We’re finally here:  ST3 Planning level 3 is where we cut everything but two options and send those on for an environmental impact study. Those options will include a high end options that relies on local funding an an affordable option that doesn’t.  At this point, our primary concern is with the low end options. There is a conversation to be had in the future about whether spending $1.9B on high end ST3 options makes sense and where the money will come from, but that’s a topic for another day.

Right now we need to make sure the affordable options that we send through are acceptable in case additional local funding never comes.  Building on our central concepts of Reliability, Expandability, and Accessibility along with our Level 2 feedback and plea to put riders first, here is what we’re focused on now by station:


Though we’ve heard ST staff say many times that the options are mix and match, we don’t get the impression they mean it when it comes to the Ballard station location.  As we (and others) have said many times a 14th NW station and a drawbridge are both unacceptable.  A drawbridge is an unacceptable reliability compromise for the future or our system.  A station on 14th NW simply doesn’t serve riders west of 15th or transfers well.  A station on 15th NW with entrances on both sides of the street does.

A 14th high bridge crossing with a station on 15th is our minimal expectation for an affordable option.  While it’s not impossible to see local funding via the port come through for a tunnel to Ballard, as the current options stand, the 15th Ave NW tunnel station the only option we can support.  

SoDo and the International District

This is a rare case where the best option is also the most affordable option and has the least schedule risk.  Though a cut-and-cover station on 5th will have impacts, it will serve transfers between the two Link tunnels far better than anything else on the table and preserve Ryerson bus base.  This alignment also saves $200m which conceivably could be used on key options elsewhere and to devise very good mitigation for ID businesses. Variations of this option should be included in both the high/low alternatives in the EIS.

West Seattle

We’re highly skeptical of the value of spending $700 million or more on a West Seattle tunnel that has no advantages for riders. We’re particularly concerned that local politicians are attempting to kill transit projects in service of spending on this tunnel. The affordable/elevated option that makes it through to the next round should include a crossing to the south of the West Seattle Bridge to avoid conflicts with the port.  The yellow line is an improvement on the representative alignment as it orients the Junction station north/south to ease future expansion. We would like to see multiple variations of affordable options make it through to the EIS instead of any tunnel options.


In Midtown, we need to focus on connections to First Hill. Perhaps the best place for that is between Madison and Marion on 5th Avenue (the Blue Line) where east connections to Madison BRT are possible. For high/low variations at this station, we want to see station pedestrian access options considered.  A pedestrian tunnel to 3rd or 7th could make a big difference for riders.

South Lake Union

A Harrison station is both affordable and the best for transit, bike, pedestrian connectivity.  We would like to see variation of this alignment selected in both high and low cost alternatives.


A station mostly oriented south of Denny with an entrance north of Denny (blue line) is the best option for the walkshed if we assume a Harrison SLU station.  It should be included in both high and low cost alternatives.


It was hard to tell what the tradeoffs are for Westlake Station from the presented materials. A successful future Westlake Station is one that creates easier transfers and a better user experience of transit riders. Multiple options that explore the best possible transfers for riders should be included in the EIS.

Seattle Center

At Seattle Center, we prefer direct access to Key Arena provided by a Republican Street Station and we also believe construction of a Station on Mercer would be another mess. Republican should advance for both high/low options.

Smith Cove

A station that integrated with the Helix bridge made a lot of sense on its face, but the $200M price tag is eye-popping for not much upside.  There are reasons to like that option, but not for that price. The other option, the Brown Line station at Galer, also added $100M over the representative alignment mostly due to a longer tunnel that extends under Elliot Avenue and allows the alignment to be mostly on the surface through Interbay, including the station at Galer St. Both Smith Cove station locations currently have pedestrian-only access to Expedia over the BNSF railroad tracks. There are clearly better places to focus transit funding and we should choose the best option that makes the Interbay alignment as a whole affordable. The Brown Line’s surface station at Galer Street does just that.


In Interbay, there appears to be an opportunity to both save money and improve transit access.  We would like to see a version of the brown line that moves the Thorndyke Station to Dravus Street west of 17th Ave for much better access.  Elevated/surface variations of the BNSF alignment (brown line) should advance with a focus on as much surface rail as possible without traffic crossings for both high & low options.

Future planning

The most essential feature that has been left mostly unaddressed is building for the future. ST3 must be built for expansion. That means expansion for a future Aurora Line, a future Madison Line, a future Airport Bypass, a Ballard/UW Line, a Ballard/Lake City Line — all the lines on our vision map. We implore the Sound Transit Board to look past the typical planning skirmishes and think about how this plan will be future proof and best serve riders.  

Last week Sound Transit released another survey.  It’s an opportunity to tell planners and the Sound Transit Board what you think.  

Our suggestions for the comment section:

  • Ballard:  Include a fixed bridge crossing at 14th NW with a 15th NW elevated station
  • ID/SODO:  Include variations of a cut/cover 5th for both high and low cost options
  • West Seattle:  Study multiple affordable options with south rail bridge instead of a tunnel
  • Midtown:  5th Avenue alignment and study pedestrian access for high/low options
  • SLU:  Harrison is the best for transit and non motorized access
  • Denny:  Station oriented mostly south of Denny best for walkshed with Harrison
  • Westlake:  The best possible transfer environment for riders should advance
  • Seattle Center:  Republican station for high/low options
  • Smith Cove:  Galer is best presented. Helix as high end only if Expedia intends to fund
  • Interbay:  Study Dravus alignment west of 15th with BNSF-adjacent variations
  • Expansion: New tunnel must be built assuming future Aurora and Madison expansion

134 Replies to “ST3 Level 3 Planning: Lets Not Paint Ourselves into a Corner”

      1. Do any of your Board members live in Ballard? I went to your site, and it appears no Board members or executive staff lives there. I’m always wary of people who don’t live in a neighborhood, but proclaim they know what’s best for it.

        Sam. Kirkland’s leading Ballard expert and New York Times Reader.

      2. It was Ballard and 45th corridor activists who created Seattle Subway and convinced ST and the city and a lot of residents in north Seattle that serving Ballard was economically feasible and could get a yes vote and was necessary — that we shouldn’t just build the spine and say “That’s all we can do in Seattle.” Before that Ballard was just a sketch in ST’s long-range plan and there was no idea when or if it might ever be built. But Seattle has a housing shortage and can’t just write off its fourth-largest urban village and a quarter of the city and leave it hard to get to.

        I can’t speak to the masthead but I’ve been to a couple Seattle Subway meetings and one of the members lived in north Ballard then. I worked in Ballard for four years and lived there for nine months and have always thought I might move back when i get older, although that depends on Ballard getting Link or some really good transit lanes.

      3. Close, but not quite Mike. I started the Ballard Spur and joined forces with other activists from all over the city that formed Seattle Subway in 2011. Currently I’m the only board member in Ballard and I split my time between Ballard and Capitol Hill.

        The whole project was on life support when the state legislature tried to limit funding to $11B and before we figured out that extending the timeline was a way to make projects happen. A super huge ST Complete didn’t quite happen (polled well but was too subject to negative messaging) but we do take credit for pushing for an ST3 which is twice as big as the original conventional wisdom plan.

        That’s what enabled high quality lines to be built in BOTH Ballard and West Seattle.

      4. Does Seattle Subway finally have a board member from West Seattle? Or just along the rail line in the Rainier Valley?

      5. RBC, we’ve had at least one West Seattle member for most of our existance.

        Also of note: If more West Seatrle folks (or anyone else) wants to get involved we’re a volunteer based organizarion.

    1. There is no “affordability” problems. The ST3 ballot measure contained no caps on spending, for any of the 8 rail projects. In addition, the taxing can continue as long as necessary — the courts have so ruled. This is like with Sound Move: the best option, not the cheapest, needs to be selected. The article misses those HUGE realities.

      1. Now that is a spicy hot take!

        You should share that one with the Board members from SnoCo, Pierce, East and South King, all of whom have their own projects to build and constituents much more skeptical about transit, see what they think about announcing budget overruns before a shovel is even in the ground and extended taxes to pay for it!

      2. Ron Swanson — what did I post that is news to you? The taxes have to remain at current levels through 2050 because of the bond contracts. That’s plenty of tax revenue, for all five subareas.

      3. That tax revenue is already committed to the representative alignments or whatever equivalents ST selects. It’s not a hard ceiling but ST would be reluctant to go more than a little higher, especially for planned options when we don’t even know what the unexpected costs will be during later engineering and construction. In any case, if ST raises the budget it would have to do so proportionally in all subareas, because the tax rate must be the same across them, and subarea equity would require proportional projects in the other subareas. I haven’t heard that the other subareas want anything beyond the base ST3 plan. Snohomish is eager for the Paine Field detour, but that’s in the base plan. Beyond that, Snohomish wants an extension to Everett CC and Pierce wants an extension to Tacoma Mall, but I can’t see how there would be enough for those before ST4.

      4. For anyone interested, I’ll break it down a little more. ST3 envisioned a 25-year construction period. After it passed, financial market realities required the board to pledge the taxes through about 2050 (none years after the contemplated 2041 completion date). The ST3 estimates for revenues now are outdated. The agency just needs to acknowledge the financial reality, no taxes have to be raised or extended, and the N. King subarea Twin Tunnels for ST3 would be covered. Updated budgeting — that’s all.

      5. This is a technically correct answer, which I typically find to be the best kind, but it strikes me as politically naive. Given the subarea equity issues, the ongoing political tumult over MVET rates, and the fact the media would seize on any announcement that the budget for tunnels was now ‘covered’ as the tax would simply be extended based on the terms of the bonds already issued as a “budget overrun” and “bait and switch,” it’s not going to happen.

      6. rolf: I still don’t understand this claim. Everybody knew the taxes would remain at maximum past 2041 until the bonds were substantially paid down, and many didn’t pay attention to when exactly that would be, both because all bond-financed projects are like that and it’s so far in the future. So if the dropoff year is now 2050, what was it before? And how does that help the cause of a tunnel? That would imply that ST somehow found additional money, but where is the additional money?

        In any case, if ST does nothing, the tax rate will gradually come down as the bonds are paid down, and then settle at a maintenance/replacement rate. The figures I’ve heard for that are 10% to 33% of the maximum rate.

        But ST could also hold an “ST4” vote in the 2040s to extend the taxes for new projects, and that is what it has always done in the past. Or it could possibly extend the taxes without a vote, with some limitations and political fallout. It will be another generation making those decisions, and in a landscape of transit needs we can’t fully predict. So I’m not inclined to speculate now.

  1. This is a rare case where the best option is also the most affordable option and has the least schedule risk.

    I don’t think it is rare. If anything, it is rare that the more expensive option is the better option. Consider:

    1) A fixed bridge over Salmon Bay on 14th Avenue Northwest would cost an additional $100 million
    2) A Smith Cove/Expedia station at West Galer Street would add $100 million
    3) A South Lake Union station at 6th and Mercer would add $300 million
    4) A 4th Avenue CID station would individually cost $300 million to cut and cover, or $400 million to mine.
    5) A West Seattle tunnel would individually cost $700 million, with an additional $300 million for a light rail bridge north of the West Seattle Bridge.

    14th is clearly worse that 15th. Galer is worse than Prospect. Sixth and Mercer is one of the worst possible places for a station in the area. It would be inaccessible by buses, very hard for pedestrians to access, and basically in the middle of nowhere. At best a tunnel in West Seattle would be the same, but more than likely the station would end up taking longer to access. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, the more expensive option is worse for transit users.

    1. The level 2 option of a shorter West Seattle tunnel to the alaska junction with a crossing north of the west seattle bridge had a $500 million price, so I’m skeptical of your napkin-math saying $700+300 million. Nobody at Sound Transit has stated that a West Seattle tunnel requires a north-of-the-bridge crossing.


      1. Can we separate the north vs south of the bridge Duwamish crossing from the tunnel vs elevated to the Junction? I also have never heard that a north crossing would prevent elevated to the junction. I still want to understand what “crossing to the south of the West Seattle Bridge to avoid conflicts with the port.” really means. Is this just the port playing the NIMBY game?

      2. WS Scott, it’s a mis-reading of the Level 3 sketches by The Urbanist that I asked Seattle Subway’s Keith Kyle about and they declined to suggest it was an error.

        “Another problem for West Seattle’s tunnel alignment is that it appears to require the bridge to be north of the existing West Seattle bridge, exactly where the Port of Seattle doesn’t want it. ”


        you tend to follow Sound Transit pretty closely as a founder of Seattle Subway. Are they off-base on suggesting the West Seattle tunnel portal is functionally tied to the north of the bridge crossing?”

        “I don’t get the impression they are off base, no.”

      3. … perhaps Peter Johnson at the Seattle Transit Blog started the whole mis-understanding.


        “A north bridge is needed for a line that tunnels to West Seattle, to accommodate the limited placement options for the tunnel’s portal in Delridge. An elevated West Seattle line could more easily be built with a south bridge, since it wouldn’t have to come to ground.”

      4. @ Chefjoe

        … so I’m skeptical of your napkin-math saying $700+300 million.

        All of my bullet point items were taken verbatim from the Seattle Transit Blog article linked on this page (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2019/01/31/ballard-and-west-seattle-tunnels-could-each-cost-1-9-billion-extra/). Those values, I can only assume, are from the Sound Transit publications referenced there. I just did a Google search on the exact thing I quoted and the first link was that article. Before you question my numbers, you should do even the tiniest bit of research.

      5. Consider it researched RossB.

        The level 2 pdf I linked to above calls out a $700M golf course tunnel and a $500M oregon st tunnel (which actually went north of the bridge). Only in the “add all the expensive stuff” level 3 outline going north of the bridge would +$700+300M be an appropriate estimate using those statements. Going S of the bridge for $700M is consistent with Level 2 options for the golf course tunnel, but since level3 also changed the location of the stations to be “not under fauntleroy/alaska and 35th/avalon” from the level 2 $700m alignment, there may be a big of refinement in the cost there too.

      6. They can’t just go into the hillside at the level of the elevated? How deep do they expect Triangle station to be?

  2. What really needs to happen is a new car bridge this tall and integrate the rail, it is rare now to get across the bridge without it getting caught with it up, and traffic backs up way down 15th. It has also been stuck several times last year. Lets forward think here and combine them.

      1. We don’t need to encourage driving.

        The Ballard Bridge is functionally obsolete, dangerous, requires constant, expensive maintenance and will need to be replaced in the next 20 years.

        Even if we were to eliminate “driving” tomorrow, we would still need a new bridge for buses, freight, pedestrians and bikes.

        If a high, fixed bridge is chosen, I absolutely agree that ST and SDOT should work together to create a rail/car/ped/bike combo bridge (assuming complete grade separation of course) to replace the Ballard Bridge. We would still need a lower bridge for access to Emerson and Leary, but that could be a two lane draw bridge with pedestrian/bike facilities.

      2. The city should take advantage of the opportunity for joint design and an integrated implementation. The city has had five years to do this since McGinn first started agitating for a Ballard-downtown line, but so far there has been nothing. The only thing the city has done is it tried to get ST to pay for a multimodal bridge to replace the Ballard bridge. But ST isn’t intererested in paying for an automobile bridge, and with ST3 already the largest transit package in history and even then it can barely fit all of North King’s priorities, there’s no way it could have gotten significantly bigger for a multimodal bridge. Seattle would have had to find all the non-light-rail part of it, but it never stepped forward with a plan, and six months is a really short time to come up with one.

      3. The fact SDOT can’t come up with a few hundred million to replace the Magnolia Bridge, an even ricketier structure, makes me highly suspect they’d be able to come up with the cash it’d take to add car/bus/bike functionality to ST’s bridge.

    1. Is a multi-modal tunnel for both cars and light rail an option? Could bikes and pedestrians be incorporated as well (thinking of the bike/ped tunnel under the Mount Baker hill, which is incorporated with I-90)? Ballard Bridge will need to be replaced at some point–as will all of the bridges across the ship channel. Of course, SDOT should have to pay for a large portion of the tunnel in this case. Unfortunately, this ship had probably sailed as it’s probably too late into the planning process. But food for thought for Aurora Ave. (WSDOT) in ST4, perhaps.

      1. You’d have a huge jump in budget to accommodate the safety features you’d need. Fire suppression and evacuation is a lot harder for cars and freight traffic than for an electric passenger train.

        The high bridge isn’t very practical as a multimodal project either, the geometry of making the path meet ADA requirements and connecting to 15th on either end would be…challenging.

  3. Great work as always.

    A 15th Ave bridge is the only Ballard alignment that makes sense for future expansion. Given the finite financial resources, a movable bridge is fine as long as it never opens during peak times. Any tunnel alignment needs to consider the cost of future tunneling to bring the line back above ground. I have yet to see a convincing argument against a movable bridge that cites specific numbers about why it is a problem…only outright rejection.

    The ST3 representative alignment in West Seattle makes the most sense. Turning the line south (and bulldozing many additional properties to do so) does not change the fact that there is nowhere for the line to go south of the Junction. Elevated West Seattle rail is already walking a political tightrope and I think the only way this thing gets through is if the guideway goes on Fauntleroy. The projected cost vs. ridership benefits of extending south are not worth it.

    White Center and Burien should be served by the southern end of the future Aurora line via. Georgetown and South Park. Delridge was the only route that made sense via the current alignment.

    1. To complement Joe’s point: If you want the West Seattle line to be expanded from the Junction south toward Burien/White Center, then the only politically feasible option is a tunnel. An elevated extension will never happen because it would require the destruction of an outrageous number of homes during this housing shortage. If you want to build West Seattle rail cheaply, then the representative alignment will do the trick, without lying about whether the line will ever be extended.

      That is the “advantage for riders” of a West Seattle tunnel. Like Joe Z, you might not think it’s worthwhile for various reasons. (Personally, I think a tunnel is worth paying for, and I am skeptical of a south “Aurora line” on 509 because it would miss the places with potential for density on the way to Burien.) But everyone should stop repeating this falsehood that a West Seattle tunnel offers no advantages.

      Seattle Subway’s preferred option for West Seattle is completely off the mark: That elevated yellow line passing through blocks of existing houses has zero chance of ever being extended, and it is more expensive than the representative alignment–really, not that much less expensive than a tunnel, which comes at a fraction of the political cost.

      1. At $100 or $200 million you might be right but not $700 million. That’s an insane amount of money. Light rail to the Junction is already borderline impractical at the current cost.

      2. You jog left and run elevated along Fauntleroy from the yellow line terminus to Graham and then hook a left into a tunnel under High Point and come out down at Sylvan/Delridge. Not impossible at all.

      3. If North King’s goal were to “build great transit around West Seattle”, that might make sense. But an extension past the Junction in West Seattle is not exactly the most important next step until UW/Ballard and Lake City are served. Not in my lifetime.

      4. Well, that’s the thing isn’t it? The bulk of that project is in South King (White Center/Burien), if you’re looking for Ballard/UW in ST4 you need an expensive project in South King to balance it out. Could do a lot worse.

      5. Could also do a lot better. The vast majority of South King is south and east of Burien.

        Burien-TIBS-Southcenter-Renton seems much more important, and investing more in Sounder and the SR167 corridor also strike me as more important than serving White Center. White Center could be a part of Seattle, and therefore North King, by the time ST4 happens.

        Once the Spine is complete, the other subareas may be more interested in improving service within their subarea than connecting more to Seattle. We already see this with East King (Kirkland-Issaquah routing) and Shonomish (Paine Field detour). Outside of Seattle, the subareas see Sound Transit as a means to build a multimodal network for the region, not a feeder system for Seattle.

      6. In a non-political world (hahahaha) I’d have had ST purchase the UP lines on the west side of the Valley, upgraded and grade-separated them, and traded freight slots there to BNSF et al to allow far more slots for Sounder service – including late into the night and on weekends, akin to Caltrain service. I’d have built Link outward from Tacoma as a separate (for now) system, specifically to serve the Tacoma area as they saw fit, and have – with whatever might be left – extended south of Angle Lake last. Although I use the train to the airport quite frequently so understand the desire to take the train there, the numbers aren’t mind-boggling for that station and the argument that Tacoma needs a connection to the airport above all else they could have with a Tacoma-centric Link (not streetcar) is not overly compelling – even fewer people will actually make that trip than from Seattle, and most would be just as well served by good bus service. In time, the Tacoma line could have met the Seattle one, but I think the money would have been better spent elsewhere in that region first.

        I’d actually always tend to focus on commuter rail-type service outside the denser Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma areas (including DMU/EMUs) rather than have cobbled together this hybrid “It’s urban rapid transit! But it needs tons of seats and shouldn’t stop anywhere!” thing that we’re getting. That could have involved some of the same right-of-ways being built for Link but might have (on some lines) involved transfers to the urban system where it wasn’t feasible to run parallel lines all the way into Downtown, and would have better utilized through-routing like running South Sounder through to the “Expedia” Link station and North Sounder all the way through to a Renton station. This isn’t uncommon in other places; in fact, it could lend itself to multiple rail stations on the urban periphery connected by rail transit similar to that in some European cities or even Boston. We would have gotten more rail to areas outside the city by doing this, and better rail for the higher volume in-city lines.

        This approach – and the state allowing differential tax rates to permit each area to build what they see fit (or not) without constraint – seems like it would have gotten us a much better system, designed for the needs of the various constituencies. Give the sub-areas what they want, permit them to tax themselves (or not) for it as they desire, and don’t try to create a system that tries to do everything but does nothing particularly well. Unfortunately for the remainder of my life these decisions have been made. My hope now is to future-proof ST3 as best as possible while making actual use of the system as easy for riders as possible. Based on the agency’s history that’s a big enough lift for us all.

      7. Problem with E/DMUs is there is limited freight ROW that can be repurposed. Other cities like LA and Denver have great ROWs they can reuse, but for various reasons Seattle doesn’t, outside of a few places like Kirkland and maybe Renton.

        IMO, one of the biggest benefits of an all-in Cascadia HSR will be creating heavy rail ROW north of downtown Seattle than can do double duty as commuter rail for all of the northern suburbs. (south of Seattle, the improvements to speed & span of service will be nice but won’t be as transformative because South Sounder as-is is pretty solid at peak)

      8. You don’t have to repurpose anything (although that’s obviously easier/cheaper) – you just need to create right-of-way just as we’re doing now for Link if you need to get somewhere you can’t already get to. E/DMUs are more of a capacity-needed rolling stock issue rather than a right-of-way issue; just saying that they could be used in places rather than Sounder-type trains. There’s more usable track (I think) in S King/Pierce counties than elsewhere at any rate.

        Agreed that if HSR ever entered the city from the north it would provide a great new right-of-way for suburban service but was more stating what I would have done in the South End with ST3.

      9. I’ve felt that the D/EMU technology is more paractucal in areas outside of the urban core.

        The EBART service seems to prove its practicality. That includes acquiring the SR 4 freeway median in which to run the service (it seems better to own the ROW rather than to pay for train slots in the long run).

        I’ve wondered if an Everett-Bellevue-Tacoma core track would be useful. Link Connections in Snohomish, Bellevue and South King seem practical. Extensions to Marysville or Bellingham could be added to the north, or to Olympia/Lacey or Puyallup to the south. Full or partial HSR could be the third layer – serving the Cascadia lines to BC, OR and Central/East WA. 405 is restricted by ROW, so the layout would be complicated and possibly expensive. Still, it see it as more constructible than trying to do something through Seattle.

    2. A third south-end light rail line is not going to serve White Center and Burien. The primary reason it will get built is that Federal Way and Tacoma to Seattle commuters will be tired of detouring through Rainier Valley and West Seattle. It may or may not serve South Park and Georgetown along the way, but that would be a side issue.

      Previous worst-case scenario calculations on this blog undercounted the potential time savings of a relative straight shot through the Duwamish Valley. But if the time savings are as bad as those calculations, there simply won’t be a third south-end light rail line through Seattle this century.

      The most sensible light rail approach for West Seattle and Burien is to continue the line from Delridge southward. Yeah that misses the Triangle, which would be sad, and the far end of upper West Seattle’s density, which will be much less sad. A fork ought to be built into the line near Delridge Station so as to enable the split line. Yeah, that’s more expense, but that is what is required to future-proof West Seattle Link.

      I agree that turning south to Morgan Junction is pretty much pointless.

      Build the Delridge Junction, and that is something for which I would be happy to pay a little more local tax to make happen. Building that junction now, BTW, isn’t about speeding up light rail construction to southern West Seattle, but about avoiding shutting down the line for months or years to install the junction later.

      1. I actually roll my eyes in skepticism for a rail tunnel anywhere in a West Seattle without at least 10 or 20 story buildings unless topography makes it necessary like at Beacon Hill. Even High Point, White Center and Delridge are nowhere near as dense as First Hill, Eastlake, 23rd/CD, Madison Street or even the Rainier Valley.

      2. It was eye-opening to read on the STB recently that the SODO to Beacon Hill segment will have the highest per train demand in the entire system (86K I believe). If it results in overcrowding, some support for a third line will emerge — not only by South King riders but also SE Seattle riders who can’t get on a train because it’s too packed. It’s a real possibility after Tacoma Dome Link opens in 2030 or sometime soon after.

        Then, when SE Seattle riders get forced to make a new transfer after 2035 (and the layouts so far show that ST won’t make this easy), the howling will get even louder.

        I’ve long felt that ST3 really harms SE Seattle riders. Riding Link would have been easier after 2035 without these two new problems that ST3 will create.

      3. I haven’t heard that SODO to Beacon Hill issue. If it’s true it must be because Westlake to Capitol Hill will have two lines serving it, so the next bottleneck is that. But I’d think that Westlake to SLU would have a higher load than SODO to Beacon Hill. And if SODO to Beacon Hill is tight, then I’d think that SODO to Intl Dist would also be tight. Maybe be the game-day crowds at Stadium are skewing the average.

      4. Thanks Dan!

        I was just going to point out that the segment is projected at 86K average weekday riders compared to the 148K between Capitol Hill and Westlake with twice as many trains.

        It’s a good point about the peak direction effects too.

        Finally, it’s important to mention that this is segment ridership and not total boarding. (It can’t be compared to the line boarding totals on Link today.) It appears that the Westlake to Capitol Hill segment today has an average of around 35K with mostly three-car trains at six-minutes peak. With extra car capacity for all four-car trains, that should offer a general increase of 40 percent capacity, so that on average the SODO to Beacon Hill segment would appear to have about 50-80 percent more riders PER TRAIN CAR than what we have today.

      5. Al – Thanks for that info, I missed that one. We’re looking at what might be possible in 2024 at the King County and Seattle solo level.

        I tend to think an Aurora Line + Bypass Line + Renton would do the maximum good with possible single stop extensions at the end of existing lines. Adding capacity is the central justification of a bypass line, though the speed/reliability boost and getting Georgetown and South Park stations don’t count for nothing.

      6. It would be billions cheaper to cut and cover the line in Rainier Valley than build a bypass line. Doing so would enable 3 minute headways, which is way more than needed. As it is, we are unlikely to need extra capacity for the south line (six minute headways are fine). The bypass is a silly idea proposed by people who fundamentally don’t understand mass transit. It is based on the misguided idea that suburban transit will somehow be more popular than urban transit. Suburban transit is never more popular than urban transit, even when it is much faster than urban transit (case in point, Bay Area Rapid Transit). It would be silly to spend billions on a project when very few riders would benefit.

      7. Seattle Subway’s Vision has a silly little stub of a route serving the Central District running only between Capitol Hill and Mount Baker. It seems to implicitly be an admission that the “Metro 8” isn’t actually going to be happening at this point, since it seems to have no good role in the network and won’t even extend across I-5 where it would provide the most benefits over the existing bus. I feel like in a perfect world, Seattle Subway’s proposed Purple Line from Tacoma would head along the Central District segment then continue west into SLU, hooking back up with the ST3 line, giving south-end commuters more of a reward for their “detour” and allowing the Purple Line to serve a different market than a simple straight shot to the downtown core, but I suspect if SS thought that had a chance of happening at this point it’d be in their vision.

      8. I keep hearing people say folks from Tacoma will want a bypass, but I really don’t think that’s true.
        Sounder runs 62 minutes from Tacoma Dome to King Street Station, Link will take 66 minutes, run all day at least every 15 minutes and be much more reliable. The 590 takes between 45 and 75 minutes now, in 20 years it will only be slower.

        As a Tacoma resident I’m much more interested post ST3 in making Link accessible to more Tacoma/South Sound riders than I am in shaving a few minutes off the trip.

      9. Upgrading the RV with cut-and-cover or whatever could also allow for triple tracking and therefore express runs at peak, which would yield most of the time savings of any bypass, without causes degradation of service outside of peak.

      10. The Beacon Hill -> SODO stretch already experiences overcrowding issues in morning peak. I’ve seen riders get passed up at SODO in morning peak and have to wait for the next train.

      11. “As a Tacoma resident I’m much more interested post ST3 in making Link accessible to more Tacoma/South Sound riders than I am in shaving a few minutes off the trip.”

        Where do you anticipate taking Link from Tacoma to? What are your neighbors saying?

        The Tacoma city government has been adamant that the Tacoma Dome extension is not primarily about commuting to downtown Seattle so the longer travel time doesn’t matter. That the purpose of the extension is for a connection to the airport and south King County and everywhere Link goes, and the fact that it also goes to downtown Seattle is a secondary benefit. They hope the airport connection will attract employers to Tacoma, and bring workers and shoppers from south King County. So my question is, how much do Tacoma residents accept this vision? And how much do they see themselves going to South King County on Link for purposes other than the airport? Do Piercians attend Highline College for instance, or work in the Kent industrial district?

      12. Mike,
        I work in Seattle and live in Hilltop, so my work commute will be Tacoma Link to Link. I am skeptical that Tacoma will ever be able to attract employers, though the airport connection will help. I will certainly use that. But I’m less optimistic that Tacoma will be anything other than a bedroom community of Seattle, and I guess I’m less worried about that happening than my Council Members are. And if the prevailing pattern is commuting to Seattle, then ST3 when completed will put a lot of demand on an already full park and ride, with so-so transit connections to the rest of Tacoma. For example, I live on the PT28 route, but it’s a two seat ride from my house to the Tacoma Dome on a half-hourly route.

        So rather than a 5-10 minute bypass, I think extending Link into Tacoma will provide a better value, at least for Pierce County.

        As far as those intermediate trips to South King County, right now they’re very difficult via transit because of the county line and driving is best avoided due to I-5 congestion, especially on the weekends. It’s hard to say what value that will have, because it’s somewhat dependent on areas like Federal Way becoming a dense urban environment, and it remains to be seen if that will actually happen. This is an area where Link may provide new trips rather than replacing existing ones because the existing options are poor.

      13. Sorry to argue with you again, Ross, but it would not “cost billions more” to build a bypass than to cut-and-cover Martin Luther King. A bypass can be built between Airport Way and the train tracks mostly at-grade for small change. The flying junction at the MF could connect it to the Green Line or, if ST wakes up and stacks the curve at Spokane, it could deviate up Industrial Way to the old UP right of way. The south end flying junction would be just like the existing BAR to Airport Way diving interchange.

        No, such an alignment wouldn’t serve South Park or the part of Georgetown around Fourth South, but South Park is never going to flourish and it would serve the “downtown” of Georgetown. South Park is too small an area to detour the rail line across the Duwamish waterway to serve it. It’s true that barges hardly ever go beyond the First South Bridge, BUT, five will get you a hundred the Port of Seattle will say it has to be a high bridge or a tunnel.

        Now I grant that IF the trackway down King Boulevard is wide enough to have three tracks underneath it then burying the tracks could give near-bypass travel times for express trains. But if you only care about peak-direction travel speeds then an alignment along Airport Way becomes REALLY cheap, because there’s room for one track at grade almost everywhere, but not two so something has to come out of Airport Way, probably the two-way-turn-lane.

    3. We shouldn’t assume it won’t be extended. You can say that but you’re not the ST board or more than one voter so we shouldn’t just take one person’s judgment. ST is already challenged with making things future-proof, viz. no transfer interface in the U-District station design to an east-west line, nothing in the Ballard alternatives about whether the next extension might be north or east, and no transfer interface in Northgate Station for the Northgate-Bothell line that’s in ST’s long-range plan. The last thing we need to do is more of this.

      The travel-time estimate for Renton – West Seattle – downtown was about the same as the 101 bus, even with that large detour to West Seattle, because it’s running at grade-separated speed. So going from Burien or futher south to downtown via West Seattle is not out of the question.

      The Rainier Valley overhead is ten minutes. That’s how much extra Federal Way travelers will be burdened by. They might not like it, but it’s well worth it for the five stations that almost double Link’s ridership, as well as connecting southeast Seattle to the rest of the city and the airport.

      The thing about a Georgetown bypass is, it benefits South King and Pierce, so they would have to pay for it, and they had absolutely no interest in it in 2014 when ST updated the long-range plan. There was a Georgetown line in it, but it was deleted without even a word of protest from the South King or Pierce boardmembers. They didn’t even try to get it into ST3, or study it, or anything.

      1. Yeah, the fervency for a bypass is shared by noone outside of blog comments.

        Pierce wants Tacoma Dome Link, some more Tacoma streetcar, Sounder improvements, maybe a little DMU line out to Orting.

        South King will be well served with a Renton-Tukwila-Burien line with transfers at TIBS and a direct route to Seattle via White Center.

      2. It’s because the people in those communities tend to be lower income and do not have the resources to advocate for themselves the way that wealthier communities do. Of course politicians ignore the need there, everyone does. It’s why we’re ending up with light rail to the Junction instead of down Delridge…a costly detour at the expense of everyone to the south. Seattle Subway’s future map heavily emphases north Seattle. I’m not saying those lines shouldn’t be built, because they should, but there are subtle, subconscious design decisions in south Seattle that show where the priorities lie–one of which seems to be getting North Seattleites a faster ride to the airport.

      3. The Junction is the largest urban village in West Seattle; it’s why we’re building light rail there in the first place.

      4. Bypass only make sense if it’s needed to solve congestion issues, and I think it will be hard for it to win our relative to investing in higher frequency in the RV segment (presumably by grade-separating major road crossing in the RV).

        A Burien-TIBS-Southcenter-Renton line makes a ton of sense, as long at the Spine has sufficient capacity to absorb all those transfers at peak.

      5. I’d agree that more tracks to connect places south of Seattle to Downtown won’t happen just to save a few minutes. It will probably take overcrowding to be a motivating factor.

        Having said that, the demand levels appear high enough to begin to produce some overcrowding issues under Beacon Hill if trains are restricted to four-cars at no more than six-minute intervals (the MLK median capacity restriction).

        I’ve long believed that ST4 will have to spend money updating or fixing systems problems that emerge as opposed to desires to merely expand coverage — which was primary in all the prior votes. That’s how most rail systems naturally evolve. It may take until the opening of Federal Way Link in 2025 or Tacoma Dome Link in 2030 to see how significant and where any possible overcrowding will be. Sometimes, it’s better to experience things first-hand before motivation to solve it comes about.

      6. It’s also hard to predict growth. If Amazon goes all in on Bellevue, then East Link will need frequency upgrades. But maybe Tacoma takes off, or Paine Field emerges as a major airport al la Midway. If east Pierce and Marysville continue to sprawl, there will be more demand for P&Rs and long haul commuter service (Sounder for Pierce, probably buses for Snohomish). If greater downtown Seattle keeps up it’s current pace, we’ll need more short-distance urban modes, like streetcars.

        The point is, a lot will change, so there is a value in waiting 8 years or whatever before committing to the next wave of investments.

      7. They had no interest in it when none of their constituents were riding the train and complaining about the detour both directions and getting a seat southbound. Once Link gets to Federal Way and the Metro expresses die, they will be hearing about it.

        Oh yeah.

      8. Metro will take over the 577 per its 2025 plan. There will be a half-hourly Seattle-Kent-Auburn express for those who would otherwise drive to a Link P&R. (And east-west RapidRides from Kent and Auburn to Link.) So South King County will have some alternatives. Pierce won’t, but Pierce Transit hasn’t been interested in Tacoma-Seattle service since ST1 started, and has shown no indication of getting back into it even if those ST Expresses turn into Link feeders.

    4. I agree on all points. First of all, a train bridge to Ballard will rarely open (since it would be extremely tall) and never open during rush hour (none of the bridges open during rush hour). Second, a line extending to Burien doesn’t make sense now, nor is it likely that it will make sense in the future. If it really does make sense in the future — if we see Toronto style towers in White Center — then an elevated line can be moved. Yes, that is more expensive than if it faced that way in the first place, but it is still relatively cheap. Folks who are arguing for a north-south line are essentially arguing that we won’t be able to replace that little section, while maintaining that a line to the south is worth it. It is unlikely that we will somehow encounter such a window and paying extra for that is similar to building ramps to nowhere.

      1. Bridges will open during rush hour for vessels of 1000 tons or greater. Just saw the Ballard bridge up at 5:30pm last night.

        If the new bridge is high enough (current Ballard Bridge is 44′ above the waterline), however, the usual commercial users wouldn’t put it up. Of the traffic I usually see, the sand and gravel barge with a tall pusher tug and some large fish processing vessels are the most common commercial vessels to raise the bridge. As long as the bridge is built above that level it won’t open much.

  4. There goes Seattle Subway again, ignoring the fact that a high drawbridge will have zero appreciable impact on service quality. It kind of makes them hard to take seriously on other aspects.

    1. Go ahead and make the case that said drawbridge will have zero impact on service quality. Simply claiming it doesn’t convince anyone that the claim is serious.

      1. 1: A 70′ span has enough clearance that essentially all recreational traffic passes without an opening. (The 520 and 90 bridges only have 70′ of clearance, very few people buy sailboats that can’t sail all of our main lake)

        2: The bridge is located on a waterway that already prohibits most openings during peak commute times.

        3: Most of the vessels in the canal with enough tonnage to call for an opening at any time are barges and support vessels that will fit well under a 70′ span.

        4: A cycle on a modern lift span can be accomplished in 90 seconds. Trains don’t have to wait for traffic to dissipate to move. Bridges also don’t have to lift literally the instant they’re radioed, frequently they’re delayed briefly for cars to clear.

        Between these factors, just about every opening necessary for Foss traffic or a tall ship headed to the wooden boat center can be accomplished in the gap between train headways.

        There you go, there’s the case that spending hundreds of millions of dollars extra doesn’t get you any extra service quality.

      2. Note that the burden of proof here lies with the author of the article, who asserts that drawbridges are unacceptable, and continues with an otherwise good article.

      3. It’s the collective opinion of an organization, Seattle Subway. They’re entitled to that opinion. I generally agree with Seattle Subway but I disagree on this. The only everyday impact of a 70′ bridge is a couple openings a day for the tallest sailboats, which as Ron said above is insignificant. The bridge tender can give Link “signal priority” of a minute or to to cross the bridge before it opens, just like the traffic lights on MLK do. Saying it will go up all the time like the current Ballard bridge does is just fearmongering.

        The long-term risk of a 70′ bridge is the risk it might get stuck open like the West Seattle bridge did, which caused the high-level bridge to be built. We have to weigh that risk and I think it’s unlikely, because it has never happened to the four Ship Canal bridges that have been operating for most of a century.

      4. I’ll reiterate from another thread that I heard senior ST staff at a board meeting say that the bridge would be built as a dual independent lift span. So even if one gets stuck open, trains can continue operating on the other span. At the headways this line will run, passengers wouldn’t notice the difference.

      5. Luckily, staff has said the high bridge is affordable within the ST3 budget without additional local funding.

        The Port also seems to dislike the drawbridge/15th alignment.

        I’m not sure what the point of splitting this hair is. Just build a high bridge if it has to be a bridge. Apparently quite a few people have a big problem with a drawbridge.

      6. A high bridge to *14th* is doable within the budget. A high bridge to *15th* isn’t on the table.

        A lot of people have a big problem with a 14th station because it does have a negative effect on the rider experience (a crossing of a very busy 15th and a long extra block walk from DT Ballard) where the drawbridge does not.

      7. As I’ve said before, a 14th Avenue bridge does not preclude a 15th Avenue station. In fact, it does not preclude a surface or subway station, especially if a lower profile, rarely-opening drawbridge is chosen.

        I have suggested an east-west station in the median or under Market Street. That would not preclude a northward extension in the future because the SLU demands will be high enough to make a 3-4 minute frequency viable — enabling two branches. The challenge is how to get the stubborn mindset of ST to open their minds to more effective station layouts. I don’t think that it is out of the legal realm for ST to turn the station 90 degrees, as they’ve recently moved 145th/ Shoreline South and Downtown Redmond Stations.

      8. As I’ve said before, a 14th Avenue bridge does not preclude a 15th Avenue station.

        I agree. But saying that “A drawbridge is an unacceptable reliability compromise for the future or our system” means that you are willing to pay the price of that choice. If a high bridge costs more money, then it means less can be spent on more important things. If spending that money means that covering 15th is more expensive, then it is quite possible ST will simply serve 14th. In other words, it is quite possible that ST will decide to go with a high bridge (because a movable bridge is “unacceptable”) and then find that the only affordable option is to put a station at 14th.

        It is like walking into the used car lot and saying you need gold plated spinner rims, but you only have ten grand. You will end up with a car that is pretty, but less functional.

  5. Not just commenting online, but open houses!


    Sound Transit will host three upcoming information sessions, one of which is in Ballard on Feb. 28 from 6 to 8:30pm at the Ballard High School (1418 NW 65th St). Other sessions will be held in West Seattle on Feb. 27, and in downtown Seattle on March 7 — click here for details.

    The open houses will allow attendees to provide feedback on various light rail alternatives. The feedback from open houses will be shared with the Stakeholder Advisory Group and Elected Leadership Group. In May, the Sound Transit Board of Directors will identify a preferred alternative plus additional alternatives to study for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

  6. You can keep saying a drawbridge is unacceptable with respect to reliability, still doesn’t make it true! 70′ dual lift span, station on 15th, spend the money elsewhere for actual transit improvement.

    1. Luckily, staff has said the high bridge is affordable within the ST3 budget without additional local funding.

      The Port also seems to dislike the drawbridge/15th alignment.

      I’m not sure what the point of splitting this hair is. Just build a high bridge if it has to be a bridge. Apparently quite a few people have a big problem with a drawbridge.

      1. People who oppose a station on 15th are using the draw bridge argument to try and move the station to 14th. They are using the ignorance of people like those at Seattle Transit Blog as a way to justify an inferior alignment. That is why there is no formal proposal for a high bridge to 15th. That is the problem with fixating on a relatively minor issue. The “compromise” could very well be that the station is moved to 14th, while accomplishing one of the goals of the organization (having he bridge be high).

      2. Ross — We very much agree about the 15th station. One of the things we’re most worried about is there being no affordable option we can support making it to the EIS.

      3. @Keith — The representative project has a station at 15th, and it is the cheapest option. It is the default. That is the affordable option that can be supported, mainly because other options are both more expensive and worse.

        Any option that costs more money should actually improve transit outcomes, such as building the station to the west (20th or Leary). Whether we can actually afford that option is a different matter.

      4. Removing a drawbridge inarguably improves transit outcomes. Particularly reliability.

        You can’t argue it doesn’t, you can only argue how much or that it doesn’t matter.

        Theough the future lens of interlining north of the ship canal and fitting Ballard trains into a high frequency new tunel – we consider that risk unacceptable and unneccesary.

        Luckily, a high bridge can be built with no additional local funding.

      5. Luckily, a high bridge can be built with no additional local funding.

        Really? I haven’t seen any detailed plans for a high bridge to 15th.

        Removing a drawbridge inarguably improves transit outcomes. Particularly reliability.

        Reliability may be better, but the station will be higher off the ground. With a higher station, transit outcomes are worse, since it takes longer to get to it. Thus you are trading the risk that something might go wrong (a risk so small that other transit agencies around the world continue to build movable bridges) versus a longer walk to the platform. That is a reasonable trade-off, but not worth it in my book.

        Meanwhile, you create new political enemies. This, in turn, could lead to lawsuits. A higher bridge means that more views are blocked. This is not what people voted for, making it fairly easy for someone to sue (and people will sue over views). While the engineering costs of a higher bridge may be the same, the legal costs could be much higher.

        A high bridge is simply one of those “nice to have” features. Sure, it is better than a movable bridge. But it is not essential, and treating it like so only weakens our ability to get things that really matter, like station placement. We should be insisting on 15th at the worse, while pushing hard to move the station to 20th. I have a really hard time with your approach when you say that a movable bridge is “unacceptable” but a station at 15th (or even 14th) is just fine. I think that could easily backfire, with us getting a high bridge to 14th, or a very expensive underground station at 15th.

      6. All the elevated bridge options require more funding. The distinction between elevated and tunnel options is that Sound Transit is willing to cover the $100-200 million they think an elevated bridge would cost, whereas they are demanding 3rd party funding for the $300-$700 million they think a tunnel would cost.

        It’s Seattle money either way, but the smaller amount can be covered via North King subarea funds.

      7. My feedback will say: (A) A 15th Ave NW station is essential!!! (B) I don’t care what kind of bridge/tunnel as long as it’s not lower than 70′. That will hopefully make the point that a high bridge with a 14th Avenue station is unacceptable.

      8. A station connected to a high level bridge will be no higher than one in the center of 15th Northwest, because such a station must have a mezzanine to distribute riders to both sides of the street. It doesn’t have to be a palace-like mezzanine like the coming Northgate station or TIBS, but it has to be at least twelve feet base of floor to ceiling just for strength.

        Remember that there is a significant grade between the waterfront and Market Street. Street level is nearly 30 feet higher at Market than the water level.

        It’s roughly a half mile, or 2500 feet from the waterfront at either 15th or 14th to Market. One hundred forty minus thirty is one hundred ten feet. To get down to street level, which of course the guideway would not, would require 110/2500 or about four feet in one hundred gradient. That is WELL within Light Rail Vehicles’ hill climbing capacity though it might mean that the trains would require more sand on rainy or icy days.

        Since the train would still be roughly 25 feet in the air, it lessens the grade to about three in a hundred. And that ignores the extra distance gained by jogging over to 15th which could also be used to lessen the grade even further.

        The “high station” canard is a Red Herring.

  7. About the only way I would support a tunnel under far West Seattle is if Delridge Station were built as a transfer station between that line and a future White Center line.

    That is to say, split platform levels, with one Alaska Junction track along the upper center platform and the other Alaska Junction track along the lower center platform, and match the White Center tail tracks accordingly for cross-platform transfers. The Alaska tracks would be on the west side of the platforms, so as to avoid crossing tracks south of the station.

    Do that, and there won’t need to be a tunnel to extend the line to White Center, Burien, and Tukwila. Just keep the line above Delridge and Ambaum.

    Of course, the use case for a similar junction station in South Lake Union is even stronger, either to run a third north-end line along Auroraish, or to manage to serve the old trolley apartment neighborhoods on the east side of Queen Anne Hill before crossing up high to Phinney Ridge.

    Those are things I’d vote to pay more taxes for.

    Once we survive the half-closure of the downtown tunnel for 10 weeks just for trackwork, we’ll be kicking ourselves that we didn’t build these junction stations. They will be far cheaper than building a third downtown transit tunnel.

    1. I agree that ST should invest in modest changes to accommodate track expansion. However, the DSTT problem was that no switching tracks were ever added anywhere in Downtown. Had crossover tracks been built between University Street and Pioneer Square in the first place, the connection issue would be abated significantly. It may have been possible to even have trains in either direction use the same platform.

      Of course, track disruptions will happen in the DSTT in the future. It’s a fact of any train operation. When that happens, the line running with trains every three minutes in each direction will have to completely stop! All those passengers will flood platforms, stairs, escalators and stairs.

      ST doesn’t appear to care about designing for these occasional operational failures. They really should!

      1. It’s a twin tube bored tunnel south of University, it would have been pretty expensive for Metro to build crossovers in there.

      2. Expensive? Yes.

        It’s more expensive to repair a major aorta to the heart when it fails too as opposed to an artery in one’s foot (which has multiple arteries available to use).

        With crowded trains every three minutes in each direction, failure will be as catastrophic as a completely blocked artery. It will kill the system in minutes and recovery will take hours at best and years at worst.

      3. With the crossover at Westlake and the one they’re building at ID you can run single track service through the DSTT pretty easily. Headways would be 20 minutes, but you could do it.

      4. It won’t work at 20 minutes. You would have to hold at least five or six trains full of riders to serve. Even if it’s only required for one hour, it will mess up train operations until the end of the day. It could likely be easier to just create a bus bridge.

        Of course, when the second tunnel opens in 2035, trains could be routed to it — but only if the right trackage is built. That trackage could be just as expensive as excavating for a crossover track inside the current tunnel.

    2. WHAT? You would require Aurora corridor riders to transfer at Gates Foundation????? No way! Just stack the damn curve between Denny and Gates and include the bell-mouths. It would require the Gates station to be stacked as well, but that might well be a good thing because of the narrow confines in which it must be built. The east-west streets are pretty narrow. Since it wouldn’t require a mezzanine because only one size would have platforms, the lower level wouldn’t be any deeper than a classical center platform station, and the other direction would be a story shallower.

      This is done WIDELY in New York under narrow streets.

  8. I like the painting-ourselves-into-a-corner metaphor. I distrust some of our elected officials enough to believe they will try to find the yuckiest low-cost options in order to sell the high-cost options. ST Board: Don’t let that happen. Be prepared to reject their low-cost options as cynically using them as foils.

  9. What about the SODO Station changes? People will transfer there. It’s possible to create same direction or opposite transfer cross platforms there, and operationally having crossover tracks could be vital if there is a line failure.

    The all-surface SODO Station is a better station transfer layout, but riders at the station and transferring riders will have to go over the tracks about 30 feet with stairs or an elevator. Today, that’s a level walk.

    It’s possible to simply design the station with pedestrians under the tracks. If and all four tracks were slightly higher about 10-15 feet, pedestrians from Lander Street can ramp up to platforms and transferring riders won’t have to use stairs or an elevator. While adjusting the vertical elevation of the tracks is more expensive and temporarily disruptive, ST would save money because fewer elevators and stairs would be needed.

    If the current southbound track is shifted to a new overcrossing to land to be the westernmost tracks (current line as 2 outside tracks and West Seattle 2 inside tracks), all same direction transfers could be a cross-platform walk in less than 20 feet.

    Honestly, the simple neglect to discuss the SODO Station design changes demonstrates a failure of Seattle Subway to show concern for SE Seattle and Seatac riders who have to transfer. Is this really just a North Seattle advocacy group?

    1. This is one direct transfer option vs another direct transfer option isn’t it?

      The impact on future expansion (if any) seems like a bigger concern for riders to the south.

      1. This article is remarkably specific on most other stations. The article does not discuss the SODO Station, which has a significant design alternative proposed by ST.

        Why? The only apparent reason is neglect or lack of concern. The only other reason I can think of is the defeat of the Occidental alignment that some wanted earlier.

    2. Points south to east side can’t occur before ID station. Focus on getting that right.

      Temp fix is to keep the pioneer square center track, though.

    3. HI Al – We looked at the SODO station options and didn’t have a strong opinion. The options presented seemed to have a mix of upsides and as TR5000 notes, are both direct/high quality transfers. They should probably study both in case more reasons pop up in deeper discovery for one over the other.

      We’re more concerned about making sure ST builds it for expansion to the south for a bypass line without forcing future closures. For the record, our current board is weighted to the south.

      1. There is always the blended operations option to really remove the demand for transfers. That would be to have half of the West Seattle trains go to Ballard and half Togo into Snohomish, with half of the SE Seattle trains go to Ballard and half go to just Northgate or Lynnwood (Everett would be too far for drivers). Then, a rider going to a destination that isn’t directly reachable by the arriving train can choose to take that train and transfer or wait for the following train.

        As for the bypass line concept , the Aurora — Georgetown — Renton is a good base option. It would have some design challenges and options (where to connect with Northgate/Lynnwood Link; how to connect to the Green Line at Ballard or SLU; use 509 or Airport Way; how to intersect the line south of Boeing Field; how to connect to Renton and Southcenter and maybe Kent).

        I actually think it’s beneficial to have tracks designed to handle multiple configurations. That way, changes can be periodically made to benefit new activity centers or needs — or offer choices when operational disruptions happen. Redundancy and resiliency are important concepts as our light rail system grows and matures and needs a certain amount of flexibility.

      2. Highly agree about redundancy and resiliancy.

        We are starting to think of a bowtie concept at BAR. RV trains to Renton, Bypass trains to Airport/Tacoma.

        Has a lot of upside for South King.

      3. The redundancy and resiliency issue is why SODO is so important. Trains won’t be able to cchange tracks at Westlake or even north of ID.

        The track crossings between ID and Spokane Street are the only places to move trains from one line to another. It’s critical that we all review and monitor the track planning.

        Sure the SODO stations themselves aren’t generating tons of new riders — but the tracks matter and these will have 110K daily riders on them if combined. If this isn’t done well, it will be a mistake that could live with us for a century.

  10. I cringe at how we need to have ST conceptualize and budget for better rider/ pedestrian connectivity. I resent having these mere platform locations being called full “stations”.

    We shouldn’t be ready to decide on a project budget until station connections are added. Seattle Subway alluded to this by proposing modest connections to Midtown — but the overall element is lacking. I’m concerned by not addressing this now, it will get unaddressed.

    The Northgate Bridge saga explains the problem clearly. This no-brainer connection was not in the original Link plan , and would have not happened without significant lobbying to add it.

    I look at places limited by steep slopes like Smith Cove or Midtown or even street crossing issues in Ballard or on Denny, wondering if at the end of the day whether we will have a mediocre Station with lower usage or a great, connected station with higher usage.

    1. This.

      Good design would not allow a final decision – particularly at transfer stations – until potential transfers between lines in all possible directions at that station, and in different station layouts, are fully considered. “If I’m coming from the south end and want to go to the east side, how would I do that? How far would I have to walk? How many levels would I need to traverse? How long would this be estimated to take?” Ask the same question for any potential transfer. The stations will be there long after we are all gone; the mitigation to neighbors is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential wasted time spent by hundreds of thousands over the life of the stations. Particularly at ID Station there should be NO winnowing of options until those things are considered and made part of the public record for comment.

  11. Would an extension westward to Alki, perhaps at grade, make more sense than any extension south of the Alaska Junction? It’s just as dense as other parts of West Seattle and is a very popular destination with serious parking issues. As already mentioned, Burien and White Center could be connected with a line through Georgetown on the way to the airport. Or even go Burien to Renton connecting at TIBS.

    1. Oh I’ve wondered if a surface streetcar network in West Seattle is a reasonable way to go. It gets rail all over West Seattle without creating the reliability problems that surface light rail creates.

      Unfortunately, recent streetcar design in Seattle has been a major speed failure. It’s why RapidRide is the best strategy for now.

      It’s a curious consideration as to whether West Seattle would prefer a shorter tunnel just to Alaska Junction or if a frequent surface streetcar from Alki to Admiral to Alaska Junction to Morgan Junction or High Point to Westwood to White Center would be a better investment. I’m sure many in West Seattle would stop advocating for this tunnel of limited rider benefit in favor of a streetcar near their house.

      I also don’t think the Alaska Junction tunnel advocates fully understand the consequences of what ten years of subway station construction would bring — even with a bored tunnel.

      1. I’ve always thought that bringing the historic waterfront cars back as a shuttle from a Delridge station to Alki makes sense. Harbor Ave is easily wide enough, you could build a lot of it as single track, and if you converted them to battery power you wouldn’t even need a catenary.

    2. Once Link opens, Metro’s LRP has the C being rerouted to go through Admiral to Alki, so Alki will have a frequent connection to Link through that RR line. That will be a nice improvement for Alki, and seems like a sufficient improvement given it’s an ‘edge’ neighborhood.

      1. There’s also a Frequent waterfront line along Alki Ave, Harbor Ave, Delridge Station, 6th Ave SW, WV, WC, and TIB. That may become a sleeper hit for the view.

  12. Thomas St and 9th Ave are SLU’s E-W and N-S priority walking/biking streets, so it would make sense to locate the station as close to that intersection as possible to increase connectivity.

    1. In general, yes. The problem is the overall line from downtown to Ballard. Because of the curve, you can not have decent stop spacing that maximizes coverage. If you put a station at Thomas, that means it is one block closer to Westlake. The plan is to add another station between there, and yet those two stations are relatively close together. This means that the station coverage areas — the places where people are willing to walk to catch the subway — overlap to a great degree. You could increase coverage by running the rail line a bit to the east (towards Fairview) but ST is not going to do that. It will add the middle station somewhere along Westlake. Having the other station farther to the north and east maximizes coverage given the artificial restraints, and makes the most out of what is a fundamentally poor design.

    2. Hi Gordon – yep. That’s part of why we support Harrion for the SLU stop. Best walkshed/best bike comnectivity, best bus transfers.

      Or were you referring to the LQA station?

  13. It bothers me that people I respect are still willing to fight for any drawbridge anywhere in the entire system, let alone at Ballard. You’re talking about machinery that spends its whole life out of doors, under all the forces that both weather and transit service can deliver. Sooner or later, the thing is going to get expensively and embarrassingly stuck. Why bother with it at all?

    One thing I am seeing about a 15th/14th Street station (a single station can easily and gracefully be more than a block long, doubtless creating its own commercial and service complex) is that it’s a good Ballard-end start on the east-west line past the University District which I think will definitely be built- granted with the boring machines of thirty to forty years hence.

    I’ll also keep repeating that Market Street in Ballard will be a perfect alignment of a “people-mover”- I like the one at Oakland Airport, though know we’ll have a wide choice- that will be a positive enjoyment of its own to ride, and an introductory window-shopping ride appreciated by merchants and six year old passengers alike.

    First Hill, would still favor the Madison-Boren station, arguing that in addition to the importance of the hospital district it’ll serve, soil conditions allowing, it could be the easiest to dig, given the amount of vertical room between Boren and the center of the world. Lateral entrances opening blocks from the station itself could remove need for a lot of elevators and escalators.

    And I’m looking forward to mechanical addresses to vertical transit say, between Harborview Hospital and Pioneer Square. Based on some historic engravings from Pennsylvania, should be possible to design machinery onto which a whole trolleybus can be driven. With much benefit to traffic on the James Street hill. Because I like cats for their personal qualities more than their pelts, I’ll just say there are many costumes in which to CLOTHE one.

    Mark Dublin

  14. Any chance of supporting s position that says “If a tunnel to Ballard must be built, then it should be west of 15th?” There seems to be a huge push for a tunnel among some powerful interests (including the port) and if they prevail the tunnel might as well be used for getting closer to Ballard, where an elevated line would be difficult. Expansion northward doesn’t seem like it would be any more difficult from, say, 20th instead of 15th once a tunnel is built.

    1. Good point. I agree with that approach. Either Leary or 20th would be a huge improvement over 15th. The argument is very simple and makes a lot of sense: If we build a tunnel to Ballard, then it should be west of 15th.

  15. The most essential feature that has been left mostly unaddressed is building for the future. ST3 must be built for expansion.

    The problem is that we don’t know how it will be expanded. This has been the case in the past. With few exceptions, it is very hard to predict what Sound Transit will build. ST2 was fairly obvious, but ST3 was not. For example, we will have stations in South Lake Union. They will connect to a brand new downtown tunnel remarkably close to the original bus tunnel. But there are other logical approaches towards serving South Lake Union. One would be to split from the main line at Westlake. Another would be to build the Metro 8 subway (with an intersection at Capitol Hill). Thus we could have built U-Link with those ideas in mind, only to see that we went a different way.

    That is just one of many ways in which things can change. Seattle Subway has a fantastical map, but even that has changed (from previous fantastical maps). Even realistic expansion — like building a line from Ballard to the UW — has various options that can’t all be addressed. For example, should the Ballard to UW line end at the Ballard station, or extend further into Ballard? If the Ballard station is at 15th (and especially if it is at 14th) then it makes sense to go further into Ballard (to Leary). Maybe the ST3 Ballard line would go further north (towards Crown Hill). That would mean crossing lines, not a shared line (as your map suggests). Maybe both lines just end at Ballard. That would mean a reverse split, with stations at both 15th and Leary (like so: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1V7SVqymYwyy29rdVEz5Spw0XZPouoD7y&usp=sharing).

    The same is true for West Seattle. In the unlikely event that trains do go further south, then one option would be to split, with one line going up Delridge.

    I could go on — you get the idea. I’m not trying to argue that one approach is better than the other, or even more likely. I’m arguing that you can’t predict these things given our current planning process. Sound Transit does not have a “long range plan”. Unless we have one, then it doesn’t make sense to ask ST to pretend that it does. We could easily end up with “ramps to nowhere” while ST decides to build something different.

    1. There is a Long Range Plan: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/building-system/system-planning

      Looking at the HCT studies funded in ST3 is also a good indicated of ST4 projects: http://soundtransit3.org/map#full-list (scroll to the bottom)

      However, those just specify corridors, so Ross is right – there are enough permutations that it’s hard to build in for expansion. East Link is a good example – the ST3 package is very clear that Issaquah Link will interline with East Link in Bellevue, but how the line will get from Factoria to downtown Bellevue is very much an open question, so it’s hard to design in a junction into East Link at this time.

      Once an alignment is set, building for the future will be smart (like adding a junction at Delridge to enable a spur), but setting the alignment to assume a future expansion is premature.

    2. What’s missing from those studies is anything in Seattle beyond (A) tacking 45th onto a 520/522/Sand Point corridor, and (B) tacking Northgate-or-145th onto a 522 corridor.

    3. Ramps to nowhere from stacked structure or tunnel are LOTS less expensive than flying junctions soaring over or burrowing under existing trackways.

  16. yes. Either tunnel to west of 15th,which for future expansion and/or interlining would be ideal.

    Or give up on a northward expansion to Crown Hill (perhaps a future Aurora line with a bend to a station at 85th and Greenwood will be enough for that section of the city) and go for a 14th high bridge, or a 14th-somewhat-high-bridge that would rarely open, with a turn to an east west station at 15th, or west of 15th. An east west alignment might even work out better for a ballard to uw line.

    It seems like the port will nix any sort of bridge at 15th so I’ve given up on that, and a station at 14th IMO puts it right where I don’t want to go when I go to Ballard. So let’s stop with the idea that the train gets you “almost to where you want to go”, and instead put it where we want to go!

  17. Here’s a reasonable question: Would neighborhoods prefer spending extra money by adding stations or digging tunnels?

    – In Ballard, a surface light rail could run on Market Street with stations at both 15th and Leary.

    – in West Seattle, a surface light rail could run on Genesee and 39th/Fauntleroy with a fourth station at Morgan Junction.

    I get concerned when the question is mainly a binary yes-no choice about spending money. The expense is instead a trade off of where to put our transit dollars. So, my reasoning here is to ask it this way to find out what others think.

  18. It’s cheaper to have a longer tunnel at Smith Cove, one that dips down enough to go under Elliott West which means it would be below sea level 200 yards from the ocean? Cheaper than a shorter tunnel with a Rainier Valley-like station and some at-grade running through the edge of the greenbelt to the post office building then on structure across 15th West and up Armory Way to the Playfield? Cheaper than that?

    Grant that the postal facility would have to be replaced, that is very hard to believe.

    Either ST way overpays for elevated construction or they’re playing us for some unclear reason. “Cruise Ship Station” will get passengers once a day most days and none some days. What a dumb plan, Seattle Subway.

    Since people are concerned about SoDo station one has to ask ST if it’s going to elevate the Red Line or not. If it does plan to elevate it, then the best solution is to deviate the elevated structure to be directly over the Green Line at SoDo Station and thereby allow in-direction transfers — the ones which are most essential to make easy — a simple level change. Since the to be-Green Line station already has pedestrian crossings, it would not be necessary to include them at the Red Line level. Someone traveling between West Seattle and the Rainier Valley or airport would switch directions at the Green Line level. It would rapidly become known to riders that “you can’t reverse direction at SoDo on the Red Line”.

    If it doesn’t elevate the Red Line then there is no level change, simply a walk across two tracks to the same platform on the other line.

    Of course, running the Red Line on the surface would require closing or bridging Holgate and Lander because of the frequency of the trains.

    1. Northgate Link was originally going to become elevated at Ravenna Blvd, but ST later extended the tunnel to 95th because it found that snaking up and down around the freeway foundations was more expensive than extending the tunnel. But we can’t just assume that Interbay is the same case. Roosevelt’s issue was rolling hills and a winding freeway, which don’t apply to Interbay.

    2. Actually, “Cruise Ship Station” currently has direct pedestrian access to the north end of the Expedia Campus, which is under intense construction right now and will have a lot of commuters. So, in 2035, Smith Cove station at Galer will be just as far away from daily riders as a station closer to Prospect would be.

      Have a look: https://goo.gl/maps/ZrvXJMHdeaP2

      How Sound Transit priced the brown vs. the blue line is a question for them, but their pricing and the issues in the Smith Cove areas are summarized on slide 84, here: http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=7010645&GUID=536C4F18-4331-43ED-919F-7C8BA05EC38F

  19. As usual, this is Seattle-centric, which would be fine if Seattle residents were footing the bill for ST-3, but that’s not what my sales, property, and vehicle receipts/statements are saying. I’ll do it for them:

    Up north: divide the Everett Link segment into two phases. The first would be from Lynnwood Transit Center through 128th (Mariner Park & Ride). Three stations, 6.5 miles, no tunnels. If Sound Transit can separate out Link everywhere else, they can provide the same “courtesy” to Everett. My guess is that this segment, which is slightly shorter than Northgate Link, could be open by the late 2020s, not the 2030s.

    Why do this? First, completing to 128th would immediately offer connections to Swift Green to/from Boeing/Everett and Paine Field and to/from Mill Creek and Bothell, as well as Swift Orange at Ash Way, and the platoon of buses that will be serving Lynnwood Transit Center could be spread out to 128th and 164th/Ash Way, particularly if it dawned on a decision-maker that completing the north side of the direct access ramps there-the overpass has long been operational-would largely eliminate the “weave” from HOV to southbound exit ramp and from northbound entrance ramp and HOV as well as a significant amount of traffic on 164th and Ash Way, lifting a substantial source of congestion that’s going to pack up this area when Link makes it to Lynnwood.

    1. Everything isn’t about you, man.

      This is a post about planning specifically for Seattle extensions which Seattle absolutely is paying for without any of your help.

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