A station east of I-5 vastly expands the area of Central Seattle served by light rail

I have long been skeptical that Sound Transit would build a First Hill light rail station. When the staff doesn’t want to do something, it takes a combination of grassroots pressure and an aggressive leader to make them do it. For over a year, there was no organized campaign and no elected champion for the neighborhood. Threats to project revenue and a desire to quickly eliminate alternatives worked against introducing new ideas. Although we always knew the ST sausage making process was subject to the whims of coalition-building, we at least believed we understood it.  The First Hill saga reveals that there’s no real process at all.

Frank has already covered most of the hypocrisy: a legal standard for deviating from the representative alignment never used in previous Sound Transit measures, missing from assurances in 2016 when they needed your vote, and indeed ignored in this very same meeting; summary rejection due to increased costs, as other alignments passed with vague hopes they could find the money; and concern-trolling about the cost and effort of studying a single First Hill alternative, immediately followed by waving through six ways to get into Ballard. I am not a lawyer, but applying spurious and inconsistent standards is probably better grounds for a lawsuit then any invented constraints from the ballot measure.

But perhaps the most astounding result is that First Hill did organize, no institutional opposition emerged, Joe McDermott and Sally Bagshaw recognized the enormous potential of the station, and still the Sound Transit staff and its elected allies found reasons to dismiss this alternative that apparently didn’t apply to any other part of town. Both ordinary residents and big institutional employers on First Hill showed up to testify, and what they said was well-informed and accurate. Most of Sound Transit’s foul-weather friends explicitly urged a close look at First Hill’s potential. Even the DSA — arguably the injured party if the station moved outside the downtown core — supported the effort. And yet, that coalition got much less out of Sound Transit than a bunch of angry Kirkland residents that flouted their City Council to keep transit as far from their homes as possible.

The Sound Transit Board will be briefed on the recommendations this afternoon, and gets the final say next month. Though the chances First Hill gets to Level 2 analysis are slim, a Sound Transit analysis would not be likely to favor the station anyway. A line that poaches many of its riders from the existing train can look good in a superficial study, one that doesn’t place adequate weight on riders added to the system from an extraordinarily dense housing and jobs center. Few who witnessed last Thursday’s motivated reasoning would expect the planners to make this subtle distinction and choose correctly.

First Hill’s organizing efforts are likely to result in some sort of concession to the neighborhood, as the Streetcar as currently implemented is largely a failure. This might involve Madison BRT, already planned to be less reliable or frequent than Link, and with another round of Durkan value engineering likely ahead. Even in the best case, First Hill will be an additional transfer from most regional destinations. To take a simple example, hospital workers taking Sounder up from South King County will have to choose between a two-seat ride from King Street and a circuitous, congested route on the streetcar. Those people weren’t represented Thursday, save by Dow Constantine, and they’re among those who will pay the highest price.

106 Replies to “The First Hill Debacle Upends Everything We Knew About ST”

  1. Regional destinations should be served with good, reliable, frequent regional transit. This is an investment that could take *a lot* of cars off the road. Along with South Lake Union this is the most important new station in the system.

    The original First Hill stop was removed by a risk averse, budget challenged Sound Transit that had recently fought for its survival. Now is the time to take some more risks and try to do something right. We won’t get this chance again.

    1. That’s a point. This is supposed to be regional transit, right? Well, here’s a regional destination.

  2. This is a ridiculous post. If you think there was hypocrisy or lack of process, you haven’t been looking as closely as you think. A FH station in ST3 was never a realistic option, and the odds were always against it for three very simple and clear reasons: prior history, current service commitments, and cost/risk issues.

    We’ve been through this before, the trauma of losing a station. In the first instance, the plan actually included a FH station. We all know the history. It was removed due to constructability issues driven largely by soil conditions — saturated glacial sludge 200 feet below the surface — and a lack of space at the surface from which to stage an intensive ground freezing and excavation effort for a deep mined station (deeper than Beacon Hill). The outcome was to remove that station and replace it — in ST2 — with a streetcar. In contrast, the ST3 plan contains no FH station, and could not be more clear on that point. In fact, the plan names “midtown” specifically and contains no mention of FH. (I am pointedly not defending the city’s alignment choice for the streetcar, a once-promising project that was fumbled at the goal line.)

    In the second instance, the city decided to augment the local transit network with an east-west BRT line connecting Madison Valley to downtown, criss-crossing the FH neighborhood and the streetcar line at Broadway. This line has been advanced through planning and design and is a candidate for federal funding. The line connects the neighborhoods east of downtown to the regional system in downtown, leaving the FH neighborhood very well served by transit. The ideological mental constipation against transfers amongst transit watchers in this community — which are common practice in every other major city in the world — is truly mind-boggling. (And while Sounder users might choose a second transfer — and they are not required to because Sounder connects to the streetcar — LRT users will have a two-seat ride).

    In the third instance, ST staff has always been crystal clear about the cost and risk implications of crossing beneath I-5 twice. This is borne not of ‘concern-trolling,’ but of actual real-world design and construction knowledge of what it requires to pull off. U-Link tunnels pass mere feet below the I-5 foundations, and pulling it off was a high-risk, high-cost proposition. People seem forget I-5 is an elevated, 10-lane structure with deep piles on a steep slope in a seismic fault zone. That experience, combined with the facts of how FH would be served by the streetcar and BRT, settled the matter for ST. And by stark contrast, no such detailed knowledge exists for Ballard, whose level design remains at a state of conceptual engineering.

    As for an “arbitrary legal standard” perhaps STB should retain counsel to provide some legal analysis, as this question is a rather clearly settled matter of established case law: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-supreme-court/1389055.html.
    This decision was a primary driver in the agency’s decision NOT to pursue the combination of stations at 130th and 155th in the Lynnwood Link final EIS. The ST2 plan was clear that 145th had to be served.

    Please, save your outrage for a real scandal.

    1. “the plan names “midtown” specifically and contains no mention of FH”

      That’s not what ST said before ST3. As Martin wrote in the 2016 assurance link, “Interestingly, Sound Transit told me on the record that the ballot language is flexible enough to allow Midtown to actually serve First Hill if the board, and the budget, allow.” We believed that because that’s how all the previous Link alignments had been”: the ballot map was an initial default plan subject to engagement with the neighborhood and engineering studies. Lynnwood Link considered alternatives as wide as Aurora to Lake City Way. And that 130th station, do you know here it originated? It was an extra station on ST’s Aurora alternative. When ST ultimately decided on I-5, the community asked it to put that station on the I-5 alignment.

      “The ideological mental constipation against transfers amongst transit watchers in this community”

      This is not just any transfer. It’s one of the biggest regional destinations that exists. I worked at Harborview in the 90s in nursing administration, and there were nurses from as far away as eastern Washington and Victoria BC who would come for three daya a week and stay with friends, and then go home for four days. A week ago I was at Swedish Cherry Hill and my technician was from Arlington. Tons and tons and tons of people come from all over the region to First Hill, and that’s what “high-capacity transit” is for.

      “ST staff has always been crystal clear about the cost and risk implications of crossing beneath I-5 twice.”

      That is where I sympathize with ST’s position, plus its experience with another First Hill station.

      “This decision was a primary driver in the agency’s decision NOT to pursue the combination of stations at 130th and 155th in the Lynnwood Link final EIS. The ST2 plan was clear that 145th had to be served.”

      ST never said that at the time. Why did it study those other alternatives at all if they were illegal? What ST said was that if it deviated from 145th, it would just have to write a statement justifying it. It didn’t because it was reluctant to, not because it couldn’t.

    2. Another Engineer,

      I appreciate and respect your perspective and your input. That being said, the long term potential to serve the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of riders who will one day use a station orbited by our region’s ONLY Level I Trauma Center, and the 1,000+ beds at Harborview + Swedish, and the thousands of employees who serve those patients, and the load that those riders will take off of the highly inefficient I-5 and I-90 freeways is worth whatever engineering is necessary to figure out the technical hurdles. Tackling those technical hurdles, definitely a difficult task, is worth the long-term payoff. This is one of the few Seattle-centric ST projects that I’ll stand up and defend from Tacoma, because it is a regional/statewide asset.

      1. Leave the Social Justice routing to Metro. That line of reasoning is what gave us the silly button-hook in the First Hill SC line and all the meandering Metro routes that waste so much time for all but a few.

        Martin’s walkshed maps obscure the truth. They are akin to presidential election maps that show the majority of the US as solid Republican red, but fail to mention that the majority of votes are actually cast in the blue speaks. Higher ridership is actually accomplished by putting the station in DT instead of in FH, because that is where a majority of the regions riders need to go.

      2. Yet another engineer here, whatever that’s worth. After the cost overrun issues with Lynnwood Link, I don’t think Sound Transit is going to be willing to bank the successful completion of the Ballard Link on the known unknowns of two I-5 crossings, bad soils and deep excavations required for a First Hill Station. They face an unfriendly congress when trying to get grants and something as risky as a First Hill Station may not bode well for the grant process.

        Yes, I would love to have a First Hill Station, which would instantly become one of the most well used stations on our light rail network. But no, I don’t think we should potentially endanger the schedule and budget of a desperately needed line to put it in. I think the money would (have been) be better spent turning the FHSC into usable transportation. Hell, I’d even support the wacky gondola fanatics before I supported shoehorning in the First Hill Station and I think gondolas as a transit mode are worse than Seattle’s moronic way of designing streetcars.

        We cannot let our emotions get in the way of facts, that’s how our light rail system will wither and die. Remember: it’s still a matter of “is it possible”, not is “it worth it”.

      3. ^^ This is a major misunderstanding of the status of a FH station. ST wont even study it.

      4. @Jack: The reason that ST won’t even study it is that the known constraints (bad soils, deep station, two crossings of I-5) are already going to add a very large price tag to the Ballard Link, which wasn’t accounted for in ST3 budget.

        As such, ST would need to rely on FTA/Congress grants to fund the First Hill Station. Those grants are not likely to materialize for a high risk detour of a light rail line. So in ST’s mind, the study is moot and a waste of money, since the expected outcome of the study will be “don’t do the First Hill detour”.

        If you think I’m incorrect, please state why.

      5. If you think I’m incorrect, please state why.

        I don’t think it’s incorrect, exactly. The internal logic is consistent. It just doesn’t mesh at all with moving forward a West Seattle option with TWO additional tunnels.

    3. I’m not qualified to discuss the risk or cost of the double I-5 crossing, but to the layman it seems like the difficult part is the northern crossing to get to Westlake. The southern crossing shouldn’t really be that bad – I-5 is elevated over Jackson and has a lot of room beneath it until James. Again, maybe soil conditions, maybe there are friction pilings for I-5 or some of the tall buildings? If anyone has the answer, clear up my ignorance…

      1. I’ve long felt that the transfer station should be Capitol Hill and not Westlake. From overcrowding south of Capitol Hill to constructibility to redundancy with the SLU Streetcar and Monorail, moving the transfer could be optimal. It would probably require a portal while crossing I-5 in north Capitol Hill and stacked aerial tracks across SLU to Seattle Center though.

        Unfortunately, ST3 mentions Westlake with no study or quantitative justification as to why.

      2. Westlake just happens to be along the representative line, and just happens to be the highest-ridership station in the system. I don’t see any station ever dethroning it except, maybe, First Hill.

        You do have an interesting point about crossing I-5 further north, but I expect the soil issues that messed up First Hill in ST1 will still prevent going from First Hill to Capitol Hill. If it could be done, I think a transfer via a second Capitol Hill Station would be awesome, and an improvement for a majority of SLU riders. Ignore scope for the moment and focus on mission.

      3. >> Again, maybe soil conditions, maybe there are friction pilings for I-5 or some of the tall buildings? If anyone has the answer, clear up my ignorance…

        No one has the answer — that is the problem. We have way too many people at ST playing arm chair engineer, and any real engineer would say “I don’t know, we will need to study it”. That, in a nutshell is the problem.

        ST refuses to study projects that are obviously worthy of studying. They didn’t study the WSTT, or how cheaply they could enable a new bus lane from Avalon in West Seattle to the tunnel (allowing complete grade separation from West Seattle to Interbay). They didn’t study a busway on the CKK, despite the fact that an independent consulting firm recommended it as the most cost effective solution. They completely ignore the effect that bus service can have on ridership. I could go on — the list of lacking or flawed studies is long. ST is a seat-of-the-pants organization, driven by the whims of the folks in charge, who know little about transit and arrogantly refuse to consult with experts.

      4. Brett, your observation about the southern crossing are spot in. Given the depth of the overburden at Yesler, there should be no problem at all.

        But the crossing at
        University would not have the same margin for error.

        In any case, given the depth at which the Green Line is going to have to attain to underrun the DSTT platforms, the depth of either an 8th Avenue or Boren station would require elevators rather than escalators.

        You can’t have elevators and the second most used station in the system. Elevators are for boonies stations like Beacon Hill and Washington Park, not thousands of passengers per hour.

        Proponents have not explained how this circle will be squared.

    4. Do you really not see the hypocrisy? ST claims to know that serving First Hill would be too expensive but building a new tunnel in West Seattle is worth studying. Moving the First Hill station a few blocks is considered outside of what voters approved, but removing a station (that was clearly in all the stated proposals) is just fine. I can see why someone would want one station over another, but the hypocrisy in both instances is clear.

      In terms of transfers, you have it backwards. Put it this way: Imagine that we weren’t building a new line. Imagine that we had a grant to add a station somewhere on Madison. Would you really then decide to add it at 5th, and not up the hill? That just doesn’t make any sense — it is way too close to the other stations (as the diagrams show). The only advantage for this station is that riders headed to that part of town *avoid* a transfer.

      But not all transfer are equal. That is why the Mount Baker station does not have great ridership, despite being at the intersection of some of our most popular bus routes. It is just too much of a hassle to transfer — you might as well stay on the bus. Likewise, while the Madison RapidRide will do a good job connecting First Hill with part of downtown, it won’t connect much of it. You could be standing next to our most popular station (Westlake) where both trains will go, and your options for getting up to First Hill are really not that great. You can hop on a bus, then transfer to the Madison RapidRide, or you can get on a train and do the same. What is true of Westlake is true of other stops that could directly serve First Hill.

      But if you do transfer — and lots of people would — then it wouldn’t be that hard. Train to train transfers are usually the easiest transfers in the system. Furthermore, they will have to be optimized for other reasons. You want train to train transfers, and a stop on First Hill would generate them. A stop at 5th and Madison would not. To understand this, you have to delve into the details. But if you are on the other line, it just isn’t worth making a transfer (no matter how easy) unless it actually gets you significantly closer to your destination. That is why folks like Martin believe that overall train ridership would go up. There would be more transfers, but lots more riders.

      If you really think transfers are no big deal, then why even bother with the new tunnel. End the West Seattle line at SoDo, and the Ballard line at Westlake. If you really think that transfers to a bus are no big deal, then why bother with any of this. Every last little bit of this line already has good bus service.

      The whole point is to improve upon that bus service. You want to make it significantly faster. Of course there are trade-offs (some would prefer the stop at 5th) but that is why you need to objectively study this. No one is arguing that we know that First Hill is worth it — all we are saying is that we should study it.

      1. Ross, as public comment period approached at a Metro Council meeting during DSTT construction, I asked a friend of mine who was also one of the world’s top transit engineers to get up and set the politicians straight as to how they should proceed.

        Answer: “Mark, if you ask an engineer about any course of action, he will tell you the alternatives, and what each one will cost. But he will never tell you what you SHOULD do!”
        About 35 years later, best example to date. Which is more important: a second CBD stop on one alignment, through a compact, transit rich location?

        Or a stop whose main purpose is to serve a critically important neighborhood originally scheduled for a LINK station, which turned out to be unbuildable on original alignment. With one of its major components, two hospitals, deprived of the swiftly accessible service they need. To me, better choice of priorities.

        But whichever line gets chosen, the stop on the engineer’s desk won’t be available to any buck.


    5. Another Engineer, what’s the problem with Madison and Boren? Which I think is exactly where it belongs.

      Operations on the streetcar can be massively improved by essentially changing Broadway priority from cars to streetcars. But neither than nor BRT will in any way substitute for the absolutely required LINK station.

      Just go up there and look for yourself. At that location, reality speaks for itself.

      Mark Dublin

      1. From Madison and Boren to Westlake a tunnel would have to cut diagonal the street grid, go under and between all the tower foundations, express lanes, convention center pilings then come up to the relatively shallow Westlake. Add to that the tight horizontal curves that would limit operating speeds and extreme depth of the Capitol Hill station and its clear that station pair is not cost competitive with an alignment parallel the downtown grid.
        A First Hill station connection to broadway station, ids, Judkins, pioneer square, or university street is doable, but not Westlake to first hill. A first hill station will need to either be on a radial line from downtown or on a downtown bypass route:
        The first hill to Denny/Mercer station pair couldve be built with a short aerial segment over i5 but then there is no north downtown transfer station with the u link line.
        Ids would’ve made a much better transfer station, but that ship sailed when u link bypassed ids.

      2. The proposed line is actually worse. It’s a shallow line that had to cross three blocks where actual towers are located.

        A First Hill routing could avoid many of these foundations because there aren’t as many of them up the hill just yet. You get to build the subway before the big towers arrive.

      3. Glenn, I gather you’re meaning the “wiggle” from Fifth to Sixth around University/Pike in the “example” line. Is that right?

        The existing Westlake platforms aren’t all that shallow. There’s a full Mezzanine above them and they were built for trolley bus overhead. The railtop depth is at least 40 feet below Pine Street.

        Add another twenty-five feet for the under-crossing Green Line tubes and you have a railtop depth of 65 feet below street level at the barest minimum.

        Then Fifth and Sixth both rise noticeably all the way to Madison.

        Grant that the Rainier Tower and the new building are in the way, I expect that ST has a path laid out, or they wouldn’t have put the wiggle in.

        Midtown will doubtless be very similar to HSS in that it will have to have st least one extra level between the Mezz and platform level.

        It will just barely be shallow enough to use escalators. A Boren Station, especially, would be elevators only

  3. I hate to keep beating this drum, but the chance to fight for First Hill died when SDOT’s proposal for ST3 did not include this (the Kubly proposal). Not that his proposal was horrible, but things like Ballard to UW were pronounced officially dead as a result of his letter. The time for STB to lobby him was before the SDOT letter to ST.

    Just because West Seattle can wish for unicorns that puke rainbows (aka as a tunnel to the junction) just means that First Hill is nowhere as politically powerful. FWIW, I expect that Ballard is getting a drawbridge over the ship canal barely higher than the current bridge, because this is the cheap way out (which is why I supported Ballard to UW) .

    1. I think what we are witnessing is STB’s refusal or inability to call to the carpet those who were supposed to be championing the best transit solutions. Clearly, we were let down by Kubly when he prioritized West Seattle over higher performing alignments in his letter to ST a few years ago. And now we’ve been failed by Dow and Rob Johnson, who for reasons unknown, have not been the strong, public voice we all hoped they’d be with regard to maximizing this historic opportunity. Of these three, Rob has probably been the biggest disappointment. Dow lives in West Seattle and has always been about just getting something done regardless of its quality. But Rob was supposed to be our champion, and he’s been an empty suit thus far.

      I hope you are all enjoying the fruits of your un-elected and un-accountable transit board.

    2. mdnative, and Martin, inter-neighborhood competition goes with any public-works project. And West Seattle, Ballard, Fremont, and UW are same subarea end of story. But skeptical this kind of contention is the decider for either First Hill or the west side.

      Everything at least between I-5 and Broadway is already a swiftly-energizing part of Downtown Seattle. Which is only going to get bigger and busier, fast. As all the interest groups across the spectrum seem to agree.

      Given the soils and the freeway underpinning, forget anything close to I-5. By location itself, Madison and Boren are where the station belongs. Really, just go look. Good if your doctor is at the hospital half a block away. Like so many other people’s.

      Requiring some really convincing real-world (like the planet) professional reasons to not break ground yesterday. Those long, easy curves underneath a steep and densely-populated hill are how you serve that area fast and smooth. To me, in addition to possibly being the most important station in ST-3, Seattle politics should be howling for it.

      So my own suspicion is that the ground surrounding those tubes looks a lot worse in both section view and core-drill readings than those two smooth green lines on a map. Recalling the canceled Swedish Hospital stop, could be some serious, honest, and really contentious professional engineering disagreement whether ST-3’s most important station can be built at all.

      If not, reserving Broadway for streetcars only, and same for whole length of Madison will be as nasty as it’ll be necessary. Good bet that ST has a lot of Talgo tickets to Portland on it’s project budget. Their tramway starts at a hospital too.


      But would also explain why agency and officials mentioned are so pointedly avoiding taking this subject public right now. Wouldn’t you? So I’m asking seriously: Has anybody got sources who’ll give STB some core-samples and also why the machine is still stuck under Boren?


      I think STB readership, the rest of Greater Seattle, and the World need some comprehensive information about tunneling and station-building along this whole alignment. However many “anothers” it takes, can we find somebody wearing a hard-hat to submit a posting?


  4. The best hope is for FH to point out that — unlike prior measures — this measure had strong racial and income biases to it. Through trying to please business stakeholders and interest groups led by generally white wealthier people — as well as a complete failure to do any system needs evaluation, the ST3 board created a plan that is the perfect example of the meaning of institutionalized white privilege.

    Frankly, I favor a diagonal linkage option like many others. That wasn’t even worthy of mention — again because ST focuses on institutional interests over citizen riders and no group publicly advocated for it.

  5. One thing to keep in mind, this wasn’t an ST decision to remove First Hill from further consideration. It was a recommendation by a citizen’s advisory panel. The ST lawyer refused to comment on whether First Hill met the criteria for inclusion; he said that depended on the technical specifics. Another ST staff then said they didn’t think it met those. But it wasn’t clear whether they had considered it much or he was speaking off the top of his head. That’s really flimsy evidence for a legal decision: a solid decision would require more detailed written evidence and a chance for rebuttal. That was doubtless why the lawyer refused to commit himself. So even if First Hill is unlikely anyway for other reasons, the staff’s statement in itself is not a decisive defeat, and the advisory panel erred in weighing it so heavily — and then ignoring the same principle in West Seattle and Ballard.

    Also, ST is not even allowed to choose a preferred alignment until after the Alternatives Analysis has considered all reasonable alternatives. That’s a prerequisite for federal funding, and ST would not have written a ballot that put themselves in a corner like that. The reason the monorail measure was so specific — saying it would run on these streets with these stations and no other — was that they had decided not to seek federal funding.

    1. The citizen advisory panel (the stakeholder advisory group) actually did not recommend removing First Hill from further consideration–just the opposite. They wanted to study it more. This was another advisory group of elected officials, but one with a lot of sway because many of them serve on the Sound Transit Board that will take the final vote. What I thought was strange was how McDermott and Bowman specifically said they wanted to keep this option and were not comfortable removing it before further study, but then the group somehow dropped it anyway, without taking any kind of vote on the issue. It was a strange process that was actually quite unimpressive, especially in terms of the facilitator’s performance, totally apart from the merits of the issue.

  6. DT was always the front runner for the station location. FH had too much technical risk, too much additional cost, and zero to negative benefit to the region.

    The concept of a FH station will die because it simply doesn’t make sense. ST dropping it is nothing more than ST following the data.

    That said, I’ve been riding a few funiculars the last couple of weeks. I’ve always wondered why Seattle doesn’t have any given our hilly terrain. Maybe a funicular from FH to the waterfront would have enough benefit to justify its cost. I at least would support a study.

    1. At grade or underground funicular? The Madison BRT is effectively an at-grade, rubber wheeled funicular, given the inclines it is going up & down.

      1. That is what the study would need to determine.

        I’ve never heard anyone describe BRT as a rubber tired funicular (made me laugh), but certainly a tunneled funicular like in Bulnes would free the system from all the signialling and traffic issues that Madison BRT will face. And let’s be honest, SDOT is already watering down Madison BRT to near the point of meaninglessness.

      2. Madison BRT is not a suitable replacement for a funicular unless the vehicle floors have hydraulic systems that level them, and the stops also have to not have a significant slope.

        I’d gladly trade in Madison BRT dollars for a level transit vehicle system.

    2. What data? There was no data discussed at the meeting where they dropped the First Hill option. There was a general statement that they would expect it to cost more because of needing to traverse I-5, but no estimate of how much more. And while Councilmember Johnson talking about making “hard choices” and weighing “pros and cons,” there was no data presented about potential increased ridership or other benefits relative to costs. During the entire discussion about the First Hill option, I don’t think I heard anyone use any actual numbers, so I’m not sure what “data” you’re referring to. That was the point of further study–to come up with data so they actually could weigh the pros and cons.

  7. All I know is that as a RV resident and daily LR rider I will be absolutely livid if my line ends up no longer making a true DT stop. To that end I suppose I’m rooting against the FH organizers.

    1. Westlake is not downtown? What you’re saying is that there must be a station in the middle of the old office-building district, not just at the edges or a train-to-train transfer. (“Old” as opposed to the new office-building district in SLU.) There is an argument for that, and I’m somewhat sympathetic to it. But First Hill is also a major destination, and serves a wider cross-section of the population than those going to the Financial District. So there’s that too.

      1. Mike, Westlake isn’t a good stop for most downtown office workers. It’s great for shoppers, tourists and transferees to and from buses. But Midtown and Denny Way will be the big ridership attractors for peak hours. And regardless how badly you and Ross want superb all-day transit service, the region is stumping up $54 billion (YOE) in order to make the rush hours more sane, not provide train rides for retirees, students and unemployed people riding around in the middle of the day.

      2. Nonsense — here is the current ridership report:

        Westlake 11,454
        University 5,660
        Pioneer Square 4,322

        Westlake is more than the two “Midtown” stations combined! How will one station (between the two) possibly pass it? This is before Link gets to the U-District, Roosevelt or Northgate. Do you think those riders will just abandon Westlake when Ballard Link is finished? Do you think they will make the transfer, wait for the other train, take it one stop and walk south a few blocks instead of doing what they are doing now? Come on — Westlake is downtown. There are plenty of very big office buildings there, including those owned by Amazon.

      3. Again, Ross, the reason that Link exists AT ALL is the desire to make rush-hour congestion tolerable and somewhat sustainable. Sure, Pioneer Square and University get their big peaks at rush hour and are used infrequently nights and midday. Westlake is used all the time because it’s close to the Market and all the shopping.

        Midtown would certainly have the same profile as PHS and USS.

        And I specifically said that moving it uphill WOULD improve its midday and evening ridership, but the people who pay the bills and want better access to high-end jobs don’t give much of a hoot about First Hill. They might when they’re old, but not when they’re in the voting booth now. They want congestion relief first as the first and last thing. Making Seattle into Paris is not on the ballot.

      4. “the people who pay the bills”

        We are the people who pay the bills. Everybody pays the bills.

        “and want better access to high-end jobs”

        Downtown has around 10% of the city’s total jobs, or less of the region’s. So the Financial-Government Districts have around 4%. That means 96% of the population does not work there yet is paying the bills.

      5. Mike, the 96% are not paying NEARLY as much per voter as are the 4% working in the financial district and the roughly equal number who will be working around Denny Way Station when it opens.

        Nor does the resulting 86% of Seattle’s workforce (the current 90% less the additional 4% which will be working around Denny Way) use transit NEARLY as much as do the downtown workers. Nor will they ever since those jobs are smeared out over thirty times the area with perpetually inferior transit accessibility, except UW.

        The people who work in the financial district and the Tech Bros generally speaking pay much higher property and sales taxes than do other voters/residents. And they are generally much more influential than ordinary mortals. They know the “right people”.

        So, irritating them is not a wise thing to do. The remark from the gentleman who lives in the RV about moving the station is a data point of one, to be sure. But I expect it would be echoed loudly in Ballard as well.

      1. Nope. The reason we are building a 2nd tunnel is because a single tunnel doesn’t have enough capacity to move people through downtown at peak. So that train you want people to transfer into is already full (at peak). Building a 2nd tunnel to expand capacity downtown and then demanding everyone transfer to the original tunnel for 1/3 of downtown kinda defeats the point.

      2. >> So that train you want people to transfer into is already full (at peak).

        If that is the case, we are doomed. Think about when we will have the biggest problem with capacity. It is Friday night — with lots of people getting off work headed home and lots of people heading out for the evening. Now consider how many are headed towards UW and Capitol Hill. You have students as well as people just going for the evening (to catch an event at the UW or Capitol Hill). You also have lots of people from downtown — and that includes South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne — just trying to get home. Everyone who wants to go on North Link will be going in that one train. If the train is full before Westlake, then it will be overflowing when it leaves heading north. Anyone who has ever ridden the 41 in the evening out of downtown knows that while some people get off there, way more people get on.

        Chances are, we will never come close to having a capacity problem. Trains carry a lot of people (that is the point). A little work, and ours can carry a lot more. If that still isn’t enough, then where the second line goes between I. D. and Westlake won’t matter — the bottleneck will occur farther north.

      3. Transfers at IDS will be clumsy and slow unless the Green Line platforms are directly below the existing pair. That would require VERY difficult tunneling beneath an operating rail line in unknown fill of the sort that broke Bertha.

        Transfers there will require up-over-down walks for every combination.

      4. Ross, I see you’ve now become an expert in the “split” which until last week when you were called on your ignorance of it. And without even the grace to acknowledge the error.

        Not your best performance.

      5. The note to Ross should have said “of which you appeared not to be aware until last week….”

        And if you want to [ah] both of the comments, moderators, I understand.

      6. I have known about the proposed split since it was first proposed. I didn’t know that anything had been decided. I still haven’t read anything that says it is official. As I’ve said, it will be very controversial, for reasons that have nothing to do with downtown or First Hill.

        Besides, this has absolutely nothing to do with the split. It doesn’t matter which train goes towards the UW and which one goes to Ballard; the riders from South Lake Union will have to transfer. That’s the point and that’s the bottleneck (if there ever is one). C’mon, man, figure it out.

      7. I thought we were talking about First Hill, not SLU. Of course SLU riders will have to transfer if they want to go north or east across Lake Washington.

    2. I would consider 8th and Madison part of downtown as well (just another part of downtown).

      But the fact that you view it this way may explain why ST is willing to discard the interests of First Hill and produce a weaker network. The split you imply has not been advertised that much (for good reason). Most of the time, they described West Seattle to Ballard, implying that the new line would connect the two. To south end riders, the addition would be just that — an addition. If they want to continue to use the existing stops, then fine. If they want to transfer (to get to Ballard or West Seattle) then that is fine, too.

      But that won’t happen. Folks in the South End will lose their one seat ride to Capitol Hill, UW and Northgate. They will also lose two stops downtown. If the one stop replacing both is nowhere near either of them, they would complain more. But the problem is not the location of the stop, but the decision to split in that manner. It makes way more sense to combine Ballard and West Seattle with the line that has one stop, regardless of where it is. That way riders get the same benefit today, and the bulk of the riders would have an extra stop downtown.

      1. “Most of the time, they described West Seattle to Ballard, implying that the new line would connect the two.”

        I think ST and the politicians say “West Seattle and Ballard” now. If they say “to”, they’re probably speaking off the top of their head and don’t notice the phrase isn’t accurate any more.

  8. One thing that’s missing for me in the heated conversation around whether this station should be located at 5th Ave (as Midtown) or 8th Ave (as First Hill) is that 5th and Madison and 8th and Madison are barely 5 minutes’ walk apart. A Midtown station at 5th effectively serves the First Hill neighborhood, because many of the residents of First Hill can and will make the walk to get there. I’d hate to see light rail development become stalled because neighbors can’t reach a compromise over the matter of a 5 minutes’ walk.

      1. True, but the grade on this stretch isn’t particularly steep, especially compared to many downtown streets, including the blocks between 3rd and 5th Aves. I just don’t think the deviation is substantial enough to warrant the cost of adding two I-5 crossings. (Though the larger deviation to Boren might make more sense in this regard.) There’s also frequent bus service along Madison through First Hill for those who can’t walk or prefer not to. I’m not trying to argue ST shouldn’t consider the alternative – their argument that it’s “not consistent with the ST3 plan” is clearly evasive – but I’m skeptical that the cost of deviating from downtown will be worth the benefit of moving the station a few blocks.

      2. Dustin is exactly right. The steep parts of Madison and Marion are from First (for Marion) and Second (for Madison) up to Fifth. East of there the gradient moderates significantly; by Eighth it can barely be called a hill.

        Cherry and James are just the opposite. From First to Fourth they have relatively easy grades out of the north end of Pioneer Square. They they steepen dramatically until by the freeway overpass they’re San Franciscan in gradient. When folks talk about “the grades” to First Hill they’re usually thinking of Cherry and James.

        So, if a horizontal tunnel from the south end of the Mezz of the proposed Midtown location were constructed pretty much due east, by the time it cleared the freeway footings (and doing so for a pedestrian tunnel would be much easier than twin tubes for trains) by Seventh it would be under Marion. From there block long escalators could carry people to Eighth and Marion for exit to street level. From Eighth on east Marion would make a great pedestrian way all the way to Minor and the corner of Swedish Hospital.

        This is the better amelioration for First Hill than an elevator only station at Boren and Madison, because ST-quality elevators simply can’t move enough people to empty two trains that happen to arrive at the station simultaneously during the rush hour. You’d need a bank of eight at a minimum.

    1. Particularly if the station is moved to 6th (apparently better than 5th for technical reasons), the different becomes more moot.

    2. >> A Midtown station at 5th effectively serves the First Hill neighborhood, because many of the residents of First Hill can and will make the walk to get there.

      Right — and a stop at 8th serves downtown just fine. But the point is, it is a step in the right direction. There is less overlap with the existing stations. You extend the reach of the system. For example, a trip from Westlake Station to Boren and Madison would be done quickly via a train if the station is at 8th. If it is at 5th, then a lot of people would likely transfer, and many would use two buses. That puts pressure on the system with the least capacity, while providing less for the transit rider. Some wouldn’t bother with either, and just call a cab, which is much worse.

      1. Ross, Mike, and Other Proponents Of A First Hill “Midtown” Location

        IF you can get ST to agree to a cognate, largely horizontal tunneled walkway (with moving sidewalks if Boren is the cross-street) from the deepest mezzanine level AND a station box large enough to allow multi-bank zig-zag escalators so the station isn’t a useless elevators-only dungeon like Beacon Hill, then, sure, move the station up the hill.

        But don’t sacrifice access to the high-rise district to do it.

  9. I have some experience in this area and have been following ST3 for some time from afar. I agree with the post and suggest that a decision to explicitly exclude a First Hill Station from *further study* in the alternatives analysis at this stage might actually present a legal risk to ST later. Let me explain.

    A Midtown station was planned in ST3 and in the initial scoping process, the community proposed a First Hill Station as an alternative station location. ST responded by suggesting an initial alternative alignment with a potential station just 3 blocks from the Midtown station. At the same time, along other parts of the corridor ST is actively considering advancing alternative alignments and station locations for further study that (1) may require more funding (2) are more than several blocks away from the ST3 “representative project” the voters approved, (3) are noticeably different in scope from the ST3 “representative project” (including tunnels in Ballard and West Seattle, and eliminating a station in West Seattle).

    The reasons ST has advanced for explicitly removing the First Hill station from being *evaluated for further study* are “increased construction risk due to two crossings under I-5” and “First Hill station not consistent with ST3.” The latter bullet point appears to rest on the argument that “First Hill” is a different “Urban Village” from Midtown, therefore making it substantially different than the ST3 voter approved plan.

    ST has a consistency problem. On one hand they are actively developing alternatives that are much more distant and different in scope than the ST3 “representative project” in other areas of the Ballard/West Seattle study (not to mention other ST2 projects), while resting most of the argument to dismiss First Hill on a rather flimsy distinction of being in a different urban village, despite being just 3 blocks away. I am not a lawyer, but I am very skeptical that a court would find that argument compelling, give the other alternatives being considered under the West Seattle/Ballard project and ST2 projects. The construction risk argument might turn out to be technically true but is legally flimsy at this stage because the risk of tunneling under I-5 twice can only be properly evaluated and quantified if it is actually studied!

    The real risk ST will face is that after it selects its “preferred alternative” next year, it will almost surely also consider 1-2 other alternatives to carry into the EIS along with the preferred option. If ST excludes First Hill now without any study, they may be persuaded or legally forced to reconsider that decision (as NEPA requires consideration of “reasonable alternatives”) at a later date in the EIS. If so, that will prove more costly and time consuming than actually taking some extra time to study it now. I’d suggest it would be smart to do just that.

    1. “The reasons ST has advanced for explicitly removing the First Hill station”

      The reasons one staffer advanced during a hearing discussion. It wasn’t an ST board meeting, and it’s fair to say that this statement was speculation and didn’t decisively resolve the issue. Several of the panelists said that, that they didn’t think it was enough to answer the legal question.

      “The latter bullet point appears to rest on the argument that “First Hill” is a different “Urban Village” from Midtown, therefore making it substantially different than the ST3 voter approved plan.”

      The staffer made two arguments, that First Hill is a different urban village, and the station doesn’t serve the walkshed of the representative station. The second argument is stronger than the first, because it means it serves a different group of passengers (a different transit market), and worse, doesn’t serve the original transit market. That is solely based on the distance and hills. The “different urban village” argument rests on an abstraction of where the urban village ends. In the case of Wallingford and the U-District, we know they’re different urban villages because there are single-family blocks in between. But all of Center City (Roy-12th-Weller-waterfront) is dense and a lot of people travel throughout it, so it’s essentially one urban center, and the PSRC plan treats it as such. The only reason First Hill can be considered a different urban village is the psychological barrier of I-5. But that’s not a sound reason to treat it as such. Is Belltown a different urban village than downtown? That would be news to people walking down First Avenue between Union Street and Bell Street and not seeing any sharp difference in density or retail or residences.

    2. ST is not “explicitly removing” a First Hill station. One was not included in the representative alignment, so it can’t be removed.

  10. They need to resurrect Bertha, build a new tunnel for I-5 shifted to the east, and then zero I-5 crossings for ST. And wa la, a new and improved Freeway park!

  11. Has a Fifth/Madison station with a tunneled walkway (including moving walkways, escalators, etc.) to east of I-5 ever been mentioned? I have traveled through many subway systems. There are transfers and station exits that can take 5-10 minutes of walking.

    1. Yes. It has variously been described as a pedestrian tunnel, a diagonal elevator, an impossibly long escalator, a series of escalators, etc. ST has not acknowledged the possibility at this point. The advisory board’s resolution was to remove the First Hill alternative from further consideration but to ask ST to focus on the large transit market in First Hill and to try to mitigate the gap some other way. That could imply a tunneled walkway, although it’s unclear whether the advisory board was aware of this possibility or intended it. We’ll have to make sure it gets onto ST’s radar over the next few months. The most likely mitigation is a contribution to RapidRide H. This tunnel may be second becuase I haven’t seen any other ideas. (No serious proposal for a gondola or anything.)

      A ped tunnel may have little chance because it would be a multi-block excavation, requiring negotiation with multiple property owners, for something that’s neither a track nor a station nor a staging area. But it’s worth trying for it until we get a definite no or a better alternative comes along.

      1. You probably wouldn’t excavate such a tunnel, but rather bore it. Such a thing would undoubtably be single bore and with a smaller diameter than ST’s normal LR bore. Thus a lot cheaper to build and lower risk than actually boring twin LR tunnels to the east side of I-5.

        Such an idea has some merit.

      2. I’ve been harping in this for over a year with explicit design details, but there’s no way to find a link to the comments. The search capability here is pretty weak.

        But then I’m just the crazy old guy.

      3. There’s no need to negotiate with property owners. Go horizontally northeast under Madison to Sixth from the upper mezzanine, diagonal but still horizontal under the freeway to Seventh and Marion and run the escalators right up the middle of Marion to Eighth where the intersection would be cut and covered with a couple of entrances in the sidewalks.

        For elevator access there would be another horizontal tunnel alongside the escalators and an elevator to the surface in a couple of removed parking spaces.

        It would be even better to extend the mezzanine to Marion and launch from the south edge of it, but the location shows the statiin a block north of there.

      1. If there’s one thing I trust Sound Transit to do well, it’s design escalators!

      2. I know, uh. I wonder what the breakdown and repair rates are for the Hong Kong system.

    2. It’s been mentioned by riders many times. It made it into summary comments.

      This idea has not been converted to an alternative worthy of study by the various senior staff and groups controlling the study — and it should.

    3. Many times, starting about a year ago, long before the controversy erupted.

  12. As an alum of Seattle U, and having taken transit to Seattle U from Federal Way (either 193, or 577/179 + walk), the idea of an ST3 first hill station excited me. I looked at Martin’s map and thought, “Oh, we could get Boren & Madison!” and I was an instant fan. It’s not even horribly far from the Madison/Boylston station we got screwed out of in Sound Move.

    That excitement started dying when I saw that the level 1 analysis not only brushed the station off, but only considered it to 8th/Madison. I should have realized that Boren/Madison was never more than a fantasy, because nothing really gets done without a big compromise (The Westwood Village line only goes to the Junction, the downtown Kirkland line only goes to South Kirkland, Lynnwood Link is happening initially without 130th street), so the very best that could have happened is of course 8th/Madison because this game is about getting as little as we want while still saying we’re satisfied. If we wanted Boren/Madison to be a possibility, we should have pushed for something extreme like 23rd Ave, and then that would have been the compromise. 8th/Madison is a really watered down FH station because remember, the original proposal was almost at Broadway. It’s only 3 blocks from the representative alignment, and when it’s only three blocks (As opposed to the 6 for Boren), you really do have to wonder if it’s worth two I-5 crossings.

    The blessing in disguise here is that ST once again feels like it owes First Hill something (which hasn’t been the case for a long time because you know, that streetcar is “good enough” I guess). Now’s the time to push hard for a direct First Hill line. I’m thinking Belltown to Central District. Then we could have multiple stations in First Hill (I’m thinking 5th, 8th, Boren, 12th, and 23rd!). We should not accept a contribution to Madison BRT, which we’re getting sooner or later anyways, as the final word or “good enough.” Even if realistically the compromise is elimination of Belltown and FH is a second line from Ballard, that’s still a really good outcome. And if we get this in ST4, that will in the long run be better than a silly deviation to First Hill, unless we blow it again.

    1. Yes. Leave the station at fifth or sixth. .

      First Hill, and the major employers on First Hill, should spend the political capital that they have right now on getting a better line up/into/through First Hill than just one station on 8th into ST’s long range plan, (which should include provision for expansion to the east from the new tunnel), as well as getting some sort of diagonal access to the fifth/sixth station across I-5.

      Whether it’s Alex’s idea above, Seattle Subway’s line into Madison Park and across 520, or something else, whatever it is it will be better.

      If they put one station in at 8th then the powers that be will say that First Hill is done, and it will end up being suboptimal forever.

    2. That is very optimistic. You are basically saying that while ST has skipped First Hill twice — on projects that came very close to it — it will suddenly see the error of its ways, and decide to spend a bunch of money on a project directly serving it. I really doubt it. There really is no talk by ST about serving Belltown, for example, even though it is the most densely populated part of the state. Like First Hill, it was skipped over (in this case by South Lake Union) even though it would make way more sense to serve it (especially in the long run).

      There are other problems as well. First is that Seattle is likely spending way more per capita on their light rail system than any other city on the continent. Maintaining a system that large (one of the largest in North America) is expensive, and relatively low ridership (which this has) eventually catches up with you. It is quite possible that people will basically say “enough already” to every new proposal, no matter how great. ST has already backed itself into a corner with their rhetoric, with numbers that sure look inflated to me, along with calling the last proposal a “once in a lifetime” plan. There is very little for the suburbs from a rail perspective (do the folks in Everett and Tacoma really want to build a very expensive grade separated light rail system for their low density cities?). The spine was a silly idea (and eventually people will figure that out) but it is appealing to folks who don’t run the numbers (e. g. 75 minutes from Tacoma to downtown Seattle). How appealing is extra rail service in those cities, or anywhere outside Seattle for that matter? Are they willing to focus on bus service (and bus improvements) if I-405 BRT turns out to be a dud (which seems likely)?

      So even the next most likely Seattle plan could fail. Neither First Hill nor Belltown would likely be part of it. Ballard to UW is next (clearly). That alone seems like an appropriate size (relatively small) and even without considering bus integration it was a better value than anything in ST3. The next thing would be extending the Ballard line to 85th (another relatively small project with decent return). That means that any new line involving First Hill would be way down the list. It is quite likely that we simply stop building before we get there, just as most cities — even ones that have built much more successful systems — stop building.

      An independent First Hill line is also not obvious (unlike Ballard to UW, where every station is obvious with the exception of Fremont (upper or lower)). Do you have something that resembles a Metro 8 type run (except much closer to downtown)? Or do you do as the Urbanist suggested, and just duplicate the new RapidRide line (more or less). Either way it will be very expensive, as you are talking about several stations next to other stations, and a fair amount of digging. Given the preference for distance over density (which is completely backwards of course) I think it would be tough convincing an ST3 board to propose something like that.

      The reason that folks want this station is not because it is the best way to serve First Hill (it isn’t) but because it is the only way it is likely.

      1. “Given the preference for distance over density (which is completely backwards of course) I think it would be tough convincing an ST3 board to propose something like that.”

        We could tell them we want the Madison line to go straight to Kirkland.

      2. It is complicated for sure. I’m just suggesting to get on the long range plan to move the needle from very unlikely now to something other than ‘very unlikely’ in the future.

        Right now it isn’t even very unlikely… given ST’s contortions to deny a First Hill Station it is a ‘no’.

      3. The LRP will be updated two years before ST4, whenever that is. Or at least that’s how ST3 was.

      4. Ross – I don’t agree with you on everything but I think your analysis of this issue is as spot on as I’ve seen yet.

      5. Ballard/UW may be first in your mind, but it’s hard fo see it as more important than an Aurora Line. Ballard/UW made more sense as a pre-ST3 consideration. Radial trips aren’t ideal but they will accomplish 90% of what Ballard UW would with an Aurora Line and still beat the 44 travel times and obliterate it’s reliability.

        I doubt that the next expansion will be a regional vote but I can see King County or Seattle being ready in 2024.

        At the King County level, the Pink line + a Renton extension is a winner.

        At the Seattle level the Pink Line is a winner.

        Incremental extensions from Ballard/WS or Ballard/UW are a harder sell from here. I can see them being included in ST4… 2032-ish?

        It’s all guesses on that timelime but its hard to see the ST region aligning for another vote in 2024.

      6. Which Aurora line? Are we talking about the segment from SLU to… Lynnwood? Or would it do something fancy at the south end?

      7. What the hell is the pink line?

        For that matter, as Mike said, what exactly are you talking about for Aurora?

        What is it with freeways that make people think that they are great for subways? OK, I get it — sometimes it is relatively cheap to build over a freeway. But in the case of the Aurora Bridge, it can’t handle a train. So that means that you are once again building a very high bridge or a tunnel. If you are running on the surface of Aurora (to save money) than how is that different than a bus? If not, then what you are talking about is extremely expensive.

        For what? What new stations would this add over the existing RapidRide E? How much time would it save over what is essentially an express?

        I don’t think you quite get it, but vehicles (including buses) go fast on Aurora. Buses also have their own special lanes most of the way. You could spend billions building a new subway from Green Lake to downtown, and end up in a tie with a bus going the exact same way. That’s over 4 miles of brand new rail, and *most* of the time, it is no faster than before. Holy smoke, that is *longer* than the Ballard to UW line!

        In contrast, Ballard to UW changes the equation for north end travel. For a very wide area, *most of the day* it is actually faster to take transit than drive. Not just during rush hour, but at noon. This, in turn, means that transit that connects to that train becomes much faster. So not only does someone in Ballard actually have a fast ride to the UW (something that ST3 won’t deliver) but someone from Phinney Ridge has a fast ride there as well, even if the first part of that ride involves a bus. The same is true for folks on Aurora. A Ballard to UW subway would allow those people to get to Ballard or the UW much faster than if we replaced the E with a subway. The same is true for people north of the U-District, on Link, headed to Ballard, Fremont, or Wallingford.

        It is really not that complicated. Runs trains where they can do the most good. That means sending them to places that have lots of people, but it also means making a significant improvement over the bus system. In short, design a system so that the buses and trains can go fast. Ballard to UW does precisely that.

  13. What about a station at 6th & Madison. The tunnel wouldn’t have to go under I-5 a single time, and it would be a little closer to FH.

    Then Lid I-5 from there to Freeway Park to make the walk from First Hill to “First Hill/Midtown Station” more pleasant?

    Maybe even a pedestrian tunnel under I-5 from the station, to an escalator that comes out of a station box on 7th Ave? (a la Capitol Hill Station under Broadway)

  14. [ot]

    I also appreciate the acknowledgement the streetcar experiment has been mostly a failure. To me, an electric bus can do everything a streetcar does – and maneuver around obstructions.

    1. Bingo. Although some streetcars can carry lots more people than a bus (but not ours).

      1. Who has disallowed the City of Seattle extending the simple stations used by the streetcars and buying five- or even seven-segment trams?

        Did O’Ban ban them? Or have you been appointed Manager of Fleet Acquisition by SDOT?

    2. There are many people in downtown districts that will not get on a bus but won’t hesitate to board a streetcar for short hops. I don’t see Portland’s street car as a commuting tool as much as it is a short hopper for connecting short commutes. A couple things I notice in Portland is the lack of visibility of Taxis, Ubers and seats on the streetcars. The key to their success is the entirety of its route. Seattle’s will never succeed as a disjointed minimally reaching tool.

      1. >> There are many people in downtown districts that will not get on a bus but won’t hesitate to board a streetcar

        Yes, I’ve met both of them — they are very nice.

        Seriously though, no one has provided any evidence to support that claim, nor does the anecdotal evidence support it. Lots and lots of people ride the bus downtown for short trips. Not that many ride the streetcar for short trips or long ones.

  15. I am not sure the current first hill station story should surprise anyone. ST is really only interested in costs, not return on investment. We’d be building a very different system in ST3 if the metric were to serve the most riders per dollar than build the most track per dollar. The lack of an ROI calculation means that ST skipped First Hill in ST1, passed on an opportunity to serve First Hill in ST3, skipped the Rainier Valley for an inferior MLK alignment, didn’t seriously consider a East-West north Seattle line in ST3, …

    There are elements of Link that work, and the Northgate extension in particular is well-designed. But the folks making the decisions are not interested, it would appear, in building a high-quality transit system — either for Seattle or for the region.

    1. That certainly seems to be the case. The City of Seattle and SDOT, is what should be telling ST what they want, and for some reason (leadership vacuum, lack of interest, don’t want the responsibility, etc.) the city has been pretty quiet – except for moving the route to SLU. And look what happened there: SDOT recommended a change and lo and behold ST answered!

      ST’s mission is ‘the spine’. Connect the region! Good ridership is nice to have, but only insofar as it serves the greater goal of connecting far flung suburban areas. I think ST would have been perfectly happy to skip MLK too and build a line down I-5 instead.

      it’s all about what the city is advocating for…

      or so it seems…

    2. ST is really only interested in costs, not return on investment.

      That may or may not be a good way to look at projects, but then why are two extra West Seattle tunnels advancing? Why six different ways of getting into Ballard?

      1. Because when you have a myriad of different solutions that all appear equally viable you study them all. That is called due diligence.

        But if one of the potential solutions is a clear non-starter then you eliminate it as soon as possible so you can focus resourese elsewhere. This is called fiscal responsibility.

        In the end though this has nothing to do with FH vs. a tunnel in WS. Those are two separate things. All this is about is whether the cental DT Station on the new tunnel should be, you know, actually DT,or whether it should be on FH. That is the question at hand.

  16. Martin’s last paragraph mentions the SDOT Madison BRT as potential mitigation. That line is strategically flawed: it imposes long transfer walks to and from Link at University Street Station and attempts to put BRT through a congested I-5 interchange and is overly costly. A much better mitigation would place frequent bus transit on the pathway between the 3rd Avenue transit spine and Jefferson Street via Yesler Way and 8th/9th avenues. This pathway is atop the DSTT stations, has a congestion free pathway across I-5, and serves three largest transit markets on First Hill (e.g., Harborview, Swedish, and SU) as well as Yesler Terrace. Folks advocate for seamless transit; that has be designed into the network; long transfer walks do not qualify.

  17. This line will open several decades in the future. If you think it doesn’t serve downtown Seattle, think what downtown Seattle will look like in several decades. Chances are good this is the direction it will grow.

    New York, London, Berlin all added service area when they added lines. Even Portland, with MAX the parallel lines in downtown are 5 blocks apart – and that is in a flat area with no freeway obstacle course between them.

    As for the challenges of going under I-5, it’s hard for me to imagine Seattle being faced with anything unique in the history of subway building.

    1. An example of going under I-5 is, in fact, a matter of blocks away. It costs extra money but we know it is possible.

      1. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Just because it is possible if you through enough money at it doesn’t mean it is a wise use of money. Money that gets spent here is money that isn’t available to be spent elsewhere in the NK sub-area.

        And moving the only CBD station on the new line out of DT will create operational inefficiencies on the existing line. Such s move would result in large numbers of transfers onto the existing line at WLS and IDS, and we already know the DSTT will be operating near capacity.

        Satisfying that increase in demand in the urban core without hitting DSTT capacity constraints or wasting LRV service hours on the periphery will be challenging and an ongoing expense.

  18. While I’m thrilled we’re talking about Ballard and SLU connectivity, I honestly have no clue why a 2nd downtown line, with a “must have” intersection at Westlake, is such a “given,” and a return to the stadium is required (making the First Hill station and its double I-5 cross apparently impossible). Here’s an idea: a Boren/Rainier straight shot from Denny/Westlake. A revived Convention Center station for a connection, then a Madison/Boren and 12th/Boren station, a connection with Rainier station and joining the existing line at Mount Baker. Why would so much money be spent to duplicate service? It’s cuckoo.

    1. I’ve advocated this in the past. Make West Seattle link go through beacon hill (and become a transfer station) then curve up 23rd to judkins station, then first hill station , then on to IDS and Ballard.
      The problem is recreating an IDS station. I believe there is a double crossover under pine street (west of i5), but to turn that track tangent into a platform would require mining under the paramount. Also, that crossing of i5 in the vicinity of ids is problematic.

  19. ????, reason I’m putting so much stress on tunneling is my sense that, starting down from the north, the street grid, and the lobby of Swedish Hospital, will be a long elevator shaft above the line. Shorter elevator ride below Westlake Station.

    If rock, dirt, and underground water permit a tube to run that deep, could save a lot of time, money, and insurance to be safe distance underneath everything municipal whose service could be interrupted by a large-diameter Tunnel Boring Machine.

    And also bringing specially-required regional travel speed to the district that requires it most. These considerations are main reason I keep insisting on section-drawings that show the line in side-view- revealing things like the ground to be passed through, and the slope of the line. And their relation to everything overhead.

    These tunnels and their stations are going to make original DSTT look like a plastic-shove-filled afternoon at Alki Beach. Based on some experience long ago but not very far away, might be a good idea for everybody with a steering wheel for a desk or a control cab for an office to persuade ATU Local 587 to approach their ST Board-members, and their union, for an advisory group on operations.

    One persuasive thing you can offer project management is additional people to blame if something else gets screwed up. Who, unlike agency, CEO’s have a union between them and wherever terminated CEO’s go. Because this job is going to be a kennel and a half full of of rabid girl dogs to get done.


  20. When I read ST3 literature, it always says “Midtown”. That was what was in the voter’s guide.

    It dawned on me that I cannot find any definition of where “Midtown” is. When I look at Planning Department documents, the only reference to “Midtown” is at 23rd and Union. The post office’s “Midtown Station” is at 3rd and Union, and not 5th and Madison; the zip code for that post office has Spring St as its south edge (that’s a block north of Madison) — and it extends as far as Harvard Street including Virginia-Mason.

    This is important because all of the ST3 documents talk about “Midtown” as a station location.

    If I am right and there is no official definition of “Midtown” that includes 5th and Madison as of time of ST3 adoption, there appears to be no legal argument that moving it to First Hill is beyond the ST3 specifications. In fact, moving it to Boren and Seneca would appear to be more defensible from a definitional standpoint because of the 98101 zip code.

    1. “Midtown” is just a new name somebody made up. Nobody from Seattle refers to anywhere as, “Midtown”.

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