House Bill 1304 for grade-separated transit is now unlikely to pass this year and its last hope is a long shot: inclusion in a larger transportation package. As a reminder, the bill updates the antiquated language in the CTA law so it can be used for rail expansion now. Though we’re disappointed that HB 1304 didn’t pass on its own this year, it’s not uncommon for a bill to take multiple years and we’re really thankful for the work done by the bill’s sponsors and the many people who voiced their support and gave testimony. We’ll be headed back to the legislature next year.

That said, when one door closes another one opens. The Seattle Department of Transportation will send the Seattle City Council a proposed plan for what should be funded by a new $20 Vehicle licensing fee. This is an excellent opportunity to fund an updated Seattle Transit Master Plan that includes a roadmap for a future citywide Link rail system. This is work that, almost incredibly, has never been done for Link expansion in Seattle.

One of our central issues with the regional Sound Transit process is that it moves forward one package at a time, mirroring the FTA’s fixation on discrete corridor planning instead of the phased building of comprehensive city-wide systems. As a result, the ST Long Range Plan isn’t really a thought out long range plan for a full Link system, especially in Seattle. We are constantly risking—and sometimes making—mistakes in expansion that could have been avoided by better cohesive system-wide planning. Namely, we execute as if the system will never serve more neighborhoods in the future. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy we’ll later regret when we need to expand to serve a densifying city, and we can’t.. The result of this unplanned future will inevitably be an underutilized resources like a $4B downtown tunnel that could serve 3-4x more light rail lines than are currently planned for it. That’s 3-4x more neighborhoods served with high quality transit if we act with intentionality now.

The City Council has an opportunity to advance the vision of a citywide Link system so we don’t wind up painting ourselves into a corner.  That’s why we support SDOT’s plan for “Planning Ahead” funds in the proposed VLF funding priorities. This is the first step to ensure we “measure twice, cut once” on the 100-year transit investments we are making. If we fail, we will be stuck with a system unable to expand to meet the needs of our city within our lifetimes, despite the predictable nature of that need.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Please complete SDOT’s survey before 9:00 AM on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. At the bottom of the survey page, click “next” until you see question 2, and submit the following recommended comment:

We need to serve our entire community! If we don’t plan now, Seattle may never get another subway line connected to the future downtown tunnel. I support VLF “Planning Ahead” funds earmarked to update the Seattle Transit Master Plan in 2021-2022 and ensure we have a plan to connect new corridors like Aurora, Georgetown & South Park, the King County Metro route 8 corridor, and others. If we don’t plan now, these corridors might never get high quality service.

Thanks again to HB 1304 prime sponsor, Representatives David Hackney, coprime sponsor Liz Berry, and cosponsors Frank Chopp, Joe Fitzgibbon, Nicole Macri, Steve Bergquist, and Gerry Pollet. Also a huge thank you to all of you who have continued to support the vision of a true Seattle Subway.

66 Replies to “A true Seattle Subway requires a citywide plan for the future”

  1. Handcuffing transit expansion to an artificial requirement for grade separation is nuts. Let the bill die.

    1. Spending billions of dollars on high quality features like tunnels and then building low quality sections that torpedo the quality (speed, reliability, safety) of the whole system is nuts.

      1. Running at grade through downtown and running at grade through, say, Interbay are two very different concepts. It’s nuts to assume that full grade separation is required in all situations to achieve a quality system.

      2. Ron – You realize the sections are connected to each other, right?

        But yeah, the systems used in high quality systems worldwide are wrong and Seattle is very clever.

      3. Yes, I do realize the Interbay section is going to be connected to the MLK section, making it a double waste to burn money completely elevating it.

        But the point is that Interbay can be built at grade for most of the segment with virtually no cross traffic.

        Dogmatically excluding this, as Seattle Subway does, mostly for the pipe dream of automating the system (which is never going to happen for both labor relations and practical reasons) is stupid.

      4. The problem is that MLK section needs to be improved – it’s not a signal that we should keep repeating the same mistakes — mistakes that shut the system down for hours at a time on a semi-regular basis.

        Elevating Interbay isn’t even (relatively) that expensive a feature. The dogma here is coming from the “half-baked is good enough” crowd who comment on this blog for some reason.

      5. The problem is that MLK section needs to be improved

        Yes, it does. It needs more stations. The fact that we still don’t have a station at Graham Street shows how ridiculous it is to insist on grade separation. If we took the approach you are suggesting, there would be a nice tunnel in Rainier Valley, but fewer stations. The system would be worse, not better. The worst part of Rainier Valley is the location of the Mount Baker Station (which is on a grade separated section) not the fact that it runs on the surface for part of it.

        The same is true for other segments. Running on the surface is not the big worry with Ballard Link. Poor station placement is. We might have a fully grade separated Ballard Link line with really bad stations.

        The fact is, you can’t legislate quality. The more you try, the more likely you are to get crap.

      6. “The fact that we still don’t have a station at Graham Street shows how ridiculous it is to insist on grade separation.”

        You’re ignoring the collisions on MLK that kill people and interrupt the line for hours. And the fact that grade separation would allow it to run at 55 mph instead of 35 mph. And the city may lower it to 25 mph as it has been doing on arterials citywide.

      7. 55mph in Rainier Valley wouldn’t save much time, iirc. Maybe a couple of minutes tops, considering most of the travel time is dwell and acceleration/deceleration between stations.

        The RV segment is fine, really.

      8. T.R.5000, Um, what exactly do you expect Ballard Link to do that saving two minutes between Lower Queen Anne station and the Market Street station (wherever it is) would make a difference? Would you send it to Bothell like Seattle Subway dreams of doing?

        Certainly the in-city parts of the long-distance lines must be grade-separated so that they don’t drive people onto alternative modes. But Ballard even to IDS is not very long, and it’s just not worth putting another pair of those elevated ST Palace stations at Dravus and Smith Cove. Not only are surface stations much cheaper, they’re easier to access for riders.

      9. Tom – Reliability is the bigger concern than speed.

        Semi-regular systemwide shutdowns due to traffic incidents with trains is an entirely unacceptable quality trade-off in a multi-billion dollar system.

    2. So your connotation of “handcuffing” = improving reliability? I’m not one to judge…

    3. It looks like HB 1304 is dead for the year, if I read this correctly. Rather than discussing grade separation, I think it’s better to discuss the tiny pot from the VLF and how it can be strategically used.

      Since the suggestion is to have a systems plan, let’s hope that we don’t put technology or design restrictions into the measure. Any limiting technology or design choices forced into the ballot effort automatically limits the value of this proposed plan.

      1. Yep — grade separation is killing the ST3 WSBLE due to the costs of ROW acquisition. Obvious SDOT/ST synergies like putting light rail in the median of Fauntleroy in West Seattle and 15th in Interbay were off the table from Day 1. Now we don’t have those options to fall back on and as a result we’re going to end up with Smith Cove – Delridge if we’re lucky. One or two at-grade crossings would have been fine–instead we’re going to pay billions extra for tunnels and/or 75 ft tall elevated stations with multiple mezzanines. For a line that is highly dependent on bus transfers on both ends it shocks me that the convenience of transferring from bus to an at-grade station was never considered. We should have learned our lesson from the awful UW station transfer situation.

      2. “For a line that is highly dependent on bus transfers on both ends it shocks me that the convenience of transferring from bus to an at-grade station was never considered. We should have learned our lesson from the awful UW station transfer situation.”

        Yes, this is exactly why Seattle needs a systemic Link expansion plan that looks at all transit modes, and not the line-by-line expansion approach that ST seems to be limited to.

      3. HB 1304 was premature. Better to wait for the pandemic to pass and find out what kind of general fund revenues, transit ridership/farebox recovery, and transit subsidies look like for the next decade. Plus federal aid. This will then determine whether further rail under ST 3 makes sense, or is remotely affordable. I just don’t see the N. King Co. subarea adding $11.5 billion (which is probably low) on top of ST 1, 2 and 3 to complete ST 3, either through ST 4 or HB 1304..

        I think ST is still hoping for some kind of ST 4 for all five subareas, which I doubt would pass, at least right now. There seems to be a turf war between Seattle Subway and ST over HB 1304, and what it can and should be used for, and IMO I think Seattle Subway is wildly overoptimistic about what tunneling and underground rail/transit costs. Move Seattle was basically divide the promises by half, and Seattle Subway’s plan looks like divide by 10X.

        If ST 4 and/or HB 1304 are going to pass the citizens are going to have to be excited about transit, not just bloggers on STB. They will be jaded over cost underestimating for ST 3 and Move Seattle. Complete the spine, see if PT, CT and Metro come through with frequent feeder service, and whether the claimed riders show up.

        If they do, there will be a lot more wind in the sails for a ST 4 or HB 1304, except I still think adjusting uniform tax rates will be necessary in any ST 4 because the project costs for ST 3 in N. King Co. are so much higher.
        Really though, I think the $11.5 billion figure to complete ST 3 in N. King Co. is so huge it really isn’t fundable in either ST 4 or HB 1304.

        It looks like ST could get up to $800 million from the most recent $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. My advice would be to use that to cover the true costs for the second transit tunnel, which is closer to $3.56 billion and not the original estimate of $2.2 billion if all goes well, since all five subareas are on the hook for the second tunnel and will want a cut of the $800 million, and the second transit tunnel is necessary whether you run additional rail or buses for ST 3 in Seattle.

        Of course using new $800 million to simply complete part of what was promised and paid for under ST 3, and not something new and exciting, is part of the reason everyone is so jaded with ST.

  2. Agreed. This planning-in-a-silo that ST does is wholly inadequate, and results in missed opportunities, extra costs, and suboptimal results.

    I’ve submitted to the survey. Thank you for posting about it.

  3. Can we have a plan that involves at least all of the transit operators? Having ST, Metro and SDOT each do their own planning is a horrible idea. The silo-driven planning process has already given us the problems detailed here.

    I politely encourage any more transit plans to be developed and adopted by all three boards and developed jointly with oversight by all three staffs at the very least. SDOT can fund it, but don’t suggest that SDOT do it alone.

    1. Al S: yes. In transit, the local agencies ET, CT, and PT are relevant. Inside Seattle, the SDOT groups planning transit, bicycle, sidewalks, and vision zero improvements are all relevant.

    2. Al – yes, that’s what we are suggesting. In the past the STMP punted on planning a Link system map.

  4. I am concerned about the prominence of the Seattle Subway map. To illustrate its preferences, SS has made North Seattle much larger than SE and West Seattle. MLK looks like it’s next to Lake Washington!

    Schematics are great and aesthetically pleasing — but not appropriate for a funding systems study. It makes the product appear already pre-decided. It makes it look like North Seattle is the most deficient area without rail service too.

    1. If your question was “How can you design light rail to be as convenient as possible for Ballard?” you would end up with the map that Seattle Subway has drawn. I will give them credit for the yellow “Metro 8” line which would be the highest-performing of these proposed extensions by far.

      That said, can you please redraw the map so that White Center is directly south of the Delridge Station rather than Alaska Junction? White Center is 25 blocks east of the Junction. If that extension is ever built it will be with a spur from the Delridge station, there are too many hills and no obvious ROW to get from the Junction to White Center.

      1. You really are on a roll, Joe.

        There is no way to get from the Junction to White Center…Other than the ways Sound Transit studied and published in the South King HCT study.

      2. Repeating this line about Ballard doesn’t make it true, Joe. It’s worth noting that none of us live in Ballard at the moment – though I live there on and off.

        The as I noted in the longer response to Al, the station density on our vision map almost perfectly mirrors population. You may just be reacting to the fact a stable 3/7 of Seattle lives north of the ship canal and 2/7 (and dropping) lives south of the ID. The fastest growing parts of Seattle, by far, are in between.

    2. The entire thing is ridiculous, and you are complaining about it not being drawn to scale? Might as well complain about the colors.

    3. Al – We are not illustrating any preferences by the shape of the map. Any map warping is done purely for design reasons by Oran. This is a vision/system level map.

      This map came into existence via a combination of past planning efforts (like the STMP) and years of direct community input. That said – we’re not expecting planners to just rubber stamp our map.

      The ask is that Seattle fund and SDOT plan a citywide Link system map that will inform future/current expansion.

      That said, It’s worth noting a few good things about our map:

      1). Station density matches population almost perfectly
      2). It reaches all but 2 urban villages (missing Eastlake and North Admiral) in Seattle.
      3). It adds many stations that are both great and are not anywhere on the ST plan (Fairview, Belltown, First Hill.)
      4). It is designed with operational potential in mind. There is nothing on there that is operationally impractical.

      1. My beef is simply dealing with geographic falsehoods as to what coverage should be shown.

        1) This is circular thinking and illustrates the problem . Making a map to station density is a self-fulfilling outcome when the stations listed serve areas that the maker wants to serve.

        To that end, take a look at the diagram’s station spacing for Northgate Link and the Rainier Valley. The stations in the Rainier Valley are much closer together visually yet they are further apart geographically. At the very least, the length of Southeast Seattle should be tall enough to have the stations be spaced at the same distance as the Northgate Link segment.

        2) This is not about urban villages and the lines but Seattle geography.

        3) It’s good to think about future lines. This is not my proportional mapmaking beef.

        4) My criticism is not about the operational plan.

        The adjustments that I’m suggesting are easy — just make the southern part of the diagram look longer to show it’s actual longer geography and don’t show Lake Washington so close to MLK!

        I’m really close to push the “white privilege rail transit map” observation. There is has long been a national trend to promote new urban rail service to connect white suburban riders to white collar jobs — while transit to non-white areas is left to slower and sometimes more overcrowded buses. This manifests itself here by the complaint that Link through SE Seattle is “too slow” when the reality is that it’s simply a long distance to serve (and this map continues to validate this false perception) and operates in a less white area which make some white people subconsciously more fearful while on Link making their trip perceived as taking longer. The amazing thing about privilege is that it’s often taken for granted and manifests itself in subliminal ways.

      2. “the complaint that Link through SE Seattle is “too slow” when the reality is that it’s simply a long distance to serve”

        Westlake-Everett will match the midrange of ST Express in spite of being 30 miles. Westlake-Lynnwood takes the same time Westlake-Lynnwood in spite of being much longer. is longer than Rainier Valley yet Link will match the midrange of ST Express. 28 minutes is a bit excessive to get to Rainer Beach, and you can tell your speed simply by watching how fast the houses go by. People think it takes a long time to get through Rainier Valley because it does. Although thankfully not as long as a bus.

      3. Westlake-Lynnwood takes as long as Westlake-Rainier Beach. And Westlake-SeaTac is 10 minutes slower than the 194 was.

      4. Westlake to Lynnwood vs. Westlake to Rainier Beach based on travel time alone is not the best comparison. Once you’re past Northgate, you’re pretty much out of the city and in the suburbs. Rainier Valley *is* part of the city, there is more to serve and hence more stops are called for–even if it were a tunnel or El train. Not to mention, Westlake is at the north end of the urban core. Perhaps ID to TIBS is a better analogue for Westlake – Lynnwood? That long stretch between Rainier Beach and TIBS without stops kind of compensates for the stops in the Valley? At any rate, the “urban-ness” drops off much quicker north of Northgate than south through the Rainier Valley.

        Reliability in the Valley could be improved and automation could be achieved by installing train gates and sensors at the conflict points, and eliminating some conflicts entirely. It’s 2021, and we’re at the point of automating *cars* which have to deal with dozens of “at grade conflicts,” from multiple directions not just forward/backwards along a fixed track, just to get to the local store down the road, and automated trains have existed since the 1970s. If we can be the first in the world to put a train on a floating bridge, we can figure this out. (How much we *need* to prioritize this given the current limited coverage of the system, that’s another story, of course!)

      5. “Westlake to Lynnwood vs. Westlake to Rainier Beach based on travel time alone is not the best comparison. Once you’re past Northgate, you’re pretty much out of the city and in the suburbs. Rainier Valley *is* part of the city, there is more to serve and hence more stops are called for–even if it were a tunnel or El train”

        A true underground subway would be able to make up for the speed difference, or at least most of the difference. The Rainier Valley configuration is just less than a subway’s potential could have been. That’s my point. We didn’t include top quality in the minimum spec, so that all lines would have the best travel time a subway could have, while still serving the neighborhoods that have been chosen. The more transit is competitive with driving, the higher mode share it will get, and the lower the car ownership rate will be.

  5. We just don’t have the density to support a true subway, with stops every 10 blocks or less. Check how close the stops are in Paris, London, Madrid. It’s not very fast but it’s very convenient because it leaves you real close to your destination.

    We are building some sort of a S-Bahn/RER system. If we don’t build it grade separated, it won’t be able to move fast enough between those stations far and apart.

    1. It can be “traffic separated” and still be on the ground in many places, such as through Interbay. Any place where any crossing street can overpass or underpass the tracks for at least a mile is an excellent candidate for at-grade running.

      For instance, if there is ever an “Aurora Line” it can be at-grade in the old Interurban right-of-way all the way from 105th to 143rd. Because of Evergreen-Washelli, the only street that would need an overpass is 130th. Since there would be stations at 125th and 143rd, 125th and 143rd could be grade-crossings. The trains will be running slowly at that point.

      Building miles of elevated structure “because we can” is a waste of money and an unwarranted intrusion on the wonderful view-space of Seattle.

      The same is true of other suburban extensions.

      1. SOV car drivers and Seattle Subway both agree that we shouldn’t use our existing ROW for new transit.

        Even where we do need to grade separate we’re doing in backwards. It would be much cheaper to build car ramps over the train tracks than vice-versa. However, this might inconvenience car drivers during construction so we would rather spend a couple extra billion to avoid doing that.

      2. It has never been proposed so we don’t know how the public would react. The main reason is money, not construction disruption. ST3 North King was packed too full with higher priorities to fit an additional project like sinking MLK. (And I don’t see how overpasses would work in tight residential areas. You want a street-wide ramp extending a block or more right in front of apartments and townhouses on Edmunds, Myrtle, Graham. Othello, and Henderson?) Non-ST3 funding sources are currently limited, and would require political momentum to get them dedicated to this project. We don’t even know whether there would be that much disruption because there hasn’t been an engineering study.

      3. “You want a street-wide ramp extending a block or more right in front of apartments and townhouses on Edmunds, Myrtle, Graham. Othello, and Henderson?”

        Absolutely. Those townhouses were built as TOD if they’re the ones I am thinking of. If they don’t want an improved transit experience, that ship sailed before they got there.

      4. “ We don’t even know whether there would be that much disruption because there hasn’t been an engineering study.”

        Yes, there needs to be a study to determine the best way to either put in grade separations on MLK or build a bypass west of I-5. Basic designs and costs are needed.

        ST3 data show that the Beacon Hill tunnel has the most likely overcrowding in the system. The SLU segment will also be crowded and there may need to be two lines through SLU even though MLK can only realistically handle on of them.

        So rather than everyone have different versions of this future improvement, can we agree that it needs to be studied.

        Can we also pay for this study out of the VLF pot?

      5. Ramps aren’t transit infrastructure, they’re concrete car lanes like freeway exit ramps or a smaller version of the Lander Street overpass or Beacon Avenue SODO viaduct. That’s what would be in front of the TOD. And I’m also thinking about the townhouses on Edmunds Street, which are house-sized buildings, not large breadbox apartment buildings that you may be thinking about on Othello. These ramps would be half the size of the house.

      6. Most of the streets can use underpasses rather than bridges. That makes the impact on the neighborhood much less severe. Of course, there is probably a large sewer under Martin Luther King Boulevard, since it’s in a draw for most of its length. That might be a problem, but probably less of one than trenching the entire length for the train tracks.

      7. Link underpasses or street underpasses? Either would require changing the tracks, and I thought the purpose of street overpasses was to avoid changing the track and shutting down Link for an extended period of time.

        Both street underpasses and overpasses would require pedestrians to go up- and down to cross the street. With Link underpasses or retained cut/fill, people could just walk level across the street, and they’d have an elevator to get down to the track.

    2. We don’t have the density *because* we don’t have a true subway? Car dependence really only gets you to a certain level, I doubt any car oriented city in the history of the world has gotten to the “proper” density for a subway without having a subway (or some high capacity transit)–car dependence just don’t allow for such levels of density–geometrically. Even when you relax zoning, you just don’t get that density because the parking takes up so much space and people will only tolerate so much traffic.

  6. Updating Seattle’s 2012/2016 Transit Master Plan sounds like a good idea. There should be alternatives and a real debate about options both with and without post-ST3 Link lines. STB and Seattle Subway have debated this but the city and public haven’t.

    Part of the vehicle license fee should go to bus operations so that we can return to 2019 frequency and beyond. Additional things I’d like to see are daytime relief runs on the most crowded part of the 131/132 to make it rideable between noon and 6pm.

    The city’s proposal (linked in the last News Roundup, March 24) mentions displacement, safety, maintenance, and improving the non-car travel experience, but none of that definitively addresses bus hours. We certainly need bridge maintenance. But does “displacement” and “traveling experience” imply more bus runs? It could easily not.

    1. I agree on all points. I would put improving service at the top. It is nice to have a master plan, especially when it comes to future rail expansion, but that tends to cost a lot of money or it is becomes outdated almost immediately. Remember when Ballard and West Seattle Link was supposed to be cheap? That was one of the strong arguments for it. Now it is as expensive as ever, and thus not nearly the value it was supposed to be.

      Likewise, cities changes. Right now we have this stupid “urban village” concept. It is quite possible that we will follow the national trend in liberalizing zoning for the entire city, and suddenly every neighborhood has decent density. For such a city it is more important to create a good overall transit network, not focus on a handful of places.

      I’m not against planning, and we could certainly use a second opinion on ST projects (their planning department has definitely jumped the shark) but the idea that we will come up with a “master plan” that works forty years from now (when ST4 would come on line) is optimistic. In contrast, you can’t go wrong with spending more money on service, especially in a city like Seattle.

    2. The execution of the TMP has been flawed by top down choices. The McGinn administration wanted streetcars. The First Hill streetcar corridor was a natural one for electric trolleybus; the overhead network already existed. We got a slower and less reliable service complete with a deviation to 14th Avenue South. The Murray-Kubly SDOT wanted three monumental projects: the CCC Streetcar, Madison BRT, and the Roosevelt Line. There were many other worthy transit and pedestrian projects and desire lines in Move Seattle that did not come close to getting funded: RR lines for routes 40, 44, and 48; the Yesler Way corridor, sidewalks on Aurora Avenue North. Perhaps the update could use an objective measure, maybe passenger minutes, to evaluate projects and lines. There are many over which to spread too little funding. There is too little right of way to allocate between transit and the BMP desire lines. One tactic that seems to get too little emphasis is minimizing the walks for transfers.

      1. I haven’t looked through the 2016 update yet because I didn’t know it existed, but one things stands out in the TOC: an entire chapter on the CCC. One of my worries is what if the city keeps putting the CCC in front of the line and says nothing else can be done until the CCC is built..

    3. Mike – Agreed. We particularly wonder what the point of drop-in-the-bucket funding for bridges is. What exactly will it do?

      Meanwhile, the initial proposal doesn’t seem to have much, if anything, for transit.

      We want Sound Transit and the city to consider an entire system rather than a corridor at a time planning subject to arbitrary political winds. The new SMTP is a step in that direction.

      1. No offense, but I don’t really trust the so called objective info coming from Seattle Subway.

      2. “We particularly wonder what the point of drop-in-the-bucket funding for bridges is. What exactly will it do?”

        Keep the bridges from breaking I assume. There’s a big backlog of maintenance.

      3. Jimmy – Ha, our goals aren’t exactly shadowy.

        Mike – yes, but bridges very obviously need a much larger funding source. We’d like to see specific achievable goals funded and we generally take the position that TBD funds should’t be yet another roads fund.

  7. If you want SDOT to take this idea seriously, I suggest you avoid copying and pasting the paragraph. Subways to Aurora, Georgetown & South Park are ridiculous. Using them as examples after writing that “We need to serve our entire community!” suggests that you know nothing about mass transit.

    To be clear, if you want to improve bus service to Georgetown and South Park, that sounds great. Likewise, the Aurora bus corridor could always be improved. But subway lines to both are like subway lines to Discovery Park (an earlier vision from the Seattle Subway crowd before they become more of a Seattle-Suburbs Subway organization). They are just silly.

    Which is a shame, because they have a point. The city could use its own group to look at transit issues, from a long term standpoint. But they shouldn’t be fixated on rail. Most of the transit trips are on the bus, and that will likely continue forever. A new, independent group could look at transit issues for the city, and come up with long term recommendations. Any sensible group will come up with recommendations that have some rail and some bus improvements (like every city in the world). This would be similar to the consultants that were hired by Kirkland. Like them, Sound Transit could ignore their recommendations, but in the case of Seattle, it has some money of its own. If nothing else, it could come up with recommendations that move away from the quantity=quality mindset of ST3.

  8. Why is baby North Sounder on the map? It has four trips per peak period in the peak direction only. It serves almost no Seattle residents.

    1. Rail preference. Hard to imagine a group like Seattle Subway would ignore buses and focus only on rail, but I think that is what they are doing.

      1. Eddie – Including only rail makes the map legible for communications purposes – this is more important on our regional version. Agree that Sounder north isn’t nearly as valuable as Sounder south.

      2. Yeah, but to Eddie’s point, you shouldn’t show all the rail. Don’t list the streetcar and don’t North Sounder. Neither is relevant to your vision. Otherwise you might as well list bus service (which is actually more relevant, as many of the trips would involve transferring to a bus).

        It is like a frequent service map. It is a judgment call as to whether a line is frequent or not. When it comes to building a Seattle Subway, neither North Sounder nor the streetcar is part of it.

  9. I’m trying to figure out how a $20, Seattle-only vehicle fee is gonna fund multiple subway lines that’ll cost billions of dollars?

    When I was in sixth grade, I created a mass transit map for Seattle by drawing a bunch of lines on a map. Can’t remember what class it was for. In my report I wrote something like “it’ll cost a lot of money”. I mean, I was like 11yo. My teacher highlighted that line with her red pen and commented something to the effect of “might need a bit more detail than that!”

    Someone needs to take the red pen to Seattle Subway’s plan. : )

    1. No. All they are saying is that one thing the city should do with the fee is complete a systematic study of how to rationally expand Link, and how to integrate other transit with Link, as it expands in Seattle. Frankly, this should have been done already.

      1. Right, and then when they do that study, they will conclude that “it’ll cost a lot of money”, just like Matt wrote, when he was eleven.

        Since I’m a bit older, I can give a little bit more detail, like his teacher asked. Running underground train lines is expensive. Elevated is expensive as well. Surface light rail (like what Portland has) is much cheaper, but remember, we will have none of that. We have all sorts of additional expenses that come from our geography and relative maturity as a city. We have really big hills and lots of waterways. Most stations would involve expensive land. There are exceptions — areas like Smith Cove and Interbay — but they still wouldn’t be that cheap. The Ballard/West Seattle Link plans give us a good starting point. It is about 12 miles, and will cost about $12 billion. So around a billion dollars a mile.

        I have no idea how many miles of rail Seattle Subway envisions. My guess is that Seattle Subway hopes to build the second biggest subway system in North America. Not as big as New York’s 240 miles, but bigger than Mexico City’s 140. Remember, this isn’t cheap light rail (with surface running) but will be either elevated or underground (like the New York Subway). I would guess that it would cost more than 100 billion dollars, or more than just about city in North America has spent on their subway system (even adjusted for inflation).

        Of course not all of that would be in Seattle (which makes it even more ridiculous). There are subway lines to Woodinville (the great, urban metropolis of Woodinville). There are underwater lines to Kirkland. There are lines to Edmonds, with one station within a 6 mile gap. It is as if they envision Edmonds growing to the point that spending 6 billion dollars to connect it to Shoreline makes sense, but nothing will grow in between. To be fair, with only one station, they may be able to build that section for only 3 or 4 billion. A bargain!

        I have no idea how much rail is just inside Seattle. It is such a mix of worthy projects (Ballard to UW) and ridiculous nonsense (a line to serve Georgetown and South Park) along with baffling decisions (why is there a missed connection at Capitol Hill with the Metro 8 subway?). My guess is the Seattle piece itself would cost around 50 billion, even though it would be bit shorter than 50 miles. We would still be heavily dependent on bus service. For example, despite spending billions extending the rail line in West Seattle, most of the peninsula would be reliant on the bus. The dense areas of High Point or Alki as well as destinations like South Seattle College wouldn’t be much different than today. The line still doesn’t get to the heart of Ballard, and appears to miss Greenwood (despite the station name). It seems to follow the main road (cut and cover?) but ignore the fact that it can’t in places (Northgate). My guess is 11 year old Matt drew a better map.

        Anyway, Seattle Subway did their argument no favors by presenting this ridiculous map along with their ridiculous suggested paragraph. It is quite reasonable to put some into hiring an independent group to look at Link expansion in Seattle. Clearly Sound Transit could use a second opinion when it comes to planning. That is the main idea, and if you ignore all of this other nonsense (like subway lines to Georgetown), it is a very reasonable idea.

      2. I don’t understand the hate for Seattle Subway. Sure they have a huge wish list, but I’ve always been of the opinion that you aim as high as you can, and if you fall short you’ll hopefully be farther along than if you aimed low. I can’t fault SS for that.

        The proposed study as I understand it would be done by the city of Seattle. It would then come up with recommendations for lines and transit connections that could be prioritized, and voted upon as part of a larger system. If approved, a line could then build in the connections to the next part of the system that would have to be voted on in turn.

        And despite the insinuation there’s no way a professional study will end up recommending building the entire huge Seattle Subway map. That would be crazy.

  10. I never understand why the Seattle Subway vision map misses a transfer at Capitol Hill between Central Link and the “Metro 8 line.” I guess that makes it easier to have a West Capitol Hill station, but at the cost of making that line useless for anyone trying to get to the U District or points north. I get that this is just a general vision map, but it seems silly that the dream plan of transit advocates would intentionally miss something so basic. In NYC they’re still fixing missed connections between lines that pass each other but don’t have direct transfers a hundred years after building the system…

    1. AJ – This is a great example of what we’re talking about in terms of planning for the future. Capitol Hill station is under-built and can’t handle a transfer load. It will barely be able to handle ST3 level loads without a transfer.

      We avoid showing things on the map that are so improbably they veer into impossible. Shutting down lines to re-mine Capitol Hill station qualifies so we don’t show it as a transfer.

      1. Most of what is on the map is so improbable it veers into impossible. If you going to fantasize, why ignore something with a huge amount of value?

        Consider some of the things that are ridiculous:

        1) Not one, but two lines to Woodinville. Have you been to Woodinville? It is a low density, distant suburb. It doesn’t even have decent bus service and you think we should build two rail lines there. Even if it grows, it wouldn’t justify the cost of light rail, especially since serving it wouldn’t be cheap. Oh, and it is right next to the freeway. Every major destination would be faster with an express bus ( or Such buses don’t exist now, because there simply isn’t the demand.

        2) An underwater tunnel to South Kirkland. That would be ridiculously expensive, and largely redundant. The main connection (downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle) will be served with East Link. Kirkland to the UW will be via express buses, which means spending billions for the park and ride users at South Kirkland.

        3) A line to Georgetown and South Park? Those are areas that are served if they are on the way (like Tukwila). You don’t spend billions serving them.

        4) A line to Edmonds, with only one stop between there and 145th. You think Edmonds will grow to the point where an extremely expensive mass transit line is justified, yet nothing in between there will be worth serving?

        I could keep going. It seems silly to write a fantasy map that would likely cost over 100 billion, but leave out something that seems far more plausible and valuable. Spend even a fraction of the money of this plan and the trains can run a lot more often between the UW and downtown.

        There are only a handful of projects that make sense after ST3 (and much of ST3 doesn’t make sense):

        1) Ballard to UW subway.
        2) Metro 8 subway. If you can’t make the connection at Capitol Hill, it is probably not worth building (since that is where a lot of the value is added).
        3) An extension of Ballard Link to 85th and 15th (Crown Hill). This assumes that the station is at 15th and above ground.

        You are right, it does make sense to study this. But those that study it should not stop as soon as ST says “this might lead to crowding” as has been the case in the past. Just as ST was wrong to reject BRT on the CKC — even though an independent consultant recommended it — they would be wrong to dismiss something that would clearly add a lot of value to the system. Ultimately, you can build anything with enough money (including an underwater line to Kirkland). The only question is whether it is worth the money. That is why a study — by an independent group — has value.

      2. It’s probably OK if the transfer is a block or two away in a pedestrian tunnel, even with an elevation change. This is often the case with transferring between lines in Singapore, that I’m aware of. Heck, people are saying it’s OK to have a “transfer” between ferries and trains that is three blocks up a hill and a block over and not a dedicated space, so this would be better;). Not the best solution, but you don’t need to re-mine the station, and it’s better than nothing. Still, it’s probably best to plan these things in advance!

    2. I think the Seattle Subway plan comes at a time of great disillusion among transit advocates who were promised by ST a system wide rail network, certainly in Seattle, and by Move Seattle for dramatic projects in Seattle.

      Now it looks like there will be no rail from West Seattle to Ballard, and Move Seattle was an amateur political and transit exercise IMO for $1 billion. Meanwhile Metro is predicting a 25% reduction in levels of service so it can electrify by 2026. ST ran 90 miles of commuter rail from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond, but rarely discusses the level of commuter ridership outside the Seattle core. Was commuter rail from Lynnwood to Everett really more cost effective than from West Seattle to Ballard?

      It doesn’t help that Seattle Subway’s plan is so unrealistic financially. Are we really going to run two rail lines to Woodinville and a tunnel from S. Kirkland to Seattle before light rail from West Seattle to Ballard?

      As someone who lives on the eastside I wonder why Seattle Subway even includes any projects in East King Co. Who does Seattle Subway think is going to fund these projects in East King Co.? Not East King Co. My guess is after East Link East King Co. will decide that is it for them for rail. Kirkland doesn’t even want light rail to access its waterfront. Why transit advocates get excited about East King Co. I will never understand. The geography and density and car culture make transit miserable for the most part, certainly less convenient than driving, and no, East King Co. is never going to upzone the residential neighborhoods or get rid of free parking to manufacture ridership.

      ST just announced the Seattle subarea has an $11.5 billion shortfall for ST 3, which was only passed in 2016. Does Seattle Subway understand how much $11.5 billion is? That is double Seattle’s annual entire budget. I don’t think some on this blog do, or they wouldn’t be hoping 1304 could make a dent in $11.5 billion. Instead Seattle Subway claims it won’t just mimic ST 3 projects, as though that somehow makes Seattle Subway tunneling cheaper. Transit advocates are too jaded today to sell that. Show me a plan by Seattle Subway to raise $11.5 billion to complete ST 3 in Seattle and I will take Seattle Subway seriously, although there is no way.

      Patty Murry hopes she can obtain $1.8 billion rather than $800 million for ST from the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan and future infrastructure bill. Still that money has to be split among the five subareas, which means it will only cover the cost of the second transit tunnel, which was always the flaw in the “spine”: the area is just to big for commuter rail from nowhere to nowhere. Think what $1.9 billion could do to house the homeless or create affordable housing, more pressing issues for Seattle IMO.

      If Seattle Subway’s map had just one project on it — the second transit tunnel — plus a way to fund the true cost I would take it seriously, because that is the primary transit project for all the rest, and its cost is so unpredictable, but will consume all the federal money and any 1304 levy. Dreaming about a tunnel from S. Kirkland to Seattle is like dreaming of ray guns. Dreaming about a second transit tunnel deep underneath 5th Ave. is real, because the costs are known.

      The reality is Seattle Subway’s proposed transit map isn’t new. ST sold this dream in ST 3 (and ST 4 and 5), without the really crazy projects. Rail and tunnels everywhere, just like a really dense region.

      It is just too expensive to build, the area does not have and never had the density or ridership, and now Seattle Subway wants transit advocates to DREAM BIG, when the dream is over except maybe for the second transit tunnel, and the real issues are how to improve bus service from West Seattle to Ballard, and Ballard to UW, or build a station at 130th, or God forbid add the infill stations left out in ST 1, not exactly the kind of projects on a Seattle Subway map to get folks excited (considering they are unaffordable as well).

      I don’t think anyone hates Seattle Subway. I just don’t think many take them seriously. Big hat no cattle as my family from Montana would say.

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