The Junction station of the Yellow line would replace a block ripe for upzoning. Credit: Sound Transit

Elevated light rail alignments in West Seattle have a unique problem. Unlike any other part of the system so far, they run through a built-up, residential area. Planned or existing lines are lie mostly in existing right-of-way, or tunnel into their own.

Sound Transit has had to demolish some housing for other projects, mainly at the periphery of neighborhoods. But one of the proposed elevated West Seattle lines, the Yellow/West Seattle Elevated line, would require bulldozing unprecedented parts of two built-up neighborhoods: Youngstown (the northern end of the Delridge area) and the Junction.

Residents have taken notice, forming the East Alaska Junction Neighborhood Coalition (EAJNC), a community group whose site says they “support and look forward to the arrival of a new Link Light rail extension in our area but have concerns about the proposed plans.”

EAJNC’s map of properties affected by the Yellow line. Credit: EAJNC

In a letter EAJNC sent to Sound Transit as part of the environmental impact scoping period, the group estimates that the Yellow line would “require the demolition and taking of well over 100 properties” and would cause “substantial negative impacts on at least 50 to 100 more.” The letter includes a map showing, by EAJNC’s reckoning, what buildings would need to be demolished in order to build the alignment.

For their part, Sound Transit estimates that the end-to-end alignment would be the “lower performing” of the three alignments under consideration in terms of “properties potentially effected,” “potential residential unit displacements,” and “potential business displacements.”

In other words, the Yellow line would require the most buildings to be knocked over out of the three lines—though it’s important to remember that the score also includes impacts in other neighborhoods along the line, like Chinatown-International District and Ballard.

In the scoring document, the agency estimates that “more than approximately 180 potential residential unit displacements” would be necessary to build the line, with demolitions “primarily in the Delridge neighborhood and between Avalon and Alaska Junction stations.”

The disparity isn’t limited to the two documents, or even to the Junction. At a recent public meeting, Youngstown residents accused Sound Transit of lowballing the amount of units that would need to be demolished to build an elevated line through their neighborhood. In that meeting, West Seattle’s City Councilmember, Lisa Herbold, questioned project director Cathal Ridge about the disparity.

Most of the buildings the EAJNC letter refers to are single-family homes. However, the alignment would be extremely close to a number of apartment buildings, as the letter indicates. Sound Transit’s conceptual visualizations of the Genesee and Avalon intersection show the Yellow line station nearly abutting the Altamir building. A smaller inset map shows the station covering the southeast corner of the Altamir. The complex has 157 apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units; a Petco; and a QFC.

The visualizations leave the fate of Altamir and other multifamily buildings ambiguous. Some buildings farther down the hill to the east are pictured, implausibly, immediately below the Avalon station.

But there is no doubt that the station’s location would eliminate a large swath of land that could hold dense, affordable housing instead of a guideway. The entire block bounded by Southwest Oregon, Southwest Alaska, 41st Avenue Southwest, and 40th Avenue Southwest would have to go to the Link station and guideway.

Other parts of the surrounding parcel in the immediate walkshed of the station would also be blocked by the guideway. In fact, the chance that the final alignment might take the land out of play was the reason that Herbold removed the relevant upzones from the HALA package earlier this year.

Indeed, Sound Transit’s scoring of the Yellow line also points out that the line offers “limited equitable development opportunities in West Seattle compared to West Seattle Tunnel Alternatives because elevated alignment results in fewer large surplus lots.”

Regardless of the impact of the Yellow line on present housing, an elevated guideway and station would, by definition, limit developable land within the walkshed. One of the critical goals of Link expansion is inducing transit-oriented development—but the Yellow line would do the opposite. To stay within budget and create a viable elevated option, Sound Transit needs to get creative.

122 Replies to “Elevated Light Rail Could Limit Housing Development in West Seattle”

  1. Peter: Sound Transit now does not have to ‘”stay within budget” as it plans and scopes the route profile and station locations for this ID-Chinatown/Ballard Link extension. There are no budgets yet! There is no ST3 spending budget, revenues budget, or “hard and fast” timeline for completion. Significantly, there also is no North King subarea budget for the board to “play with” (in terms of allocating future revenues to this project instead of the other North King subarea projects and services).

    The problem with the Level 3 analyses so far is the revenues projected to be available for allocating to spending budgets and subarea budgets are only the ballot measure’s placeholders from 2015. The stakeholder and electeds groups were not given updated revenues projections.

    1. The ballot measure budget is what voters agreed to. They were preliminary estimates because you don’t know the exact cost until you do it and see what contingencies arise. ST can go a little higher than the budget for incremental improvements but adding the moon with complete disregard for the budget puts it at risk of a lawsuit that it’s exceeding what the voters authorized.

      1. Mike Orr — ???

        The terms of the ST3 ballot measure describe the $54 billion cost and revenues estimates accurately – as estimates, and not as any kind of budget that is binding on the board. You might want to refresh your memory about what ST3 actually says – here are the voter-approved financial policies:

        Do you see how Sound Transit must prepare and update annually revenues projections and project/services costs estimates for the five subareas? THAT is what voters approved, not a static $54 billion system plan budget, or the $16 billion estimated North King subarea budget stated in Appendix A.

        The fact of the matter is that the tax revenue projections, debt capacity projections, fare revenue projections, grant projections ALL will be much higher – to the tune of billions of dollars for each subarea – compared to the figures shown in the ballot measure voters approved. The board must allocate those higher revenues projections to projects and services, including the ID-Chinatown – Ballard Link extension project.

        I’ve posted to you about this before but you don’t seem to want to accept it. There are billions of additional dollars of projected revenues for each subarea because when the board agreed to sell the 2016 bonds it secured them by pledging to keep the ST3 tax hikes and the ST2 tax hikes at current levels 12 years longer than estimated for the ST3 ballot measure. Nothing prevents the board from securing debt with tax revenue streams that way – do you understand that?

      2. You’re focusing on the cost estimate. I’m focusing on the project scope estimate: what the voters agreed to build. If the representative alignment ends up costing more because of real-estate costs or engineering costs, that means the cost estimate wasn’t quite accurate or there were unforeseeable changes in the environment. If you add billions of dollars in tunnels, that’s like ordering a cup of soup and upgrading it to a bowl. The cost goes up not because the cost estimate was inaccurate but because you’ve increased the scope. In the case of soup, the same person authorizes both. In the case of Link, the voters approved taxes scaled for the reprentative alignment. Adding a bunch of billion-dollar amenities goes beyond that. If the approved tax rate and duration brings in more money than expected or the projects cost less than expected, then ST can certainly spend the difference on amenities. But you’re assuming the extra revenue will be enough for every wishlist item, and that the current economic boom will continue for twenty years, so you want ST to commit the money now and hope the boom lasts. You clearly want to know how much extra money ST has to spend in North King, so ask ST, don’t assume it’s enough for every high-end addition under the sun.

      3. Renton Steve you are incorrect. We have explored this territory before. ST is required to submit to voters a balanced financial plan. Which means the expenditures MUST balance with the revenues. All the funds in the program are assumed to be expended on the projects and services described in the plan. That’s all the money they have to work with, there is no surplus money. Spending more on one must necessarily come at the expense of others.

      4. another engineer –

        You must think the board is limited to spending the $54 billion it estimated in the ballot measure that it would spend. That is completely wrong. Take a look at the financial policies the voters approved (ling above). See where those specify that if revenue projections exceed by over 5% those estimated in the ballot measure the projects described in that measure can be enhanced, and/or new projects created and funded?

      5. The Board certainly has great powers to amend the ST3 Plan, tho they have only taken that step once before: for the Sound Move LRT project. They may only add scope and cost to a project if they can demonstrate they can do so without jeopardizing any other component of the plan. Since they cannot raise taxes, that leaves only two other methods to increase revenue: add time to the schedule so the taxes can generate more money, and/or add external funding.

        To deliver the Initial Segment the board added 3 years to the schedule, and thus 3 additional years of revenue. For U-Link it was 10 years, plus a second federal grant. Those projects opened in 2009 and 2016 respectively, after being promised initially by 2006. That was the only set of options they had to address the Central Link cost overruns while holding the rest of the plan harmless. They have the exact same constraints today. Which means if you want a WS tunnel, you’ll either need to delay the project, or get a ton of outside funding, or both. Don’t go looking for spare cash where none exists.

      6. another engineer –

        Nobody is talking about “amending the ST3 plan.” What we are discussing is the board’s obligations to allocate projected revenues as required by the existing ST3 plan, the one the voters approved in 2016.

        You write: “[The board] may only add scope and cost to a project if they can demonstrate they can do so without jeopardizing any other component of the plan.”

        That is only partially correct. The annual Financial Plan’s subarea budgeting requirement provides the tool the board needs for it to ascertain whether setting or amending the scope or cost of any project or service will jeopardize 1) its ability to pay for other authorized projects and services in the relevant subarea, or 2) Sound Transit’s obligations to entities with whom it has contracted (bondholders, for the most part). An updated Financial Plan – showing the 12-year-extended period the taxes will be collected at the current rates – will show projected revenues sufficient to both extend and enhance ST3 system plan projects described in the ballot measure without “jeopardizing” those two components of the system plan you identified.

        The financial policies the voters approved (link above) authorize the board to both “extend and enhance” the projects described in the ballot measure if a subarea’s projected revenues exceed its projected expenses by 5% or more:

        “For those cases in which a subarea’s actual and projected revenue to be collected until the system plan is completed will exceed its actual and projected expenditures by five percent or greater, and/or where unforeseen circumstances occur that would result in the subarea’s ability to fund additional projects and services not identified in the system plan, then Sound Transit may use such surplus funds to complete, extend or enhance the system plan to provide transportation benefits for the subarea’s residents or businesses as determined by the Board.”

        You also posted this: “Since they cannot raise taxes, that leaves only two other methods to increase revenue: add time to the schedule so the taxes can generate more money, and/or add external funding.” The board can, and did, raise the tax revenues the ballot measure projected Sound Transit would collect. The board did that by pledging to bondholders that Sound Transit would not roll back the ST3 tax hikes until 2048, and that it would delay the partial rollback of the ST2 tax hikes for that same 12-year period, when it authorized the sales of the 2016 Parity Bonds.

    2. Mike Orr –

      “In the case of Link, the voters approved taxes scaled for the reprentative alignment.”

      That is correct. But then three weeks after the vote the board used its powers derived from state statutes to extend the period the taxes would be collected at the maximum rates for 12 years. The board did not need voter approval to do that.

      Now that the projected revenues are billions of dollars higher than estimated for the purposes of the ballot measure, the board must allocate those projected revenues by subarea. That’s not because I want it to happen, that is because the Sound Transit financial policies require the board to do that. Allocating those additional projected revenues will mean the board can pay for enhancements to projects described to voters, and in North King subarea (and probably East King as well), the board can design and finance additional projects. That is how this works.

      You are “focusing on scope” — so am I. Of course I want to know what the projected revenues are – for each subarea. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity now to design and build the best system possible, and the additional revenues the board created by financing ST3 the way it did need to be allocated properly from the outset. If enhancements and expansions of the extensions from downtown to Ballard and West Seattle are optimal from a system design perspective, and they can be afforded in light of the updated revenues projections, the board must act in our best interests and change the scopes and designs of the alignments that were shown on the ballot measure.

    3. Hey Renton Steve. There are several people here who are far more knowledgeable about these matters than you are, and who have been patiently explaining some facts. You insist on repeatedly posting false information, then mischaracterizing others responses to it.

      I can’t tell if this is some elaborate trolling strategy or what. But please go and get yourself informed before filling up the comments with fake facts. There’s a handy search button at the top of the page.


      1. Nothing I’ve posted is false, Dan. What’s clear is that a couple of posters above are not familiar with the voter-approved ST3 financial policies:

        Moreover, those posters do not understand that when the board sold the 2016 Parity Bonds it pledged to bondholders Sound Transit would keep collecting its taxes at the current ST2 and ST3 levels for 12 years longer than voters were told to expect. You can see that for yourself — in ST3’s Appendix A the system plan through 2041 is projected to require $36 billion of taxes, which is a figure staff derived by assuming a rollback of the ST3 tax hikes in 2036 (Geoff Patrick is quoted in the Times in 2016 to that effect as well) and a partial rollback of the ST2 tax hikes that same year (2036). The board was within its rights to extend the period of taxation at the current rates.

        Those are the claims I’m making, and I’ve explained why I’m making them — based on Sound Transit documents and supported by Patrick’s quote in the Times. Do you contend either of my claims are false? If so, explain yourself.

      2. Your statements about a tax rollback in 2036 are flatly false. I posted a link last week that disproved it. It has nothing to do with the terms of the bonds issued in 2016. It’s because it takes at least that long to pay down the bonds that were in the plan.

      3. Let’s be clear about something else: the extra costs of a West Seattle enhanced project is 50 percent more for the tunnel enhancement. What if every ST3 project was enhanced by 50 percent because that’s what local people wanted? Why should only West Seattle benefit from extra funding? There is a legitimate geographical equity issue here — and it doesn’t help that ST3 already bypasses many low income areas anyway.

      4. Dan:

        The ST3 plan voters approved says in Appendix A that $36 billion of tax revenue will be needed (along with other revenues, including proceeds from the sale of bonds) to pay for the ST3 system plan project and services costs during the 2017-2041 period.

        That $36 billion figure was derived by Sound Transit staff in late 2015. It is based on estimated Sound Move, ST2 and ST3 maximum tax rates being imposed from 2017 to 2028, elimination of the Sound Move car tab tax in 2028 and continuation of the rest of the taxing at maximum rates until 2036. At that time the ST3 tax hikes would be rolled back, and the ST2 tax hike would be partially rolled back. The remaining taxes would continue indefinitely. That tax revenue would be used to service until retirement all the debt that staff estimated would remain outstanding, and that ongoing tax revenue also would be used to subsidize operations costs.

        You are correct that the tax rollback staff estimated for 2036 when it created the revenue projections for the ST3 ballot measure had nothing to do with the terms of the bonds issued in 2016. When Sound Transit was negotiating with the underwriting syndicate after the vote about the terms of that long-term debt Sound Transit agreed that no tax rollback would occur prior to 2048, as security for the holders of the 2048 term Parity Debt.

        Nothing I posted last week suggested the tax rollback Sound Transit staff assumed might occur in 2036 when it created the revenue projections for the ballot measure had anything to do with what terms Sound Transit agreed to in 2016 with the bond underwriters.

      5. Al S. —

        ” the extra costs of a West Seattle enhanced project is 50 percent more for the tunnel enhancement. What if every ST3 project was enhanced by 50 percent because that’s what local people wanted? ”

        Here’s the thing Al — the board has an obligation to spend all the revenues a subarea generates on projects and services in that subarea (or outside that subarea, if it substantially benefits the business and people of a subarea).

        The primary issues for the board now with respect to whether or not to authorize a tunnel from the ID-Chinatown to West Seattle re 1) how much YOE revenues (a term defined in App, B) re projected to be allocated to the North King Subarea, 2) what are the projected YOE expenses associated with various route profiles (including tunnel options) and station locations for that extension, 3) what are the projected expenses associated with other North King Subarea projects and services, 4) are other subareas’s revenues going to be allocated to fund parts of North King subarea projects and services, and if so when and in what amounts, and 5) if the projected revenues for North King exceed by 5% the projected expenses, should North King projects described to voters be enhanced or extended?

        The board is required to make those decisions, based on those data, for all subareas’ projects. Even if more people don’t want a tunnel than do want a tunnel the board should plan for a tunnel if that would be the best way to spend the projected North King revenues, in light of the other North King subarea projects and services. The key concern is allocating the projected revenues in an optimal way, not satisfying the most people. Moreover, nobody in say Pierce County can claim they deserve enhancements or extensions of projects the ballot measure describes just because the board enhanced some North King County project. The grounds for extending or enhancing projects in Pierce County are only those each other subarea has: sufficient revenues over the projected expenses.

      6. “the board has an obligation to spend all the revenues a subarea generates on projects and services [benefitting] that subarea”

        But you’re not accusing them of taking money from one subarea to another, you’re complaining about the timing of when it allocates the money to projects. It can sit in a savings account until they’re ready to use it. The board will decide on the EIS scope (the target of all this public input) midyear, and it may or may not address the issue then. In the meantime, none of the more expensive options have been foreclosed, nothing is decided yet. A person in the stakeholders’ group said they were instructed to make their recommendations without considering cost constraints: to come up with an option that best meets the transit needs and environmental goals. That’s where many of these controversies stem from: they have different interpretations of what those needs and goals are, and different levels of understanding of how different designs impact passengers.

      7. “The board will decide on the EIS scope (the target of all this public input) midyear, and it may or may not address the issue then.”

        The board will not be deciding on “the EIS scope.” Instead, the board will be making the key decisions regarding the ID-Chinatown — West Seattle Link extension project’s features, station locations, route profile, etc.

        In addition, “the issue” of subarea equity MUST be addressed in connection with the board’s resolutions fixing the scope and attributes of this project and the other ST3 projects. You seem to think timely compliance with the subarea equity requirements is optional — it is not. Sound Transit’s financial policies — the ones the board imposed on Sound Transit, and that voters approved in late 2016 — also require the board to allocate the expenses related to this project whose features it will approved to the North King subarea’s budget. Those expenses presumably will include debt services costs, which will extend perhaps decades after the project’s construction is complete. Only by accounting for the project’s expenses and allocating projected revenues of various types to it can the board comply with the subarea equity policies. Those policies require the board to ascertain as part of project scoping determinations that sufficient revenues attributable to the subarea at issue will exist to meet not only subject project’s projected expenses but also the projected expenses of the other projects and services benefitting the people and businesses of that subarea.

        Whoever the stakeholder was who said that group wasn’t to consider costs is mistaken. The Level 3 analyses require the groups to consider cost (vs. the costs of the alignment presented in the ballot measure). It’s the Financial Sustainability evaluation element.

      8. It can just as easily allocate it to a savings account as to increasing the feature requirements now. Since ST’s contingency budget is low and we don’t know what future costs will be, that would be a wise thing to do. The money will eventually get spent in the subarea, if not now then by the late 2030s when all the North King projects are winding down.

        I agree that ST should look at its extra revenue and announce it, and compare it to the cost of the several options that have been suggested, by midyear when it chooses a preferred alternative.

      9. “The subarea equity policy is one thing in principle, but it has been something else in its application, to the point where the policy is kind of a joke. ”

        This is the first time a Financial Plan of the type used to monitor the subarea equity terms has been needed by the board or by the public.

        Up to this point Sound Transit’s board-imposed and voter approved policies relating to subarea equity haven’t been particularly important. Now they are. That’s because as the board begins setting into stone the route profiles, station locations, and infrastructure capabilities of the 8 ST3 light rail megaprojects it needs to comply with the subarea budgeting terms to ensure there will be enough revenues for each subarea. The big money requirements for the rail projects are going to be ten-fifteen years from now, and nobody wants insufficient resources for any of them, and nobody wants subarea revenue poaching to become a necessity.

        Also, an extension from Ballard to Husky Stadium wouldn’t be a new line, it would extend the system elements already approved and/or completed.

    4. My sense is that there is a broad confusion regarding what subarea equity requires. That financial policy requires the board to project annually-updated YOE revenues and expenses figures on a subarea by subarea basis. When the board takes an action as it did in 2016 by pledging the taxes to 30-year term debt (thereby increasing revenues it must allocate to each subarea to levels well above what voters were told to expect), the subarea equity policies require it to update the Appendix B-required Financial Plan AND plan on how to spend the additional revenues (which now include increased debt capacity). In other words, what subarea equity does is turn on its head the normal infrastructure financing model of “how do we pay for this project we want” so the board is forced to address “how do we spend all the revenue we will have in each subarea to maximize the system’s capabilities and services in each subarea.”

      1. ST has walked away from funding a connection to First Hill and Harbor view. Any excess funding should go to connecting that — in terms of cost effectiveness, racial equity and low income access.

        Because the station layouts and access have not been fully explored. I would much rather see the North King money backfill previous and more productive promises made to serve First Hill with rail than to add a WS tunnel that was not part of any ST vote.

      2. Doesn’t anyone in this argument remember that the Legislature nearly knocked $2 billion off ST’s expected revenues — up front, where it does the most harm? Beware of un-hatched chickens.

      3. Al S. —

        “ST has walked away from funding a connection to First Hill and Harbor view. Any excess funding should go to connecting that — in terms of cost effectiveness, racial equity and low income access.”

        That’s a good point. If sufficient projected revenues exist for the North King subarea the board might well decide those extensions would be in the best interests of the region, and fund them.

        What do you think of this, Al . . . let’s say one set of North King projects and services the board wants to fund are those described in the ballot measure, and they would cost about what voters were told to expect. Let’s also assume the additional North King subarea revenues attributable to the additional taxing the board agreed to for bond securing reasons in 2016 — along with the additional debt capacity attributable to that extra taxing — would be sufficient to pay for 80% of a Ballard — UW extension. Would you favor that extension over the ones you identified? I would. The feds certainly would pay for 20% of those capital costs.

      4. Sound Transit cannot build projects that aren’t in the described system plan that went on the ballot. Even First Hill was arguably a deviation too far from the ST3 representative project. Building a whole new line not in the plan would be completely impossible.

      5. First Hill Station was presented and approved by the voters in Sound Moves in 1996. First Hill is also home to major regional employers and activity (medical facilities for low-income citizens) as well as extremely dense with housing (made denser with Yesler Terrace). The station also was dropped not because of its usefulness but for cost/ constructibility reasons in the first place. Serving First Hill should reasonably be first in line if any extra funding becomes available.

        Forgoing at least a diagonal underground elevator to First Hill from Midtown Station (or maybe above-ground from Pioneer Square Station) in favor of paying for a tunnel elsewhere — to neighborhoods that are wealthier and house fewer minorities — opens up a pretty obvious discrimination challenge too.

      6. Dan, under that ST3 argument, it could be said that any tunnel in West Seattle was not part of the ST3 proposal and shouldn’t be funded out of ST3 funds either.

        On the other hand, better access from Midtown Station to First Hill could easily be attributed to ST3 as part of Station area improvements.

      7. ST3 and previous measures were fuzzy enough to allow elevated or tunnel, and even a different location as long as the main transit markets were served (for Lynnwood Link, the Northgate and Lynnwood urban growth centers). ST did consider alignments as far as Aurora and Lake City Way, and rail vs BRT. A non I-5 alignment would of course not serve the 145th & I-5 transit market, but it would still be acceptable to move the station to a surrounding market (155th, 120th, Aurora, 15th, LCW); ST would just have to write a statement justifying the deviation. But it couldn’t like go to Edmonds or Bothell instead of downtown Lynnwood. ST explicitly avoided the monorail mistake of locking down the streets and stations and alignment in the ballot measure, where it was inflexible in case of future engineering issues or a realization that a change in alignment would serve people better.

        ST can spend any extra money that comes in if revenues are higher than ST3 estimated, on a wide range of incremental improvements, or extensions in its long-range plan, such as extending Ballard to 85th or West Seattle to Morgan Junction. It can plan additional lines and prepare EISs for them, as long as it’s not neglecting the voter-mandated projects. But starting construction on a whole other line like 45th would probably require a supplemental vote. That could theoretically happen, throwing in other subareas’ changes at the same time, or even without projects in other subareas (although the entire ST district would vote on it).

      8. But again this issue revolves around whether the extra money is enough for a tunnel or most of a tunnel. I doubt it, but we’d have to see the numbers to know for sure.

      9. I’ve pointed out before that FTA recommends a 30 percent contingency at this stage and ST3 was set at 10 percent (arguably other cost estimates cushioned elsewhere — but not 20 percent more). If there is “extra money”, it’s highly likely it’s going to fund items in this contingency gap before it goes to major project cost expansions like more tunneling.

      10. Just a couple of points to add to this discussion…..

        One. First Hill has been screwed over by ST several times now. They got the “consolation prize” of a slow-moving streetcar line instead of the light rail station they were promised. Now they are about to get screwed over again in ST3 with the planned midtown station. I agree with the others who have stated that if the N King County subarea has surplus funds, a light rail connection to First Hill should move to the top of the expanded project list. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen in this next phase however.

        Two. The subarea equity policy is one thing in principle, but it has been something else in its application, to the point where the policy is kind of a joke. This is due to several factors, including how ST arbitrarily allocates benefits, the inter-subarea borrowing that the agency allows, among other reasons.

        A while ago I tracked all of the ST subarea reporting documents from 2008- 2016. The N King County subarea was the big winner, as they were the one region running in the red. The agency as a whole built up their general reserve fund by about $511M during this period. This is broken out as follows:

        Sno Co +$335.7M
        N King Co -$89.3M
        S King Co +$123.4M
        E King Co +$193.1M
        Pierce Co +$120.1M
        System-wide -$171.6M

        We are told by ST that the sources and uses by subarea will indeed balance out by the end of the capital program. Given the agency’s propensity for fudging on reported numbers and moving project goalposts (e.g., the false claim that the Lynnwood Link project cost estimate was always $2.4B), I don’t doubt that they will find a way to make sure the final numbers come out that way. Whether it’s an accurate accounting is a whole other matter.

      11. An escalator tunnel from one of the mezzanines at Midtown to Eighth under Marion is an obvious a solution to the problems of First Hill. Why do we have to bring this up over and over and hear NOTHING from Sound Transit.

        We know you’re reading, ST staff. Are you such complete narcissists that you think you’re the only people who might possibly come up with a good idea?

        Sure, it’s not “free”; it would probably cost $30 to $40 million dollars. So maybe the City chips in. But what an amenity it would be.

      12. Tlsgwm, How can four of the five subareas EACH have netted a positive accumulation greater than the negative overage for North King and the “Entire System” be negative? You’re obviously a controller or something like that. How could you show “Entire System” as a “sum total” and be nearly a half billion off? Is there an incorrect sign on one of the subareas?

      13. Oh, I think I know why. “System-wide” ISN’T a sum. It’s the allocation of work done in North King which benefits “all other subareas”. My apologies.

      14. @Tom Terrific Now you’ve got it! Yes, the system-wide allocation operates like another subarea. It’s not the summation of the other figures. If you factor in this number, and assuming I didn’t have any typos up above, you should arrive at the +$511M figure. (It might be off by a million in either direction due to my rounding the numbers.)

  2. I have no problem with a tunnel if a quarter-mile walkshed of each station is upzoned to allow 8-over-2 podium buildings, with minimal parking required.

    But how likely is that, in West Seattle?

    1. I don’t necessarily believe it, but that seemed to be some of the motivation to hold back upzones in MHA: let the light rail plans fall where they will, and then go after upzones strategic to the station placements.

      I’m afraid that my trust in the D1 incumbent (my) council member to follow through on this idea is shaky at best, though.

    1. I think you could also just end the whole thing with a single track station at the representative location (between 40th and 41st at Alaska street). This is not a pedestrian friendly place ( The are no storefront shops there, unless you count the Jiffy Lube and bank. This will be the last station, and it could be the end of the track. This would actually save money and leave the pedestrian areas close to the Junction completely untouched.

      Vancouver did that with the Canada Line (it merges to a single track right before the terminus). The only drawback is that the trains couldn’t run as often. But there are no plans to run the trains any more than every 6 minutes, which is likely plenty for an area like this.

      1. It’s almost like you can follow the curve right down Fauntleroy (station just south of Alaska) and 1) be right beside some large apartments and 2) have a straight shot to extend further south. Those parking lots across the street = easier to use for construction staging, and probably much easier to replace with dense development. Alaska and California is just not all that dense, and probably resistant to change. Google Maps suggests a 6 minute walk from there to Alaska/California. Then Alaska/Fauntleroy to Avalon could become a substantial dense urban center with two stations to boast?

      2. That “single-track station” would be quite risky and a (semi-) permanent operational headache. Operators have to reverse ends at terminal stations and it’s normal for them to “walk the train” when they do it. This is penny-wise, pound-foolish.

  3. In the rush to get West Seattle added to ST3, everyone thought it was such a great idea to fund. The “oh this isn’t what we want after all” opinions have now taken over.

    Light rail is a huge change! Even a tunnel station will be highly disruptive and require a big land take. West Seattle Junction will forever be changed.

    As far as density goes, there is plenty of evidence that the biggest constraints are zoning and land assembly. I view this as instead tunnel advocacy looking for more reasons and this one is not so convincing. If anything, it seems to point to making the choice to not go further than Delridge or Avalon by 2030 and maybe never go as far as the Junction.

    1. ST could do what it did in the U-District and Capitol Hill: “We’ll build the other half first and get back to you later.” Then West Seattle would have to decide whether it wants light rail more than it doesn’t want elevated.

      1. Makes sense to build it to Delridge and defer Avalon/Alaska until the political issues are resolved.

  4. Just take the Golf Course already! Why do we insist on destroying several hundred homes and building huge viaducts or expensive tunnels rather than merely relocate the Golf Course?

    1. You can’t relocate a golf course; there are no empty acres that large in Seattle, and I don’t think you want to build it on an industrial site. You can only close it or shrink it.

      1. I guess if you routed the light rail line way south, like over kellogg island and ran it just north of the Delridge library, you could take the lowest 4 holes of the golf course and build a station where camp long is, and then take the northern part of camp long for re-creating the lost holes of the course. It would lose a different type of city park for light rail and make for a great delridge location, but would be south of the core junction urban village.

      2. Maybe it isn’t as dramatic as taking the whole course. Mainly it’s merely relocating the stadium, relocating the skate park, closing some holes near Genesee for a few years, laying tracks, and adding a golf course lid (maybe at a different slope or a shorter hole) to restore the course.

        The idea of using park land certainly has its issues and restrictions. It’s not recommended lightly. I’m just throwing it out there because it’s presence creates major design constraints for the line. After topography, it’s the biggest elephant in the room.

      1. The City of Seattle can hold a public vote to remove park land in any election. If successful, the Federal issue goes away.

    2. The basic answer to this conundrum is staring us in the face. Run elevated track on the north side of the golf course! The federal issue evaporates if the city changes the use of the land.

      Golf and an elevated light rail line do not have to be incompatible, but an 18 hole golf course (a huge city park that nobody I know has ever even been to, and I haven’t visited myself in 30 years) is IMHO an absurd use of space in this location, and will be much more so in 2035. Sorry, golfers! But there are many other places to golf and there are no other great places to route an elevated track through this area which we are now committed to doing.

      Parks are super important. We need more of them. The golf course margin is not critical habitat and it can be easily mitigated.

      These curves on the map above showing half a dozen city blocks demolished for construction look like they are out of a 1950’s freeway planning book. These, too, are absurd.

      There’s a ton of available land for temporary road diversions of Fauntleroy or whatever it takes to do some kind of creative cut and cover in that area that reuses street ROW and other available ROW to the maximum extent possible.

      Also the timeline should be pushed out 5 years to sync up with the second downtown tunnel because transferring from a bus to Link and then again at SODO just to get downtown is arguably not even an improvement above status quo.

      1. I have played W. Seattle a few times (I live in Ballard) and it is arguably the best/prettiest of the municipal courses (it does drain poorly in the wintertime). Given the somewhat shaky case for light rail in W. Seattle (would it have been selected if the county executive and ST members did not live there?), some might argue that the golf course (that is already buil)t is a better value than the soon to be expensive W. Seattle light rail (as opposed to real BRT a la RossB proposed).

        Whether you agree with that or not, a lawsuit would follow if you take away the golf course– particularly when there are other plausible alternatives. (Missing Link litigation anyone?)

      2. I’m not a golfer, but I’ve heard the same thing about the West Seattle golf course. The Seattle Times ran a series about the Seattle public courses, and West Seattle had by far the highest marks. The point being that you would likely get a huge amount of opposition if you took away the golf course.

      3. Al S: “I have played W. Seattle a few times (I live in Ballard) and it is arguably the best/prettiest of the municipal courses”

        RossB: ” The Seattle Times ran a series about the Seattle public courses, and West Seattle had by far the highest marks.”

        This is good information. As I said elsewhere I know nothing about the quality of the various golf courses. As a kid I had one or two golf lessons but I didn’t enjoy it much so I never pursued it. If golfers can agree on which courses are best and which one or two are least critical, then I can respect that. But I’ll also be looking at the impacts on non-golfers. I like Jefferson Park most because it’s in the outskirts of the urban village so it’s not displacing residents or businesses who could live there, yet it’s easily accessible on a frequent bus route. Jackson Park is displacing a quarter of the walksheds of two Link stations. West Seattle I’ve never seen but from the map it’s right near the 35th & Avalon intersection that’s already a major bus station and has some of the densest apartments in West Seattle (which are only allowed in a few places), and we could use more apartments or an all-user park right near them. I don’t know where the fourth course is. Interbay? Broadmoor?

        So, golfers, which is the worst course in Seattle?

      4. Mike Orr, thanks for confusing me with Al. S, LOL. I have not played Jackson Park, but it is where the First Tee is essentially located– and Hall of Fame golfer Fred Couples used to play in as a kid– so I think it has the most history. Jackson Park is a decent course, and drains well (which makes it more playable in the winter and early spring). Interbay is a 9 hole course and is nothing to write home about, but it is a nice place to take beginners, young kids, etc.

        Keep in mind, you can play all these courses for less than $50, and some are available via public transit.

      5. It’s not as simple a question as which is the best and worst of the Seattle munis. With two munis south of downtown and only one north of downtown, you would find that Jackson Park gets much more play than Jefferson or West Seattle. I think @mdnative mixed up Jefferson and Jackson as Jefferson Park is on Beacon Hill and is notorious for being the course Fred Couples played and where First Tee is headquartered. West Seattle is probably in the best shape and one most typical golfers would enjoy the most.
        Also, while technically correct, this statement; “Jackson Park is displacing a quarter of the walksheds of two Link stations.” Is certainly disingenuous in that It ignores the fact that there was a decision to place two Link stations adjacent to the existing Jackson Park course which limits the effective walksheds of both stations.
        The golf course isn’t limiting the walksheds, the decision to locate two stations adjacent to the golf course is limiting the walksheds.

  5. Why can’t the rail go above an arterial like in cities everywhere else in the world?

    1. The representative plan largely does that. The only place that is a problem is with the turn (from Delridge up Genesee).

    2. Follow the curve of Fauntleroy to just south of Alaska, and it’s beside some large apartments and a 6 minute walk to Alaska and California. No need to bulldoze anything, except perhaps the Les Schwab Tires parking lot.

  6. The representative project is clearly better than the yellow line at the top of the hill. It is far less disruptive, and you end up with a station that is just as good if not better.

    The only flaw with the representative project is the station in Delridge. Just move it farther away from the freeway (as proposed on the yellow line) and call it a day. (The blue line results in a bad station in Delridge as well).

    1. By the way, the diagrams give a very good view of things, and show that the representative project will be just fine for the Junction. The station doesn’t even go there! The last station would lie between 40th and 41st. This is not a pleasant place ( The line is basically over Alaska, with pylons on both sides of the street. Pylons of this nature tend to be very small (smaller than the single pylons), which means they wouldn’t take up much of the sidewalk (they would be similar to the telephone poles found there). The tracks themselves would be over the street and would extend farther west, merging to a single track (to allow the trains to turn around). But they wouldn’t cross California. Where it gets pedestrian friendly (west of 42nd) there would be a single track over the middle of the street — it probably wouldn’t even shade the sidewalk. Thus California itself — the main pedestrian strip — would be untouched. I understand why some folks in West Seattle don’t like the idea of an elevated line — I predicted this whole mess a couple years ago — but it really wouldn’t be bad at all.

  7. I am much more worried about the destruction of parks and green spaces than houses. If you lose housing, it can be built elsewhere, or nearby vertically. We can’t build green spaces vertically. Nobody is going to replant grass at Westlake Park, Steinbruek Park, or the Olympic Sculpture “Garden”. A park is lost forever. Housing is not. I don’t want to see our city slowly turn into New York City. Central Park is a park in name only.

    1. Central Park is a park in name only? Wow, way to undercut your entire argument with one ridiculous sentence.

    2. What’s wrong with Central Park?

      Actually, never mind. I’m not actually interested in your opinions if they’re all as dumb as this one.

      1. The Olympic Sculpture “Garden” is relatively new, yes. But it is not new park space. Most of it was carved out of Myrtle Edwards Park.

        I knew when I used an absolute, someone would argue with the handful of niche vertical green spaces. Congratulations on not seeing the forest for the trees.

      2. No, it wasn’t. It was a brownfield site that before becoming the sculpture park was an industrial site owned by Unocal (oil/gas corporation). Myrtle Edwards at the time ended north of Bay Street and was (and is still) located only to the west of the railroad tracks; the area south of Bay Street and west of the tracks was a parking lot and the car barn for the Waterfront Streetcar before the Sculpture Park was created. The Sculpture Park is owned by the Seattle Art Museum; Myrtle Edwards is, of course, owned by the City of Seattle.

        I agree that green spaces are nearly impossible to recover once built on, and too often I see the “shave-it-and-pave-it” brigade not care. Generally speaking, building on public green space should always be an absolute last resort. However, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a completely new park.

    3. As someone who spent the first 30 years of my life as a New Yorker, that comment about Central Park is the most nonsensical remark I’ve read on this blog in a while. You should just make a total retraction (e.g., “My bad. Ooops.”) and call it a day.

      1. I think they meant to say “Central Perk”, referring to the fictional coffee shop from the show “Friends”. That would make more sense.

      2. Lots of misplaced Central Park love here. I’d take Lincoln, Ravenna, Volunteer Carkeek, Discovery, or any number of other parks in the region first. Pretty much any park that a) mostly obscures the roads to any side of it with trees and b) doesn’t pander to capitalism with horse drawn carriages, carousels, and zoos (notice no love for Woodland Park).

        Parks are for people, not police precincts and profitmongering.

      3. Share this bold perspective with some actual New Yorkers and see what they think. I can tell you your contrarian take isn’t gonna get much agreement.

      4. Central Park is one big park in the middle while Seattle went with several smaller parks on the periphery. There was a plan for a central park, the Bogue plan in SLU in the 1910s, but it wasn’t approved. Most Seattle parks are in peripheral low-density areas and don’t have frequent transit. Parks that do have frequent transit include Lincoln, Jefferson, Carkeek, Cal Anderson, Greenlake, and some others. But not the two biggest parks, Discovery and Seward, or Coleman or Schmitz Preserve.

        Ironically, the West Seattle golf course is centrally located so it could be a central park for West Seattle.

      5. “misplaced Central Park love”??

        Instead of a simple retraction for a completely nonsensical statement, apparently now we are being treated to another slam on Central Park. Ridiculous.

        The transformation and restoration* of Central Park in my lifetime has been truly remarkable. I have many, many memories of going there while growing up, then through my teen years and into my young adulthood. (One example: I remember playing kickball in the old dustbowls with my brothers and our friends, and meeting other kids there from different neighborhoods. The lawn areas were very different back in the 60s and 70s. Afterward, we would gather our pocket change and scrape enough money together to get some slices before heading for the subway to get back home.) Even during these decades of the decline of Central Park and the neglect that occurred then, the park still was an integral part of daily life for tens of thousands of people. It was just avoided at night. I can’t imagine growing up there without it.

        *There’s a great piece from a few years ago documenting this amazing restoration with plenty of pictures:

    4. Seattle has too much green space and this shouldn’t be a concern. And most of Central Park really is a park full of lawns and woods and lakes and other open spaces – not sure how you think otherwise.

      1. Green space is one of the biggest positives the city has, paving it over with concrete is the exact worst idea. *Especially* while nothing substantive has been done about the single family swathes.

      2. What is the optimal amount of green space? After the settlers arrived there was one first house and several Indian villages. Is that the right amount of open space? Seattle has dozens of parks, some large, some small, none very large. Our 20th-century ancestors bequeathed us this treasure.

        Some areas like Wallingford complain that they have the least amount of open space per square block in Seattle. That’s hard to take seriously when Gasworks Park and the Burke-Gilman Trail is just a few blocks away, and there are pocket parks under I-5 and Aurora, and it’s a short bus ride to Greenlake and the UW Campus or a moderate walk to the Fremont Canal Park. Of course some people might object to how many other people are in those parks, but the optimal amount is a value judgment and I’m not sure there’s consensus.

        I think the current amount of parks is fine. We could get more out of them with a better design of the existing land, like the disappointing Northgate and Lake Union parks with too much empty lawns and grotesque modern styling. That and we need frequent transit to more parks so they’re easier to get to, especially Seward and Discovery. But I was surprised when I drew up my list of parks that do have frequent transit now; it’s more than I realized. So that’s something.

        The biggest problem with the clamors for more open space is they don’t address the need for more housing. The proponents seem to want to tear down existing houses or divert planned redevelopments to open space, and that decreases the amount of housing at a time the population is growing rapidly. The proponents often don’t seem to care about this, their attitude seems to be “The fewer people around me the better. I got my house and who cares about everyone else?” If we need more open space, we need to combine it with ideas for more housing, not just keep the status quo or allow houses lots to be deleted without replacement. The New Urbanists have come up with some ideas, like cluster houses in one place (close-together small houses) and adjacent open space. That has been suggested for the lot in Laurelhurst that some kind of organization vacated. But this suggestion was rejected in favor of large-lot single-family houses, which will help ten people but not the other twenty thousand who want to live close-in in Seattle.

      3. And in a few years the waterfront renovation will be done, and that will probably be seen as Seattle’s long-missing central park. And the next phase after that will renovate northern Alaskan Way, connecting the park between Pike Place to Myrtle Edwards Park

  8. “substantial negative impacts on at least 50 to 100 more.”

    What about the positive impact to the hundreds of parcels within each station’s walkshed? Or the positive impact to thousands of household by not taxing them for $700M?

  9. I find it interesting that Youngstown residents and Lisa Herbold are advocating for more density. Why do I think they don’t spend any time advocating for density except when it benefits them to stop light rail? Next they’ll be saying do “BRT” instead!

  10. Pretty lazy journalism here on this topic. The article title doesn’t match actual reality or realistically consider alternative means that could still NOT limit development by an elevated line. It also only considers the baseline elevated light rail lines, when, you know, there are alternatives options that require next to zero dwelling units and businesses to be removed. Pulling at the issue of of affordable housing is also total bunk. The city could easily rezone the area to require much higher affordable housing requirements and adjust development regulations.

    The Urbanist did an excellent job putting this in context:
    So did Seattle Subway here:

    Maybe try again?

    1. Agreed. This post doesn’t even mention that these precious units come at a cost of $700 million. If this is all about affordable housing let’s spend $700 million that!

  11. Is it possible to build an 8-story building on that block and incorporate the station into the bottom few floors (entrance + mezzanine + platforms) and then have the housing be above that? You’d need enough room to put the stairs and elevator to the upper floors in a way that misses the station but it looks like there’s enough room for that along with still having a bit of space for other stuff. It would be more expensive but then you can get some of the money back by renting/selling that other space. I believe a lot of other cities (mainly much more dense ones in Asia) do this regularly but usually with commercial in the rest of the building rather than residential. But the station area doesn’t have to be just station.. we can find a way to get multiple uses out of the same area of land.

    1. Yes, but Sound Transit is hell bent on suburban style stand-alone stations even in the densest parts of the city, which is a waste of airspavmce and a lost opportunity for public housing or other benefits.

  12. Closer to home the Main Street -Science World station in Vancouver is incorporated (sort of) into a building – while in this case the station is immediately adjacent to the tower, the rail line leading to it goes directly through the tower.

  13. As I’ve said before,I wish there was a way to end the light rail at Delridge and have a less impactful technology for the last two stations.

    Cable systems (cable liner) are much lighter, can more easily climb slopes, and can be automated. The stations can be much less obtrusive. The steel supports are light weight and don’t cast shadows. If used starting at Delridge, it would only add maybe a minute of ride time and a few seconds of cross-platform transfer time (if designed correctly). It would then set up the light rail to more easily head south in the future.

    I also wouldn’t be opposed to terminus at Delridge with a West Seattle Streetcar system as long as it features some exclusive lanes. An Alki – Admiral – WS Junction – Delridge – Westwood – Ferry Line would serve much of West Seattle.

    There are many technologies that can feed light rail at high frequencies. The myopic nature of the “light rail only” choices demonstrates how the creative solutions have not yet been presented and screened.

  14. I’m surprised I don’t see the same level of condemnation and misinformation for West Seattle suburbanites that I saw for Surrey Downs. The issue seems pretty clear: NIMBY suburbanites want the convenience of a train, but feel like someone else should bear the inconvenience. Why is West Seattle being treated with kid gloves?

    1. Mostly because significant portions of county leadership live there, so it gets special treatment.

      1. Yes, you’re probably right. Similar to how the west end of 520 is taking *forever*. Lots of political leadership lives in the Broadmoor area, including three governors at the time when 520 was being redesigned. It’s ironic that the world’s richest people on the east side of 520 obstructed the political process less than the well-connected people on the west side.

      2. Councilmembers and former councilmembers live there, from both city and county government, and they see the middle-class people around them and think it’s the core of Seattle residents, or at least one of the top three cores. They see it as a kind of bellwether for how Seattle overall is doing.

  15. I grew up in West Seattle most of my life and think a tunnel under 16th ave makes more sense for access instead of disrupting the delridge community.
    I’m sure there is plenty of underground real estate that can be tapped wisely in the hill side between 16th and delridge.

    It also makes more sense to upgrade to double decker cars with 2-tier access for fast loads and unloads and more capacity per square foot.

    1. That would require adding height to every tunnel we’ve already drilled, which would cost tens of billions and require the system to be partially shut down. And isn’t possible in several places due to buildings and structures above the DSTT.

      1. From what I recall, the West Seattle to Ballard will be a new tunnel and the downtown portion can serve as a reroute to reduce shutdowns.
        As for the capital hill to UW tunnel, the ceiling stays intact but the floor and base drops and widens into more of an arch shape by carving down and out while doing brace and filling.

        There are no interferences from above to contend with anymore and the concrete below can be recycled and reused onsite to help reduce handling and disposal costs the same way the DOT does to our highways during upgrades. If you look in the tunnel, the conduit lines are on the sides and not below either but they may need to be anchored higher, temporarily, while carving out below.

        The best way to carve out may involve skip carve and fills at 3 feet widths and 15 foot intervals (1:6 ratio) as a rough guess. As the first of 3 teams works their way down, team two and three follow behind far enough for adequate cure of the new fill in front of them to handle adjacent carving.
        I imagine a wet bore and saw method would prove to be the cleanest way to go if there are bores and saws in that size range already on the market. And, the carving tools (bore/saw) can be jigged transversly as a large front loader attachment with multiple hydraulic footings bracing in several directions against opposing forces while supporting the plunge down and out.
        Before securing the feet, load distributing plates of the right thickness and surface area mating would be used to protect the walls from damage. I can see this method working fast enough and can be compared to team three trying a different method at the other end as a comparison of safety, quality, time, and cost.
        Another alternative that might work is to find a trencher that can fit, be pivoted, and cut to the right depth through reinforced concrete as another way to carve and fill.

    2. That’s basically the “Pigeon Ridge/West Seattle” tunnel alternative from the level 2 alternatives:
      It was ruled out because it was estimated to cost $1.2 billion more (in 2017 dollars) than the representative alignment and $500-700 million more than the other two tunnel options under consideration at the time.

      1. I would rather see it visually at a town Hall meeting to make sure the cheaper options are not low ball proposals. I don’t care paying some more over 30 years if the option allows better upgrade potential, less flooding risk, and less hidden costs.

    3. Absurd. No other rapid transit system has bilevel cars with bilevel access, but of course Seattle is special and nothing else that anyone else has tried will work for us, so let’s just invent a totally new type of subway.

      You rarely see bilevel cars in rapid transit systems anyway. You’ll mostly find them on commuter (e.g. Metra) or suburban type railways (e.g. Sydney Trains), but even then I’ve never heard of bilevel access.

    4. This is why we don’t let the community decide the specifics of transit projects. Unless this is a joke; in which case, well played, sir.

    5. It was just one person’s idea. As background information, only commuter rail and intercity rail has done this, and when they do they don’t have 2-level doors; you have to go up and down stairs to get to the second floor. So it’s only used on longer trips with several-mile station spacing. It’s not suitable for subways that stop every couple minutes and have a lot of short-distance trips. Perhaps bilevel doors could increase capacity — they’d certainly eliminate the forced stair walk that deters many people from using the second level — but if so you’d think London or Tokyo would have tried it by now. London is building undergrounds and overgrounds up the gazoo — every time they finish one they start another — because if they didn’t the network would melt down with overcrowding in a couple decades. The London underground is at capacity peak hours, and a delay of even five minutes causes crowds to overflow the station and onto the sidewalk, so there’d better not be 30-minute delays. This was on one of the STB Sunday videos a couple years back, that looked at how the Underground staff handle operations and crowds.

      1. Instead of split level stairs, it would be a bi-level walkway and one stair access onboard each car.

      2. If done right, the load/unload times are nearly cut in half with a slightly larger tunnel, low riding car and wide ramp access vs building two tunnels at single tier or lengthening the station to double length.
        This design also cuts down total footstep count to and from the train. I don’t know about you, but if I have been on my feet all day at work or elsewhere then I would rather walk less than more.
        The bi-level access may work if the lower level is wheelchair friendly without restrictions on upper level unloading until the lower level is clear. Currently, on double decker busses here, upper and lower levels can’t simultaneously load and unload due to bottlenecks.

      3. I challenge you to find a single train car in use anywhere in the world that employs such bilevel loading.

      4. ST could increase Link’s capacity 25% by buying open-gangway trains without interior cabs and reconfiguring the seating like other subways have.

      5. No, Mike. Clearly, we need to try untested, Rube Goldberg-esque things like bi-level loading subways before considering simple things like open-gangway cars.


      6. A double-decker elevator is not a railcar and is not a good comparison. For one, it doesn’t require additional infrastructure, since the two levels stop on different floors that would both have been served by a single-deck elevator. The elevator equivalent of your idea would be making each floor of the building 20 feet tall instead of 10, and installing a mezzanine 10 feet in the air to allow passengers on the upper side of the elevator to get to the floor.

        Regardless, look at existing bilevel railcars. ( The lower level is slightly below the platform level, so as a result the railcar is not tall enough to accommodate a platform door on both levels. As a result, you don’t see multilevel platforms anywhere. To accommodate 2 levels of platform doors, the train would have to be really tall (at least 20 feet, not including the bogie and wheels), requiring a much larger tunnel. Tunnel boring costs and complexity increase nonlinearly with tunnel diameter (cf. Bertha on SR99 vs Brenda/Pamela for U-Link), so you’d increase the cost of boring the entire system by a significant amount in addition to making the stations more expensive (by adding another level of platforms). And that’s just for new lines. Enlarging every foot of existing tunnel (and retrofitting every station) would be way more expensive than just lengthening existing stations to accommodate longer trains.

        You’ve clearly thought a lot about this, but why do you think systems in Asia that are routinely crush-loaded at rush hour haven’t already thought of this?

      7. Just an observation that light rail catenaries make trains taller than those with a third rail. That means that any conversion to taller trains for a second level probably requires changing where the power comes from.

        The cost of changing the power source alone just doesn’t seem to be worth it. I agree with Mike Orr that open gangways with cabs only at the ends and running more trains are the most low-cost, reasonable ways to add capacities.

      8. The light rail could use this bus as a template with some adjustments.

        It comes in at 14 feet tall with room to stand! I rode this bus this year and don’t see why one set of seats, above and below, can’t be sacrificed for access purposes.

        Engineering, involves tradeoffs and doing so involves looking at cost, quality, and speed. When weighing tradeoffs, often 2 out of 3 are chosen to diversify against other competitors.

        Making a new model railcar is fairly straightforward and have a high track record (pun intended).

        The tunnel has already been surveyed, and hazards known. Also, a quick prototype based on the existing double decker, gutted, can be analyzed with calculations added for plate doubling and chocks added around places such as the doorways and ramps.

        The skills and labor already exist for this type of design and build. However, it may not be apparent to someone not familiar with metal trades or engineers with no build experience to give them familiarity.

      9. Another thing I would like to add is that there are busses out there with hydraulics that match platform levels and operate at low ride mode within tunnels and other places with lower clearance levels.
        The technologies I shared here in comments exists separately with overlapping, form, function and cost across the different platforms.
        Very often, you can find manufacturers that have sold products or solutions that are adapted to serve different forms of transportation, lifting, and handling.
        These businesses have moved horizontally or vertically to gain market share and still do.
        And, manufacturers with configurable tooling, such as 3D printer, sintering/casting, and CNC milling can overcome minor constraints while staying within budget.

  16. % breakdown of major forces limiting Housing Development in Seattle:
    1. Restrictive Zoning – 75%
    2. Inadequate Mobility choices – 24%
    3. Sound Transit elevated Right of Way – 0.1%

    NOW, if we want to have this conversation based on other impacts, like unacceptable levels of displacement or other, I’m totally fine with that and we definitely should have this conversation. But this wedge-issue treatment of light rail (rail advocates vs. urbanists vs. NIMBYs – FIGHT!) is a little silly as far as frames for the central issue – how to get high capacity, rapid transit to West Seattle.

  17. While, the idea of transit-oriented development, especially building integrated stations, is compelling, what hasn’t been brought up much, if at all, is modular transit tunnels.
    The claim of tunnel stations at 2 to 3 times the cost of a surface/elevated station is more in line with standard construction.
    A tunnel can be bored to just about any position, so modular underground stations can be a dig and drop operation at lower costs and shorter time windows.
    There are a number of modular construction companies, I’m sure, would chomp at the bit to expand their business downward.
    In Korea, a european firm came up with a modular tunnel building operation that built tunnel segments off site, floated them into position, and did a controlled sinking into a trench on the sea floor.
    Each segment was anchored, and grouted together with salt water concrete and sea water pumped out afterwards.
    Likewise, segments can be mass produced offsite and put into place in a similar manner. The technique was pure genius.

    Underwater Tunnel Project in South Korea Documentary
    YouTube · Imagine
    Oct 29, 2014

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