Mercer or Stewart would move into the Lake City Way ramp lane and vice versa for those from Lake City who wanted to go to Cherry/Columbia or continue south on I-5 beyond downtown, but that happens to a degree anyway.

        But this would allow peak direction expresses to bypass four stations between Northgate and Westlake.without messing with the already-built underground stations.

      2. Continuing,

        OR, build an Aurora line earlier rather than later and tie it into the Everett line at Lynnwood. That gives the necessary two-way capacity that a single express lanes track does not have. It makes for quicker trips from Snohomish County and Shoreline, but doesn’t get the trains back to Lynnwood.

    7. >> If a train is full leaving Lynnwood …

      Then something really weird has happened. Seriously, I really doubt we will ever get close to that. There just aren’t that many people in Snohomish County who will want to ride the train. It is worth checking out similar light rail systems. Calgary C Train is the busiest light rail line in North America. It carries over 300,000 people a day. Most of that are people headed downtown, and during rush hour. That is just the nature of Calgary — it is a very suburban city, with few destinations outside of downtown. It has surprisingly high ridership because of this, and because it is very time consuming (and expensive) to drive downtown. So basically, unlike a lot of big cities, ridership is not driven by various trips around town, but by trips downtown, especially those taken during rush hour.

      This is a great prescription for overcrowding, and they have their issues. But they expanded to four car trains, and it has worked out just fine. We will start with four car trains. it is possible that we can improve our headways, so that lots and lots of people can ride the train. But you just aren’t going to get New Jersey to Manhattan numbers, because we aren’t that. We have already built the most important section (UW to downtown) and we are doing OK from a capacity standpoint, despite the lack of cars and poor headways.

      That doesn’t mean that we won’t want express buses. There are various parts of the city that won’t have train service, and providing faster express service would make sense, even if the area is served by Link. That is common for cities — even those with an extensive rail system.

      1. I’m curious about this comment:

        “There just aren’t that many people in Snohomish County who will want to ride the train.”

        What’s your basis for this assertion? Earlier ST white paper reports? Population/employment estimates? Anecdotal evidence? Perhaps you’re just speaking in relative terms, i.e., comparing eastside and Seattle ridership with the SnoCo expectations.

        Regardless, thanks in advance for the clarification.

      2. I looked at the C-Train schedules and see that — although variable — they can run as frequently as every four minutes. That’s as much as 50 percent more often than is practical with Central/Northgate Link by itself is 2021 — because of the MLK median segment operations issues. Since their Downtown segment has two routes, it probably averages out to be about 20 percent more trains per hour.

        They had to expand to four-car trains because of overcrowding.

        Finally, they have four lines radiating from Downtown rather than just two (like we will have until East Link opens). I don’t know what their averages are per branch, but I doubt any of the four branches is handling more than 100,000 to 110,000 daily riders.

        Central/University/Northgate Link will probably handle about 100,000 to 120,000 riders on an weekday in 2021 (based on a weekday today is between 70,000 and 80,000 over a course of the year — and there will be some slight growth (say another 5,000 to 10,000) and the opening of Northgate Link (say another 25,000 to 30,000 total — or 12,500 to 15,000 total boardings only) for three stations.

        The south segment could easily be carrying about 50,000 riders by 2021 and the north segment would be the additional 80,000 by 2021 (double counting the through riders). With fewer trains per hour, that’s pushing up against Calgary loads on its busiest branch, and probably well above their least busiest branch.

        In sum, there could easily be a train carrying capacity issue in 2021 when Northgate opens without adding some short-tripper trains between Downtown and Northgate in there when applying the Calgary experience.

        Like I said before, remedies could be easy once the buses come out of the DSTT — as long as the signal systems, vehicles and driver schedules plan for them. My concern is that there doesn’t seem to be any system discussion that is going to allow for this in 2021. When East Link non-revenue testing begins in 2021 or 2022, ST will need to be running some phantom trains through Downtown anyway; putting the Downtown to Northgate segment into revenue service with some of these out-of-service “test” train runs seems like a no-brainer to me.

  8. Andrew, however hard sprawl-prevention may be, it’s a snap compared to dealing with what’s already there. Like every inch of land east of Tacoma between I-5 and the foothills. Containing thousands of cars and their people, spending more time motionless every day.

    In its heyday (yeah, I guess in the 1950’s average person said “Hey! a lot) “Urban Renewal” really meant undesirable race-and-ethnicity removal. This year’s residential market is leaving those days in it’s dust, uprooting people of ever-higher incomes who’ll return the favor every time they have to move. Not advocating another 2008 collapse- which doesn’t seem to need any energy of mine.

    But my question about how to reorganize the pattern isn’t rhetorical. I really don’t know. So best I can think of right now is to get ahead of the tsunami by building enough “streetcar, OK light rail and BRT) suburbs to create such a persuasive visible example of a solution that nobody will have to be coerced into them.

    And might even induce enough people to move next to catenary and grooved rail that after the neighborhoods they leave can be cleared for farms and forests. OK, but especially if you put a lot of barns and silos in it (can cows eat legal marijuana?) will look and work better than malls.


  9. Good set of recommendations. I would say that items 4 and 5 are the most important, by a wide margin. It is very important that we get the stations right — and it is especially important that transfers are quick. The whole point of spending billions on a system like this is to save people time. But if you build the station in the wrong place, then you waste a ton of time, and the whole thing becomes a lot less popular. We’ve been down that road before (with several stations) — we should try and avoid doing that again.

    I agree with item three, but unfortunately, you need a long range plan backed up with lots of planning for that to make any sense. There are way too many pie in the sky ideas out there that are highly unlikely to ever occur. With ST3, our system will already be gigantic and it is rare for cities to then make huge investments after that. It is unheard of for a city this size to do so. Even projects that are a good a value, and could easily be built have too many moving parts. For example, Ballard to UW rail is still a good idea, but where would that go? Would it tie in with the existing lines and is so, which end? Would it be extended to 24th NW (where the people are) or would it head towards Sand Point, for some future chunnel line to Kirkland (which I think is ridiculous, but in keeping with ST guidelines)? If there is no service connection on either end, then where will the non-service connection be? It might be a lot cheaper in the long run to build the Ballard line underground to make that easier, but then what if they want to extend the Ballard line to 65th and 85th? Whatever you’ve saved making a connection (underground) now puts two new stations out of reach.

    By all means we should future-proof this thing (our failure to do so in the past has hurt). If it doesn’t cost much, then at worst we spent a little bit extra. But there should be a rational assessment about projects that are likely to be cost effective, and those that aren’t. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been that with things we are actually building, so it is a bit much to assume that folks will do that with things we might build.

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