Where shall we put Ballard’s lone light rail station?
As Peter reported, Sound Transit is now in the process of reviewing the many potential alignments for Ballard/Interbay as we approach “Level 3” analysis. Last week’s Elected Leadership Group meeting (video link) was at times a reminder that needs of the riders who will eventually use this multi-billion-dollar system often play second fiddle to present-day concerns about inconveniencing businesses or car travel.
At the meeting, we heard concerns from the leadership about losing car lanes on 15th Avenue W through Interbay. We also heard about maritime businesses around the Ballard Bridge who might be impacted by a rail bridge. And, of course, we heard concerns that Seattle’s taste for expensive tunnels could impact Snohomish County rail projects.
While it’s completely understandable that we would want to build a train without wrecking our maritime economy, might I suggest we consider the needs of the system’s riders first and foremost? King County Exec Constantine and Ballard Councilmember Mike O’Brien hit the right notes in that regard. “For a rider,” Constantine said at the meeting, “it doesn’t matter where the line is, it matters where the stop is.”So again, where should the stop be? 20th & Market seems like a good balance of “old” and “new” Ballard, but alas it would require a long expensive tunnel across the wide part of Salmon Bay to get there. 17th is also fairly central but suffers from the same water crossing problems. 15th has always been the placeholder location, going back to the failed Monorail Project and even 1968’s Forward Thrust, and continues to be a logical option.
And yet at the ELG meeting, 14th is emerging as a path of least resistance. An approach via 14th avoids Fisherman’s Terminal and has the best options for crossing the bay (a fixed bridge for an extra $100M above the project baseline or a short tunnel for an extra $300M).
There’s a big downside, however: 14th & Market is a bad spot for riders, as Seattle Subway has pointed out. 15th & Market, just one block over, is superior.
A 14th Avenue station would force thousands of riders to cross 15th Ave every day on foot to get to and from central Ballard. The bike path is over on 17th and there’s no good way for bike riders to cross Market, either. An underground pedestrian tunnel might eliminate the traffic light penalty, but still add 3-4 minutes walking time and make some riders feel unsafe. Transfers to and from buses going north to Crown Hill and Northgate would be difficult. Finally, 14th & Market is the far edge of the urban village, abutting single-family zoning.
The station ought to be designed such that riders can enter and exit from the west side of 15th Avenue, without having to wait for a traffic light and ideally without having to walk two football fields over to 14th, even in a dedicated pedestrian walkway. A compromise alignment that Constantine suggested, where the train approaches on or under 14th but then stops at 15th, seems like it could work.
The length of the platform is more than enough to have entrances on the south side of Market St., on each side of 15th. Nobody should have to cross traffic on Market St or 15th to get into or out of the station. That’s how the walkshed of the station gets maximized.
Let’s avoid previous mistakes, like terrible pedestrian access and awkward bus transfers (e.g. Mt. Baker), siting the station on the wrong side of the street (UW), or pushing the station to the far edge of the urban village (Roosevelt). We get one shot to build one station that will last for 100 years. Let’s not screw it up.
Thanks to Ross for inspiring this post
177 Replies to “14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station”
it’s true that it is preferable to be further west, but this isn’t the worst problem with the proposal options on the table. The worst problem is the awful transfer situation options remaining on the table — particularly the deep mind tracks proposed at International District Station.
The Ballard station affects riders at one station. Rail-rail tansfers will probably affect half of all the riders.
I don’t know – completely bungling the only station in Northwest Seattle would be a big mistake for Sound Transit to make.
One correction, its fair to assume the station will last longer than 100 years given other precedents around the world.
A 20th & Market station wouldn’t require a tunnel across the wide part of Salmon Bay if the “compromise alignment” crossing at 14th were used instead. A tunnel under one of Ballard’s many NW oriented avenues (Leary?) could be used to close the gap. It seems to me this would be much cheaper than tunneling under Salmon Bay, and if we’re going to compromise, why not push for the most rider-oriented station location?
It should be under the intersection at 15th and Market, with 4 exits: one on each corner for easy access and transfer to each quadrant of that area.
The 15th/Market light is very slow for pedestrians. I also agree that a pedestrian tunnel would not feel very safe.
The bigger issue, as I think Al alludes to above, is ST’s challenges in building effective vertical circulation systems. A deep underground station will make stairs impractical for almost all riders. That leaves elevators and escalators, which I fully expect will be cut to the absolute bare minimum in quantity and quality.
Despite all of that, rail will still be much faster and more reliable (assuming a fixed bridge or tunnel) than the bus commutes most of us have now. That’s perhaps what ST is going for – save 5 minutes and do it cheaply vs. save 15 minutes and do it right, because both are better than status quo.
As much as I hope for a good design, I doubt I’ll be able to afford to live in Ballard by the time this is built.
Would it be better to build a Ballard Station with or without a mezzanine? A mezzanine adds vertical distance but it also allows for underground or above-ground crossings of streets (although ST seems to hate adding those except on Broadway at Capitol Hill).
One advantage of 14th is that it’s minor enough and wide enough to have an entrance right down or up to the platform. (Of course how high or low the crossing a half-mile away could alter that.)
I agree completely. Well written.
One other advantage of an elevated line to 15th: Not only is it the cheapest to build, but it would be the cheapest to extend. An elevated line is the cheapest to extend, and 15th is the only place where it could be extended up to 85th (a logical terminus).
Any alternative will require tail track of at least 2-3 blocks because the reversing trains will likely need them to serve the anticipated demand south of SLU. It’s forecast to be more heavily used than Crntral Link is today.
I’m not sure what significant happens at NW 85th/15th NW. (???)
Another logical terminus would be an extension up Holman all the way to Northgate Station, offering SnoCo riders a rail transfer to Ballard. This further supports your point to follow 15th.
It’s the next main commercial hub after 15th&Market.
Yes, Crown Hill is a commercial hub, and likely to be another “Urban Village”, with or without Link. It is also on 85th, which has plenty of apartments in both directions. It would make for a great connection for the Greenwood neighborhood, allowing for a quick transit connection to Link, which means a quick two seat ride to Ballard, Queen Anne and downtown. The alternative (one that folks will have to live with for a while) is a two seat connection to Ballard and Queen Anne or a very awkward bus system.
Agreed – 85th makes complete sense for anyone who knows the area.
RossB, so now you’re in favor of an extension to 85th. But I think you have been against an extension to Northgate (and possibly interlined with Northgate-Lake City-Bothell), saying that Holman Road doesn’t have enough density to generate ridership. But if ST extends it to 85th, isn’t Northgate just a short distance from that, and not worth arguing against?
@Mike — The difference is cost. That is why I keep saying that the only way this goes north is if this is above ground at 15th. Extending an elevated line on 15th to 85th (a distance of a mile and a half) is relatively cheap. Getting to Northgate is not. Even getting from 85th to Greenwood is probably more expensive than getting to 85th. It is about the same distance, but involves trickier geography (from what I can tell). Getting to Aurora from there would be fairly cheap, but I don’t think that part of Aurora makes for a great station. Few are going to backtrack to get to that station (that would only make sense if you are headed to Ballard); if you are at 185th (or farther north) it makes more sense to take Swift. That means a small subset of the Aurora riders would switch there — many of whom would rather just stick with the one seat ride to downtown (which will happen no matter what Link does). The big prize is Northgate — you are right. But getting there would be extremely expensive. I just don’t see that as being possible above ground, especially since both sides of the freeway are likely to grow very quickly soon. It would require going underground, which is just too expensive for what it would get you. Yes, it would be wonderful if you could quickly get from Northgate to Ballard, but that can be achieved by building the Ballard to UW subway, which would have a lot more benefits overall (e.g. a fast ride from Ballard to the UW).
But hey, I’m not going to argue too hard against the fantasy of a Northgate to Ballard subway line. Sound Transit loves the idea of very long range mass transit systems (Tacoma, Everett, Issaquah!) so if that is what it takes to avoid the nonsense of a station at 14th, I’m all in.
An “elevated line on 15th” is not on the table; it has already been rpejected. If you think that the “Steakholders [sic] Advisory Committee” is a bunch of cattle farmers, you’d be mistaken. They’re ca000lled “Stakeholders” because they hold the “stakes” — e.g. financial and political power — that will be pounded into the ground to delineate the route. They’re largely elected officials, so why would they reverse themselves when they take off the Stetson and put on an engineer’s hardhat? Or more likely, a financier’s Top Hat.
An elevated line from a high bridge on 14th (at least, up to about 60th
where it would have to transition to tunnel if extended) would be possible, but not 15th. Building it would be a fustercluck for several
years down the middle of Northwest Seattle’s primary arterial.
I don’t see how Dow’s idea of a tunnel under 14th leading to a station under 15th is any better or cheaper than just tunneling under 15th. The width of the Canal is about the same at the two streets. But ST believes it’s $200 million more to tunnel under 15th so they must know of something that’s not obvious. Contamination? Deeper ooze? Something must be better about 14th. So maybe that will be the solution.
In any case, it is only about 60 feet longer between 14th and Shilshole
and 15th and Market than it is between 14th and Shilshole and 14th and Market. The magic of trigonometry. So, the additional travel time is negligible even when doubled, but so is any additional distance with which to climb out of the hole. It’s a very thin angle, 11 degrees.
Fifteenth still has the problem of needing a muy grande hole at
the corner of Market and 15th NW.
Question for Al. Why is there a need for a “two to three block” tail track? Why not just terminate the trains in the station like they do at HSS and did at Sea-Tac? It’s easy for the operator to walk to the other
The tail track is needed because drivers need a break. The initial loads discussed through Downtown were to have trains carrying about 114k to 145k on an average weekday (https://st32.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/Document%20Library%20Featured/0602_Templates/2016_March_ProjectDetails_LRT.pdf).
Compare that to today’s Link at 3-car trains every six minutes for 80k riders and the train loads run in two directions while SLU/ Ballard is the same direction. Let’s say that 50k is on the SODO segment. So six minutes x 3 cars is 30 train cars an hour in one direction. To carry at least twice if not almost three times would mean at least 60-90 train cars in one direction. So with 4 car trains, that would be 15-22 trains in an hour, or one train every 2.5 to 4 minutes. Say that today’s train can pack more riders in, we are still not likely to go back to 6 minutes on this line without considerable crush loads on the trains.
For those train drivers making the hour+ trip to Tacoma, they will need breaks at each end. At six minutes and two tracks, a driver can get 12 minutes and subtract getting in and out of the train and the driver gets a 10-minute break. However, going more frequent reduces the available break time to less than 10 minutes.
ST has not seriously talked about train loads and frequencies since ST 3 was passed. That overcrowding remains a major worry that hasn’t been disclosed. Still, I note that both the Ballard and West Seattle plans always have tail tracks sketched for each alternative these days.
Could also have a few drivers who would begin their shifts at the route terminals. They would relieve arriving drivers and take their trains back into service within a couple of minutes.
Each arriving driver could take a longer break and pick up another train in 20-30 minutes. That would increase operating costs marginally, but also provides a buffer in case of driver illness or other unforeseen circumstances. The break could be cut short on that trip until another relief driver could be called in. Also would be better for the drivers to have a mental break from the long route, eat something, use the restroom, etc.
The entire reason for the deafening calls for Link to Ballard was to improve access to the rest of the region. People like myself are avoiding living in Ballard because of the half-hour overhead on every trip to get out of northwest and north-central Seattle. There are so few options to live within walking distance of a Link station that we can’t just cut off a quarter of Seattle or serve only a corner of it. If this alignment is going to be on the far east edge of Ballard and even bus transferers have to walk the equivalent of three blocks, then that raises the question of whether we should build it at all, or maybe truncate it at Smith Cove. And then the issue of how to cross the Ship Canal would be irelevant.
“Could also have a few drivers who would begin their shifts at the route terminals.”
Then the drivers would have to walk that long transfer from 15th too. That might be a way for ST to get some inside complaints about the transfer that it might do something about. But by that time it would be too late. Those drivers may not even be hired yet.
There’s a sense of hopelessness because ST will never give up on Ballard unless the engineering risks turn out much worse than expected or funding comes up seriously short, because ST never gives up on a voter-approved project. The thought of a Ballard line that doesn’t really serve Ballard much and doesn’t reduce the overhead of getting in and out of northwest Seattle much is depressing.
The tail track at Angle Lake Station has gotten little use, if any. Trains still switch tracks north of the station. (This helps get riders longing for the next extension, to save a minute getting into or out of the terminal station.)
The solution to not having enough time for breaks will eventually be seat slides — operators driving a different train south than the one they drove north. Using the tail track doesn’t really help with break time, since the operators can only get in or out of the train at the platform, anyway.
An “elevated line on 15th” is not on the table; it has already been rpejected.
Really? That isn’t my understanding at all. My understanding is that the representative project is still a very big possibility. Anyone want to clarify this? Is Tom correct, or not? Has the Sound Transit board officially rejected the representative project or not?
Al, thank you. I do understand the need for operator breaks. I just don’t understand how tail tracks help the problem in a terminal station. A “turnback” station? Sure.
On an relegated trackway –presumably with a narrow walkway between the tracks — it’s likely to be farther to the operators’ restroom than one at next to the bumpers. And there’s the safety hazard posed by the “attractive nuisance” of an elevated walkway sticking out fron the station. Why not just terminate the trains inside the station, with “seat slides” as Brent suggests. That’s actually quicker than any other option.
Ross, the seven or eight options presented at Level 1 are presumably what the Sound Transit planners agree is “buildable” along the “ST3 Representative Alignment” for Interbay and Ballard. The RA shows the route as running right along Elliott and 15th West then straight across to 15th NW. Such an alignment would require a high bridge at the corner where Elliott curves into 15th West and interferes with the Ballard Bridge. The RA was one of the seven lines shown on the official publication prepared for the workshops. It was not one of the three options “sent through” by the Stakeholders Advisory.
You may disagree, but that seems very likely to be the set from which the chosen alignment will be chosen. I could see them joining the south end of one with the north end of another, but I genuinely believe that someone at the City asked them to rule out a bridge right next to the existing one so that the City has room to construct a replacement as easily as possible.
“elevated” not “relegated”
Agree that, one way or another, an entrance west of 15th that avoids the traffic lights at 15th is essential.
If the station is going to be east of 15th, it’s time for the city council to upzone the area so that more people can use it. The station won’t open for another 15 years, at least, which is plenty of time for some of the single-family homes in the area to be replaced with denser housing. If the city allows it, I’m sure the market would gladly oblige.
The one benefit to putting it east of 15th is that it would be a catalyst for further urban densification and upzoning in Ballard in the area around the station at 14th. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I can see why serving an area that’s already developed would definitely be preferable.
There doesn’t seem to be too much lost if some of the “single family” housing in that area is lost. A fair amount looks like cheap-o 4-pack townhouses, not architecturally significant craftsmans with woodwork. I do like preserving historical housing stock if it has good bones, but it seems more and more that so much of the good stuff has already been lost to make way for cheap (for the builder, not the buyer) re-builds. (Same holds true in both Seattle – with the teardown-to-townhouse conversions – and Tacoma – where unscrupulous “house flippers” rip out the good bones and replace them with throwaway low grade Ikea or Home Depot interiors.)
The time for the city to rezone is right after ST acquires the necessary properties. Land price escalation is going way beyond original predictions.
“There doesn’t seem to be too much lost if some of the “single family” housing in that area is lost.”
Not much loss for you but the opposition would argue it makes Seattle less liveable, destroys our remaining stock of lower-priced older houses, and is essentially a giveaway to developers who are the ones pushing for upzones. If this opposition didn’t exist it would already be zoned like Chicago. I have recommended a continuous urban village from Ballard to the U-District like Chicago’s North Side, but Seattle is still stuck in its small-village-islands mentality.
We must also avoid depending on things that may not happen. Sound Transit is not allowed to consider upzones that haven’t been approved yet or are close to approval in its ridership estimates. We’ve seen this happen several times now, where the hopes for a great upzone in Roosevelt, Capitol Hill, Northgate, 145th, and 185th have been replaced with something less. So there’s no guarantee that a 14th Avenue station would be enough to make an upzone happen, and the station would forever be within walking distance of only ten houses east of 14th.
Worth noting as well as that a lot of the land is zoned industrial. This could also change, but at some point, those folks would complain (since a lot of industrial land to the west has been converted already). It is also possible that some of the businesses simply stay put.
It is also worth noting that the area to the east has undergone some new development. New townhouses have been built. While this is great, it means it is unlikely that they will be converted over to more densely populated apartments any time soon. It is one thing for a duplex built cheaply in the 80s to be converted to a big apartment, it is quite another for a set of recently built row houses to go.
The folks who bought those will be twenty years into ownership, and would ask a lot for them (even if they wanted to sell). All it takes is a couple hold outs, and development stalls (and the price goes way up).
All of this means that is unlikely that the area to the east will equal the area to the west in terms of density.
A tunnel doesn’t cut it for me, even West of 15th. It’s too far to walk and will present safety issues.We need the station at 15th, as was indicated in the representative alignment.
I agree. Who in their right mind would say “It is an extra three minute walk — but don’t worry, it is in a tunnel”.
This is too narrow a view. Pull out to 30000 feet. 14th is the midpoint between the locks and Phinney. A truly 100-year decision puts the station in the bulls eye of the catchment area. That’s 14th. Talk to architects and real estate pros. The area east of 15th is the next to pop with density.
If I were to grade all the stations from A to F, I would have to consider their current value and their future value. Some stations, like the University of Washington have very limited future value because there’s not much land in the area to build anything useful (you could upzone entire Montlake and it still wouldn’t be great). However, stations like Roosevelt, that may have been C’s are now looking a lot better due to the development in the area. Capitol Hill offers similar 100 year value, but with perhaps 10 years lag. East Link Hospital station is a poor location that might one day look very good.
I agree with this article that 14th in Ballard isn’t a good location, but by the time the station is built, it might not look any worse than Roosevelt does now.
Amen. Its the difference between asking, “is this a great station location given the 2018 land-use in the area” (the answer is no), or “is this a great station location given possible 2040 land-use in the area.”
Arguing in favor of 15th is an implied surrender to continual low-density use of the dozen or so blocks between 14th and 8th.
I don’t see how arguing over one block difference is a surrender to anything other than ST’s historic inability to plan easy transfers between buses and trains.
We’re not asking to have riders east of 15th have to cross 15th to access the station.
A station a block east of 15th pretty much uses up the already-non-SFH land currently available. A station west of 14th leaves some redevelopable land that doesn’t have to wait through 30 years of lawsuits before anything can be built up.
No, arguing in favor of 15th Ave NW is recognizing the benefits of connectivity and future expansion.
For a 14th location, any north-south bus serving the station needs to turn off 15th, stop at the station, and then turn back to 15th. This is four turns required in heavy traffic, meaning slower buses for everyone. A station on 15th allows buses to pass straight through.
Also, a 15th location allows for easy future extension, since 15th Ave goes all the way to Northgate (using Holman Rd) and 14th doesn’t go very far.
That’s only relevant for the D-line, which I would not expect to deviate. For the 40 and the 28, deviating to serve the station seems reasonable. I’d even argue that a 15th Ave route that does not cross the ship canal should deviate to serve 14th directly.
And same for the 17 and 18 … I’d expect those routes to cease crossing the ship canal, so whether they are intersecting a Link station at 15th or 14th isn’t particularly important, either way they are turning on Market and looping around after serving the station.
Another Engineer is correct. When building for the future, you really do need to consider “the future” in your plans. Building at 14th is building for the future, and it has certain advantages in the current time-frame too.
That said, the major problem with building at 14th is that the TOD opportunities are so much greater. Unfortunately many of the really good TOD sites are currently breweries, so building at 14th drives a choice of “good breweries vs good TOD.” I’d go with TOD, but not everyone would
“When building for the future, you really do need to consider “the future” in your plans.”
You need some certainty that there will be a future. That’s why it’s vitally important for the city to commit now to upzoning the area from 14th to 8th, and to tell us what the level will be. Because that is a material factor in whether we support the 14th station or not. Right now the city has not even mentioned it and it’s not in the HALA plan, so the default is no. We shouldn’t have to just trust that future city administrations will reverse direction and fix it, or trust that our fights with NIMBYs will succeed.
@AJ — Yes, it stands to reason that the 40 would deviate to serve a station at 14th just as it would deviate to serve a station at 15th. The problem is the D, or bus service along 15th. The issue is not whether a bus goes over the Ballard Bridge. If the station is moved to 14th, then a modified D would have to deviate from 15th, instead of continuing on 15th, and exiting 15th at Leary, *as it does now*. In this way, the hole created in Old Ballard (the area south of Market, and west of 15th) is minimized. The D at least serves 15th and Leary, and could easily serve 52nd (where I believe a new pedestrian crossing was added, along with a northbound bus lane). Right now there is no stop there, but that is because the bus is an express. But as this bus would simply funnel people along 15th north of the bridge, a stop there would make sense. Once the bus got to Leary, it would likely just end soon thereafter.
If the stop is on 14th, it means the hole in Old Ballard is bigger. It is a lot farther to catch a bus — any bus. Furthermore, riders on 15th have to wait until they get a left turn arrow and they make an extra stop (to let people off who are headed west of 15th). That means a wait for a very infrequent stop light (instead of the most common one, which is east-west) along with an extra bus stop. Not the biggest price to pay, but it is clearly worse.
That’s for the Ballard-UW extension. :)
Someday, you guys should do a post on why Ballard to UW died as a proposal for ST3– it tested higher than any other option in the ST polls, yet we heard rumors of turnback problems, lack of maintenance stops, transfers impossible because the Lynnwood hordes would overwhelm the system, etc. Paired with the WSTT, and the Metro 8, it really might have been something.
Instead, SDOT swoops in with its Amazon and Expedia stops with no pubic comment, and here we are.
On another note, Myballard is covering this post:
Frank, I’m so old I type with letters-dropping the goose-quill was hard enough So I hope you’re not suggesting that staging for the Ballard-UW extension is a joke. Same empty space that’s bothering everybody about 14th makes it ideal for this use exactly.
Like I say everytime somebody adds fuel to the War With West Seattle, my comeback is that Ballard and UW are part of the same project, and that the work on each can help the other. But since number of hard-hats on the hooks in the coat room was likely none, I want some proof that a for ease of TBM boring and location choice, a deep tunnel might be both easiest and cheapest.
For instance, earthquakes are known to roll only top 20 feet of the ground (got my hardhat in the trunk of my car in case anybody wants to agree or straighten me out. Also to gain running-room by going under all the pipes and wires. But also…tell me Community Transit wouldn’t cry foul about anything we do, including re-graveling the Burke Gilman.
If they simplify the damn things so that anybody can use them without an attorney to find all the RCW’s and “tap” “crap”, we can give CT a special bargain by letting them ride same distance, mainly whole Greater Puget Sound area- as everybody else. Anywhow, getting old for me, too, but I want some section views!
Since only thing I need to see in Ballard now that my former home is in the hands of same speculator using southeast corner of Othello Station, all I need to see is the Nordic Heritage Museum. Because a slopeway (bet I just invented that) from since the museum will be west entrance, we need to get translation into Finnish.
Which could give them incentive to make our new streetcars fit on the track and not collapse any drawbridges. Though if that’s wrong not advisable to say that in Finnish. They don’t talk much, but carry real sharp little knives in tooled- leather holsters on their belts. And they’ll tell you we built our bomb shelters so weak they won’t take a hit from one single1939 Russian bomber.
Market and Ballard deep tunnel entrance done by same Finnish architect that did Nordic Heritage. Notice the brown police car. They don’t mess around with lane violators.
See what you did now, Frank. You’ve turned loose a wave of pessimism that’s opened up the always-unsettling West Seattle vs. Ballard UW feud now instigated by Confederate agents in md (incidentally, is that Baltimore, Bethesda, or Frederic?)
Anyhow, ever think that this could be psi-warfare by West Seattle to demoralize the Ballard forces until they break and run for a last stand at View Ridge. Giving the WSA (West Seattle Army) total control of not only the 17 and the 18, but also the 48, giving them control of Mt. Baker Station and Rainier Valley.
However, you bring to mind something really important mentioned elsewhere. A deep underground station could have problem with a tail track. But if a spur could fork NE from another trans-canal track, 14th area would be perfect for both a staging area and start-up area for the WW tunnel.
So every time somebody tries to divide and conquer us- just tell them to go stuff it which pretty well says it in this connection. BTW: What about Potomac? And is Dupont Circle Station technically in Maryland or DC. If it isn’t world’s deepest station, it sure looks like it from top of the escalators.
Mark. Incidentally, read that they’re planning to put a huge high rise condo-nest to fill up Stoneyhurst Quarry, where I used to work. Hope John Stone, the foreman, misplaced a lot of old nitroglycerin lying around. It goes off if you look at it.
Of course, the rubble could make us a whole new “wall” of rock to revive a local industry.
“you guys should do a post on why Ballard to UW died as a proposal for ST3– it tested higher than any other option in the ST polls, yet we heard rumors of turnback problems, lack of maintenance stops, transfers impossible because the Lynnwood hordes would overwhelm the system, etc.”
That would be a great article. My impression is that the primary reason Ballard-UW was deprioritized is that many people have a downtown bias and think that a one-seat ride to downtown is always the best, because they either work downtown or they see the congestion on 15th Ave W and Aurora and the full 18X’s and 17’s and think that’s most of the ridership. They don’t trust the idea that a line to U-District transfering to downtown will be as fast or sufficiently fast even if people show them the grade-separated numbers, because they’re afraid it won’t really work out or it’ll get watered down and be worse than expected. There was also the sense that Ballard and West Seattle had previously been rated as deserving a monorail to downtown and didn’t, so now is the time to deliver on that promise. The original catalyst for Ballard-Downtown Link was Mayor McGinn, who really wanted it and gave ST extra funding to accelerate the Ballard-downtown corridor study. That prompted the other subareas to say, “We want to accelerate our studies too”, and that’s why the ST3 vote was in 2016 instead of 2025. After McGinn the city continued preferring Ballard-downtown, and that was the main influence on ST.
The secondmost reason seems to be the potential capacity crunch between U-District and downtown if Ballard-UW is built before Ballard-downtown or instead of it. That may be real but ST didn’t really address it or look for ways to mitigate it; it just used it as an excuse to defer that corridor. ST has all along refused to predesign a good transfer interface at U-District Station, which this line would need. That goes all the way back the original designing of U-District station long before ST3, because I have been complaining to ST about it since then and pleading urgently for them to do so. The original response I got at in an open house was, “A Ballard-UW line is not voter-approved yet so we can’t spend resources designing something that may never be used, and we don’t even know if the alignment would go to U-District station. (At the time there was an alternative near Northlake Way to UW Station and 520 which he was referring to.)
Third is the issue of a maintenance base, and I too see that as a physical hinderance that may be fatal. If there’s no Ballard-downtown line then the only way for a Ballard-UW line to get to a maintenance base is to use the Central Link tracks at U-District station. So it all revolves around whether the Ballard-UW line would transfer to the north-south line or join it to downtown and somewhere south. Or if it doesn’t join it, could there be a non-revenue turn track so that trains could get to their route, the same way the 44 uses the 43’s wire to get to the base. But since ST doesn’t want to commit to a Ballard-UW line at this stage at all, it doesn’t want to answer these questions, so it just ignores them.
I’ve also heard that ST doesn’t like even the concept of a Ballard-UW line and would never approve it. The argument must be that: (1) it’s so short it’s the 44’s responsibility, (2) it’s not “regional transit” because the other subareas and parts of Seattle don’t go to Wallingford en masse and don’t need to get to Ballard via a UW-Ballard line when they can use a downtown-Ballard line, (3) the Ballard-UW-Kirkland-Redmond concept is too weak to be viable, (4) A Ballard-UW-Lake City-Bothell-or-Kirkland concept is also too weak, (5) the problems of a maintenance base and UDistrict-downtown overcrowding are too serious to consider it. But I don’t know whether that’s accurate. I don’t know whether ST really doesn’t the concept of a Ballard-UW line at all, or whether if it just thinks that Ballard-downtown should be done first. Or rather that West Seattle should be done first, Ballard-downtown second, and there wasn’t enough money in ST3 to do Ballard-UW third.
Those reasons that Mike gives are all legitimate factors.
I would add that interest in serving SLU and Seattle Center also factored into the decisions. There are many 20-40 story buildings set up for SLU, and Seattle Center is a citywide attraction that seems ripe for rail service.
I really think we should call it Northwest Link rather than Ballard Link — because the major boardings will probably be at those SLU and Seattle Center stations.
“interest in serving SLU and Seattle Center also factored into the decisions”
I should have addressed that. After the corridor studies were completed, in the year before ST3 (2015-2016), the city and ST suddenly decided that SLU needed Link no matter what. In the corridor studies the default was an Uptown-15th routing, and alternatives included the Queen Anne tunnel and an SLU streetcar extension to Fremont and Ballard. The biggest factors identified then where the low cost of a 15th elevated alignment, and the desirability of a Smith Cove station because Amgen had decided to move there from Bellevue. Not much about SLU.
When SLU development started growing in the mid 2000s it had two existing bus routes, the 17 and 70 (now 62 and 70). The SLU streetcar opened in 2007. That was considered enough transit for the area. In 2012 the C and D opened and were interlined to save money, so they did not serve SLU. By 2014 there was a realization that SLU was becoming part of downtown and needed a lot more transit. Especially because developers were building more parking than downtown because high-capacity transit didn’t exist, and there were concerns about an emerging SLU traffic jam. So the city responded by bringing the C to SLU, by splitting the C and D with Prop 1 money. (That also had the benefit of restoring the Ballard-Pioneer Square connection, which the 15 had before the D.) The second thing the city did was in 2016 when ST3 was being solidified, and the city suddenly requested an SLU detour in the 15th corridor.
In hindsight, almost everybody missed the need for high-capacity transit in SLU. It was not an “urban center” that would necessitate a Link station (like Totem Lake and Federal Way), and it was so close to Westlake Station that most people thought that was enough. That was the thinking in the 90s and 00s that led to the ST1 and ST2 decisions to ignore SLU. I made this mistake too, not realizing the consequences of building highrises in SLU because I’d never experienced that phenomenon firsthand. The only similar situation I’d seen was downtown Bellevue, and everybody knew downtown Bellevue would need high-capacity transit to accompany it. (Everybody except Kemper Freeman, that is.) So SLU did not figure into the 2008 ST2 vote, and ST3 was the next infrastucture phase after that.
“I really think we should call it Northwest Link rather than Ballard Link”
It is northwest Link, but I think in terms of the larger district neighborhoods rather than the smaller census-tract neighborhoods which became popular in the 1990s when the real-estate industry started promoting them. So I think of Ballard as everything west of 1st Ave NW and south of NW 145th Street, and in that sense “northwest Seattle” means the same thing.
“SLU development started growing in the mid 2000s it had two existing bus routes, the 17 and 70 (now 62 and 70)”
Sorry, I mean 40 and 70. the 40 replaced the 17 on Westlake. The 62 replaced the 26/28 on Dexter. It’s confusing because earlier the 17 and 26/28 switched places. (The 17 had been on Dexter and the 26/28 on Westlake.) But the 62 also essentially serves SLU even if it’s a bit further away from the center.
AmgenExpedia had decided to move there from Bellevue
… you guys should do a post on why Ballard to UW died as a proposal for ST3– it tested higher than any other option in the ST polls, yet we heard rumors of turnback problems, lack of maintenance stops, transfers impossible because the Lynnwood hordes would overwhelm the system, etc.
That would take investigative reporting — something no one at this blog does. It is like trying to figure out why the Iraq war occurred. The process wasn’t public. There were reasons given, but they were full of BS and outright lies. No one knows how the debate went down — what arguments were made, who opposed the thing, but was shot down, who asked for more data but was ignored. What was clear, after the dust settled, was that it was a really bad idea.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the ST decisions are in any way comparable to the decision to depose Saddam Hussein. No one died because ST built the wrong thing. But the ignorance, the lack of study, the failure to engage the public in a real debate and ultimately, the poor outcome for all the money spent are all similar. Yes, the Ballard line will definitely add value — but it won’t as much value as if we put the money into other projects.
In order to be shot down, one of the boardmembers or Seattle officials would have had to ask for it in the first place. There’s no evidence that any of them did. I think it was just ignored to death. ST studied the corridor because it was in the long-range plan and an obvious next step, and East King asked for it to support a Ballard-Redmond study. After that it was crickets. Nobody important prioritized it, so nobody had to shoot it down. It’s similar to the the U-District Station transfer or the Metro 8 line. The public says various good things about them but ST never acknowledges that they’re worthwhile projects. In this case ST did study the Ballard-UW corridor, and the study said it would have the same Ballard-to-downtown travel time as Ballard-downtown line, and would have higher ridership and would be less expensive, but ST just ignored all that. There may have been a debate about it, but there’s no evidence of it. So maybe an investigative reporter would find something, or maybe they’d just find total denial.
Since when do we consider the forecasts of real estate sales people as reliable? The only ones who predicted the recent slowdown in King County had been predicting such a downturn for several years. Predictions are difficult, especially about the future! We already *know* where there is currently density, walkability, and ongoing development. It’s west of 15th. Besides, any dense development on 14th or immediately to the east would still be easily walkable to a station on 15th. THAT is a reliable prediction!
If we accept the premise that crossing under 14th is the “path of least resistance,” it is still *essential* to get the station or at least one of it’s entrances west of 15th.
They will not be able to create an attraction like Old Ballard east of 15th.
Why should we spend *more money* serving an area that *might* someday be as densely populated as an existing area? That would be like skipping Northgate, but serving Maple Leaf instead.
As mentioned above, there is no reason to assume that West Woodland will ever be as densely populated as the heart of Ballard. More to the point, even if we do get lucky, and it is, why should we spend extra to favor the new neighborhood, while short changing the old?
You want to build a UW to Ballard subway? Hey, me too (obviously). But that won’t happen until *after* link gets to Ballard, and then a station at 8th (with the type of upzoning you are dreaming of) would be appropriate. But here is the fun part — even if the area around 14th doesn’t get rezoned (or more likely, gets rezoned in a minor way) the station still works, and the entire line still works. You still have stations at 15th and 24th, which means you have a smaller gap for those living in between. Putting stations at 8th, 15th and 24th means works really well from a coverage and bus intercept standpoint. A station at 14th is a clear deterioration on both counts.
From 30000 feet or the ground level, 15th is a better station than 14th.
If the 14th station is elevated, can there be a pedestrian bridge that goes all the way to cross Market? That would achieve the same function as a pedestrian tunnel. Add a moving walkway, and the time to get from the west side of 15th to the platform is basically the same relative to an underground station at 15h.
What about bus transfers? As the end of the line, most people in NW Seattle will be arriving by bus, not by walking from within the walkshed. If 14th can become a busway between Market and Leary and routes like the 40 and 28 are adjusted to have a stop immediately underneath the station, that might be an improvement vs. a 15th station where routes like the 40 are not adjusted.
Finally, if a 14th station location is the impetus for the city to expand the urban village and upzone out to 8th, then this might end up benefiting the region. That’s a big If, but when we are planning 20 years out, why not?
Ballard has Old Money obstructionists who will make fixing the Burke-Gilman Missing Link look like child’s play. And they are serious when the physically push a councilmember out of a community celebration for a public museum. They may be a distinct minority of the neighborhood, but they are literally very pushy about their agenda.
Yes, bus transfers need to all happen next to station entrance points. The shorter the time to get to the platform from each bus stop, the better. That’s why the station platform should be essentially on top of 15th, reaching north and south of Market. Future accessibility (impact) should trump temporary construction impacts. Failing to locate this station in a way that maximizes the walkshed (which definitely doesn’t include Phinney Ridge, whether the station is on 14th or 15th) is a surrender to the same forces that will fight the upzones.
I shudder at the thought of having to go through long pedestrian tunnels to access any of the entrances. Is the tunnel under Broadway that heavily used?
Moreover, the next cheap-out could be turning that element into a pedestrian bridge or tunnel across 15th from ground level to ground level, in order to Rainier-ify 15th. We should make absolutely clear that such ground-level-to-ground-level pedestrian detours are unwelcome anti-Vision-Zero failures that should never get anywhere close to the discussion table.
” Is the tunnel under Broadway that heavily used?”
I see more people using the southwest entrance than the southeast entrance. The southwest entrance is mine, but I sometimes use the southeast entrance to pass through Cal Anderson Park on my way home. The only way to the southeast entrance is the elevator or the stairs, and I don’t see any people in either one. Sometimes zero, sometimes one or two.
You must use it at different times than I did. Back when I was using the SE entrance to catch the 11 there were always a handful of people going with me up the stairs and the elevator always seemed more or less full. This was at afternoon rush, though, so that could be why. Arriving, of course, is a different thing as you’re really randomly spaced out rather than everyone leaving a train at once. I rarely saw anyone when I was walking down, probably for that reason.
I would argue that having the station at 15th would be just as much an impetus to upzone everything eastward to 8th. Or at least to 9th. This stretch would be walkable to the station either at 14th or 15th–that is not the issue here. The issue is whether it is easy to walk between the station and 20th to 24th, which it’s not if there is a major intersection in the way.
@AJ — Whether it is a 600 foot bridge or a 600 foot tunnel, it is still 600 feet (actually it is more, but why quibble). It still takes a while to get there.
Why would it be easier to adjust a bus to serve 14th, rather than 15th? That makes no sense. There will of course be buses coming from the west that intersect the station (wherever it is). That isn’t the problem. The problem are buses headed down 15th, which have to make a detour to serve a station at 14th, instead of simply making a stop. Even if you assume that no bus crosses the Ballard Bridge (something I doubt will be true given the geographic and geometric realities of the area) it is still a pain to get over to 14th, instead of simply exiting at Leary, as it does now.
No one knows exactly what the bus map will look like when the stations are added, but having the station at 15th and Market allows for greater flexibility, while saving the vast majority of riders time.
I was thinking of buses not using 15th (44, 40, 17, 18, 28, etc.). For buses on 15th, yes not diverting from 15th would be best.
Ross, I know you are a big advocate of elevated alignment being better than a tunnel – it’s a faster enter/exit from the station for riders, and is a more pleasant view for riders. If the choice was “tunnel under 15th” vs “elevated at 14th,” what would you choose?
I think I’d prefer both elevated & tunnel at 15th over 14th. I just think 14th isn’t horrible, particularly if it drives an upzone.
I was thinking of buses not using 15th (44, 40, 17, 18, 28, etc.). For buses on 15th, yes not diverting from 15th would be best.
Again, though, why would 14th be better for the other buses? Let’s go through them:
44 — Doesn’t adjust at all. But it does mean that the bulk of the riders have to wait through an additional light cycle before they connect with Link.
40 — Similar modification, except one that has better coverage in Old Ballard (since it deviates less than it would to serve 14th). Also, see 44 (same delay).
17, 18 — See 44 and 40.
28 — The one bus that would benefit from a 14th stop. Clearly, this is a minority of the bus riders. It also isn’t clear what the bus does after serving 14th. Curve back, to serve Fremont? Continue onto Ballard? Either way the penalty is no worse than that experienced by the many more riders from buses west of 15th (or on 15th). It also isn’t clear whether Metro modifies this route at all. It is one thing to alter the 40 slightly so that it picks up the station, while still allowing it to make the main connections (Ballard/Fremont/etc.). But now you are either introducing a major detour, or breaking the 8th NW to Fremont connection. In other words, if there is a bus in the area that might just remain unmodified, this one is it.
If the choice was “tunnel under 15th” vs “elevated at 14th,” what would you choose?
Tunnel under 15th. First, it has better bus connections. Second, it could have a pedestrian tunnel from 17th. That wouldn’t make it better than an elevated station at 15th, but would make it better than *any* station at 14th. With 14th, the vast majority of riders have to walk to 15th *and* walk to 14th. The second part of the walk might be underground, but that doesn’t make it better — it only makes it not as bad as if they walked all the way to 14th and then *also* had to take escalators back and forth to the platform.
It is like those signs that say “If you lived here, you would be home by now”. If ST goes ahead and builds the station at 14th, I think someone will put a sticker right on 15th saying “If Link built what people voted for, you would be at the station by now”.
It seems to me the route and station location depends strongly on what form the line will take. If the route uses a bridge of some kind over the Ship Canal, then the tracks are likely to be elevated on the Ballard side. In that case, 14th Avenue makes sense. There is room in the middle of 14th for light rail supports all the way to Ballard HS on 65th. I believe the old trolley system went up 14th. There are still railroad tracks from an old industrial spur visible along the southernmost blocks.
If instead there is a tunnel under Salmon Bay, then the Ballard side will likely be underground, and the station can be anywhere. A station that can be anywhere should be in the heart of Ballard, say Market and 22nd or Market and Ballard Ave. This should be the preferred solution, in my view.
If the light rail ends up sharing a fancy new 15th Ave bridge with car traffic, then the route will likely be elevated, right up 15th Ave probably. Construction of a light rail station at 15th and Market would probably mess up traffic on both streets for years.
Some reasons why I don’t want to see the station move over to Olde Ballard:
(1) The area is already built up with low-rise apartment buildings. There is no room left to build up higher. Such room is available closer to 15th.
(2) 15th & Market has a much larger bus-shed. It can serve buses from 24th just fine, whereas buses from 15th will likely not detour to serve a 24th-ish station. Heck, buses from 8th could be re-routed to serve that station, too, and maybe even Phinney Ridge could have a new bus connection to the station, possibly.
(3) It will be easier to extend the line further north or east from 15th.
Splitting the difference will merely make the station a PITA to access from 15th, and from new construction east of 15th, while still not being ideal for Olde Ballard to the south and west. It would also be nearly impossible to extend the line from there. At least on 22nd-24th, buses could serve Ballard Ave. Pick one or the other.
Cities that spend billions on new subway systems often have to put with bad traffic for a few years, while it is built. Talk to someone who lived in D. C. when they were building there world class subway. It was a mess, but now it works great.
Unfortunately, a station at 14th does not work great. It puts it well outside the comfortable walking range of the bulk of the people in the area and makes bus connections more difficult. It also hinders future expansion, either north or east-west. You can’t extend an elevated subway past 65th while it destroys the obvious stop spacing (8th, 15th, 24th).
There really are two logical choices. For underground, you are right — the west makes more sense as it maximizes walkup ridership. For elevated, 15th makes the most sense. You lose walk up riders, but gain better expansion possibilities as well as better bus connections. Those are reasonable trade-offs. WIth 14th you lose a lot more walk-up riders, lose bus connections as well as the possibility of future expansion. You basically gain nothing — oh, and it costs more money.
It’s a train, not an Uber. You’re going to have to walk a couple of blocks.
14th to 24th is TWELVE normal city blocks. Nobody’s complaining about having to walk “a couple of blocks” here.
That’s where good bus connections will be important. Users can use buses to access the rail line.
That’s where good bus connections will be important. Users can use buses to access the rail line.
Says someone who has never stood at the EB 44 stop at 20th and watched for nearly 5 minutes as the 44 makes the slog across 24th, to the Leary stop and finally to the 20th stop.
It would take a lot of willpower and finagling to fix that versus putting the light rail station in a more sane location, like 15th or west.
And train stations should be at the point of highest pedestrian concentration. It’s the concentration that necessitates the train in the first place.
Not sure I agree. Some stations are intended to serve a walkshed, while others are designed to be primarily served by bus transfers (South Bellevue, 145th, 185th, and Lynnwood, for example).
Since Ballard is the end of the line, for now, I think it’s an open question as to whether it’s primary purpose is to serve the station walkshed, or to connect service to NW Seattle bus routes.
For example, KCM is looking at all 3 West Seattle routes as core bus-rail transfers to anchor the transit network for all of “greater” West Seattle down to White Center. There, maximizing seamless bus transfers is more important than improving TOD by moving stations a block here or there.
It’s still a pedestrian concentration even if it’s a P&R. The point is that a train should not treat an outlying less-dense location as “close enough” to a neighborhood/city center. South Bellevue is a secondary station to Bellevue Transit Center, and it keeps all those cars out of the city center. That’s fine, and as long as P&Rs are considered necessary, that’s good.
The issue of 145th and 185th stations is whether there’s a better location in Shoreline that they missed. 185th is emerging as Shoreline’s main east-west street, and it’s near an old school site that’s now a community center and may be more in the future. The best stations would be on Aurora, but that gets into the overall alignment rather than just the stations. Within the restriction of an I-5 alignment, 185th Station is the best location, and 145th is unclear. (Compared to 155th, the only other viable location. 130th is too far outside Shoreline to be relevant.)
But a lot of Shoreline’s problem is its distribution of activities. 185th is the emerging main street and community center. City Hall is at 175th & Aurora. The library is at 175th & 5th NE. Shoreline’s current and emerging density is in a U shape along Aurora, 185th, and 145th, and everything inside that is single-family. In particular, the library is in the middle of the single-family area with only one 15-30 minute bus. If I lived in Shoreline I’d be sad at the difficulty for most residents to get to the library without avehicle.
It is a mass transit system — a subway, a metro, if you will — not Amtrak. Walking *an extra* 3 minutes is often the difference between using it, or taking an Uber.
This idea of a tunnel at 14th curving around somehow to get closer to downtown Ballard is interesting. why not?
here is the thing. The people, and the business in Ballard that most people want to go to are WEST of 15th. The station should be west of 15th also (17th or 20th) and if they have to tunnel in the neighborhood of 14th but can also curve the track around to make it happen then do it! In fact maybe the extra distance could allow a tunnel station at 17th or 20th to be shallower than has previously been discussed.
What about an extension north? Simply curve the tunnel back if this is something people decide needs to be done. Yes it would be expensive, but I don’t see a lot at 85th to warrant a train station right now, Yet the idea of going to northgate might make sense some day.
People can suggest that the area east of 15th will be upzoned, but that isn’t a done deal by any means. Once it is upzoned then let’s talk about putting a station there when, or if, they build a future Ballard to UW line.
I think a tunneled station would effectively kill any hope of a northward extension. Until Crown Hill/north Ballard starts to look like Capitol Hill or even Roosevelt (i.e., never), you’d have a hard time justifying the cost of a tunneled extension.
I agree. Tunneling is just too expensive. We are past the point where most cities just stop. They just call it a day, and we haven’t built the Ballard to UW subway yet. The only way that this line goes further north is if it fairly cheap to do so, and the only way that happens is with an elevated station at 15th.
The thing is, if you look at what the Port and etc are pushing for, it’s for a tunnel under the ship canal.
If the result is a tunnel anyway then the cost difference between 20th and 15th isn’t that much, but with quite a lot of benefit.
I’m not saying that a tunnel should be done, but if they decide a tunnel is the preferred option then there needs to be a push to put it further east, where it will do the most good. 15th is a busy through road and while it isn’t the wall that I-5 is it does have a barrier effect. This makes it difficult for the Ballard activity center to spread eastward much. A station at 14th would have to build up its own activity center from scratch, and while zoning might be of some help in creating some new buildings it will be really slow. It’s basically Beacon Hill vs Capitol Hill in terms of a starting point, only with a much wider and busier road (15th) cutting off access to the west, and with fewer residences because of the amount of light industrial in the area.
I agree, Glenn. If they build a tunnel then at least get something out of it. Move the station to the west, where the people are. Heck, if you are really worried about the connection to a bus on 15th (a reasonable worry) then put it somewhere to the west, with angled walkways from 15th and as far west as you can. Maybe that means entrances on 15th and 17th, but at least that means that folks on 17th would be heading down to the station and get there before they would get to 15th Avenue (let alone 14th). If it turns out that this tunnel is deeper, than that just means the west most entrance moves farther west (Barnes, Tallman, 20th, etc.). This ain’t rocket science — folks do this sort of planning all the time. It is just a 3D triangle, with one surface corner on 15th, and the other surface corner to the west.
Yes! Shout this from the rooftops and force Mike O’Brien to read it.
It’s also extra important that there be an entrance on every corner of 15th/Market. I am continually puzzled by ST’s refusal to provide multiple station access points and their ability to completely muck it up when they do. Roosevelt will have two entrances, the northern one of which, on NE 66th, is totally pointless. There are at least 7 other corners on 65th alone that are more deserving of a station entrance than 66th and 12th.
The Chambers Street A/C station in Manhattan that I use frequently when I visit spans 4 freaking blocks and has entrances on 4 different streets, and ST can’t even do two useful entrances.
U District won’t have a station entrance on the north side of 45th ST. STUPID!
For some reason ST felt it was okay to force a surface crossing of an extremely busy four-lane street at 45th, but spent millions on a tunnel underneath a two-lane street at Broadway (with a gigantic structure over there to boot).
I’m not saying the tunnel at Broadway shouldn’t have been built – I think in general entrances to stations should be as ubiquitous as possible – just that doing the same at 45th makes even more sense. Perhaps if we didn’t have some need to build grandiose station entrances in urban settings we could do more of this. You can design pleasant, small footprint entrances as is done in other locations around the world and achieve the same goal as plopping down aboveground station structures that are fitting in suburban locations (maybe) but not so much in urban ones. Westlake is a good example of how this should have been done at all urban subway stations, not Capitol Hill or Roosevelt.
The core of the U-District is south of 45th. Broadway has a college on the other side of the street from Link, and it’s the biggest or some might say only regional destination in the neighborhood.
So that was worth millions of dollars, to avoid having the college students wait to cross a two-lane street (as they’ve done for 50 years, apparently without hardship)? Sorry, Mike – that is the kind of spending that makes even some people who post here vote against transit (not me). The bulk of the non-UW owned housing in the U District is north of 45th, and westbound bus service will stop on the north side of the street, so again – why not make it easier to cross? It’s a direct transfer on a major arterial, which is what we are trying to fight for at NE 130th and failed at 145th, Mount Baker, and TIBS.
(Again, I’m not at all opposed to multiple exits – if it’s done particularly where there is opportunity for direct intermodal transfers. This was not done at 45th. At Roosevelt it wasn’t either, but again, 65th is a two-lane street, not one of the busier 4-lane arterials in the city, so that can be understood.)
“as they’ve done for 50 years, apparently without hardship”
They haven’t done it for 50 years becase U-Link has only existed for two years. What they did at the previous bus stops is irrelevant because they were slow local buses, not high-capacity transit. When you invest in a subway it makes sense to put an entrance where your highest ridership is coming from. I for one pushed for the southwest entrance because it serves not only the college but all the apartments west of it, which is the densest part of Capitol Hill and most of Seattle.
The best example of station entrances I’ve seen is Leicester Square on the London Tube, with little storefront entrances on every corner all going down to a common mezzanine. To make transit the most effective and cost-effective, you have to make it the most convenient. That means entrances on every corner, 5-minue service, real-time signs, etc. The cities that have that have the lowest rate of car ownership.;
PS. I do agree U-District Station would be better with a station on the north side of 45th. But nobody brought it up in the open houses or on STB that I saw. It never occurred to me as a possibility until B mentioned it now. So to argue it was a stupid decision is kind of Johnny-come-lately. North of 45th was not the target transit market they were trying to address; it was the periphery of it. By the way, I lived at 56th & UWay for 14 years and would have used that station, and even that did not make me think that an entrance on the north side of 45th was a possibility, in spite of my experiences in London and elsewhere. Because the core of the U-District is from 40th to 45th. 45th to 50th is a secondary area; and 50th to Ravenna Blvd is a terciary area.
Nevertheless, I can certainly see a northern station as useful. Many times I’ve waited at the northwest corner of 45th & UWay at a traffic light and watched my bus come, stop, and leave while my light was still red.
Mike, the COLLEGE has been there for 50 years, the street has been there for much longer than that. I don’t think that until Link was built nobody ever crossed that street to get to the college. Hell, I’m pretty sure my grandmother had to cross it when she went to Broadway HS.
Hardly “Johnny come lately” when some of us pointed out at the time of design that the 45th Street station should be sited a bit farther north – some for a potential transfer to a Ballard – UW line, others of us (some with actual backgrounds in design) because stations should always be sited in locations that ease transfers to other modes. I’ve made this argument ad infinitum about NE 130th and NE 145th; many, many others have about Mount Baker, TIBS, etc. and future stations like NE 45th. Fortunately many more of us are considering this issue as it pertains to stations in Ballard, West Seattle, and SLU. I only hope that ST is actually listening this time.
You’re precisely right about Leicester Square, and I made this exact point as pertains to the downtown tunnel stations as a high school student in the early ’80’s when I attended meetings of the Citizens’ Transit Advisory Council. The comments are even in the EIS for that project…so I have been bringing these things up for some time (as I know you have). More entrances, activate mezzanines where they are required, get as close to major transfer points as necessary. ST tends to see their system in a vacuum, where they either don’t really consider how people will get to their stations, or only consider how they will interface with their own buses and none other. 145th and the 522 are perfect examples of this.
We start from the premise that the station should have entrances on all 4 corners of 15th and Market and work backwards from there. The station box itself will have to be somewhere in the vicinity of that intersection, but not necessarily directly underneath it.
Here’s an idea:
If 14th Ave. is so great to build on (as it probably is with the huge ROW), maybe the city should build a new, modern, high-quality car/bike/pedestrian Ballard drawbridge there while the current one is open, turn 14th Ave. into the new arterial, rebuild the access on the south end that needs rebuilding anyway, and then make 15th available to ST for this project (be it a tunnel or bridge.)
Reflecting on the radical idea of turning 14th into the major arterial south of Market St., connecting to a new Ballard drawbridge, with ST3 Link station at 15th/Market:
Traffic headed to the new (14th Ave.) Ballard Bridge from the east could just turn south a block sooner. From the west, traffic could turn south a block later. This probably somewhat balances out.
Traffic from the north would need to transition from 15th to 14th somewhere. This could, but need not, occur in one place. Northbound and southbound transitions could be routed via a couplet somehow. Maybe a stretch of 14th or 15th would be one-way. The area needs a cohesive plan.
Buses that aren’t already on Market St. could use Market St. for any transition between 14th and 15th, or perhaps turn back there for the bus extension of this Link to the north. Thus all buses heading north, south, east or west could use the same set of stops on Market St. Combined with the Link station, these would comprise a transit center that should be designed as a whole.
Dubman: with ST, you may have to fight for that premise, reasonable though it may be (e.g., Mt. Baker, SeaTac, NE 120th Street, NE 130th Street, West Seattle maps to date).
I wondered that too! I can’t see the old bridge surviving until 2035 anyway and a replacement needs to be high enough to keep openings to a minimum. There is plenty of time to build both (because I don’t see the SLU segment realistically opening until 2040). This would put the station easily west of the main traffic street.
Of course, the City would have to push for this and find the money — but from an urban design standpoint, I think it’s great!
That’s a response to Dubman’s concept of moving the street traffic bridge to 14th and then rebuilding 15 as a Link bridge.
Here’s why 15th or 14th will still be bad for the main portion of Ballard.
14th adds 2 minutes to an already long walk to the main hub of Ballard.
Today’s commute for all of the apartment/Old Ballard/townhouse residents around the node of 20th Ave/Market:
2-5 minute walk
20 minutes on 17/18 to Westlake (bad days can be 30+ minutes)
5 minute average walk to areas around the stop walksheds
Average of 30 to 35 minutes, but bad days at 40+ minutes
10 minute walk
1 minute access time (this is optimistic)
15 minutes on Link to Westlake
1 minute egress time (this is optimistic)
5 minute walk (but likely more since there is only a Westlake/Midtown station)
32 minutes “guaranteed”
So, 17 years and $B more, travel time is no change, worse, or at least more consistent than today.
I know we’re long past debating the trade-off of just giving better bus priority, but now that the ship has sailed, let’s get the station location right to not make things worse while spending $Bs.
If you think station-to-station Link is only going to be 5 minutes faster than a bus to get from Ballard to Westlake, Kemper Freman has some driverless buses he’d like to sell you.
Route 15 today:
Like I said, 20 minutes if running on-time. Routine is 5 minutes late. Bad days are 10 minutes late.
I know full-well the benefits of grade-separated transit. I’m saying the access/egress/walk time to get to the grade-separated portion, which is currently duplicating a dedicated transit pathway on 15th is not huge, and potentially not worth $Bs if it is not done right.
Try getting on the 15X at the 5:36pm stop at 3rd and Seneca– that bus is often 5 minutes late. Then it hits the bridge as it goes up at 6pm (especially in the summertime), so now we are talking about a 45 minute trip to 15th and Market.
That 17th station in Interbay is a terrible location too. There’s no way to access that from anything except a parallel north-south bus on 15th. No Dravus, no Emerson, no nothing.
I agree. This needs it’s own post. I may write it, although I would much prefer Frank to that (he is a much better writer than me).
Yeah, agreed about 17th. The representative alignment is looking great all of a sudden
High-level bridge over 14th, elevated station at Market, acquire Safeway site and build a public market/food hall you walk through to get from 15th to the station. Add a 20-story apartment tower on top. Rezone over to 8th for mixed use.
There are about a dozen design aspects of this line that concern me more than whether the Ballard station is on 14th or 15th.
That said–the reason for avoiding 15th better not be vague complaints from the maritime industry. They need to provide hard data for why and how their industry is going to be impacted beyond just being temporarily inconvenienced by construction. Sound Transit can cut them a check if need be, but they need to demonstrate detrimental impacts beyond what we’ve seen so far.
Ballard is a huge transit market and putting its only Link station at 14th will be a significant deterrent for riders who will have other options for traveling. It doesn’t matter how much they change the zoning or add TOD east of 15th (which is very much not a certainty, by the way), there is almost no doubt the core of the neighborhood will remain centered around “Old Ballard” – i.e. Ballard Avenue and the portion of Market (And several other parallel and adjacent streets) between 20th and 24th.
Old Ballard is one of the crown jewels of the City of Seattle, period, and where most people want to go in that area. Having it be a 15-20 minute walk with a potentially long crossing of a major arterial is unacceptable. Honestly, even 15th isn’t ideal, but it makes the most sense for bus transfers and expansion north.
One last point – As Ross has pointed out, the distance between 14th and 15th is not “one block” as we typically think of it. That is a giant mega-block that is equivalent to nearly 3 more standard size city blocks.
14th Ave. is really 13th Ave. if you look at what it lines up with in Queen Anne. It’s halfway between 11th and 15th. But 14th Ave. it is.
Whatever it’s called, 14th Ave. is guaranteed to be a long walk to the core of Ballard, no matter what its up front construction advantages, as people point out. And it’s not clear how to continue a line to the north from there.
My thinking is, instead of moving the station (to 14th) to accommodate the traffic (on 15th), why don’t we move the traffic (to 14th) to accommodate the station, on 15th, where it belongs.
Plus the Ballard Bridge is functionally obsolete and difficult to retrofit. Line of thinking follows from there.
You could even argue it’s more like 12th
Yeah the station on 14th has only one real benefit, which is probably why they’ll jam it down our throats. It’s the cheapest option. At least in the short run.
For my personal usage though, and this is coming from a guy who will hike across the Ballard locks from Magnolia on the weekends to see a movie at The Majestic. A station on 14th will be utterly useless to tie old Ballard into the city. Sure people will use it to commute in some fashion but you will see very little use in reverse, people coming in to visit Ballard. 15th was already pushing it as you have to walk about 2 1/2 long blocks before you get to the start of all the interesting stuff. But put it on 14th you add another (really drab too) block to walk plus forcing people to cross the busiest street in all of Ballard.
A station on 15th, with proper entrances of either side of the street, is a huge boon. Servicing the existing buses with no changes on their part, and facilitating commuters and visitors. 14th station is just a commuter station, with worse bus integration.
As for TOD potential. Why in the world are we ignoring existing high density areas for the vague promise of future high density development in a single occupancy area when we already know that the city doesn’t have the spine to upzone those areas already!? Add to that, that the always favored UW to Ballard line would cover those TOD potential areas anyways.
Fiscal realities and political forces will push things in the direction of cheapest unless there’s some countervailing force. A good idea is a good start, but leadership from elected officials is eventually required.
Who at the City of Seattle is doing the kind of integrated planning that is required to make things work at 15th and Market, even if it means changing some street designations and maybe appropriating some ROW? Does the Ballard Bridge need replacement or upgrade between now and 2035 or not, and if so, when, how and where is that going to happen, and what does that mean for this project? What is the City vision here? I suspect a lot of conversations have not happened, and are not happening. But they should be.
The opening of this line is 17 years hence, but decisions with permanent implications are being made now. Meanwhile we still have an “interim” SDOT director and our Seattle Mayor seems to be MIA on transit. Who is actually in charge? Anyone?
Remember, SDOT under the last administration came up with the Amazon and Expedia stops in their letter to ST. No public comment. Perhaps they were hoping Big Tech would throw its weight around to speed things up and/or co-finance? we have no idea what the thinking was here– even STB could not/would not get SDOT on the record for its rationale of the ST3 alignment (as opposed to Ballard to UW).
The Expedia stop is a sensible addition to the lowest-cost alignment, which was also the default alignment in ST’s long-range plan.
What do you mean by Amazon stop? The SLU stations are for all the people living and working in that highrise district. Some of them are Amazon but many are not. If Amazon suddenly vanishes or moves to another city, other companies would fill the space and the same transit need would exist. The purpose of high-capacity transit is to move pedestrians between the areas where they most concentrate. Any district with highrises is a concentration of tens thousands of pedestrians by definition, so it needs high-capacity transit. I don’t know whether the city expected Amazon to support the project or contribute to it, but that’s irrelevant to the issue. The relevant factor is the highrises.
“For my personal usage though, and this is coming from a guy who will hike across the Ballard locks from Magnolia on the weekends to see a movie at The Majestic. A station on 14th will be utterly useless to tie old Ballard into the city.”
Exactly. A station on 14th will be a disaster for anyone wanting to visit Ballard for dining, entertainment, or shopping.
Anyone wanting to dine at say.. Bastille on a December evening might take the train if there is a station at 17th or 20th. They might consider taking the train if the station is at 15th. Walking on a cold dark, possibly rainy evening, from 14th, and having to cross 15th takes the train out of the equation.
If enough people demand to have a sports bar within a block of the new station, one can certainly be built, regardless of the station location.
Creator knows we don’t already have enough sports bars, useless pocket parks to divide up housing blocks, open cement promenades, poorly designed bus transfer centers, giant hockey rinks, golf courses, freeways, old Craftsman single-family housing tracts, discos, single-story shopping malls, and holes in the ground run by the city’s largest slumlord (that would be, er, the City), next to light rail stations.
At least a whole lot of housing could be built on top of the new sports bar. How about a land swap, let the Bastille rebuild next to the station, at the bottom of a tall apartment complex named something other than “Bastille”, and then build more housing where currently stands the Bastille?
Honestly, I still probably wouldn’t go to that sports bar very often, even if it was adjacent to the platform, unless it became the first Seattle sports bar to specialize in non-bizarre vegan options.
Exactly – no one will use this to get to Old Ballard and that is a major loss for the city overall and for the neighborhood itself.
I’ve walked from the D Line to Old Ballard plenty of times. Predictions that “no one” will make the 4-8 block walk to get to a light rail station that doesn’t involve crossing Market or 15th are greatly exaggerated.
With the arrival of 44th RapidRide, eventually (and that is about how far off Ballard Link is), people not liking that 8-block walk will just wait a few minutes for a very frequent bus.
Though, it would be nice to design a diagonal foot path from southern Old Ballard to the station entrance at the southwest corner of 15th / Market.
You’re right that the walk from 15th to Old Ballard is not bad. Putting the station at 14th increases that 4-8 block walk by 50-100%.
“Just take a bus lmao” works for unwalkable, low-density places like Shoreline, but is a heinously stupid idea for Ballard. Why not just stick the U-District station by I-5/45th? Capitol Hill station over on 15th Ave?
You’re both right. Some people will walk from 15th to 22nd, as I do whenever I go to the Ballard farmer’s market. But every marginal step of inconvenience loses the riders at the margin: those who were undecided between Link and non-Link and that pushed them over the edge. Also, while I don’t have a car and always take transit no matter the inconvenience, I was trying to take my friend who always drives and encourage him to take transit. At first he wouldn’t because Ballard is too far from downtown, and he didn’t have an ORCA card or carry cash. But after one week of having to pay for parking in a private lot because we couldn’t find a street space, he agreed to try the bus, and after a couple times of taking the bus to the farmer’s market he agreed that it was a better way to go. (That doesn’t mean he started busing anywhere else or that he’d bus there alone, but it was a start.) Obviously, it was easiest to convince him to take a bus on Leary Way. It was a bit harder to convince him to take a bus on 15th. It would be incrementally harder with a station on 14th. This experience is replicated by the tens of thousands of people that live in Old Ballard or north of it, and the visitors who shop or tour or go to the farmers’ market there. East of 15th has a lot fewer people.
Old Ballard also has continued opportunity for TOD as well. Despite the fact people complain about there not being any parking there, there are still a fair number of surface parking lots scattered around. If Link comes, then those might find a more productive use.
Except it isn’t the cheapest option. 15th is the cheapest option. The only advantage to 14th is that a few people (worried about traffic disruption or the loss of moorage) will be upset. In the long run, 14th is worse in every respect.
The three options forwarded do not include an elevated trackway with a High Bridge crossing along 15th. Though that –would be cheaper, it was omitted, probably because it limits the City’s ability to build a parallel replacement to the Ballard Bridge in the 15th corridor.
Unless the City can come up with the money to build the replacement 14th traffic diversion bridge first, 15th apparently has to be tunneled, and that adds $500 million.
“No, I don’t know this to be true.” Why else would the RA have been so zealously avoided in the original set of buildable options?
The Representative Alignment if built would ruin traffic flows alll along 15th and Elliott.
I am confused. On the one hand, Mike Orr seems to know what he is talking about, when he says the representative project is a real possibility (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/10/17/14th-avenue-is-the-wrong-spot-for-a-ballard-station/#comment-809423, https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/10/17/14th-avenue-is-the-wrong-spot-for-a-ballard-station/#comment-809443). He even said that ST has a history of adopting the representative project, even when alterations would actually be better (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/10/18/news-roundup-obsessed-with-transit/#comment-809430) simply because the representative project would be cheaper.
Yet Tom just seems so … confident. He speaks with authority. He seems to know what he is talking about, even though he doesn’t actually present facts in his favor.
I am confused. Which is it? Is Frank just wasting his time, complaining about something that is already a done deal? Has the board actually made up its mind, and ruled out a station on 15th?
Ross, 15th hasn’t been ruled out. Fifteenth elevated has apparently been ruled out. It was shown in the Level 1 options and is not in the options passed by the Stakeholders, who include some ST board members, though certainly aren’t exclusively members. Significantly, it includes folks from the City who are not on the ST board. Presumably the ST members would represent the views of the technical staff; they probably attended the meetings.
Somebody put the kibosh on the RA, and it’s probably the City.
“Why in the world are we ignoring existing high density areas for the vague promise of future high density development in a single occupancy area”
Because Important People in Old Ballard don’t want construction or upzoing in their area.
Also, there is merit to keeping vibrant historic districts as-is and upzoning fringe/industrial neighborhoods for future growth.
That’s what we are doing in Issaquah – allowing modest growth in Olde Town, generally keeping the same ‘character,’ and aggressively up-zoning the strip malls & parking lots in Central Issaquah to absorb future growth.
News flash: Old Ballard has already upzoned! Oh my, just look at all of those apartments: https://goo.gl/maps/TKobSB2zdx12, https://goo.gl/maps/gnTihDRApQD2, https://goo.gl/maps/e3hbNuQSmX82. They have managed to build right around the old, historic area, preserve the historic charm of Ballard, while increasing the population density of an already fairly densely populated area.
Ha! Yes, it would be appropriate for imagined future transit oriented density to be served by imagined future transit.
square root of -1
I agree with the trust of this piece and comments….. that this plan sucks, why it sucks, and that it follows a lot of previous suck. What we have here is a massive failure of leadership in Seattle, one that calls for rebellion.
Doing things right and on a reasonable budget matters, but sadly we cant get it done in Seattle most of the time now.
Why not cross elevated at 14th, run elevated over Shilshole Ave to 20th, and have the station elevated over 20th?
Though actually — 15th allows for better extension north than any other option, and so it’s sort of required.
Actually, most of the stations in Interbay and the 14th one are poorly sited. The stop at Smith Cove by the grain elevator? Then one behind the railroad tracks at Thorndyke? Awful walksheds and little chance for TOD and too far from the main arterials. I guess it picks up a little walkshed in eastern Magnolia.
I’ve walked to the QFC at 15th and Dravus from a backyard cottage at 22nd and Barrett. That short section of Dravus is much more of an obstacle course than what it looks like on a map. I doubt it will pick up much of Magnolia without a significant bus restructure, but I don’t see how that would work well at all at their proposed location.
But, that’s for the next article on terrible station locations.
It could go through Queen Anne if they really wanted to serve more people.
But it seems that a poor route choice due to a lack of funds easily lends itself to poor station locations for lack of funds.
Route 1 and 2 trolley buses have their ends tied together right now to allow them to operate as a loop under certain circumstances. 1 isn’t too far from Dravus, and with a bit of intersection modification it might be possible to run them down to a Dravus station. This would connect parts of middle and western Queen Anne to Link. Maybe they could even be extended to parts of Magnolia to feed a Dravus station from there too.
None of this will happen with the 17th / Thorndyke station as depicted. It will be too hard for buses to get into and out of. At best you’ll get Mt Baker. It’s also too far to transfer well from the 31 and 33 on 22nd or the 31 on Emerson.
17th isn’t the end of the world from a pedestrian standpoint. You lose a little walkshare from Queen Anne, but pick some up from Magnolia.
The problem is Thorndyke, instead of Dravus. The only way to cross from Magnolia or Queen Anne is via Dravus. That means that putting the station north (or south) of Dravus forces everyone to walk extra. No one benefits, while everyone loses (roughly a couple minutes). Likewise, everyone who transfers loses — unless the bus deviates (which is also a loss, not only for the riders, but for the system as a whole). The station should be at Dravus, with entrances on both sides on the north and south side of Dravus.
17th is still inferior, though, because it limits the possible bus routes. I can easily imagine a bus that starts on the top of Queen Anne, uses Gilman, then crosses into Ballard, turns on Leary and heads over to 32nd. This would complement the existing runs (which would likely be modified to avoid Old Ballard and serve a station at 15th). Thus you would have a coverage route for Old Ballard, 32nd, and Gilman, while providing a much better connection from various parts of Queen Anne to Ballard. It would also run right by the station if the station was at 15th. This would work as a shadow, if you will, for one of the few areas along 15th/Elliot that would need one. A station at 17th (or worse yet, 17th and Dravus) would make that route a lot less valuable.
Seattle has proven to be among the worst cities in the country when it comes to upzoning single family home areas to meet demand. It would be foolish to bank on that happening in the largely single family home and industrial area East of 15th. (And as others have said, even if they do they’re not going to recreate Old Ballard.)
You’ve obviously never seen Silicon Valley or San Mateo County. Worst cities in the country? Seattle is clearly in the top 15, which includes large dense cities like New York and Chicago, sunbelt cities like Houston that are lax about zoning, and large medium-density cities like Los Angeles. Beyond that top tier it gets much worse. Most cities are more like Bellevue or Kirkland or Shoreline, which won’t contemplate upzoning places near downtown like Surrey Downs, south Kirkland, or the interior of Shoreline in a million years.
Does anyone know if the representative alignment is one of the options moving forward to Phase III it is it just the two 14th options?
*or is it
The representative alignment is being carried through.
My thought is that a 14th tunnel station could be okay, as long as there are station entrances west of 15th. That way going west and getting to ground level are one and the same, and users won’t notice. Still, elevated on 15th is by far the best option.
I think they would notice the extra walking distance (over 600 feet). The only way they wouldn’t notice is if the station is extremely deep, which is bad for the same reason. Either someone is walking horizontally (in a tunnel) an extremely long way, or they are going very deep into the ground, wondering why it takes so long just to get to a subway stop.
If you think riders won’t care about a mere 600-foot stroll through a tunnel, you haven’t followed the design and safety arguments for the pedestrian bridge over I-5 at Northgate Station.
Regardless, building such underground interface will necessarily have construction impacts between 14th and 15th, and under or over 15th — which was a primary impact building a station along 14th was trying to avoid.
The parking lot must go. Why not just build the station there?
Where does it say that? The 15th alignment that is being forwarded is tunneled under the Ship Canal and up 15th. The Representative alignment wasn’t even one of the options presented to the workshops, presumably because of the impacts to Elliott and 15th West traffic and the mess at the turn it would face.
The only two labeled as “carry forward” are the 14th options: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/project-documents/west-seattle-ballard-link-extensions-elected-leadership-group-level-2-recommendations-20181005.pdf
I just assumed the representative alignment might also carry forward.
The ST board hasn’t made a decision yet. This is just the recommendation from the Elected Leaders Group. ST generally defers to whatever city officials want, but it’s not a done deal yet, and we don’t know what objections some boardmembers might raise. One important point is that these electeds are from Seattle but the majority of ST’s board is suburban. They will question why Ballard needs an alignment significantly more expensive than the representative alignment, and they may sympathize with the access to Ballard. After all, where do they go in Ballard? To Old Ballard and the Locks. Snohomish and Pierce are especially interested in accelerating the Spine, and are not too keen on high-priced projects outside the Spine. They (or especially Snohomish) want to divert Ballard’s resources to the Spine, not the other way around, so they’ll be nonplussed with a couple hundred million dollars increase in Ballard’s budget for a nonessential extra, on top of two extra billion West Seattle will need for its tunnels.
>on top of two extra billion West Seattle will need for its tunnels.
Is a tunneled West Seattle alignment basically a foregone conclusion now? And the rest of us have to pay for it? Heinous.
“Is a tunneled West Seattle alignment basically a foregone conclusion now?”
The board hasn’t decided that either, and the same objections would arise. Currently ST is in an Alternatives Analysis on both those corridors and the downtown tunnel. It has made a series of alternatives proposals, and the stakeholders and electeds and public have responded. I’m not sure if the board approves each round or only the staff does, but eventually the results of all the rounds will go to the board for a decision on the “Preferred Alternative” for the EIS. That is not even the final alignment, but a relative zero point to compare the other EIS alternatives to. The “real” final alignment will be what ST chooses for construction after that. That one must be among the EIS alternatives, although it can mix and match between them, or amend the EIS to add an alternative.
ST has committed to West Seattle Link with an elevated alignment. It has done the same for Ballard. Beyond that, we have the latest ST proposals in the current AA round. I think all the West Seattle alternatives at this point have some kind of tunnel or another, so that may be the most likely direction ST is headed. For Ballard, we’ve heard that all the important VIPs want 14th, but ST has not yet assented to that or published a set of proposals with no non-14th alternative.
In any case, it may have to include the representative alignments in the EIS for legal reasons, regardless of whether they disappear temporarily.
“The Representative alignment wasn’t even one of the options presented to the workshops”
The “15th/Fixed Bridge/15th” option is close enough to it for our purposes. The representative alignment had a moveable bridge but that was widely criticized in the previous round and ST apparently dropped it.
Mike is right that the RA was in the seven options. My apologies. But it was not forwarded.
In reply to Mike Orr’s comment, “The entire reason for the deafening calls for Link to Ballard was to improve access to the rest of the region. People like myself are avoiding living in Ballard because of the half-hour overhead on every trip to get out of northwest and north-central Seattle. There are so few options to live within walking distance of a Link station that we can’t just cut off a quarter of Seattle or serve only a corner of it. If this alignment is going to be on the far east edge of Ballard and even bus transferers have to walk the equivalent of three blocks, then that raises the question of whether we should build it at all, or maybe truncate it at Smith Cove. And then the issue of how to cross the Ship Canal would be irelevant.”
I could not agree more. However, it should be no surprise the agency that designed an alignment that already misses the population centers of Queen Anne and Magnolia has now also designed one that misses the population center of Ballard. It’s almost like they are trying to make the worst light rail line they can think of. The ridiculous Interbay alignment, coupled with the lack of UW-Ballard, is what made me vote against ST3.
Maybe Dow Constantine can get the agency back on track. “For a rider,” Constantine said at the meeting, “it doesn’t matter where the line is, it matters where the stop is.”
Magnolia has a population center? Are you referring to the apartments on the east edge of the hill, which can probably on be served well by a station on the west side of Interbay?
Queen Anne has a population center? Are you referring to Lower Queen Anne, which is actually mildly dense, and will be served by a station?
“Magnolia has a population center?” Not really, but more people live on Magnolia than in Interbay.
“Queen Anne has a population center?” Yes, QA is pretty dense all the way to McGraw or so. Way denser than Interbay.
I guess if you think this line serves Magnolia and Queen Anne well, you should be fine with a station in Ballard next to the McDonald’s.
This is located in the north end of Magnolia, and is as tall as anything they have built in Ballard:
“more people live on Magnolia than in Interbay.”
That’s beside the point. The “Ballard line” is all about the de facto urban centers in Ballard and SLU. Dravus is just “on the way” in the lowest-cost corridor. If we’re building Link in Interbay anyway then we might as well have a Dravus station. If another corridor like the Queen Anne tunnel had been more favorable instead, there’s no way that Interbay or Magnolia could argue that they’re must-serve.
>> This is located in the north end of Magnolia …
Aw, Manor Park. Yeah, that place is moderately dense, and happens to be in a terrible place as far as transit is concerned. It is located on the edge of a very steep hill, which means that Metro doesn’t bother trying to run a bus up there (on Dravus). That means that folks there have to walk up or down the hill, and neither is especially easy. Folks there typically drive everywhere. The good news (for them, anyway) is that while these building are fairly tall, they all have big setbacks, and plenty of room for parking. That makes them fundamentally different than most of Ballard. While the buildings in Ballard may not be any taller, population density surely is bigger.
Anyway, Mike is right. If you are going to build a line to Ballard around the west side of Queen Anne, then a stop at Dravus makes as much sense as any. It is “on the way”, and there are actually a few new big buildings there. Walk-up ridership will never be great there — there are simply too many things taking up space (parks, railroad tracks, 15th) but at least it serves a small group of apartments as well as serving as a major bus intercept for Magnolia.
But only if you put it in the right location! While a stop at 14th definitely misses the mark as far as serving Ballard, so too does a stop at Thorndyke and 17th. That is worse for those who walk from East Magnolia, worse for those who walk from West Queen Anne, and worse for those who take a bus from, well, anywhere.
Queen Anne and Magnolia are much smaller and lower density than Ballard. Upper Queen Anne is about the same as four blocks of 15th and 14th with nothing around it, and it has fiercely resisted upzoning. I wrote an article about it at the time, Queen Anne’s Unique Opportunity, about the great opportunity for a downtown-QA-Fremont-Ballard tunnel that would solve the problem of access to upper Queen Anne once and for all. But the neighborhood did not take the opportunity; it overwhelmingly rejected the idea of upzoning even if it meant losing a potential Link station. That was on top of the enormous cost of tunneling under Queen Anne and the disadvantage of an ultra-deep station, so it was a long shot, but Queen Anne didn’t even try for it.
As for Magnolia, the city made a deal with Magnolia like it did with Madison Park and Broadmoor, that it would keep them outside urban villages and not upzone them but in exchange they wouldn’t get any transit upgrades. Asking for Link without being willing to be upzoned like Uptown or Ballard just doesn’t cut it.
This just in: Queen Anne group appeals Seattle’s ADU EIS in order to block ADU expansion ($). “The appeal likely will stop O’Brien from advancing the legislation for at least several months. An earlier challenge by the Queen Anne group previously kept the legislation parked for nearly two years.”
So no more floors in upper Queen Anne. And no ADUs either? That’s a fine way to justify a Link station.
God, Marty Kaplan [ad hom]
The Stakeholders’ Advisory Group said “No”. The ST working group said “No”. The answer is very probably “No”.
I’m impressed with the replace 15th with 14th traffic idea, though the transition at the north end would be tricky. Ideally there would be no northbound traffic on 15th north of Market except buses so that the southbound left from 15th to 57th (?) would be made almost all the time without a delay.
The good thing about it would be separating the station from all that auto traffic. It moves the barrier one block east of the “downtown area” even if the strip between 15th and 14th gets big.
It also gets Seattle a better traffic bridge across the Ship Canal.
How is it paid for though?
“The good thing about it would be separating the station from all that auto traffic.”
It’s also separating the station from most of it’s riders, which are the purpose of the station in the first place.
>The Stakeholders’ Advisory Group said “No”. The ST working group said “No”. The answer is very probably “No”.
What about the riders?
You’d think light rail planning should privilege the opinions of actual transit riders over the rent-seeking obstructionists at the Port. Screw the Port.
Riders aren’t elected officials or job-creating business leaders, so they don’t matter as much.
Noted: The distance from Leary and Market to a 14th and Market Station is the about the same distance from Alaska and California to a proposed AVALON Station.
Without these kinds of quantitative points, decision-makers are more likely to vote to appease interests rather than assess more factual trade-offs about location/access and cost.
OK, but ST already dropped the idea of combining two stations in West Seattle.
could it be that this is all political posturing? Could the ‘electeds’ know that their isn’t the money for a west seattle tunnel, or a tunnel to Ballard, but for politically convenient reasons they state their desire for said tunnels – all the while knowing that the ST board, for lack of funds, is going to have to make the hard choice.
In other words the elected group doesn’t want to get criticized for cutting out a west seattle tunnel, or get criticized for building through the shipyard on the way to ballard – even though they know there won’t be tunnels, and they know it will likely have to go through the shipyard?
it seems to me that they really are putting the onus for the hard decisions on the ST board – an organization known for taking the easy way out….
When does the ST board vote on this anyway? There is truly some craziness going on here.
Nobody has said where the money would come from. if these tunnels are going to have a chance they’ll have to solidify that soon. I think the electeds are just convinced by what the neighborhood groups are saying and they don’t have enough deep knowledge of transit/pedestrian dynamics to see the flaws in 14th. A loud shout from Seattle Subway and us may be enough to open their ears. It sometimes is.
Has the Transit Riders Union gotten involved in this issue? They may want to.
14th is below average for Ballard residents to use it and is terrible in terms of providing access to Ballard as a destination for the rest of the region. The region is paying for this so that should matter.
Honestly, why even go to Ballard at all if this is where you’re going to put the station?
“The region is paying for this”
The North King subarea is paying for it. North King consists of Seattle, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park. The other subareas are contributing to the downtown tunnel but not the rest of it.
You are forgetting that ST it expecting the downtown tunnel from International District to Westlake to be under capacity for future riders, and therefore they are building a second tunnel from International to Westlake.
If you are building Ballard-UW instead of Ballard-Downtown (which is the real choice they have), you now need a second tunnel from International to UW to accommodate all Ballard riders who have to use that segment.
For a fair apples-to-oranges comparison, you need to compare the current Westlake-Interbay-Ballard with a Westlake-UW-Ballard line, since the Ballard-UW line would put all of those riders on the Westlake-UW segment. With this fair comparison, Westlake-UW-Ballard is pretty obviously a lot more expensive.
I’m not sure a fixed bridge is even possible. BNSF has proposed replacing the train bridge west of the Locks with a bridge that would limit vertical draft to 155ft. There is pushback from the maritime industries who are west of Aurora Bridge to not for the first time create a limit to air draft in this section of the ship canal. It will need to be a tunnel or a draw bridge.
It is worth noting that the representative project (an elevated stop at 15th) is the cheapest of the options. Sound Transit is not flush with money, and spending extra to make things worse could mean that small projects get shortchanged. This could have ripple effects felt in other stations. We may see more stations with substandard escalators (that break down too often) or lack helpful entrances.
But Fisherman’s terminal folks do not want a new fixed bridge. And they have a lot of influence with city leadership.
We could eliminate 130th Station and Graham Station. :(
Agree that the 15th St station is a superior plan, thank you for helping to get that feedback shared!
I took a look at the transportation choices coalition website. From their letter giving recommendations to the elected leadership group, their criteria is as follows:
● Maximizing equitable TOD and affordable housing potential
● Integration of transit, bike, and walking networks
● Prioritize race and social justice
● Ensure travel reliability
● Minimize displacement
● Build a system that looks to the future
By those measures 14th is just fine – except for bus integration maybe. It is shocking to me that they don’t factor in things like:
Ease of use by riders
Easy access to places that people want to go to.
If the advice TCC is giving the mayor is what is leading to a 14th station then TCC is giving bad advice.
Am I wrong?
What? The letter recommends a 15th tunnel or a 14th tunnel. That’s not as much pro 14th as saying 14th is OK. I usually agree with TCC and I was concerned when you said they supported 14th but it doesn’t look that bad. It is surprising that only half of its goals refer to “transportation choices”.
yes it is surprising. That is probably the best way to put if.
But if a transit advocacy organization like TCC isn’t even using the rider experience and convenience in their evaluation criteria, then we really can’t exoect a different outcome than we are getting.
It’s disappointing too – as well as surprising.
Actually, TCC doesn’t have sole control over that letter. It’s a joint letter from five NGOs, only three of which have transportation-related names.
Still, you’d think the purpose of “transportation choices” was to improve people’s transportation convenience and experience.
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