C Line at the Junction. Credit: Shane in the City.

This is the third and final post in our series about the latest designs for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions. This post covers West Seattle.

On September 5th, Sound Transit released its latest concept work on the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions. We’re examining each segment in-depth, from north to south, station by station.

More detailed information, including Sound Transit’s score of each station site and track segment, can be found here. Sound Transit’s new outreach website has visualizations and other information. Here’s where you can read Part One (Ballard) and Part Two (Downtown & SLU).

Since the Level 1 analysis, ST eliminated the Delridge station options that were well off of Delridge Way, leaving only alignments that continue west on Genesee Street. Nearly all alignments that point west at Alaska Junction are also gone, as they mesh poorly with vague future plans to continue to White Center (the west-pointing ST3 representative project remains). The majority of surviving options tunnel under the Junction.  All have a potential ridership of between 10,000 and 12,500 within the station walksheds.

Staff continue to make it clear that a tunnel will add costs.  The three tunnel options here increase the overall project costs by anywhere from $500M to $1.2B, in addition to creating increased schedule risk. If a tunnel were to be selected, supplemental funding from the City would be required.

Credit: Sound Transit.

Duwamish Crossing

ST presented three alignments of the water crossing: a bridge north of the West Seattle Bridge, a bridge adjacent to the south edge of the West Seattle Bridge, and a bridge south of Harbor Island with a tunnel through Pigeon Hill.

The Pigeon Hill alignment seems likely to be eliminated. It would be the most complicated feat of engineering, and therefore the most expensive option at $1.2B more than the representative project; the river crossing would be the widest, and the tunnel would have to be a deep bore through the hill. ST staff seemed lukewarm about the alignment.  

The alignment north of the bridge would be the easiest and cheapest to build, but it would require disruptions of port operations to construct.

The middle alignment would require minimal trouble to the port, but it would require siting construction on the edge of the Duwamish Greenbelt, which would disturb the area’s biome.

Delridge

Sound Transit eliminated a station above Delridge Way due in part to Port conflicts, and seems likely to remove the Pigeon Ridge station, which would be elevated above SW Genesee Street.

That leaves two three contenders. One would be on the corner of SW Genesee and Delridge Way; another other would diagonally straddle 25th Avenue SW, and the representative project on Delridge Way SW north of Andover.

The guideway over 25th would be lower and fit better into the existing neighborhood, but it would limit TOD potential more than the corner alignment.

Avalon

The station straddling both sides of Fauntleroy Way near Avalon Way has two elevated options and one tunnel option.

If neighborhood concerns carry the day, and additional funding is secured, a tunnel is likely at the west edge of West Seattle. ST’s presentation indicated that neighborhood residents had raised objections to elevated stations at Avalon and the Junction.

Residents who participated in the design charrette are concerned about “station height and bulk, compatibility with neighborhood;” the slide about the Junction says the neighborhood has “concern about effects to neighborhood character if elevated” in the description of one station concept.

In any case, one Avalon station concept would be elevated to the west of 35th Ave SW. The other would straddle Fauntleroy, either as a cut and cover tunnel or an elevated station.

Junction

The Junction has four five remaining options: an elevated or tunneled station on 44th Avenue SW, a tunnel under 41st or 42nd Avenues SW, a tunnel under Fauntleroy Way SW, and the representative station on Alaska Way. 

Community feedback was most enthusiastic about the 41st/42nd tunnel alignment; the presentation notes that the station is the “most compatible with neighborhood character” and features “great urban design potential, excellent transit integration and non-motorized access, and considerable TOD potential.”

The 44th Ave SW elevated station includes negatives such as “neighborhood character” and likely “permanent effects to business parking,” and the Fauntleroy tunnel is written up skeptically; it’s the farthest from the Junction itself, but it is in a walkshed ripe for upzoning.

alaska junction station design alternatives

****

Taken as a whole, the current plans for the Link system are impressive. Sound Transit has organized a commendably thorough community outreach program and used it to draw up an exciting system.

The stations with the most variance and highest ridership—the Junction, Chinatown, and Ballard—all have the potential for controversy and conflict. The stakeholder process is half done, but the last half might be the most important part.

This post has been updated in places to clarify that the “ST3 representative project” is one of the five remaining alternatives. 

142 Replies to “Link Plans Part 3: West Seattle”

  1. How can ST even possibly consider an unnecessary tunnel here when they generally do a D- job of projecting costs, and only allowing a 10% buffer when it should be 30%?

    A tunnel here adds extremely little value. Like almost nothing. You need tunnels of you can’t elevate, but West Seattle can have 100% right-of-way separated light rail that is elevated.

    And even if they can afford it, it’s not like it’s going to be free. It’ll cost decent transfers at SODO, or bus integration, or station access. Or it’ll cost a station, and not necessarily Avalon Station, but it could be truncated due to costs, and not even go to Alaska Junction.

    Is that worth a light rail line that won’t be a “blight” in the West Seattle scenery? Build tunnels where tunnels are necessary like under downtown. But if there are cheaper options that give trains 100% right-of-way for much cheaper and for a minute or less longer travel time, it just seems silly that this is the war we fight.

    1. I agree. The whole idea is ridiculous. It is infuriating, really. For years folks like me pointed out what a poor value West Seattle Link is, and how West Seattle would be much better off with a new bus tunnel and improvements on the various bridges (that would allow a bus leaving West Seattle to get to the Ballard Bridge without encountering congestion). We also pointed out that the only way this could make it on the ballot is if it went elevated through the junction. Now folks are saying they want the city to spend extra money to dig tunnels to avoid causing “permanent effects to business parking”. Of course people want that! So what? I want Ballard Link to include a line from Ballard to the UW. I don’t want just a Judkins Park station, I want East Link to detour towards the Central Area and have a few stops before the I. D. station. Those sorts of improvements would dramatically improve the system, but guess what? They cost money! Lots and lots of money. Rather than serve Belltown, the Central Area, First Hill or Fremont, we are supposed to spend a bunch of money making sure that West Seattle has a tunnel station! It is ridiculous. That wasn’t the deal.

      Oh, and one of the key elements is that it would allow West Seattle Link to be extended (underground, no less). Again, WTF! It is bad enough that West Seattle jumped in line, and is getting rail way before they should (based on common sense analysis along with even ST’s usually optimistic ridership forecast) but now they want to make sure this one line can be expanded even farther. Why should we expand this thing south before building Ballard to UW, or the Metro 8 subway? Hell, why should we expand underground through the junction before splitting at Delridge and heading south from there? There are dozens of projects — even the silly Aurora subway plan — that make more sense than going south from the Junction. How big does ST think the subway system will be? We are already close to Chicago — is the plan to pass New York, and build the largest system in North America? Or is the plan to skip over the relatively high density areas (like Belltown) while we focus on some of the least populated parts of the city? Either way it is nuts.

      Look, I feel bad for folks in West Seattle who weren’t paying attention, and just wanted rail (because RapidRide isn’t rapid). But spending a bunch more to build something that wasn’t part of the plan — and adds nothing from a transit perspective — just doesn’t make sense. We have far more important things to spend money on.

      1. The point isn’t to build the line out to White Center and Burien before Ballard to UW or Metro 8 or anything else, it’s to set the line up now for when expanding it southwards happens. We’re setting up a system that will eventually be expanded outwards, whether that’s in ST4 5 or whenever. A southward pointing line now will be far easier to extend than a west-pointing stub.

        And for the record, I’m perfectly fine with it being elevated, so long as the end in this buildout is pointing south.

      2. The point isn’t to build the line out to White Center and Burien before Ballard to UW or Metro 8 or anything else, it’s to set the line up now for when expanding it southwards happens.

        OK, except that means after various other projects are built, which includes a split at Delridge. Assuming that happens, we will have the second largest subway system in North America. More miles of track than Mexico City, but less than New York. Do you really think that is realistic?

      3. Amen! Get us a tunnel to replace the Ballard drawbridge crossing before you even consider West Seattle! Sound Transit needs to get their priorities straight.

      4. The point isn’t how many miles we have compared to other American cities. Most other cities have way too little so that skews the average. A better comparison is the industrialized world’s average. But you have to give a weighting factor for the different land use, how housing/jobs are distributed, and the different political environment and ridership potential. We have to spend more for less because all those factors are against us. But at the same time you can’t just cut off entire primary cities from high-capacity transit: that’s how we got into this car-dependent mess in the first place, and it’s inequitable to the poor and children and disabled who spend a disproportionate amount of money (and other things) if they have to drive because transit is inadequate. Everywhere in the US has shown that ridership increases and decreases in proportion to the quality of the transit service. It’s a secondary argument whether Central Link should go to Everett and Tacoma. There are arguments both ways, and it’s OK to spend extra money on extravegance if that’s what you want. Pierce has had ample warning of the travel-time limitation.

      5. The point isn’t how many miles we have compared to other American cities. Most other cities have way too little so that skews the average….

        Why is that Mike? Why do so many Canadian cites, for example, have relatively tiny systems? Why do so many American cities — cities with very successful transit systems, that carry huge numbers of riders — not build something as big as the London Underground? Why is that, Mike?

        Because it is freaking expensive! It is expensive to build, and expensive to operate. Just read the literature, man. Yes, this country under-invests in transit, but it also repeatedly builds things it regrets building. City after city gets excited, builds something big, then runs out of money. Even when cities do it right, they run out of money. Even New York — rich as hell, highly transit dependent New York — doesn’t build the things it should. Or how about Boston? Now there is a good comparison. It is roughly the same size as us, roughly the same density. They are a very left wing, progressive city and they have very high transit ridership (about 450,000 heavy rail, about 200,000 light rail, and a respectable 370,000 by bus). Is Boston building miles and miles of new track? Are they about to pass Mexico City in terms of rail?

        Of course not. Because like every big city, they have more important things to spend money on. It is essential that you build the things that are a good value, because at some point you run out of money. That is just the way it is. Ask Denver, if you doubt me. They are raising prices and cutting service (always a wonderful combination). Not because they want to, but because the alternative is worse. At some point, you reach an end. You have to spend a lot on maintenance and operations. We aren’t there yet. Operations are still relatively cheap (since our line is still relatively small) and maintenance is relatively cheap as well (since our system is relatively small and new). All of that will change in the future, of course, and we won’t be able to afford new, big additions. That is just the way it is, and I really can’t think of a counter example. I can’t think of any city that just kept building and building (after it exceeded the urban core). Even a city like San Fransisco (that could sure use a real subway system) has muddled along for close to 50 years without providing a decent system for San Fransisco, let alone something that covers Oakland and Berkeley as well. It is just too expensive.

      6. “Why is that Mike? Why do so many Canadian cites, for example, have relatively tiny systems?”

        Canada is in North America and has suffered some of the same attitudes the US has had, just not as much. Amsterdam had a legacy transit system but in the 1970s it throwing it away for cars and highways and heading toward a Los Angeles future, when a child or bicyclist was killed by a car and they had a national change of heart and declared that they would put children’s and human safety and well-being before the needs of cars and drivers. That’s what led to its world-renowned bike network and transit modernization, and it may have been a factor in electrifying their entire national rail network.

        Another turning point between the US and Europe was the oil shocks in the 1970s. Europe determined to be independent of mideast oil, and Iceland and Norway set goals of energy self-sufficiency. That’s what led to the rebirth of light rail in Germany in the 80s, the TGVs in France, etc. The US laughed at Jimmy Carter when he suggested putting on a sweater rather than turning up the heat, and when Reagan came it was all reversed and has been more or less the same since then, with some gains under Obama.

        “Why do so many American cities — cities with very successful transit systems, that carry huge numbers of riders — not build something as big as the London Underground? Why is that, Mike?”

        You’re asking me to defend why cities make bad decisions. I think they should do what Chicago and New York did in the early 1900s. I think every American city should have a subway and commuter rail network like that in proportion to its size. As big as the London Underground? You must be crazy. The Underground has like 200 stations and ten lines.

        “Even New York — rich as hell, highly transit dependent New York — doesn’t build the things it should.”

        Now you’re saying that New York should built what it should have built? Or that it shouldn’t have built what it shouldn have? Subway construction halted in New York in the 1940s for political reasons: the public and Robert Moses were getting enamored by cars and highways. In the past few decades New York State has failed to give the city adequate transit support or expansion money, even though New York City is the economic engine of three states. I don’t how much the state supported it before that. And the federal government certainly hasn’t been giving out a lot of transit grants since the 1970s. New York prioritized badly and didn’t invest in its transit like it should have, and now we’re in a high-cost era due to regulations and medical-insurance and environmental restrictions, and New York apparently has problems saying no to unions or not taking bribes or something so the Second Avenue Subway was expensive. That’s the wrong way to think about it. The right way is to decide what the mobility needs of the people are and the optimal way to meet them and go build it, and if you run into financial restrictions then treat them as intermediate problems to be solved. I’m not convinced that New York has enough rail transit or has spent enough on it, and certainly Chicago needs to something about its slow buses and no transit lanes, and we’re much further behind in terms of the percent of the population who live near frequent 24-hour transit and have a way to bypass traffic jams.

        “Because like every big city, they have more important things to spend money on. It is essential that you build the things that are a good value, because at some point you run out of money.”

        You’re assuming things that may nor may not be true. I’ve never been to Boston. Why should we assume that their current level of transit is the optimal level? Has there been a study of this? Were the politicians wise when they decided to spend this much money on transit and this much on something else. You’re assuming everyone except Pugetopolis made the best decisions. Or as Dr Pangloss in Candide said, “This is the best of all possible worlds.”

      7. You are just not getting Mike. The reason that cities (worldwide) have not built huge metros (or subways) is that they are really expensive. There are only about a dozen systems in the world that are over 150 miles long and most of those are in China. The others are in London, New York, Moscow, Seoul, and Madrid. You are even suggesting that we build a system larger than Tokyo’s. Tokyo!

        Dude, you ever see those T-Shirts that say something like London, Paris, Rome, Wenatchee. They are supposed to be funny. The whole idea is that Wenatchee is of course not in the same category as those mega-cities. But neither is Seattle. Seattle is not New York. It is nowhere near as big. and it certainly is nowhere near as big as Tokyo, and yet you are suggesting we build a subway system bigger than it.

        Meanwhile, your closing argument is backwards. I never said all those cities made the right decision. That is preposterous. I am saying it is absurd to think that a city that does the opposite — that does something no other city has done — is probably doing it wrong. More to the point, we simply won’t do it. The reason no other city has done this is because it is freaking expensive. If those other cities — cities have have largely been doing it right — can’t afford to expand on their system to the degree we are dreaming of, why do you think we can build a far less efficient system? It is not like building this is cheaper, or that we will have more riders. Quite the opposite. We are building a very expensive light rail system, and doing it in such a way that future expansion won’t be cheap or highly effective.

        Sorry man, but building subways is not like writing software. Subways is a measure twice, cut once proposition. We never bothered to measure, and just started cutting. The result is that we will have built a system like BART, but with a substantially fewer riders (because we are a substantially smaller city). Don’t you think folks in the Bay Area have had a collective “Oops” moment, when they saw the ridership? Don’t you think they have said the same thing that folks like d. p. and many others here (including me) have said? That ridership from the burbs — despite all the advantages that really fast trains and very few stops bring them — is still not really high, and that ridership is driven by urban trips. Don’t you think they have looked longingly at D. C. and said “maybe we should have built something like that instead”? Of course they have. But in the last 30 years (when all of this was obvious) they haven’t. Even though the city itself has grown more popular and the suburban flight has reversed itself. Even as it has become obvious that both San Fransisco and East Bay need way more stops, they haven’t added new lines or back filled a bunch of stations. Because it is expensive! It is extremely expensive just to maintain BART, let alone add new lines.

        Yes, the U. S. under invests in transit infrastructure. But it under invests in all infrastructure. Would you rather fix the water system or build a mile of new subway? Ask Flint — or for that matter the school children in Detroit — if you aren’t sure. What about the sewage system? What about the roads? Oh, I know, we have built too many freeways in the past, but at the same time, if a bridge goes down, people die. Roads are essential, not just for moving people, but for moving goods. Cut off the roads and the trucks can’t get the food in. I’m not talking about new roads, but simply the old ones, which clearly aren’t well maintained.

        We have all those infrastructure needs, and we haven’t even touched on what cities spend most of their money on: cops. Do you cut spending on police so that you can build a fancy new underground light rail line to Burien? I have a feeling the shop keeper who has been robbed three times this year wouldn’t like that. How about dealing with the root causes of crime and spending a bunch of money on social services. For that matter, how about spending money on homelessness. The list goes on.

        I never said everyone got it right. Quite the opposite (most American cities get it wrong). But I’m saying that no one has done what you are suggesting we do. There really are a couple choices with regards to trains to Burien. Either we follow the failed model of too many cities and build things we shouldn’t build while neglecting to build what we should, or we pretend we are London and build a system as big as the underground. The first is not a path I want to continue on and the second is just absurd.

      8. >> I am saying it is absurd to think that a city that does the opposite — that does something no other city has done — is probably doing it wrong.

        Oops — did a double negative there. I meant to say it is absurd to think that a city that does something unique like that is doing it right. They are probably doing it wrong. Anyway, I think folks got the idea of what I’m saying.

      9. Even significant parts of the London Underground are on or above the surface. It’s somewhere around 55% above ground. 250 system miles, with 20 miles of cut and cover tunnel and and 93 miles of horizontal dug tunnel.

      10. “The reason that cities (worldwide) have not built huge metros (or subways) is that they are really expensive.”

        Do you think the freeways and airports weren’t expensive? It takes expensive infrastructure to move a million people. We’ve built the wrong infrastructure which is inequitable and forces people into high-energy-dependant lifestyles. The way to fix this is to build the right infrastructure. Seattle used to have streetcars everywhere with the right of way over cars and signals. New York and Chicago built on up on that to make it scale to millions of people. Seattle didn’t, and now it needs to make up for it. We wouldn’t need as much tunneling if we had kept the surface rights of way we used to have. Portland and Vancouver had disused railroad tracks to run our system on. We have no legacy rail tracks to West Seattle, Rainier Valley, Roosevelt, or Federal Way (which have been built in Kent and Auburn because of that).

      11. RossB, I like the cutting without measuring analogy!

        I can think of lots of bad systems. Dallas, San Jose and Buffalo have serious prrformane problems! However, I think BART was better planned and funded than our system was.

        1. Bay Area rail transit plans were studied decades before BART was funded. Even extensions go through d Cade’s of discussion and study.

        2. They decided on a technology to move fast (80 mph) and be better suited to longer distances than Link (50 mph).

        3. Each extension is funded by the county where it’s located, so San Francisco voters are not paying for extension projects in other counties. Further, transportation funds are managed by a third-party countywide agency that requires that all of the transit operators, cities and Caltrans work together if they want their funding.

        4. Every extension includes an evaluation of its impact to existing stations. San Mateo had to pay to add BART fare gates in San Francisco, for example. ST never seems very to look at impacts to existing stations.

        5. BART recovers about 75 percent of its operating costs through fares. Link is happy with 40 percent.

        BART isn’t perfect, but it’s clearly a better-planned and better-run system than Link is.

      12. I don’t fault BART planners. You can see the thought process behind it from the videos and it sounds quite plausible. It was an experiment, and seemed quite likely to be very successful. It isn’t a big failure, but compared to what I would call a traditional subway, the experiment failed.

        The vast majority of riders travel within the core city (San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley). A traditional subway — aimed at serving that urban core with lots of stops and lots of lines — would have provided that, and a lot more.

        You can look at the numbers and see this. Washington DC has almost exactly the same amount of subway miles, along with a similar size city, yet 200,000 more riders. Boston has a lot more rail riders, too (if you throw in the light rail line). But it isn’t just ridership, it is the time it takes to actually get somewhere. As I mentioned, more people ride Muni than Bart (and if you throw in Oakland bus service, a lot more). That isn’t the case with Boston or D. C. That wouldn’t matter if the buses and streetcars were fast, but they’re not. Muni is the slowest bus/streetcar system in the nation. The lack of stops means that lots of people are dependent on something other than BART, and that a trip from a popular place in Oakland to a popular place in San Fransisco means a very slow three seat ride (even if that ride across the Bay is quick). The only people who come out ahead (compared to a typical subway system) are the folks who travel from the more distant suburbs to a central stop, and not many of those folks ride it.

        But again, I don’t blame the Bay Area for trying. It was worth a shot. No one had every built anything like it. What bothers me is that other agencies made the same stupid mistake. Dallas is a great example — it follows the same model (focused on distance, as opposed to serving the core) and the results are very bad.

      13. @Mike — You still are missing the point. We can talk all day about how we should have spent money on something else (e. g. we should have listened to Ike when he warned us about all that military spending) or ask ourselves why things are so much more expensive here than in other parts of the world (even Europe). That still doesn’t answer the question:

        Why do you think we will have a subway that is one of the biggest in the world, when we are nowhere near that big? Dude, no one does that. Not in Europe, not in Japan, not even in China. Even most old, gigantic, extremely popular subways that serve extremely large cities don’t build at that rate. And no one — I mean no one in the world — our size has built anything close to that big.

      14. At the risk of piling on, let me just recommend Wikipedia. (God I love Wikipedia — note to self, give them more money). Here is a nice listing of Metro systems around the world. You can quibble about what qualifies or not, but it is a great starting point. Now start playing around with the dynamic table. Start by sorting by system length, with the biggest ones on top. China dominates, with 7 of the top 13. But as you scroll down a bit, the U. S. actually does quite well. Four of the top 25 are U. S. systems. Other than China and the U. S., no one in the top 25 has more than one. The Europeans really don’t dominate, as you suggest. Socialist Stockholm has about 65 miles of track. Oslo, contained within a much wealthier, but still similarly left leaning nation, has 53. Milan, Kiev, Budapest and Vienna all have ridership well over a million people a day, yet less than sixty miles of track (Budapest has less than 25). Even France, which has one of the most advanced transportation systems in the world doesn’t build subways the way that Americans have. Other than Paris, all of the various metros are small — under 30 miles. What is true of Europe is true of every other country but China and the U. S. At most, they have built really big systems to serve the really big cities, but none of them have built really big systems to serve secondary cities, let alone tertiary cities (like Seattle).

        Now sort by ridership (again with biggest first). You can see New York City in the top ten, but every other U. S. city drops off the screen. You have to scroll down — way down — before you get to the U. S. cities. Past all those cities that had surprisingly small networks. That is because those other cities, while they have not built huge systems, manage to carry huge numbers of people. Again, it is clear. No one is doing what you think we should be doing. No one has built a system as big as what you propose for as small a city as Seattle. All those big cities (many much bigger than us) all with very successful, very high volume systems, and yet none of them have expanded to the level you suggest.

        Dude, it just ain’t gonna happen.

      15. Those European cities are small and compact so they don’t need as much length. I think Stockholm is around the size of Seattle. The only European cities the size of New York or larger are London and Moscow.

      16. Ross … it doesn’t affect your argument, but I believe the Delhi metro, with the recently opened sections, is now over 150 miles – and growing (and, of course, isn’t in China).

    2. The net result may be that West Seattle is delayed to a more sensible opening date (meaning no temporary stub in SODO), and it may stall at Seattle funding. It’s one thing for the city to say “West Seattle is important, we must build the next light rail line there.” It’s another thing for Seattle to dedicate levy money to it when it has so many other transit needs. How will they explain to folks in southeast Seattle that they can’t get their bus upgrade because a West Seattle tunnel is more urgent? What if that’s the decision that determines whether the 7 and 48 will be upgraded to RapidRide in that round?

      ST’s regional concerns and budget restrictions still have some weight, so just because a tunnel is among the options doesn’t mean it will be selected. We’ve already seen the deletion of other nonstandard alternatives like the combined Delridge-Avalon station and a Delridge station in an odd location. As for the charaette, it’s just input. People said what they wanted. They didn’t have all the information ST privately has or that it discovered after the charette. They aren’t city councilmembers whom ST defers most to. Plus the federal grant situation keeps changing. This is a suburban-ish area so of course they rated parking and “neighborhood character” highly. If you asked people in Greenwood or Roosevelt they would say the same thing. Oh, Roosevelt did, about the tunnel and density, and Greenwood spoke up against a no-parking development. What matters is whether ST weighs their demands higher than other neighborhoods’ in the final alignment. In one sense of course they will because having Link in West Seattle at all is due to unequal weighting. But if you control for that factor and the low-density West Seattle environment (and the social attitudes that accompany it), then are they getting anything further with their tunnel demands and other demands? We’ll see.

      1. I’m hopeful to in my lifetime see widespread West Seattle upzones (or, more hopefully, zoning being thrown out altogether), for communally/publicly-owned housing.

  2. 0.5 to 1.2 Billion. Sub area Equity aside there is no money of that. If you ask people should we spend 0.5 to 1.2 billion on solving homelessness or putting tunnel in west Seattle people will choose solving homelessness. The barley passed 135M to maintain Safeco Field which the cities owns. It sound like which the three tunnel options are out. It a shame West Seattle didn’t spend more time developing useful improvement to the line instead of a bunch of fantasy lines nobody can afford.

    1. An easy way to put $1 billion in perspective in terms of something tangible is this: $1 billion = 1 Duwamish Bypass (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/11/10/duwamish-bypass-lots-of-bucks-little-bang/).

      A Duwamish Bypass is very low on the list of priorities, even though it would have many long term benefits to the spine, and benefit everyone in a 1½ County area. If you are considering a $1 billion addition, think “if the Duwamish Bypass was in ST3, would that be worth giving up to build this?” and if the answer is no, then it’s a billion dollars more worth investing in other priorities.

      1. Another comparable project would be a funicular tunnel connecting First Hill with Downtown — another option that was never planned but would add tens of thousands of system riders. Even the discarded Eighth Ave station would probably be cheaper.

      2. The Money has to come from an out side source like how Bellevue had to pay 50 Million for its tunnel. Is the City of Seattle going to come up with the extra money? Will Bill Gate, Jeff Bezos, or Paul Allen give the money to Sound Transit? Could they get the extra money form the feds? Mayor Durknen is cutting budgets which would indicate Seattle is already living beyond its means. According to her independent review an additional 100 million dollars is required for a line the nets an additional 20000 daily riders is up in the air. So 1.2 Billion to preserve the character of a neighborhood and net far fewer additional riders might be a bit much. Fed aren’t keen on doling out additional transit funds. And No one has asked our Local billionaires for transit funding. So tunnels being a good or bad it doesn’t matter their is no money for them.

      3. If the NIMBYs can pony up the money to tunnel it, then I’m totally cool with that. Everyone pays for the light rail, and they pay for their own blue-sky views. I wonder if the city can have a West-Seattle only measure for a WS-only levy. If people in the neighborhood face the actual costs of paying the $1.2B premium themselves, I suspect a lot of “not in my backyard” people will become “I suppose in my backyard” (ISIMBY) people.

        But if we want to do a city-wide levy, let’s do Ballard-UW and a First Hill Spur first.

      4. You could probably pay for a couple other stations (at 65th and 85th) to Ballard Link as well.

        My guess is you could also start on the Metro 8 subway, which in turn would mean altering Ballard Link. Run Ballard Link through Belltown instead of South Lake Union. Then create a line from Uptown over to Capitol Hill. Just like that you solve the stop spacing issues in South Lake Union, get Belltown its well deserved stop and make the connection between Capitol Hill and Lower Queen much better. That would also mean the connection between places north of Capitol Hill (like UW and Northgate) to South Lake Union would be much better as well.

        Or, for a lot less, you could serve First Hill. All of that would add substantially to the transit network, and make thousands of trips that are taken every day much faster. This improvement won’t improve transit in the least.

      5. The Duwamish Bypass would benefit completely different people, and it wouldn’t benefit them that much. People would save a few minutes to the airport and south King County. South King and Pierce were so uninterested in this that they let it be deleted from ST’s long-range plan without raising a single word of protest. Pierce is all about its connection to the airport. Federal Way is about that too I guess, or getting out of traffic, or more off-peak frequency, or something like that.

      6. “Is the City of Seattle going to come up with the extra money?”

        We don’t know because this possibility is so new that nobody has considered it yet. But Bellevue committed to its funding before the deal was sealed, and ST paid for half of it by economizing elsewhere in North King (i.e., downgrading part of Bel-Red from elevated to surface with a level crossing). And it’s next to freaking City Hall and a Microsoft tower and five blocks from Bellevue Square. West Seattle has nothing comparable to that.

        “Will Bill Gate, Jeff Bezos, or Paul Allen give the money to Sound Transit?”

        Not if it’s not in SLU. They haven’t done so so far, so why start now? (It’s interesting that all three people have interests in SLU: Gates has the foundation, Bezos has Amazon’s HQ, and Allen is the developer.)

        “Could they get the extra money form the feds?”

        Unknown until we see how highly the tunnel would score compared to other cities’ projects. Rogoff probably has a good idea on that but I don’t, and some of the grants seem to be unintuitive. The feds will want to know about total ridership, development potential, impacts if it’s not built, and benefits/impacts to poor and minority communities. Of course that’s assuming that transit grants still exist when ST is ready to apply in the 2020s.

      7. Seattle No
        Billionaires No
        Feds No

        A google search says there is only 27,000 people in West Seattle So a Lid for 1.2B Seam unlikly.
        Al. S (at the Bottom) mention a land swap with the Golf course it tough so see 1.2B in property at the golf course with out a serious Up-zone

        Can anyone think of any other funding sources?

      8. The Urbanist posted about initiative 1631. The money if a fee marked specifically for emittion reducing initiatives. This might Qualify.

      9. Maybe, but this is not a building or a source of renewable energy, and it may or may not be a mitigation for poor people impacted by the carbon tax. The Urbanist article doesn’t mention transit, and the linked “Solutions Map” has only one transportation example in King County:purchasing battery buses for Metro. (And they may not have thought this through. Metro is expanding and plans a significant increase in service, so adding electric buses doesn’t necessarily mean that existing diesel buses will be retired. It just means that the existing pollution will continue but the additional service will be electric.)

      10. No matter how you cut it, this won’t fly. Maybe if it was thrown in with a huge transit package (which includes Ballard to UW rail) then I could see it. But otherwise, most of the city (including lots of people who live in West Seattle) would wonder why you want to spend all that money for that.

      11. I’m assuming Ian had a typo — as there are 125,000+ people in West Seattle. And just like there wasn’t density in Ballard 15 years ago, there will be a helluva lot more people living over in the Junction and Avalon areas by the time this gets built.

    2. Isn’t $1.2 billion the total cost of the Ballard-Westlake segment, and more than the cost of a Ballard-UW line?

    3. Any reason that, aside from the thousands of people who need a mental hospital for a home, we can’t spend 1.2 billion dollars in wages and benefits to simultaneously help cure homelessness by letting working people buy homes? And also once again become taxpayers?

  3. Wouldn’t call one design charette per segment to spend a billion dollars “commendable”. The materials are good, but it’s way too much money and way to important to put lots of value in a single meeting.

    Deciding what affects tens of thousands of riders for 50 to 100 years and costs billions is decided in 2 hours. Really? Really?

    1. A charette is an event where non-experts weigh alternatives and generate ideas. It’s not surprising that they come up with non-expert answers, or that they haven’t generated from the Walker School of Transit, or that they value their personal concerns disproportionately, or that the don’t have all the information to fully weigh their options in the total context. Yes, it’s worth listening to the charette. No, we shouldn’t base decisions solely on it. Who didn’t know about the charette or couldn’t attend? The way to counter the charette is to submit a massive amount of counter-feedback at open houses and in writing. ST is thinking in terms of “75% of the feedback says this”. So we want to make it 50% of the feedback and prove that we (non-charetteers) represent more citizens and a wider cross-section of the community. And “the community” includes everyone in North King at least.

      1. And these charettes were primarily attended by Sound Transit’s own consultants and attendees from partner government agencies. They were NOT filled with dozens of local residents with lots of “wild ideas.” I was one of the few residents at the Delridge charette, and my breakout group identified the “Blue” station as probably the most beneficial one. This is the one that cuts diagonally across the neighborhood, wiping out approximately six blocks of mostly SFH, and presenting the best opportunities for TOD and improvements to parks, recreation, and multimodal transportation facilities.

  4. I think the next round should have to require that the options are more cost-neutral. What would have to get dropped to get a lower track to make it more cost-neutral? Alaska Junction and Avalon residents shouldn’t get to go on a shopping spree with all of North King’s money just to keep their neighborhood “pretty” but add few to no riders. They should instead have to stay roughly within their segment budget.

    1. I agree. It is simply a response to a community that already got its candy well before the more deserving kids, but now is whining about sprinkles.

      1. I think the problem in West Seattle is demographics. The anti-housing activists have been so successful at limiting new housing construction that those who don’t plan to ever use West Seattle Link outnumber those who can’t wait for it to open and want a gorgeous sky-train-style view.

        Ballard has absorbed more growth (but still needs to go much higher around the station), and those wanting a sky train outnumber those wanting to preserve suburgatory and put the pesky light rail out of sight and out of mind.

      2. That will happen naturally when it hits budget reality in a later stage. ST may have advanced West Seattle to the front of the line but it’s not just going to rubber-stamp an expensive addition that wasn’t in the plan or budget and has no external funding. You know what else wasn’t in the plan for a long time? 130th Station, and it took ST how many years and phases to add it? I don’t even remember, was it eight, fifteen, years ago when 130th & Aurora first appeared in an ST alternative and got the public thinking about 130th & I-5? The Snohomish boardmembers won’t be so keen to add it until after Everett is accelerated.

      3. I think the West Seattle anti-housing activists are a minority (mostly older, long term residents) compared to those who will use link from the peninsula (a growing younger professional demographic, tech bros and sisters), but they’re louder and have more time on their hands to make their opinions heard by city hall; Otherwise, link arguably wouldn’t have got a majority vote from West Seattle. When I see the increasing number of commuters on packed Rapid Ride anf 21X express buses going to Downtown and back to West Seattle during the rush hours, I can safely say that there is a majority that will use link, particularly when you consider how much growth we could get in the next 12 years or so with increasing apartment construction in the peninsula.

        That being said….I’m totally……fine…..with…..elevated…….West…..Seattle…..link……..just build the damn thing.

  5. Who is reaching out to the Port to discuss whether the cheaper Duwamish crossing would be an option, and what the Port’s terms of that would be? My guess is that the greater expense of the representative alignment (south of the bridge) would be offset by the level of control ST would retain from the Port.

    As to the Delridge station, I’m confused about the 25th Ave alignment preferred by the writer – what will happen to the residential block sited at this location? Will the train be built over this neighborhood’s rooftops, or would the residents be removed through eminent domain and the homes demolished?

    Regarding the Junction (and Avalon) stations, my preference would be for an elevated or tunnel station at Fauntleroy and Alaska to serve the Junction. It obviates concerns from the Junction Association about preserving the character of the historic Junction and provides a TOD opportunity around a thriving residential cluster that’s only a few blocks away from the representative destination, and would still be amply used by residents of the historic Junction. The Fauntleroy and Avalon alignment also somewhat eliminates the need for the Avalon station, or could allow the Avalon station to be moved farther down the hill towards Luna Park. I know the idea to eliminate the Avalon station was very unpopular, but the budget for this project is not unlimited by any means and West Seattle tends to get the short end of the stick politically – the savings from an unnecessary station could provide an opportunity for the area to negotiate for desirable improvements (tunnel, etc).

    1. >> West Seattle tends to get the short end of the stick politically …

      You have got to be kidding. Are you serious?

      Look, the West Seattle rail project is a very poor value. It is by far the worst ST3 project in the city in terms of ridership per dollar spent (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/). In terms of time saved per dollar spent, it is of course much worse. That is for the “cheap” version of West Seattle rail (the one without the tunnel). That is also in comparison to projects that are being built. Ballard to UW rail is a better value than anything that is being built in ST3. The Metro 8 subway is also likely a better value.

      Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, First Hill (!), Belltown(!!), and the Central Area all should have major infrastructure projects before West Seattle. They would, too, if there was an objective analysis of transit needs in this town. But there isn’t. We have a political system — with very little oversight in terms of planning — and the head of the county (who was also the head of ST3 planning) happens to live in West Seattle. Now, instead of seriously discussion adding a couple stations in Ballard (to serve 65th and 85th) folks are seriously considering burying the station, just so that it doesn’t have “permanent effects to business parking”. Hey, guess what? First Hill could care less about parking. They were promised a station twenty years ago, and still won’t get one, while far less densely populated parts of West Seattle will get three.

      WIth all of that you think West Seattle gets the short end of the stick politically?

      1. Whoa, hold on – I didn’t say West Seattle’s political situation wasn’t justified. I think the argument you’re making is supportive of my point about the political limitations of West Seattle to press for improvements to the proposed West Seattle alignment. You’re just taking it a step further by saying it’s due to the area’s population density, transit use, etc. I think this kind of resistance to improvements of the West Seattle alignment will only mount with time, which is why, if the area does want a preferred (but not strictly representative) alignment, tunnel, etc, the Avalon station could be used as leverage to obtain it.

        As a resident of WS, I can tell you the current transit infrastructure does not have the capacity to move commuters to downtown, and the situation is going to get worse when the Viaduct closes next year (or whenever). What bucket the money for improvements should come from may be up to debate, but whether improvements are needed is not.

        It’s also worth noting that residents throughout WS would likely be funneled to the light rail through bus connector lines as was done in NE Seattle after the UW Station opened. I’m not sure if you’re considering that in your ridership estimates.

      2. I won’t pile it on, but West Seattle has gotten the long end of the stick for years and years. The main reason West Seattle is getting Link now is that Dow Constantine and several other current and former councilmembers live in West Seattle and want it in their own neighborhood (and personally see the benefits of it). That doesn’t mean there are no benefits on 45th or Denny Way, just that the bigwigs don’t see them firsthand. Another reason is compensation for the failed monorail; the sense that Seattle “owes” West Seattle a train because it was going to get the monorail. The other factors of increased density in the Triangle, being a fifth of the city furthest from Link, and having only one-bridge access to the rest of the region, are secondary weight. And to emphasize RossB’s point: bus lanes on the bridge and in West Seattle could take care of all of West Seattle’s mid-term mobility needs, at 55 mph on the bridge and 30-25 mph in the neighborhoods.

      3. “the current transit infrastructure does not have the capacity to move commuters to downtown, and the situation is going to get worse when the Viaduct closes next year (or whenever). What bucket the money for improvements should come from may be up to debate, but whether improvements are needed is not.”

        I’ll take your word for it. But there’s no way that transit lanes and more buses can’t serve the total demand from those lowrise areas. Did you support a high-quality BRT alternative when it had a chance of getting into ST3? But don’t worry, that ship has sailed. It’s now certain that West Seattle will have light rail if the budget holds up and no unusual cost overruns occur. We’re only arguing about how many extra amenities it can or should get. I’m sure you’d agree that an elevated line would meet West Seattle’s mobility requirements; the entire debate is whether an elevated line is too ugly or out of character for the neighborhood. (What character is that, BTW? Who said elevated rail is out of character?)

      4. Mike, thank you for letting me off easy. :) I appreciate the point that West Seattle is fortunate to be part of the light rail network at all. While I do think West Seattle is still a bit of a political outsider in the landscape of Seattle neighborhoods, I’ll concede it’s changed a lot in recent years and it’s true that a couple people in positions of power can have an outsized influence. Historically, for a variety of reasons, West Seattle has not really been considered to be part of Seattle – it is sort of a separate place left to its own devices and woes. That’s part of what’s good about it, I guess. And given that, yes, I suppose it’s questionable how a decision was made to bring light rail there before Wallingford or Fremont, given the political capital you’d expect from these areas. I think the situation is complicated and has something to do with the fact that until recently (and even into today) Seattle has had a very car dependent culture, and the question of whether to tear train tunnels into residential areas like Wallingford or Ravenna would have been mystifying to the taxpayers bases there. I think West Seattle’s more marginalized position put it auspiciously in the right position for light rail, with the right people pushing at the right time, in addition to other factors you mentioned.

        Another factor I think is that ST3 was a regional measure, not a local Seattle one, so Seattle politics didn’t come as much into play. If King County Metro were expanding the light rail system, I think we’d be seeing a very different system taking shape – Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace perhaps wouldn’t get a second thought, but Belltown and First Hill would have priority. The 45th St crosstown line would probably have a lot of capital. But the city of Seattle doesn’t seem to be doing much on top of what Sound Transit is doing. And if they were, where would the money come from? The timeline for West Seattle/Ballard is quite long, and money clearly is limited – if Seattle cares about this issue, I think these are questions worth asking.

        To your point: “there’s no way that transit lanes and more buses can’t serve the total demand from those lowrise areas.”

        You really could make this argument of any neighborhood in the city. When it comes to expanding out the light rail system, the question as to who gets served first is really a political one. We all have buses to fall back on. Ross is right to look at the data around population density and transit use, because a more data based approach can avoid friction between different areas who are competing for transit investment. It’s harder to concede numbers than aesthetics! I think the reality is a lot of people may want transit investment in their neighborhoods, but most of us will have to settle for buses, and rapid transit lanes are an honorable and cost-effective solution to congestion issues.

        To be clear, I live in part of South Delridge that will not particularly benefit from new WS line – I still am enthusiastic about ST3 and the light rail expansion process in general.

      5. > “I’m sure you’d agree that an elevated line would meet West Seattle’s mobility requirements; the entire debate is whether an elevated line is too ugly or out of character for the neighborhood. (What character is that, BTW? Who said elevated rail is out of character?)”

        Also, Mike – yes, I think an elevated line would meet West Seattle’s mobility requirements, but I used to live in that neighborhood and I get the aesthetic “character” concerns. I think a practical solution, considering the cost of a tunnel, would be to place the elevated station at Fauntleroy and Alaska, which is a wider boulevard with a newer nexus of mostly higher rise buildings. It’s very walkable from this intersection to the historic Junction. I think if WS insists on having the station directly at the Junction, they may end up with an elevated station hanging overhead.

      6. “ST3 was a regional measure, not a local Seattle one, so Seattle politics didn’t come as much into play.”

        You can’t believe this. If the Seattle politicians and their ST boardmembers and Dow hadn’t made West Seattle Link their #1 priority, ST3 would have been entirely different. I’ll even give Dow a pass because I don’t know whether he tipped the scale or just voted for it. We can speculate what ST3 would have been then but it’s a counterfactual. (Most likely UW-Ballard-Downtown, with West Seattle BRT. The size of ST3 would have been smaller, so maybe only one of the Ballard lines would have been chosen and DSTT2 not built. There’s no reason to believe ST would acknowledge a Metro 8 line in this scenario because its non-interest is not related to other projects; it’s an absolute assessment.)

        “If King County Metro were expanding the light rail system, I think we’d be seeing a very different system taking shape – Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace perhaps wouldn’t get a second thought, but Belltown and First Hill would have priority.”

        King County did build the DSTT and designed Metro’s network around it, so that’s one reference point. Early drafts envisioned several West Seattle and Burien routes using the tunnel, and a larger number of total routes. The final resolution was one all-day corridor to every part of the county — a microcosm of Link to every subarea. Additional peak expresses were mostly those that could use the I-5 express lanes or I-90 tunnel entrance. (I thought they should be ejected to allow more all-day corridors, but the express lanes were a big part of the motivation of DSTT and Convention Place station.)

        Lynnwood and MT are irrelevant because they’re outside of the King County tax district. King County might have built a system like Forward Thrust. Forward Thrust had Ballard, Lake City, Bellevue/Redmond, Issaquah, and Renton, and BRT in West Seattle. (No Northgate, Southcenter, SeaTac, Kent, etc, these weren’t major centers in the 1960s.) Lynnwood might have been included if it was still in the tax district — CT’s Snohomish expresses used to be Metro — and it does have closer ties to north Seattle and downtown Seattle than the south end has.Belltown and First Hill might have gotten more attention, but over a 45th line? Not likely given the persistent blind spot the city/county have had about them all this time and still now. The argument seems to be that they’re close enough downtown that “their” stations are the downtown ones.

        “The 45th St crosstown line would probably have a lot of capital. But the city of Seattle doesn’t seem to be doing much on top of what Sound Transit is doing. And if they were, where would the money come from?”

        Seattle is dragging its feet. The suburbs are dragging them even more. Bellevue has an excellent Transit Master Plan with frequent corridors in all the places we think they should be, but it hasn’t lifted a finger to invest in it: it’s waiting for somebody else to pay for it (most likely a countywide tax measure, which is supposedly in the works but is taking a long time. Hold onto your wallets, the county wants a highway measure too, for all those Black Diamond – Seattle commuters.)

        “The timeline for West Seattle/Ballard is quite long, and money clearly is limited.”

        The timeline is long, and the temporary SODO stub is questionable. What’s the point of bring light rail to West Seattle “early” if it terminates in SODO. That’s only slightly less ridiculous than a Ballard-Smith Cove segment. (Everybody must transfer to the D, never mind that it came from the same place Link did.)

        “there’s no way that transit lanes and more buses can’t serve the total demand from those lowrise areas.”

        You really could make this argument of any neighborhood in the city.

        Not the U-District. The 71/72/73X were melting down with overcrowding and traffic, and more buses would just lead to more bunching. There’s no physical space to add lanes there without widening the freeway or bridges or building a new bridge or going down a steep hill. Ballard-Fremont is an urban center (i.e., the largest-scale jobs-housing center) in all but name. West Seattle is getting an impressive amount of density in the Triangle but it’s still not as much: it’s like Ballard without Fremont or the south Ballard industrial area.

        “I get the aesthetic “character” concerns.”

        I don’t know about the charge that Link would bulldoze the entire Junction area. its footprint is large at Capitol Hill but it’s still only one block. I do wonder how an elevated line would snake through the area.

        But the factor that I most care about is a station within an easy walk of California Avenue, because I see a lot of potential for that urban village extending north and south. I’ve found myself doing more and more of my recreation in West Seattle since the C started, and the atmosphere of the California Avenue near the Junction feels like University Way in the 80s did, so I’m happy about that.

      7. “where would the money come from?”

        “Seattle is dragging its feet.”

        And there are state restrictions on what taxes can be used, at what rate, for what purposes. Seattle has a small amount of unused property tax which it’s saving for emergencies and I think housing. The monorail tax authority exists but it’s a unicorn, and it can only raise less than a billion, and it must be “fixed-guideway transit excluding light rail”, whatever that means and however enforceable it is. Levies are limited to five years and must be renewed after that; that’s why Move Seattle is short-term. There’s unused head-tax authority, but that’s what Seattle tried to use for the housing emergency and got steamrollered by Amazon so it’s a hot potato now. Everything else is not allowed unless the legislature deigns to give the city permission to levy it for a narrow purpose. And the legislature is full of people who think Seattle spends too much already on unnecessary things.

      8. > Lynnwood and MT are irrelevant because they’re outside of the King County tax district.

        I’m not sure how tax districts played a role in the planning process, but I disagree that the proposals for regional or suburban stations outside of Seattle and King County were irrelevant to the outcome that voters passed ST3. In fact, I think the light rail network being presented as a regional commuter transit system linking Seattle north to Everett and south to Auburn and Tacoma was intentional and an important part of the broader appeal of the measure. Of course this says nothing about why the Seattle lines highlighted West Seattle and Ballard, and you may be right about Dow Constantine’s and ST board members’ outsized role in deciding on these destinations. However, I’d point out that the light rail system already serves the NE and SE quadrants of Seattle, so the selection of NW and SW Seattle for expansion could be regarded as an egalitarian choice. (Which isn’t to say that is the case, just that it’s not entirely illogical)

        As to First Hill and Belltown, I think I’ve written about this before, but it’s hard for me to feel sorry for their being left out when they are both currently 15 minutes’ walk away from existing light rail stations (First Hill to University St, Belltown to Westlake), and Belltown will be served by a Westlake and Denny station too. I’m not saying we shouldn’t bring these neighborhoods closer in to the light rail network (I think the Madison line is a good idea), but I think there is a crucial distinction to be made between inconvenient service and no service. Anyway, part of the benefit of localizing some improvements to Seattle’s transit infrastructure might be increased support for expansion of the light rail within downtown and the neighborhoods around the downtown core.

        Interesting to look at the lessons from Forward Thrust and how neighborhoods in Seattle have changed. That’s part of what’s difficult about these decisions – we’re trying to conceive a transit system now for neighborhoods that, in 2030 or so, may look very different than they do today.

        > The timeline is long, and the temporary SODO stub is questionable. What’s the point of bring light rail to West Seattle “early” if it terminates in SODO. That’s only slightly less ridiculous than a Ballard-Smith Cove segment.

        Agreed here. This will be inconvenient, especially if some of us are expected to transfer from a local bus to the light rail, then transfer again at Sodo station to another train or bus. It will either limit use of the new light rail line or increase the difficulty of commutes. Maybe both!

        > And the legislature is full of people who think Seattle spends too much already on unnecessary things.

        The legislature is probably right! That Highway 99 tunnel didn’t get very good publicity. I wonder how many miles of subway we could have built out with the budget for that project…

      9. Just a point about comparing First Hill to West Seattle. The distance from Harborview to Pioneer Square Station (the closest station rather than University Street) is roughly about the same as from the Alaska/California intersection to the proposed Avalon station sites — and much less of an elevation change. If you consider First Hill’s Harborview “served by Link”, then stopping the West Seattle extension at Avalon would mean that Alaska Junction is “served” too.

      10. “I’m not sure how tax districts played a role in the planning process, but I disagree that the proposals for regional or suburban stations outside of Seattle and King County were irrelevant to the outcome that voters passed ST3.”

        This was a hypothetical about if Sound Transit didn’t exist and King County were considering its own light rail system. This is analagous to how the downtown transit tunnel was built: it was paid by county/Metro dollars [1] and had to serve the county. It’s how regional transit worked before Sound Transit: the little that existed was all done by Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit.

        [1] Metro was originally an independent tax district with its own regional boundaries (mostly coinciding with King County) but it was later converted to a county department after a lawsuit. I don’t remember when that change occurred relative to the DSTT’s opening in 1990.

      11. > If you consider First Hill’s Harborview “served by Link”, then stopping the West Seattle extension at Avalon would mean that Alaska Junction is “served” too.

        I do think consolidating the Avalon and Junction stations at Fauntleroy and Alaska would be a good idea. And many people in the Junction would probably still use the light rail even if the station were as far east as 35th Ave if it were faster to get downtown that way.

      12. “This will be inconvenient, especially if some of us are expected to transfer from a local bus to the light rail, then transfer again at Sodo station to another train or bus.”

        And who would ride it when the C will still be running? The C is not scheduled for deletion until the downtown segment opens.

      13. “I do think consolidating the Avalon and Junction stations at Fauntleroy and Alaska would be a good idea.”

        The point is to serve the urban village which is centered on California Avenue. Even if there are only houses west of it, it extends south and north over a mile, and it’s the area we promised to serve in the first place. A Fauntleroy station would be like putting U-District station at Roosevelt instead of on Brooklyn: not 1/2 from the Ave, not 1 1/2 blocks from the UW campus.

        The Avalon station is the transfer point for the 35th Avenue buses, which serve the High Point complex among other things and go straight to White Center. Would a detour to a Faunteroy station be acceptable? Maybe, maybe not, it depends on how much it affects travel time.

      14. > A Fauntleroy station would be like putting U-District station at Roosevelt instead of on Brooklyn: not 1/2 from the Ave, not 1 1/2 blocks from the UW campus.

        That is a good analogy, but consider that the intersection of Roosevelt and 45th is so close to the Ave that there will be an entrance to the 45th Station there as well as on Brooklyn. And this station is in a tunnel. Ideally, the Junction station would be a similar design – within a block of the heart of the Junction, and set in a tunnel underneath the neighborhood. But given that the rest of the region doesn’t want to pay for a tunnel here and assuming WS can’t afford to make up the difference or would prefer to put that difference towards further expansion, I think an elevated station at Fauntleroy would be a good compromise.

      15. Given the looming systemic budgeting problems with ST3 (inanely low estimates and contingencies), I see any tunnel or even a third station option as unaffordable without major new funds becoming available. Reading the currency “tea leaves”, an all aerial line is very likely and a station plan to locate at the end of the Fauntleroy diagonal north of Alaska (with no Avalon “station in the sky”) seems the logical outcome.

        That will probably be ok. After all, that distance is similar to Columbia City and Link and less than half of the distance from the Seatac southern terminal check-in and Link there. Besides, West Seattle neighborhood quibbling about impacts and character will continue to occur for years — so when those last few blocks are out of the plan because of cost, many will probably be relieved. The icing will be when impatient West Seattle residents decide that they don’t want 5 extra years of construction and a delay in Link reaching there until 2035 or later.

      16. “the intersection of Roosevelt and 45th is so close to the Ave that there will be an entrance to the 45th Station there as well as on Brooklyn.”

        Not that I’ve heard. As far as I’ve heard there will be an entrance at the northeast corner of 43rd & Brooklyn and maybe another one straight north at 44th & Brooklyn.

      17. What is it about the Metro44 subway that captivates everyone? The 44 has seven buses per hour during the peak periods! You jeer at me for supporting the streetcar but want to replace a bus carrying at most 700 people with a subway!

        “Oh, but people will get off the North Seattle neighborhood buses and ride over to Link and on to downtown!” Why would someone who got on a #5 at 73rd and Greenwood get off at 46th nine blocks before the bus goes express in order to wait for a train and transfer twice? Really? How about someone on the 18E or 40 getting on at 73rd and 24th NW? They’d change in downtown Ballard, and have to stop four or five times before changing at U-District. In the meantime the 18E would be almost to Western and Denny. Yeah, it goes in the crapper at that point, but it’s pretty close to downtown.

        And actually, if Ballard-Downtown actually gets built in the current plan, they’d get on a grade-separated train at 15th or 14th NW and whoosh along an exclusive right of way of some kind to a tunnel portal somewhere around Mercer Place.

        The Metro44 is a very-nice-to-have if it goes through downtown Fremont, but ST’s idea of three stations across Market/46th is a giant waste of money.

        Now I can see someone on the 62 making that cvho

      18. Sorry, I may be mistaken about the entrance at Roosevelt – I thought I’ve seen light rail construction on that corner but it may not be part of the station as I assumed. That said, it is still only a 5-6 minute walk from that corner to the Ave. Significantly closer than the popular I-5 freeway stop at 45th.

      19. >> What is it about the Metro44 subway that captivates everyone?

        Here is a primer: https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/06/30/ballard-uw-should-be-the-next-light-rail-line-in-seattle/

        Here is the Cliff Notes version: Excellent stop spacing, excellent bus integration, good urban stops, faster than driving at noon.

        “Oh, but people will get off the North Seattle neighborhood buses and ride over to Link and on to downtown!”

        Well, some of them would, but that misses the point. Here is a shocker for you: NOT EVERYONE IS HEADED DOWNTOWN. Holy cow, man, have you ever ridden a busy subway? I mean something like New York, Boston, Washington D. C., Montreal, Toronto or even our closest neighbor, Vancouver? Yes, the train is busiest during rush hour, but all day long the trains have people. Yes, a lot of them are headed downtown, but a lot them aren’t. At every stop you can see lots of people getting on and getting off. You wonder sometimes, while you sit there, in your typical public transportation gaze of ambivalence, where exactly they are headed. To school? To some job in that neighborhood? To visit a friend or maybe check out a new restaurant or club? YES! Yes to all of that. That is what a good public transportation system delivers. That is why — just to state a simple fact — urban mass transit systems exceeds commuter rail ridership in every city, regardless of how fast or wonderful the latter is. Crazy, huh? Huge numbers of commuters, all gleefully riding their express trains into the city, and yet the city folks — many of whom aren’t going nearly as fast — outnumber them.

        Want a crazy example: The Bay Area. BART is smoking fast, enabling a suburban rider to get right into the heart of the business district very quickly. It is also huge, capable of handling enormous commuter loads. It provides the key connection between the two parts of what just about everyone considers “the city” (East Bay and San Fransisco). At about 450,000 riders a day it is one of the biggest mass transit systems in North America. But guess what?

        Muni is bigger! The slow as molasses bus and streetcar system carries more people. That is because it is 100% inside a densely populated area. Even the Oakland bus system carries 200,000 (way more than the BART stops in Oakland do). Imagine if the Bay Area actually had a real subway — I mean something with multiple lines in both San Fransisco and East Bay. You would probably have double the ridership.

        Oh, and a couple points. A Ballard to UW subway should have a stop at 24th and Market (obviously). Why folks at Seattle subway envision a brand new 10 mile line to serve Georgetown and South Park, but somehow forget to put an obvious and essential stop in old Ballard on their fantasy transit map says a lot about the lack of imagination of that group. Anyway, that stop isn’t on the other map either, but it should be.

        Oh, and it would be easy to have the Ballard to UW trains continue on to downtown (I do mention that in my post).

      20. “I do think consolidating the Avalon and Junction stations at Fauntleroy and Alaska would be a good idea.”

        Oh man, I don’t. Holy cow, the West Seattle line is bad enough, the last thing we want to do is make it worse. It isn’t going to save that many people that much time (a lot of people will actually take longer to get downtown). But we shouldn’t screw over the folks at Avalon and force them to walk a lot farther. It also screws up buses from 35th. Rather than continue on 35th (in a bus lane) and let people off right by the station, it would have to take a turn. That would mean a needless delay for one of the most densely populated parts of West Seattle (High Point) and thoroughly screw up the bus network.

        No, don’t do that. We voted for this mess, and the folks who put together a rail line for West Seattle came up with the best possible proposal. Sure, West Seattle shouldn’t have a rail line at all (there are much better options — https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/02/18/westside-seattle-transit-tunnel/) but if you are going to build a rail line to West Seattle, then what they outlined was the best approach.

      21. “What is it about the Metro44 subway that captivates everyone? The 44 has seven buses per hour during the peak periods!”

        It takes 30-45 minutes to get from University Way to 15th NW at 3pm. That’s what’s wrong with it. For that distance it should take 20. When I lived in the U-District I often walked to Stone Way, a 20 minute walk,, with never a bus in sight in spite of its nominal 15-minute frequency. We could give the 44 a big boost with transit lanes, but it’s easier to get a subway approved than to eliminate street parking in Seattle.

        45th is the highest-ridership, highest volume, highest-density east-west corridor in north Seattle, with a car ownership rate to match, and a high percentage of people eager to ride a subway and pay taxes for it.`It was the 45th activists and Seattle Subway that brought you an accelerated and large ST3 in the first place.

        ST’s own ST3 studies showed that Ballard-UW would cost less and have higher ridership than Ballard-downtown.

        A cross line makes more trips feasible than a parallel line. Suddenly you can go not just from Roosevelt to downtown but also Wallingford to Northgate and Walilngford to downtown. And if it continues east, Wallingford to Children’s, Capitol Hill to Children’s, and Northgate to Children’s.

        So overall it’s the best bang for the buck, second only maybe only to the Metro 8 line, (A vague concept serving Uptown and SLU to somewhere on Broadway and 23rd, possibly serving Belltown, possibly Capitol Hill Station, possibly Swedish, possibly Swedish Cherry Hill, possibly Garfield High School, possibly turning south to Rainier Valley and Renton, depending on the alternative.)

        What d.p. showed us is that an underground line could zigzag to both downtown Fremont and Wallingford and still keep acceptable travel time (10-15 minutes), because underground the street constraints and narrow rights of way don’t exist. The upper Fremont monstrosity is less than ideal but still better than nothing. And there is an argument for having both downtown Fremont and a RapidRide E transfer, so it’s a tradeoff how to do all of them and Wallingford.

      22. ST3 has three stations in West Seattle. If ST combines two then it would be building less than what we told voters we would. Budget constraints may force it in the end, but it’s premature to anticipate that now or say ST “should” do it. Delridge and 35th are both lower-income areas, and both stations are important for bus transfers and equity. Extending bus routes slightly to a compromise station may be acceptable but it all depends on how much it increases travel time.

      23. The f*ing unpleasant freeway stops that people only use because they have no better choice. 5th and 7th Avenues have half a walkshed. I used to go to Cartridge World in that “Wine World” building on the northwest corner. I hated walking across the freeway, hated waiting for the 512 at that freeway stop, but it was faster than the alternatives, etc. I’ve always noticed that the CT express buses start at campus and go to I-5; they don’t start at I-5 like they could.

      24. > the West Seattle line is bad enough, the last thing we want to do is make it worse.

        Ross, it doesn’t make access to the Junction that much worse – it’s only a 5-6 minute walk to the historic Junction from the adjusted location. It would make more of a difference to the low density (primarily single family) residential neighborhoods west of the Junction. The bulk of the density growing around the Junction is developing east of the Junction, so placing the station to that side moves the walkshed to an area where it can take advantage of existing residential density and also density from future development. It also allows for an elevated line in a neighborhood of new higher rise rental apartments where preserving historic character is not a concern.

        > we shouldn’t screw over the folks at Avalon and force them to walk a lot farther. It also screws up buses from 35th.

        There’s no reason a second Avalon station couldn’t be preserved if funding is available for it. I think West Seattle’s best reason for considering consolidation would be to leverage Sound Transit for another improvement, such as a tunnel alignment. Many of the riders who would use the Avalon station would also be in the walkshed of Alaska and Fauntleroy. Also, a longer walk doesn’t necessarily mean the station won’t be used as long as the train is faster or easier than the alternative commute.

        As to diverting buses from their current alignment on 35th, it’s not a lengthy diversion – buses would turn from 35th onto Alaska and travel about three blocks to terminate at the West Seattle station. I’d be surprised if current bus alignments aren’t significantly revised or diverted anyway once the light rail is operation.

        > the folks who put together a rail line for West Seattle came up with the best possible proposal.

        I’d take this with a grain of salt. Yes, we’re not the first people to think about the details of the proposal. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should trust that other people have asked all the right questions and left us with the “best possible” plan.

      25. Ross, it doesn’t make access to the Junction that much worse – it’s only a 5-6 minute walk to the historic Junction from the adjusted location.

        OK, this reminds of a previous comment, where you mentioned that Belltown isn’t in dire straights, because someone can at least walk fifteen minutes to catch the train.

        I think that really gets to larger misunderstanding about subway systems and transit in general. It isn’t like the airport, or an Amtrak station. Put the airport or station somewhere a few blocks out of the way and it really doesn’t matter. Folks will still use it, because the trips are long. If I’m flying to New York, what is the alternative? Am I going to drive instead or take the train? Will I just not go? Of course not — I spend the extra five minutes getting to the airport, and deal with it.

        The same is not true of transit. Transit largely functions as a way to make relatively small trips. Obviously in bigger cities (like New York) the trips are longer, but it still functions the same way. Studies have shown that beyond a certain distance, folks just don’t take transit (https://humantransit.org/2010/11/san-francisco-a-rational-stop-spacing-plan.html). So move the stop and folks a few blocks away and people just don’t walk to the station. You can draw the little diamonds yourself (using Google Maps) and it becomes clear that there really is no overlap between the three proposed West Seattle stations. Eliminate one of them and you eliminate a station’s worth of walk-up riders.

        They might take a bus, but this actually makes things worse for a bus intercept. No matter how you cut it, this makes things a lot worse for West Seattle riders. A lot more people spend a lot more time getting to Link, which is not a good thing. it means that a poor value project becomes even worse.

        Yes, if push comes to shove you could make Avalon a backfill station. But don’t do that just to build a tunnel. If the idea of an elevated station in the sacred junction is that repulsive, then do the opposite. Build the line to Avalon. It is a decent bus intercept (great for riders coming from 35th). Folks coming from farther west just sit on their bus a bit longer which means that while it does add a little time, it at least maintains a decent pattern for the buses (e. g. the 21 could continue on around to Alki via Harbor Avenue without a time consuming detour). Avalon won’t have the ridership of The Junction, but it is a decent stop (way better than the Delridge stop, which serves only as a bus intercept). That way, in the future, you could extend the line (underground) to The Junction (likely as part of a package that included Ballard to UW). Folks like me would grudgingly accept spending extra money on a poor value project like that, as long as most of the projects were good ones.

    2. If you eliminate the Avalon stop for a tunnel, you potentially take a lot of commuters out of the mix for link–Gatewood, Highpoint, Arbor Heights–unless you can efficiently and quickly reroute them to the Fauntleroy/Alaska station. Then again, the cost of a tunnel may far exceed the alleged benefits of sacrificing the Avalon stop.

    3. <>

      Actually the center of the West Seattle Junction Urban Village is at Fauntleroy & Alaska — or even further to the East. The boundaries extend all the way eastward to the area around 35th.

  6. Why would “compatibility with neighborhood character” be a consideration for the Junction, but not downtown Ballard? You have to love the temerity of West Seattle; an area zoned almost exclusively for SF 4000 should get a tunnel, while Ballard, zoned for mid-rise, should get an elevated station far from the commercial core.

    1. Ballard welcomes a sky train, and is getting the better deal. The teeming masses will love the view from the bridge as they commute every day. That view will be an incredible added benefit to the quality of life for Ballardites.

      West Seattle is just being obtuse about whether they really want light rail or see it as an Impact to be mitigated.

      1. I agree. I say we just skip West Seattle rail for now, and build something of better value. How about we serve First Hill (finally).

      2. I’m not seeing that Ballard welcomes a sky train – the sentiment I’ve heard is mostly about tunnels. Call me at 206-515-5631 about where the pro-elevated sentiment lies in Ballard. Thanks Brent!

      3. The biggest factor for passengers is travel time. The second and third biggest are frequency (i.e., short waits) and safety. An elevated view is nice to have but it becomes less important when you’re traveling every day and thinking about how you could fit more in the day if the train were faster and more frequent, and if there were more feeder buses because we didn’t spend so much money on rail amenities.

      4. I have a feeling some of the tunnel interest that exists today spurred from when ST was more or less exclusively proposing a drawbridge that would impact system reliability. Now, high-level fixed bridge options are explicitly on the table, and they are just as reliable as a tunnel would be.

        Tunnels are great where tunnels are needed, which is lots of places. As a rider, I prefer the view from a bridge to the view from a tunnel. Elevated systems are far more legible; they advertise themselves. And a view of Fisherman’s Terminal, Salmon Bay, the locks, the Olympic Mountains, etc., varied throughout the day and the seasons, would lift the spirits of tourists and daily commuters for generations. Residents who may have views of a big street and a surface parking lot might now see some bridge supports and a guideway and a station, which all have the potential to be designed well. Folks would have at least a dozen years to get used to the idea.

        When the test bores start in Interbay, we’ll start learning about the decades of garbage, eons of peat and other fun stuff that is almost surely in the way of a tunnel there. It can surely can be done, but cost and schedule risk will be significant and may end up being prohibitive for the tunnel options from Interbay to Ballard.

        UW to Ballard, now that should be a tunnel!

      5. I’m perfectly fine with elevated down 15th with a new bridge. 15th is like 7 lanes wide and can easily lose one or two for an elevated line down the middle. My main concern is the bridge itself, height, openings, where the on-off ramps will be. Once you’re past Market, running elevated down the middle will look like the monorail all the way to Crown Hill (that should have been here by now) and will actually be pretty interesting. I think though the other concern is interfacing with a perpendicular line, ala Ballard-UW, and there probably isn’t enough air real estate to make those turns. Ballard-UW will also have to be partly subway to deal with Phinney Ridge.

        TLDR, I’m not opposed to Ballard elevated for aesthetic reasons, but there will be complications with extensions eastward.

      6. Mike, a lot of folks here want a station in “Old Ballard” and that can only be accomplished with a tunnel. The streets are too narrow for at-grade and run at odd angles that make elevated difficult as well. If folks can be convinced that a massive upzone east of 15th NW is a good policy you can have a mid-rise bridge and at-grade at far as 65th using the median of 14th NW. That is a very good trade-off.

        I understand that ST has linked its 14th NW option with a tunnel, perhaps because they don’t want to cross the existing Ballard Bridge approaches in case the City decides to Go Big with a highway replacement bridge there someday. But it could be designed properly.

        Just please don’t put it on the ground next to 15th NW. That would be a first-rate disaster.

      7. I agree with Jonathan. Elevated is just a much nicer experience. There are places where a tunnel makes sense (like Ballard to UW) but not along 15th. Running it along 15th also would make it relatively cheap to extend. It is crazy to think that we are only going to add one stop in Ballard, but three in West Seattle (not that I would put any fewer in West Seattle).

        Yes, Richard is right that underground to the heart of Ballard would be better (at least in the short run). But in the long run, what makes sense is to add a couple stops on the north-south line (65th and 85th) and then build the Ballard to UW line so that it includes a stop at Market and 24th NW. That would mean a transfer from an elevated to an underground station, but I don’t see that as the end of the world.

        An underground line would also be very, very deep. That means that people spend a long time just getting to the station. If the Ballard to the UW line was cut and cover on Market (which seems reasonable) then the transfer from a super deep to shallow station might be about the same as elevated to (shallow) underground.

        The main thing to avoid is 14th, as it could not be extended easily (14th essentially ends at 65th), is in a low density area and would be a longer walk for the bulk of the riders.

    2. To put it bluntly, why would “neighborhood character” be considered at all when massive upzoning is also part of the plan? Or is it supposed to be a subway tunnel *and* maintain the current density?

      1. What massive upzoning? The Link alignment and zoning are independent, decided by different entities and with different processes. The most ST can get is a symbolic promise to density, and no commitment as to how much.

      2. Of course Mike, you’re correct. However, I kind of doubt Seattle’s growth being absorbed into the urban villages will change, even if Seattle decides to start allowing small condos and apartments in current single family zones. One by one, the urban villages will be upzoned, especially those with light rail–it’s pretty inevitable.

  7. The tunnel to Ballard, which allows better operations into the future and avoids a high, movable bridge, which will likely have its costs balloon out of control, is considered a low priority.

    A tunnel through West Seattle, because some people don’t want to see light rail, is considered a high priority.

    Seriously Sound Transit?

  8. Why do I hate the idea of tunneling under West Seattle? Let me count the ways….

    It doesn’t just add a huge cost to build to the Junction, but also ensures a much larger cost to continue to build to White Center and Burien.

    It is an EYESORE of a ride for everyone using it. Imagine the view that tens of thousands of riders could have every day. Don’t want people to have that view in some spots? You don’t need to bury the line. You just need to put up view-blocking barricades.

    A buried line is much harder for people to notice it exists, and to find the stations.

    An elevated line is more of a draw for tourists to visit West Seattle and patronize local businesses. The costs of tunneling are not just the lost ridership and the decreased likelihood of getting further south, but also the lost economic opportunities in perpetuity.

    An elevated line is much less likely to become home to large rodent populations.

    Adding expenses to the next round of lines, while making them less useful, only delays the day that truly dense neighborhoods like First Hill will get high-capacity grade-separated transit.

    I would encourage Councilmember Herbold to visit Vancouver and see how the Sky Train has transformed the city from endless suburgatory into a place where people can walk or ride to pretty much everything they could need or want and where a lot of the growing human population can be housed on a much smaller footprint than what American cities do. Developers don’t cause growth. They merely build the housing to accomodate all the people who have to live somewhere.

    1. I agree mostly, except your point about a line being buried being a deterrent to ridership. Just look at all the subways everywhere else in the world – people find ’em and ride ’em just fine. The main issue here is the waste of money for an unnecessary tunnel.

      1. Those subways in Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta sure are killing it.

        Even in mega-cities like NYC and Hong Kong, the subways run above ground once they leave the urban core.

      2. I think the idea is that an elevated line would be more popular, even if it doesn’t lead to higher ridership. It is like nice art in the station — it makes the whole process more enjoyable.

        My guess is it would lead to slightly higher ridership. The extra riders would likely be when ridership is less popular (outside commute times). That is ideal, since that could translate into an extra trip or two during the period when the train otherwise doesn’t come very often (8 minute headways instead of 12). Hard to say, of course (I don’t know if there are any studies) but my hunch is maybe an extra 5% ridership, and most of that during off peak times.

        It is worth noting that an elevated line down 15th really doesn’t cost Ballard anything. Yes, some folks lose their view with a big bridge over the canal, but 15th itself is nothing to look at. This does make it different than West Seattle, where the Junction itself is charming: https://goo.gl/maps/xYAmtyvoaez. But Alaska is a lot less interesting that California, and quickly becomes boring as you head west (https://goo.gl/maps/ix3oeVHGEg52). To me the representative project is decent — Chicago has elevated rail and it is fine. Folks voted three times for the monorail, and few people objected to the idea.

        But that does explain the new elevated proposal (that, and the crazy idea that this thing should continue south). If avoids California, and goes on wide, less lively 44th. It does take out a couple buildings off of Oregon (a Chase Bank branch — https://goo.gl/maps/d1Ew2CXpS1u, and the brick apartment building to the west of it https://goo.gl/maps/B5h5rkdJinQ2). It looks like the other building can be saved, while the track largely would go over an existing parking lot. Losing one interesting building (or at most two) seems like a small price to pay. I would still prefer the initial proposal (I think The Junction area would be just fine with a train running there) but the other elevated suggestion isn’t bad either.

  9. I can’t imagine they could do a LID for this in West Seattle alone because it would take so many years for such a small area to pay off such a huge amount, but it might be the only way for the city to try to fund a tunnel.

    The mayor is already cost cutting, and I can’t see a ballot measure for a west seattle tunnel gaining city wide support.

    Or, maybe she’ll put out Move Seattle 2 – a citywide vote to fund the west seattle tunnel,a Ballard tunnel, the streetcar, and to fully fund all the projects that move seattle 1 is going to fail at. yeah.. right.. I can’t see it, nor can I see the city voting for it.

    1. A LID could possibly pay part of the cost, and would lessen the burden on other funding sources. And it would be the fairest in terms of the immediate neighborhood paying for its local extras. I’ll not comment on the implications for Move Seattle 2; I mused about them above; I’ll just say here that they’re inevitably mixed: West Seattle won’t be able to just steamroller everything else.

      The issue then becomes, if there is a LID for a West Seattle tunnel, what is it displacing? We’ve talked a lot about Link vs BRT for West Seattle but we haven’t talked much about what improvements West Seattle should want after Link exists. Those are the things that the LID would displace. I assume a Link extension to Morgan Junction is off the table: too expensive and not enough ridership in a LID context. So what next?

      Uppermost on my mind is north-south RapidRide on California Avenue. Move Seattle can’t afford 4 out of the 6 RapidRide+ corridors it promised, and California Avenue isn’t even on that list. So the money may have to come from elsewhere. Some of it will come from deleting the C, but I assume that West Seattle will want more of a guarantee and maybe a higher-quality line than Metro can afford. West Seattle will also probably want that Fauntleroy-WSJ-SLU express route that Metro suggested, so that would take money that would otherwise go to the north-south line.

      35th and Delridge could perhaps use some LID love too.

  10. If the crossing north of the WSB is selected, I wonder if it would make sense to add a Harbor Island mini-station”?

    Harbor Island a while back used to have a peak-only route 35 that was cut due to low ridership.

    But since trains go by there anyway, I wonder how people would feel about a lowest possible cost light rail stop that is only stopped at during peak hours. I’m thinking of a station that is one car in length, and only the back car has doors opened at the station (the other cars stop, but doors remain closed since they aren’t aligned to a platform). Passengers wanting to access Harbor Island just need to remember to use the back door.

    Good idea?

    1. Extremely unlikely, and it would be the lowest-ridership station in the system. The time to propose it was before ST3 or in the first round of Alternatives Analysis last year. The later rounds mostly delete alternatives, not add to them. And a “lowest-possible cost” station is still in the millions. Not to mention it increases travel time in the rest of the system, although not by much (20 seconds).

      1. True but IMO you could argue the same about Boeing Access Road Station. It’s main difference is the bus transfer argument, which on its own is super presumptive on future metro and ST service changes. And the travel time impacts there hit the people who already have the longest travel times, while in the long term, WSeattleites will see a reduced travel time compared to buses even with a brief stop at Harbor Island.

    1. Just curious–In what way was West Seattle favored when Nickels was mayor? Other than the December 2008 snow clearance that happened in Nickel’s neighborhood, not in West Seattle as a whole.)

    2. Wasn’t the monorail around the time of Nickels?

      I don’t know what else West Seattle got then. As far as I know its major gains were the high bridge in the 1970s, the monorail (although it was considered an obvious corridor at the time, and not the city government’s decision), and now Link.

      1. Maybe Rapid Ride C? I agree that some West Seattle people are acting entitled now and I don’t agree that we need a tunnel.

      2. RapidRide C was a sensible choice. Ballard and West Seattle are the furthest away from Link as it was planned then.

      3. One of the factors driving the possibility of a short tunnel to the West Seattle Junction is that Delridge does not deserve to potentially have trains and guideway running at 150- to 160-feet in the air. That also likely means almost no TOD potential and a long delay in upzoning in the station area.

  11. With cost differences this large, should we think outside of the box?

    It seems that it would be cheaper to do a land swap, moving the Golf Course to the South Seattle College campus and moving the college (and accompanying TOD housing) to the golf course land. Then the golfers get a quieter golf course, students get great transit, ST gets a TOD and saves hundreds of millions by building a track more in the sky.

    1. Nice ideal idea. It would make the college more accessible. Currently the college is so car-dominant and has so much parking it looks like Bellevue Community College, and only a 30-60 minute bus to get to it. That’s partly why I never considered attending it, although I understand it has unique programs that some people have to go to.

      If we move the golf course we should think about whether it should really be a golf course or another kind of park. Golf patronage has been declining and it’s now pretty low. There’s a golf course in Jefferson Park, with currently a one-seat ride from Westwood Village.

  12. The all-elevated West Seattle segment of the ST3 representative alignment was poorly conceived. It ignored West Seattle’s challenging topography and failed to promote future extensions south from the Junction to White Center/Burien.

    We voted for it anyway because West Seattle needs major improvements in transportation capacity to accommodate the development that has already happened and the development that we know will come as the core of West Seattle becomes more and more dense. The experience in Bellevue, Everett, and other places has shown that improvements can be considered even though they cost more money.

    This entire exercise of community input is intended to show Sound Transit how its initial proposal can be improved. To its credit, Sound Transit is listening.

    An elevated Junction station that is positioned to accommodate future southern extension would come at the unacceptable cost of razing the existing commercial core of West Seattle. (This is why ST’s alternatives include an alternative elevated station away from the Junction on Fauntleroy, in addition to tunnels that actually reach the Junction.) Not razing the commercial core is what is meant by the unhelpful phrase “compatibility with neighborhood character” in this location; it is not merely an objection to the terrible aesthetics of a 150-foot elevated guideway towering over the Delridge neighborhood, which the challenging topography would require (unless a tunnel option is chosen).

    You might not care for one neighborhood’s charming commercial core, but the mistake of ruining it would harm the entire region, by provoking tremendous political opposition in West Seattle to future extensions to places light rail ought to go, such as White Center/Burien.

    So when judging the expense of a West Seattle tunnel ($500 million and up), we should ask whether it improves the $54-billion ST3 program on the whole. For me the answer is clearly yes. While I recognize (believe it or not!) the importance of cost constraints, it seems to me pound-foolish to build a line that will forever end in West Seattle.

    There are things ST can do to raise revenues to support the higher-than-first-projected costs of a worthwhile West Seattle segment. For the Delridge station, ST should explore condemning the entire two blocks to locate the diagonal-straddle station across 25th, while negotiating with the city for a major upzone and then selling development rights for true TOD integrated with the station design. (At the latest forum, I was amazed to hear from homeowners in those block that they would welcome condemnation.) And it’s also time for earnest discussions with the Port of Seattle and Nucor, each of which should be contributing to the cost of the alignments that minimize the effects on their properties.

    There’s a lot more to explore here, but no one should dwell any longer on the incorrect notions that a tunnel in West Seattle is illogical or that people in West Seattle don’t want light rail at all. ST’s West Seattle forums have been some of the best-attended, and that reflects the community’s sincere interest in making the right choices with this 100-year investment.

    1. “The all-elevated West Seattle segment of the ST3 representative alignment was poorly conceived. It ignored West Seattle’s challenging topography and failed to promote future extensions south from the Junction to White Center/Burien.”

      It was a way to fit West Seattle into the budget in the first place. North King wants three expensive projects: West Seattle, a second downtown tunnel, and Ballard. The total budget is constrained by the common tax rate across all subareas. ST can’t charge a different tax rate in different subareas because that’s unconstitutional in a single tax district. Snohomish had its list of strong desires, and East King had its list of weaker desires. The total budget is a balance between them. And West Seattle should thank Snohomish for raising the budget enough to afford West Seattle Link at all, because it was that Everett extension and Paine Field detour that did it. Otherwise ST would have stopped at Ash Way or 128th. West Seattle managed to get its foot in the door and now it’s trying to open it wider. That may or may not be acceptable depending on how the final North King budget comes out and whether we have to sacrifice anything else for it. I won’t comment about your specific suggestions because I don’t know enough about the areas. There are multiple visions of what the Triangle’s potential and Delridge’s potential should be like, and we can be flexible in considering alternatives.

      1. Mike, that’s not how I remember things. West Seattle fit in any plausible ST3 plan, and it was very clear throughout the ST3 process that West Seattle would be treated as North King’s number 1 priority. [whether this should have been the case is open to debate, but it is impossible for me to imagine an ST3 ballot without West Seattle.]

      2. No, Mike is basically right. It would have been political suicide to include West Seattle, but not Ballard. Everyone (even ST) knows that Ballard will carry more people.

        Alternatives were looked at (such as surface running downtown) but those were shot down. Running rail to West Seattle was assumed to be too expensive, because it was assumed that a tunnel through the hill was needed. That is why folks were looking at other ideas, such as the WSTT (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/02/18/westside-seattle-transit-tunnel/). Keep in mind, this is the Seattle Subway (a group that thinks we will have one the largest rail systems in the world) that was pushing for a bus based solution because they just didn’t think we had enough money to do it right.

        But then ST came back with the elevated option. This fit under the budget, and after some haggling (e. g. Delridge versus The Junction) a line was agreed upon. It would be elevated, as that is the only way ST could afford the proposal.

      3. I would observe that ST does itself a PR disservice calling it a Ballard extension. It’s a South Lake Union + Seattle Center + Lower Queen Anne + Interbay + Ballard extension. Most of the riders will be south of the Ship Canal.

        In contrast, most of West Seattle is not directly served by this West Seattle extension.

        The names should probably be the “Northwest Seattle” extension and the “Central West Seattle” extension to be more accurate.

      4. Yeah, the names frustrate me as well. Ballard to UW versus Ballard to downtown is very misleading, since Ballard to UW would work just about as well in terms of getting people to downtown (only two minutes slower). But I’ve kind of given up on terminology. ST loves it — it perpetuates the myth. The more vague the naming, the more they can claim victory. ST will soon “serve West Seattle and Ballard” even though most of both areas won’t be anywhere near Link. Whatever — bigger fish to fry.

    2. Will, seriously? Someone said the entire West Seattle Junction commercial area would need to be removed in order to have an above ground station? Not just a block where there aren’t as many businesses, or part of a block? The entire, several-block business area? That seems extreme.

      1. You only have to go to John and Broadway to see how much is required to build a Link subway station. Capitol Hill station construction wiped away about 1.5 to 2 city blocks.

      2. Mt Baker shows an utter failure in station area planning… The only reason to point to that is as an example of what not to ever do again.

    3. OK, this is all fairly predictable (or at least I predicted it). I knew folks wouldn’t be thrilled with the West Seattle Link plans when they read the fine print. That is perfectly understandable, and one of the many reasons why ST3 was a stupid plan.

      But that doesn’t mean that you get to have your cake and eat it too.

      Look, West Seattle rail is a very poor project (with or without a tunnel). Relatively few people will ride it (even if they truncate the buses there). When they do truncate the buses there, a lot of riders will actually spend more time getting to their destination than they would if they just rode a bus. At the same time, no significant new trips will be added. (No one will take a trip from The Junction to the Delridge stop, for example). It really is a classic example of where an open BRT system makes sense or where an agency just says “sorry” (as they have throughout the region). Yes, the buses get stuck on the freeway (although typically in one direction) but that is really nothing compared to a bus stuck on a surface street. There simply isn’t the density (despite the growth) nor enough value added to justify the very high cost of new rail.

      Yet folks want to spend even more. I get it. I want a pony, too. But why should Seattle pay for it? Why should folks in First Hill, Lake City, Belltown or any other place with orders of magnitude more population density pay for it? Why should places like Fremont, Wallingford, the Central Area or even Rainier Avenue pay for it when it is pretty easy to think of projects that would be a much better value serving their neighborhood? By important measures (such as rider time saved per dollar spent) it is a terrible value. Why should we spend more on it, just because West Seattle has buyer’s remorse?

      The time to criticize the plan was back in the planning stages. The only reason the board even agreed to the plan was because it was relatively cheap. Asking the rest of the city to pay extra is just bait and switch.

      1. I note that the ST3 corridors were those defined in ST2. ST2 committed those corridors to study, which put them in line for ST3. It really should be thought of as ST2.1.

        Further, at no time did ST3 begin with a sincere needs assessment. The only significant issue was what mode got chosen for each corridor.

      2. Budget buster or not, a lot of people will ride West Seattle link when it’s built. While it won’t have as many riders as Capitol HIll or the University District, the recent growth in the population (with its jam packed Rapid Ride C and 21X buses) not to mention future growth in the next 12 years, will insure a well used portion of the system, provided ST doesn’t get stupid and cut an Avalon Station out of the mix.

      3. ST2 prefunded certain corridor studies for ST3, as ST3 does for ST4. That does not limit the board. The board can build anything that’s in the long-range plan. And the board controls what’s in the long-range plan. It generally updates it before each ST# round, and last did so in 2014. Only some of the corridors studied in 2015 were selected, most notably 45th was not. They are presumably next in line.

        Expect a 45th line (possibly crossing the lake), a Bothell line (possibly bending down to Kirkland), WSJ-White Center and Burien-Renton, an Everett extension to downtown Everett and Everett CC (their stated terminus) and a Tacoma extension to Tacoma CC (their stated terminus). Maybe Ballard-Lake City. I don’t know about the Eastside; maybe that UW-Bothell-Kirkland line would continue down to Bellevue. Probably not Renton-Bellevue yet. Pretty definitely not Metro 8 because so far ST has not even acknowledged it as a worthwhile project.

        “at no time did ST3 begin with a sincere needs assessment.”

        The needs assessment was more or less made in the 1990s, and it’s based on where the urban centers are (zoned for a large number of jobs). Link’s primary job is to connect these urban centers. Seattle has three: Center City, the U-District, and Northgate.

        Many of us think Ballard-Fremont and Lake City should be included, but they miss the formula by having not enough jobs and too much housing (i.e., displacing the jobs that would be needed). In other words, Ballard-Fremont and Lake City has a better jobs/housing balance than Totem Lake, Issaquah, or Federal Way.Many of us think the county’s formula is flawed and should be reformed, or Ballard-Fremont and Lake City should be given an exception. If they had been urban centers before ST2, that would have significantly changed the priorities. It would have been harder to leave those two out, and the Lake City Way alternative for Lynnwood Link would have weighed more heavily compared to I-5 and Aurora, and 130th Station would probably have been essential. (Given that Lake City Way probably wouldn’t have won out because how do you get from Lake City to Lynnwood?)

      4. @B — Not many people live near the Delridge stop — that is the point. Oh, and ridership on the 50 (which provides the same connection, and then some) is very low.

  13. I haven’t really been engaging much on these Level 1 analyses. My sense is the ST has selected the Representative Alignments, and all of this process is simply pro-forma. ST wants to expedite the planning process and get to engineering design and construction ASAP, a prospect I heartily concur with.

    The Representative Alignments are pretty good, and result of a lot of ST staff work in 2016. Whenever I zoom into the details, it seems well thought out and quite constructable. Yes, a First Hill deviation would be nice, and pointing the end of the West Seattle line is an improvement, and the Representative Alignment work well enough.

    1. The Representative Alignment is a baseline for planning and it sets the budget ceiling. It also sets a precedent in the sense that if ST builds something substantially different (meaning serving different transit markets) it will have to write a statement justifying the deviation. That’s no big deal but ST is very reluctant to do it. Still, it’s a preliminary concept, not a died-in-the-wool “We must have it there”. The biggest issue is the implicit promise it gave to the Junction, Avalon, and Delride transit markets: that’s what would be hardest to change (and shouldn’t be changed in my mind). I believe that some rapid transit is better than none, and the representative alignment is good enough.

      The First Hill deviation is a separate project. There are tradeoffs, but ultimately First Hill is a highrise district with high-ridership hospitals so shouldn’t be left out. (It was an original mistake to leave out Belltown, First Hill, and SLU. ST and the city are finally doing something to rectify SLU.) As to whether it would require a justification, that all depends on what exactly ST promised to the voters, and the discussions around it are too vague on that. What ST promised was to connect urban centers (e.g., Northgate-Lynnwood, Bellevue-Totem Lake) and major urban villages (West Seattle Junction). Deleting or moving Delridge does not rise to that level. 8th Avenue may or may not. Did ST promise to just serve “downtown” or the 4th-6th Avenue core? How much of a difference does the hill between 5th and 8th make? it would be an issue for lawyers and judges.

      1. Mike, I’m very glad there’s something important that we agree on. Idea that First Hill isn’t in the promised plan is idiotic. It’ll connect the three most important hospitals in the State literally with the whole State and more.

        With a five ride to both King Street Station, and LINK to Sea-Tac Airport, LINK puts a lot of mutually important geography in the same sub-area. But this is another situation that’ll be decided vertically and geologically.

        By the green line in the right-hand choice of routes several months ago, as a driver, that sweeping curve is a hard full-throttle to resist. But question will be how far back from the cliff the ground that ruled out last plan for a Swedish Hospital station is still unworkable?

        Fact that Madison-Boren station has a whole hill underneath it might let us get underneath the facilities to not rip out anything that can’t be re-attached. Also, the slope each side could permit entrances through long pedestrian tunnel.

        If in fact we’re looking at a line without obstacles, cost of the system’s most important line (or great runner-up) could be a lot lower than lines longer by the tape-measure. Reason I won’t let up on getting section views into route maps soon as possible.

        Could reveal as much in savings as it also might in added expense.

        Mark Dublin

  14. What I said last night that it’s always wrong to think buses ever substitute for trains – I’d qualify with “permanently” on any corridor. Carrying a built-in plan for changeover soon as needed. DSTT both an example for flexibility, and a warning to make easy changeover a priority.

    But have really had it with arguments not about where TO put the line, about but who NOT to give it to. Especially in present acceleration to Crash of 2008 cubed. Forgetting plate tectonics,I thought 20 years’ residence would guarantee me a Ballard LINK station.

    Reason for fighting to bring north Thurston County into Sound Transit: Freedom to use the Seattle that used to be my home as a 20 minute train-change in a neighborhood where underpaid under-staffed workers deliver service as lousy as it is overpriced.

    And when its people decide to fight to remake it as a place I can stand live in… I’ll also want regional transit fast enough that I can get to the Front to help the rebels become my neighbors again. And honestly-how many grandchildren of the of average West Seattle tunnel-fighter will want to live in Their Grandfathers’ West Seattle?

    The Ballard-West-Seattle-UW Tunnel War? It’s the same project! Passengers from every station along both lines will appreciate it. Reason I keep wanting for “stake-holders” – what did poor Dracula ever to to West Seattle?- to start talking with fewer event staff and more engineers. Because good chance that the hole that’ll become Ballard Station can at lest stage an eastbound tube as well. Speeding the work by years.

    And finally- let’s start separating (and based on Metro’s parentage electing) the actual Republicans who can read a balance sheet from the Secessionist Slave -Owners who think it kills incentive. In all the budgetary figures in these pages- have we ever gotten an estimate for how much a billion spent now will bring back to us, with interest? Which is really what’s meant by a Balanced Budget.

    Mark Dublin

  15. As a comparison, meant that a long clear tunnel might cost less than a shorter tunnel with more in its way. But either way, it’s a mining engineer’s call more than a planner’s. Or an attorney’s.

    Mark

  16. Way too much hand-wringing in the comment section here about the inclusion of tunneled options in these Level 2 alternatives. Nothing to worry about, because it ain’t gonna happen. When I attended last week’s Open House at Union Station, they were worried enough about the budget for the representative alignment and made it pretty clear that the overwhelming preference is to avoid options with higher costs. And the more expensive alternatives they were talking about (midtown – uptown) were only like $200M more and not 500M – 1.2B like we see here.

    My take is that the overwhelming feedback from the public during the Level 1 stuff earlier this year for West Seattle was tunnel, tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. That’s certainly what I saw on the online open house. They included the tunneled options in this stage so they had a clear response to that feedback. “We heard you want a tunnel, we looked into it, we can’t afford it.” I’ll be shocked if one of the two elevated alternatives here isn’t the preferred alignment.

  17. There is this focus on the Alaska station pointing south for the mythical southward expansion, but unless you want to run three minute headways to Burien, which seems unlikely ever, why not go south from Delridge?

    It’s been talked about on this site before: simply stack the Delridge station and interline there if you have to go southward at some point in the future.

    1. Because wealthier people live near the Junction and Westwood Village and have clout, and the southwest King County voting district has no other high-capacity transit.

    2. Exactly jas. I really doubt that will ever make sense either, but it would still be a better idea (it would be a lot cheaper, for one thing).

    3. Because they’re never going to build a line south from the Delridge station. Because we’re never going to do the privileged bullshit that ripped a huge scar through the Rainier Valley community to run the first line and then handed over tons of now clear land to develop upon.

  18. <>

    This should be corrected to read “from third parties” or “from the City and other funders.” For example, the Port may have much to say about how it crosses their properties and interacts with their operations. If so, perhaps they are willing to contribute significant funding towards tunnel options such as the Pigeon Ridge option.

  19. Remove the option with the Alaska Junction station at Fauntleroy & Alaska. A station there would be close to a half mile from the Junction and too close to Avalon. Next step, drop this option to focus on options with better transit and walking connections to the California Ave.

    1. When I measure the distance online between Fauntleroy and California on Alaska, it’s more like 1300 feet, or 1/4 of a mile. Plus, there isn’t much high density zoned west of California.

  20. I really hope many people here will plan to attend Feet First’s upcoming Walk & Talk in West Seattle… because there’s still plenty of people in the STB comments still running at the mouth about West Seattle political conspiracies and “fake news” the like who clearly have no clue what they’re talking about.

    So come on by and actually look at the areas and where stations might be and see for yourself why these alternatives are being proposed and why community feedback is what it is. You might learn something.

  21. I don’t see the big deal here…West Seattle is definitely not getting a tunnel given the current budget options. ST is going above and beyond to address these concerns–otherwise the tunnel options would have already been rejected due to cost.

    There are also a lot of people in West Seattle who want the light rail and want it built on schedule with the three stations that were promised. The tunnel people are loud but there are a ton of public comments advocating for an elevated option. It’s not like the tunnel people can kill the project if they don’t get what they want. So I’m confident that elevated will win and people will grudgingly accept it.

  22. I know I’m late to the comments here, but I’m sad to see some the negative comments on this forum. I probably would agree with some of the assumptions regarding tunneling and the density/ridership the comments and post assumes, but I have a different opinion after moving to West Seattle and attending the recent community meeting.

    I agree that many people wanted tunneling, but sound transit indicated all the options were on the table. They didn’t push any of us much with the reality we all know. I was curious to get a feeling about tunneling and asked my table that if we had to elevate the line with our preferred station locations, everyone appeared to begrudgingly was ok with it (except Lisa Herbold who happen to be at my table and suggested the engineering might not allow it).

    In terms of ridership/density I don’t have the expert knowledge of facts that many appear to have in the comments, but there is a significant amount of bus ridership particularly RapidRide C and Metro 120 which will become RapidRide H in a few years. When people say not many people live in the area, this is relatively true, but please keep in mind the buses that will feed the lines. Having a dedicated right-of-way for everyone to get over the West Seattle Bridge will surely win out for everyone on the bus since the bridge is a huge bottle neck at peak times. I haven’t verified this outside my councilman’s newsletter, but there are 29,000 daily boarding for people taking lines from West Seattle to Downtown according to a 2017 study.

    With that people at the meeting were also receptive to high density upzones at the station locations, including people who will lose their houses for the Delridge station. I know we want to think West Seattle may be unrealistic, but I thought it would be worth sharing that everyone seemed open to ideas and constructive with suggestions.

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