Sound Transit is currently gathering public input on the ST3 Level 2 Planning options they presented a few weeks ago. As we noted early this year, this is an opportunity to make light rail exceptional and the difference is all in the details. At this phase it’s time to apply the concepts of reliability, expandability, and accessibility and make some choices.

Our recommendations make a central assumption: There will not be additional funding available for the more expensive options. This might change sometime in the future, but considering what is happening with our federal, state, and local government it’s pretty safe to say that it won’t happen before the preferred alternative is selected in early 2019.


As we have said in the past, a reliability-killing drawbridge should be excluded from consideration. Luckily, Sound Transit seemed to hear the public feedback on that front and proposed few drawbridge options. Several of the options are on 14th NW, which unfortunately fails on the accessibility front. 14th NW has poor transit connectivity potential and most residents and attractions are on the west side of 15th NW. All 14th options should be excluded at this level.

That leaves one viable option in this round. The static bridge and station on the west side of 15th Ave NW. With the right station access improvements, such as a pedestrian bridge from the east side of 15th Ave NW and to the north side of NW Market, this station would score very high on accessibility for its pedestrian/bike connections and excellent transit connectivity. We would like to see Sound Transit plan ahead here and integrate the station and guideway into future transit oriented development (TOD), the station area is currently low rise businesses.


The Interbay options are more notable for what should be excluded than what should be included. Any alignment along 15th W should be excluded in this round — it would disrupt businesses and a corridor that is heavily used by existing transit — and there are other better options along the BNSF corridor nearby. The Thorndyke station should definitely be included as it has the best transit-integration and TOD potential. Sound Transit should be thinking about how best to bring riders from Magnolia and Seattle Pacific University to this station. A new walking and biking connection to Magnolia is necessary from Interbay. The ease of transfers to buses serving both destinations and the speed and reliability of those bus routes will matter a lot.

Smith Cove

Closer to both Expedia and the cruise ship terminal seems like the best bet here. With the added goal of reducing transit impacts on Elliot Ave W in the interim, any of the stations west of Elliot seem best.

Interbay/Ballard alignment

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne station to the east west of Seattle Center appears to be the best option. Beyond easy Seattle Center access it’s a very good location for transit connectivity and the walkshed would cover a lot of dense existing development. The walkshed has the added upside of capturing part of north Belltown, a neighborhood we believe should have its own station.

South Lake Union

While we understand the desire to move Denny station and SLU station further apart, one station stands head and shoulders above the others on transit, pedestrian, and bike connectivity here: Harrison. The station will straddle Aurora so that there will be direct bus transfers in both directions on Aurora and it will also open up the Bike/walkshed on either side of Aurora.

Between SLU and Denny

The region is building a brand new tunnel with massive potential capacity. This tunnel MUST include features that enable future expansion north along the Aurora corridor.

Denny Station

With a Harrison station in place this station should be oriented more towards central downtown with station entrances on either side of Denny Way. We are agnostic about the relative benefits of a Terry or Westlake alignment. Terry is more out of the way and a bit closer to the rapidly growing Denny Triangle neighborhood. Denny is flat and more central and a bit closer to booming north Belltown.

Westlake Station

The key element of this station is easy transfers between the current and future Westlake station. Westlake is already the busiest station for Link and making it the primary Link north transfer station will multiply that popularity. The options on 6th aren’t bad, but the 5th options offer the potential for a perpendicular stacked station with close direct underground transfers.  With the right details a new Westlake station under 5th could be an exceptional and easy to navigate experience for riders.

Midtown/Madison Station
A Madison station on 5th Ave lines up better with a 5th Ave-aligned Westlake station and means a slightly better walkshed and opens up an exciting option: A flat pedestrian walkway to the deep station from the bus corridor on 3rd Ave.

Westlake alternatives

The blue line is a good approximation of the best options presented in this segment/phase.

Between Madison Station and ID Station

The region is building a brand new tunnel with massive potential capacity. This tunnel MUST include features that enable future expansion east along the Madison corridor.

ID Station

The key element of this station is easy transfers between the current and future ID stations. A 200-foot-deep station would be twice as deep as UW station would mean relying on elevators or very long banks of escalators to move between the stations. That is simply not acceptable for a high volume station like this. Due to the very high costs associated with the 4th Ave stations, the only viable option here is the 5th Ave cut-and-cover station. The station would create an incredible, if not iconic, transit hub with close multimodal connections. Sound Transit should work with International District businesses to find ways to mitigate the business impacts. For example: It may be possible to do most of this work with the station covered, which would preserve the uninterrupted pedestrian environment that is crucial to local businesses.

Stadium/SODO station

The only option that preserves the E3 busway, Ryerson Bus Base, and creates new transit connectivity is the Occidental/SODO alignment. This alignment would also include reliability upgrades:  A car bridge over the current SODO station for higher and vacation of Royal Brougham. A new SODO station would serve existing businesses such as the Starbucks Headquarters and has future TOD potential as well.

SODO alignment

A new SODO station makes a lot of sense when compared to doubling up SODO stations

Delridge Station

The promise of the West Seattle stations center around transit connectivity. Do the stations right, and seamless direct transfers will allow a massive upgrade for transit across the peninsula. West Side Delridge elevated option appears to be the clear winner on this front.

Avalon Station

The Fauntleroy Span selected for the tunnel options seems to be better on all counts, but it is currently only expressed with tunnel options that are too expensive to build. We would like to see an option in the next round that presumes continued elevation but sites the station closer to the Fauntleroy Span location.

Junction Station

Of the two options that weren’t astronomically expensive, the elevated Oregon Street/Alaska Junction option is much better for future expansion. We reached out to Sound Transit as they had rated this option lower on expandability, but learned this was only because of issues related to the built environment that would be present with pretty much any elevated option. While the bus integration would not be as good as direct transfers, the station area is sufficiently walkable to make this a very good transfer environment.

West Seattle alignment

The orange line approximates the best options in this segment/phase

Get your comments in now!
There is still time to get your comments in to Sound Transit, but not much: The comment period for level two closes this Sunday. Though we are limiting this response to options that are affordable without an additional funding source, it’s worth noting that the preferred alternative selected now is not the only alternative Sound Transit will study in the EIS. We also urge Sound Transit to study upgrade features so that, in the case the political landscape changes in the next few years, we are prepared with a plan to take advantage.

109 Replies to “ST3 Level 2 Planning: Time to Make Decisions”

  1. This is pretty much a best-case scenario given current funding. I’m not optimistic about how the financing will work out but I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Those costs were called out in the report as mot requiring additional funding. Sound Transit confirmed that when we asked.

  2. I like the pink line over 520 in the picture, which suddenly turns the Issaquah->Kirkland line into something useful. I’m not so enthusiastic about the line’s Madison Park routing, through – that’s a long detour to reach the UW area, for what would be a straight line on a bus. Maybe split it into two lines. The eastside pink line takes 520 to the UW, then continues west as the Ballard->UW line, while the Fremont->downtown pink line just ends at 23rd/Madison.

  3. I was at the small table discussion in the Ballard neighborhood forum on Monday with the general manager of Fisherman’s Terminal Marina. He was clear that he was there for one purpose only: to prevent any disruption to marina operations. He was against the fixed bridge option that would put a station on 15th Ave because it would require bridge supports to be located at Fisherman’s Terminal. Most others at the table sympathized with him and the general consensus was that we should put a tunnel there. I offered the suggestion that if the Port of Seattle felt that strongly about it, they should pay for a significant share of the cost increase needed to do a tunnel rather than a bridge. They all laughed, but I’m serious. The Port of Seattle seems like a good candidate for the “3rd party funding” that Sound Transit says may be needed. I think we should push for Port of Seattle to contribute funding for an upgraded bridge across the canal. They have a Net Operating Income of $250 million per year and over $1 billion in cash on hand (according to their 21018 budget). They can afford it.

    1. $1B in cash on hand? Read their audited financial statements from 2017. More like $39M in cash and cash equivalents. They are also servicing $2B in long term debt and have huge outstanding capital projects they need to fund. They aren’t nearly as flush as you think.

    2. The suggestions in this article are all reasonable and practical. But the fixed bridge to Ballard is both important, not hideously expensive, and likely to stir opposition from non transit users. It is important to get right and likely will be the most difficult decision for Sound Transit.

      I think West Seattle will be tough, but decisions will be more clean cut: “too expensive”.

      1. Every option will stir opposition, as will any effort to turn 15th & Market into a Coquitlam-style high-rise district. I’ll take whichever approach gets us high-rise housing and lots of new first-floor commercial options around the station. Somehow, though, I don’t see Fishermans’ Terminal management or various other forces willing to negotiate such things, based on the sordid history of the Missing Link, and the incident last year when Councilmember O’Brien was roughed up. It made it feel like we’re dealing with the Five Points Gang, except they have no Tammany Hall alliance to back them up.

        At any rate, all things being equal, and no sign of interest in negotiating in good faith from said gang, we may as well keep asking for the best option, the beautiful sky bridge, that will make plain where to find the light rail station.

    3. It is too bad these folks who are making perfectly legitimate complaints weren’t looking at the original plans in detail, or we would have a much better ST3:

      Fisherman’s Terminal Rep: Hey, don’t thrash the Marina with a new bridge!

      ST: OK, how about we build an underground subway from the UW to Ballard instead. It would have a stop at 24th as well as 15th, be cheaper to build and make more connections for folks in Ballard.

      Fisherman’s Terminal Rep: OK, that’s cool.

      West Seattle Preservationists: Don’t thrash The Junction!

      ST: OK, how about we build the WSTT instead. It would mean buses run through The Junction (as they do today) but never encounter freeway or downtown traffic. It means folks who arrive from Alki, Delridge or 35th don’t have to get off the bus and wait for a train, which would mean they would get downtown (or anywhere else) much faster.

      West Seattle Preservationists: OK, that’s cool.

      But it didn’t go down that way. ST made vague promises, and people never looked at the details (and just assumed the best). ST never considered leveraging the existing infrastructure we have or trying to add the most value for the money. Now we are going to piss off someone, while not adding near as much as we could.

      1. Let’s not pretend that something happened here that did NOT. Sound Transit engineers drew lines on a map and did perhaps 1% of design consideration. Add to that the fact that they hid even that bare minimum of consideration from the public.

        If they had released their plans for the West Seattle Extension, I am fairly confident it would have been voted down in the West Seattle area. And not because of people’s fears about the Junction. I think people understood it was proposed to be elevated, and that there would need to be additional funds found for a tunnel.

        No, I’m talking about wiping out blocks of residential housing. I’m talking about running guideways over 100 feet in the air. And I’m talking about making traffic and congestion on the ground WORSE that it is today.

        Sound Transit Representative Alignment is the most ridiculous proposal for a transit system one could possibly imagine. Are we just incapable of planning real transportation in this region?

      2. Ross, whatever disagreements we’ve had over priority time-frame between Ballard to West Seattle to UW- putting Ballard station that far from the business district is so unacceptably bad it would be worth adding several years to the project to correct the route.

        It’s not just horizontal location. Without extending Central Ballard itself across 15th, you’ll have worse than distant. It’ll be bleak. But here, you’ve been first in months of consideration: Adding the third dimension.

        For any subway, a whole rainbow of stripes on a map tell you nothing in comparison with an accurate look at a density-grade vertical look at the ground. From the viewpoint that will tell you the height and weight of a passenger.

        How far under the Ballard CBD would a subway have to be to clear utilities and building foundations? What grade of rock, dirt, or mud? For maximum vertical angle, how steep a grade will you need- and where does your slope start?

        Because tunneling shares this with flying- in reverse. Exactly opposite of a plane, the deeper you are, if the path is dig-able at all- the safer and roomier.

        Bertha’s problem wasn’t machinery- it was somebody at the controls who didn’t think a steel pipe, whose position was known, was an obstacle. Whose boss should also have had to keep digging with a shovel. Our cutters are 35 years younger than the “Mighty Moles” that dug the DSTT. So before anybody publicly advocates any alignment at all…Show us your Section Views!!!!!

        Mark Dublin

        W have some section views first!

    4. Anyway, I don’t think it is a big deal. The bridge would likely be right next to the other bridge, which means you really won’t lose much in the way of moorage. At worse you eliminate one half of Dock 3, and chances are, you simply eliminate some of the smaller docking spots. The retail part of the area (the restaurants and stores) would be unaffected. I think you would probably compensate them a bit for the lost moorage, but that would still turn out to be the cheapest option.

      1. Ross, what about my point that an alignment as far east as 14th or 15th will be so far out of the active part of Ballard that it might as well be the kind of vacant lot that used to have a billboard in it?

        Incidentally, I understated my take on the importance of this particular part of the system. It’d be worth at least ten years. Will give ground on maxing out Rapid Ride- on its own reserved ROW, signals and all. Electrified if batteries won’t handle.

        Going over its own high level bridge, which it’ll share with bikes and pedestrians. Which could take our time-frame out to fifteen years- if that’s needed, none of which we and the rest of the public will know ’til we see those section drawings.

        If my worry has a symbol, it’s the designed-in lack of toilet seats in the washrooms of Sea-Tac Station. Maybe they’re warnings about what happens if you card-tap in wrong order. Pre-dating escalators and elevators as decades-unrepaired cheapout. Same in spades (the latrine-digging kind) for posted warnings on fines for tapping on. Can STB to and Open Thread for similar examples?

        Yellow hard-hat – gift from an actual worker and lacking only the American flag I’ll stick to it when it comes out of the box-doesn’t entitle me to make this call on a ship canal crossing. But I think being the citizens who’ll pay for this ST-…or whichever one gets to tunnel or build….be sure the hand of every explaining speaker has some mud on it.

        Mark Dublin

    5. Not at that specific table. But I told my table that the fishermen would be furious with any disruption both temporary and especially permanent to boat activity in the cut. Of all the groups involved that could potentially sue over some aspect of ST3, I’d put the fishing industry highest on the list. They’d be backed up by Foss shipyard, the Port of Seattle and any Magnolia residents pissed about their view would shadow back them too if not outright sue on their own.

      The tunnel might be more expensive to build in engineering terms. But it will meet with virtually no resistance to being built by outside parties.

      If they try for the bridge frankly it will have to be the 14th Ave alignment. As it won’t touch or block access to fisherman’s terminal and is the farthest away from Magnolia and might look “okay” from that distance. Big trade off though is it would require the demolition of several apartment buildings and force the 14th ave station in Ballard.

    6. The Port of Seattle has some additional local levy authority, beyond what it has sometimes dipped into already for regional projects (like the alaskan way tunnel).

      Need to come up with another $30 million a year, chat with the Port about if it’s worth it to raise property taxes for it. Wouldn’t even need a public vote (which a new tax would require).

      Tax Levy For 2018 the Port of Seattle levy is $72 million The maximum allowable levy for 2018 is $101.6 million

      1. The Port’s page on this is a bit disingenuous on this as it doesn’t tell the whole story. This agency, like any other taxing jurisdiction in the state, is subject to the 101% aggregate levy limit, year over year. The agency can certainly collect its full $.45 per $1,000 of assessed value on real property, per its statuatory authority, should it exceed this 101% limitation by requesting a levy lid lift. Of course that would require a ballot measure to do so, which is something that many taxing jurisdictions periodically do. (My current fire district does it regularly, for example.)

        To suggest that this sort of scenario leads to tax funding simply being left on the table is a bit misleading as it doesn’t tell the whole story. The agency in question here has clearly made a decision, perhaps in part for political reasons, not to seek their full statuatory taxing authority by requesting a levy lid lift. Fwiw, Sound Transit has already run into this and is not collecting its full statuatory authority of $.25 per thousand of assessed value in 2018 either.

  4. On your map of interbay you’ve added some green arrows. I’m assuming you mean them to represent bus routes since you have one coming from SPU?

    But you also have some on Dravus street itself. Dravus street is a 19% grade hill on the Magnolia side, it gets steeper and steeper as you climb it. So if your idea was that buses could go up and down the hill there it won’t happen.

    1. Those were just to show access directions and not meant to be more literal.

      The big points are about connecting trails/direct transfers, and SPU.

  5. Imagine the disappointment certain radio commentators will feel if a route is chosen that stays under budget. The cut and cover option also saves money if I remember correctly which could go toward increasing the contingency fund.

    1. They would find another reason.

      How’s this? “They got it under budget by deferring the issue of parking access. How are people supposed to ride the train if they can’t park at the station?”

    2. jas, there’s was a reason why the DSTT is bored from IDS to Pioneer Square Station up to the curve into Westlake Station, and then bored to UW (so far.) Boring leaves a smaller and stronger tube. Until there’s less than one tube diameter between top of the tube and the ground overhead.

      So best tunneling practice is to pretend that every jackhammer is named Dori Monson and just stuff anything on site in your ears. Except if it’s kind of sugary and comes out of an old stick of dynamite. And has a fuse in it imitating a sparkler, Or whatever pop group leaves even more people deaf when we finally start digging.

      In whatever year deaf parents tick off their kids by making it cool to listen to really hip nothing.


  6. “The Queen Anne station to the east of Seattle Center appears to be the best option”

    Aren’t all of the proposed stations west or northwest of the Seattle Center?

    1. I didn’t understand that either. Maybe the article meant west, but then which alternative did it mean? East of the Center is just one block away from Aurora.

      1. Yeah, and I assume you mean the stop at Harrison. (I assumed it, even with the incorrect direction, just because it is the only station directly to the side of the Seattle Center).

  7. Since we’re future-proofing pipe dreams, can we please also add space for a future high speed rail line terminus at ID?

    1. Sure! Let’s put that under 4th Ave where it would ‘reactivate’ Union Station. Wait.. what?

      in fact why not have that project rebuild the 4th Ave viaduct too. Pipe dreams are cool.

      1. How’s this for a pipe dream: The City of Seattle should put together some kind of Request for Proposals, and/or some the development community should initiate conversations about public-private partnerships in the 4th Ave / 5th Ave / Union Station / King Street Station area as there is a huge opportunity staring us in the face with so much new public investment already committed.

        We should (and by 2035, probably must) upgrade some significant portion of the remaining century-old infrastructure in this area (the non-historic infrastructure, like street viaducts) to something fitting for its role as the premier transit hub in the NW and gateway into the city while finding a way to create some new developable land over the tracks, or wherever it makes sense, that includes affordable housing plus enough market rate stuff to pay for the rest. These conversations need to start happening soon to dovetail with ST’s accelerated timeline.

        Here’s an example in New York of what can happen with leadership and vision: “Constructed on 28 acres over a working rail yard, two “platforms” bridge over 30 active train tracks, three rail tunnels and the new Gateway Tunnel.”

        The path of least resistance here is probably this: cheap out on ST3 because we can’t raise more money for transit right now, impact businesses on 5th, commit to a really inconvenient transfer experience forever, then have to coordinate anyway with a series of of patchwork projects the city has to do years later anyway under duress to get the project open on time and budget.

        I think it’s smarter to try and get a coordinated infrastructure/development plan put together, or at least the broad outlines of one that could guide long-term choices we’re about to make.

      2. New York, Denver, SF and etc have visionary leaders, we’re stuck with the likes of Constantine and Dorkin.

  8. That leaves one viable option in this round. The static bridge and station on the west side of 15th Ave NW.

    A static bridge would need to be very, very, very tall. I’m not sure the minimum clearance for the ship canal, but the Aurora Bridge has 167 ft of clearance and the Ship Canal Bridge has 182 ft of clearance. A more reasonable comparison is the West Seattle Bridge, which has a clearance of 140 ft.

    ST could definitely partner with SDOT to make it a replacement for the Ballard Bridge, since you’re probably looking at $300+ million if the bridge is light rail only. The 6 lane WSB cost more like $500 million in today’s money, but you’d probably need an additional $100 million for light rail.

    However, like the WSB, there would still need to be a lower level draw bridge for pedestrians, bikes, buses and local traffic. That would probably need to be 4 lanes (two bus, two general purpose), plus bike/ped routing, so you’re still replacing the Ballard Bridge in kind.

    1. Check Page 22 of the Visualizations PDF from the ST light rail input site that’s running ads at the top of transit blog:

      It shows a 136′ bridge.

      I recommend glancing through the whole thing; they’re rough concepts but give a whole lot more information for potential station siting than the box on the route map level information we’ve mostly seen so far.

      For example the Alaska Junction option makes a lot more sense seeing in pictures; I had seen lots of opposition against ‘destroying the historical commercial district’ but it looks like it mostly displaces that large parking lot behind the shops on California.

    2. The Aurora Bridge has the clearance it has because the south bridgehead is so high. It has never needed to be that high. The same is true of the Ship Canal Bridge. To avoid nuking the Eastlake neighborhood completely, the freeway was built on structure to the east where it is today. To the north of the Ship Canal the land is well above lake level as well, so it made sense to have the bridge be high. It doesn’t rise in the middle more than what is required to create a bit of a structural arch.

      A hundred thirty six feet should be fine for anything that will ever in the future need to go east of 15th Avenue.

      However, it will have very long approaches. Look at the visualization for the 20th / Fixed Bridge / 17th option. That row of supports marching up 17th NW is hardly “Old Ballard”!

      I gather everyone has noticed that there are no “visualizations” for the tunnel options. Odd about that, isn’t it?

      1. I gather everyone has noticed that there are no “visualizations” for the tunnel options. Odd about that, isn’t it?

        Isn’t that just an image of Ballard with nothing drawn over it?

      2. There also were no real visions of the Avalon station in West Seattle or real angles showing what an elevated line going down Fauntleroy will look like.

        Herbold’s Friday update pointed out one of those issues –

        Request to Sound Transit for Visualizations for Avalon station area

      3. No. You need a station visualization. Every one of the visualized options has station views.

  9. Use the old Alaskan Way Viaduct alignment and retrofit the existing post. Separate the Ballard to West Seattle line from the existing UW to SeaTac light rail. Build a downtown Seattle Station connecting Westlake to Pier 62.

  10. I’m glad to see the strong statement about rail-rail and bus-rail transfers. I do worry that —without quantitative objectives — ST won’t make it a priority. The fact that ST keeps diagramming station platforms on these planning maps as locations is vague at best and misleading at worst. One has to dig through other materials to see station layouts and concepts — and ST never disclosed where bus stops are or how many feet must transferring riders travel up or down in a station. The comparison tables made by ST even group rail-rail and rail-bus transfer ease in the same box (qualitative and not quantitative) even though they are fundamentally different issues.

    The problem really will emerge when the ST3 low-ball costing and low contingencies become a more difficult reality and features are cut.

    1. Speaking of rail-rail integration, I would love to see either the smith cove or inter bay station adjacent to the BNSF mainline and configured such that a sounder north station siding could be installed for easy transfers to link. Part of the reason sounder north is so useless and low ridership is the backtracking from IDS required for destinations in central and north downtown. Where’s Joe K for an amen?

      1. As a sometime south Snohomish County commuter into DT Seattle, who never uses the impractical (for most) commuter line, the Sounder North low ridership numbers are also due to where the line runs (using the BNSF corridor) and where the stations are. I don’t envision ridership numbers for this section to improve substantially even with some type of elimination of the ID transfer penalty, as you’ve suggested in your comment above.

      2. I don’t think it works that well as a Sounder North station, but some interesting connections are possible if it gets a Sounder South station and trains are run through King Street as an intermediate stop.

        You’d have to work out some sort of sub-area equity sharing with Sounder North trains stopping there, but the one direction nature of those trains make it pretty clear which residents those serve. If Sounder South serves them three sub-areas benefit.

      3. I’m in favor of this. For both North and South Sounder.

        If you can create a connection to another transfer mode at the same tine that you are building a Link station then do it!

        I’m also in favor of the same at Boeing Access Road.

        Great benefits may not be readily apparent, but there are benefits.

        And, over time, once you create the connections people will figure out how to use them.

      4. “You’d have to work out some sort of sub-area equity sharing with Sounder North trains stopping there, but the one direction nature of those trains make it pretty clear which residents those serve. If Sounder South serves them three sub-areas benefit.”

        And this is where things get messy. One needs to keep in mind that presently the South King Co subarea is charged for Sounder South and the Snohomish Co subarea is charged for Sounder North, while North King Co subarea pays nothing for the commuter service.

  11. So for Stadium/SODO, how important is preserving the E3 busway? Post tunnel restructure will it really be invaluable, or could the bus capacity that’s needed be absorbed by say extending bus/freight only lanes down 4th to Spokane?

  12. My critique:

    Ballard: Agreed (pretty much). I could care less about whether a static or movable bridge is built, but 15th and Dravus is the only decent location we can afford. A station closer to the heart of Ballard (to the west) would be better for walk-up riders, but make bus connections (which will already be strained) even worse. It would also make expansion north unlikely. It is one thing to add a couple stations along an elevated track (65th, 85th, maybe even 75th) but that just won’t happen if the thing is underground (it is too expensive). Meanwhile, the next thing that the city should build (and probably will build) is a Ballard to UW subway. That should terminate at 24th NW. So a station at 15th and Market would make sense *along with tracks down the middle of the street*. This is important — it would be disruptive, but in the long run (and maybe even the short run) a lot cheaper. Here is an example from Vancouver:

    Interbay — The Interbay Station should be on Dravus. With the railroad tracks and parks in the area, walk-up ridership (despite the apartments in the area) will never be very high. It is simply too far of a walk. A Thorndyke stop is the worst of both worlds. It is an extra 200 meters for everyone who rides a bus, and an extra 200 meters for everyone who wants to walk from Magnolia. Many of those on the other side of 15th who would actually be closer (as the crow flies) will also have a longer walk, since Dravus is the only crossing in the area (e. g. Thorndyke increases the amount of walking to the station for both people in the area as well as those who transfer. Where on Dravus makes little difference (there is no ideal location, because of the railroad tracks and parks) but mainly it needs to be on Dravus.

    Smith Cove — Terrible station no matter where you put it. Cheapest option is best.

    Queen Anne — Opposite of Smith Cove (all stations are good). I’m not sure why you think the station at Harrison (which I assume you are favoring) is the best, though. A stop at the other end (Roy) would be just as good for bus transfers and be just as good from a density standpoint. There are a lot of very big buildings (that were built years ago) north of there that contain a lot of people (who can see that in the last census report). I think you would have to do some detailed analysis which includes drawing diamonds around the areas that people walk from, and then seeing which buildings are bigger than others before saying one is better than the other. My guess is Roy is best, just because so little of its diamond includes Seattle Center property (although it is still easy to get there, as with all the proposed stations) but I think there is very little difference between the various ideas.

    South Lake Union — I agree.

    Denny — The most important thing to do here is maximize coverage. A station close to Westlake or the Harrison stop fails do that. You want a stop, definitely, but you want those little diamonds (around each station) to cover as much of the really densely populated part of this city, which means avoiding overlap. The station farthest east (Boren) does that.

    Westlake — I agree. Westlake will be the biggest transfer station in the state.

    Midtown — I agree. Since a stop at First Hill is out, the best we can do is put one on Fifth. That fails to maximize coverage (see the note on Denny) but is not as bad as 6th, which is too close to the freeway (no one works or lives on the freeway).

    ID Station — I’ll take your word for it. I haven’t dug into the details, but a huge tunnel is certainly not ideal. The main thing is, folks need to transfer here. Same direction transfers are less of a big deal (that will happen at Westlake, assuming they do that right, or folks will simply walk a little farther to the station that serves their line) but reverse direction (e. g. West Seattle to Bellevue) would happen here.

    SoDo — Unlikely to get high ridership no matter where you put it. But you are probably right — that station is the best we can do. The only advantage I can see to another station at SoDo is that West Seattle to Rainier Valley transfers would be easier (along with West Seattle to south end bus transfers). But both of those are likely to be better achieved with more direct bus service. For example, I could see the 50 running every 15 minutes and skipping SoDo (thus making it a lot faster from West Seattle to Rainier Valley).

    Delridge — I agree. The whole point of this station is as a bus intercept (like 145th and 130th). Focus on that, ST.

    Avalon — The main purpose here (again) is as a bus intercept (coming from 35th) and since that bus will turn onto Avalon, I don’t see much difference. There will be some walk-up riders, though. I suppose being a bit farther west helps move you away from the golf course, but you don’t want to move so far that connecting to bus riders is more difficult.

    Junction — Whatever is cheapest (which means one of the two elevated options). I doubt that this line will ever be extended, but that is the topic of another comment.

    1. but 15th and Dravus is the only decent location we can afford


      The city […]probably will build a Ballard to UW subway”?


      A Thorndyke stop is the worst of both worlds. It is an extra 200 meters for everyone who rides a bus, and an extra 200 meters for everyone who wants to walk from Magnolia.

      Besides the obvious deal breaker during construction of the 15th Avenue W alignments… the Thorndyke stop is way better than 15th Avenue W for transit integration since a new connection to SPU is possible under the Emerson Street interchange, and basically no one is riding the bus to this station from Whole Foods – Interbay. Oh! and Queen Anne buses will connect to the system at Seattle Center not Dravus Street.

      1. Why do people obsess about the Metro44 Subway? Unless it goes through Fremont it doesn’t significantly improve home-work commutes for most potential riders. Right now the 44 runs seven buses per hour in the peaks. Woo-hoo. Really gonna fill up that train!

      2. Please change “most potential” to “many potential”. The only folks who work in Ballard, now at least, are hospitality and health care providers, neither of whom tend to travel at the peak hours. That might change if the Green Line is extended to Shoreline and Edmonds and downtown Ballard then becomes an urban employment center, in which case the Metro44 might make some sense. But absent that, a RapidRide version of the 44 is the right level of service.

        An LRT line that went through Fremont certainly might be worth doing.

      3. Ben, I agree, but it’s a lot more expensive than the Metro 44. Five years ago, before Seattle Subway came out with their “fishhook”, I proposed what has become known as the “Metro 8” subway, but running down through the east edge of First Hill instead of 23rd and on to Mt. Baker along Rainier, elevated with four total stations and big high rises along Rainier (no view blockage because the hills already do that, but if high enough, voila new VIEWS!).

      4. Mike, of course there are a few, but not enough to support in-bound AM and outbound PM commuting. The student load across Market/45th is all-day bidirectional and too light to demand a subway.

      5. @Magnolia Ben — Yeah, I meant 15th and Market (oops).

        the Thorndyke stop is way better than 15th Avenue W for transit integration since a new connection to SPU is possible under the Emerson Street interchange,

        First I’ve heard of that. So you are saying that they will create a new exit from the ramp somewhere around here ( so that southbound buses can go through there? I suppose that is possible, but that would mean buying up some land, and doing a lot of work there (which isn’t cheap). This isn’t part of ST3, which means the city would pay for it. Oh, and what about the other direction? If the stop is on Thorndyke, you have that big walk, while if the stop is on Dravus, you don’t. This is how the buses will run: That means various places in Magnolia are connected to SPU. That would go right by a stop on Dravus (no matter where on Dravus you put the stop). I could also see a bus go down Gilman from Queen Anne, and then head to Ballard (maybe 32nd) especially as electric battery buses become more common (no need to add wire). In that case a stop at 15th and Dravus is ideal, and a stop at 17th and Dravus isn’t too bad either (a couple extra blocks of walking). Thorndyke would mean a five minute walk — far enough so that riders might want to just take their chances, and spend extra time backtracking (and hope the bridge doesn’t go up). Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, the walkshed is much worse. Whether you are walking from the apartments on the east side of Magnolia, or the apartments on the west side of Queen Anne (close to Dravus) it is the better spot.

        Whether it is worth the extra money is a different matter, but it is nuts to now say that the representative project — the project everyone voted for — is now too expensive, and that we will build something else instead.

      6. >> Why do people obsess about the Metro44 Subway?

        Why do you keep asking the same question, when people have already answered it (

        Are you honestly confused after reading those responses, or just ignoring it?

        The only folks who work in Ballard, now at least, are hospitality and health care providers, neither of whom tend to travel at the peak hours.

        So fucking what! Seriously, I always wondered why you didn’t like adding a stop on First Hill, and just chalked it up ignorance (since every other city in the world tries to maximize coverage when they add another subway line downtown). But now the reason is that office workers are somehow more valuable than nurses? Seriously???!

        Who gives a flying fuck what the workers do for a living, or when they travel. The whole point of building a subway system is to create a transit system that allows people to get easily from one place to another, including to work.

        Sorry for all the swearing, but I find the whole thing very insulting. I suppose people who work or go to school at the UW aren’t important either, even though there will be 80,000 of them well before Link gets to Ballard ( That doesn’t include the large numbers of people who will work in new U-District office buildings but are not employed by the UW. Oh, and Ballard not only has existing 9 to 5 workers, they are actually adding an office building right next to the proposed station (at 15th and Market).

        As I’ve pointed out many times before, this isn’t a fast corridor. This isn’t like Aurora or I-5, where you could easily make the case that a bus — especially an express bus — would be as fast as a train. This is a very slow corridor, that will always be slow. No knowledgeable driver drives that way if they are trying to get from Ballard to the UW. They drive 50th. That is why I keep saying this: this is one of those routes that would actually be faster than driving at noon. Those types of routes — especially when they have good connections and densely populated stops — tend to be really popular. Of course they are. When you look at your watch and think “I’m in a hurry, better take the train, not a cab” then it translates into lots of rides. The 44 is the opposite right now — horribly slow any time of day (it is amazing it has as many riders as it does).

        If you still don’t get that, I urge you to get out of your little bubble and go travel the world. Go to any city that has a good metro and check it out. You don’t even have to go to a huge city. Visit someplace like Montreal, Boston or much closer to home, Vancouver. As a tourist, it is easy. Travel in the middle of the day and you will see that the trains are still busy. Lots of people are getting on and off *at each stop*. It is not some weird thing — just people going about their daily lives (visiting friends, going out to a club, attending school or yes, even going to work). That is what drives these subway systems. It is what enables them to function, and function well. It help explains why every city that has a subway and a commuter rail system has more riders on the subway than the commuter rail.

        Heck, Vancouver has pretty much what you are talking about. A frequent bus that runs perpendicular to the rail line and connects to the university. And guess what? It carries more people than any other bus in North America. It carries more riders than Link did before the latest addition. That is all good and well, but at that point — especially since it is often full and isn’t running in a grade separated corridor — it makes sense to switch over to a subway. That is exactly what they are going to do.

        Then again, you don’t even have to get off your seat. Just read Sound Transit’s reports. Read how many people get off at Capitol Hill *southbound*. That means they took the train one stop, from the very inconvenient UW station to Capitol Hill. Over 2,000 people. Not a huge amount, obviously, but more than *most* southbound stops. That is without great connections. That is without serving downtown. That is only one train station to train station connection, and it exceeds *most* of the other stops.

        It isn’t all about getting to downtown at rush hour. If it was, then commuter rail lines would be ridiculously popular, and dwarf urban subways. It is about connecting various neighborhoods, especially those that are very popular (like the UW). It is about enabling secondary locations (or even tertiary ones) a fairly easy path to those places via a bus. All of that is how you build a good transit system and that is exactly what Ballard to UW has.

      7. If Link were run elevated directly above BNSF through Interbay, transfers wouldn’t be too bad if the 31 and 33 were routed two blocks east to hit the station above Dravus.

        Queen Ann really isn’t that much more dense in that area than Magnolia. I’ve walked around both in that area a fair amount.

        The thing Queen Anne has that would be difficult to do on the Magnolia side is the 1 and 2 end in that area. It would probably be possible to find a sensible way to extend one or both of those to a station at 20th and Dravus, but as they don’t terminate in the area you couldn’t do that very well with the 31 and 33 to get better transfers over at 15th.

      8. “Whether it is worth the extra money is a different matter, but it is nuts to now say that the representative project — the project everyone voted for — is now too expensive, and that we will build something else instead.”

        Amen to that. Sound Transit has a history of doing just that.

      9. @Glenn

        If Link were run elevated directly above BNSF through Interbay, transfers wouldn’t be too bad if the 31 and 33 were routed two blocks east to hit the station above Dravus.

        Yeah, there is nothing terrible about routing the train to the west (closer to Magnolia) as long as it straddles Dravus. The problem is that Thorndyke is off the main route that buses could take.

        Queen Anne really isn’t that much more dense in that area than Magnolia.

        No, but they are both fairly dense. If you could magically get rid of the railroad tracks along with 15th and smush both sides of the hill together, it would be a fine spot for a station, as there are plenty of apartments on both sides. It is only as you get up the hill that you start losing them (although on the Magnolia side you have some clusters).

        But from a walking standpoint a Thorndyke spot is still bad, even though it is closer (as the crow flies) to Magnolia. That is because people aren’t crows. You have to cross the bridge (on Dravus) then walk north again to get to the station. This is the closest walk from the Magnolia side to a station that is just barely on Thorndyke: That is a seven minute walk. From here (much closer to the station) it is nine minutes: You are already starting to get into “not worth it” territory, and you haven’t even gone up the hill. In both cases you shave 3 minutes off the walk by straddling Dravus (at 17th) and save a lot more if it was at 20th and Dravus. In both cases it is no worse to just put the station where ST said they were going to — at Dravus and 15th. This bears repeating — Magnolia residents who want to walk to the station get nothing out of a Thorndyke stop. Meanwhile, East Queen Anne residents have to walk a lot farther. For a typical apartment, it is a three minute walk to the station folks voted for ( That jumps to seven minutes with the Thorndyke option. As you go farther north (closer to the station as the crow flies) you get into the “not likely to walk” territory ( This is a distance of less than 750 feet and it take over ten minutes.

        Normally, when you move a stop around, you lose some and you gain some. In the case of Thorndyke, you gain so little because there is so little to the north. Even if the industrial area changes and becomes apartments, much of the potential walk share is eliminated by the lack of a crossing (on 15th) as well as the railroad tracks. It isn’t a matter of apartments versus houses, or current development versus potential, but a matter of geographic constraints. If you put a station towards the tip of a skinny peninsula (which is essentially what that area is) then very few people will be able to easily walk there.

        If using Thorndyke is so much more affordable, then the least they can do is move the station to Dravus (and 17th). I still prefer 15th (because it offers more flexibility with regards to bus service) but if you can save a huge amount of money by moving a couple blocks west, it is no big deal. But moving north (on Thorndyke) is worse for everyone.

      10. Thank you, Ross, for finally expressing your feelings. Obviously we disagree fundamentally about the ideal versus what is possible. I cede the field to you. Farewell. Enjoy your hollow victory.

      11. I guess I don’t get the whole Thorndyke thing either. It might make a connection to the 32 possible. Maybe if the 17 were moved to Westlake? Other than that I don’t see any advantage to Thorndyke, and quite a number of disadvantages because the traffic around the bridge is really bad. I’ve been on 15s and 31s stuck in that mess.

        Trying to do a station at Thorndyke and 15th would be pretty awful – something akin to the mess TriMet had to do where the MAX Foster Road station intersects bus routes 10, 14 and 73. It could be a nice transit station if a freeway didn’t run right through the middle of it, making transfers unpleasant at best.

        Also, I really don’t picture BNSF moving its locomotive servicing tracks anywhere as there really isn’t anywhere else to put them. They certainly won’t be moving to Everett or Auburn any time soon. What’s under Dravus is just train storage and sorting and there isn’t any physical barrier to building above the lines there.

    2. All the RossB comments are sound.

      The Subway dismissal of 14th Avenue NW is invalid. There is only 600 feet between the two arterials. In 203X, SDOT and Metro could design bus-Link transfers well (or poorly) at any of the stations. today, 15th Avenue NW is full of traffic in the a.m. peak. 14th Avenue NW is wide; Link guideways will be large; it will be good to have room for them. Downtown Ballard is growing in all directions; that will continue between today and 203X. Route 44 should become more frequent. All the bus routes should get very close to the Link station. It might be easier to revise 14th Avenue NW than 15th Avenue NW, as the latter is full of traffic and freight. Consider the POS; retaining the drydock just west of the Ballard Bridge would be cool.

      The Subway suggestion to place Link to the west of BNSFRR is invalid. Link should serve pedestrians and bus transfers. The west slope of QA has multifamily housing; the BNSFRR ROW has no housing and is noisy. Expedia and the cruise ships are not as important to all-day ridership as mixed use development.

      In Uptown and SLU, note that ST can mix and match; the TBM can bore diagonally. In SLU, Harrison looks great; in Uptown, Mercer looks better; the Key Arena is atop Harrison.

      In the ID, mitigating the impact of Atlantic Base electric trolley bus access on 5th Avenue South will be crtical. A deep station would make Link-Link-Sounder-bus transfers more time consuming. If we want to minimize seams in transit, good design must be used. Minutes matter.

      In West Seattle, note the RossB comment: the stations could straddle to transit arterials, helping the intending riders go between Link and bus (the opposite of SeaTac or Mt. Baker).

      1. Yes, 14th NW is a great place for higher TOD than what’s along 15th (six floors). You can’t go to the Moon because there are folks on the west slope of Phinney Ridge that can see over the Ballard Ridge, so maybe just 10 stories. But there’s a lot of low-rise “destination” business which would be better placed in SoDo. There’s employment in them, but not usually very much.

      2. 15th is already on the outer eldge of the walkshed for most of the residents and attractions in Ballard. Adding a pedestrian hostile 600 feet (someone elses number) is unacceptable.

        600 feet is almost an eith of a mile, btw. A typical walksed is 1/4 mile though Link’s functional walksher is larger.

        A statuon in 15th makes it easy to add pedestrian access on either side of the street and don’t forget direct bus transfers.

        14th just doesn’t pass fhe sniff test: It has a sniff of the type of transit planning that chooses what is easy over what is good. We don’t need to make that kind of concession here.

      3. I agree with Kyle — how often does that happen :) — I think an angel just got its wings. Seriously, when we agree on something, it should carry extra weight.

        Here are some reasons why 14th is really bad:

        1) The bus connection is terrible. Buses that run down 15th have to make a detour to get to the station. Riders from the west (the heart of Ballard) will have to wait longer before using the station. There are likely to be way more riders arriving from the west than from the east, because there is a lot more density to the west. As you travel the 44 corridor from the west, you get plenty of people around 24th, all the way to 15th, then density drops off. By the time it picks up again, you are very close to Aurora. Those folks won’t ride the 44 to Ballard just to catch the train — they’ll continue to take the ‘E’. So not only have you messed up the north-south buses, but you’ve managed to make the bulk of your east-west riders wait an extra couple minutes to cross 15th.

        2) Ballard will always have people to the west of 15th. Even if we manage to rezone the area around 14th, there will always be people on the other side who want to walk to the station (and not wait for the 44). 14th is a bit of misnomer — it is a very long walk (it actually lines up with 13th on the other side of the canal). North of 65th, they inserted a couple non-numeric streets (Alonzo and Mary) just to try and keep 14th close to where it is to the south (and even then it jogs to the west). The point is that not only would folks from the west have to cross 15th, but they would have a significantly longer walk on a particularly ugly street.

        Meanwhile, I’m not convinced that you will ever have the kind of density around 14th that you have to the west. Draw those five and ten minute diamonds around 14th and you not only include a lot of houses, but a lot of industrial area as well. This could change, but I doubt it.

        3) It won’t be easy, politically. Just think what a typical Ballard resident must think of all this. First you were told that a Ballard to UW subway (which would easily allow them to get to pretty much the entire city) was rejected, despite much better numbers than what they are going to build. They were also told that West Seattle to SoDo will be built first, and it will take years before they have a fast ride through Interbay to downtown. Now they are being told that the station is being moved across 15th, a couple minutes (and an ugly crossing) farther away.

        But those aren’t the people that will be really pissed. Look at the diagram for the 14th option (page 22 of this doc — The line doesn’t cut over the old lumber mill, but cuts earlier, running over the northwest corner of Queen Anne. Imagine what those folks think of this. You voted for this, figured you could deal with the noise and the bridge (which, by the way, was supposed to be 70 feet, not 136). The new subway wouldn’t completely change your world, as you are quite a ways from the nearest station (at Dravus) but whatever — it is for the greater good, and maybe you will walk to catch the train occasionally (even if it is a ten minute walk). But now you are told that giant pillars will be put in your neighborhood, with the train going right over your head, all so that we can build a station that most transit people consider the *worst* of all the options. Oh, and your stop has just moved another five minutes away. That isn’t what you voted for — it is hard to see why they would be OK with it. It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people have no idea that is even being considered, and when they find out, they will be really pissed.

        I really think the 14th idea is really bad. It would result in a really bad station that would be extremely unpopular.

      4. Haha, Ross.

        Quick! Someone replace a parking lot with zero parking TOD on a bike trail! An Urbanist is getting their wings!!!

  13. Seattle Subway writes: “one station stands head and shoulders above the others on transit, pedestrian, and bike connectivity here: Harrison. The station will straddle Aurora so that there will be direct bus transfers in both directions on Aurora and it will also open up the Bike/walkshed on either side of Aurora.”

    With all due respect to Aurora/Harrison as a potential station location, a station at Roy St. could also straddle Aurora and could also facilitate bus transfers in both directions on Aurora (actually, 3 directions, if any transit service uses the new downtown tunnel.) With a station mezzanine that facilitates ped/bike through-movements on Roy, it would open up the bike/walkshed on either station in a way that improves access for the surrounding neighborhood as well, unlike a Harrison station. Harrison will be connected across Aurora in the next couple of years regardless.

    So is Harrison head and shoulders above? It seems like more of a wash to me, and if $200M is saved, maybe that tips the balance to Roy.

    1. Huh? Roy is essentially a dead end: Harrison is as well, but in a few months, it won’t be. That means a bus will travel east-west across Harrison, quite possibly in its own lane. That means an easy transfer to get to anywhere on Harrison, between the freeway and the Seattle Center. I suppose you could run a bus on Roy between Aurora and Queen Anne, but I don’t see how that would work. Where would it go?

      I agree with your other points, though. A Harrison stop won’t “open up” the neighborhood, the SR 99 tunnel project will (which is by far the best thing to come out of that really expensive project). I also think from a walk-up perspective, it is a bit of a wash.

      Is a better bus connection (to Cascade and South Lake Union) worth the money? Hard to say.

      One more thing worth mentioning. Regardless of which stop you choose, please check with Metro. I’ve looked at the future SR 99 plans, and it isn’t clear to me where the bus will leave the bus lanes and get over to the surface street (to avoid the tunnel). Nor is it clear to me where a bus stop can be placed. It is possible that a bus simply can’t stop at Harrison, which would not only be bad in the short run (as trips from that east-west bus to the Metro E would be more difficult) but it would make building the station there very silly indeed. It seems crazy to think that ST would fail to communicate with Metro for something so basic, but they’ve done it before.

      1. I was referring above to transfers between this line and transit service on Aurora, rather than E/W transfers. Indeed, to the extent there is (or will be) E/W transit service on Harrison, a station at Aurora/Harrison would have excellent transfers to that.

        But where does this service go to the west of Aurora since Harrison dead ends, as it were, at 5th Ave.? If it traveled via Roy west of 5th Ave, it could service a Link station at Roy.

        If one wanted to travel to, say, Fairview/Harrison, it could be a pretty short bus ride from a station at Harrison St., but it could also be a pretty short walk from a Terry/Denny Link station which would be a cinch with a grade assist. Given the roughly E/W alignment of Link in this vicinity I’m not yet convinced the E/W transit transfer is a huge differentiator between the alternatives for this station. It’s worth considering, but I’m not sure what the future route concept is. The transfer to service on Aurora is critical, no doubt about that.

        If you’re heading to Seattle Center, a Link stop at 1st/Mercer is probably pretty close to your destination, unless it’s the Space Needle, and of course the Monorail provides access to that today.

      2. It’s “serve a station”, Jonathan. “Service” when used as a verb is what the bull does to the cow.

      3. But where does this service go to the west of Aurora since Harrison dead ends, as it were, at 5th Ave.?

        It would go north on 5th, then west on Mercer.

        If [a bus that crossed Aurora at Harrison] traveled via Roy west of 5th Ave, it could service a Link station at Roy.

        I don’t see how. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to change the nature of Mercer. Aurora goes over it, and Fifth goes through it, but between there, you can’t cross it. That means that a bus that crossed Aurora at Harrison would have to go over to Fifth, up to Roy, then back east again and end at the station. Otherwise you are asking people to walk three blocks, just to make a transfer to a bus that is about to head the same general direction as the train (although a lot slower). It is a much worse, much less valuable bus route. It is hard to imagine they would change the 8 to do that once Link gets there, but keep the 8 doing its usual thing, which is likely to be this before too long:

        If one wanted to travel to, say, Fairview/Harrison, it could be a pretty short bus ride from a station at Harrison St., but it could also be a pretty short walk from a Terry/Denny Link station which would be a cinch with a grade assist.

        Well, it is nine minutes, according to Google ( Maybe not the end of the world, but still a substantial time penalty. For an 8 (which turns on Fairview anyway) that is the biggest cost. But take a look at Metro’s long range plans ( it has two buses that go from Belmont in Capitol Hill over the freeway at Lakeview, then connect into Eastlake and turn on Harrison. That means someone who is 13 minutes away from the nearest train stop ( would be able to take a bus instead. It isn’t just stops on Harrison, either, but everything north of there as well as several places to the south (e. g. getting to REI is much easier — just walk a couple blocks south instead of walking 10 minutes from Terry and Denny).

        The transfer to service on Aurora is critical, no doubt about that.

        Yeah, it would be ridiculously bad to screw that up, given the fact that one of the major reasons they are putting the station there is to connect the two. But still, the connection to Aurora is exaggerated in my opinion. If you are on the E, headed downtown, why do you get off and take Ballard Link? To get downtown? Probably not. It is easier just to stay on the bus or even transfer to surface options. To South Lake Union? Not if the 8 follows that path, and the E stops at Harrison. Backtracking to Ballard? You should have gotten off the bus at 45th and just taken the 44. Headed to UW? Ditto. Capitol Hill? Take the 8 unless you like making two transfers or just love walking into and out of deep tunnels.

        The only time it makes a lot of sense is if you are headed to Lower Queen Anne. That is a significant connection — one worthy of some effort — but not the huge game changer that folks imagine that stop being.

        Keep in mind, I don’t think Harrison is stupendous either. The advantages from a connection standpoint are better than the alternatives, but it still isn’t great. This is one of the big problems with this route. You haven’t really fundamentally changed the dynamic in the region, even if you have made some trips a lot faster. Consider something d. p. mentioned years ago. A trip from here to here: It is exactly one mile as the crow flies. It serves two very urban areas. It is less than a ten minute drive. Subways ostensibly serve both neighborhoods. Yet try and imagine any possible combination of train stations (with or without connecting bus service) that will make that rather common trip take less than half as long as driving. Pretty much impossible, isn’t it. That’s not good.

        The city will have to muddle along with, and be highly dependent on bus service for a long time. Let’s hope they make improvements to it as time goes on.

      4. @Richard — Speaking of bus improvements, it is quite reasonable to assume that Seattle and Metro will add a bus lane on Harrison as it crosses over Aurora. Why not? It isn’t like other parts of Aurora, in that existing traffic would be hurt by it. There is basically no cost to general purpose traffic, which makes it a pretty easy fix.

      5. Crossing one lane to a left exit is less bad than crossing four lanes., and you probably don’t have to do it within a mile as from 520 to Mercer Street.

      6. I think it is two lane changes Mike. In other words, there are three lanes heading south on Aurora and the bus will be in the far right lane. Then it will move over two lanes and exit on the left. Yeah, much easier than 520 to Mercer, but as far as I know, no buses do that (for that very reason). This isn’t as bad — it is more like an express bus getting out of the carpool lane to exit — but it still isn’t good (for anyone). It will screw up that interchange, and lead to more accidents. There will be people zooming along, way too fast (of course) while other vehicles frantically change lanes. It will be worse for buses, as they lose their bus lane early. It will be even worse if we add a stop at Roy, and do nothing special to fix the problem. I really don’t think Metro wants their bus drivers making two lane changes in such a short distance from a dead stop.

    2. Harrison will be a through street – so both Aurora and future e/w traffic (possibly including the 8.)

      Roy is too close to the entrance/exists of he Aurora tunnel to be good for bus connectivity. Would force a super awkward merge.

      1. The bus lanes are on the outside of Aurora; the on- and off-ramps to Aurora Avenue North toward Denny from the new SR99 roadway (which is what it is called south of the Mercer overcrossing) are connected to the center lanes of Aurora to the north. Unless the bus lanes are moved to the center of the roadway, removing the stops at Galer, and Newton, that “super awkward merge” is going to happen several score times per day.

      2. Yeah, the future SR 99 project doesn’t look like it considered what would happen to the most popular bus route in the state. Oops. Here is a map: From what I can tell, a southbound bus (or anyone else) who wants to exit SR 99 before going into the tunnel has to move into the left lane.

        Side Note: WHY??? Why, dear God, does WSDOT insist on creating *left turn exits* when they screw up traffic so much?!!! Seriously, I get why they did it in the past. The city was small, traffic wasn’t an issue, etc. But now someone who is trying to use this expensive new tunnel has to move from the left lane towards all the traffic that was busy exiting on the right (at 90 degrees no less, typically coming to a complete stop) just a couple blocks north of there. It’s insane.

        Anyway, yeah, this is terrible from a bus standpoint as well. The bus will be traveling in that outside lane to take advantage of the bus lane and do what buses are supposed to do (pick up and drop off people). Then it will have to move over two lanes and exit.

        The thing is, Galer is about 3/5 of a mile from the exit. That isn’t great, but I can see how a bus driver could manage that. Sure, they lose the bus lane, but that is driver’s discretion (some move over early, aggressive drivers move over late). Roy, on the other hand, is 600 feet or so from the exit. That is much harder. There is no stop on Roy right now (Galer is the last stop before downtown). On the other hand, Harrison is not part of SR 99. A bus will be off of SR 99 by then and onto the surface street.

        It is possible that Seattle (or ST or some entity) will fix WSDOT’s mistake, but it will require some work and a lot of money. Maybe they can build a bus flyover ramp (which actually seems possible). Better yet, they could move the bus lane to the center and add a couple new center island stops (which would require making the highway wider as well as building ADA appropriate ramps to connect to the street). Another option is just to forget about those (minor) stops and not serve them with the E. That would mean the E would move a lot faster (no stops on Aurora, center bus lane) but it means one of the other buses has to serve those two stops (the 26, 28 or the 5). That would actually be a very cheap change, while making the E much faster, and some other bus slower (since it wouldn’t be in the bus lane). Personally, I like that idea, and it could be done very quickly and practically no cost (just some paint).

        The point TR5000 is making, though, is that a stop at Roy makes things worse. You pretty much have to spend extra money to make it work. I really don’t see a bus cutting across two lanes in that short a distance from a dead stop. That means you are committed to rebuilding the highway right after we thought we were done to either add a flyover ramp or center stop (which somehow would connect to the station underground). It just sounds like a big mess. Harrison doesn’t have any of those problems. Yes, the E would remain less than ideal (since it would leave the bus lane way too early) but at least we don’t throw a brand new problem at us and it leaves us open to doing whatever we want on the SR 99 part of Aurora.

      3. “the future SR 99 project doesn’t look like it considered what would happen to the most popular bus route in the state.”

        Because 99 is a road of statewide significance, and local transit doesn’t exist at that level.

      4. Mike, the point is that someone dropped the ball, big time. I get the fact that one mayor really hated the tunnel idea while the previous mayor was the one who came up with it (and the last mayor just shrugged his shoulders and allowed it). But of course the various agencies (SDOT and WSDOT) worked together on it. I’m sure the mayor as well as the SDOT chief saw all these pretty pictures, showing cars flowing across Mercer, and into a nice new tunnel. But SDOT (once again) failed to communicate with another agency (WSDOT) to discuss something very important (transit). It would have been trivial to tell Metro to make sure this works for them, or see if they have any concerns. My guess is Metro was never involved, and we will have a mess on our hands.

  14. You’re probably right about the ID station being at 4th Ave. Throwing it out there: is there any possibility of using the existing ID station for two lines??? Seems like that station can handle trains every few minutes, and it is something plenty of light rail systems do. Possible to share one of the myriad of existing tracks under 4th Ave? Even the existing Sounder platforms? Might save a lot of $$$.

    1. The existing ID station will already have two lines in it: from West Seattle and from the Eastside. That’s a train every 3 minutes at peak 6-minute headways on each line.

      Due to federal railroad regulations, Link can’t use the Sounder tracks. Additionally, sharing tracks means negotiating with their owner BNSF.

  15. Mercer is the economic center of Lower Queen Anne, but Harrison would serve the office buildings west of Seattle Center. Both are good locations. Roy is not as good. Yes, there are lots of mid-rises at the base of the hill, but Roy puts you too far from the Uptown office complex.

    Mercer is best, with the Thorndyke portal so that Elliott remains unentangled with Link

      1. Sorry I couldn’t find space to talk with you ’til I got all the way down here. But of all our commenters, I can’t believe that you don’t think anyplace along presently along the 44 will fail to expand its population during this next ST-.

        Meaning that a Route 44 subway will draw many more passengers than ride the 44 now. And as for a bus of any number on the surface, without dynamiting some buildings, how can it be anything but a necessary but slow local?

        But like with any of the hills I’m now obsessed with, meaning all of them contemplating subways, would really like to know what’s ahead of our cutter between Ballard and UW. Like with First Hill under Boren and Madison, straight or gently curving tunnels could be easy both to drive and to dig.

        The way I look at it, if conditions are good, we might in essence have an underground absolute earth-covered desert to take track through. What’s max tunnel length worldwide? Does anybody know if, and where, any section views or soil maps exist?


  16. I would like to point out that the two reasons that Sound Transit gave for blowing off “interlining” were both Red Herrings. The first was that they have to “preserve the E-3 busway capacity”. What flaming BS! ALL THREE of the proposals that they green-lighted consume the E-3. Massachusetts Portal and E-3 At Grade use it for tracks and the “ST3 Representative Alignment” uses it for elevated supports.

    Score one for Gross Hypocrisy.

    The second reason is “a flying junction would be needed”. That is not true if SoDo station is stacked, which is the right way to do it. Build an interlined stacked elevated trackway the length of the busway for use during the next three decades while it would have adequate capacity. You could build the structure i in the southbound lane and shoulder reserving the northbound lane and shoulder for reversible peak hour service. Use the existing at-grade tracks for easy access to the MF and potential reversion to revenue service if a deep South King County express or Burien extension increases demand.

    Or if things really take off in South King County with millions of Climate Change refugees, build a parallel stacked trackway for the Green Line and trench it down MLK. You could do that with the trackway in service on temporary cross supports as they did on Market Street when the two-level subway was built.

    Score one for Short-Sightedness and not Building For the Future.

    And score two for “Not Invented Here!”

  17. What is this “new tunnel enabling expansion east along Madison corridor”? Midtown is going to be reasonably deep — not nearly as deep as Eighth or super-deep as Boren would be. Whether under Fifth or Fourth Avenue, the track level passing under Main and Washington is going to be about 10′ above MSL. At Westlake SS shows the platforms overlapping which means that the tracks on the Green Line will be at a minimum four stories down (the existing Mezzanine, the existing track level with some sort of short bifurcated mezzanine sticking out vertically from the existing platforms, and the new trackway with a center platform.

    You do not want for force people to rise to the existing mezzanine to change between lines so you have to have a direct connection between the platform levels. You could certainly build a new pretty Mezzanine along Fifth or Sixth sticking out farther than the “vestibules” to extend access to Westlake down that Avenue with independent escalators “passing through” the vestibules like BART escalators pass through the Muni platform. But you must limit the level change to one for transfers between the two tunnels.

    What all that means is that the trackhead at Fifth and Pine will be forty feet below street level, at a minimum. Both Fifth and Sixth rise — not sharply, but noticeably — south of Pine, so that forty feet might grow to sixty at Midtown, especially if you want the “flat tunnel to Third Avenue buses” — which is a great idea!

    But that militates against a junction just south of the station to a line under First Hill. In the first place, the necessary curve would carry the trackway south to Cherry which is fine, but that’s the highest part of First Hill, so the result would be a very deep station at Boren and a somewhat less-deep one at Twelfth, both of which would probably have to be mined rather than excavated from the street.

    Not saying it’s not a good idea, but it is a LOT more expensive than a shallower north-south “Metro 8” which could have three stations for less money than these two and serve more of First Hill in the process.

    1. As I read First Hill, Richard, considering soil findings that nixed last First Hill Station, everything much west of Boren on Madison could end up helping lid I-5 when a single final truck hits a crack in the pavement.

      Still very partial to the option that curved eastward like a bow, with station at Boren and Madison. Depending on the ground, it looks to me like the speed a train could reach on that line might make up for whatever’s lost.

      Could lend itself to whatever line in the system has to be fastest. Like I keep saying that station could put every LINK station in the system in same subarea as all three of our State’s most important hospitals.

      But I’m curious. Don’t you think that anywhere like First Hill, or anywhere at all compacted, is much better mined than cut and covered?


    2. Yes, I think a Madison uphill subway (Seattle Subway Pink Line) is not logical at all.

      1. It misses the busiest thing on First Hill (Harborview) by several blocks. It’s even further from Yesler Terrace.

      2. That’s the steepest part of Downtown. While an incline would be ideal, any light rail would need to climb this hill more gradually than this more circuitously.

      What to change?

      1. Move the proposed line to curve northward and cross at Westlake or Capital Hill.

      2. Move the proposed line to curve southward, possibly linking to East Link tracks.

      3. Propose a supplemental incline (funicular) to be under Marion or Madison and tie that to a parallel north-south line under Broadway or 12th or anywhere east of I-5.

      Regardless, it probably hurts the legitimacy of an overall Seattle Subway vision to have a component that appears infeasible from an engineering standpoint.

      1. Al, 3 is perfect. You get it. Don’t do 1 or 2. The bus ride between First Hill and downtown is brief. Better to serve First Hill with a (roughly) north-south line that links to all four radial lines (e.g. the “Metro8” but forget 23rd Avenue).

        I leave you with the responsibility to get such an optimum Metro 8 built. I’ve written about it to cave-like silence too many times.

        Use the Battery Street tunnel for the first part, have a station about Republican and Fairview, connect at Capitol Hill with a 135 degree angle to U-Line (e.g. mostly north-south), have three stations between Cap Hill and the tunnel portal in the parking lot at Rainier and King and then elevated down Rainier with stations at Dearborn, East Link, Hill and Mt. Baker.

        You get big cities. Most here don’t.

        I wish you the best of luck.

      2. Thanks for the compliment!

        I think that spending at least three weeks daily riding other systems will teach any pie-in-the-sky, idealistic Seattleite the hard truths about rail transit. By three weeks, the novelty tends to wear off and the little design mistakes become as troubling as a speck of dust in one’s eye. I’ve spent three weeks to many years on several rail systems – Boston, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and of course Seattle. I’ve used systems for at least a day in NY, Philadelphia, Miami, San Jose, LA, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, London, Paris. I think others that post here have similar pasts. The experience shows.

        I’ve repeated many times how the First Hill – Capitol Hill – Crntral District deserves a focused transit Master Plan that is based on a multi-operator system and not a single project (like FHSC or Madison BRT). Waterfront – Belltown also needs one. To that end, I’d suggest only taking systems approaches.

        These systems plans should consider:

        – Better access to existing and planned station mezzanines and platforms. This is the single most cost-effective way to improve mobility in the core of Seattle. Adding underground walkways and station entrances are good investments!

        – A change to streetcar routes. The streetcars need to serve direct trips. Why do the tracks turn several times to go a few blocks away from the intended destinations, adding time for signals (signal priority is almost moot when pedestrians are part of the timing requirements) and turning delays at intersections with lots of pedestrians? No route should turn more than twice and once is even better. If that means splitting a route and adding branches to continue in a direction, do it. The current earthworm routing approach is a more ineffective waste of money and splicing two earthworms together (CCC) just 450 feet from a higher-speed light rail subway and surface bus street only makes it worse. Much of the Metro 8 could even be done using existing or new streetcar tracks. Broadway – Yesler – 23rd? Broadway – Yesler – Rainier? Broadway – Pine – Westlake? Broadway – Pine – First into Belltown? Jackson – 12th – Jefferson to Garfield High?

        – Inclines (funiculars)! Jefferson could be an aerial incline between Pioneer Square and Harborview. Marion or Madison or Seneca are incline subway candidate corridors. Denny or Thomas would be another good incline subway corridor between Cap Hill and SLU. (I wondered last week if inclines across Seattle could be built under monorail authority funding tools.) The beauty of inclines is that they serve bicycles, help with mobility- impaired riders, and can be set up to operate at very high frequencies (3-5 minutes) with a skeletal staff (no onboard drivers needed). Even flatter versions could be cable or electrically propelled in the Battery Street tunnel. Alternatively, vertical versions known as elevators with Small’s to reach an elevator tower could be an access game-changer. We are going to have a five- pronged light rail system extending for miles in several directions, so high-frequency or short-wait last-mile connectors would seem to a very strategic addition to the network.

      3. @Al — Metro’s long range plans do a pretty good job of laying out a plan for the area ( We can quibble about various routes (Metro expects this and makes it clear that this is not a formal proposal — none of these routes are set in stone) but overall, I like it a lot. There are a bunch of really good ideas that will make a huge difference in transit mobility. Just the three changes mentioned in a different comment I made will make a huge difference: Suddenly you can get from the north end of Capitol Hill to South Lake Union easily. The 8 moves a lot faster, and runs through South Lake Union, while another bus (the new 106?) backfills service on Denny while finally connecting Denny with First Hill (via Boren). You have much more of a grid in the area, as the 49 no longer turns and heads towards downtown as it goes past CHS, but continues south. In general it looks like a real grid — it is pretty easy to imagine getting anywhere to anywhere easily and quickly. The only thing missing is a north-south bus route between 23rd and 12th (creating a service hole in places like Cherry Hill) but that is due more to the street layout than anything else. In other words, Metro has come up with about as good a plan for the area as is possible. Keep in mind, I am talking about the 2025 plan, not some distant dream. The assumption is that East Link and Madison BRT are done by then, making much of this possible.

        But a lot of it depends on Madison BRT. There are a lot of buses that don’t go downtown, but intersect buses that do. But that bus (on Madison) better be frequent and reasonably fast or you will upset a lot of people. People from Madison Park, for example, will hate this plan if Madison isn’t frequent and reasonably fast.

        I don’t see the same thing with the streetcar, which is why I think it is a big distraction. Sure, it makes a difference for folks trying to go down First Avenue (something a bus would do as well) but there is no big cascading set of changes that transform the area like Madison BRT (and to a lesser extent, the Judkins Park station). If the CCC doesn’t get built, I don’t think it changes the plan for 2025 in the least.

    3. No, I didn’t reread my own post properly. This was referring to IDS, not Midtown. Cancel the previous “corection”.

  18. Let’s do what we did with the DSTT, and divide these projects into phases, so that if funding dries up, we can at least keep carrying passengers until money gets turned back on. And be prepared to get moving again without missing a beat.

    Could be good protection against both unforeseen expenses and funding cut-backs. And will also be means to tell any threats to make like a croissant and flake off.


  19. The projected dates for some of these stations (2041!) are too far out. This is because it will take too long to get the benefits, and there’s no real reason we can’t address the funding requirements. We must accelerate planning and building.

    1. The projects are ordered from most to least essential within the subareas, with the primary exception being West Seattle before Ballard. So at the current schedule by 2035 (Ballard) all the primary essential work will be done, and we can go one more year to 2036 (Everett). That’s still long but it’s not all the way to 2041. You’re right that the current funding climate is irrelevant for construction in the 2020s and 2030s, when there may be opportunities we have no idea of now. ST did try to shorten the planning timeline by asking the community to agree on one or two alternatives to study. That would have shaved a year or more, but it’s not looking that way, with both Ballard, and West Seattie having four alternatives or more.

      1. Mike – Based on the the process they laid out, they are still on track to speed up planning. Could cut 1-1.5 years off the timelines.

        They will cut options next round and get down to a preferred alternative by early next year. There will still be alternates studied though. We’d like to see some of the higher $$ but obviously better options in the mix.

        They head to the feds for federal funds in 2022, which is promising. The 2020 federal election will largely determine how this goes. Maybe they can stretch to 2024 if they have to.

        Anyways – here is the engagement doc for a refresher. I need to pin up a couple of those images on my wall.

      2. I’m a little nervous about speeding up the planning given the track record of Sound Transit. They have made their share of little mistakes (building the station north of 145th, etc.) and it seems more likely they will make similar mistakes if they rush the process.

  20. OK, here is my comment regarding expansion. My basic argument is that it is highly unlikely that we will need crossing tracks to serve Aurora. I think it is more likely we would see crossing tracks to serve a Metro 8 subway, although I think that is unlikely as well. Anyway, that is the short summary — the rest of this is long (you can skip to the end if you don’t want the gory details).

    Just to back up here, Seattle is in the process of building one of the most expensive, biggest subway systems for a city its size. My guess is that it is the biggest in the world (again, for its size). Every midsize city that has every done that (and even most really big cities) go through a boom, then level off. Even small additions become difficult. As the subway grows, you put more money into maintenance and operations. If you built a really big system, you struggle a bit with it, unless you have very high ridership. That is why Denver, for example, is cutting back on light rail service, despite the fact that Denver is a thriving, growing city. Ridership to those distant, suburban places just isn’t high enough to justify the service as the system ages.

    That is more or less the type of system we have built, so it is highly likely we will eventually go through the same progression. Again, every other city in the world has done this — none of them keep growing their system to resemble the beautiful, but fanciful Seattle Subway map.

    At the same time, it is quite realistic to see Seattle add a little bit here or there, just as other cities have done. With that in mind, here are a couple projects I see getting built, in order of likelihood:

    1) Ballard to UW subway. This was on the drawing board last time, and the case for it remains strong. Previous plans (including ones I’ve written) had one stop in Ballard (around 15th) but it makes way more sense to add two (one at 15th and another at 24th). It won’t do double duty as the fastest way to connect Ballard with downtown (unless the other line is out for maintenance) but the other arguments for it are stronger than ever. As was reported recently in the paper, the UW is expected to have over 80,000 students and faculty at their main campus in a few years. At the same time, it expects big office towers to be built (with businesses working closely with the university). Ballard employment will continue to grow as well (in the health care and white collar sectors especially). Northgate is poised to add a significant number of new office jobs to go with its growing health care sector. I could easily see North Seattle Community College grow as well (especially with the mayor’s initiative to provide residents free access to a two year degree). This all adds up to a lot of trips that would be much faster with a Ballard to UW subway. One of the big advantages of such a subway is that for these trips it would be faster than driving, all day long. This in turn means that transit trips that connect to the subway (e. g. Phinney Ridge to the UW) are competitive with driving (all day long). This sort of all day demand and speed improvement has always lead to high ridership (I would argue that nothing else has). Excellent stop spacing, very good stops, high ridership and previous studies make it the obvious next project.

    2) Northward extension of Ballard Link to 85th. This will only happen if the station is above ground, on 15th. Stops at 65th and 85th make a lot of sense (maybe even 75th as well, since that would eliminate the need for bus service of any kind on 15th). 85th is the big prize here, as Crown Hill is set to be rezoned. This would also connect easily to the 85th corridor, which means places like Greenwood would greatly benefit (e. g. getting to Lower Queen Anne would involve a short bus ride west followed by picking up the train). But the big reason I think this is realistic is because it could be done fairly cheaply, especially if the train runs in the median. But I don’t think it is realistic to assume this will go farther north, however cool that would be. I suppose it might be cheap to get all the way to Greenwood, maybe even Aurora, but I doubt it. It certainly wouldn’t be cheap to connect to the Northgate station, as that would require tunneling (making the transfer as bad or worse than the one at 15th and Market).

    My guess is that those two things are all we build (if that). They are both relatively small and cheap. But if we do somehow manage to continue to punch well above our weight (at least in terms of cost and miles of track) then I suppose the next project would be:

    3) Metro 8 subway. This has many of the same advantages as the Ballard to UW subway (each station is good, cost per station is good, connectivity is vastly improved, many trips are made much, much faster). But it is a lot more awkward, especially with the ST3 projects. If the Ballard Link line went through Belltown instead of swinging around to serve South Lake Union, then the Metro 8 subway would be simple (just as it would if the WSTT was built). Just run the thing through South Lake Union and end in Lower Queen Anne.

    But that won’t happen. There are no obvious connection routes. Nothing looks like it would be relatively cheap (great stations per mile of track) or provide a straightforward route. The best I have come up with is this:

    This would interline with Ballard Link, as I don’t see Ballard Link running every three minutes. Assuming Ballard Link connects with SeaTac Link, that would mean the train would have to end at SoDo (which seems quite reasonable).

    I have a couple variations on there, along with an optional station in South Lake Union (at Fairview and Harrison). The Central Area option provides the best stop spacing, especially if the station between Yesler and Jackson serves both streets.

    The First Hill variation covers a more urban area, but is a lot more awkward. I gave up when it came to finding the best stops, and as you can see, it isn’t great. The stops are all high value stops (covering urban areas and connecting well to buses) but they are bunched too close together. There is simply not a lot of coverage with this plan, and If I focused on coverage, I would lose connectivity. Maybe someone has a better idea.

    It is hard to say which is better. First Hill has a lot more people and employment than the Central Area (although the population of the Central Area is underestimated by folks who focus on height, not density). But a lot of the connections no longer make sense, as the loop (already a bit awkward) is very tight. Various First Hill stops would be well connected to the Link locations outside of downtown, but other than South Lake Union and Belltown, using Link to get from First Hill to downtown would still make more sense on a bus. On the other hand, the Central Area variation seems like it offers more plausible combinations. Rounding the horn and taking Link from Garfield High School to Westlake or even 5th and Madison seems reasonable (although not dramatically faster than taking a bus). I guess I would lean towards First Hill, although not by a lot.

    The big drawback with either proposal is the cost. From Capitol Hill to Westlake is 2.2 miles (using that loop). In comparison, the Ballard to UW subway is 3.4 (if it includes a stop at 24th NW). But a mile or so of the Ballard line could be cut and cover (the area on Market) while I don’t see any cheap way to build that line through Belltown. That means that just that segment alone is almost as expensive as the Ballard to UW subway, and you haven’t actually covered First Hill or the Central Area. From CHS to Rainier MBS via the Central Area is 3.3 miles, while the First Hill line is only a bit shorter. Both could have some cut and cover, so that would save a substantial amount of money. But I think either option would be somewhere between 50% more to double the cost of Ballard to UW. It is a high value proposition (better than most of ST3) but it is high cost as well.

    There are other alternatives. You could avoid the loop to Belltown (once again ignoring the most densely populated part of the state) but that cuts you off from the line we are about to build as well as downtown. A trip from the part of downtown currently served by Link to these stops would no longer make sense. You also would have a three seat ride from Ballard Link to the new line (e. g. South Lake Union to Westlake, Westlake to Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill to First Hill). I think riders would just stay on the train and take a bus (or just take a different bus, avoiding Link altogether). You would still have a good connection from the north (First Hill to UW/Roosevelt/etc.) along with East Link, Rainier Valley and places south. I think a small version (especially of the First Hill line) seems more likely than the full looping line I drew that includes Belltown.

    There are probably other alternatives as well that I haven’t thought of. But I would be surprised if the value added per dollar spent is as good as the other projects.

    I really don’t think you can get better than those three projects, though, no matter which one you prefer. Those three projects are pretty much it. I have doubts we will build that much, but I really don’t think we will build the following. Doing so would mean spending way more than any city our size, for far less added value:

    4) Aurora Link. This would be extremely expensive. It would include a tunnel downtown (with a Belltown stop) along with yet another expensive crossing and a lot of track, even if it was elevated. If it had anywhere near the functionality as the E, it would cost a lot, just for all the stations. If you skipped stations, then you lose a lot of the functionality. As with just about any plan, the main value is for the stops closer to town, and this wouldn’t have a lot. You add Belltown, then go underneath the new station that is added for this project. Then what? Either you run next to Aurora, or you are spending a bundle for more digging. Much of that hillside is greenbelt, which means the number of riders per dollar spent is not very high until you cross the ship canal. At that point you probably have another stop above the troll (a long ways above Fremont) making that stop either expensive or not that useful (or both). Then you have a stop at 45th, with the next stop at 65th. 65th is not great stop, even if you replaced all the houses with apartments, because it is close to the lake. Things get a lot better as you get farther north, until you go through the cemetery, where you hit another dead patch (no pun intended). You are going a long ways now (over 8 miles) and you don’t have a huge number of good stops (nowhere near the ratio of the other suggestions). As you get up to 130th, many of the better stops have relatively easy connections to North Link. Certainly 130th and 185th, while 145th would be a challenge. Still, that means not a huge amount of value added versus what will be added soon by Metro and Community Transit (when CT sends Swift over to Link at 185th). Sure, it will be faster, but not hugely so. In general that is the case. The E is popular because it has a lot of stops, is very long and is fairly fast. This would be faster, but not by a huge amount. It certainly won’t be faster than driving at noon — in fact I can’t think of any combination where someone wouldn’t be better off just driving between stops. The only new, significant subway stop is Belltown, which is great, but that is a lot of money to spend for one great stop. The big problem is that it would cost a bundle to go as far as the E, and would be really expensive to just go as far as 145th. It is about 12 miles to Costco, and about 9 miles to 145th. You could stop short of there, but then you’ve spent a bunch of money to dig a tunnel and cross the ship canal while only adding a handful of stops. Many of your riders — the ones that use the E right now — would transfer, but wouldn’t gain much (a lot of them would rather the bus just keep going the way it has been). Since this wouldn’t be extremely fast compared to the E, it is hard to see why this would double or triple the mileage of that bus line, making the ridership per mile pretty weak and the ridership per dollar spent especially bad. The amount of time saved per rider would be even worse. I just don’t see it happening.

    More to the point, I don’t see why you can assume it will happen any more than any of the other plans I suggested. Spending extra money to provide tracks when it is unlikely that we will ever need them seems a bit silly, especially since it is quite possible the tracks would be headed the wrong way (north-south to serve Aurora, instead of northeast-southwest to connect to the Metro 8). I guess if it doesn’t cost much there is no harm, but I would rather we focus on the things we are likely to build.

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