by KATIE WILSON and SAM SMITH, Transit Riders Union

Dear Members of the Sound Transit Board,

The Transit Riders Union is concerned that Sound Transit is passing up an important opportunity to serve the densest neighborhood in Washington: First Hill. Thousands of constituents in each of your districts commute to First Hill each day. And while we understand that there are some cost concerns with the slightly additional track length and tunneling twice beneath Interstate 5, we urge you to conduct a study of this possibility with sincerity and in good faith.

We recommend relocating the Madison Street station from 5th or 6th Avenue to a location between 8th and Boren Avenues. This relocation would make much of First Hill walkable to the thousands of workers, residents, and medical patients. Meanwhile, it would decrease the walkshed redundancy of building a station so close to the existing line beneath 3rd Avenue.

First Hill is a large employment center for many sectors, from nursing to administrative to custodial, that historically and presently employ mostly women, and they deserve to be considered equitably in comparison to other regional employment centers with white-collar, mostly male tech workers (South Lake Union) and blue-collar, mostly male workforces (Paine Field), which will rightfully be served upon completion of ST3.

Presently, some First Hill commuters ride Sounder to King Street Station, where they then must either:

  • connect to a slow and circuitous streetcar,
  • ride Link into Downtown and walk to a connecting bus as many as three blocks away (as in the case of Metro routes 2 and 12), or
  • ride two buses or a combined distance of one mile

Each of these options is unnecessarily sluggish. Imagine if these workers could walk out of King Street Station, cross over the International District Station, and ride in minutes directly to First Hill. For the many other First Hill commuters whose irregular schedules prevent them from accessing Sounder, they deserve, and would exponentially benefit from, a direct connection the regional Link system.

Many people access First Hill for medical services, including many people with disabilities. Disabled passengers, for whom approaching and waiting for a bus on the steep eastbound streets of Downtown Seattle can be difficult or prohibitive, deserve simpler, faster, more comfortable, and more accessible service to First Hill.

The Transit Riders Union is very grateful for all the work that Sound Transit does for the riding population of the Puget Sound, and we thank you for your consideration of this proposal.

Katie Wilson is the TRU’s General Secretary. Sam Smith is the Disability & Access Committee Co-Chair.

54 Replies to “Open Letter to Sound Transit: Study First Hill Station”

  1. Is there any realistic possibility of advancing the First Hill option at this point? I thought the Level 2 alternatives had already been finalized. I think we should keep fighting for this, don’t get me wrong, but I’m curious about what the realistic prospects are.

    1. The answer to that depends on how willing Sound Transit is to listen to perspectives that aren’t what they’ve decided is the Only Way To Do Things.

    2. “Zero.” There is zero realistic chance that a First Hill option will progress.

      Frankly this is getting a little tiring. STB staff was told before the ST3 vote that a First Hill option was a non-starter. Nothing has changed. STB should accept reality and move on.

      1. We’ve written about this and explained more than once that Sound Transit said exactly the opposite to us before the ballot. Please don’t misrepresent the history here.

      2. Lazarus, while results have been mixed to date, advances in mobility assists will allow First Hill Station to make sure that no Option, no matter how disabled, will ever miss another therapy session at Swedish.

        But Harborview Emergency Damatics Division got your tiredness problem identified. In every scene bar none, “Was told that….” is always used to identify a low-level flunky enraged by his audience’s skepticism that the cages were the kids’ moms’ idea. Just because it was his own mom’s.

        There’s a reason the “Passive Voice” is called that. Until frequent bus floor accident results can be trained to mop themselves up instead of waiting ’til a supervisor arrives with cat-litter, after eight hours on duty, average driver’s initiative will dissipate to fast to motivate escape.

        But wait a minute! “Nothing has changed. STB should accept reality and move on.” ?! You don’t get away with plagiarism in my Jean Paul Sartre memorial pre TGV instruction class at Seattle Central!

        “Rien n’a changé, STB devrait accepter la réalité et aller de l’avant.”

        Buy a hundred tickets to the original French version of “Waiting for Godot” (Ga DOHHH!), which was the motivation for digging the entire TGV and the French section of the Channel Tunnel by hand to get out of the theater.

        Reason France doesn’t need nukes. Lethal levels of High Grade Boredom can be weaponized! Nice try, Lazarus. You have to repeat the course! I know that line is in there somewhere.


      3. Dan,

        Not true. Please state your reference.

        And it doesn’t change the facts. It is clear to anyone who knows brick and mortar enginering that it won’t pencil out. It’s an obvious decision. ST doesn’t need to be throwing good money away on studying the obvious.

        First Hill was never an option. It isn’t today, and it won’t be tomorrow.

      4. Absolutely true. I reported it on STB in summer 2016, have linked to it recently, and have the email from that time to prove it

        I didn’t push harder in 2016 because I received these assurances. Now that we know that ST is willing to deceive its most forceful advocates, I won’t make that mistake again.

      5. I’m not sure why you waste your time on STB when, apparently, only idiots think first hill is an option.

        The only obstacle people can cite is the freeway like it’s an impenetrable barrier. This argument is insulting and plainly false.

      6. When they built I-205 through southeast Portland they could have closed the cross streets in succession, but instead they chose to indercut each, pump a concrete bridge into place under them, and then dig out the rest of the dirt. It was odd seeing concrete bridge guard rails appear beside flat ground.

        It’s unfortunate the precautions taken to assure optimal auto traffic access suddenly becomes impossible when those same practices might be applied to transit.

      7. Not the only obstacle, Martin. A station at Fifth is going to be deep, one at Sixth another twenty feet deeper, one at Eighth another forty feet and one at Boren yet another twenty or so.

        A station at Eighth would be acceptable IF and only Sound Transit made an irrevocable promise to the City of Seattle that there will be a horizontal pedestrian tunnel with moving sidewalks in both directions and escalators at the necessary changes of level to an entrance at Fifth and Madison or Marion from the appropriate mezzanine level AND a station box that provides two up and two down escalators all the way to the surface. Then add a similar underground walkway from the highest mezzanine east to Boren with up and down escalators there as well. Finally, there must be a staircase between every level of both the Eighth Avenue box and the two wing stations.

        A similar irrevocable commitment to better station design at SoDo where in-direction transfers are made at the same platform and direct platform-to-semi-mezzanine transfers at Westlake could serve as an alternative, but must meet those explicit standards.

        Without such an irrevocable commitment, what ST will provide at such a deep station is too few elevators inefficiently managed and no stairs. Riders headed for the financial district from Rainier Valley or Ballard/Magnolia/LQA will have to wait for an overcrowded elevator, ride to the surface and then walk down three blocks including a crossing of the roaring, stinking I-5 in the elements.

        Yes, a station farther up the hill will advantage all-day transit usage and that is a huge benefit. But the reason that most voters are willing to encumber themselves and their children with the non-trivial tax burden ST represents is to make commuting more efficient for everyone by getting people out of cars. In Puget Sound’s constrained geography, trains make sense to do that. Choosing an alignment which will permanently make the financial district and library less accessible to two quadrants of the City is not an acceptable trade-off. One or the other of these ameliorations must be a certainty to make the deviation acceptable.

      8. Choosing an alignment which will permanently make the financial district and library less accessible to two quadrants of the City is not an acceptable trade-off. One or the other of these ameliorations must be a certainty to make the deviation acceptable.

        A station at First Hill would make access to part of downtown much easier while making access to another part of downtown slightly more difficult. We already have stations that serve the financial district. Train to train transfer is usually very easy. All it should take is a very short walk, followed by a very short wait. If we somehow fail to provide for good transfers, then we will have a terrible system, regardless of where we put the Madison station. The same is true for just about every decent subway — if you don’t share the tracks, then you need to make it easy to transfer between lines.

        It is silly to design a subway system that resembles commuter rail or an express bus line. Picking a handful of relatively suburban locations close to existing infrastructure (old rail lines, or express ways) and then just running them all to the same part of downtown is a recipe for very poor ridership.

        Our downtown is not that small. We aren’t that city anymore. One of the few reasonable arguments for the current Ballard line over the UW to Ballard line is that it would serve other parts of downtown better. That is because South Lake Union *is* downtown, just as Belltown is. Well the same is true for First Hill. With high employment density and high population density, it is certainly “downtown”. Hell, the downtown association extends the borders more broadly, to include Uptown and SoDo (

        If this was our only subway line, then of course it would include a stop at around fifth and Madison. But with two stops very close to there, it just doesn’t make sense. Riders on trains that serve University and Pioneer Square Station will just use those stops for that part of town. Riders who find themselves on the First Hill line will just transfer. But a lot of people will use a First Hill station (whether they transfer to it or not). That is a common practice all over the world. Even our nearest neighbor — Vancouver — does that. The Millennium Line requires everyone who wants to go downtown to transfer, yet it manages ridership of over 180,000 people a day (on that one line). It sits waiting (forever it seems) to connect to the university. When it does so, ridership will likely exceed 250,000 riders a day, yet it won’t serve the core of downtown. It is unlikely we will ever have a system that carries that many riders (due to mistakes made in the past) but the least we can do is avoid another one. The West Seattle to Ballard project adds so little south of Denny — we should at least add a new, good stop at First Hill.

      9. It is clear to anyone who knows brick and mortar enginering that it won’t pencil out. It’s an obvious decision. ST doesn’t need to be throwing good money away on studying the obvious.

        The only thing that is obvious is that First Hill would offer important *transit* benefits, unlike the other two proposals they are studying. The whole point of studying a First Hill station is to see if the benefit is worth the cost.

      10. Regarding the “deep station” aspect: Been there, done that? Correct me if I’m wrong, but a First Hill Station would be at a depth similar to Beacon Hill Station, which is served pretty well without a complex of escalators. Sound Transit knows how to do this.

        Now if this were a game of Sim City, what I would do is come up elevated along 1st Ave., right hook to Jackson, elevated station between IDC and King St stations, then cut into the hill. If tunneling under I-5 is an absolute no-go, then go under I-5 at grade on the north side of Jackson, cut into the hill under Yesler Community Center and Park and go up Boren which overpasses I-5, and put in two stations somewhere. The turns involved should be no sharper than the curve between University St. and Westlake stations.

        ***OK, back to reality.*** Assuming First Hill is once again denied a Link station, we should accept no less than FULL transit priority on the First Hill streetcar. Broadway below James should be transit and local traffic only and Yesler 100% transit preempt signalization over car traffic.

      11. Martin I’d love to see the email you reference. I want to know who misled you. The freeway isn’t the only issue, either, although it’s a big one. The soils underground are the primary issue. The policy decisions made and implemented since the original FH station was removed are other important considerations. When ST’s mission is to connect more places, it rests on past decisions and emphasizes connecting new places and markets. Love it or hate it, in their view the decisions re. FH have been made, and the area is served at present by local buses and the streetcar, and in the future by BRT in addition (and hopefully an improved street car operation). They couldn’t in good conscience spend hundreds of millions more for scope that wasn’t included in the plan to serve a place they’re already spent hundreds to study and serve by other means.

        Y’all pushing for further study of FH are unsatisfied with past decisions and re-litigating them. I don’t begrudge that, and suppose that’s the Seattle way. But it wont change them, and it won’t change the facts leading to them. And, IMHO, further study of FH will make it more difficult, not less, to complete the mission voters gave ST in 2016 to extend the reach of the system.

      12. Dammit, Ross, Pioneer Square and University are not “close to Fifth and Madison”. For Crows, yes. For people, NO. It’s ten stories from Pioneer Square and seven from University.

        You REFUSE to understand this.

        As I said, moving the station uphill to Eighth might actually improve or at least equal the time-to-street at Fifth and Madison from a deep station at Fifth if the Eighth Avenue station had a properly designed horizontal tunnel from a deep mezzanine. But “hoping” that Sound Transit will include it is a fools paradise; make it a committed element of the plan or build the example alignment.

        You also do a lot of hand-waving about the ease of “train to train transfers” without the barest nod to the political reality that ST’s current design for SoDo — which is what will get built without pushback — envisions that EACH and EVERY transfer there will involve both a change of level and in one direction or the other of a daily round-trip, crossing the Green Line tracks. Sounds an awfully lot like a “bus to bus transfer” to me.

        You’ve never addressed the potential fustercluck that will ensue at Westlake if ST forces people to use the Mezzanine to transfer. That would require three level changes because the platforms for the Green Line tunnel will have to be below the existing tunnel. At least get on board advocating for a design of the Green Line portion of the Westlake to have two “mini-mezzanines” at the same level as the existing platforms with each having access to one end of a center platform for the tracks below.

        To simplify non-transfer access from the street those mini-mezzanines could certainly have escalators up to an extension of the existing mezzanine to the east under Pine, but essentially building a new independent station with connection only at the mezzanine level will absolutely torpedo transferring there. Westlake is a big station.

        Nothing can be done for the transfer at IDS except to put the Green Line tracks and side platforms directly under the existing tracks and add a center platform for transferring to both levels. But ST has embargoed that solution by placing the reversing track for East Link in the middle of the existing station. So IDS will necessarily require two changes of level for every transfer except in-direction between Red and Blue which can of course be made at the same platform at any station to the north.

      13. B, Madison Station, at either location, will have at least five and probably ten time the daily boardings that Beacon Hill has. This is not a “neighborhood” station. It’s one of two stations serving the existing downtown core on the Green Line.

        No, IDS does not count as “serving the existing downtown core”. SLU is not a part of the “existing downtown core” either.

      14. In the section about the new section of Westlake Station I neglected the phrase “connected to the ends of the existing platforms of the Blue/Red level”. That is, the south-side mini-mezzanine would allow people on the existing south platform to walk through the demised east wall of the platform into the new chamber, turn and walk a little way to an escalator and ride it down to the center platform of the Green Line. There would also be a pair of escalators up to the extended existing Mezzanine stacked like they used to be in department stores.

        Ditto the north-side platform and mini-mezzanine.

      15. How about a mind-blowing thought: What if Westlake platforms were parallel and not perpendicular?

        I could see usefulness in an alignment that curve into First Hill, crosses to reach Westlake then curves northward again, for example. While it appears longer from a two-dimensional standpoint, the extra distance could prove useful in a station transfers.

        In this scenario, it could be possible to put the mezzanine for the second line even with the platforms with today’s existing DSTT so that only one level change is required. That would mean one level change to/from existing DSTT southbound. The station vault could be created by temporarily closing Olive Way between Fourth and Fifth Avenue or by closing off the Triangle at Fourth and Pine. The tracks would have to turn north after that, but the Denny Station could be placed closer to Belltown in this scenario.

        Of course, I’ll repeat once again that the maximum load segment in ST2 is between Westlake and Capitol Hill, and that ST3 is only going to make this segment more crowded. When the justification for the second tunnel is that the existing tunnel is “too crowded”, I call BS because of this published fact that the second tunnel doesn’t resolve the most crowded segment! This is why I’ll once again explain why the second tunnel transfer operationally needs to be at Capitol Hill and not Westlake, and that an alignment that goes under the First Hill ridge could make it vertically easier to cross the existing tunnel east of I-5 rather than at Westlake. It could even be possible to have two First Hill stations — say at Boren and Marion then at Pike and Boylston. Then the remaining design challenge would be to get SLU to accept an aerial segment that portals out of Capitol Hill (noting that an aerial structure over Mercer Street between I-5 and Seattle Center would not only do that, but make an Aurora/99 station much more accessible and less of an elevation change). Of course, this is so wildly “inconsistent with ST3” that this option will have to wait in the wings for awhile until or unless the whole second Downtown tunnel project becomes so infeasible and costly that ST will consider other things.

      16. Dammit, Richard, of course Pioneer Square and University are close to Fifth and Madison. Put it this way: If they optimize the transfers, and make it easy as pie to go between one train and another AND put the station at 5th and Madison, how many people do you think will transfer? What if you are headed to 4th and Marion? No, not really worth it. How about 4th and Spring? Again, not worth the extra waiting. How about 3rd and Madison? Again, not worth the bother. These are destinations literally within two blocks of the station, and it isn’t worth the wait. Sure, those that really don’t want to walk, and would rather hang out at the beautiful SoHo station, or admire the hole in the ground that is Westlake Station might decide to wait. But the vast majority of people will just walk an extra couple blocks.

        Put it another way. Imagine the other train line didn’t exist. Imagine this is our first, and only subway through downtown. Since it is being designed by ST, they didn’t want to build many stations. So they add one stop in between Westlake and I. D. — a station at 5th and Madison (a worthy choice). Now think of how many people would use that stop. Now think about how many people are actually closer to Pioneer Square or University Station. A lot. If the only station between Westlake and I. D. was Madison, and you were headed to 3rd and Spring, of course you would use the 5th and Madison stop. It is only three blocks away. What else do you think folks would do? Take a bus?

        Now try the same sort of mental experiment with a station at Madison and Boren. Who would transfer? Anyone headed to Seattle U., or the hospitals, or pretty much any of the highly populated areas just east of I-5. What about if Madison and Boren were the only stop — would anyone who uses it actually be closer to Pioneer Square or I. D.? Only a handful of people who liked to walk a long way (and not catch a bus). The stops are too far apart.

        A First Hill station serves an unique part of downtown not currently served by Link. You can’t say that about 5th and Madison. That stop is designed so that riders *on that particular train* won’t have to transfer to get to that part of downtown.

        Speaking of transfers, I’m not waving my hands about anything. I think it is quite possible that Link will screw up the transfers. The point is, if they do, then the choice of 5th and Madison versus Boren and Madison will seem trivial.

        The most important “quadrant” is Northgate Link. Sorry, I can’t use that term, since it is meaningless, so let me back up. There are sections of our subway line, with various stops. All of the lines will have a section in between SoDo and Westlake. They all will have sections outside of it. Of those outside sections, the one that starts with Capitol Hill and extends northward will clearly be the most popular one. It is quite likely that the second most popular one will be Ballard Link. If the transfer between these two important sections is poor, then we are hosed. It means that thousands upon thousands of riders will waste their time trying to get on the train, and they will find alternatives. Maybe it will be just to take the bus, or maybe they will drive. But either way, it will be a huge loss, and frankly inexcusable given the enormous cost of this project, and how little we are adding elsewhere in ST3.

      17. Al, having the connection at Capitol Hill will worsen the crowing between there and Westlake. Many more people from Ballard, Magnolia, Lower Queen Anne and even SLU will be headed to the urban core than people from the Red/Blue Spine will be headed for First Hill, especially at the peaks.

        Maybe in the middle of the day the offs for First Hill from the Spine might equal the offs for Downtown from the Green Line, but at the peaks all you’d be doing is exacerbating the crowding.

        Grant, it’s not that far, but if the train is already full out of HSS, the Green Line folks will be hard-pressed (yes, a pun) to get on.

        So far as the parallel platforms, think about the topology of side platforms. Assume the new line is north of the existing one to avoid destabilizing the tight curve between Third Ave and Pine Street. How you do that under the buildings on the north side of Pine is a real problem, but let’s assume you can do it by putting the mezzanine at platform level.

        For users of the northside platform, things are peachy keen; They get off, walk through the connection tunnel and descend one level to the Green Line center platform. Peachy keen.

        But the folks on the southside platform either have to ascend to the mezzanine or descend to a new north-south pedestrian tunnel beneath the existing station to get past the tracks. Once there, though they can’t walk directly onto the center platform; the southbound track of the Green Line would be in the way. They’d have to rise back to the level of the mezzanine of the new portion of the station, making two level changes. In either case, they’d have to finish up with a third level change down to the platform.

        And besides, the geometries of such a twisting line would raise great objections

      18. It’s a reasonable point about riders from NW Seattle and SLU, Richard — although I’d observe that between RapidRide lines, the monorail and the SLU streetcar (supposedly extended down First Ave to Jackson Street and doubled in frequency), there are a host of ways to get from Mercer Street into Downtown Seattle via transit. That’s one more mode available than what First Hill is getting with the streetcar and RapidRide G there. Wasn’t it just a few days ago that everyone was excited about improving the monorail to be every 2.5 minutes nonstop from Seattle Center? Why can’t First Hill have a fast connection to Link that runs every 2.5 minutes?

        Frankly, I prefer leaving the station Downtown and adding a First Hill diagonal elevator, escalator bank, a smaller-bore pedestrian tunnel system with moving underground sidewalks and elevators to the surface of First Hill or funicular option. Riders from First Hill deserve an easier way to get Link than use RapidRide G, and a station to a platform under Eighth would be so deep that people would have to be on an elevator anyway — so it would be a diagonal “elevator” instead of a vertical one. In fact, an aerial funicular on Jefferson Street between Pioneer Square Link Station and Harborview looks fairly doable well before 2035 if funds can be found.

      19. @Richard — What is your problem? How the hell is my comment “Uber-Right”? What the hell does that mean, anyway?

        As for listening to others, go through my comment threads. Go back — I mean way back. Look at all the stupid crap I’ve written, and look how many times I’ve argued with people, and then, after more consideration, changed my opinion. Look at how many times I’ve considered the facts, and how many times I’ve made comparisons with other systems. Even with this particular situation I’ve acknowledged the trade-off with this station, and the subtleties involved (how much walking is too much, etc.).

        Now look at your comments. Have you done the same? Just consider this particular situation. What other city has built a line like this? Please tell me what city has built its second (and likely only) downtown subway line and decided to put it parallel to the other line, with each stop either identical or within a third of a mile of another station? I really can’t think of any. They either share the same tunnel, or build it perpendicular, or at the very least, make a major turn, to maximize downtown coverage. It is crazy to spend billions on the area that has the most population and employment density and add so little in the way of new coverage. No one does that.

        You still haven’t addressed my main argument. Who the hell is going to transfer to get to a stop at 5th and Madison? The obvious answer is “hardly anyone”, which makes the value of the tunnel from Westlake to SoDo an enormous waste. We are getting practically nothing out of it. It would have been much cheaper to simply interline the trains.

        As far as capacity goes, the fears are way overblown. Do you realize that Calgary carries over 300,000 people a day on their trains? There system is heavily commute oriented (lots of people headed downtown during rush hour). The two lines run on the same tracks downtown, on the surface. Yet they still manage OK, despite only having three car trains! Holy cow, guys, trains carry a lot of people. That is the point.

        Look, I get the trust in Sound Transit. It is easy to assume that a public agency, with its access to experts, is just bound to do a good job. If there is something that doesn’t look right, then maybe there is a good reason for it. But the history of this agency, and the decisions they have been made suggest otherwise. An overabundance of service to very low density, distant suburbs; miles of *urban* rail without a stop; ignoring recommendations by third party consulting firms; a lack of cooperation or consideration of one of the most popular bus networks in the country; they all point to an agency that knows how to work with ignorant local politicians, but doesn’t know how to build a subway.

        This is no exception. The whole idea was conceived by someone who looked at a map, and thought we could cover an entire “quadrant” by simply adding three stops (or two, apparently). Then they decided that each of those riders should have the same experience as someone from Capitol Hill or the UW — they get all the same downtown stops. But it would be too expensive to build every stop next to the old one, so they split the difference. Instead of 6 identical stops, they are aiming for 4, with a station in between the other 2.

        Again, no one does this. In general, no one does any of this. I challenge you to find any system like this anywhere. Everett Station to the Tacoma Dome — two stations in low density areas in low density cities, 60 miles from each other! Or how about South Kirkland Park and Ride to Issaquah? No one does this — and the ones that have come close have failed miserably at it.

        Putting a station at 5th and Madison doesn’t meet a transit need — it would be one more unprecedented (and bad) move made by an agency that has made plenty.

      20. Al, Yes, I agree that First Hill needs access to HCT, and underground walkways with moving sidewalks and escalators for level changes is the way to do it in the Madison/Marion corridor. Your idea for a funicular to Harborview is also interesting but I don’t know where you’d put it. Over Jefferson? There’s a PSS entrance at Third and Jefferson and the pylons would be mostly on parklands except over the freeway, and it would be a good use of the rump street between Fourth and Sixth. Each support could take one of the parallel parking slots on the south side of the street.

        No way it could go above James, though. You can’t take a lane on that crucial arterial.

      21. And, as I said upstream but have been completely ignored as having said, IF ST commits to building the pedestrian tunnel down to Fifth (and preferably one up to Boren) I would be fine with putting the “Midtown” station at Eighth. But the [ah] never seem to read my full comments.

        Not all the way up to Boren though. It would be too deep to be usable.

      22. Richard, every parcel map that I’ve seen retains Jefferson Street between Yesler and I-5 as public right-of-way. It does not appear to be legal “park” land. Above I-5, it is owned by King County as Harborview, so I’m not even sure if Harborview Park is protected 4-F land.

        Almost all adjacent property is also in public ownership, so I don’t see much interference from adjacent property owners.

        I’m not a cost engineer, but similar funiculars built in places appear to be well within $300M dollars. The new, elegant Luxembourg funicular that connects two passenger rail stations is listed at 96 million Euros, or $112M — although much of it is on the surface.

        A video of the operation:

        A 3-D simulation of the system and stations:

        Not only would it serve southern First Hill residents and Harborview employees and patiens and Seattle U students, but it would also connect the Broadway bicycle track with the one on Second Avenue. The level boarding platforms make getting on and off much easier than we’ll have with RapidRide G.

  2. This editorial is spot on, ST should study this alternative before the alignment is set. Now is the time, before Level 2 is finalized.

  3. Boren Ave or bust. An 8th Ave station would push a real First Hill station out for generations.

  4. If this station isn’t the most important one on the Level, let’s just cover all our bases and pretend it is.

    To all the points in the editorial, add the clincher. A high speed traffic- weather- and- event-resistant connection between the rest of an expanding region and the State’s top Emergency Rooms.

    Which on an ordinary day also serve thousands of people with a lot of other reasons to need a hospital, in addition to working there. Surrounded by a densely populated and terrain- challenged neighborhood. Trailing all the way down to Lake Washington.

    Quick on-site couple weeks ago tells me Madison/Boren is best general location, for use and ease of construction- where Madison “flattens out” after climb from Downtown. Least likely place to suddenly relocate westward across I-5.

    Final decision is for core-samples, utility maps, and building-foundation inventories. Recommend Friday PM rush hour for fact-finding trip. Side-benefit is an on-site view of how narrow the arterials are that’ll need transit lanes the worst, station or not. Loudest argument of all for how badly the system needs that station.

    We need a posting on tunneling that line, with concentration on changes since the mid 1980’s and what’s likely ahead of the cutter. Anybody know anybody to interview?

    Mark Dublin

  5. It’s pretty amazing how ST can offer to study the extra expense of a tunnel in lower-density West Seattle and under the Ship Canal, but can’t explore First Hill. I’m glad that TRU is calling them out for trying to please wealthier neighbors there yet ignore the tens of thousands of folk (including many with lower incomes) who are on First Hill every day.

    I’m particularly disappointed at the silence of Harborview administration and King County elected officials about ST3. As a County facility, they should be much more engaged about serving First Hill. They need to be publicly criticized about turning their backs for regional transit access for this major regional facility.

    1. Maybe it’s because Harborview has a helipad and some Coast Guard “ships” with a really wide service area. Flight crews probably use this for a training video, but stay out for DSTT because they know Joint Ops is worse.

      But I’m going to run it by them anyhow, just to show how no spilled fish truck in a hurricane powered snow storm in the region has to interfere with anybody’s doctor appointment, just so Lyft can get them to nearest LINK station. Besides, those Coast Guard guys could probably use brush-up as to how to handle special-work so you don’t dewire.

      Don’t worry about the Channel Tunnel engineer. You get a half hour’s pay for an incident report, even if, like in this one, nobody fell down.


  6. The TRU is right on calling on ST to study this more thoroughly.

    I wish the TRU would focus on things benefiting transit riders, like more service, rather than their attack on the plan to buy more service hours from private contractors when Metro is unable to provide more service. That attach doesn’t benefit riders and the way government works, those revenues will get permanently redirected, like some of them already are to fund the student transit passes, which were not within the scope of the transit levy.

    1. I’m glad that TRU is speaking out on all of these. Somebody needs to say we need more precautions in place before spending City money subsidizing Uber and Lyft rides for rich neighborhoods, with their sketchy business model of claiming to just be apps, and let the rider beware. It is one thing to allow the services. It is another thing to fund them, without safety precaution levels we expect from Metro. (Yeah, I realize the City has already done so for New Year’s Eve/morning, for lack of a better plan, but that’s a legitimate element of Vision Zero.)

      If it takes the City and TRU to get Transit out of the business of charging kids to ride public transit, so be it. Not charging kids is a direct assault on generational poverty, given the demographics of how many kids grow up in poverty and who rides transit. Changing that element of the Transit business model makes the investment more like a capital one than throwing one-time money down the drain. I’d love to know what the actual costs are of collecting fares from kids, vs. the revenue therefrom. Such calculations should include the financial cost of dwell time for kids fumbling change and the carbon footprint from dwelling. I suspect most of the youth fare revenue is now just government taxing itself at this point.

      Speaking of more service hours, I’m surprised nobody is calling on the City and Metro to cease adding more service on 3rd Ave, without red paint, as the Convention Center construction period of maximum constraint looms just nine months from now. Metro has done its part with the installation of off-board ORCA readers. Having a $3 cash fare would help smooth 3rd Ave bus flow a little more, but that’s not on the table. The City needs to do its part for 3rd Ave now, instead of just installing new bus lanes (not dedicated) for suburban commuters. If the city has money for transit burning a hole in its pocket, red paint for 3rd Ave has got to be the top priority. Stat.

      As for next week’s ST Board meeting, I hope and pray Seattle’s reps on the ST Board vote for the transit needs of dense and diverse First Hill instead of wasteful studies of a light rail drawbridge across the Ship Canal (seriously?) or Herbold’s tunnel through the golf course with a station serving neither major bus corridor west of Delridge. If Herbold’s folly and the Ballard drawbridge options go forward, but First Hill does not, the Level 1 process will have become a farce.

  7. How about a pedestrian tunnel with a moving walkway from the closest station to first hill?

    1. Study it! Ignoring the impact on First Hill should not be an option for and of the Level 2 options.

      1. @Brent,

        Now that I agree with. A study to figure out if there are good options for integrating a 5th & Madison LR Station into the First Hill service area makes sense.

        That I would support.

    2. It make sense to me. ST keeps drawing concept maps for stations then never studying station entrances. They give all this lip service to good stations yet never give the public station drawings.

      The appalling escalator removals this month (with no prior public disclosure and no placeholder in the design) on Lynnwood Link just to save $13M pretty much sums up how ST puts its own riders last. The public there should be outraged and having decades of stairs or tiny, often out-of-service elevators in their future.

      1. Lazarus, and Al, I think that in places with colder weather, there are often concourses at least several blocks long, connecting transit stations with the rest of city life. Elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks- all there.

        But I think these are a far different matter from the only real question here. There are two choices for the new eastern most LINK tunnel south of Westlake.

        1. Straight south down Fifth Avenue, with a station at Fifth and Madison.

        2. Sweeping curve like a bow, southeast to Boren, and southwest to IDS. Station making most sense- Madison and Boren.

        Madison and Eighth? Very hard to dig, Questionable soil. Area much too small. Steep walks to both hospitals and the rest of Downtown.

        To me, east edge of Seattle CBD at Madison is increasingly at Broadway. But divisions like this are far beside the point. LINK needs a second north-south Tunnel between Westlake and Jackson Street,

        On maps above, choice is between left and right. What they show me? Fifth Avenue will be harder by far to either bore or cut & cover. Large, deep foundations, mass of pipes, conduits, and skyscraper foundations.

        At worst possible place on a major North-South Downtown through street for the single station at Fifth and Madison.

        But worst of all, whole line still leaving unserved a critical district removed from the original plan at the last minute over soils problem. Boren-depends mainly on the core-drill. Tunneling opposite of flying. In general – which no job ever is- the deeper you are the safer.

        At this point, would appreciate for every reader to start taking a walks up Madison about four pm Friday rush hour, checking our Eighth Avenue intersection, and then on up to Boren. Paying attention to traffic – and street width- on both arterials.

        And then check out Virginia Mason Hospital a block north, Swedish starting a block south, and then over to Harborview. Might note the north-south trolleywire on Ninth. Very little wear on the wire. But was 2, 3, and 4 route ’till Third was closed up. Also the car traffic under every wire in the neighborhood.

        Meaning absolutely nothing can move, exactly when and where it needs to most. Imagine using Ninth and wiring Boren for five minute headway- at present very-hard-to expand street width.

        At Boren, note that station would be a the crest of a hill- making it possible to save on elevator/escalator dependency by entry via level corridors starting several blocks downhill in both directions.

        But real decider for me- years in with my hands on Tunnel Bus steering wheel and my foot on the power. Twenty minute streetcar drive through Downtown Gothenburg at noon was my host the chief instructor’s idea, not mine. In Swedish law, I don’t think “walking” even has a “jay” in front of it.

        But point is the same. First Hill by far the easier tube to drive. Smooth power-on all the way up. Smooth regenerative-braking all the way down. Would bet I’d match or beat the time for the train straight down Fifth. And very likely for a faster dig at a lot less money.

        With a not only much heavier load, but for the sake of both First Hill and the rest of the ST service area, a much more important one. Critically important neighborhood, only getting moreso. Separated completely from everywhere else in the region by steep hills and motionless traffic.

        A line that puts every LINK station between, eventually, Tacoma and Everett and at least Redmond to Puget Sound in the same subarea with its Harborview, Virginia, and Swedish Hospital real fast.

        Fifth Avenue? Streetcar, bus, or both, transit lanes and signals a given, two minute express ride each way between Madison and either Westlake or IDS. Main main question in same category as the whole Boren tunnel itself- what about the City of Seattle?

        The way I read Mayor Durkan and the rest of the players on all the boards and councils, her skills and accustomed combative element could make her the one to decide the project. And with her, the more definite our stance, and the earlier – we need to speak first- the better we’ll do.

        Also best to indicate that if we don’t get this line, in memory of Ivar Haglund, we’ve got other fish to fry. Shrimp too. Because nothing else we do will make any difference. But that’s one man’s advice, who’s also me. One favor, though:

        So do me the honor of treating me same as Jenny. Don’t bother to tell me anything but where I’m wrong.

        Mark Dublin

      1. Madison BRT does nothing to solve this problem identified in the TRU letter:

        “Many people access First Hill for medical services, including many people with disabilities. Disabled passengers, for whom approaching and waiting for a bus on the steep eastbound streets of Downtown Seattle can be difficult or prohibitive, deserve simpler, faster, more comfortable, and more accessible service to First Hill.”

      2. The letter should have addressed RapidRide G, because one of ST’s arguments is that RapidRide G obviates the need for a station. But it’s like the streetcar: it connects it but it connects it less well. We should start with the fact that First Hill alone is one of the densest, most populous, highest number of elderly, and most regional destination neighborhood in Puget Sound, like downtown and SLU. So it should have a station for that reason, for the same reason that they do. And it was a major oversight that the region as a whole missed this until now, just like Seattle and ST missed SLU until a few years ago. And if it’s true that many disabled people won’t be able to take the G because of its inclined stations, then that means that the streetcar is their only choice.

      3. Madison BRT (otherwise known as RapidRide G) does not weaken the argument for a First Hill station. It strengthens it. It is important to look at the geography, and the existing stations. The G is designed for short trips (with its high frequency and off board payment). The biggest weakness is likely to be that a longer distance trip isn’t that fast. Placing the station closer to the midpoint of the G means that rides on the G are shorter. Boren, for example, is still much closer to the western end of the G then the eastern end. It still sits west of many of the hospitals as well as Seattle U. If you are headed to the west side of Madison (e. g. 3rd and Madison) then you can transfer to the other subway line or take the RapidRide G. But if they put a station on Fifth, and you are headed to 23rd, it will take longer on the G.

        Furthermore, it adds a station up the hill. This means that someone who rides the other line might transfer to get to the First Hill station in the morning, then walk down the hill in the evening.

      4. Madison “BRT” keeps getting watered down, will stop pretty far from Harborview, and will require two transfers with level changes, walking, and coordinating *three* different modes for Sounder riders–one would just as soon deal with the circuitous streetcar. Madison “BRT” may be better for trips from the ferry docks, though.

      5. How is Madison “BRT” being watered down? I don’t think there have been many changes for a long time, and the plan is pretty much what they intended all along. Not completely grade separated, but separated for when they think it matters (with the understanding that it could be modified later).

        Your point about transfers is a good one. Many of our riders will have a choice between lines. If you are at Westlake, or I. D., then having both lines serve essentially the same stops is a big loss. You are much better off if one of them serves a big destination (like First Hill). At the same time, both locations are major transfer points, which means that riders are looking at three (or more) seat rides to get to First Hill. Eastlake to First Hill is another example. If one of the trains served First Hill, then a rider would transfer at Westlake, and be there in no time. But instead they will ride the watered down Roosevelt HCT to Madison, and then take the RapidRide G up the hill. That just means more bus (and streetcar) trips, in a city that struggles with that already. If the station is built at 5th and Madison, it is irrelevant to a lot of riders. It just doesn’t make sense for so many people to ignore a multi-billion dollar transit project that has by far the most capacity.

  8. My Fifty Avenue bus and streetcar transitway, maybe I should’ve called “BRT”. Same substation as the Madison line.

    Idea is that since there’d be no tunnel, or tunnel station, on Fifth, because I think Boren stop is priority for LINK, a clear shot Westlake to IDS, absolutely reserved and signaled electric surface line could get passengers to trains faster than an escalator.

    Downtown Seattle isn’t really than long at thirty-or with you own lanes forty- if you don’t have to stop.


  9. Any station east of the highway is going to be deep. At least 150′ deep, maybe 200′. It’ll be all elevators. And as long as it is, does it make sense to keep the tunnel extra deep under the highway to make the crossing easier to dig? If you cleared the highway by a full 100′ you could still probably manage a 200′ station depth at Boren.

    On a related note, just how much capacity can an elevator-only station handle? Is it feasible to have one of the busiest stations in the system with only elevators? If we need the tunnel to be closer to the surface it might make more sense to keep Midtown west of the highway so that a future Pink line can climb steeply without being concerned with needing to duck back under the highway on the other side, as our current tunnel must do.

      1. Personally I’d prefer a bank of 4-5 elevators over a set of escalators that ST may well squeeze à la the Lynnwood escalators and at any rate in operation seem to be cavalier about keeping better than that 95% uptime. Not that they don’t have a shambolic history with elevators as well, but lately they seem to be keeping those up better than the escalators.

  10. Did the SDOT letter to ST on their preferred choices explicitly talk about a First Hill stop?

    I understand the reasons why about having a First Hill stop (Hey, let’s have transit to the hospitals!) but if it did not explictly talk about this, it will end up like the Ballard to UW proposal– a good idea that makes sense, but winds up in the dustbin of history– regardless of any emails to STB– which any decent lawyer can explain away if necessary.

  11. A big looming dilemma for this station generally is where the vault for a station will be placed. Surely, after seeing the giant holes and many years of fenced-off areas for Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, U-Dustrict and Roosevelt, we know it’s going to be required. ST is going to have to buy skyscraper-zoned property, close streets and disrupt Downtown Seattle for a decade.

    And let’s not forget about the inadequate contingency of 10 percent which no one wants to talk about. ST won’t have extra money and may have to cut back.

    The altruistic debate of this station siting is important but let’s not forget the cost and constructibility here. It could actually be effectively cheaper to put the station vault on First Hill once the harsh cost and constructibility findings emerge. For that reason alone, it’s irresponsible to refuse a station further up First Hill at this point.

    Frankly, the Midtown station itself could even end up dropped because of budget problems.

  12. Al, You’re right about the station box being a big problem on Fifth Avenue. But ST does not need to buy property; the stations on the new Second Avenue Subway in New York were mined upward from the tunnels. The street needs to be opened and decked for the roof and sidewalls of the uppermost mezzanine to be dug, but the removal of the material within the station cavity can be accomplished from the bottom of the cavity through the tunnels. The material removed to dig the sidewall trenches has to be removed via the surface, but the much lager volume between the walls can be removed from below.

    Is it expensive? Yes, certainly, but having it be seventy feet lower seems like it would end with the costs being about a wash.

    Remember, that mining in this way allows the various levels between the deepest mezzanine and the uppermost one — the connects to the various street entrances — to be narrow and long, with less impingement on nearby foundations.

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