12 Replies to “Podcast #61: Not Done Wailing”

  1. Minor quibble: I think Diane Adams is a consultant for Sound Transit, not technically on Sound Transit staff.

  2. Ironically, the Elected Leadership Group was created to give ST some inter-governmental coordination and feedback. If the Seattle “process” did not work here, maybe it’s an indication that it needs to be rethought for a new decision-making paradigm. One example would be to encourage all First Hill employees to complain to their elected reps directly rather than through an interest group model. Now that we have council districts, members are going to increasingly be forced to listen to their neighbors or get voted out.

    I’ve also said that a Riders Group (including drivers) needs to be in place in this process. Our political culture looks at riders as less important — when they are the ultimate clients for the service. ST decisions would generally be better if they would “Ask The Riders!” The riders aren’t usually even told about meetings.

  3. Stupid Idea: If we assume it is really the northerly I-5 undercrossing that drives cost and risk of building a First Hill station, would it be less risky to examine running trains from Ballard through the current DSTT (configure a junction at Westlake) and running trains from Capitol Hill to a new First Hill station and then south to the International District and to West Seattle?

    I know everyone is going to jump all over this as there are tons of problems with it, not least how disruptive it would be to current service (possibly years to build the proposed junctions) but it might allow for a shallower First Hill station, and the southerly I-5 undercrossing (in theory) is not as big a deal. If junctions are also built in to the International District area, they would suddenly have tons of flexibility on where to run trains.

    1. Guess I should have posted this in the cheap first hill study article. Dumbass. Are self-directed ad hominem attacks allowed?

    2. Brett, I really would like to find out as many real-world (literally) facts as I can about what the ground really looks like (and acts like) ahead of our cutters. Since we’re dealing with representatives we elect, we could become better bosses.

      Which, if you think about it, is most important problem we have to solve. Stubbornly mean. Mutually distrustful. Offensively defensive. Decision traumatized. Our employees are showing all the symptoms of defeat in psychological warfare.

      Enemy commander[OT] ’til we can get him [OUT!] Condition predates him anyhow and was main reason he got [IN].

      But First Hill project itself might be good countermeasure. A job necessary as it is hard. Amenable to ingenuity. A neighborhood with strong, intelligent, well-motivated people. Many of them nurses, whom people obey if they know what’s good for them.

      There was a reason that a First Hill station was an important and much-wanted part of DSTT planning from the get-go. Which hasn’t changed. From really vague first glance, I like the Boren route. Seems simpler to build and faster ride.

      But I watched Westlake Station being built. Surrounded by department stores, and one skyscraper. Deep underground parking. Possible that only hope will be getting the next machine far enough down to allow any surface business use at all through construction.

      Freeway? Probably are working drawings of present tunnel undercossing I-5. Deep isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes it’s opposite of flying, where higher means safer.
      Earth quakes move only about the highest twenty feet of the ground, like an ocean wave.

      So to me, it can be good that First Hill has so much room underneath it in three dimensions. But none of these factors show up in average public event. Again, things that we, our representatives’ bosses, need to know to give our workers’ sensible instructions.

      But our employee morale problem is far and away first priority right now. This last year or so, I’ve been mortally annoyed about the “tap-traps” for ORCA fares. And ST’s angry demand that riders find fare-policy info via “links” to “RCW’s”.

      With today’s podcast, that war’s on hold- now that I realize that most critical part of a major project is being handled the same way. Time for some personnel management on voters’ part. If necessary- let the ST Board join ATU Local 587.


    3. What you say about a shallower First Hill line coming from Capitol Hill Station which is quite a ways uphill from Westlake is absolutely true. However, you would get enormous howls of indignation about deleting service to the downtown core from Snohomish County, Shoreline and northeast Seattle, all wealthy areas with plenty of CBD workers.

      The answer to serving First Hill well is not to put a single station on the west edge of it, but rather build a north-south or northwest-southeast line through it with three or four shallow stations. To get the best value from it it might make sense to buttonhook it west to SLU as well, perhaps erupting from the hillside above I-5 and running across SLU as an elevated line at least part of the way.

      According to Wikipedia the track is 65 feet below street level at CHS which might allow new tubes to cross above at a track level of 30 feet below the street, though by having them that shallow the access paths to the station would be rather limited. Denny Way would make an excellent access path, but the station box includes roughly half a block south of Denny, so it can’t be used for a shallow access.

      However, if a temporary deepening to pass under the U-Link platforms is possible (I believe the gradients are not prohibitive since Denny rises east of its crossing of the freeway) it is likely that the line could follow the Denny Way right of way to 10th and use a corner of Cal Anderson Park (temporarily) to make the curve into the 11th Avenue right of way. From there it could follow 11th to Madison with a station just before or after the curve into the Madison right of way serving the north end of Seattle U and the very dense neighborhood around Madison and Union. It would then go west along Madison to Boren with a station just before the curve serving Swedish and Virginia Mason. After curving into Boren it would go southeast to a station at Boren and Broadway to serve Harborview, the south end of Seattle U and a little distantly, the new Yesler development.

      Continuing south under Boren it would surface in the mostly-undeveloped strip of land on the east side of Rainier south of Jackson and go aerial with an at-grade station at the portal. It would then go aerial in the middle of Rainier with cheap side-platform stations at Charles, Judkins Park Link, Walker and Mt. Baker Link. The line should be high enough that pedestrian crossings can pass under the tracks but still clear traffic on Rainier so that riders don’t have to cross Rainier once per round trip.

      To the west of the Denny Way tunnel portal the line should diagonal across the freeway to John and run aerial down it to roughly Aurora with a station at Fairview and of course Denny Way Link then turn south to use the north half of the Battery Street tunnel “daylighted” with the center support removed and a bicycle path and greeway using the south half. A station at Fifth could connect to the Monorail and another lying between First and Western would be the western terminus of the line.

      This version of the “Metro 8” would be much more useful than one along 23rd which would only ever serve three to five story apartments in the most optimistic of scenarios. The stretch along Rainier South between Jackson and Mt. Baker has enormous opportunities for development of high rises which won’t block anybody’s view and might even be able to see over the parallel ridges in the upper floors. The decrepit “manufacturing” along Rainier is of little economic value other than to the direct owners of the businesses. Yes, that’s a bit harsh, but that strip of land offers great re-development potential with such an elevated line through it.

      I know this would be expensive, expensive, expensive and can’t be built in an ST4 because there’s nothing that the other sub-areas will want in it. So Seattle would have to “go it alone”. But, if the cars were automated SkyTrain cars with small operator cabs for non-revenue runs to the MF, this could be built under the Monorail authorization I believe. It would not be “light rail”, though with auxiliary catenary and Standard Gauge it would be able to operate over South Link the the MF for service.

      As an automated train it could run around the clock so no “storage” problems would arise, though it would be good to include a tail at the Belltown end for storage of a few trains.

      1. I forgot. The connection to the MF would be made a couple of blocks south of Mt. Baker after the tracks descend in another buttonhook with a cross-over.

      2. And, “yes” there are two tight curves in this alignment (just east of CHS and at Madison and Boren) but both are directly adjacent to a station platform so speeds are low anyway.

      3. The painful missing piece here is a new study for regional connections to greater First Hill.

        1. The streetcar as now aligned and operated is universally considered a failure at serving travel needs — slow, unreliable frequency and no direct in-line connections to “major” destinations. To do this study means admitting that.

        2. The Madison BRT only “splits the difference” and only serves parts of First Hill, but doesn’t serve Harborview or anything south of James well at all. It also has the fundamental design flaw of no level boarding and vehicles. Unless someone comes along and promises level floors and platforms with a guidance system, it doesn’t make things more attractive from a travel time standpoint than the current buses on the street. I can’t see why anyone would walk 10 minutes to Madison Street to take the BRT three blocks to get to Link — all at stops with steep slopes; at least the Harborview and Third Avenue stops on Route 3/4 are level! The suboptimal BRT is regularly being pitched as justification by non-transit riders that all of First Hill is getting something, which is almost laughable; that would be like saying Downtown doesn’t need a third “Midtown” Link station because Westlake and ID are close enough.

        3. Between the dozens of new First Hill buildings and hospital expansions, coupled with the Yesler Terrace redevelopment that never gets mentioned, it’s not 2008. The land use changes alone warrants revisiting the issues because of the many thousands of new residents and jobs that have been placed there.

        4. Light rail tunneling is probably the most expensive tunneling that can be done — because the tunnels have to accommodate catenaries. A 23-foot diameter bore is twice the area of a 16-foot bore. Non-light rail solutions can provide the same in-vehicle travel at much less cost.

        So what to consider?

        1. A study of reconfiguring the streetcar tracks and operations. Having more frequent streetcars would be one strategy. Another possibility is to build a streetcar track link to SLU using Pike/Pine as a one-way pair in exclusive lanes rather than continue north on Broadway to CHS. Pike/Pine streetcars could carry two lines from SLU (with one possibly deviating to Belltown) — one that turns north to CHS and one that turns south to First Hill/ID. Another possibility is to send Broadway streetcars to Judkins Park Station (and maybe on to Mt. Baker), with Jackson Street streetcars staying on Jackson to 23rd or MLK, or using 12th to Jefferson to Cherry Hill and Garfield. One thing is however clear, the CCC project on First Avenue provides almost no benefit for First Hill.

        2. A blank-slate look at diagonal conveyance strategies — both tunneling and above ground. An Jefferson Street aerial funicular or gondola from Pioneer Square looks quite doable and relatively inexpensive. Marion Street is fairly underutilized and could also accommodate something — from an escalator bank to moving sidewalk skywalk or tunnel to a gondola to a funicular at options both underground and above ground. Even strategies to connect northwestward to Westlake station could be considered with diagonal conveyances.

        3. A trolley bus tunnel under First Hill from 12th to somewhere under I-5 with a First Hill station could make a wildly faster trip for First Hill residents to Downtown. This could even be set up to allow for rail sometime in the future.

        Rather than trying to force a last-minute, very expensive, mediocre service benefit compromise involving the SLU/RV Link line (quite difficult to unlikely because of the often discussed cost, slope and geology concerns), the strategic approach at this point could instead be to look at the area’s travel needs objectively and look across all modes about what to do.

        I’m hesitant to rush to any “project solution” because that hasn’t worked here. It’s typical for this city to define projects and/or technologies first then try to apply them, yet it makes more sense to sometimes periodically do things in a reverse order than that.

      4. if It could ever be built this would be amazing

        It doesn’t do much for the south sounder commuters who work on first hill, but if sounder were to stop at BAR then at least the transfers are all to trains – not buses.

        And this line would get people closer to their actual destinations than one station at Borden and Madison.

        I like it.

  4. You two can sneer at “long diagonal escalators” all you want, but they work, they wouldn’t be nearly as expensive or risky as a deviation and they’d allow people to access the system from First Hill without standing in line for an elevator bank that you know Sound Transit will build inadequately.

  5. One small nit. The general estimate that a 5-minute (5-block) walk is the limit of what a supermajority of Americans are willing to do is based on flat blocks. You can’t just apply that to downtown Seattle without adjusting for the steep hills. On Madison and Seneca it’s more like two blocks, and the issue is more whether you can squeeze in a third and how many people you’d lose. So the idea that Virginia Mason is within the half-mile walkshed so that’s OK is unrealistic. Especially considering that hospitals and clinics by definition have sick people going to them, who aren’t as mobile as they were when they were healthy.

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