For the next ten weeks, Link riders will have to contend with infrequent trains, a forced transfer in Pioneer Square, and weekend closures to prepare for Northgate and East Link Expansions. These delays and closures could have been avoided by building for future expansion originally rather than planning and authorizing the system piecemeal. This time, the costs and impacts of the rework are relatively minor, but the consequences of this approach will be severe for future expansions unless the course is corrected.

Before Link opened in July of 2009, Sound Transit closed the tunnel to install tracks, power, and systems in preparation for bus/train operations. Plans were considered for expansions to Northgate and east to Bellevue, but the ballot measure to authorize that expansion, ST2, didn’t pass until November of 2008. Not enough time to plan and execute changes to future-proof the tunnel for expansion.

Seattle Subway map with Aurora Line
ST4 concept map by Seattle Subway

With daily ridership just over 80,000 of which about 30,000 are expected to transfer at Pioneer Square, the annoyance of these ten weeks will likely pass quickly and be replaced by excitement for Northgate Link opening next year. The costs of this rework are relatively low and it’s reasonable and possible to make these changes.

Lack of foresight won’t come so cheap for the new downtown tunnel authorized in ST3.  Retrofitting a tunnel for expansion or a tunnel station to handle transfers is exorbitantly expensive, massively disruptive, and sometimes simply impossible. You can’t easily mine into an existing tunnel to create a junction. You can’t easily change a tunnel’s curve and elevation. You can’t easily add capacity to a tunnel station so it can handle transfers after it’s built. The  easiest way to avoid costly retrofit projects is to plan for expansion before we build ST3’s new downtown tunnel. Or we can assume Seattle will just stop growing jobs and population, but we believe that unrealistic and foolish. Therefore, the time to plan for expansion is now.

Our massive investment in a purpose-built train tunnel in downtown Seattle could forever fall far short of its potential and could completely fail our future needs, unless we do it right the first time.

We’ve focused on expandability throughout our ST3 feedback but there is a big hitch: Sound Transit can’t build for expansion. We haven’t authorized them to even consider it. That’s one reason passing ST4 in Seattle in 2024 is so critical. With one vote, we will have the opportunity to both make sure ST3 is built right while authorizing critically needed expansion. 

For those who think it’s too soon to think about expanding our transit system beyond ST3, we obviously disagree.  But please consider this: do you want Sound Transit to paint itself into a corner? Do you want the choices we make now to put a near-permanent stopper on high quality, sustainable, rapid transit expansion in Seattle? Even if you are skeptical of further transit expansion it’s hard to argue in favor of shortsighted design. 

Failing to correct course could mean never connecting the two densest residential neighborhoods, First Hill and Belltown, via Link. It would mean missing out on our city’s best opportunity for transit oriented development on the Aurora corridor. It could mean never connecting the dense neighborhoods where transit riders suffer on King County Metro’s route 8 every day. It could mean spending billions in the future to correct mistakes that would cost a fraction of that if we do it right in the first place.
It’s time to plan for an entire system, not just one part at a time in isolation. Seattle voters have proven, repeatedly, we want more transit and are willing to pay for it. Join us in urging your representatives to clear a path for Seattle to plan and fund a complete rapid transit system.

83 Replies to “Seattle Subway: the danger of tunnel vision”

  1. The problem is the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel WAS future proofed when it was built in the late ‘80’s. Tracks were installed at an extra cost of several million dollars in the hope of light rail being built. So what happened? Those tracks were unusable and all that work had to be torn out and the DSTT rebuilt for our current system. So if planning is done for decades in the future we are in the same situation-no one knows how technology, innovation, and even things like climate change will affect future needs.

    To save space I’ll leave out the Benson streetcar, obsolete viaduct, monorail and other transport projects that failed or were scrapped or otherwise didn’t account for needs of the future. We just have to do the best we can with what we know now.

    1. The tracks they installed in the 80s were always known to be a half-assed symbol of goodwill by the engineers who installed them. AFAIK the issue was a lack of insulation, which rendered them unusable from the very beginning. They passed the buck onto future generations knowing full well they’d have to redo it.

    2. The geometry of light rail vehicles also changed from the early 1980’s high floor light rail vehicle for which the tunnel was designed to accommodate, to the modern low floor vehicle introduced in the mid 1990’s. This required lowering the floor of the tunnel to use modern low-floor vehicles and provide level boarding. A retrofit would have been needed even if the original rails were installed properly due to the boarding height difference, and designing for a low-floor vehicle in the early 1980’s wasn’t doable because they didn’t yet exist.

    3. Editing suggestion, Jay. Take out everything except your last sentence and you’ll have a good comment. 2020-1990 (year DSTT opened) is thirty years too much worth of “Future” to be proofed against, a rail tunnel operated with buses as trains progressively arrived and are presently being extended.

      The pieces of rail we tore out served the purpose of seeing if we could run rubber-tired buses for years of joint rail-bus usage. Track underpinnings worked just fine when we solved the rail/bus floor-height problem by lowering station road-bed rather than have to raise platforms for level boarding.

      Granted, the passenger public, especially from rail-ignorant places like Brooklyn didn’t know failure when they rode it, and often told me how they wished New York would take our example.

      Space expended bad-mouthing 23 years Chinatown to whole Waterfront service with streetcars we got for pennies-please do leave it out and call it an edit. Same for the monorail, whose continuing 58 years of service precisely where needed, you gotta admit are pretty good for a rolling scrap-heap.

      What makes your concluding sentence valuable is two-letter word “do”. A few months into operations, the transit system decided that a fortune’s worth of signalling and communications equipment weren’t worth the electric bill for a herd of Tunnel vehicles that somehow always came out the other end by themselves.

      Mentality which I’m told works equally well for today’s equipment. The answer I think you’re leaning toward has a very long transit history worldwide, and its local time has certainly arrived. ATU Local 587’s days as a worker-owned cooperative are thirty years overdue to begin.

      Mark Dublin

    4. The problem was back in the 1940s when we had a choice to have a Subway system but decided to give it to the city of Atlanta because we wanted to have some tax exemption. [obscenities] then we would be able to ride the subway from Lynnwood to Redmond to all the way to bonney lake.

      1. Forward Thrust was arguably defeated more by a 60% threshold needed to pass. It received the simply majority of the people, but failed the threshold.

        And we are seriously inconvenienced to this day by that slight lack of foresight.

    5. It appears that ST4 is merely providing openings in new tunnels that would allow for future expansion. No tracks, no additional tunnels. It seems logical to me, which is sometimes not the case when someone proposes a transportation renovation.

  2. Link will never reach Belltown or First Hill. Much easier to extend the streetcar on 3rd Avenue all the way to Expedia and then Ballard.

    I’d prefer a proper subway but given the challenges, I’d settle for a streetcar network that happens before 2045.

    1. Probably not going to happen, but I wonder how feasible it would be build the 2nd Westlake Station by buying out and retrofitting an existing undergound parking garage, rather than mining a whole new station from scratch? Has something like this ever been done before in other cities?

    2. I’m not averse to the occasional two-station or three-station shuttle — like the monorail. Madison ideally should have a short incline subway like Istanbul or Haifa, and it could be above-ground if Jefferson is chosen. Belltown can be a single loop with two stations.

      One advantage to a short-system is that it can be driverless. It also can possibly have single track sections. It can have smaller and more maneuverable vehicles.

      Sure it’s a hassle to transfer, but if it’s on the mezzanine level that hassle is reduced.

      1. North Capitol Hill (Denny or SLU) may be better served by a cable-pulled connection like an incline/ funicular too.

  3. The problem is that it isn’t obvious what expansion will look like. There is no long term plan, and what would have seemed intuitive a few years ago doesn’t any more. There are only a few obvious expansion possibilities, but in many cases, it is too late to do anything about them. Ballard to UW remains a real possibility, but the U-District station is pretty much complete (it is too late to add additional tracks underneath). If the line to Interbay and Ballard followed Belltown then a Metro 8 subway would be fairly intuitive. The stop spacing between Capitol Hill Station and Lower Queen Anne would be close to ideal, with a station in the middle of South Lake Union, and one next to SR 99. Now it is not so obvious what a Metro 8 subway would look like. To serve Belltown it would have to loop around — not sure if it is worth it. Stop spacing is a mess, and a new line wouldn’t have obvious spaces west of I-5, which means that the connection isn’t obvious either.

    There is very little in the system that is obvious when it comes to expansion after ST3, in part because ST3 is so massive. It is fun to dream about Aurora rail, but the cost is extremely high, the benefit is marginal over the existing bus service (let alone improved bus service) and ridership per mile is nothing special. Likewise, running a train up Madison sounds good, except that if the bus runs every six minutes, then only the people at the far end (23rd) would benefit. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth the extra wait and extra time spent going deep into the tunnel and back up again. Since most of the riders will be relatively close, very few riders would actually see a substantial benefit. Since the cost would be extremely high (lots of deep bore stations) it is hard to see it being worth it.

    If there was a long term plan, or even a plan that seems pretty obvious, then I would push for that as well. It was pretty obvious that we would want a line from Ballard to the UW — but that ship has sailed. I see nothing like that in ST3.

    1. Ballard to UW seems a lot more obvious to me than it does to you, apparently. We could use it right now. Unfortunately at this pace we’ll have to wait until 2060. It seems silly to plan that far ahead but many cities still have unused stubs and tunnels from nearly a hundred years ago.

      1. Sorry I wasn’t clear. Ballard to UW is still the obvious next thing to build (and it may be the only addition we ever make). The point is, it is too late to do anything about it. It would be great if the U-District station accommodated it. But it won’t, and the station is basically finished.

        Meanwhile, the other end is a different beast. The transfer (or split) there is a lot less important. A rail system that involves a split or a transfer at the UW would make trips from the west to the UW station*, Capitol Hill and First Hill** a lot easier. That is a lot of trips. In contrast, a transfer in Ballard makes trips to Interbay a lot easier — that is not that many trips. Right now 20th street station seems to be off the table. It would be crazy to build an east-west line (which is likely underground) and then end it at 14th or 15th. Similarly, it is likely that the station at 14th or 15th will be above ground. You could built it underground with a crossing track underneath, but that means spending a huge amount of extra money for something that makes the current rider experience worse, just in hopes that you will eventually get around to building an east-west tunnel. That is future-proofing to the extreme. You might be able to pull off an above ground split, but that means buying off on building an elevated line above Market. This is what I mean by no obvious way to connect the two lines. (If they were planning on building an underground station at 20th, then things would be different).

        I think it is quite possible that they simply cross with a bad connection — elevated north-south, underground east-west. For the relatively few people that would transfer, this isn’t that big of a deal to me.

        * In the future, UW station also connects to every 520 bus.
        ** Assuming they had actually added a First Hill station, like they originally planned.

    2. The waterfront-Mt Baker line looks more sensible than some of the previous alternatives. But I have reservations about the Aurora-5th-Madison routing. Part of the purpose of a Madison corridor is to get people up the steep hill from 3rd and 1st, and this routing would cut them off. This is not a trivial area but the biggest transfer point and biggest ridership generator. Would RapidRide G continue for this reason? Does that mean Link is missing the biggest part of its mandate?

      1. The waterfront-Mt Baker line looks more sensible than some of the previous alternatives.

        That is damning with faint praise. Consider that it doesn’t even connect to the main line. That means that someone in the Central District wanting to get to the UW is no better off than today. The same is true for someone trying to get to South Lake Union from Capitol Hill, or someone from UW/Northgate/etc. trying to get to Belltown. It really doesn’t make sense. It avoids the key connection (at Capitol Hill) presumably for cost reasons, then spends an enormous sum building a lot of stations, and a lot of tunnels (there and elsewhere).

    3. If cities like New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, and even Seattle (Westlake) can figure out how to add junctions and new tracks under/around existing subway stations, we can do it too at U District and other stations.

    4. It’s pretty obvious that the system will eventually be designed to reach most people in Seattle.

      Regardless of what the plan is, making a plan is the point. Line by line and then “whoops!” doesn’t make sense.

      1. It’s pretty obvious that the system will eventually be designed to reach most people in Seattle.

        Sorry, but that is ridiculous. It will only reach a small subset of the population. The vast majority of transit riders will take the bus. There are only a handful of U. S. cities where more people ride the train than the bus — New York, D. C., and Boston are about it. Even in Chicago the number of bus riders exceed rail riders. You need an very extensive rail system to reach most of the people, and we aren’t building that sort of thing. Instead we have a “Spine” so that we can serve riders in places like Fife.

      2. T.R.5000, no. Link ridership will exceed Sound Transit Express bus ridership but it will still be far below King County Metro let alone Metro combined with Community, Pierce, and Everett Transit.

      3. Even by 2070 we aren’t likely to have a comprehensive rail system like D. C.’s, let alone New York’s. We will be lucky if we have anything resembling SkyTrain. BART started about fifty years ago. They have expanded further into the suburbs, but there are no new lines or new stops inside San Fransisco, Oakland or Berkeley. This is for a much bigger city, with way more money and a lot more federal clout.

        I do think we will build Ballard to UW rail, and that’s about it in the city. Extending outward is also likely, when it is cheap. There may be some cheap extensions here and there, but no huge tunnels.

        I think we will largely get by with buses, like the Bay Area does. I think if there is a positive trend, it is that bus right-of-way has continued to increase. In fifty years, if that trend continues, then the buses will be faster than ever, run frequently, and be capable of carrying a lot more people. Of course if they automate the driving of cars by then, we will have off board payment and a dramatic improvement in frequency.

      4. When ST3 is done Link + Sounder is expected account for 69% of all transit trips in the region. The lion’s share on Link.

        Sorry, but that is ridiculous. Link already has the key piece (UW to downtown) and only accounts for 80,000 a day. Metro accounts for 400,000. Ridership doesn’t go down on the buses when you add rail, especially given our system. There just won’t be that many people who walk to the station, then walk from the station. Many if not most will ride a bus first. Just look at a density map of the city, and see how little is actually directly served by Link: https://arcg.is/01STnn. We aren’t building DC Metro, we are building BART.

        My guess is ridership on the train will level off somewhere short of 250,000. Even that is optimistic, as it assumes a level of detail and expertise never shown by this agency. If you can’t get the UW Station right, or the Mount Baker station right, or even manage to include the First Hill station, how can we expect them to do Ballard right?

      5. “Even that is optimistic, as it assumes a level of detail and expertise never shown by this agency. If you can’t get the UW Station right, or the Mount Baker station right, or even manage to include the First Hill station, how can we expect them to do Ballard right?”

        +10

      6. People really use Bart and Cal Train n Bay Area… Seattle could of had the same systems but NO they kept voting it all down rail transit for too many years and now I-5 is a mess!!!

    5. Some things are uncertain, such as trip patterns, upzoning, technology changes, etc. But transfer walkways will still need to be flat and a certain size, so we can prebuild those interfaces in case they’re needed. Westlake and Intl Dist will definitely have train-to-train transfers — that’s already planned — but we still don’t know where the transfer interfaces would be. It would cost nothing to design a transfer interface into U-District station for a cross line as Toronto did at Queen Street Station. It should have been done fifteen years ago.

  4. Is “passing ST4 in Seattle” even legal? Can specific ST subareas pass their own ballot measures for ST projects solely within those subareas? It is my understanding that the laws that govern ST do not allow this.

    1. I think it means a district-wide vote. No, North King can’t vote unilaterally because it’s not a tax district. But Seattle and Shoreline could vote to buy extra things from ST.

  5. ST4 in 2024 seems completely unrealistic when Pierce is screaming “No ST3!” and “Cut our car tabs now!” and Snohomish is turning more negative. Four years is too short for those attitudes to change. It would take twenty or thirty years for a new generation to form that may think differently. I can’t see Sound Transit offering ST4 in 2024 when ST3 is so big and will have barely even started then. And ST3 was the ST3 taxes on top of ST1 and ST2, as the previous tax streams are reused as their bonds are paid down. Can we really put a fourth tax on top of it so that there would be four simultaneous ones for the duration of ST4? And would the legislature allow it?

    1. The point is to pass something in Seattle where 976 failed 3-1 against.

      Getting the legislature to make that possible seems to be the goal.

  6. I agree with this post, but based on past performance, I can’t say I’m optimistic. But hope springs eternal.

  7. Why can’t we authorize Sound Transit to allow for plausible extensions even if the extensions haven’t been approved yet? Look at Washington DC, where the original Metro tunnel has a junction ready and waiting for a Columbia Pike line that still hasn’t been approved or built. Changing that would, I think, be far easier than passing an ST4 package.

    1. D. C. had a long range plan. They pretty much knew what they wanted to build. S. T. does not. When they think about extensions, it is usually based on adding distance — e. g. extending West Seattle rail to Burien. Those sorts of systems are extremely low value. We are in the process of building an extremely expensive system (especially for the population of this city). Very few cities have built anything this big, although the process is common. Focus on distance, not density. Build miles and miles of new track. Eventually it all stops, and the city spends more on maintenance than new lines. Hopefully you at least have a really cost effective system by then.

      Put it this way — can you point to a city that had this kind of expansion of their system, then, a few years later, built a lot more, inside the city? I can’t. Oh sure, BART has expanded — outward. That is fairly cheap, and pleases the various suburban towns. Denver and Dallas (with similar systems) are not busy trying to fix their old system with new lines in the city. They are too busy trying to keep the service they have (e. g. 10 minute headways in the suburbs) and eventually we will get to that point.

      1. In a similar vein to your comment about Bart, it’s true they are bounding outward but I think that only highlights the need for a Seattle only Muni equivalent system that makes those local stops and expands inward and is paid for and built by Seattle money. If Sound transit is our Bart equivalent, as a regional system, then we should have a Muni system for internal and smaller, intra-city destinations.

      2. BART expands outward because the outer counties Individually vote to levy sales taxes to build BART extensions. It’s not a plan any more than ST3 is a plan. However, each county has a countywide multi-modal plan that feeds the sales tax referenda allocations; the operators don’t.

        Having each operator design their own plan is almost as bad as having no plan at all. We really need multi-modal plans by subarea that is coordinated with future land use plans.

  8. Can we have a train line connect DT Kirkland, Houghton, Totem Lake, Kingsgate, Brickyard P&R, DT Bothell, UWB?

    1. Machinery’s been available for decades. When our country once again has a Federal Government, we should even be able to thank the Chinese for the offer, and build the whole thing ourselves.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Michael, the freight railroad track sometimes referred to as The Cross Kirkland Connector still has all the structure and curve measurements to carry streetcars to give tired hikers and cyclists a rest between South Kirkland Transit Center and Totem Lake.

        NIMBY’s die, move, and have great-grandkids whose first LINK contact leaves them demanding a train ride before they can talk, every time their stroller gets pushed past a subway station and they hear a bell downstairs.

        Most all of them no more than eighteen years from their first chance to vote for transit. Also to serve in the Washington State Legislature. Should be good time-frame to do the groundwork to put rail in the trail when the time comes.

        Provided the years have been devoted to trail-walking, studying, and planning. Worldwide and for all time, lot of really good transit happens that way. It’s what the past is for, if not wasted in regrets.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Having in laws and having gone to bbq’s in Kirkland, that is sooooo true. You have people there who don’t know what an orca card is.

    2. It’s in ST’s long-range thinking and was one of the alternatives for the 520 line (UW-Bothell-Kirkland, alongside the Sand Point and 520 crossings). That’s probably in the far future. It’s unclear what ST4 in East King might be. The first impetus will probably be to extend the South Kirkland terminus north to Kirkland and Totem Lake. That would be seen as unfinished business from ST3.

      1. I’m not even sure if the South Kirkland to Issaqah Line will happen now. At the very least it’s going to be delayed due to I-976.

        It’ll be interesting to see if they reevaluate any of the station placements or termini, and/or add stations when planning begins (would they even be allowed to do that considering voters didn’t explicitly approve it?)

      2. I’ve always thought Issaquah-Kirkland and Tacoma 19th Ave might get dropped in an ST3 modification after the politicians have thought about it more. Those two projects are scheduled last, and I think that’s because they’re the least justified. Issaquah-Kirkland could easily be a BRT project. Or just make ST Express more frequent.

  9. The way Ballard and West Seattle are shaping up is making me lose confidence that any additional lines will be better than them. We have a Ballard station that threatens to be a half mile east of the pedestrian concentration, and a West Seattle line that is considering inconvenient bus transfers and unnecessary tunnels in order to appease single-family homeowners and open-space enthusiasts. Will the Aurora, Madison, and Metro 8 lines be the same?

    1. The third party cashola isn’t there for West Seattle tunnels. A lot of wishful thinking and tunnel logistic plans, but that’s it. I’m concerned that when the inevitable decision to build the tunnel is made that Alaska Junction NIMBY’s litigate against the tunnel to preserve their “Mayberry”, such that West Seattle link ends up getting litigated out of existence.

  10. I’d much rather run a funding measure that would allow us to build and open the currently planned extensions SOONER. That is the best way to increase support for more transit.

  11. Some future proofing ideas:

    Ballard – building the station at 15th Ave NW. Any future extension will go down this street. Any other location requires twists and turns to get back to 15th.

    Seattle Center – locate a station as close to Aurora as possible to accommodate a future line there. It’s perfectly fine to have a tunnel line meet an elevated as line as you got the elevators, but the station needs to be in the right spot.

    Tacoma Dome – Many future extension possibilities, including downtown, Pacific, or Tacoma Mall. Build so the track can turn north, west, or south, in the future

    Mariner (south of Everett) – This is where the Everett line will turn west to Paine Field. Locate it to allow a future extension straight north for a possible I-5 or SR-99 alignment

    None of these would be significantly increase costs and none of them depend on technology staying the same in the future.

    1. There will be a station next to Aurora. There will also be a station close to the Center (at the far northwest end, at around 1st Ave. N. and Mercer).

      I think it is highly unlikely that there will be another rail line up from Mariner, especially if it went along the freeway. The stops would be abysmal in terms of ridership and running rail of that sort is still fairly expensive.

      All your other ideas sound good. My guess is, as you wrote, it wouldn’t cost any more to accommodate extensions (in many cases, the turnback track will go that way anyway).

  12. My observation: The Connect 2020 hassle is not a result of not planning for extension switches but is instead a result of not putting in crossover tracks in the DSTT. Had crossover tracks been installed between University Street and Pioneer Square and north of ID/C the disruption would have been much less and things like single-tracking could have been implemented instead.

    This is important to understand because trains stop for other reasons. Without more crossover tracks, an incident in the DSTT will shut down both lines as single tracking will be a mess or infeasible. It’s the design flaw no one wants to admit or address.

  13. Seattle has done a poor job planning for the future of transit, no doubt. But it does not have the ability to do better, because it can’t imagine a better future.

    Our bus service could be much improved for little money. It would require reducing car capacity through more bus-only lanes and signal priority for buses. If we took schedule reliability seriously, we would do these things not just downtown, but along entire routes. But reductions in car capacity seem to be off the table, except in a few places downtown.

    Also, the transit system is not very well coordinated with land use: we are building many apartments (a good thing), but instead of concentrating as much development as possible near current and future rail service, we still somehow have restrictions on development near most of the stations. And why are we still building parking lots next to the stations? Sell off the land to the highest bidder and build retail and housing.

    Seattle still makes a low-density, pro-car way of life a priority. Both the rail system that has already been built, and the extensions under construction reflect that priority. The entire transit system, bus and train, is designed to facilitate that priority. I can’t imagine a comprehensive rail system of much real value until that changes.

    1. Don’t even necessarily have to take away car travel lanes, in many cases just reallocate street parking space. If there are no existing garage alternatives on the same block, I’m not even opposed to the city building more centralized municipal garages. Do this, and we might actually get a comprehensive city-wide BRT network that is actually BRT.

      1. Yep! That’s a creative solution! I’d love to see the reaction if that was also applied to the loss of parking for protected bicycle lanes.

        Thinking outside of the box is unfortunately too risky for many Seattle leaders and transit fans. I think the monorail saga 15-20 years ago damaged creative thinking about transit for at least 10 more years.

      2. This transit fan has been supporting an off-street garage or lot on 45th as a compromise to speed up the 44. The objections are that they’d charge a higher fee than street parking, and it takes longer to get in and out of a garage than to park on the street, and that both these are deterrents to customers shopping there.

  14. The one technology that is likely to get cheaper is tunnels–and when you factor in the increasing land costs and political cost of the bulldozer, nearly all of ST4 should be underground. And we should spend the cash to put both ends of ST3 Ballard/West Seattle underground as well. That’s how you plan for the future–avoid the political mess of weaving elevated lines through Seattle which is turning out to be the biggest problem with ST3.

    Secondly, use the ST3 line to solve the biggest missing pieces rather than building an expensive new line. Turn the Ballard end back to the east–that solves the Ballard-UW connection. I would go up to 80th or so near Greenwood, have a transfer in the U-District, and terminate near U-Village. In West Seattle, an underground Junctions station will be easier to turn back toward Delridge and White Center.

    If the West Seattle Junction station is elevated that will be the permanent end of the line. Too much bulldozing to drive political will for expansion and the cost/benefit is questionable at best.

    1. “The one technology that is likely to get cheaper is tunnels”

      I’m not so optimistic. I hope this is true but thus far I’m not seeing any great breakthroughs from Boring Co., etc. If we could, could, get a big breakthrough it would revolutionize a number of infrastructure projects.

      The Eastside desperately needs an improved power grid. Any attempt to build more above ground power lines will run smack into angry voters and endless litigation. Not sure if you actually could run high voltage power lines through tunnels but it would be nice to at least have the option.

  15. Why bother? If a trillion dollars suddenly appeared, it would still be 30 years until it’s done. And they’d find a way to run out of money anyway.

    EV buses.

  16. Has anyone else looked at the dog leg over to Paine Field between Lynnwood and Everett and wondered, “Why not just build a straight shot up I-5 to Everett Mall and then build a Northern hub at Everett Mall?” Then you can run West to Paine field, and maybe all the way to Mukilteo Ferry dock, North to downtown Everett – and maybe later (ST6?) run East to Snohomish and Monroe.

    As a former Boeing Employee, I just don’t see a huge number of Everett plant workers using the light rail to get to work. Most live North in Marrysville, etc. Maybe the other HWY 99 stations would get a lot of use but I’m not optimistic. But they could become the centers for future mini-urban centers.

    1. Part of Snohomish’s rationale is to entice people from Marysville to park at Everett Station and take Link to Paine Field, to reduce traffic in between. I have a hard time believing this will happen. People from Seattle or Lynnwood may take Link to Paine Field because they’re more willing to take transit generally, but people in the exurbs aren’t. And if they have to take a shuttle from the station to their job, then will they really take Link ten minutes and a shuttle ten minutes when they could drive directly to their job in ten minutes? They’re more likely to take Link if it’s most of their trip, not if it’s a small part of their trip.

      1. That’s not going to work. The very worst part of the Marysville to Paine Field commute is the drive across the bridge to Everett! If you’ve made it to Everett you might as well just keep driving all the way to Paine Field.

      2. Two spurs from Everett Station: one to Lake Stevens, and one to Marysville. Assuming six minute main-line service, at peak trains would alternate with 12 minute service on each spur. Service probably would be peak only (and would have to coordinate with Boeing shifts).

        I’m sure Marysville and Lake Stevens would love to be annexed to the ST taxing district too….. ahem..

  17. When they install the new tracks for ST3 they should include line switches at SODO and South Lake Union

  18. Seattle will never be a rapid rail city. Some cities it’s the veins that pump blood through them: Boston, NYC, DC, Chicago. For Seattle it’ll be a bloodletting.

  19. Selfish Seattle, wants all the ST money and projects while Renton and other south king county tax payers help foot the bill and get nothing. Stop your whining about not getting enough and be grateful You have anything. ST4 should be a strong NO unless it includes Renton,Tukwila,Kent,Newcastle and all the other South king county cities that have been paying taxes all along for nothing.

      1. It’s pretty clear tax dollars have not been evenly distributed or distributed by district like your fake map shows. Renton was promised light rail in ST1 and it never came. Been paying the same percentage of taxes as everybody else this entire time. Seattle CLEARLY does not pay their own way. Use your brain and your eyes and don’t believe STs propaganda, I work there so I should know

      2. “…but Seattle pays our own way.”

        If by Seattle you mean the North King Co subarea, that assertion isn’t entirely true. The annual subarea reports, which are heavily manipulated by the way (Case in point, check out the exact matching of sources and uses for the N King Co for 2017 and for E King Co for 2018. That’s a dead giveaway.), show that this subarea ran in the red to the tune of about $90M through the eight-year period ending in 2016. The Pierce Co, Snohomish Co, East King Co and South King Co subareas were are all “contributor areas” whereas the North King Co subarea was a “recipient area” during this time frame.

        I’d be happy to share the numbers for each subarea with you if you’d like, but here are the numbers for the N King Co subarea for 2009-2016:

        Total Sources: (000’s)
        $3,568,480

        Uses: (000’s)
        Total Capital-
        $2,452,399
        O&M-
        $313,456
        Debt Service and Reserve Contributions-
        $891,959
        Total Uses-
        $3,657,814

        The district as a whole added about a half billion dollars* to the general reserve balance during this period, but the N King Co subarea was actually pulling from that balance on a cumulative basis.

        *Sno Co +$336M
        N King Co -$89M
        S King Co +$123M
        E King Co +$193M
        Pierce Co +$120M
        System-wide -$172M

    1. You can’t have it both ways. The ridership per dollar spent just isn’t as good outside Seattle as it is inside Seattle, and it’s not close. So, spreading the service around everywhere and using money effectively are fundamentally at odds.

      The only way out of this mess is to abandon the longstanding tenant that the entire ST district has to be taxed at a uniform rate, and accept the fact that some areas need service more badly than others, and are more willing to pay for it than others. In order to move forward, I think it’s basically going to take each sub-area voting for its own projects, with its own tax rates, rather than one giant region-wide election and tax district.

  20. I read this op-ed in Vancouver, BC the other day. I want to add my voice in full throated support of this request, and add that we need to ensure that the spine is built for expansion.

    I also support a ST4 under two nonnegotiable conditions:

    1) Rainier Valley is to be fixed/grade separated – and there are several options.
    2) Paid for by Seattle, designed by Seattle, and built in Seattle for Seattle.

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