Demolition work at Convention Place, as seen on Saturday

This week, crews started demolition work along the 9th Avenue wall that runs along the edge of Convention Place Station and its bus layover lot. The demolition work will be conducted primarily on weekends from now until October and is being done to prepare for the eventual turnover of Convention Place to the convention center for its $1.6 billion expansion approved last month.

Once the dust settles, the former retaining wall along 9th Avenue will be replaced with a temporary ramp that allows buses to access the transit tunnel without using the two existing entrances along Olive Way (which feed into the platforms at Convention Place). 9th Avenue will be reconfigured as a two-way transit street, with new stops to replace Convention Place Station. Northbound riders will see an average of 3 to 5 minutes of travel time added to every trip because of traffic signals and on-street congestion, especially affecing Route 255 in trying to reach Olive Way with a four-turn maneuver. The ramp will only be in use for a few months before convention center construction requires full use of the block, which is tentatively scheduled for March 2019.

Proposed reroutes during Olive Way construction, along with transit pathways to the temporary 9th Avenue ramp (WSCC Addition EIS)

The closure of the transit tunnel is not the only major disruption to transit service that will be caused by the convention center project. A series of truck loading ramps that will be built under Olive Way, requiring a cut-and-cover lid and a temporary shift for Olive Way, including an in-tact bus lane to help transit riders. Further work in the two triangular blocks, which includes a 29-story residential tower and a 16-story office tower, will mean lane closures on both Howell Street and Olive Way, which may close their peak-only bus lanes for weeks at a time.

When all is said and done, Convention Place will become the first part of our modern transit network to be abandoned, leaving behind a small stub ramp that will be seen from light rail trains for generations to come. Part of the backfilled tunnel will be replaced by a traction power substation for downtown’s trolleybuses, formerly located in the belly of Convention Place. The new convention center will open in 2021, with a subterranean exhibition hall that will be at around the same depth as Convention Place’s platforms.

45 Replies to “Beginning of the End for Convention Place Station”

  1. Too bad that the stub tunnel can’t be used to store trains, mainly for post game trains headed southbound (or Eastbound) from CenturyLINK Field, or in an emergency, to store a disabled train out of the way from the mainline. The so called middle turnback track proposed for IDS will be useless for game train storage (not long enough).

    1. The stub tunnel tracks are now being used for U-Link trains. Do you mean the tracks going to Convention Place?

  2. On the 255, get off the bus as soon as possible, walk to Westlake, catch the bus ahead of you, save time. This has been my experience with the current traffic. With added traffic/travel time, I expect it will become even better to walk.

      1. Too obvious for words.

        Everyone would benefit, especially the 255 riders who would get a quicker, more reliable trip.

    1. And, for those catching the eastbound 255 at Montlake, it’s now going to be even more unpredictable when the bus will show up. At least peak hour riders have the 540 as an alternative.

      1. Of course if the 255 was rerouted to start at Husky Station instead of DT then this problem would mainly go away.

      2. the Montlake freeway stops will soon close, so that option will disappear.
        the transit agencies missed the opportunity of UW Link for SR-520 routes 424, 545, 252, 255, 257, 268, and 311. we can expect congestion and slow transit times for some time.

    2. After these other changes, people may find the 255 and 454 so unusable that public opinion may shift to truncating them at UW, but it takes that on-the-ground experience to be the catalyst. The way “Save Our Valley” was so adament about no trains on MLK and vowing they’d never ride them and other neighborhoods said “No trains in my backyard: they’ll be huge and loud and bring crime like New York subways”, but over a couple years some of them started using it and found it useful and started clamoring for it in their neighborhood.

  3. This is is such a colossal fail. What a shame to lose Convention Place station and the dedicated right-of-way for transit.

    I’ve always felt it was a mistake to bypass Convention Place with light rail and it should been served like the original tunnel tracks intended. Should have made it the bus/rail transfer location on the north side of downtown when light rail opened in 2009 and not run bus/rail in the tunnel simultaneously. Should have done the same thing at ID station. Then when U-Link opened you could have simply interlined Convention Place and U-Link trains at Westlake (with 2/3 allocation to U-Link).

    When East Link opens Convention Place trains go to East Link, and U-Link/Northgate/Lynnwood trains go to Airport/Federal Way. This fixes the mess with the ID turnaround and probably makes implementation of Ballard/West Seattle and the second tunnel easier. Done!

    1. I completely agree. It is utterly idiotic to remove existing rapid transit stations in a rapidly growing city. The only hope I have now is that some sort of pedestrian access will remain so that convention goers could at least walk from Westlake.

      1. Such access is in the plans. It’s called a sidewalk.

        But Convention Place was never a very successful station. It’s loss is not worth worrying about.

    2. Convention Place was never a great station and always underperformed. Conventioneers haven’t used it as much as expected, Capitol Hill residents gag at walking across the freeway to it (and only a couple blocks of the hill are within a 5-minute walkshed). Convention Place is my closest station and I say good riddance. Yes, we should preserve transit infrastructure but we shouldn’t go overboard and preserve all bad decisions and shoehorn later transit lines into it. The main reason Convention Place station exists is it’s adjacent to the I-5 express lanes. and it was thought that express buses and alter trains could use the express lanes. That’s fine for people who live in north Seattle and work downtown in the daytime, but it doesn’t help at all for the 255 or for people who reverse-commute. I reverse-commuted for years and it was always was congestion on I-5 and Eastlake and Stewart Street and rides through stoplights to get to the tunnel entrance. And I so hated walking across the freeway that I would sometimes take a bus the short distance or take the 49 or 43 instead to avoid it. And if you’re walking from east Pine Street you have to walk around three sides to get to the bus bays, and sometimes you can even see your bus leaving from above while you’re walking/running around the three sides to get to the platform. And it’s so much white concrete and plastic it feels as depressing as a freeway station. So let’s focus on our better transit infastructure like Westlake Station and Capitol Hill station — and the underground Bellevue Ave underground station we could have had — rather than saying we should have kept Convention Place Station. The convention center is three flat blocks to Westlake Station: that’s only a little further than walking from one end of the convention center to the other. It’s like the Atlanta conference center, right in-town and a couple blocks from the subway. Not like the horrible Santa Clara convention center in the middle of nowhere. (Even though it has a light rail station across the street, but you have to take the train half an hour to find a supermarket or anything more than a mini-mart.

      1. Totally agree about the user experience and design of Convention Place station. The experience of watching your bus leave and the multiple parallel bus bays that were confusing to riders certainly was not good transit form along with the issues you described. I won’t miss that part of it.

        I was more referring to it as an asset that could be optimized, especially in the context of the regional transit network. There are so many advantages to having interline options and termini in downtown. Had light rail served it I hope it would have taken on a vastly different shape and form.

        What’s been interesting is that over the years the travel markets have moved closer to Convention Place not away from it making it in theory more useful than when it opened. It used to be a lonely walk between Greyhound and Convention Place…

    3. Convention Place was just too close to the surface to work out as a light rail station in its current form; one proposal from the early 2000s would have built a separate underground station for light rail at a depth of 60 feet in order to clear the pilings for I-5.

      The preliminary operating plan has East Link (Blue Line) trains running all the way to Lynnwood at all times. Bringing down train frequency on the north corridor is going to be crucial, since the truncated commuter buses will bring in a ton of new riders, on top of Northgate Link’s expected bump.

      1. Bruce, I drove I-5 southbound from Edmonds Way to 85th yesterday about 5:00. We passed met over 20 Snohomish County-bound buses in that twelve minute drive (SB I-5 was very empty yesterday). That’s somewhere near 80 per hour for a couple of hours. Eighty times sixty is right at 5,000 riders for Snohomish County alone. And of course the train will quickly attract new riders because it will be so much more reliable, and the hours currently spent between Mountlake Terrace and downtown Seattle will be redeployed to Bellevue service (some) and a whole lot of shuttle service.

        I expect that riders at the county line will exceed 40,000 trips per day very quickly after Lynnwood opens, squeezing people from North Seattle who will have just had three years of transit heaven right off the trains.

    4. The station was originally sited to feed I-5 buses and to have a place for dual-mode buses to change from electric to diesel.

      When U-Link was built, cost-cutting was essential. Thus, the station was canned due to low anticipated ridership.

      However, the cancellation of the First Hill station meant that there would be no station between Capitol Hill and Westlake. I’m not sure why the station wasn’t simply relocated to a place like Pine and Summit other than the cost would be several hundred million dollars. Even the Convention Place station could have been reoriented to Pine and Boren and/or Olive and Boren, giving it a different entrance possibility from the street grid.

      I’m also not sure why the FHSC had to go to Capitol Hill station. A Pike/Pine couplet between SLU streetcar/Westlake and Broadway (that could have had a signature streetcar stop at the WSCC) would have seems to me to be a much better project than the First Avenue connector alignment.

      1. Look at it this way: for last 28 years, everything in our regional trains, stations, and routes was understood by its designers to be temporary. Same for next three decades and beyond. For civil engineering of this order, 1990 to 2018 counts as a week or two in transit history.

        Maybe “school term” is better. Best lesson from the get-go, flex by reflex. Considering unknowns ahead from plate tectonics to politics, to the housing market, good to remember you can run a rail tunnel with buses while I-5 gets lifted out of the Ship Canal. Also, fact that as system gains size and speed, everyplace in the region becomes a subarea of somebody else’s subarea. Maybe change units of measure from real estate to corridors.

        And by all means make T(otal) F(ail) into an emoticon to send everything lame viral. But save C(an’t) F(ail) for what really needs to be sabotaged.


  4. How long is “phase 2,” when Olive Way will be open for cars but closed for people walking?

  5. Installing a temporary ramp for four months sounds wasteful. Will the materials be recycled afterward? Are the materials “post-consumer” recycled beforehand?

  6. This post leaves out an obvious and important fact: also in 2021, Link will move to 4-minute headways as Northgate Link opens three more stations, likely accompanied by another KCM/ST bus restructure. The transit utilization in the DSTT will INCREASE rather than decrease with this change. Of course, there will be two years of painful word-arounds in the interim, but still, the post should point out that there a transit benefit in the offing.

    1. Not to quibble too much, but I didn’t think Link could run four-minute trains until East Link opens in 2023, unless they create an overlay “short line” that turns around in SODO. That’s because six minutes is about the best that can be operated on MLK without major traffic tie-ups.

      I’ve not seen this operation plan presented, so can you show us where it is? Meanwhile, things might get mighty cramped on Link until the second line opens.

    2. Buses are leaving the tunnel by 2019 anyway because ST will install a maintenance turn track at Intl Dist for East Link that will somehow be incompatible with buses. The Convention Center was a second issue, and it only accelerated the inevitable closure by a few months.

      1. I hope that as buses are removed from the tunnel and there is construction at ID station, that the tracks between ID and Stadium will be straightened and that the trains will be able to move through that area at a greater speed. Right now they crawl through there and it seems frustrating. I hope they can construct straighter track or milder curves, and protect it by barriers, so that faster operations are possible.

    3. Of course even during the 2 year transition period Link will see benefits. As soon as buses are out of the tunnel Link reliability will go up and transit times will go down. These are both good things.

    4. Where’s d.p. when I need him?
      90 sec. headways in the tunnel got dumped after Sound Move was voted in. CPS could have served as the start of a line heeding for S. Lake Union, Seattle Center, and Ballard. This would be a natural extension of the East Link trains to continue your westbound journey, negating the need for a second tunnel.
      Bring back d.p.

    5. 90 second headways was considered for ST3 but dropped when they decided to build the second tunnel. I don’t remember what Sound Move was.

      Your theory that there’s room for a third line in DSTT1 assumes that ridership on the Blue and Red lines won’t be much higher than expected, while at the same time others are concerned that the planned service may reach caapacity and reqiuire adding runs to them. If we have Green Line trains in there too and we want to keep them to a 6/10 minute minimum frequency (as we should), then the combination of adding runs to the Blue and Red lines and keeping adequate runs on the Green Line may hit the 90-second ceiling. Or maybe it won’t, but we shouldn’t depend on such a risky approach of “Maybe we’ll hit the ceiling, maybe we won’t”. It’s better to build capacity before you need it, then you can smoothly shift into using it. If we let it get overcapacity then we’ll be in a crisis because it will take at least fifteen years to approve and build that second tunnel after all.

      There are two other factors. Having one tunnel puts all our eggs in one basket. If the tunnel fails and has to be closed or repaired, then we’ll be SOL. But with a second tunnel, trains can be shifted into it if switch tracks are installed, or even if they can’t, at least some of the lines will still be intact and can give some mobility both across town and as downtown circulation, the need for which will only increase.

      The other factor is, building the second tunnel now gives us the ability to add a fourth line to it later, and the tunnel will be already built and funded then. That may have been what helped get ST1 approved, because the DSTT was already built by the previous generation so it didn’t have to be included in ST1’s budget. We don’t know what the future political climate or affordability will be like, so it’s better to build it now when we can, rather than depending on being able to get it approved in some unknown future situation.

      1. Mute Points aside, I was lamenting about the good old days when much of this was still on the back of envelopes. Now it’s set in stone (or at least concrete), so here we are 25 years later and still struggling to get a line to Northgate from downtown.

      2. A fourth line as an option? It’s going to be required! There will be too many riders between SLU and Westlake to have four car trains every six minutes after 2035 — but MLK can’t really handle more frequent trains.

        The question is instead how will a fourth line be added. We won’t really know at least until the extensions open and real-world data on rider flows is available.

        Predictions on a fourth line service plan?

        – A SODO to Ballard line?

        – An Eastside to Ballard line?

        – A West Seattle to Ballard line?

        Frankly, ST should design the system to have as much operational flexibility as possible — rather than force one plan that won’t even start until 2035 (far enough in the future that all sorts of things may happen).

        Related to this is turning around two lines in Ballard:

        – Should there be a third tail track somewhere?

        – Should a tail track be designed so SLU trains on this new line can eventually turn south from the LQA tunnel and go to Belltown, or up Aurora, or from the new Ballard Link ship canal crossing to UW?

        There are so many great service ideas that should be on the table! Commenters keep saying that options should be designed into the system.

      3. Rather than roll out a 4th line, another option is to move both West Seattle & Rainer Valley into the new tunnel, which would double the frequency between SLU and Westlake, and then send 100% of the Lynwood trains to East Link, doubling East Link frequency. I’m an east side commuter, so I’m bullish about the demand on East Link, particularly if the Bel-Red & Overlake neighborhoods emerge as entirely new urban neighborhoods.

        Having Eastside trains go to both SLU and UW, or West Seattle trains to both SLU and UW, requires heavy use of switches. Even if the two tunnels can, one their own, handle the incremental capacity, I’m pessimistic the switches can. It also increases the risk of a single point of failure impacting all lines.

      4. That’s another possible outcome, AJ.

        I could see that, with double frequency, half of the East Link trains could go to Kirkland and half to Redmond. I’m pretty sure that the few street crossing gates planned east of 120th would start to present some day-to-day challenges about high-frequency all the way to Redmond.

        Further, a separated platform exclusively for the Bellevue/Eastgate/Issaquah line could then be added. That would enable any rider coming from Seattle or Bellevue to change platforms and have an Issaquah train waiting, while those arriving from Issaquah/Eastgate would have a train headed to either Seattle or Bellevue arriving every three minutes. This contrasts from the required platform changing that appears to be required for anyone from Issaquah/Eastlake to get into or out of Seattle (running across the tracks at East Main Station, by the way). In other words, getting to Bellevue would be more difficult, but getting to Seattle would be easier.

        Anyway, ST should be considering operational flexibility in all of the multi-line work going on today — even to the point of showing the board and the public how different operational scenarios will work on the system. I understand how the “one operation alternative” is the current culture; but to not anticipate flexibility would truly be an irresponsible thing (even though ST doesn’t appear to publicly understand that).

      5. “MLK can’t really handle more frequent trains.”

        There’s a turnback at Stadium. (And at Northgate.)

      6. Or, design the signals on the corridor for maximum people throughput rather than maximum road throughput.

        Or undercut the cross streets, or any dozens of other things.

  7. Yikes, this sounds like a potential disaster. Couldn’t the added time in exiting on the slower ramp and waiting for access to the temporary bus stop mean long lines for buses waiting to exit the DSTT, potentially backing up onto the northbound track and blocking U-Link trains?

    I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten any attention. In fact, I assumed that convention place station would have kept the bus bays until the station closed.

    1. Yes, there’s some potential for Link delays, especially if things get messy around the 9th/Olive/Pine intersections. The temporary ramp looks like it has room for three or four artic buses, which would be easily maxed out by a bunched 41, a 255, and a terminating 550.

    2. I don’t think this will be an issue. The ramp speed won’t really affect anything, and they loading at the temp stops on 9th won’t be any longer than current stops. Headed east on Pine street to Boren doesn’t usually back up, and the turn back coaches laying over will continue south on 9th Av, again, doesn’t really get gridlocked.

      A breakdown will cause problems, but typical movement of buses shouldn’t delay Link service anymore than usual.

  8. I’m hoping that the murals and poetry wall are saved somehow. Pie in the sky, they could end up on Westlake 2.0’s mezzanine somewhere. Apparently they’ve been painted over now :/

  9. How is bus layover space affected by all this? Will the buses that currently layover at Convention Place Station still be able to? If not, is there alternate space available?

    1. 101, 150 and 550 buses will continue south on 9th Av, and lay over on both sides of Convention Pl between Pike and Union. On the SB trip they continue to Union, north on 7th, east on Pine St, north on 9th, and back into the tunnel. 41 off peak and 255 will use Stewart to Boren to Pine/9th, and the same in reverse to Olive Wy.

  10. I am having trouble visualizing the bus routings.

    Is the outbound route 255 supposed to turn left on 9th, left again on Pine, then left on Boren, and finally right on Olive?
    Why not have it turn right on 9th and then right on Olive? That seems like a way shorter more efficient path. I assume that there will be a stop at the transit lsland shown east of Boren – somewhere where the 545 and other Eastside surface buses stop.
    How does the inbound 255 get there? I surely hope they are not proposing to eliminate the Stewart & Denny stop and have the 255 use Union St and then backtrack. That would be insane. But the inbound path seems to be heading north on 9th Avenue from outside the diagram. That seems wildly inefficient.
    If they can’t come up with an efficient routing, then just put the 255 back on the surface and have it follow the 545 routing and stops.
    And no, truncating the 255 is a horrible idea, especially evenings and weekends. If they are concerned about peak traffic, truncate the peak-only routes (252, 257, 268, 311) The removes buses during congested peak periods while allowing efficient operations the rest of the time. Both the 255 and 545 have UW counterparts (540, 541/542) to which some riders can shift if it is faster. But outside of peaks, the 255 should continue to come downtown, and it’s best to have a consistent operating pattern, hence shift the peak-only routes to UW and keep the 255 downtown

    1. Having the 255 go downtown may be better if you’re going downtown (although there are counterarguments), but it’s not as good if you’re going Capitol Hill, the airport, anywhere else on Link, the U-District, or anywhere in north Seattle. The 540 doesn’t help evenings and weekends because it doesn’t run.

      1. I use the 255 to go to the airport all the time. It’s much faster to transfer at Westlake or ID than to slog to UW. That’s true for all Link stations southward, as well as generally for all transit connections made via downtown.
        Evenings and weekends less than 10% of the ridership uses Montlake, evidence that most are heading to/from downtown. I have timed it, you can get to the UW station just as fast getting off at Montlake and walking from there as staying on a U-District bus. So you have both options.

  11. I will greatly miss the CPS as I live and worked nearby in the greatly growing Denny Triangle/SLU area. Surface buses and driving during 7-10 am and 3 – 7 pm are super heavily congested where it often takes 45 minutes to go four blocks to get onto the freeway either northbound or southbound. The tunnel buses at CPS byass all the surface street congestion so I can make my way to Northgate or Southcenter in the time it takes to just get onto the freeway.
    Although somebody mentioned it’s 4 blocks more to Westlake Station; for many of us crowded at the CPS at rush hour; that makes for 10 blocks from the increasingly dense business high-rises that are now constructed. Many are now looking to drive into work when the CPS buses are no longer available.
    Real story is King County Metro sold CPS out to the developers that didn’t want to preserve a key transit station in the heart of Seattle’s most dense area of growth; and are now proposing hugely expensive new Westlake and Denny stations for way in the future.
    Of course, it may all be for naught when businesses move away from the Seattle tax policies that are driving companies out of the area.

  12. This is a sad day. This was a great place to take a bus to and from if going to a show at the Paramount Theater. Too bad light rail excludes this as a stop.

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