Link at Othello (Image: SounderBruce)

This afternoon, the Sound Transit Board will finalize the list of options to be examined in the Link Extensions Draft EIS for West Seattle and Ballard. A motion on the agenda adds just one more option in West Seattle to a initial list of alternatives adopted in May. Several other alternatives that were recently studied would not proceed any further. These include the Pigeon Point Tunnel in West Seattle and all of the options to locate a Ballard station near 20th Ave NW.

Let’s recap how we reached this point. Sound Transit has been analyzing options for the Seattle ST3 lines since 2017. In May, the Board made a selection from those alternatives to be considered in the draft Environmental Impact Statement. In response to input received during the scoping period, the Board also directed staff to examine a half dozen other options that might also be added to the EIS. An initial analysis on those options was completed last month. With that information in hand, the Board now has to lock down the final list of options to go through the EIS process.

The Board may adopt further amendments at Thursday’s meeting. If not, these are the project options that are will be studied in the EIS, or not:

In West Seattle, the motion on the agenda adds a potential elevated alignment along the Yancy/Andover corridor. That would be north of other alternatives in the mix, reducing the number of homes that would be taken for construction in the Youngstown area, but making Delridge station somewhat less accessible. Uniquely among the additional alternatives that might be added to the EIS, this wouldn’t cost any more than the ST3 representative alignment.

Unlikely to proceed is a tunnel through Pigeon Point. The sticker price is $200 million, but it would also commit Sound Transit to build a $700 million tunnel to Alaska Junction. The tunnels at the Junction remain, independently, on the EIS options list. Apart from cost, a Pigeon Point tunnel would delay delivery of the project, perhaps by several years.

In West Seattle, an elevated alternative on Yancy/Andover is likely to be added to the EIS alternatives. Tunnels through Pigeon Point and to Alaska Junction are not. (image: Sound Transit)

In Ballard, the Board has already agreed to study three options that place a station around 14th or 15th Ave NW. These are a movable bridge crossing Salmon Bay west of the Ballard bridge to an elevated station at NW Market and 15th; a high fixed bridge with 14th elevated station; and a tunnel from near Interbay station to a Ballard tunnel station near 14th or 15th.

Two tunnel options serving 20th Ave NW in downtown Ballard would not proceed further. While the opportunity to have stations serving the more urban part of Ballard appeals to local advocates, Sound Transit staff expect no net increase in ridership from a more central location. Easier bus access to 14th/15th appears to roughly offset better walking access to 20th Ave. The 20th Ave options add $450-$750 million in costs compared to the representative alignment.

Two tunnel alternatives to downtown Ballard are not expected to proceed to the EIS (image: Sound Transit)

Also not likely to proceed are alternatives to elevate one or both of the lines through SODO. Elevating both would add $300 million in costs and require two months-long closures of the Rainier Valley Line. A “partial elevated” line wouldn’t cost any more and would preserve the SODO busway, but adds local construction impacts. The option already in the draft EIS options places the new SODO station at grade west of the existing station with the new line in the E3 busway.

If Yancy/Andover is the only alternative added to the draft EIS, that would somewhat moderate increasing suburban nervousness about Seattle cost over-runs. Even without a Pigeon Point Tunnel or the more expensive Ballard options, it’s still possible to add up a worst case where Seattle needs another $1.7 billion. With the full suite of options, it would be closer to $2.3 billion. Nobody has yet described a source of third-party funding for any of this, so continued pressure to remove the more high-priced options is certain.

On the other hand, Seattle board members have resisted efforts to choose the least-cost options, pointing to past compromises including vehicle crossings at grade in the Rainier Valley and the deferral of stations which are now being added back in ST3 at higher cost. The analogy is strained because the higher cost options they are pushing mostly mitigate neighborhood impacts rather improving transit riders’ experience. Expect to hear this argument continued today.

81 Replies to “Sound Transit set to finalize West Seattle & Ballard EIS alternatives”

    1. If West Seattle gets a tunnel and Ballard does not, it will feed the narrative among residents that Ballard got hosed by ST for the more politically connected West Seattle.

      1. For all of West Seattle’s political connections, those connections haven’t connected with any money to fund a tunnel, so I seriously doubt we’re going to get one.

        But I do worry about Alaska Junction businesses and residents litigating West Seattle Link into extinction if and when we get an elevated option.

  1. I find it interesting that the Ballard tunnel options would have no schedule impact. ST must be expecting some lawsuits with the bridge options that it wouldn’t have with the tunnels.

    There will be hell to pay if they choose to bulldoze the half block west of 15th NW all the way from the Ship Canal to Market to avoid taking a lane in the street for the elevated structure supports. That’s the ugly secret of the “Representative Alignment”. It’s hiding in plain sight — look at the design maps — but nobody else has acknowledged it.

    1. I don’t think they’d have to bulldoze the entire half block. The cut out the support posts in parking lots, leaving the buildings intact. Only the Walgreens lotz where the station would go, would have to be bulldozed.

      ST already did something similar for Link over in Tukwila.

      1. Look at the map. The alignment is about three lots west of 15th up past Leary then diagonals over to directly adjacent to 15th about 53rd. So maybe not a full half block all the way to the station, but 2/3 the distance. Does anyone believe that ST will make a classic “El” running directly adjacent to buildings?

        Not likely.

    2. This has alway been something I don’t understand about the bridge options. Maybe it’s just a failure of my imagination, but I can’t see how you build a bridge without bulldozing a lot of existing buildings, including some new ones (hello, Ballard Blocks 2).

      1. This is another reason why a bridge at 15th was DOA. There are huge new buildings on both sides of the bridge that block any new bridge. Meaning the only viable bridge option is the one crossing at 14th Ave.

      2. You mentioned Ballard Blocks 2, so I assume you are talking about an elevated bridge to 14th. It would probably go over that building. Same with 15th. It goes over some buildings, then goes close to the street. In general, what takes up the most space is the station itself, not the pillars for the trains. In the case of 15th, there is enough room for a station in front of the Walgreens, or at worse, we lose the small drug store (which in turn would eventually be replaced by something else). It could be put in at the other side of the street as well (although that would be worse from a user standpoint). At 14th there is plenty of room, as there is basically nothing at 14th (making it a terrible place for a station, but easy to build). In that regard, it would be similar to the awful station in Mount Baker. The difference is that the Mount Baker station is there because it was cheaper, while building a station at 14th is more expensive. Thus it is quite possible that Sound Transit will spend more money to build an inferior station — forever reducing ridership and hurting a majority of riders.

        Anyway, you (and Tom) are probably thinking of larger structures, that take up a lot more room. The pillars themselves are not very big. For example, here is part of the Expo Line:

      3. I was mostly thinking of the 15th Ave option. Though even with the 14th Ave option, the phrase “high bridge” makes me think of a large structure.

      4. High bridge just means as high as the Aurora bridge, while a moveable bridge would also be very high (rarely opening, and likely never delaying a train).

        So yeah, the bridge itself would be large, regardless of the type. But there is plenty of industrial land on both sides of the canal for it to be built. 14th would be a challenge, but I think the plan is to run it down the middle of the street. 14th is very wide, so I don’t think it would be a problem. As the bridge comes down, the pylons get smaller, just like they do with the SkyBridge in Vancouver: That is a very big, high bridge, spanning the Fraser River (a much wider area) yet it doesn’t take that much space on either side.

      5. Got it.

        I didn’t realize that SkyBridge had a bike path on it too. Adding the same here could certainly make a bridge more attractive given the current awful experience of crossing the Ballard Bridge on bike (though that crossing would likely be quite steep for bikes).

      6. A 70′ bridge is twice as high as the current bridge. A 130′ bridge is twice as high as that. A higher bridge has to start climbing further out. In Aurora’s case there are steep hills on both sides of the canal so it doesn’t have to climb; it starts on the hillsides.

      7. It’s not just the pillars, Ross. ST could put it down the middle of 15th by taking one lane. It’s an effing TRAIN that weighs dozens of tons and which nobody in Seattle is going to live or work under or beside. They may do it in Chicago and New York, but as a result there is a rich vein of comic material about doing so.

        People won’t stand for it.

        Now that big self-storage building at Leary might remain, but basically you’ll have a linear park 2/3 of a mile long with LRT supports down the middle.

        Not the highest and best use of a lot of Ballard real estate.

    3. “I find it interesting that the Ballard tunnel options would have no schedule impact.”

      It may be because it wasn’t scheduled to start construction until 2030 or so, so maybe they can start a couple years earlier and spread the work out. It depends on whether they’ll have cash that early. Oh, cash. The tunnel depends on third-party funding, and that’s not bound by ST’s tax-rate caps, so it could come at any time. Maybe it will come in 2020 or 2024 and ST can start construction as soon as planning is done.

      Also, there will be an existing tunnel coming out of Queen Anne. It’s cheaper and faster to extend an existing tunnel you’re already building rather than start a new tunnel. That may have something to do with it too. Northgate Link was originally going to surface at 63rd, but further engineering found that the cost of going up and down and weaving around the I-5 supports was higher than just extending the tunnel to 95rd.

    4. The Ballard Line can’t open until the SLU-Downtown-ID tunnel opens. That governs the schedule. It would be useless to open the line only between Ballard and Smith Cove early. The only way that West Seattle will get Link by 2030 is if it’s aerial.

      For comparison, San Francisco’s new central subway started construction in 2012 and won’t finish until mid-2021 at the earliest. That’s 9 years. Downtowns are hard.

      1. “It would be useless to open the line only between Ballard and Smith Cove early.”

        Not only useless, but operationally impossible. The trains have to be able to get to the SODO maintenance facility, and without the second downtown tunnel, there would be no physical way for them to get there.

  2. Still no plan on how to pay for this. Also, people are overlooking the elephant in the room that is the 2nd tunnel through downtown. It will be billions over budget and years late…

    What are the odds of I976 passing?

    1. I think this is the rationale behind advancing two alternatives each to the next stage. The RA is fully funded by ST3, so that can be built without extra funds unless 976 happens, which will screw with everything. The second tunnel is included in this, and I haven’t heard about overruns or delays for the second tunnel (if there are reports to this effect, I’d like to see that!). Otherwise, it’s an expensive piece that’s already funded.

      Right now, what they need to do is advance both an expensive and a cheap (RA + $0) option for both Ballard and WS. Then both neighborhoods have a binary view of what they can have, from which ST can try to convince them to pay up for the more expensive alternative if they do choose. If they choose to be cheap, then no problem, ST will build the cheapest alternative.

      I think advancing the cheaper alternative for WS is fine since a tunnel is a waste of money, where the bigger deal is the line pointing south. Having a tunnel in Ballard is more important, and the port could come in with some funds to make it happen, so we need to focus on making the expensive Ballard option good, because we have a good shot at getting it.

      1. You are giving them too much credit. The cheapest alternative in Ballard is an elevated train to 15th. It is also the second best from a user standpoint (20th is best, followed by 15th, then 14th). That makes the choice pretty clear: Favor the cheapest (15th elevated) but if money is found, go with the best (underground to 20th).

        Yet they are still considering choices that are expensive, and no better. 15th underground is no better than 15th above ground. 14th underground is worse. Thus they are considering a choice — 14th underground — that is both more expensive AND worse for riders.

        But that isn’t the worst part. They are actually favoring an option that is more expensive AND worse. An elevated line to 15th is more expensive than an elevated line to 14th, but it is worse.

        With West Seattle the situation is similar, although not quite as egregious. The two tunnel options (the expensive options) are no worse than elevated. But they are no better. So we would spend a lot of money, but at least be no worse than the default. The cheap alternative (a station at Alaska and Fauntleroy) is worse, but at least costs the same as the default.

        So, while I understand your assumption, that isn’t the case. You are thinking logically, like you would if you making any purchase. Do you buy a Honda Fit (a very reliable car with decent mileage) or maybe an Acura MDX (a very reliable car that holds more people and has a bit more refinement)? But it turns out, ST is leaning more towards spending a lot for a used Jeep that burns oil.

        Why? Who knows. Maybe they are incompetent or maybe they are corrupt. I tend to assume the best in people, so I will go with incompetent. But given the money involved in these decisions (such as value of land close to a 14th station that a few years ago would have been considered of middling value) I wouldn’t rule out the latter.

      2. The EIS requires at least three alternatives. One is the preferred alignment, the second is something to contrast it to, and the third is no-build. Maybe you can eliminate the second. But ST’s default intention was to have one similar to the representative alignment (the low-cost option), and the other with all the Christmas tree features (the high-cost option). After the EIS ST can mix and match pieces from the alternatives if it wants. The additional alignments will be additional alternatives in the EIS.

    2. “the 2nd tunnel through downtown. It will be billions over budget and years late”

      Unfounded speculation. The U-Link tunnel was within its post-2002 budget and schedule. (And the flawed 1990s estimates are irrelevant after the 2000s reforms and 2019 and 2016 voter approvals.) The biggest cost risk currently is real estate, and that doesn’t affect the downtown tunnel where ST doesn’t have to buy much surface property. There may be unknown risks tunneling under downtown, but we don’t know those yet so it’s premature to say it will be “billions”.

      “What are the odds of I976 passing?”

      Its outcome depends on how people feel about the car tab rate and taxes in general, and how much pro-transit support emerges to counteract these. Anyone who votes on it based on speculative downtown tunnel costs, or cost increases in Lynnwood, or the debates over the Ballard and West Seattle alternatives, will be making a simplistic emotional knee-jerk reaction not based on substantial issues. The only way to change their minds is an emotional appeal.

  3. If I976 passes, this is where the brunt of the cuts, on the sound transit side, are likely to fall. Expect several years more of delay, with, possibly whole stations eliminated, to make up for the shortfall.

    Worst case, they cut the ship canal crossing, altogether, and everybody in Ballard has to bus to Interbay Station until ST4, while West Seattle loses Delridge Station altogether and still gets no tunnel.

    1. By the time the design and costing gets further on building a second subway from Lower Queen Anne all the way to Holgate Street, with seven stations (two major transfer stations) under many tall buildings and not-so-wide congested streets, I predict that the end-of-Line station costs will be the least of ST’s woes — even without I-976 passing.

  4. I find it interesting that most of the new options didn’t go further. It appears that they were studied to placate interests rather than to get taken seriously.

    The problem I have with this whole discussion is that the most critical issue that gets ignored is the likely hundreds of thousands of rail-rail transfers and the tens of thousands of bus-rail transfers that will occur each weekday for 100 years. That’s not a handful of property owners; it’s hundreds of thousands of riders. It’s not just a month or even a few years of construction; it’s many decades.

    I sure wish that someone important could be a champion for the riders for the next hundred years.

    1. Rider convenience is not a major factor for ST or the stakeholders. Impact to neighboring properties is. That’s the only way to explain ST’s decisions.

      It’s unclear how much the alternatives are serious and how much they’re strawmen to point out their ineffectiveness or infeasibility (because third-party funding is unlikely, or at least there are no leads yet on where it might come from). It may not matter. They are alternatives, it will cost a certain amount of money and time to study them (much less than any construction decision), and ST will ultimately either approve them for construction or it won;t.

      1. It’s a fascinating interpretation of “stakeholders” to exclude the people who will actually ride the thing.

      2. Yes. The stakeholders are defined as the city and county governments and the port, large employers and institutions like colleges, and various nonprofit groups. STB is lumped together with the other small transit-fan organizations and the passengers as one stakeholder.

      3. Rider convenience is not a major factor for ST or the stakeholders. Impact to neighboring properties is. That’s the only way to explain ST’s decisions.

        I’m sensing the effects of the Kool-Aid are wearing off. Want change? Change the way the ST board is inherited. Or, do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

  5. So let me get this straight. They are still considering a tunnel to 14th as well as a tunnel to 15th, but they won’t consider a tunnel to 20th. Is that right? If so, what is the logic behind that?

    1. One of the potential outcomes this afternoon, I think, is that the Seattle delegation argues that the cheaper tunnel option to 20th (not in the DEIS right now) is only $100m more than the most expensive option to 14th/15th (in the DEIS since the May meeting).

      Which arguably means we don’t know for sure it’s more expensive at all. We are at a very early stage of design after all with very rough financial estimates. That may be a winning argument to move central Ballard to the next stage.

      All these study options carry some cost (studies are cheaper than building stuff, but not free) and some schedule risk (studies take time), but the suburban members might not object to Seattle advancing a few more study options. The bigger game is about setting a stage for the bigger project selection decision in 2021.

      1. That is reasonable. I think it is essential that 20th be studied (for the reasons you mentioned). If money (for studies) is an issue, then drop the studies for 14th and 15th. There is no way those will be cheaper than an elevated line, and yet they are no better. I would also drop the elevated line to 14th, although I suppose it is possible that elevated to 14th turns out to be cheaper than elevated to 15th. That is the opposite of what they are estimating at this point, but possibly within the margin of error.

      2. Elevated to 14th is more expensive because it accommodates the high bridge that people in Ballard are nearly unanimous in wanting. Your arguments about 70 feet are sound, but the don’t resonate well with a neighborhood that has had to deal with opening bridges for a century.

        Fourteenth elevated with a 70 foot opening bridge would be MUCH cheaper because it would be shorter, require little land acquisition, and might even get some money from the Port.

        If 976 passes and is upheld, I predict that’s what Ballard will get, perhaps paid in part by WashDOT from highway funds as the ztracks are adjacent to three northbound lanes of traffic feeding the northbound half of a 14th/15th three lane one- way couplet.

        Bikes would get the narrowed but protected fourth lane on the existing bridge.

    2. Great question. Easier bus access at 14th/Market from where…. Ballard?

      Overheard in 2035 at 14th/Market: “How do you get to Ballard from here?”

      These speculative ridership estimates and preliminary cost estimates do not even start to account for the potential economic and cultural values of citing a station in the existing, bustling, historic urban district, as we are doing in the U District. I’m all for a bridge to save a lot of money; I’m all a bridge anyway for the awesome experience it would be for every rider every day with two mountain ranges and Fisherman’s Terminal in view, but 14th is in the East Woodland neighborhood, not Ballard. From 14th, to have the fine-grained pedestrian experience that characterizes a visit to Ballard that most folks either want to have, or need to have because they work there, requires traversing an intersection on scale of the Las Vegas strip.

      We can go ahead and zone 14th and Market for 400 feet, but putting the station there still would not make sense. For 15th, start with the requirement that there needs to be an an entrance on the west side, and work backwards from there. But 20th Ave. deserves to remain in the mix.

  6. Another question. If I understand the chart correctly, an elevated bridge to 14th costs 100 million dollars more than sending it to 15th. Since 14th is clearly worse for the vast majority of potential riders, why are they still considering 14th? Why are they basically saying that the best alignment requires third party funding, but the worse alignment — which also costs more — does not?

    1. I may be misremembering, but wasn’t the argument for 14th was that it would not be as disruptive to businesses vs. 15th?

      1. Simply not building anything would be the least disruptive, but it misses the point.

        Heck, the Mount Baker station was probably less disruptive as well. But at least in that case they made the wrong choice to save money. In this case they would be spending more money to make the wrong choice.

      2. The main objections to 15th were the Port and Fisherman’s Terminal. Potential opposition from the apartments on 15th was mentioned in an STB comment but I don’t know if the apartments themselves have raised it. The Port is an elected government agency and has both persuasion clout and the ability to litigate and force ST to go elsewhere or pay more or delay. The apartment owners have much less clout.

    2. The neighborhood wants to have at least one way to go south via transit that doesn’t involve an opening bridge. Ask them. That’s why 14th Elevated is more expensive.

      With an apples-to-apples bridge comparison, it would clearly be much cheaper since no land at all north of the Ship Canal would have to be acquired. A small amount south of the bridge would be required, but it’s an order of magnitude less. The station would be entirely within the wide 14th Avenue right of way. It could even be at-grade if no tail tracks were included.

  7. Seeing the Yancy/Andover alignment move forward is disappointing. West Seattle has been suffering all summer from the construction impacts of rechanneling Avalon Way to be the major bike route to West Seattle.

    The Yancy/Andover alignment would tear all of this progress up less than 6 years from now, require major reroutes of West Seattle buses for the duration of the construction, all for what? To “preserve” a golf course? To save a couple of houses along Delridge/Genesee (while bulldozing additional housing along Avalon)? While adding an inferior Delridge station with minimal TOD potential. What about the health impact of light rail riders breathing fumes from the Terminal 5, the highway, and NUCOR while they are waiting for a train? Hopefully this is all considered in the EIS.

    1. Unfortunately, the EIS only has to identify the environmental effects of the adopted alternatives. However, alternatives can be added later — although they would delay the EIS approval.

      I would agree that an alternative that relocates the Golf Course — say to the South Seattle College hilltop — and creates a dense new urban community that includes a well-used smaller public park and a new college campus would have been a great alternative in many, many ways.

    2. There is/was a process to determine the EIS scope; i.e., which environmental issues to study. I don’t remember whether it was done on this project yet. That would be the point to specify “impacts of air quality in the station environment”. The default scope has some general topics; I don’t know how well platform air quality is represented. You can mention it in all the EIS feedback anyway even if it’s not in scope. ST may not pay attention to it but at least it will get printed up with the report.

  8. Failing to advance 20th NW station and adding another expensive West Seattle option really highlights how broken this alternatives process is.

    Transit riders again get the short end of the stick when planning transit infrastructure.

    1. Here’s another way to say it: From 14th/Market to 20th/Market in the center of gravity of Ballard is 0.4 miles.

      If you call 45th/Brooklyn (U District Station) the center of gravity of the U District, 0.4 miles away from this is the west side of the I-5 / 45th St. interchange, in Wallingford, which requires crossing the I-5 ramps on foot or bus to access the U District proper… the former Wine World. We could have upzoned Wallingford to help justify a Link station there, but should we have put the U District station west of the interstate, even if it saved a bit of money and made a few bus transfers easier? Of course not. And we shouldn’t put the Ballard station across a canyon of traffic from that neighborhood either.

      1. Yeah, here is your U-District Station: But don’t worry, we will upzone all around there. Well, not all around there — we still haven’t done that with the Roosevelt station. But we will upzone somewhere, and it will be fine. Oh, and it only costs $100 million more.

  9. If the 20th Ave NW option is not served, I suggest that we turn and advocate for an east-west station orientation under Market Street. This can be done even if there bridge at 14th Ave NW over the Ship Canal. That way, there can be station entrances both east of 15th Ave NW and at 17th Ave NW.

    I think the platform orientation shift can also be explored in the EIS and does not need direction now. The station would still be at 15th and Market.

    The idea certainly makes it harder to ultimately extend the Green Line to Crown Hill, however the demand in SLU is so high that three minute trains will likely be needed through Downtown at some point. That means an additional line will someday have to be operated (in addition to the Green Line, which is restricted to six minutes on MLK) and that could go to Crown Hill or UW and just not stop in Ballard.

  10. It 20th Avenue is out, 14th Avenue is bad, and 15th Avenue is mediocre, maybe we should just terminate it at Interbay and defer the rest until a future board might make bigger decisions? Without a good Ballard station a lot of my support for ST3 goes away. I’m holding onto it mainly because of the DSTT2 and SLU, so if it terminates at Expedia it would have that corridor. A corollary would be that we couldn’t delete the D, because it’s unreasonable to expect people to ride one mile to Expedia and transfer for one more mile to downtown. The ST board would probably resist terminating in Interbay, but from a theoretical perspective that’s where I’m at right now.

    It would be doubly galling if West Seattle gets a tunnel and Ballard gets a 14th station.

    1. Even 14th is still much better for Ballard than Interbay Station. At least you can walk to it, and at least, the bus option doesn’t need to cross the ship canal. Plus, if the line were truncated at Interbay, you would either have to reroute the 40 and lose the Fremont /Ballard connection, or leave the D line as the only way to get to Link from further north.

      A 14th station, at least the 40 could get somewhat close to, while still serving Fremont.

    2. How can you justify legally (when the voters approved light rail to Ballard) not having a Ballard stop?

      1. The same way ST didn’t fund a federal way stop until ST3. If you don’t have the money to build it, you can’t build it.

      2. If I-976 passes ST will have to defer something, and it could be the Ballard tail. If costs rise significantly, it would have to decide whether to extend the timeline or defer something. In that case it would probably extend the timeline as it did for everything except Federal Way (which it deferred and put into ST3). I’m not sure how I feel about Link segments from Smith Cove to downtown and downtown to West Seattle.

        I’m only talking ideals here, not about whether ST would accept it or whether it would be legal. I’m just weighing the long-term advantages and disadvantages of a 14th station, and how it would preclude ever getting a 15th or 20th station. 14th Station reminds me of other places with a longer-than-ideal distance to the station, like DC’s GWU and Georgetown, London’s Underground to DLR transfer (somewhere with a surface walk; I don’t remember where, not Bank where it’s underground, although that is long too), and probably others if I think about it more.

        I’m assuming that the D and 40 would continue as-is if Link is truncated at Smith Cove. Transfers make sense for longer trips, but not where both segments are a mile. You end up waiting and walking for as long or longer than you do riding. The overlap on the D and Link between Smith Cove and Westlake is not long enough to worry about.

  11. Maybe the station at 14th/Market is the best option long term. Even the new, “denser” version of old downtown Ballard isn’t as dense as the area around a light rail station should be (i.e. more like the future U District or a Vancouver B.C. town center). So build the station at 14th and upzone everything around it to 400 feet. Presto, plenty of climate-friendly high rise housing AND an easy walk to “charming Old Ballard.”

    1. We couldn’t get 400 feet in Northgate or Broadway or Roosevelt or Mt Baker, so what makes you think we can get it in Ballard? The most optimistic assumption is to raise it to Ballard’s maximum height, which i think is 70′. Even then it would only go to the east side of 14th. I don’t see much willingness to upzone 13th or futher east. That makes the walkshed completely one-sided. The highest-demand core is between 20th and 22nd (Ballard Ave). The distance between 14th and 15th is three regular blocks.

      It’s possible that a future city council will be more willing to enlarge the urban villages and raise the heights, and public opposition to that will lessen, but that’s all speculative at this point. We can’t assume eastern Ballard will upzone any more than we can assume that Latona (Wine World) and Wallingford will upzone. We shouldn’t locate stations depending on such theoretical possibilities that the city hasn’t acknowledged as possible.

      1. There wasn’t any willingness to upzone the Spring District in the years before it was decided East Link would run through it. And it’s only a matter of time before single family zoning falls. We’ll follow Oregon. For a educated group of people, you really have blinders on when it comes to envisioning future growth. Single family homes on 14th, eastward? They’ll be gone in a few decades.

      2. That’s a different situation. The decision to route Link there and the decision to create an urban village in the Spring District where part of the same grand bargain, and they chose that area because it was a decaying indistrial area with no single-family houses to offfend. In this case, the Link corridor is already decided and it didn’t come with a promise to upzone east of 14th. East of 14th is single-family, and those are the hardest areas to upzone. A future council and public might do it, but we can’t count on that now. So we shouldn’t locate the station there assuming that it will eventually be upzoned. That’s neglecting to serve the EXISTING density west of 20th.

      3. And even if east Ballard doesn’t upzone, so what? Plenty of areas around stations will never see growth, and we’re ok with that. The growth will happen on other sides of the station. If there’s a station placed on Elliott, no growth will ever happen west of it. It’s water and train train tracks. No growth will ever happen in the wetlands east of S Bellevue P&R.

        15th ave, to me, is a no brainer. The corridor from the canal all the way up the hill to 85th and beyond has so much potential. 20th is a quaint, historic, funky little neighborhood, but we have to look to the future for Ballard’s station, not the past.

      4. “And even if east Ballard doesn’t upzone, so what?”

        Fewer people will be able to live within a 5- or 10-minute walk of the station, or work or shop in that circle. That means Link is useful to a smaller percentage of Seattlites. The reason we’re building Link is so that people can get around more conveniently and efficiently and to alleviate bus overcrowding. It can do that best if the stations are in the center of the pedestrian concentrations. The pedestrian concentration in Ballard is centered at 21st & Market and extends to 15th, 24th, Leary Way, and 60th.

        “Plenty of areas around stations will never see growth, and we’re ok with that. The growth will happen on other sides of the station. If there’s a station placed on Elliott, no growth will ever happen west of it. It’s water and train train tracks. No growth will ever happen in the wetlands east of S Bellevue P&R.”

        This is the only station for northwest Seattle. Bellevue has Bellevue TC Station. The P&R station is because (1) an existing P&R was there, and (2) it keeps the P&R out of downtown Bellevue where it would be more disruptive.

    2. Yeah, that’s complete fantasy. They won’t build towers in West Woodland. The best they can hope for is the same development that is happening (or has happened) to the west. But much of the land is industrial, and some of it has already been developed into very nice, expensive townhouses. Those won’t be sold anytime soon, even if someone wants to build something a bit taller. Then you have the same issue that you have in Roosevelt. The neighborhood really pushed for moving the station east (and succeeded) yet almost all of the development is closer to the original location (the freeway). Despite the bitter, nasty upzoning fight that occurred (for which urbanists declared victory), there are still areas very close to the station that remain zoned multi-family (

      It all means that even if they build the station in 14th, the area won’t have the kind of density surrounding 20th.

  12. put in a free to ride autonomous (or not) streetcar going back and forth on a single track from Golden Gardens to a station at 24th

    call it the Ballard version of a monorail – even though it’s not a monorail

    and then advocate for an east west line to UW with a station at 20th.

    frankly, if they kill the 20th station it would be terrible. such a lost opportunity…

    1. I get you. Built a streetcar from a station at 14th to 24th, just like they built a First Hill streetcar. It would be just as ridiculous, and just as much a lost opportunity.

      Speaking of First Hill, it is kind of strange that will all of this studying — including options for West Seattle that cost $700 million but serve exactly the same location — there is no study for First Hill. Once again, First Hill gets hosed.

      More than once someone has mentioned that “Seattle is kind of suburban”, and my general reaction is “yep”. This is why. Areas of the city that are clearly urban get ripped off. First Hill got hosed. Belltown got hosed. Ballard may be hosed. All the while, we cater to the suburbs, including arguably the most suburban part of the city, West Seattle. Not only do we build a huge, massively expensive light rail line that is inappropriate for the area, but now there is talk of spending even more money, on something that won’t help a single rider. Like the streetcar, so much of transit in this town is simply symbolic. Build things that look like they could make a difference, while ignoring projects that really can.

      1. Yes I agree with you. If we had $700M, a diagonal multi-elevator shaft From the Midtown station platform to Boren and Marion would serve many more riders than shifting a Ballard station to the west or digging a tunnel in West Seattle.

        Clearly, ST is run by interests that don’t put equity, ridership and cost-effectiveness first.

      2. I can’t think of anything as symbolic as the streetcars. Link even under the worst-case alternatives is still somewhat useful. Some people will make the trek to 14th or Mt Baker or Bellevue TC Station.

        The fact that ST can’t find a ridership difference between 14th and 20th shows that its ridership estimates are flawed. The reason there isn’t a huge major outcry about 14th is that (1) the vast majority of people don’t know it’s on the table, (2) non-regular riders have difficulty visualizing how it will affect their trips, and (3) Ballard’s future increased population doesn’t live in the neighborhood yet and isn’t paying attention.

      3. Also, PASSENGER SATISFACTION. People may grudgingly walk or take a bus to 14th, but it won’t be as convenient for them and they’ll have a more negative impression of the transit network. These are important factors that should be considered, not just the raw numbers of people who make it to the station. A city with a high-quality transit network is a well-functioning city and has a better economy and people want to live there than one that doesn’t.

      4. I wouldn’t call the forecasts flawed. Much of old Ballard is upscale specialty retail. 15th and Market is close to major supermarkets and pharmacies. Surely the latter location’s retail employs more workers per square foot, has more customers per square foot , and would have more utility to a daily transit rider as an adjacent storefront to a station entrance. Even if an apartment is two blocks further, there is a decent chance that a rider would want to buy convenience things at least 1-2 times a week without having to go out-of-direction to get it.

      5. Old Ballard has has music venues where hundreds of people go at once. Thousands of people go to the farmers’ market. People tour Old Ballard. You can’t go somewhere else if you want to hear a particular band or tour a Scandinavian neighborhood. Different farmers’ markets have different vendors and are open different days of the week or in winter.

        For supermarkets there’s Safeway at Othello, QFC at Capitol Hill, Whole Foods at Roosevelt (and Denny on the Ballard line). Walgreens is at Westlake and Capitol Hill. Every Safeway has practically the same things, so people from outside the area are not going to go to the Ballard one. Ballard residents can’t take Link to Safeway because there’s no other Ballard station.

  13. You people are going about your 20th ave station arguments all wrong. If you read the recent candidate mission statements on this blog, the buzzwords all candidates shared were: Inclusive, sustainable and diverse. You have to attach those words to a 20th ave station. The 20th is the bullseye of Ballard argument won’t cut it. You’ll have to do some demographic research, but if you can paint a 15th ave station as racist, and a 20th ave station as more inclusive and sustainable, you might have a chance at forcing them to change their minds.

    1. Sadly there’s some truth to that. Serving historically-underserved ethnic groups is the one thing that sometimes moves the needle. I wouldn’t say sustainability though. The sustainability slogans are mostly empty whitewash; they’ll say them but won’t do anything. Seattle has made some small steps in sustainability like the bioswales that have popped up around the place, but it won’t take on the big things like red paint or telling drivers they’ll just have to lose a GP or parking lane so that buses can get through efficiently. The sustainability argument for 20th is that people won’t have to walk as far so therefore more people will be willing to walk and take transit. I can’t think of an ethnic argument.

  14. Before I venture an opinion on vertical and horizontal location of any transit facility in either West Seattle or Ballard, I’d like to see some updated facts about factors like the soils in the locations we’re discussing, and the technical necessities for dealing with them.

    It could be that given what’s under 20th and Market, nobody responsible would even think about major underground construction there. But also, again based on some very favorable experience in California, a very enjoyable cable-operated “people mover” could provide a very attractive welcome to Ballard.

    Likewise, find it hard to believe that the years between 1990 and the dates of West Seattle/Ballard don’t already give us a faster and cheaper “dig” than was available when Seattle transit first went underground big-time.

    Or conversely, some much more acceptable elevated structures. So let’s have start insisting on at least one set of section views for every discussion item. And while we’re on streetcars, for all my years in Ballard I wished we could have an antique streetcar line between Ballard and Fremont.

    Yes, with lanes of its own and suitable signal pre-empt. Take it all the way along the canal through Fremont and over into the University District. We saved two of the Benson cars, didn’t we? No reason some cars can’t even be built somewhere between Leary Way and the Ship Canal.

    But really do insist on having a lot more depictions in 3D. Sure that nature created that extra dimension for a reason.

    Mark Dublin

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