With a decade full of dramatic changes to Seattle and the region as a whole behind us, it’s time to look ahead to what the 2020s has in store. Between completing the bulk of light rail expansion under ST2, starting work on ST3 projects, and figuring out the new region that springs forth from the new transit landscape, it will be an exciting time to be here.
Here’s a rundown of things to look forward to at the start of the decade:
Beginning this weekend, there will be 10 weeks of major disruptions for Link riders passing through Downtown Seattle as part of Connect 2020. While riders will get to enjoy four-car trains, they will be running every 12 minutes because of the single-tracked section in downtown, leading to an overall capacity decrease and forced transfers at Pioneer Square Station. This small bit of pain and annoyance is necessary to connect East Link into the system.
We’ll have a full survival guide later this week, but do note that Link from Capitol Hill to SODO will be fully shut down this weekend and replaced with shuttle buses. People with bicycles will not be able to ride Link trains during the weekday disruptions between University Street and International District/Chinatown stations.
New Trains and Names
Sound Transit expects to have their new fleet of “Type 2” light rail vehicles ready for passenger service by the end of Q1 2020. The arrival of these new vehicles should spell the end of two-car trainsets during rush hour and provide their own capacity boost because of better aisle design. There will be a small trickle of cars entering service over the next few years as more are delivered from the Siemens factory in Sacramento, California, but soon they will outnumber the “Type 1” fleet of Kinkisharyo LRVs that Link has used since 2009.
The new trains are also equipped with destination signs that are ready to display color LEDs for each line in Seattle. What we will be calling those lines is still unknown now that Sound Transit, as the announced “Red Line” and “Blue Line” were just as quickly retracted ($). The new names will be chosen by March, according to ST CEO Peter Rogoff’s comments to The Seattle Times.
The Sound Transit Board is also expected to choose a new name for University Street Station early this year, though it won’t take effect until Northgate Link opens in 2021. The name change should reduce some of the confusion between the three “University” stations, but there will be three stations named “Redmond” on East Link by 2024. No word yet on whether that may be changed.
Link, Link, and more Link
With federal funding almost ready for Federal Way Link, Sound Transit plans to break ground on construction in early 2020. This gives Link a major expansion in all three directions, where other projects have already been well underway. Northgate Link is still on track for a 2021 opening and will be transitioning this year from station construction to systems installation and testing.
East Link has all of the major stations and elevated guideways in place and has miles and miles of track that connect some sections. Contractors on Lynnwood Link have largely completed their tree-clearing and utility relocation along Interstate 5, moving on to site preparation and drilling for elevated guideway.
Not to be forgotten, Tacoma’s Hilltop Link Extension is also slowly making its way uphill from downtown Tacoma. A set of tracks have been laid near Stadium High School and other street work is underway on MLK Way and around the city’s hospital district.
Sound Transit also expects to start looking at alternatives for Everett Link this year while also confirming details for West Seattle and Ballard Link and the NE 130th Street Station project.
Bus changes for the Eastside
We’re coming up on a year of bus-less days in the downtown transit tunnel, and one of the most visibly affected areas was the north Eastside. Metro will be rolling out its long-promised restructure of bus service in the Kirkland-Redmond-Bothell triangle this March, which is centered around the truncation of Route 255 at UW Station and the consolidation of other routes. The updated Eastside network will take a bit of time to get used to, but should prove handy until the next big change in 2025 with the arrival of the RapidRide K Line.
The decade ahead
The 2020s promises to be a transformational decade for Seattle-area transit on all fronts, beyond the extension of Link under ST2 and ST3. We’ll be saving our thoughts with longer writeups when the time comes, but here’s a short list of major projects expected to be completed or be near-completed by the end of 2029:
- RapidRide H Line (13 miles of BRT), 2021
- Northgate Link (4.3 miles of light rail with 3 stations), 2021
- Hilltop Link (2.4 miles of streetcar with 6 stations), 2022
- RapidRide G Line (2.4 miles of BRT), 2022
- Pacific Avenue BRT (14.4 miles of BRT), 2022
- East Link (14 miles of light rail with 10 stations), 2023
- RapidRide I Line (16.5 miles of BRT), 2023
- ORCA Next Generation, rolling out between 2021 and 2023
- Seattle Monorail Improvements (2 redesigned stations), by 2024
- Stride BRT on I-405 (27 miles), 2024
- Stride BRT on SR 522 (8 miles), 2024
- Swift Orange Line (10.5 miles of BRT), 2024
- RapidRide J Line (6 miles of BRT), 2024
- RapidRide R Line (8 miles of BRT), 2024
- Lynnwood Link (8.5 miles of light rail with 4 stations), 2024
- Federal Way Link (7.8 miles of light rail with 3 stations), 2024
- Downtown Redmond Link (3.4 miles of light rail with 2 stations), 2024
- Sounder Station Parking Garages (4 stations), 2023 to 2024
- RapidRide K Line (14.6 miles of BRT), 2025
- Center City Connector (1.3 miles of streetcar with 4 stations), mid-2020s
- Swift BRT to Marysville (13 miles of BRT), 2027
- Construction begins on Ballard Link, West Seattle Link, and Tacoma Dome Link