Last Thursday, the Sound Transit 3 “Elected Leadership Group,” a supergroup of local elected officials (the Infinity War of transit oversight, if you will), met to consider which of Sound Transit’s Level 1 alternatives should advance to Level 2.  The ELG’s recommendations, like those of the nonelected “Stakeholder Advisory Group,” are nonbinding.  The final decision will be left to the ST Board (which includes several ELG members).

The meeting centered on the SAG’s Level 1 feedback with regards to West Seattle, SODO, Downtown, and Ballard, but the most contentious discussion involved whether to move forward with analysis of an 8th & Madison station on First Hill.  Seattle Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott both expressed interest in serving the First Hill neighborhood, noting it has the highest residential density and lowest car ownership in the city (and probably the state?). However, the deeper First Hill station would, according to staff, present construction challenges (including two I-5 crossings).

More controversial, however, is whether moving the station to First Hill would qualify as a bait-and-switch in the eyes of the voters (cost and ridership would matter as well). Sound Transit’s general council, Desmond Brown, testified that the question is whether a voter could look at the station and agree that it was what they voted for.  On the one hand it’s just a couple of blocks (from 5th to 8th Avenue), but it would mean moving the station to a different urban village, which could be seen as a material difference.

Brown’s testimony seems to contradict what we heard from the agency back in 2016, when they implied that the station location was flexible.  Spokesperson Geoff Patrick reiterated to us this week that “nothing has changed in terms of the legal parameters,” adding that “the discussion in question was on a specific alternative.”  In theory, it seems, a station at 8th Avenue that had similar cost and ridership numbers could probably have survived the bait-and-switch test.  But in reality, given the geography, any actual station East of I-5 would have failed to meet those criteria.  Whether the increased costs would have provided increased benefits is seemingly immaterial.

Getting an actual legal ruling on the matter would mean taking the agency to court.  That’s unlikely to happen, though, since the officials who serve on the ST board, like Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson and Snohomish Executive Dave Somers, want to drop the First Hill alternative entirely. ST CEO Rogoff, for his part, seemed concerned that one departure from the plan could lead to more elsewhere in the system, which could jeopardize the entire effort.

So, spooked by construction challenges and the potential legal questions, the ELG decided to just bail on the neighborhood altogether. That’s really too bad.  Future generations will scratch their heads about this decision, and our transit system will be poorer for it.

With regards to the rest of the analysis, the ELG largely decided to carry forward the SAG’s recommendations with two exceptions: they eliminated one redundant Ballard option, but opted to carry forward an additional West Seattle alternative that removes an entire station at Avalon to tunnel under the junction.  Interestingly, concerns about a bait-and-switch didn’t come up.

The board will decide in July which alternatives to move forward to Level 2, where we’ll see more accurate cost and ridership numbers.

159 Replies to “Elected Leaders Bail on First Hill Station”

  1. Will the Board decisions preclude split-level stations or tracks, preventing easy branching to a future north Ballard Greenwood line, Ballard-UW, an Aurora line, and a Georgetown line?

    Or, for that matter, split levels at Midtown station that could enable branching to a future Madison-ish line? (with only one dive under I-5)

    1. We can only hope and continue to advocate for them.

      The Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan, the poster-child for horrendous transit costs, will save nearly $3 billion by using connections and tunnels dug in the 1970’s. I don’t know what they cost then, but 1/10th sounds about right.

      Please, please please make provision for a future Aurora line west of Harrison, a non-revenue connection at the Market Street Station such that a future Ballard-UW-Sand Point line can run trains, and a turnout around Spokane for a Burien or “Bypass” line.

      All three may not be used, but if any one is needed but not pre-built, the complexities of underground or aerial connections to existing lines will cost more than building stubs for all three now.

  2. Because it’s such a wonderfully equitable idea to take away a station from the unwashed masses so the rich people in the Junction don’t have to look at a few concrete pillars.

    1. The demographics between Avalon and the Junction aren’t really that much different.

      1. But the housing constituencies might be — Avalon is dense with apartment blocks and renters; Junction less so (though that isn’t as true as it was even just a few years ago).

      2. If a station is to be eliminated, it makes much more sense for residents around the Junction to bus, bike, or walk to Avalon Station than to make residents along the Avalon / 35th corridor have to backtrack to California Station.

      3. Actually, the part of Avalon near the intersection with 35th is to a large degree occupied by condos.

  3. On another track: Is it pretty much fait accompli that East Link will not have track connecting to Ballard Link, in case that proves to pencil out as a more-demanded one-seat ride than East Link to North Link? or to at least allow some direct peak trips along that path?

    I hope they will also keep the track or somehow replace it to allow “the Spine” to be a real thing. It is much easier and faster to swap drivers along the route (at a station, not at a special extra stop, please) than to swap whole trainloads of passengers.

    Cross-platform transfers, such as could easily be arranged with a stacked SODO Station, should be a mere strategy number two for minimizing dwell time and transfer penalty.

    Strategy number one for minimizing peak dwell time and minimizing transfer penalty should be minimizing the number of riders who have to transfer.

    1. There aren’t whole trainloads of passengers going from Everett to Tacoma, or from the U-District to Rainier Valley or the airport. There may be more percentage-wise going the other way; e.g., from Rainier Valley to the U-District. But all lines go to downtown and Stadium so it doesn’t matter which one you’re on if you’re going there, and that’s at least half of the ridership. A more perfect network might include Capitol Hill and UW in the all-line convergence, but that’s not possible due to the location of UW at the far side of the area.

    2. “There may be” is precisely the point why both connection options should be built. We don’t know what the dominant crosstown ridership trends will be.

      1. I agree strongly that East Link riders will be more attracted to SLU than the U-District (they’ll have direct bus service there), but I don’t see how it can be done without some expensive tunneling in the chaotic fill that is “South of Jackson” (with a tip of the Hatlo hat to San Francisco).

  4. Good riddance.

    5th is the place for this station. It is, after all, you know, downtown where the people who are actually riding the line want to go. Deleting the only mid-CBD station on the entire line would significantly reduce the line’s overall utility.

    Dropping 1st Hill from this line is the right thing to do.

    And besides, isn’t this neighborhood about to get BRT? If BRT really is all everyone seems to think it is, then why does this neighborhood need both BRT and LR?

    1. The train transfer to get to First Hill would be much better than the bus transfer to get to First Hill. That is, assuming ST doesn’t screw it up. Putting the station on the other side of the freeway actually makes that transfer worth the effort. You are adding value, instead of simply providing the same sort of functionality that exists now. Put it this way — what do riders from the south end (Rainier Valley, SeaTac, etc.) and North Link (Capitol Hill, UW, Northgate, etc.) get out of the new downtown tunnel between SoDo and Westlake? Very little. It just isn’t worth the effort to transfer — you might as well walk or take the bus.

      Now consider that North Link ridership will be much higher than Ballard Link, and south end ridership will be much higher than West Seattle Link. That means that the bulk of your riders get next to nothing for a billion dollar tunnel. That is crazy. That hurts ridership. That means, basically, that there is no network effect here — it is just a redundant section. That would be OK if it was part of the same tunnel, but it isn’t. We are spending a lot of money building something that adds very little. If the station was on First Hill the dynamic changes, and lots of people get a lot out of the new tunnel.

      1. Rods, the plan is to run Rainier/Airport/Tacoma through the new tunnel and West Seattle through the existing. You know that and I’m sure just had a memory lapse. The Green Line tunnel will carry decent loads, especially after the north line is extended under emergency orders because Lynnwood takes all the seats.

    2. I’m pretty sure BRT is NOT going to be all that its promoters claim for it, any more than the first hill streetcar has lived up to its promoter’s expectations. The idea that these are an adequate substitute for a rail station is ridiculous.

      The walkshed of the 5th/Madison station overlaps significantly with University St. station. Moving the station three (very steep) blocks east would serve the region far better, imho. The fact that the densest residential neighborhood (with thousands of hospital workers coming and going at all hours) is apparently going to end up without any high-quality transit service after spending so many billions of dollars since 1996 is pathetic.

      I attended the open house meeting on May 2nd, and got the impression that 8th Ave was being seriously considered, in part because the building footings on 5th Ave presented their own engineering challenges. Obviously, this was actually just the typical “going thru the motions” outreach, a waste of time for everyone involved, as the powers that be had already decided the outcome they wanted.

      1. Scott,

        Thanks for pointing out what I think should be quite obvious to everybody about the First Hill Station: HOSPITALS!!! Thousands of doctors, nurses, techs, patients, families, etc travel to and from both Harborview AND Swedish EVERY SINGLE DAY, 365 days per year, all hours of the day and night. Both are very space constricted, meaning there isn’t room to add parking. The people who travel there, both patients/families and employees, span the entire economic spectrum from the janitors, food service workers, and nursing assistants to doctors & anesthesiologists. A high proportion of hospital visitors are elderly and/or low income. It’s a fact, as you age, your health declines, and medical bills in America tend to bankrupt patients.

        *To those who say that visitors don’t come all hours of the day, not true. When your family member ends up hospitalized, you rush to the hospital, not in an ambulance, regardless of time of day. And, sometimes, when you are visiting from a distance, transit is a nice feature to have. Portland was VERY short sighted not putting Legacy Emmanuel on a transit line. It’s nearly a mile from the Yellow line. We made A LOT of long trips in the car to Portland a few years back. How nice it would have been to hop on the Amtrak and transfer to the light rail.

        First Hill deserves a station just as much, if not more, than downtown.

    3. There are tradeoffs between 5th and 8th but you’re really overstating the importance of 5th. The essential downtown stations are Westlake and Intl Dist, because that’s where the most destinations and transfers are, and activities of interest to a wider variety of people. Midtown Station is just a convenient extra for midtown office workers and library patrons, like University Street Station is. It’s never as full as Westlake and has only a few people off-peak.

      Moving the station to 8th would have the desirable advantage of giving real Link service to the First Hill urban village, and something that the tens of thousands of medical workers and patients and highrise residents (many of them elderly) can use. However, I share ST’s concern that going under I-5 twice adds costs-overrun risks and structural risks, and I like low-risk options.

      I don’t know what BRT promoters claim, but SDOT’s plan is a line running every 5-10 minutes with a travel time of 5 minutes from 1st to Broadway and 5 minutes from Broadway to MLK. So that’s the standard we can grade it against. 10 minutes seems wildly optimistic compared to the 12’s and 2’s current performance (where it can take 30 minutes to get from 3rd to Broadway), but their problem is traffic jams and no transit priority. Madison RapidRide (nobody official is calling it BRT anymore) will have exclusive lanes for the middle part of the route and transit priority west of 17th where the traffic jams are. So it could reach its 10-minute goal because the distance is so short. We don’t need to assume it won’t; we can wait to see how it performs.

      So assuming it reaches its goal, then getting from any Link origin to First Hill will involve a transfer to line coming every 5-10 minutes and a less than 5 minute ride. That’s much better than the status quo. It’s not as good as a one-seat ride directly to a First Hill subway station. But it’s enough to make it pretty easy to get to First Hill, rather than excrutiatingly difficult like it is now. When I go to First Hill I often take the Pine Street buses rather than deal with the 2, 3, 4, or 12. Madison RapidRide will make this unnecessary.

    4. A 5th station is so stupidly redundant with the University/Seneca Street station in the DSTT. It adds basically no walkshed to the system.

      1. This is downtown. The focus is not on walkshed but on serving the city center and transfering to other transit lines. We would have put all lines in the same tunnel if it had the capacity, and then there would be absolutely zero new walkshed.

      2. To clarify, if you put the station where most people aren’t going in order to increase the walkshed, it’s a failure. A train serves “downtown” if it goes to where the most people are going.

      3. That is a silly argument, Mike. Of course walkshed downtown is important. Transfers from train to train are the easiest of transfers. Unless Sound Transit really screws it up, it will be a trivial exercise to get from one line to the other. Skipping what is essentially one part of downtown (First Hill, at 8th and Madison) for another part of downtown (5th and Madison) would be just fine if weren’t for the fact that we essentially have a station there already.

        At best all we’ve done with the preferred alignment is provide a better one seat ride. Those from West Seattle or Ballard will be able to access a part of downtown very similar to the University Street Station without having to bother with a transfer.

        But that is simply not a good trade-off. Way more people will ride the main line than ride the other one. Even if it was fifty-fifty, it means that half the riders get basically nothing out of a huge chunk of this brand new line. Some of the redundant stations are necessary (for transfers) but we are talking about more than two and a half miles of subway — much of it requiring very expensive tunneling and station construction — and not a single new station within that section. Not one spot worthy of a transfer. That is just not a good design.

        You will be hard pressed to find any subway system that does this, because it just doesn’t make sense. There are plenty that reuse existing lines (which might have made sense for this). There are plenty that build new lines not that far from the old one. But I can’t think of anyone that builds a brand new line essentially right next to the old one, while several parts of downtown (including First Hill) sit without any subway service.

      4. “Skipping what is essentially one part of downtown (First Hill, at 8th and Madison) for another part of downtown (5th and Madison) would be just fine if weren’t for the fact that we essentially have a station there already.”

        Most people going downtown are going to somewhere between First and Sixth Avenue. Third Avenue is right in the middle; Fifth Avenue is still reasonably central; but Eighth Avenue is east of both. Having one line at 8th means more people have to transfer to the other line because they’re not lucky enough to live on the line that goes through the center of downtown.

      5. And this is the Ballard-Rainier-Tacoma line we’re talking about. It already doesn’t go to Capitol Hill or UW or Lynnwood, and now you want to take away Midtown too. This is like putting all the most-used destinations on one line and giving the other line the scraps. The only thing Ballard and Tacoma get is SLU.

      6. “I can’t think of anyone that builds a brand new line essentially right next to the old one,”

        Chicago’s two subway lines are two blocks apart. BART and MUNI are stacked under the main street. If you’re thinking of a triangle interchange like DC or St Petersburg where each line goes to half or a third of the destinations, this First Hill option isn’t really one.

      7. There is no station functionally near Fifth and Madison!. There is a station 150 feet lower three blocks away. That’s not “near” in any day-to-day user of the system

        Put an inclined tunnel under I-5 to 8th and Marion and you’ve solved the problem.

      8. More to the point, we don’t know what further study of the 8th option will say. Perhaps the engineers will say a First Hill Funicular or First Hill Gondola would serve the purpose better than just a single First Hill Station.

        Let the Study proceed! Studies are relatively cheap, compared to poorly-planned transit lines.

      9. Neither of the transfers will be easy unless ST acts out of character and provides a “split” or “double” north-south mezzanine at Westlake, connecting each portion of that double mezzanine directly to a platform of the DSTT portion of the station.

        It looks like ST envisions the transfer at IDS to be made by rising to the Plaza and descending to the other platform. Terrible but probably necessary given the fill environment any tunnel would encounter.

        So don’t use the Red-to-Blue transfer in LA or WMATA’s three junction stations as a mental model. There will be multiple changes of level if the two important stations are built as designed.

      10. That is why the design needs to be changed. We desperately need to not be intentionally building horrible transfer paths at all three doubled stations (Westlake, ID, SoDo).

      11. >> There is no station functionally near Fifth and Madison!. There is a station 150 feet lower three blocks away. That’s not “near” in any day-to-day user of the system

        Of course it is. Put it this way — who is going to transfer to that line so that they can access that station? Someone mobility challenged, sure. But for many of those people, the existing stops are just as good. On 4th, only Madison or Marion are closer. On 5th, it widens a few blocks. It widens further on 6th, but then there is nothing for a block (because of the freeway). There is only a small section, really, that is closer to this stop. The number of people who will make this transfer is tiny. Even folks headed right to Fifth and Madison will just walk, while those headed farther (e. g. 8th and Madison) will take the bus.

        The dynamic changes when you put the station at 8th. Everything the other direction (within two or three blocks) is definitely worth the transfer. It isn’t until you get to 5th and Madison that it makes sense to just walk. Basically, the station has just about perfect stop spacing. No overlap, yet no gaps. A stop at 5th and Madison has plenty of overlap.

        If no one transfers, then it means that ridership is lower. You have added very little to the system, as those on the other line get nothing out of a fairly big and expensive section. There is no network effect at all. That is just not a good use of money.

      12. The reply that’s all bold should have a slash-b after “Madison”. Apologies.

      13. Ross,

        Of course most people on the Red and Blue Lines won’t be transferring to the Green Line to get to Columbia Place. They’ll still get off at Pioneer Square and huff up the hill. Folks from West Seattle might do so if SoDo is built as a shared platform, but that is increasingly unlikely.

        But if you move Midtown to Eighth the people from RV and south (NOT West Seattle, Ross; read the proposals) and Ballard will be transferring to the Red Line at SoDo or the Red or Blue Line at Westlake or IDS.

        Look, I get that all-day transit should be encouraged wherever and whenever possible, and an Eighth Avenue station probably would have more mid-day and evening riders than Fifth. But not at the cost of lessening peak-hour accessibility to workplaces. An Eighth Avenue station would add access to some health care jobs at the cost of cutting off everything in downtown Seattle west of about Fifth Avenue and south of Union from Green Line riders.

      14. And finally, Ross, there is nearly 150 feet of vertical rise from Third and Columbia to Fifth and Marion/Madison. That means that the three blocks between 3/Col and 5/Mar is a whole lot “farther” than three blocks in downtown San Francisco or New York.

        Well, except for SoMa blocks….

    5. RapidRide+ (where the + means bike lanes, at least in early drafts), not BRT.

      BRT is what Sound Transit is building on freeways, where buses will be really stuck in traffic, and pick up and drop off in the middle, with no walkshed and having to wait for infrequent buses to come rescue the passengers from their transit center prison. I think it would be the first freeway-entrapped BRT lines in the world brazen enough to abuse the acronym.

      I don’t recall who the BRT advocates were who were pushing this plan. It certainly wasn’t the ST3 opponents who were temporarily pretending to be BRT advocates. It wasn’t real BRT advocate Dan Ryan who drew up a much more pedestrian/rider-friendly BRT network that didn’t get much consideration from the planners that be. A BRT plan that has no BRT experts backing it up should give cause for serious concern.

      The RapidRide G is going to get more treatments than past RapidRide lines, including some center island stops, enabling lanes that might just turn out to be bus-only, a first for RapidRide, or for any buses in the state, I believe.

      If a traffic bottleneck makes the trip from 5th to 8th an unreliable crawl, we’ll be kicking ourselves that we threw away the opportunity to tunnel to 8th.

      1. “RapidRide+ (where the + means bike lanes, at least in early drafts), not BRT… BRT is what Sound Transit is building on freeways, where buses will be really stuck in traffic”

        The only way to compare different people’s meaning of the term BRT is to use the BRT standard. It punts on the yes-or-no question by defining different levels of BRT, like school grades. Even then it doesn’t have a simple checklist like “Silver level has this much signal priority”; instead it lists a group of ideal characteristics and it’s a judgment call whether any concrete line has a sufficient combination of these factors. But we can say that high-level BRT has exclusive lanes and absolute or at least high signal priority, so we can compare lines to that.

        This high level exists in Curitiba and Bogata, but there is no bus line even close to that in the northwest, either current or proposed; the closest equivalent is Link on MLK and MAX on east Burnside.

        I would say that Swift is the closest to BRT in Pugetopolis: fully exclusive lanes, full off-board payment, and limited stops every 0.5 – 1 mile.

        When RapidRide A-F were first proposed, its marketing brochures likened it to Seift and I think the phrase BRT was used. But by the time they opened they were watered down to only partial transit lanes. the only route in their corridor (not limited-stop overlays), and surprisingly long travel time in some segments. Eventually the term BRT was dropped.

        Seattle’s various transit plans since 2008 designated priority corridors, which consistently included Madison, Eastlake, and Westlake among others, but different plans characterized them as “streetcar corridors”, “BRT”, “RapidRide+”, etc. So for a time SDOT referred to “Madison BRT”, “Roosevelt BRT’, etc. These are now called “RapidRide” officially, although some people continue to call them BRT unofficially. But the city is not responsible for what people unofficially call them.

        ST BRT is the planning name of its service that’s “better than ST Express”. At this point it’s just a planning name: no production branding has been announced. So it may or may have “BRT” in its production name. Regardless of that, the only thing to compare it to is itself, and as Brent said it threatens to be stuck in traffic. because WSDOT would rather coddle 2-person carpools and collect SOV toll revenue than keep the HOT lanes at 45 mph minimum, and some parts don’t even have HOT/HOV lanes (like RapidRide), and buses will sometimes have to cross GP lanes to get to stations. (Curitiba would never do that; stations are always in-line, and in fact look a lot like subway stations.)

        Madison RapidRide is getting more exclusive lanes and signal priority than any existing RapidRide line has. Whether other future RapidRide lines get this too remains to be seen. There is also talk about retrofitting the C, D, and E, and ST3 has some money for this, but nobody has said what exactly this means or what kinds of improvements will be made.

      2. Even the BRT standard is controversial. It is definitely better than nothing, but it is pretty easy to argue that it emphasizes the wrong thing. For example, The scorecard gives extra points for lines that have a mix of express and local service. They also give extra credit when multiple routes serve the same BRT corridor. Both are definitely nice, but would make no sense for Madison.

        Nor do they exist for Swift. I have no idea how Swift would rank, but my guess is not any higher than most of RapidRide. Stop spacing is only worth two points. The standard also states that urban stop spacing makes sense in urban areas (which means that Madison would rank just as high). Meanwhile, there are point deductions for low peak and off peak frequency (which would hurt Swift) as well as low overall ridership (which might hurt them as well).

        Ultimately, it comes down to judgement calls. The standard has lots of very important ideas, and all of them should be considered (and probably are) by agencies when they embark on a major bus improvement project. But personally, I prefer the same old standard used for any transit project — overall time saved per dollar spent. This gets very complicated, but it is easy to see how Madison could be a very good project. It focuses the right of way on the area where it matters most, which means that it has the potential for enormous good, even if it wouldn’t score that well (because the transit lanes aren’t physically separated or don’t even exist during sections). Frequency is going to be very good, there will be off board payment the entire way, and it will integrate reasonably well with other transit lines. My guess is ridership will be very high for a relatively cheap project (something under a hundred million). If all goes as planned, those riders will save a lot of time. If there are bottlenecks, then it should be fairly cheap to fix them, which is one of the advantages of the project. Build a tunnel and put the stations in the wrong place (or skip a station) and it would cost a fortune to correct it (no one is planning on retrofitting a First Hill station). But if the east end of Madison has too much traffic, then the bus lanes could simply be extended.

      3. Thank you!

        Final branding notwithstanding, transit advocates should insist on a more rigorous use of the term BRT. Especially since it is more often then not watered down to the point of not being “rapid” at all.

        If improved express bus service is the best mode for the corridor, so be it.

        If improved express bus service is the best time savings per taxpayer dollar invested, so be it.

        But this does not make it BRT.

  5. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to keep the station at fifth, but it will be bad if they don’t stack the tunnels on fifth, and if they don’t study taking the line to the east. (In the last podcast didn’t someone mention that the path through fifth is narrow anyway?)

    First Hill really could use high capacity transit, and ST and the city should plan for it.

    In the meantime BRT will,unfortunately, have to suffice.

    1. With this decision, it is unlikely that First Hill will ever have light rail. Belltown probably won’t either (and that decision was made a while ago). It is possible that something could be built to serve both (a looping Metro 8 Subway essentially) but it is very difficult now that these decisions have been made.

      It would have have made way more sense to serve Belltown with the new tunnel, and serve First Hill and SLU with a Metro 8 type subway ( But that sort of long range planning (i. e. imagining what a built out urban network would look like) is really not a strength of Sound Transit. They are more into imagining service to distant locals, as if the subway line is the Northern Pacific.

      1. “With this decision, it is unlikely that First Hill will ever have light rail. “

        Maybe, but maybe not. It will be a heavy lift, but so was trying to move the ST3 station.

        I think there are clear advantages to a line with multiple stops on first hill than one single station, and I think that makes it worth studying.

        I might even argue that if this station did get moved a few blocks then that would even be more likely to preclude the possibility of anything more on first hill. People could say first hill is served, and move on.

  6. First Hill Station never had a chance. The record is clear. If you want to influence local government, and you aren’t a large corporation, you need a big coordinated effort. Look at the Kirkland people or to a lesser extent the West Seattle folks pushing for a tunnel. First Hill had none of that. They found a face saving excuse to dump it and went with it.

      1. But Issaquah to South Kirkland does?

        Seriously dude, in what world does connecting the vast majority of riders (those on the main line) to a neighborhood like First Hill not make sense?

      2. Because the majority of riders aren’t going to First Hill, they are going downtown. That is why 5th makes sense and First Hill doesn’t.

        See Mike Orr’s comments above. He gets it

      3. @Lazarus — The majority of riders aren’t on that line! How many times must I repeat that. This is a secondary line. It serves a secondary area (if that) in West Seattle.

        More to the point, you don’t design a subway so that every rider gets to go directly where they want to go. Holy cow, look around. The New York Subway system, the ‘L’, the DC Subway — they don’t all go to the most popular spot in town. They mix, overlap, and criss-cross, which means that many riders need to transfer. Big deal. Train to train transfers are usually the easiest thing imaginable.

        Want a simpler example, look to our nearest neighbor, Vancouver. This is one of the most successful transit systems in North America (if not the world). But you don’t see all three lines coalescing into the same downtown stops, even if that area is the shiznet. Heck, the Millennium line doesn’t even go downtown! Shocking, I know — there it is, perched on the edge, about a couple miles from downtown, yet *every single rider* has to make a transfer if they want to go downtown. Why? Because eventually that train will go to UBC, a secondary destination. A line that carries three times what our entire system carries, yet all of those riders will have to transfer if they want to get to the most popular area in town. That is the way you do it if you really want to build something great.

        Look, no one is saying 8th and Madison is better than 5th and Madison. If this was our first line, then it be much better to serve 5th. But it isn’t. Train to train transfers are easy and the new line already covers that. So if you are going spend billions on a new line, it makes sense to actually provide something of value to those who will use the old line (especially since the old line will have lots more riders).

        Put it another way — how many riders do you expect at the three West Seattle lines? How much time will they save? Walk-up ridership for all three will be very small. So in terms of value added, you don’t have a lot. The vast majority of riders will have to transfer from a bus (assuming they don’t have a choice) and many will come out behind. The overall time savings are pretty small. Now compare that to a First Hill station. Walk up ridership will be much higher — the entire light rail system would serve it extremely well. That means you are looking at roughly 10,000 or so, or more than the combined walk-up ridership of the entire West Seattle line. Every one of those riders would save time. Whether you make a transfer, or stay on the other line, you would save time. Thus it is quite likely that a First Hill station is simply a better project than West Seattle Link. In other words, if they simply built a subway line from Westlake to SoDo, and included First Hill, it would be a better value than West Seattle Link.

        But you don’t even need to make that argument to realize that prioritizing a handful of riders that don’t make a transfer over those that would save a huge amount of time with a First Hill station is a really bad idea.

      4. Jesus H Christ, Ross! You really DON’T know that West Seattle will be in the DSTT under the current plan with Rainier and South KC in the new tunnel.

        Where have you been the last three years?

        This is not a trivial mistake for someone who posts ad much ad you do.

      5. “the Millennium line doesn’t even go downtown!”

        The Millenium line is a crosstown route, so it’s like the Ballard-UW line. Its purpose is to move people east-west along Broadway, which is a high-volume corridor in itself. In our case people living along 45th can take a north-south bus to downtown if they think it’s too far to transfer to Link, but Vancouver doesn’t have that possibility because the south Vancouver penninsula stretches away from downtown in an open jaw shape like West Seattle.

      6. Maybe 5th will make more sense. Maybe 8th will make more sense.

        All we are saying…

        Is give First Hill a chance.

        Study both.

      7. >> The Millenium line is a crosstown route,

        But only by design. The point is, it doesn’t go downtown, even though it starts in a suburb and heads right towards downtown, ending less than a couple miles from it. From the current western terminus, it is closer to downtown than it is to UBC (by several miles). If you asked the riders where they would like to go, the overwhelming majority would prefer the train just went downtown, probably serving the exact same stops as the other line (since those were chosen for their popularity). it is pretty easy to imagine a system like that on both ends. A UBC line would turn at Granville and then head towards downtown. The vast majority of riders would have a one seat ride to the most popular destination.

        But it would suck. It would provide a lot less overall value even though lots of people would avoid a transfer.

        >> Its purpose is to move people east-west along Broadway, which is a high-volume corridor in itself.

        First Hill is a high volume stop! That is what we are saying. It is pretty easy to see that it would be top ten, if not top five. Right now Capitol Hill is the third most popular station, and First Hill could easily have more riders. Fifth and Madison won’t have that, because it isn’t different enough from Spring/University. Only those on the line will use it — few will transfer to it. That means no network effect for several miles of a very expensive new tunnel.

        As Brent (and many others) have said, the problem is the lack of study. It is the same seat-of-the-pants, engineering-by-hunch that has driven so many of the obvious mistakes of this agency. I have no idea if 8th is worth the money, but it should be obvious that it is worth studying. Maybe it will cost too much. Maybe it would be cheaper to put the station at 5th and build a pedestrian tunnel to 8th (an idea every agrees is also worth studying). But like so much in the system, they won’t study it, while they study things that obviously will result in a worse system (e. g. removing stations).

      8. “The Millenium line is a crosstown route, –But only by design. The point is, it doesn’t go downtown”

        That’s what crosstown means, that it doesn’t go downtown, or it runs perpendicular to a downtown line.

        “even though it starts in a suburb and heads right towards downtown, ending less than a couple miles from it.”

        Well, Skytrain is the strangest subway network I’ve ever seen. The Millenium line used to go downtown, and then looped back on itself. Now they’ve cut the loop into three parts and assigned them to different lines. But the Millenium line is like a crosstown route from the perspective of Broadway Station and the future Broadway extension, even if it looks like something else further east (a train network tracing the shape of a sea creature or an egg?).

        “If you asked the riders where they would like to go, the overwhelming majority would prefer the train just went downtown”

        I expect they would say that, and wish they didn’t live on a crosstown line, but the Skytrain is so frequent that that mitigates it. In any case, it’s a lot further from downtown than the distance between 5th and 8th, so it’s not really the same issue. 5th and 8th just looks to me a lot like Chicago’s two subway lines that run two blocks parallel and next to the elevated Loop, or San Francisco where all lines converge on Market Street for 4-6 stations, and nobody says, “Well, one of them should have detoured to Mission Street or some other street.”

        “It is the same seat-of-the-pants, engineering-by-hunch”

        It’s not that at all. It’s myopic vision, the inability to look beyond their initial instincts on what the network needs to do. Their most basic instinct is “Everett to downtown”, and they don’t stop to think how many Everettites are actually going to First Hill or SLU. I actually met one of those people last week, a guy who lives outside Arlington and works in the CD. I don’t know if he takes transit, but if he did he’d probably drive to Everett and take Link to wherever the future 3/4 would be.

    1. First Hill didn’t ask for the station to be moved. That was a pet project of Martin Duke and a few others. It’s not like First Hill asked for an 8th Avenue station and ST turned them down. Where ST got screwed was earlier when the U-Link station was deleted. And what First Hill did then is it asked for a streetcar, and it got it.

      1. That was true at one time, but not any more. The FHIA has really mobilized institutional employers, the DSA, and ordinary folks to move the station up Madison.

      2. It is also a relatively obvious addition. When folks were discussing the WSTT, it came up as well. I’m not sure it if was d.p. (I think it was) but the idea is fairly simple, and one that is common around the world. If you are going to build a new tunnel, make good transfer points (which this will do) and then cover a different area.

      3. It’s also relatively obvious when you try to picture what Seattle of 2040 or 2050 looks like.

        I-5 is an obstacle to downtown stretching up the hill, but eventually development pressures will cause that to happen.

        Then what? There are only so many places to cross I-5. The buses that do so struggle in many places due to the congestion caused by the freeway.

      4. Between a transit idea first promoted by the Downtown Seattle Association (not to be confused with the Democratic Socialists of America) and one promoted by Martin Duke, I’ll trust the one promoted by Martin Duke.

        After all, Martin was the one talking up a low-income ORCA card long before anyone at the DSA said “Eureka!”

        In this case, I don’t have to make that choice. I just have to choose whether to trust the DSA and Martin, or a collection of politicians that want pork for their neck of the woods and don’t include any representation from First Hill. In fact, I don’t even have to make that choice. Their preferred option and Martin’s/the DSA’s should both go forward for alternatives analysis. If there are no alternatives being studied, what is the point of such an analysis?

        But it should be troubling that the group of neighborhood electeds is trying to force a station down downtown’s throat that downtown isn’t asking for.

      5. ST apparently thinks the First Hill Station folks, are, like the Ballard to UW fans, dead-enders. Not sure how this can be changed, other than voting out Dow?

      6. Dow has done a lot of good things and helped shepherd this Link system through. and got the suburban governments to support it, and to support denser urban centers and more transit investment. And he’s been an excellent executive overall. You may not like a few things he does but he’s by no means a bottom-of-the-barrel politician.

  7. Might be a good idea to think equally geological as geographic and political. Since 8th and Madison is only a few blocks from Swedish Hospital, I wonder if the ground isn’t similar or same soil to the one that couldn’t be built under the hospital.

    Same for anything underground near Jackson and King Street Station. It’s still only very muddy beach-front property. For First and Madison area, though, if the ground is good enough deeper down, long elevator shafts could make the station possible. Happens all the time in mining.

    Where the “grip” mechanism for attaching the car to the cable came from. Might also be possible to dig whole underground streets, stores, cafe’s and all, from one of the Downtown stations to a station under the west side of First Hill.

    With its own electric transit if need be. For this whole area of regional transit, in every report and public persentation, could we please have some section views so we can see what’s underneath every standard “plan” (looking straight down from the sky) view? Texas can probably get away with leaving them out of public discussion. Same with Portland, except for the ground under the zoo. We can’t.

    Vancouver doubtless has wonderful hand-drafted maps, section views and all, of the historic old tunnel under Downtown ventilated for steam locomotives, so underground Sky Trains can run over-under tubes in both directions.

    Nothing viewpoints usually put forth. But audience might be more interested, and discussion more to the point, with at least one crew chief in a hard-hat sitting on the stage with the rest of the presenters.

    Mark Dublin

  8. That’s “nothing AGAINST viewpoints usually put forth. But I think it’s a good idea at least to try this approach out. My guess is that audience would start attracting, and convincing, many more voters whose mind could be changed in favor of the project. With valuable suggestions as to how to do it better.


  9. Rejecting the First Hill station based on the “bait and switch” idea is a reasonable decision. For the same reason, the committee should not remove any stations. The worst part of this is not rejecting First Hill, but the hypocrisy shown towards West Seattle. It is crazy to think that it is OK to remove an entire station, but not OK to move a station a couple blocks.

    1. It’s only bait and switch if ST actually chooses it. If it’s present in one or two rounds in the Alternatives Analysis it doesn’t matter. West Seattle is getting a whole lot of privilege as it has since the beginning; this is just another item in it. Maybe in the next round they’ll feel that their last-minute Avalon-less alternative was foolish.

      1. Yeah, but why reject further study of a First Hill station on “bait and switch” grounds, while studying something that is more of a “bait and switch”? Anyone with any sense would realize that a First Hill station would likely increase ridership substantially, while removing a West Seattle station would do the opposite. Aren’t those the kind of things that you actually want to study?

        What is to be gained by studying the removal of a station, if you eventually keep it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just tell the West Seattle tunnel fans that voters didn’t vote for that?

        It sounds like ST is eager to use this excuse to dismiss further study of a First Hill station, but is willing to either string some West Seattle tunnel fans along, or dismiss the needs of Avalon riders. Either way the argument is not consistent at this stage.

      2. I don’t think First Hill is necessarily a bait and switch. ST has told us all along that the representative alignment was flexible and dependent on further evaluation. Lynnwood Link studied alternatives as wide as Aurora and Lake City Way. That’s so far from from 145th & 5th Ave NE.that it would be a mile’s walk. But ST never said Aurora was outside the scope of what voters voted for; it said that the 4 minutes additional travel time would lose more riders than it would gain, and it thought I-5 would be cheaper. (It turned out not to be as cheap as expected because the freeway is old and fragile and needs to be handled with kid gloves or ST would be responsible for rebuilding part of it.) And the south Bellevue alternatives spanned from Bellevue Way to 405 and maybe the Eastside Rail Corridor.

        But if it is legally excluded, that only means ST can’t build it, not that ST can’t study it.

        This voter considers it within the scope of what I voted for. It’s less of a deviation than the aforementioned Lynnwood Link alternatives, and the only reason for considering First Hill a separate urban village from downtown is the psychological barrier of I-5. But the reality is a single urban village extending to Roy, Dearborn, and Broadway or 12th, as the city has started to recognize with the Center City efforts.

        So as far as I’m concerned First Hill is within scope and has strong reasons for inclusion, but at the same time I’m concerned about the construction risk and cost, the lost walkshed at midtown, and missing the central library for a second time.

      3. I’m cool with as many West Seattle options being studied as the pols want, so long as the two good ones are included. We will probably find out that removing Avalon Station turns West Seattle Link into a ridership dud. I’m not afraid of being proven wrong by a study.

      4. “But ST never said Aurora was outside the scope of what voters voted for;”

        Specifically, ST said that to deviate from the I-5 alignment with a 145th & 5th station, it would have to write a statement justifying the change. But that’s it.

      5. Rather than let a single city facility dictate where a major transit station should be, why not build a new 8-story city library by Mt Baker Station?

      6. >> I don’t think First Hill is necessarily a bait and switch.

        I don’t either, but ST leadership is using it as an excuse, which is the point. To quote from this article

        So, spooked by construction challenges and the potential legal questions, the ELG decided to just bail on the neighborhood altogether.

        The potential legal challenges are based on the bait and switch idea. That is the point. They failed to study this any further, because there *might* be legal and technical problems. But what if there aren’t? What if the legal council and the engineers look at it in more detail, and everything looks OK. Sure, there is a chance someone could sue, but they won’t likely win, just as they won’t win if we move the Dravus station from 15th to 20th (a much bigger distance).

        It is the hypocrisy with regards *to further study* that is the problem. It sure looks to me like removing a station is a bigger bait and switch than moving a station three blocks. It also seems like tunneling in West Seattle also has its risks. So the board used two arguments (legal and engineering risk) to refuse further study on one project, while ignoring those same exact risks on another project. That is BS, and it is why we are calling them out on it.

      7. It’s not the distance, it’s the “different urban village” and “different ridership market” — shanghaiing the original transit market.

  10. If Ballard Interbay to West Seattle is not complete within 5 years the city traffic will grind to a halt. The line thru downtown is the primary way to link the city together now that Capital Hill and UW are open. The west side has the most cars by necessity not choice.

  11. Sorry, but I can’t get worked up about First Hill options when my neighborhood of north Belltown/waterfront got so screwed out of any service. Not everyone here gets a ride home via Microsoft bus, and it would have been nice to be able to link the cruise traffic to the rest of the city or airport.

    1. Deborah, I think there’s a very good chance of the First Avenue streetcar being extended to the Lower Queen Anne station. On its own right of way, and signal system.

      Also, I suspect a that given how little line-haul transit is anticipated for the Waterfront right now, a lot of interests will fully remember the streetcar line they did their best to kill. I don’t see anything to prevent rebuilding it.

      In the Archives room at Downtown library, there’s an engineer’s report on possibilities to extend the Waterfront Streetcar. At the north, end, could have terminated in Seattle Center. Not very far from new station. And during DSTT construction, we put a temporary monorail station about three blocks north of Westlake Center. Could put another one wherever residents think it should be situated.

      Might be good to talk to some of the engineers- something I’m recommending to whole population being served by LINK. Maybe the soils won’t hold a Belltown Station. Maybe the community wouldn’t appreciate the kind of disruption a station might require. Or maybe the extra station would slow the trains- which really are intended to run express, a lot faster on a train than a bus.

      Not excuses. But the more technical stuff everybody understands, the more persuasive your objections will be on any point. But I don’t think there’s any argument about the number of bus routes that used to serve your neighborhood on all the arterials, Like Fifth, Fourth, Second, and First. Their return is a “Just Do It”

      Mark Dublin

    2. Funny you shouldn’t mention the monorail. (Oh, what a difference lack of fare integration can do to turn a potential high-capacity transit line into a low-capacity carousel ride / bake sale.)

      There is a study of adding a Bell St Station on the monorail being floated.

      1. Brent, you may be right about the connection between fare integration and passenger attraction, but I think you’ve got it backward. If and when there’s higher speed and ridership for the Monorail to integrate with, ORCA will get installed in a single work-shift.

        Might even pay to make the Monorail fare-free…like every elevator in Seattle. Distance and loads between Westlake and the new stadium more like an elevator than high speed rail. Making it as important service as any good elevator. Which is very important.


      2. Yeah, but Brent, the monorail is elevated. Elevated transit will kill a neighborhood (just ask the folks in West Seattle). So, obviously, the area around the monorail is deserted — similar to parts of Detroit. The place is obviously uninhabited, as you can see by the pictures:

        Seriously though, that sounds like a great idea. I think it should definitely be studied. That isn’t as good as a longer Link line that contained a Belltown stop, but a monorail stop there has a lot of potential. It is about ten minutes away from the southern end of the monorail, and about twelve minutes away from the northern end, making it just about ideal. As with all monorail improvements, success would probably require improving the headways (by separating the tracks again) and providing a faster connection between Link and it.

      3. Why not extend the monorail to First Hill or even all the way to Mt. Baker. This would, effective be Metro 8, except the new tunnel would pick up SLU and the Monorail would (and does) serve Belltown. I’ve proposed this before on page 2.

  12. “…the ELG largely decided to carry forward the SAG’s recommendations with two exceptions: they eliminated one redundant Ballard option, but opted to carry forward an additional West Seattle alternative that removes an entire station at Avalon to tunnel under the junction…”

    Did they? From what I saw both the SAG and ELG agreed on carrying forward two alternatives with 3 stations. One, a slight variation on the original alignment, and the other a tunneled option. What other option did they put forward for further review? Or are you just reading between the lines that the proposed 3-station tunnel route might be whittled down to 2 to cover extra costs? There seemed to be a lot of support for 3 stations from both groups.

    1. It was confusing, I agree. West Seattle blog says that only two alternatives were moved forward. But if you watch the video, you’ll see that at first only Pigeon Point and Oregon St are moved forward, but then at the last minute CM Herbold asks (50:10) if the Golf Course alternative (the one without Avalon) could be done in such a way as to not affect the golf course. Staff then says they’ll advance the Golf Course alternative so as to be able to study the feasibility of moving the line north of the golf course. At the very end of the video (2:10:10) they show a slide with the carry forward options and it includes the Golf Course along with the two others.

      But you’re right, they did say they support three stations.

      1. why cannot a 35th Avenue SW station (Avalon) be added to the golf course alignment (blue)?

    2. Could video links be more prominent in articles? It was only with Frank’s comment that I realized there was a video and found the link to it. This has happened several times before, that an article has a link to the entire video/pesentation/plan being discussed, but the link appears to be a minor reference and I don’t realize that it’s important, and so I don’t know that the video/presentation/plan is available online until somebody mentions it in the comments. That’s why I didn’t know that First Hill residents/workers had been so active and formed the majority of public testimony at the meeting.

      1. I just looked at the neighborhood forum summary at and in no way does it convey the extent of the preference expressed for a first hill station at the mid-town meeting, which I attended. Of course, it is not surprising that people may want a station closer to where they live and/or work, but the arguments made at the meeting went beyond this and were quite substantive. Frankly, most of the people who were at my table will probably not live to see this line completed, and they knew it, so their points were not about self interest, but practical usability considerations for the next generation.

        The fact is that there are always going to be a disproportionate number of mobility impaired folks needing to get to and from First Hill, whether because of the large elderly population or folks with medical issues connected to the hospitals. While having the station further up the hill presents some grade challenges (elevators instead of escalators, etc.), this same grade difference is also what would make the station far more usable for these groups. It’s a shame that this did not seem to factor in very much to the decision reached last Thursday.

  13. Meanwhile, the compromise suggestion mentioned by many to have a First Hill station entrance with a diagonal conveyance system but leave the station at Fifth gets ignored to the point that it doesn’t even get mentioned in summary documents.

    Ironically, when Eighth was mentioned in the summary, the comment was that the entrance would be too steep for people Downtown to reach — even though an entrance could be almost a straight line elevation walkway from Fifth.

    We’re building a rail system with back room politics and not logic. It’s as if those in power are outing riders and residents last. As I said before, the lack of a rider’s committee approach is really showing.

    1. A diagonal escalator for several blocks would get ST into a new project line it probably doesn’t want to get into, and it would span a large number of properties that are for neither tracks nor station nor construction areas but simply a very long entrance. It’s the kind of thing that Seattle could take the lead on, because while it’s arguably outside the scope of the Link project it’s squarely inside the scope of the city.

      1. Mike, on your logic, ST should not pay for any entrance at any station!

        Sure Seattle could pay for it as a separate project — but it still needs to be studied now! ST will be making assumptions about where station entrances go and how bus routes will shift at every station and paying for those. This is in the same category.

        The whole notion that we decide track platform locations first and decide stations and entrances around them later is completely illogical; they should be done in tandem. Otherwise, the ridership and cost assumptions get no public evaluation of alternatives.

      2. Mike, if the tunnel is as deep I think it may have to be, it could be that nobody’s property above it will even know it’s there. Or at least not have any problems with it. But a lot more chance that some elevators and other pedestrian access to stations might get a lot of cooperation.


      3. A station entrance means something like Capitol Hill Station, where the entrances are right at the station box or at most across the street from it. This is not just entrance but an entire multi-block tunnel. Bellevue might ask, “Why don’t we have an entrance at Bellevue Square then?”

      4. Oh I expect there will be those in Bellevue that will wish that there would have been a pedestrian connecting tunnel under NE 6th and 110th instead of that giant pavement crossing that Link transferring riders will be forced to use including the up to two-minute wait to cross the street.

      5. That would have more justification because the transit center is part of the station and should be treated as such. It’s also only on the other side of the street, so like the Seattle Central entrance to Capitol Hill Station.

      6. I shudder at the thought of ST overseeing construction of a long series of escalators.

        But don’t worry. Each will be functional at least 95% of the time. Don’t think about the math of what it does to the whole line too hard.

        At any rate, it won’t work for those who need elevators.

      7. A multiblock corridor would require a series of escalators. What’s the chance that all of them in the series would be working?

      8. >> A multiblock corridor would require a series of escalators. What’s the chance that all of them in the series would be working?

        Or a tram — basically a diagonal elevator. There is no way we could build one of those.

        Seriously though, that is why you study it. Maybe an escalator doesn’t make sense. Maybe a people mover would be too expensive. But at least study it.

        I sometimes wonder if we have too many software engineers in this town (and I am one). Software engineering is ridiculously flexible. Make a mistake, correct it, move in. Unlike, say, a car, the cost to replicate the product after designing it is minimal
        But this is real engineering. You need to study it a lot, because the actual construction is very expensive. We should be studying the heck out of various alternatives, and then hire extra firms to give us second and third opinions. Yeah, I know that is expensive, but nothing like living with even minor mistakes in a multi-billion dollar system.

      9. If the Junction neighborhood wants more people to live there, they will allow it to be upzoned.

    2. >> We’re building a rail system with back room politics and not logic.


  14. This problem is mostly solved with an extension of Freeway Park to the south, lidding I5 with a pedestrian friendly walkway to Marion Street. This could be part of the mitigation to move the station. It’s better than a streetcar you know.

    1. Or a BRT with the transfer station on a rather steep slope.

      “Where’s my baby? Oh her carriage is rolling down Madison Street. Has she crossed Second yet?”

  15. Anyone who rides on the C on a regular basis would know that Avalon station is a core requirement for any long term solution for West Seattle transit. If all the folks who live in the Avalon corridor (one of the densest and fastest growing parts of West Seattle besides the Junction itself) have to turn around and go up to the Junction just to get to downtown, you’d better have a much better reason than “Single family zoned NIMBYs hate elevated tracks”, ffs.

    1. The “Junction” station may be east of the junction. And a 35th Avenue bus could go to Delridge Station. 35th to California is only five blocks, and even if it adds a minute of overhead for the bus, it won’t for a grade-separated train, so it’s only half the overhead of a two-way bus detour.

      1. But it is still a pointless detour that makes it harder to create a real grid. It is like the Northgate station — buses will deviate substantially from the main corridors just to serve it. One of the few strong arguments for West Seattle rail is that it would free up bus service and provide a much better system on the peninsula. But not if buses have to go out of their way to serve the stations.

        Besides, it is still a (likely) permanent shot in the foot. Imagine you bought (or rent) an apartment on Avalon. Your commute is pretty good. Yes, the C gets a little bogged down in traffic, but nothing like what most of the city deals with. Meanwhile, your trip home is pretty smooth sailing. If you want to go downtown outside of rush hour, it is great — you have a frequent bus that can get you there in no time (faster than a bus from Queen Anne, despite the much great distance). You are excited about the train, because it will be even better. Yeah, it might not come as often (although who knows) but it won’t have to deal with traffic at all.

        But now you are told you need to take a bus (or walk 15 minutes) to the train. How often is a bus going to go along Avalon? How well is the transfer going to be timed? I think it is clear that you are worse off — most days you are going to spend more time getting to work. All because folks only a short distance away from a freakin’ freeway suddenly don’t like big structures.

      2. “it is still a (likely) permanent shot in the foot. Imagine you bought (or rent) an apartment on Avalon. Your commute is pretty good. Yes, the C gets a little bogged down in traffic, but nothing like what most of the city deals with.”

        Then you should have thought about that before West Seattle howled with insistence that it must have Link in ST3 and nothing else was acceptable.

  16. There’s one really important thing missing in every discussion about our transit future is how long that period is going to be. Wouldn’t say build everything as big as possible, though better that than its opposite.

    Better to say as flexible. Starting with how many different uses any part of the line can be put to. And maybe click that factor a few gear-teeth up the line in deciding where and how to build. Also, with ongoing Ballard vs. West Seattle controversy and much else, better to divide the system and its work not into “subareas”, but as corridors.

    Consider above two neighborhoods as parts of the same line, and discussion and progress will get a lot easier. And a lot less time and energy arguing about it.


  17. As I’m watching the meeting, I’m horrified that ST non-legal staff advises a legal that an Eighth Ave station location is not consistent with ST3. They are not qualified to make that judgment call, especially since other station locations also vary by 3 blocks. On this specific matter, the decision is a political and technical one and not a legal one. The staff should not have chimed in to make this opinion.

    1. It’s an obviously choreographed discussion, and yet they never quite make the call, just wave their hands metaphorically in the general direction of a legal problem.

      Nobody wants to own a claim which is so ridiculous and counterfactual.

      1. Agreed. I find this amazing as it’s playing out, but then I remind myself that this is Sound Transit afterall.

    2. I didn’t hear that. I heard the legal counsel say that any deviation has to be not more expensive, not fewer riders, and not shortchanging a promised station’s walkshed. He deferred to technical staff to describe whether the 8th Avenue station would do so based on ST’s evaluation criteria. That’s not a non-legal staff advising a legal; it’s giving reference material about what the alternative is. And after that a couple boardmembers said that they had heard only a legal question, not an answer to that question, and that an answer would require more research. Obviously an answer would require taking the question, and technical information going beyond the summary the tech said off the top of his head, and writing an analysis of them.

      1. #(first time I ever did that) any 8th avenue station. The google plan view with trees streets and buildings pretty well says it. In addition to being very close to Fifth Avenue and also I-5, the size of the intersection of Madison and 8th is just to small for this important a station.

        Slant problem can be designed around. But location and site size can’t. The station really belongs at either Boren or Broadway. Soils and stones willing. Tell me, where will next stations be to north and south. If the route doesn’t demand any 90 degree turns, might be worth some extra expense.

        Especially since either one will put the streetcar in its correct place- to feed the subway in its correct location and purpose. And finally giving this area the subway surface it really needs. If not- I still think much-deeper station at Boren or Broadway really better than 8th.

        Also: looking at aerial view, 8th Avenue Station and the block west of it look ‘way too likely to suddenly provide lid over I-5 that TVM could easily bore through in less than a year. Better than having all that dirt moved in and dumped by truck.


  18. I do think there is a legal issue that didn’t get discussed:Title VI.

    Keeping a station entrance at high-priced residential condos Downtown rather than move it a few blocks to be closer to assisted living facilities and Harborview sets up a pretty clear case of income bias. Any low-income advocate would have a compelling case, regardless of ST3 intent.

    1. Title VI is actually about racial bias, but the two quite often correlate. The irony is that few of those who are supposed to be protected by Title VI can afford to bring legal action to make use of it. However, if the DSA could provide pro bono representation, they could have a much stronger case than the contrived, selectively-used “out of scope” hogwash.

      Better to move forward with studying all options, and include the Title VI analysis of each, than to invite a Title VI restraining order that halts the study of 5th while jeopardizing federal funding of the project.

      That said… If there is no federal funding, then there is no Title VI cause of action.

    2. So Title VI will sue voters for not including First Hill in the representative alignment?

      1. I’m not a legal expert, but Title VI was used to force LAMTA to sign a consent degree noting that they were building rail capital projects for wealthier white areas but taxing everyone.

        I could see the entirety of ST3 being vulnerable to a challenge as most projects (perhaps as much as 90 percent of project funds) are going to wealthier white areas while taxing everyone. The glaring omission of expensive light rail extensions into minority areas — say Federal Way but not Burien, Issaquah but not Renton, Alaska Junction but not White Center, and so on — really could put the entire ballot measure into a suspicious, racist light. Ignoring First Hill and Harborview now by saying it’s not in the measure could further jeopardize the whole program and funding.

        Ironically, Rogoff was in the middle of the consent degree expiration in 2006 while at FTA. He personally should know better.

        Blind obedience to the ballot measure details could thus jeopardize the entire list of projects!

      2. It was actually Rogoff who suggested that individual projects could be built without federal strictures if no federal funding is used for that project.

        I don’t think a Title VI lawsuit could stop the whole of ST3.

        One fascinating precedent would be to see if the Puyallup Tribe could bring a Title VI suit against Tacoma Dome Link skipping their land.

      3. To file in federal court, you have to alleged (and prove) discriminatory intent (not disparate impact– see the Sandoval case). You can file with the U.S. Department of Transportation (presumably ST receives federal funds) civil rights office, but traditionally, Republican administrations aren’t big fans of disparate impact cases.

        Are we 100% sure that fifth over 8th has a disparate impact (What are the racial demographics of first hill riders/residents)?

      4. Any advocate would probably have until at least 2023 to file suit. Regardless, making an issue of how the strictly political ST3 projects list evolved, it would appear to be that a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to the ST3 financial plan favoring wealthier white areas could almost be considered intent. An outcome would be to shift priorities rather than cancel ST3.

    3. There are no “high-priced residential condos” around Fifth and Marion/Madison. The highest concentration of workplaces (e.g. “ridership attractors”) in the entire Northwest, including after the opening of number two at Denny Way, is around Fifth and Marion/Madison.

      Dig a horizontal tunnel under I-5 at Mezzanine level and stick a bank of long, (ahem) high quality escalators to Eighth and Marion and you’ve accomplished the same thing for much less risk and money while serving peak-hour users better.

      1. Richard, I think a reasonable project compromise that any solution that gets someone between the station platform and Eighth if not Boren without having to walk a sloped hill is a win for serving First Hill.

        Still, the Committees won’t even discuss this possibility on the record, and ST staff has whitewashed the concept of connecting First Hill in its summary presentations.

        However, the First Hill interests are clearly organized to get something done. If they can’t get the platform moved, this is the next obvious approach. Whether ST3 with its appallingly low contingency budget will pay for it appears to be the bigger challenge.

      2. Al, OK, there’s one building, but it’s among a cluster of the tallest office buildings in downtown Seattle.

  19. As to;

    Getting an actual legal ruling on the matter would mean taking the agency to court. That’s unlikely to happen, though, since the officials who serve on the ST board, like Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson and Snohomish Executive Dave Somers, want to drop the First Hill alternative entirely. ST CEO Rogoff, for his part, seemed concerned that one departure from the plan could lead to more elsewhere in the system, which could jeopardize the entire effort.

    You guys STILL opposed to electing the Sound Transit Board?

    Just checking.

    1. Sound Transit has its dysfunctions, several of them on display this week. But I’ve never looked at the Board and thought “what this place needs are more parochially-minded amateurs.”

      1. >> But I’ve never looked at the Board and thought “what this place needs are more parochially-minded amateurs.”

        Yet the makeup of the board pretty much guarantees that. Yes, an elected board could lead to the same thing, but at least voters would have a chance and a choice. Right now we have people who know nothing about transportation. They have no transportation planning background, nor do they have time to even learn the basics. I don’t believe any of them are engineers, former bus drivers, etc. Except for the one representative from WSDOT, none of them have those skills.* They all deal with other issues, issues arguably more important than running ST. Do you really want Jarrett Walker on the board, if the only way he can get there is to be mayor of Seattle? He might make all the right decisions when it comes to building this massive transit system, but if the police department goes belly up, or the biggest employers all decide to leave town, we are hosed. Atlanta has our wonderful transit system — do you really want to trade places with them? More to the point, as a board member, you can hide quite well in the crowd, while you focus on your main job. But screw up that main job, and you are out of it. It is no wonder they all do so poorly — they are performing a complicated job that has little to do with whether they will ever be successful. Might as well ask them to fix your car.

        This is too important a position to be left to folks who can’t concentrate on the tasks at hand. The decisions are not obvious — not to anyone. As Al said, the folks in charge are building a rail system with back room politics and not logic. That is because for this board, that is all they know.

        We should either have an elected or appointed board. If you don’t think the general public can be trusted — that we, the people, will elect demagogues — then at least appoint a board. Elect a bunch of people that mayors and county execs think know how to handle the job. Good God, why isn’t the head of Metro on this board? Why isn’t the head of Metro planning on this board? Why isn’t someone at Metro who everyone thinks will be perfect for the board on this board? Because Dow knows more about transit? That is ridiculous, but it is what we have.


      2. “But I’ve never looked at the Board and thought ‘what this place needs are more parochially-minded amateurs.’ ”

        Nope, we certainly don’t need MORE of this type of board member.

      3. Thanks RossB.

        Let me expound on an earlier comment and say, I would support experimenting with an appointed board certainly at the local level and possibly Sound Transit. Basis being let’s be honest fundraising for an election campaign really limits the universe of ideas that can be spread to the average voter both because of the relatively small “donor class” and the cost of getting ideas out. Projects, not personalities, seem to turn on the taps a bit easier…

        This federated board idea really means few actual transit riders are on these boards, and as RossB points out serving on transit board is VERY MUCH a secondary duty.

        I’d rather seek out having boards that have more transit-minded enthusiasts. Full stop.

      4. OMG, are we back to selling seats on the Sound Transit Board to the highway construction industry and rich narcissists with more money than brains?

        Hasn’t Donald Trump convinced everyone with an IQ warmer than human blood what a TERRIBLE idea that would be?

        What folks like you who believe the agency doesn’t listen to the public’s reasonable and informed input, Joe, should do is to agitate for managers who have actually built rail successful rail systems, not more political fixers like Rogoff.

    2. “You guys STILL opposed to electing the Sound Transit Board?”

      Since you asked, Yes.

      Rumor has it, some of Somers’ constituents work on First Hill. He is actually much more vulnerable as county executive than if he got elected to the ST Board and proceeded to help appoint the committee that would draw him a safe district.

      Executive Constantine could decline to reappoint Johnson to the ST Board if he finds Johnson to be more into home cooking for his district than getting the best result for the whole ST district. In the case of First Hill, I’m at a loss as to what Johnson is thinking, given that he probably has a lot more constituents who work on First Hill than Somers does.

      I do hope County Councilmember Upthegrove doesn’t get reappointed after how he mangled South Link to minimize “impacts”, to the detriment of future ridership. We probably can’t get rid of Upthegrove at the ballot box, but the Executive might be convinced to appoint a more transit-savvy and TOD-savvy elected official from the area, such as Des Moines Mayor Matt Pina.

      1. I like Upthegrove personally but frankly would like to see Teresa Mosqueda on the Sound Transit Board. Mosqueda, unlike my first pick, has no reason to recurse herself and is STRONG on housing issues. Like my first pick sounds like a HAWK on dealing with virulent trolling and UNION STRONG on supporting unions.

    3. Joe, how do you know your side will win enough elections to swing the Board? What if board composition shifts full 180 with the TVM in the ground and spinning? Also, how much time will have to be spent briefing every new election’s winners. BTW: How long do you think every member’s term should be?


    4. “You guys STILL opposed to electing the Sound Transit Board?”

      Yes. There’s no evidence that an elected board would make any specific difference in these issues. What the elected winners would do depends on who they are, and we have no idea who they would be. Who would run, and who could get a majority of votes? You can’t just assume it would be people like you and me and Martin. The majority of people believe in not upzoning single-family areas, not removing parking spaces even for transit lanes, focusing on peak commuting to work adding P&Rs, and if there’s a tradeoff between improving the network and some other factor, they would choose the other factor. Seattle voters have been enlightened the past few years in choosing pro-density councilmembers, but it hasn’t gone as far as upzoing single-family areas or accommodating microapartments or a real Paris-style transit priority. So there’s a good chance that elected boardmembers would not be any better than the ones we have now. They may have somewhat different views, but we don’t know what these views might be.

      And we CERTAINLY know that most of the people who argue for an elected board really want to shut rail projects down, or allow cities to exempt themselves from ST3 MVET, and things like that. So if you ally with them and it succeeds, you may get more than you bargained for.

      1. >> There’s no evidence that an elected board would make any specific difference in these issues.

        Of course not, but there is no evidence that they wouldn’t. Look, it is pretty obvious that the folks in charge know very little about transit, and transit issues. None of them have specific training or expertise (with the exception of the head of WSDOT). None of them have ever been in charge of a major transit system (other than this one). Nor have any of them been head of transit planning anywhere. Every member (again, except for Millar) is a political official, elected to do something else (something that requires a lot more of their time, and is arguably a lot more important). They don’t have time to get up to speed on this issue. It is like Obama appointing himself head of Veterans Affairs while he was President. Yeah, the guy is smart (and a quick learner) but he brings nothing to the table as far as experience, and has lots of more important things to worry about.

        Has any one of the board members ever made an argument that shows even a cursory knowledge of transit fundamentals? Not that I can remember. It would have been lovely if Dow said “the Ballard to UW line would enhance the transit grid” but instead he said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory) “ST3 won’t enable every trip — you will still need to drive to pick up your kids from daycare, but is still great” .

        ST3 is full of huge flaws. It doesn’t pass the sniff test. Pull up some maps,and tell me how you get there. No Metro 8, no Ballard to UW, but West Seattle rail with three stops? Oh, and soon it might have 2! No one can defend that mess. Even the folks on this blog who basically said “it is better than nothing” know damn well it is much worse than what your average transit planner could construct. Speaking of which, where are the studies? Where are the second opinions? How can you construct something so expensive, with so little in the way of data to support it?

        Because you have ignorant politicians running it. They don’t rely on data, they rely on arm twisting (in the case of Kirkland) and misguided promises (in the case of Everett and Tacoma).

        I’m not saying that any project is perfect, but ST2 is basically what every independent transit agency would build — it is very easy to defend, even if some of the details seem a bit off. But ST3 is the opposite, and full of big flaws in both the city and the suburbs. Relatively minor problems like not covering First Hill are just the latest example of an ignorant board operating with little transparency, and even less meaningful knowledge.

        We either need to elect a board, or have the politicians appoint one. The system we have has failed us and continues to fail us.

      2. @Mike Orr
        “And we CERTAINLY know that most of the people who argue for an elected board really want to shut rail projects down,….”

        How can you make such a claim with such certainty? Frankly, I feel your statement is nonsenical hyperbole. Sorry.

        @Ross B.
        +10 I also support a directly elected board, but it must contain at-large members.

    5. “Let me try again: Dan, I have confidence at the Sound Transit level we aren’t going to have amateur hour. Rock solid confidence.”

      Didn’t Rogoff nearly lose his job in his last performance arrangement?

    6. I’d probably suggest this compromise: Adding directly elected board members to the current board while dropping some of the current positions.

      What I see missing is rider experience. I can’t believe that half of the stakeholders are added just because they are riders. I can’t believe that there is no interest in talking to the tens of thousands of local residents who have used rail transit for many years in other parts of the country. They show up at public meetings to hear reps who have never commuted on a train tell them that they are stupid or silly.

      Would we réquisition a fire engine without knowledge from engine drivers and firefighters? Would we design a professional baseball field without talking to pro sports teams and players? Would we build a school but not listen to principals and teachers and even students?

      We are facing an ugly structural situation where most reps on these committed have never ridden a rail vehicle every day for years, and probably none have driven one. To most of them, this is the adult realization of their childhood toy train fantasies. I don’t know how to overthrow the structure and arrogance, but it’s badly needed.

  20. Classic statement by Somers at 1:31. He’s the strongest voice against the First Hill option because he doesn’t think it falls in ST3’s scope. This is the same Somers who has been arguing against any Ballard line at all until after Everett is built, because Everett is part of the Spine and Ballard isn’t, and Link’s primary mandate is to connect Everett, Tacoma, and downtown Seattle, not Ballard or other local neighborhoods. So this argument underlies his position on First Hill even though he doesn’t say it.

    1. New rule: If you use “out of scope” as a reason to say an option should not be studied, you don’t belong on a transit planning board.

    2. Great point. I argued on a post several months ago (that one about Roberts’ reappointment being up in the air) that the board member I wished was replaced for my SnoCo representation was indeed Dave Somers. Sadly, my comment was deleted by the blog moderator at that time for being a personal attack, which I found rather baffling.

      1. But Somers is one of the three directly-elected members of the Board. You had a chance not to elect him, and you will have a chance to vote him off the Board.

        If Somers is the Board Member you most dislike, I don’t see how you’ll like having a dozen or so all directly-elected, with still only one you get to vote for/against, beyond them doing whatever they can do to not go through with ST3 (which is the point of most of the elect-the-board advocacy).

  21. First Hill should be served on a north-south axis rather than east-west in a spur from the Green Line. While such a spur would certainly help the places around the station get to Westlake and SLU, it would have ruinously deep stations and few of them.

    An automated arc line using the abandoned Battery Street Tunnel would run from a station at Western and Battery, at the south edge of the densest area of Belltown, stop at Fifth, Denny Way Station, Fairview and Republican, Republican and Summit, then turn to cross Capitol Hill Station at the south end, and run south through First Hill with a three simple, shallow stations and portal just south of Jackson and Rainier.

    It would then go aerial down Rainier with a station half way between Jackson and Judkins Park Station and on to Mt Baker.

    This would put every station on the regional system (except those outside down Bellevue on Kirkland-Issaquah) one transfer away from every station on the “Metro 8 Modified”.

    “Modified” because it wouldn’t go down 23rd Avenue but just west of Broadway.

    Yes, the City would have to fund it itself. ST wouldn’t touch a ” purely urban” route like this. And it wouldn’t do it well; its palace-stations would be out of place and too expensive for the frequency needed.

    1. P.S. Such an automated line would meet the letter and the law allowing Seattle to tax itself independently for “a monorail”.

      Cars would have to have small control cabs to move to a Link MF from time to time for maintenance and cleaning, but that should not be an impediment.

    2. Sounds good. It is not that different than this idea I had: You basically make the turn much more sharply than I do. I would make sure to interline the two (Ballard and Metro 8, no matter how modified) so that you would have some one seat rides. I don’t see the Ballard line running every three minutes all day.

      The thing is, like most good ideas for this city, it is unlikely it never ever be built. I really only see two projects that seem possible: Ballard to UW and a couple extra stops on the Ballard line (65th and 85th). The former because it has already been studied, is relatively cheap, and has so much going for it. The latter because it is really cheap (especially if the train to Ballard is elevated) and serves another “urban village” (Crown Hill).

      Your route (which looks better than mine) is tough for people to understand and likely has some technical issues. There is a strong preference for lines that go a long distance or are a long ways away from existing lines, or are similar to routes next to the freeway (where traffic is bad). That has none of that. It only has good connectivity, density and proximity (things that have always worked in the past) which means it will probably never be built.

      All cynicism aside, it is a very good route (better than West Seattle rail, Issaquah to South Kirkland, and the far ends of the spine) but I don’t think it is a better value than either of the city projects I mentioned. So that means it has to wait in line, and this is a pretty tiny city to be building all of that. Look at Vancouver — a city that has nowhere near as large a system as what we will soon build, way higher ridership than we will ever have, and an extremely left wing, prosperous electorate. They still haven’t built the UBC extension, despite the fact that the bus that serves it carries almost as many people as our entire light rail line. And this is during the good times. All it takes is a local downturn (which has happened a lot in the past) and suddenly we will struggle with just running the trains and maintaining the miles and miles of track we plan on building.

      Oh, and the legislature also has to give us the right to tax ourselves for transit — that seems unlikely given the fact that the city has to pass a freakin’ head tax just to reduce the number of kids sleeping in cars.

      Add it all up, and it just seems unlikely. That is why folks like me want to see the deviation. Yeah, it isn’t as good as any of the projects I mentioned, nor as good as the one you did, but it means we actually could get something useful out of West Seattle Link.

      1. “That has none of that. It only has good connectivity, density and proximity (things that have always worked in the past) which means it will probably never be built.”

        Lol. Love the snark. Your prediction is probably correct nonetheless.

    3. “First Hill should be served on a north-south axis rather than east-west in a spur from the Green Line.”

      That may end up happening if ST rejects this and something else gets built afterward..

      1. The Seattle subway map shows first hill on a pink line come out of the midtown station. It a good looking map. ST needs to adopt a specific long range plan like the Seattle subways map. Then come back to the voters ever 12 years for more funding and show which additional parts of each line will get built. Put very station you could possibly want on the table, an ideal system and build it bit by bit and piece by piece. Tax the areas separately, build the stations and small chunks of line when the station area hit a density target.

      2. I agree with Ian. The problem is that ST commissions studies of individual lines, but as far as o know they have never done a system study. (Please correct me if I’m wrong))

        Use a system study to create a comprehensive long term plan and stick with it.

        It kills me that they are making decisions on many different things without knowing the next step.

        I like to play chess and if you aren’t thinking several moves ahead you are losing. It seems like ST is barely able to focus on the move it is on.

  22. But what’s definitely NOT a bait and switch is dropping the original voter approved first hill and replacing it with the super fast first hill streetcar ?

    1. But the original promise to voters was to have a line from Paine Field to the Tacoma Amtrak Station, and that it would be completed before First Hill gets a light rail station. Or something like that.

    2. Bruce Harrell seemed to think as much with his reference to all the millions they had spent on the FHSC. Of course, there was no reference to the results, just an assumption that when dole out a lot of money, you’ve done your job as a politician. Never mind if you’re spending the money effectively. That seems to be a pattern with this council these days.

      It will be interesting to see if this is the final word. This group’s decision is not binding on the sound transit board and the First Hill neighborhood association does not seem impressed with the vague promise to do “something” to address the neighborhood’s transportation needs. I saw on another blog this rather non-conciliatory statement:

      “We believe that a meaningful look at what the potential ridership opportunities and costs associated with this alignment option would have been time well spent and are sorry to see such hugely important decisions being made based on assumptions and conjecture rather than data driven analysis. It’s sad that the tens of thousands of residents, workers, patients, and visitors in Washington’s densest residential neighborhood won’t be connected to the region with fast high-efficiency transit, and that people across Puget Sound will miss out on this once in a generation opportunity to be connected to our resource and opportunity rich neighborhood. Simply put, it was way too early to take First Hill off the table. We believe that First Hill is an obvious and ideal location for high capacity transit, and that neither the under-funded and years delayed Madison BRT nor the notoriously inefficient and disconnected First Hill Streetcar come close to meeting the transportation needs of our dense urban neighborhood.”

    3. What was definitely not “out of scope” was moving the ST1 line from a straight line to the airport over to MLK, with a tunnel.

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