Preliminary design for the NE 130th Link station (image: Sound Transit)

At Thursday’s System Expansion Committee meeting, staff shared options for opening the NE 130th Link station ahead of the currently scheduled 2031 date. An early opening will be less expensive in capital dollars and avoid rider disruptions later. But the earlier expenditure has some modest impacts for Sound Transit’s indebtedness at an arguably sensitive time for other projects.

Three options are now on the table. The default is to proceed with the ST3 plan to build an infill station in 2031 after Lynnwood Link has opened in 2024. Seattle would prefer to build the station concurrently with the Lynnwood line and have the station open by 2025. Staff offered a third partial build option which would build just enough of the station to avoid the worst construction impacts, but defer other construction until later so the station opens years after Lynnwood Link.

Three construction options

If the ST3 schedule is followed, work on the station would commence only after Lynnwood Link has opened. The station platforms would then be built alongside the active rail line. That would mean single-tracking of trains through the area while each platform is built, with construction on one side and trains running on the other. 61,000 daily riders through this area would face delays and reliability could be impacted throughout the system. Construction impacts to the neighborhood would be lengthy as station construction begins after 2024. Because the station platforms would be separate structures with their own foundations, they would move independently and require expansion joints at the platform edge making the station permanently less friendly to wheeled riders. The separate platform structures also need extra support pillars below.

The ST3 plan envisioned the station being built around the active guideway as a separate structure (image: Sound Transit)

Either the early full build or partial build option constructs the guideway and platforms on a single foundation at the same time as other construction on Lynnwood Link. The difference is with the non-structural elements within the station and the plaza below. The partial build option defers construction on the ‘plaza and finishes’ package until after 2024. Either full- or partial build avoids single-tracking of trains after Lynnwood Link has opened. But the partial build option draws out construction, denies riders the use of the station, and burdens neighbors with a partially constructed station for years.

The partial build option would construct the foundation and platform packages with Lynnwood Link, and defer the plaza and finishes within the station until later. (image: Sound Transit)

An earlier opening reduces capital costs

The early full build significantly reduces capital cost versus either of the other options. On any timeline, however, the latest project cost estimate is more than twice the $72 million (2018 dollars) in ST3 planning. Expenditures for the Lynnwood line generally have come in high, and the tightly constrained NE 130th site is entirely on a slope adding more costs than anticipated in the preliminary estimates in 2016. If the original timetable is followed, the full project cost is now expected to reach $174 million. With fully accelerated construction and a 2025 opening, that is reduced by $30 million to $144 million. The partial build option is almost as expensive as the ST3 schedule at $167 million. An early opening also very slightly increases operating costs.

Suburbs are watching the debt cap

So far, an early station opening seems a “no-brainer” to borrow Jenny Durkan’s characterization at the meeting. The wrinkle is that earlier spending is financed by borrowing. That adds more debt service expense and very slightly increases the odds that other projects would be delayed if Sound Transit hits the debt cap.

Sound Transit’s borrowing is limited by statute and coverage requirements. On current projections, agency debt will be $3 billion shy of the debt cap in 2032, and the largest risks to coverage ratios are in the 2030s. The cost of this station is too low to impact those projections much. Nevertheless, forecasts so far into the future are highly uncertain, so it’s possible the financial position in the early 2030s will be more constrained. Snohomish County is particularly sensitive about this because the timing of their projects mean they are more likely to be delayed if debt is not well-managed.

Capital costs favor the earliest opening, but there are offsetting debt and operating costs (image: Sound Transit)

The staff presentation cited $51 million in added debt service costs from an early full build, vs $11 million from an early partial build. But servicing costs are secondary to debt cap constraints. It’s unlikely the ST3 schedule of late 2020s construction has any advantage in avoiding the debt cap vs a less expensive construction in the early 2020s. Either schedule places the outlays before the most critical window for the debt cap, and the early opening schedule reduces the total capital outlays.

Where next?

Thursday’s meeting was a briefing only. Committee and Board action is expected at the February meetings. Sentiment at Thursday’s meeting seemed overwhelmingly in favor of some sort of accelerated schedule, with Seattle representatives particularly favoring the early full build. The Board must make a decision on whether to proceed with some sort of early build soon if work is to proceed concurrent with Lynnwood Link, but could punt a choice between the partial- and full- build options into next year. Because design is so far only at 30%, formal approval with baselined costs must wait until next year in any case.

Thursday’s presentation indicated updated station ridership estimates of 2,200, though estimates from 2016 suggested fewer than 1,000 incremental system riders (the balance would divert from Northgate). Local advocates are more optimistic, believing there would be more riders to the station from Lake City and Bitter Lake. To further boost ridership, Seattle officials are interested in denser land use along the east-west corridor near the station.

71 Replies to “Sound Transit previews NE 130th options”

  1. … the tightly constrained NE 130th site is entirely on a slope adding more costs …

    That is largely because they are leaning towards building the station to the north of 130th. The area right around the station is relatively flat, as is the area to the south of it (https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=47.72151,-122.31691&z=16&b=t or https://goo.gl/maps/5JLSsJtx6PaYTHLY8). This would put the station further away from the park and ride, which may be why they didn’t consider it. It seems possible that they didn’t explore a station that would be both cheaper and better for the community (with access on both sides of NE 130th).

    1. Are there any primary sources regarding where exactly ST plans to locate the 130th St. Station. I’ve only seen documents about the construction timeline, not where the station will actually go.

      In order for this station to work, it needs to be designed with the assumption that buses go straight down 130th and stop on the street. No loop-de-loop detours that every person traveling east/west is forced to endure until the end of time.

      1. The only map of the station layout I’ve been able to find is in an Urbanist article from 2015 (https://www.theurbanist.org/2015/02/06/the-case-for-a-ne-130th-street-station/)

        According to that map, the station would be north of 130th ST, and between I-5 and 5th Ave NE. It shows a complete rebuild of the 130th St bridge over I-5 and a redesign of the intersection with 5th Ave NE, which explains the “plaza and finishes” cost.

        It’s odd that they haven’t provided an updated map in the latest discussions.

      2. For context, 5th north of 130th has been closed for at least 4 months. I’ve assumed that is due to prepping the site for construction.

      3. They’re probably electing to build it north of 130th because there’s no good way to access the little strip south of 130th, unless you close the I-5 offramp for months. Its one thing to get in there and build a couple of columns and lift some prefabricated girders; you can do that with nighttime closures. But they’d need much more space to stage and erect the station; there is only about 50-65 feet between I-5 and 5th.

        North of 130th the width is still very narrow (~75-95 feet), but it is wider than south of 130th and they have plenty of space to the north for access and staging.

      4. Not sure why the Eastbound stop is by the bridge, but the westbound stop isn’t. As designed it means westbound bus riders have to cross the street as well. Hopefully that could be changed later (it seems like it could fairly easily).

        I can’t tell where the platforms are, or where the escalator/stairs are either. Maybe that is still being worked out. While a station straddling 130th would be ideal, the next best thing would be a staircase on the south side, for eastbound bus riders. This would be similar to the Rainier Avenue connection to Judkins Park Station. A bus rider walks up the stairs, and then walks along a ramp to the platform. It is quite likely the distance would be less at 130th then at Judkins Park. Again, that might be something that could be added later (but would likely be cheaper if added initially, or at least planned for initially).

        What the station doesn’t need is a park and ride lot, or a stupid mezzanine. We have way too many of those as it is.

      5. RossB, the stairs/elevators are called out in the north and south of the station as “vertical circulation”. Platforms are not shown but based on the stairs, likely a center platform.

      6. Thanks, Dan.

        So every transfer rider will have to cross an arterial. Hey, why didn’t they put the station in the middle of the freeway to make the walk longer, eh? Grant, crossing Fifth NE will normally be fairly easy, if the Walk light can be made “immediate” when there’s enough time remaining for the “Through 130th” cycle.

        Since there will be no mezzanine there are several trips direction pairs for which pedestrian bridges would have little benefit. Based on the slide and assuming the black dots are supports, it looks to me like a bridge spanning 130th would have to be on the freeway side of the track structure. Therefore folks travelling from the north to the west or from the west to the south would have level access to the proper platform platform with a single climb or descent. Those headed in the opposite trips — south to west or west to north — would have to ascend to the bridge, cross it, descend to ground level and “re-ascend” to the other platform.

        Similarly, people riding between the east and the south directions — the primary expected ridership in its more time critical direction — would have to ascend, descend and re-ascend in both directions in order to use such bridges. Folks traveling between the east and north directions would have use of a single level ascent or descent in both directions.

        In any case, ADA requirements would probably forbid such bridges because they wouldn’t support wheelchair spirals in the narrow sidewalks on 130th.

        It’s slick how Seattle is getting “a complete rebuild of the 130th bridge” out of transit funds, it it not? And yet there appear to be just slightly too few such funds to widen the replacement bridge an extra lane for half its width in the westbound direction in order to allow buses headed from Lake City to Bitter Lake to stop “farside” Fifth Northeast directly adjacent to the station. That would make at least one direction of the dominant travel pattern “arterial-crossing free”.

        Grant, there is a “mid-block” crossing on Fifth NE which will presumably have a flasher which is entirely pedestrian-priority. A person willing to sit in the rear of the train can walk a bit farther and cross near the northern pair of escalators. But if that person knows the train is arriving within a minute she or he will be faced with using the Walk light right at 130th or going an extra half-minute to the north before crossing the street.

      7. Thanks Nathan. That looks pretty good, actually. It is fairly close to 130th — less than half a block, based on the first slide. That means less than 30 seconds of walking before you get to the escalators/stairs. From there, it is a fairly short distance up — the station doesn’t look especially tall (which is good).

        I wonder if you could save some money by getting rid of the northern stairs/escalators. Very few people will access this from the north — just about everyone will access from the south.

      8. Nathan, that Urbanist plan has been superceded. You can see that the trackway bellies out for a center platform, but the current design is to build the trackway as if no station were to be there (except that for 600 feet it will be straight and level) and then add completely independent “saddlebag” structures on each side. That’s the reason for the “large expansion joints required” note in the top diagram. The three structures will move independently when a train arrives or, of course, in an earthquake.

        The “build (some of) it now” options replace the three independent structures with a single one containing all the structural components. The build it all now option completes the finishes while the finish it later does exactly that.

        It looks like perhaps the current design does not envision replacing the 130th Street bridge, since there is still a right angle between Fifth and 130th at the corner of the station in the diagram.

        So my rant above about Seattle getting the bridge replaced on ST’s dime is likely not correct.

      9. Ross, I think at least the north “up” escalator should be there because it gives people from the east headed south an option of not crossing Fifth NE with a “Walk” light at 130th. They can go a half block north and cross at the mid-block crossing which will (I hope) have a flasher which responds immediately to a pedestrian request.

        You’re right, though, about the north “down” escalator. Folks headed east are going to HAVE to cross 130th, so they will certainly use the south escalator.

      10. Personally I wouldn’t have any escalators at all. Just build staircases and elevators. All these stations have huge overruns, so building hefty escalators for what looks to me to be a pretty small amount of climbing seems overkill. This won’t be like Northgate, let alone our deep bore tunnel stations.

        Anyway, I doubt that very many people would prefer the “midblock” crossing over just crossing at 130th. People have a tendency to want to walk the shortest distance possible. (I was once a juror on a lawsuit where they cited various studies to show how this was just human nature). If they see the station “right there” they will cross there. My guess is the mid-block crossing is primarily for park and ride users (assuming the church park and lot — https://goo.gl/maps/NKWByG9Ci3DQhov97) is used for that.

        A lot of what looks like poor planning could be fixed later, as long as you do a little extra planning. The westbound bus stop could be moved to the other side of the street as long as you have plenty of space over there (and it looks like you would). You could add a pedestrian overpass from south of 130th (next to the eastbound bus stop) as long as you have a pedestrian ramp extending over the road (similar to Judkins Park Station). Someone in a wheelchair would go across the crosswalk (which would still exist) and then go up the elevator. It is the same distance, so I think it would pass ADA requirements.

      11. From what I’m seeing, the bridge has two lanes in each direction, so there is no obvious reason why westbound buses can’t open their doors on a far-side stop. Granted, it doesn’t make that much difference, but it could save passengers headed to the station one light cycle – especially if the lights end up having beg buttons.

        The mid-block crossing won’t get a ton of use, but I see essentially zero downside, so why not? There are a few homes on the other side, plus a church, which could potentially be used as a mini park-and-ride on weekdays, without needing to actually construct parking.

        The north side looks like the drop-off loop for cars, so this is the side that everyone taking Uber or Lyft to the station is going to use. That’s enough of a use case to justify the cost of the stairway.

        Agree that escalators might not be necessary if the vertical gap is small enough and elevators are also present.

      12. I think the reason that the westbound bus stop is “nearside” is the two-lane left turn from northbound Fifth NE to westbound NE 130th. WashDOT doesn’t want buses parked in the right hand lane on the bridge. If a stop is to be there it would have to be an added lane’s worth of bridgework.

      13. I thought of that too. But at that point it is up to the city (SDOT, not WSDOT). They could simply have one turn lane. There is no reason to have two lanes turning left — even with the current setup they could simply force people in the right lane to merge left before the turn (those exiting the freeway have to come to a complete stop).

        My understanding is that the intersection is going to be redone anyway.

      14. Here is my guess for a reason for two left hand turn lanes from southbound fifth to westbound 130th.

        The offramp is screwy in that when you get off I-5 you have to stop, and then look both ways before making a left hand turn onto fifth to proceed south.

        If there were only one left hand turn lane I could see southbound fifth getting backed up so much that people getting off of I-5 who want to end up going west on 130th, would not be able to make that turn into the turn lane because it is already blocked by cars.

        In other words the two turn lanes allow cars to make that left turn off of I-5 onto Fifth so that traffic doesn’t back up onto I-5.

        They could possibly turn the interchange into some sort of modified diverging diamond interchange to get the cars and buses on the correct sides of the street to avoid this extra stop.

      15. OK, here is my guess: Like so many streets in Seattle, they were overbuilt. They assume — and prioritize — massive numbers of cars going every which way. That is why Seattle has been able to get away with so many road diets. Our roads were way too fat.

        As far as the effect on the freeway goes, I don’t think it is an issue. The stop sign you mentioned (https://goo.gl/maps/6rfhHGQ53XcADjQK6) is worse for freeway traffic. As you can see, cross traffic does not stop. That means that a car can sit there indefinitely. If the city is really interested in getting the cars off of the freeway ramp, they can add a stop sign for southbound traffic on 5th. But it really isn’t a big deal — there aren’t that many cars going along 5th. The cars get off of the freeway just fine.

        I think the road is designed so that northbound riders on 5th can easily turn left. They don’t have to merge. This would be important if there were a lot of cars going along 5th and taking a left, but there aren’t. If there were, then there would be a lot doing the opposite (going eastbound on 130th then taking a right on 5th). If that was happening, then cars would back up onto the freeway all the time (see previous paragraph), and SDOT would have added a stop sign along time ago. The current setup doesn’t make sense if you are the least bit worried about freeway backups. Quite the opposite. It is more based on the assumption that lots of people will be making that turn (both directions) and that should be prioritized over those exiting the freeway.

        The only argument for the current setup is that it may shrink the light cycle. Even then I’m not sure. I think cars just stick with whatever lane they are in. If there are a bunch of cars exiting the freeway, they stay on the far left. Cars heading north on fifth stay in the middle lane.

        In any event, I don’t think this is a big issue. There are plenty of examples of similar intersections, with a lot more cars, and a lot more buses. This is a good example: https://goo.gl/maps/rPWeKCe3so4j5Ka48. There are half a dozen different routes all converging onto that bus stop. That means that two buses often arrive at the same time. Drivers taking a left, onto that street, just have to deal with it. There is momentary grid lock, but it clears itself up in seconds. Drivers simply change lanes, and keep going. Or the buses pull away from the curb.

        I’m not saying that is ideal, but there is no reason to assume that we can’t live with something similar. The easiest, simplest thing to do is just force people to merge to the left lane before turning left.

    2. You could be right. I have to say though that I’ve always thought that offramp is annoying and should have been done differently. Just don’t ask me how.

      and what is with that Bed Bath and Beyond being where there should be a Frederick and Nelson! …. doh!

  2. If we end up having to to take a deferment on NE 130th street, it would make sense to do all the disruptive stuff now, because then we could push to get the rest done sooner.

    The only bad-bad option would be to defer it in such a way that it will require road disruption to complete the station in the future, because that’s a surefire path to SoundTransit going “NOPE 2031 LOL”.

  3. The ridership estimates failed to consider the value of bus service to the area. It is clear that once the station the station opens, Metro will run a bus from Lake City to Bitter Lake (it is even in their long range plans — http://www.kcmetrovision.org/wp-content/themes/kcmlrtp/LongRangePlan/#). Buses that operate through Lake City carry a lot of riders — Metro carries about 30,000 a day. These bus routes do more than serve Lake City, but in many cases, this is the primary source of ridership. With the Sound Transit 522 bus, ridership is dominated by Lake City — with more riders in the neighborhood than any of the northern cities (Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell or Woodinville). While Lake City riders would see a big improvement in speed with a station at 130th, Bitter Lake riders would see a bigger improvement. It takes roughly 25 minutes to get from Bitter Lake to the Northgate Transit Center — my guess is a bus could do it in 10 (I can drive it in 5). Right now it takes about 50 minutes to get from Bitter Lake to the U-District. This would cut that down to around 20.

    This improvement in speed results in more riders. Likewise, for people in the Lake City and Pinehurst neighborhood, the speed improvements will lead to higher ridership. I could easily see several thousand new train riders because of the station. These are riders who otherwise would take a bus (to places like the UW) or just drive (to places like Capitol Hill). By my estimation, the increase in fare revenue from opening sooner would very likely pay for itself (bringing in millions of dollars each year).

    The cost estimates did not factor in the added fare revenue from opening earlier — a significant omission in the calculations.

    1. Having lived in that area for much of my life, I’d agree with the higher ridership estimates, Ross. It will be about a 7 minute bus ride from Lake City to the station on a cross-town 125th/130th route and probably a minute or two less than that from Bitter Lake. Assuming a relatively seamless bus-to-rail transfer – admittedly a very difficult thing to assume with an agency who has mainly yet to figure out how to maximize bus transfer potential at its rail stations – this could be a great station for two neighborhoods with great upzone potential.

      Not building it now – even if Seattle has to front some of the money – will be yet another slap to Lake City residents from ST as the 522 will now miss the vast bulk of the neighborhood completely. Get Metro on board stating there will be a cross-town bus no later than the opening of the station and build it now.

    2. The added fare revenue is in proportion to net ridership, so not that big a deal. I think someone took the net ridership and turned that into projected actual ridership at the station. But regardless, net, not actual, is how to calculate the added fare revenue.

      And yeah, it would probably get more ridership by ditching the P&R and moving it south.

      If the neighborhood gets behind turning a portion of the golf course into mid-ride or high-rise housing, then ridership would be way above the miscalculated projections. Getting the neighborhood to commit to such a plan might help convince electeds from elsewhere that 130th has utility, but I’ve seen no such movement from the neighborhood associations. Ditch the P&R, and add that space to the new urban village at 130th, as well.

      1. Both net ridership and station ridership will be higher than their estimates. That is my point. There are a couple new sources of riders: those that drive, and those that exclusively take the bus. The former is tough to estimate. If a trip takes an extra ten minutes (on the bus) do you abandon transit, and drive? Hard to say, and this varies person to person. This would be significant improvement for a lot of trips (several thousand) but how many of those riders abandon transit or use it is tough to say.

        The second group are those that use transit, but currently use Metro. From a system perspective, this doesn’t matter, but from the perspective of Sound Transit, this is important. If a million dollars a year go from Metro to Sound Transit, that is good news for Sound Transit (don’t worry, Metro will more than make up for the loss with improved ridership from cross town service and better efficiency).

        It is pretty easy to see trips that would gravitate from exclusively bus to bus and train. Bitter Lake is a big source of that ridership. Without a station at 130th, Northgate Link is useless to someone in Bitter Lake. It takes too long to get to Northgate. Riders headed downtown take the E (or 5). Riders to the U-District take one of those buses, then the 44. Someone might take Link to Bellevue or the airport, but that is a relatively small number.

        Likewise, someone in Lake City won’t take the train to Northgate if they are headed to the U-District. It just takes too long — might as well take one bus directly there. On the other hand, a fast, frequent bus to 130th would attract riders, even if it would be a two seat ride.

    3. I too wondered why fares were not a line item offsetting construction costs. It looks careless at best and malicious at worst. Even if it’s only $10M for six years of revenue, it’s significant enough to offset costs.

      I also wonder is the 2200 is all ridership or just boardings.

      I would note that ridership is based on land use and a transit network, and these things change! Keep in mind that 145th station was moved further north (further away) after the last of projections were developed. At the very least, ST should revisit projections.

      I thought that the cost estimation increase was also suspect. Wasn’t it higher than 145th, even though 145th ended up taking an additional block of homes?

      In sum, I think there are many issues in this work. Given how the station planning had to be pushed in the first place, it appears that the staff is trying to paint as difficult of a picture as possible.

      1. “A block of homes” is at most a few million dollars, essentially a million give or take per house as long as they’re on level adjacent lots. Those north of 145th are.

        Building in a narrow strip on a hill is more expensive even if it’s unoccupied land.

  4. Given the risks and constraints, the partial build option seems to make the most sense to me. Having the station be on a separate foundation and open later seems to make the least sense, but having a partially built station ready at 2024 seems like a good compromise. Since disruptions to service would be minimal, ST would have the flexibility to work on it pretty much any time. I definitely imagine the partially built station opening much earlier than 2031.

    Opening 130th with the Lynnwood line seems to me to virtually guarantee a delay in opening the line (pushing it to early 2025 minimum), and at the same time putting the agency in more financial risk. So the partial build option seems to be a good compromise with some important benefits from both of the other alternatives.

    1. Opening 130th with the Lynnwood line seems to me to virtually guarantee a delay in opening the line (pushing it to early 2025 minimum)

      I don’t see that at all. At the meeting it was clear that it was the opposite. The more you build sooner, the better (in terms of construction risk). It is likely that the rest of the line would open before the station, but that is just so they could put the finishing touches on the station. It is also quite possible that the station could be done earlier (as most stations have been completed earlier).

      Financial risk is another issue, but when asked, the financial expert said it was minimal, because the project is so small, and the timing is fine.

      1. It seems too late to open with Lynnwood, assuming Lynnwood opens on time (it’s scheduled for June 2024, but they’re behind and currently on track for late 2024).

        Best case for NE 130th is sometime 2025 with presumably low impact work on the station during the final months before opening. But it’s rather low stakes whether NE 130th is one or two service changes behind the others.

      2. “It is likely that the rest of the line would open before the station…” So it sounds like then that there isn’t much of a distinction (or just a soft distinction) between the partial build and full build options, since in both cases the station will not open with the line. That’s a good thing then. I think we can probably agree that it would not make sense to delay service to Lynnwood, which has huge ridership potential from truncated commuter routes and SR 522 Stride (which requires Link to be effective) just to wait until NE 130th street is ready.

      3. I don’t think anyone ever proposed that the rest of the line be delayed for 130th. But there is a significant difference between opening in 2031 and opening in 2025. That is six years of significantly worse service (especially for Bitter Lake, but also Lake City). Given the added revenue from opening early (and the reduced risk), I see no reason to delay — built it as soon as possible.

    2. At a minimum the partial build option should be adopted. It only costs $11 million more for the more complex foundation structure. And who needs the canopies? Just do the roughly half of “Platform and canopies” necessary for the platforms themselves. Constructing them later would require service interruptions as well if only for the concrete forms which would intrude on the train envelope.

      Net extra cost: $21 million.

      This needs to be spent whether the rest of the station (including the canopies) is built before 2035! Otherwise service to Lynnwood will be single-tracked on the opposite track while one than the other side-structure is built. Once this station was adopted, doing anything other than at least roughing in the shell during original trackway construction became idiotic.

  5. I prefer they build it sooner than later, but am more concerned about where they are planning on building it.

    If it doesn’t straddle 130th it will be another lost opportunity for network efficiency and ridership convenience.

    If there truly is no option to a station north of 130th then at the very least ST should put in an elevator tower and stairs on the south edge of 130th with a pedestrian bridge across the street to facilitate access from bus drop offs on 130th.

    Just don’t create a bus turnaround and drop-off with an entrance on 5th!

    1. I made the same comment above. I doubt they would create a bus turnaround on 5th though. The tentative plan is to have a paratransit stop on 5th, along with a small drop off area. Both seem reasonable. You could then put a staircase on the south side (with an elevator as you suggest). It wouldn’t be too different than Judkins Park and Rainier Avenue.

      1. The problem is, without a mezzanine, a bridge across 130th can connect only to one platform. So, unless there is a cross-walk between platforms — a much more dicey thing on a line with three minute headways than one with six-minute separations (e.g. a train every minute and a half from one direction or the other) — transfers to/from a westbound bus on 130th using the northbound platform would have to ascend, descend, and re-ascend or descend, ascend and re-descend, depending whether they’re coming to or departing from the station on the bus. So building such a bridge would only help half the riders on the south side.

        It is so much better to have the station straddle the street that it’s not clear why they aren’t planning that. All you need on the south side of 130th is an ORCA reader, TVM, a pair of elevators and a pair of two-part stairs with the flexure sticking out to the south. That would stretch only thirty feet or so south of the sidewalk on that side of the bridge. So you could still have all the mechanical stuff, the para-transit stop and the car drop-off north of 130th but have direct platform-to-bus access if the westbound stop is moved to the car bridge.

      2. The fast-track options include a center platform. That means that a walkway southward is technically possible. However, it would also require that the space between the two tracks would have to be built to allow the pathway to be extended further south. That could be more cost-neutral if the entire platform is shifted southward — but the design experts would have to determine if that’s possible.

      3. Yeah, Al is right. The idea is to have a center platform. It really depends on how wide the tracks are when they cross 130th. If they are wide enough, then a pedestrian overpass/ramp would be relatively easy.

      4. One thing is possible to minimize the impact of a single ped bridge without having a dangerous pedestrian cross-walk across the tracks. Notice on the diagram that the south end “vertical circulation” staircases are folded pointing southward. It appears that the initial flights from the platform level go down about ten steps from the platform level, with a flat stretch between the fifth and sixth steps. Assuming steps are eight inches, that means that the landing is nearly seven feet below the platform level. It’s pretty clear that the trackway has to fit between the inner edges of those landings.

        So, what about having another pair of stairs continue south parallel to the tracks from the south edge of the landings far enough for a lateral deck to pass under the trackway. Yes, you’d have to take some of the outer edges of the platform structure for a few feet until the loop stairs descended enough to clear folks’ heads, but it would be several feet higher than ground level which means several feet less level change.

        There are such lateral cross-paths at the Deception Pass Bridge, but they descend a considerably greater distance because the bridge trusses are so much thicker on the longer span bridge.

      5. Also, if it turns out that you have two platforms, then you simply build two sets of staircases/walkways. It shouldn’t be that expensive — my guess is that Seattle would pay for the stairs, and ST would simply build the walkways (outside the track).

      6. Al, unless you have seen something other than what is shown here, there is no option for a center platform. The blue structure in the cross-section clearly shows adjacent tracks and side platforms.

      7. Al, to be clear, that bump between the tracks in the Integrated Design option is NOT a “platform”. It is probably an access walkway, but it is not meant to be occupied when trains are present.

        There is NO possible option for s center platform design remaining. The Urbanist diagram has been superseded.

      8. Any ped bridge(s) will be built by Seattle and certainly on (a) separate structure(s). Trying to cantilever them from the trackway bridge would put people too close to the trains.

      9. Actually, Tom is right and I’m wrong about a center platform. I thought the wider piers meant a center platform but now I see that I’m mistaken.

        That said, I’m not sure if a design modification could be done to the track alignment to allow for a center platform. It would be nice if it did.

        One option for a narrow land spot is to stack tracks in one direction above the other. That way, one level effectively becomes the mezzanine as well as the platform for one direction. It’s probably too late to do this here — but it would enable a 130th St crossing as well as more curb space on 5th Ave next to the station as well as make elevators almost as efficient as a crnter platform.

      10. In this case, it’s not clear what benefit for riders a center platform would give riders other than fewer numbers of escalators and elevators to keep repaired. Center platforms are very important for stations like IDS and East Main (regrettably, neither of which get center platforms) because those are future train-to-train transfer points, where multiple lines share the same platforms. In terms of transfers, center platforms don’t really get you anything if it’s not a place where you would want to transfer from one line to another going the other way.

        IMO, if it’s easier and cheaper to build side platforms (probably because it’s more expensive to separate the actual track than to separate the platforms), then let them do it where it’s not important. Let’s save our push for center platforms for places where it will really be needed.

        I suppose there is a tiny chance that one of the Seattle Subway lines could be built from Ballard and join up with this line, but even if that were to happen, I don’t think ST would entertain the possibility of running a third line on the same tracks as long as peak headways stay as low as 6 minutes per line.

      11. Al, Thanks. So far as stacking, you are absolutely right. The lower platform becomes a de facto mezzanine. However, the sucker would be very high and the cost of separate supports for a half mile on either side of the station would cost a bundle more. It’s extremely unlikely to happen.

        It would be cheaper to do what Ross suggests and build two separate ped bridges across 130th, one to and from each platform.

      12. Yeah it’s certainly more expensive and more of a hassle for riders on the top level in one direction. It’s not ideal. It’s applicability is just where there isn’t enough width on a station site.

        It looks like this particular site isn’t that constrained.

    2. 130th isn’t Rainier Ave. so crossing the street wouldn’t be that scary. Should the bus and drop-off areas be created by simply widening the 130th St bridge enough to have more lanes with some landscaping? That seems to be where the “natural” stop would be (aka where people will want to get dropped off).

      1. Yeah, it isn’t as bad as crossing Rainier, but there is still value in not crossing the street. If it turns out that they don’t add escalators — if they just add stairs — then you might as well go up the stairs right after you exit the bus, instead of waiting for the next light cycle (which might be a while). It also slows down cross traffic to have people crossing there. Without the bus stop, there would be hardly anyone crossing there — very few people live between 5th and the freeway. You also have a left turn arrow from northbound 5th to westbound 130th. During that cycle, the folks from the neighborhood will cross 130th (if they haven’t already). I would put in the staircase on that side, along with a beg button there (in hopes that few people use it).

        Building another set of stairs isn’t that expensive. I could also see building stairs there, instead of building them at the far north end (which very few people will use). Those being dropped off as well as the handful that use the park and ride can walk a bit farther.

      2. Well, remember that if 125th to the east and 130th to the west of the station are strip-upzoned as they should be to maximize the value of the station, more auto traffic will be using the 125th/Roosevelt/130th arterial to go east-west. So the relatively easy crossing today should not be assumed for the future.

    3. Possible compromise: The station proper goes just north of 130th, but a pedestrian bridge connects *directly* from the south side of 130th to the station mezzanine. So no additional vertical travel for those making bus/rail transfers and no need for silly bus loops. I’m thinking it would be similar to the Seatac station. Thoughts?

      1. If need to add more elevators, that’s a significant added capital and operational cost. If it’s just stairs much less show. For ADA, do you need elevators if the crosswalk is immediately there? Very different crossing 135th vs 99

      2. No mezzanine. That means that folks using the “wrong” platform (e.g. almost everyone one direction or the other) will have to ascend, descend and re-ascend or descend, ascend and re-descend to use the bridge.

        Either that or a cross-walk at the south end of the station will be necessary, as at Judkins Park. But, as I mentioned above, having such a cross-walk on a line with three minute headways — e.g. a train possibly every minute and a half from one direction or the other — makes this a dicey place for one. Perhaps most dangerous is if the trains were really three minutes apart, arriving simultaneously. That would encourage people headed to or from the “wrong” platform to rush across in front of the about-to-depart southbound train. Fortunately most people will be headed south so having the bridge on the freeway side where there is the most room for it would be safer.

      3. @Brandon — Pretty much covered up above. The only thing I would say is that either way there will be vertical travel — you have to get from the surface up to the track.

  6. Thanks for the write-up on a key element of last week’s System Expansion Committee meeting. I was planning on attending in person but ultimately couldn’t make it there due to work constraints. Anyway, I really appreciated this piece (as well as RossB’s summary on another recent thread).

    I’m not buying the financial constraints argument from ST and think that this infill station needs to be fast-tracked now. The risk to the debt cap is minimal and, in my humble opinion, is easily outweighed by the inflationary risks to project costs as well as the disruption to service that comes with the later 2031 timeline. Thus I pretty much agree with the sentiments expressed by Mayor Durkan.

    The funding for this project would need to come from the N King County subarea of course. Well, with that being said, isn’t Sound Transit still claiming that the University Link project will ultimately finish some $200M under its baseline and that Northgate Link is currently running at some $50M below its baseline? Based on those assumptions, I have to question the agency’s argument about needing the additional and/or early borrowing to finance the project.

    Fwiw, based on the lack of progress made on Lynnwood Link in 2019, I could easily see that project not getting to revenue service until 2025 anyway.

    Bottom line: the agency should make every effort to build this infill station concurrently with Lynnwood Link.

    1. I tend to agree to build it now. My only hesitation is that there is a chance that a year’s delay could result in a better design. Still, I don’t see ST making adjustments based on community feedback.

      1. I don’t see anything substantially changing based on public feedback. I think it is too late to have a station straddle 130th. It is also probably too late to have a lot of extra work accommodating a pedestrian overpass of 130th. Either it is possible, or it isn’t.

      2. Probably right. I don’t expect that ST will adjust anything, and pedestrians will simply have to suck it up and deal with another less than optimal situation.

  7. maybe they can build some sort of shelter at the corners of the intersection so that people won’t have to stand in the rain while they are waiting for the optimized-for-car-throughput walk signals to change.

  8. When I first heard about 130th I didn’t really see the value of an infill station between Northgate and 145th in this quiet single family neighborhood, but I have definitely come around and think 130th presents a couple very important and timely opportunities:

    -As folks have mentioned, the east-west connecting bus service could knit together District 5 in a great way. None of the other North Seattle stations are as well positioned on a relatively congestion free I-5 crossing with fast, reliable cross town bus potential.

    -Just as importantly, if you care about housing costs and reducing sprawl, the opportunity for growth here is huge. Remember that ridership forecasts are just best guesses based on current assumptions and if the city rezones the station area as it should, or better yet takes an active role in shaping a mixed use neighborhood with affordable housing, the forecast of 1,000 net riders goes out the window. There is no reason we couldn’t see 1,000 plus new residents in the walk shed by the time this station was originally slated to open and hopefully a nice mix of jobs, retail, restaurants, a grocery store, etc. The city has already identified that this is a low displacement risk area, which should open the door to going much bolder than the city was ever willing to do along MLK.

    Rather than arguing over what the correct ridership forecast is as if it was some outside force that we have no control over, we need to work to set growth targets and figuring out how to build out a great transit oriented, walkable neighborhood around 130th.

    And before anyone bemoans how impossible it is to upzone single family neighborhoods, Shoreline has rezoned hundreds of single family home parcels near the 145th Street Station up to 70′ mixed use residential.

    1. I’d even suggest making cities work the forecast “backwards“. That is, define a minimum number of boardings to justify a station and then make the jurisdiction adopt an action plan to achieve that minimum demand in the forecast model. That action plan probably includes changing land use — upzoning, creating a new major attraction, developing available air space, relocating underutilized public land — or maybe committing to bus shuttles, adding better pedestrian and bicyclist features or (last resort) adding paid parking for riders. If the region funds a station for the benefit of a section of town, some requirements to provide a return on the regional public investment should exist.

      1. That implies that Sound Transit has a reasonable, open, accurate model for predicting ridership per station. That is obviously not the case. The fact that they ignore bus integration is proof of that.

        Here is an example: UW Station. By every measure, it was going to be a good station. There are thousands people who attend, are employed by, or have other things going on at the UW.

        As it turns out, it has 10,000 riders a day board at that station — one of the highest in our system. Some of that may have to do with the decision to truncate pretty much all of the U-District buses, but let’s put that aside for a second.

        It has a lot of riders. Yet it is about to undergo a huge increase in ridership. The 255 will no longer be sent to downtown. It is quite easy to assume that unless people abandon transit, that station will see somewhere around 3,000 new boardings a day. That is a 30% increase, for our second most popular stop! That is more than many of our stations. This increase is not because of TOD, or anything else that happened next to the station, but merely because Metro decided to truncate the bus. Now imagine if Metro (and ST) truncated all of the 520 buses at the UW. By my calculations, you would see ridership double.

        That means that even one of the most popular stations — a station that is the envy of just about every other station when it comes to walk-up ridership — would still have more bus-to-train riders.

        Yet Sound Transit, with their estimates, completely ignores that. If every station was like Mount Baker or Capitol Hill that would be reasonable. Neither gets many riders from the bus — they are almost completely dependent on the neighborhood (which is why Mount Baker is so poor, and Capitol Hill isn’t higher than UW). But very few stations are like that. Most of the station in our system are essentially feeder stations, whether we want to think of them like that or not.

        This is not a bad thing. If there were multiple train lines intersecting, we would just take this all for granted. Certain stations have a lot of boardings, despite very little being there. But instead, our system will be dominated by bus to train transfers. Basing decisions on stations while ignoring that is simply bad governance.

      2. RossB, are you aware that FTA puts every New Start grant award through a stringent forecast review process? That process is so stringent that agencies can’t include promises of TOD unless the zoning allows. They can assume restructured bus service as long as the service hours aren’t over-promised. https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grant-programs/capital-investments/travel-forecasts

        While I have my doubts about general ST forecasting (the 2019 forecasted double-digit ridership growth compared to 2018 is laughable and embarrassing) and I’m not sure how old the 2200 forecast is (Before the 145th site moved to 148th? Before upzoning around other Lynnwood Link stations? Before ST3 and service changes for 522 BRT?) ST is forced to be conservative if they want FTA New Starts money.

        I checked the 2007 FTA number for U-Link and the forecast was 40,200 weekday riders by 2030. Keep in mind ST2 was not yet adopted. (https://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/FY07NewStartsReport-Seattle.pdf ) That compares to over 17,700 average weekday boardings in 2019 so that puts total weekday ridership already above 35,000 (https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/service-delivery-performance-report-q3-2019_0.pdf). That seems pretty close to be 11 years early. The forecasting methods have some validity.

      3. Al, you are entirely missing my point. With or without its value as a bus intercept, U-Link was bound to have lots of riders. Anyone with access to a few maps would have guessed ridership like that. But the numbers are likely to change dramatically depending on what Metro does. Yet the fact that ST and Metro don’t cooperate until after the fact leads to widely different numbers. It is just the nature of our system, and the nature of our city.

        We aren’t that spiky. Density is more wide spread. Furthermore, many of the handful of places that really do have big spikes in population density (e. g. Belltown, Campus Parkway) don’t have stations. Our system does not, nor will not consist of tying together places like Capitol Hill, First Hill and Belltown, while places like Wedgwood are largely irrelevant. That isn’t the way our system works. If light rail ever gets to be a significant amount of transit ridership (and I think it will) it will be because of places like Wedgwood. In another city — in another system — the neighborhood would be meaningless — like Maltby. But Wedgwood is simply one of dozens of neighborhoods that keep chipping away at ridership. A little bit here, a little bit there, next thing you know, you have a lot of riders. Lake City has plenty of riders, and it is likely that a huge number of 130th riders will come from there. But Pinehurst, Bitter Lake and even Haller Lake will contribute enough ridership to make it shine. That is the way it works for just about every station.

        You can go through just about every station and see that bus ridership (which, by the way, is still about five times that of Link) drives Link ridership. SeaTac station ridership went down after they added Angle Lake? Yeah, ’cause folks on the bus got off sooner. Rainier Valley stations still a bit disappointing? Maybe because there is next to nothing in terms of crossing bus routes. UW? Yeah, without a doubt there are thousand who get off the train and walk. But there also thousands who get off the train, and then wait for a bus, because their old, fast bus is gone.

        There really are only a handful of stations where bus interaction is largely irrelevant. Even Westlake — our most popular station — has to have a bunch of riders getting off the train and catching a bus. Of course it does. You can walk to South Lake Union, or Lower Queen Anne, or Belltown (all downtown, in my book) but why, when along the way, you will see bus after bus pass you by.

      4. Ross B: Are you saying that we shouldn’t require a city to demonstrate that a station will be productive enough, or that the tools to do forecasting aren’t good enough to inform land use policy? How would you measure or maybe require that a city is doing enough to promote light rail ridership if we don’t use a tool that’s already taking into account things like housing and employment density, transit wait times and travel times for both rail and connecting buses, the hassles of driving, the challenge of walking longer distances and the effects of fares, parking charges and tolls?

        Sure the forecasts aren’t perfect, but I think they are demonstratively close enough to set a minimum number of daily riders that could be expected at a station. Given our regional housing shortage, light rail connectivity is the best way to cover enough areas to ease it and provide a reasonable travel time to a job — and I’d rather see new stations go where the most riders can and will use it rather than where the neighborhood activists want it. I think it’s even pretty much expected for most of the new stations planned. Ironically its the City of Seattle outside of the central core that seems less ambitious about changing station areas to promote ridership. Redmond, Bellevue, Lynnwood, Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace seem to be embracing transformative land use around stations more than Seattle is. The Spring District densities put Columbia City densities to shame, for example.

      5. Are you saying that we shouldn’t require a city to demonstrate that a station will be productive enough, or that the tools to do forecasting aren’t good enough to inform land use policy? How would you measure or maybe require that a city is doing enough to promote light rail ridership if we don’t use a tool that’s already taking into account things like housing and employment density, transit wait times and travel times for both rail and connecting buses, the hassles of driving, the challenge of walking longer distances and the effects of fares, parking charges and tolls?

        I’m saying that using that line of thinking is completely backwards. The “city” shouldn’t be required to do much of anything. They can if they want — they can talk about an area that they want to transform into a more urban form — but for the most part, that isn’t how the process should work. We shouldn’t be going around, saying “Hey, city, what do you want and how can you promise us that that it will generate ridership”.

        Transit experts should sit down with Metro (along with Community Transit and Pierce Transit) and hash out a plan — or rather, a series of plans. If anything, the whole system should be run by Metro. They know transit. They know where the rides will come from. They could hire experts to plan a mass transit system.

        At various points the cities could provide input in creating the plans — much as the public does. But neither the city, nor the public should have to fight for things like a 130th station. Metro, and any decent transit planning agency would include it from the beginning. The fact that they didn’t include it shows how screwed up the process is.

        Doesn’t is strike you as odd that no one on the ST board works for Metro — the largest transit agency in the state? The largest source of ridership (existing and future bus riders) are considered an afterthought.

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