As ST3 goes through a mountain of process to get to a preferred alternative, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend: The stakeholders who are getting their way are focused on how they will be impacted rather than what is best for riders. It should go without saying that the whole point of expanding Link is to serve future riders, their needs should be the first and last consideration before any route is chosen.
As we’ve mentioned before, this is the point in the process where a balance has to be struck between costs and benefits. There is limited budget and it’s highly unlikely that additional funding is coming from any level of government. On the off chance more funding comes through, the preferred alternative should include higher priced options where they have an impact, but in general it’s time to be realistic.
Sound Transit recently released the level three alternatives, which is a mashup of the options that made it through the SAG and ELG along with the Representative Alignment (RA). It looks like most of the higher cost options are lumped into Alternative 1 (A1), and a mix of lower cost options into Alternative 2 (A2).
At this stage we’re hoping to bid farewell to the RA. It was a good place to start, but doesn’t have any features that are worth preserving. We’ll focus on the good parts of A1 and A2 and what needs attention/improvement.
The elevated section in A2 appears to strike the right balance. The junction station is oriented north/south on 41st just south of Alaska, a few blocks away from the junction but a more in the center of the density in the area. This looks like the best location for a station but we would want to see station entrances on either side of Alaska for direct bus transfers. The location of Delridge station also looks to be ideal for direct bus transfers.
A1 presents three tunnel options, presumably all requiring around $700M in additional funding. We would have liked to see them narrow that down, presenting the option to the West of the Junction, in particular, seems like a waste of effort. If regional planners and politicians are looking for a way to spend $700M on transit, we would like to officially submit that this tunnel is a remarkably poor choice that does nothing to improve transit speed, reliability, or experience for riders.
Despite a vague pro-transit preamble, the Port has a pretty clear message in their ST3 letter: Don’t put transit near us. A SODO station moved to the west was the one thing that would have improved transit for riders in this segment. The Port killed that option with claims of impacts to Occidental: A road that was empty even on fish truck day. Unless something changes, riders in the industrial business district that includes Starbucks headquarters are just out of luck.
A2 also appears to get the Massachusetts tunnel connection between Stadium and ID Station right. This is an affordable option that allows Metro to continue to operate Ryerson base.
This has been covered well here already, but we want to add our support on two fronts:
- A shallow station on 5th, the affordable option that is clearly best for transit riders. This station needs to be built with fast Link to Link transfers as the primary focus but should also include better connections to Sounder/Amtrak. This is an opportunity to give riders a much better experience at our biggest transit hub, let’s take it.
- Mitigation for businesses in the ID when we build a shallow station on 5th. Mitigation should come both in the form of how the station is constructed and financial help during construction. Of all of the stakeholders talking about impacts, their concerns ring the most true to us. A cut and cover station will be disruptive and we need to make sure the small businesses in the area are put in a position to weather those impacts.
Midtown to Seattle Center
A1 appears to get this right. General alignment on 5th allows for enables the best transfer environment at Westlake station. Denny station oriented South of Denny with an implied entrance on the north side. SLU station straddling Aurora at Harrison for the best possible transfer environment and largest walkshed. We preferred a Seattle Center station oriented further South to bring parts of North Belltown into the walkshed, but the logic of the chosen location that maximizes the walkshed within Lower Queen Anne makes a lot of sense.
As we’ve mentioned several times before, this segment has to be built for future expandability to the north and east. Building a brand new rail tunnel and not future proofing it would be a historic error.
Smith Cove and Interbay
A2 is the best option presented for this segment but still needs some work. Smith Cove station is located between Expedia and the Cruise Terminal. The year-round demand is actually at the Helix Bridge entrance to Expedia’s new and growing campus. Whether A1 and A2 station is chosen, it needs to be designed to connect directly to the Helix Bridge to leverage the existing access point and connect to bus transfers on Elliot Avenue.
There appears to be consensus between alternatives that Interbay station will be at Thorndyke but the station should be moved closer to Dravus Street for bus connectivity. For both stations and alternatives, we’ve asked Sound Transit to clarify that “surface” segments mean no grade crossings of any kind.
We’re frustrated with the options presented here. There are lots of options on 14th, a location that is only lovable for being out of the way. A truly terrible metric for a subway stop. Seattle Subway and Seattle Transit Blog are in full agreement on this point. The affordable/elevated option presented in A2 sticks to 14th rather than cutting back to 15th where the station can connect to riders far better. If there is budget available, the best alternative presented here is in A1 which has a tunnel crossing at 14th Ave on the south side of the Ship Canal with a station at 15th Ave NW in Ballard. We want to see a preferred alternative that includes an affordable option we can support. None were presented here.
One of the eternal issues with public process is that it’s usually people who oppose or are ambivalent about the project who get the biggest voice in the outcome. To quote Martin’s recent post “As usual, no stakeholder is primarily interested in the convenience of future riders.” That leaves only the community of pro-transit citizens and activists to give future riders a voice.
We need your help. The final decision is with the Sound Transit Board. Please join us and contact them at email@example.com and let them know: Make transit riders your first and last consideration when developing the preferred alternative.