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Stride station rendering (image: Sound Transit)

With the Sound Transit 3 program realignment continuing to evolve and adjust to new revenue projections, Sound Transit is evolving its realignment scenarios. Now is the time to get serious about prioritizing projects. I believe that Sound Transit’s Stride BRT lines are strong candidates for prioritization, and should be completed as soon as possible.

The main reason for this is that Sound Transit needs to provide a much smaller amount of infrastructure for BRT when compared to light rail projects. New BRT infrastructure mainly consists of the stations, modification to the roadway, bus bases, and buses. While still substantial, the cost of these components is much lower than the cost of constructing the guideway, track, and catenary required for a Link Light Rail line. An analogy to this is that it’s like a light rail line where the track is already built for you, and you just need to build the stations. And the stations (with a notable exception) cost much less than light rail stations, since they don’t need to accommodate long trains, and need much less platform space and vertical conveyance. While not quite as high-quality as light rail, Stride lines will run through areas where there is no prospect for light rail for the foreseeable future, and will make fast frequent connections to light rail. It will be an attractive option for people who aren’t on Link, but could take Link in combination with Stride. Even some Link-only trips like Federal Way to Bellevue will be faster by switching from Link to Stride at Tukwila than switching Link lines at IDS, so the improvement to regional mobility goes well beyond the neighborhoods that are served by Stride.

On SR 522 and NE 145th Street, Stride S3 will fill in more BAT lanes to get more of the traffic out of the way of the bus, and full off-board payment will ensure that the bus only needs to wait long enough for people to walk off and walk on. The connection to Link at 145th reduces the amount of time riders have to wait in traffic, and expands the range of destinations that riders can reach quickly when compared to Sound Transit Express route 522 (which will be truncated to Roosevelt Station this year).

On I-405, the quality of the project will be a more significant upgrade. The north half will be significantly improved even since the representative project, with added direct access ramps and better integration with SR 522 Stride. The south side will be a dramatic improvement over the status quo. Current ST routes 560 and 566 have to deal with a busy and narrow I-405 freeway, with slow and insufficient HOV2 lanes. And that’s when they can use them at all, since both freeway stations on route 560 are on right-hand exists (causing route 566 to skip them to save time). Did I mention the slow and insufficient HOV2 lanes? WSDOT is (as far as we know) planning on finishing the hard part of I-405 south Stride without years of delay. Without Stride, this will speed up route 566 (and, if restored, route 567), and do nothing for route 560. With Stride, 560 will go away and Stride will partially replace Kennydale service with a new freeway station at NE 44th that connects directly to the toll lanes. Route 566 will be moved into the slow lanes to provide peak service to the existing freeway stations. Stride will also speed up service to Burien with an inline station at TIBS replacing a deviation to the airport, and a stop in Renton that is problematic but still faster than today’s route through Renton.

Cost comparison based on 2016 representative projects

Because so much of the infrastructure for I-405 Stride is being (or has already been) built by WSDOT, the result is a line that is much much cheaper than light rail. A good comparison is the Federal Way Link Extension. This short Link extension costs about $1 billion, and the result is 5.3 miles of Link light rail, and just two new light rail stations. I-405 Stride will cost about $850 based on the representative project, and adds 38 miles of BRT, with eleven stations! Granted, the cost of Stride has gone up due to additional improvements that Sound Transit is adding to the stations. But the cost of Federal Way Link Extension has also gone up, by $460 million for the entire Angle Lake to Federal Way line ($220 million extrapolated to the ST3 funded segment), or about 22% of the entire project. And that isn’t even for improvements. That is all cost eaten by the complex and expensive infrastructure required for Link, and not BRT.

When cost-per-mile of both Stride corridors is compared to all other ST3 project corridors, the comparison is more dramatic. I-405 and SR 522 Stride easily make up two of the top three projects in terms of cost per mile, with the values being tiny in comparison to nearly every other project:

And not reflected in this graph are cost increases of other Link projects, most notably the West Seattle-Ballard Link Extension’s cost increases totaling $4 billion, or 53% of the project’s total cost. The story these numbers tell is clear: the best way for Sound Transit to deliver as much transit as possible within the bounds of its financial capability is to expedite Stride.

Sound Transit’s latest realignment scenarios have been encouraging on this front, with I-405 Stride consistently being in the lowest delay category of two years (which would have I-405 Stride south opening in 2026, and north opening in 2027), and Sound Transit continuing to be open to deferring parking. But, disappointingly, SR 522 Stride tends to be in the five-year delay bucket, even with deferred parking, putting its likely opening date at 2030.

136 Replies to “Prioritize Stride BRT in realignment”

  1. Great idea to look at projects based on cost. It might be more appropriate to look at cost per rider though. Then infill stations for example may look more interesting or a gondola alternative to West Seattle. Challenging though how to look at the 2nd tunnel, I would suggest to break the tunnel out from the West Seattle to Ballard extension.

    1. That’s how ST is leaning. All the revised scenarios have a Smith Cove-SODO or Smith Cove-Delridge in the first phase, followed by the Ballard and West Seattle tails

      If you tunnel through downtown, it’s cheaper to extend the tunnel to SLU to the daylight portal (Smith Cove) than to tunnel just downtown and then come back for SLU/Queen Anne. Plus you’d have to dig a multiblock-wide hole in the Denny Triangle to lift or insert both of the tunnel boring machines.

      SODO is less clear; there’s no reason the first phase couldn’t terminate at Intl Dist. Adding Delridge to the first phase brings in the risk of the bridge, so I’d think twice about it. I’d rather split it into Smith Cove-Intl Dist and Intl Dist-Delridge so that, if the bridge becomes a delay or cost problem, it won’t hold up the main part from opening.

      1. If you tunnel through downtown, it’s cheaper to extend the tunnel to SLU to the daylight portal (Smith Cove) than to tunnel just downtown and then come back for SLU/Queen Anne.

        It would also be pointless, since that part of the tunnel (everything south of Westlake) is pretty much identical (but just a little bit worse) than the old tunnel. (It is a little bit worse because it has one less station).

        If you did the opposite (Smith Cove to Westlake) then it would provide value, but you get into the costs you mentioned. You could split at Westlake, which would likely save a considerable amount of money, but that creates awkward timing issues and makes it harder to add a new line south of Westlake.

      2. The Downtown tunnel has to tie in with the Link tracks in SODO to get trains to an OMF. Also, the plan depends on reversing Line 1 trains because the overall line length is too far unless the line is split. The tunneling is preventing a Stadium Ststion stop. The end result is that SODO seems to be the northernmost southern terminus of the subway from an operational standpoint.

        I’m still waiting for the “other shoe” to drop about the station vault requirements/ costs and a decade of construction for the stations in this new tunnel. ST has still not elaborated on the details of these stations except early work at ID/C Station. Each one has major challenges not openly discussed yet.

      3. Al, I expect that reversing Line 1 at Northgate would be possible in a No New Tunnel scenario. It might take adding an additional track above 1st NE so that there are two tail tracks instead of one, but that’s not insurmountable.

        Everything else you said about a Ballard (or Smith Cove)-Westlake stub is exactly true. I like your idea of drilling one tunnel through downtown to serve as a non-revenue “service” connection while temporarily omitting Midtown and IDS stations. The “flat sections” absolutely would have to be included though.

        However, doing that would make building the station boxes more complicated and even somewhat dangerous, because non-service trains would be running through the work area. I suppose you might leave the tube intact and finish the station shell around it, then take off the rings, but it would be a huge barrier to the workers to do it that way too. Certainly the platforms could not be built; they reach into the “envelope” that the tube would occupy.

        The more I think about it, the least disruptive solution to the MF problem, though certainly not as cheap as digging a single tube with no stations, is to add a facing point turnout directly north of the south wall of University/Symphony with a connection to a new track in the “passing lane” down the middle of the station, break through the north wall into a descending tube which would underrun the southbound track at the west end of Westlake Station then curve turn into the Stewart ROW and connect to the new tunnel just north of New Westlake at Stewart and Westlake.

        The less-expensive solution would be to do just this single-track connection all the way and depend on a trailing point cross-over just north of the connection to deliver trains entering service to the northbound track.

        Alternatively, an “upper level” could break through the north wall at Westlake right at the curve and join with the southbound track. In that case, the upper track would connect to the southbound track under Westlake directly while the deeper northbound service track would underrun the southbound Westlake-Denny track and then rise up between it and the northbound track to merge northbound just south of the Denny platforms. That might be a fairly steep rise, but should be doable.

        If the single-track method were used, there would also be a “trailing point” cross-over (from the point of view of revenue trains) between the center track and the southbound track within University/Symphony as well to send trains leaving service down to SoDo.

      4. Ross, you couldn’t “split at Westlake” — at least, not without some major re-engineering east of the platforms under Pine Street. I argued for a long time that it could be done, but then I saw a photo that reminded me that the tracks cinch closer together just east of the Westlake platforms, so there’s not enough room for a diverging track within the Pine Street tunnel box.

        You COULD “split at Symphony” using the over-under scenario I outlined above for a service connection, though it would mean no stop there OR at Westlake. That would be a very weak line for Ballard and Lower Queen Anne users who want to downtown to anywhere north of about Madison.

      5. Ross, you couldn’t “split at Westlake” — at least, not without some major re-engineering east of the platforms under Pine Street.

        Yes, that is why the real engineers get paid to do these things, and we can only speculate. Anyway, it is quite likely that splitting at Westlake would be considerably cheaper than adding three underground downtown stations along with the extra tunneling.

        The bigger problem is that ST doesn’t want to. From the get-go they felt like it was essential that we build a new tunnel — even if it is remarkably similar to the old one — just as they have felt it was essential to run the line from Everett to Tacoma.

        It is also a poor split. You want a split where demand splits. A split at the UW (however impossible armchair-engineers think it would be) would be such a split. North of the UW, demand is about the same on either line. From the UW south, demand is basically double that of either line. It is rare that a city has the opportunity for such a split. We did, but just ignored it, in our relentless zeal to serve essential places like Ash Way and Fife. Oops.

      6. I agree that opening up Pine Street to widen the tunnel on the south side (if there’s room) would be a LOT cheaper than three stations, one of which would be epically deep in a new tunnel. It would also allow that fantastic station at Denny and Minor for the huge cluster of buildings around there.

        So far as the U-District, sorry for being an “armchair engineer”, but though it is not physically impossible to “split at the U-District” , though it is very tricky and potentially a significant service interruption, it is politically very unlikely and probably quite expensive. That’s because to “split at the U-District” you can’t have the interchange pointing north as you rightly offered for a non-revenue connection. The points of the turnouts have to point toward downtown if trunk service is to be diverted. If the service “split(s) at the U-District” the interchange has to be for revenue trains right in the middle of the two line section. That means a burrowing junction.

        From a ridership perspective it would make sense to have the split north of U-District Station. That would avoid having to dig another arm of the station which would probably be even deeper than the current one and it would allow all downtown-bound service to call at the same platform. Those are both big advantages. And anyway, there’s no way in Hell that the UW Regents are going to let ST dig a big hole somewhere between UDS and HSS for the necessary cavern to accommodate a junction.

        Call me names all you want, you CANNOT just “break into” an existing bored tunnel unless it’s in solid granite or basalt without compression rings. North Link has compression rings. You have to build a “junction box” around it (or potentially, a pair) and disassemble the rings.

        But it is possible to junction to the north of UDS, if two parcels of vacant land, a pair of disposable buildings large enough to dig the junction boxes or a combination can be found along Brooklyn north of UDS. They don’t have to be right across the street from each other; since the east-to-southbound track will enter at the same elevation as the existing tubes, but it is much cheaper to build just one wider box. But if necessary, they can be offset from each other with the east-to-south junction quite a bit north of 45th. The north-to-west junction must start pretty quickly though.

        Think of the geometry that would result. The north-to-westbound track would have to descend at least 30 feet before it could begin turning west and you’d want a pretty wide radius in order to make the service prompt. Let’s say you took the parking lot next to the B of A building between 47th and 50th or the lot right at 50th in the southeast corner. Since there would be no cross-over to house, just a diversion to either side of the existing tubes, either parking lot might be large enough, and the one at 50th would certainly be since it could stretch across 50th with decking. Most maps of Link show the tunnel on the east side of Brooklyn for quite a distance, so it’s possible that if the entire intersection of 50th and Brooklyn were decked with decking running in Brooklyn to the north that the east-to-south junction could be right there as well. Some of the park in the northeast quadrant of the intersection might be needed as well.

        If such a location were chosen, I expect that the farthest north point of the trackway would be about 54th

        It would be plenty deep to underrun the freeway there but it would of necessity have to swing back south to 45th for the “Central Wallingford” station somewhere around Interlake maybe a bit farther south than 45th to best serve the big collection of apartments along Stone Way. Then to make the thing worthwhile, there really ought to be a station along the north edge of Lower Fremont, maybe about 36th and Linden with horizontal tunnels to the mezzanine from 35th. A station at 36th and Linden makes a vertical connection to the E possible and lets the tunnel curve north a bit to stay inside the hill to the undeveloped patch between Bowdoin and 39th just east of Leary where it would go elevated for the rest of the way to Ballard. There should be three more stations to the west, one around Fred Meyer, one at 14th or 15th at Market and then a tail, possibly at-grade about 22nd.

        It’s very hard to envision an east-west station right at 15th above Market, though. There are too many people whose bedrooms would be a few yards from the platforms. So 14th would be a better place even if it inconvenienced the 15th Avenue buses.

        In the best of all possible worlds, there’d be a third underground station at about 45th and Meridian.

        This would be a “Ballard-UW” worth doing and fighting for. ST’s anorexic three-station effort is a weak mess.

        All that said, the politics would be extremely difficult to pull off. North King and Snohomish would get the vapors and it would leave SLU unserved. It is better to do that split under Pine with the extra SLU station and run Line 1 down it, with maybe some Bellevue peak service. Remember, if there’s no second tunnel, changing trains to travel between South King or Pierce and UW or Capitol Hill would be an in-direction transfer at the same platform, the least painful transfer in the transit universe.

      7. Sometimes I wonder if we could build the Smith-Cove to SODO section elevated — it’d be much cheaper than a second tunnel and since the redmond link extension is going onto the original alignment it doesn’t need to connect with that. Albeit transfers would be a lot worse, but hey maybe its worth the tradeoff if we can build it much sooner.

      8. It’s admirable that all of you can see how different configurations can work. This engineering assessment should have been done ten years ago. The sequencing of the studies before ST3 looked at serving SLU, Queen Anne and Ballard different ways — and then Kubly et al chose a hybrid that was not even studied. Different configurations through Downtown were then studied in a different study — and recommended new tunneling either east or west of the existing tunnel and rather than how to tie it in. The ST3 “system configuration” was then introduced in 2016 well after these corridor definitions were already defined in studies. Had these studies been done in reverse order, I think the plan through Downtown would be different.

        Another result was always recommending light rail with human drivers — and that assumption has a big cost when tunneling. The bores have to be much wider than for a third rail system. Boring machines bore round holes so the cost of a bigger bore is exponentially larger. So, the plain truth is that light rail is not always the best subway technology — although it’s a much better surface or comparable aerial technology.

        What would it take for ST to back up and assess different configurations Downtown? Ross is right in that they don’t want to and this is likely big problem #1. ST doesn’t seem institutionally able to do that. The senior staff are not seasoned subway engineers or multi-line train operations managers — and the Board members don’t want egg on their face.

        So yeah, ST should rethink the tunnel plan downtown! Look at a shorter tunnel like putting the portal in SLU. Look at aerial corridors. Look at shutting down the I-5 Express lanes south of Mercer for light rail. Look at a 3rd-Pine-7th-Olive one way loop. Look at if new platforms and tracks can feed existing station mezzanines at University St and Pioneer Square so that Westlake can be skipped entirely (maybe instead dropping a station between Belltown and Amazon HQ). Look at replacing monorail tracks with aerial tracks for another technology. Look at an automated branch with almost continuous trains arriving one right after the other with shorter train lengths — and putting a small OMF for that in Interbay is likely much cheaper than this deep tunnel and long (450-500 foot or two block) station vaults at every single station.

        Again, I’m very concerned that the construction impacts of two-block station vaults at every single new subway station stop (six stations) on narrower streets with tall buildings just a few feet away have not yet been detailed with the public and the property owners along the corridor. I’m even wondering that this looming cost and time and disruption challenge is so daunting that ST won’t disclose it because the entire project could be “derailed” permanently.

        Rather than speculate on a restructured Downtown configuration, let’s flush out a timeline of how this project could be changed. Ending the project at Smith Cover and SODO is the easiest political strategy — but we could seem to have more stations with platforms closer to the street at much less cost and disruption if the base assumptions can be revisited.

        The point person here could be Durkan. She isn’t running for re-election. She has nothing to lose by forcing the reexamination. She doesn’t have much time left but she could seemingly demand that the Downtown plan get fundamentally revisited.

      9. I think SoDo is included because they need to build the alignment between ID and the OMF to tie the new line in with the existing alignment. I don’t believe there will be a switch in the immediate vicinity the ID. Not opening the SoDo station alongside the new tunnel may be comparable to not opening the 130th alongside Lynnwood Link – all the heavy civil work is done, so the only capital savings are station-only investments.

        If anything, staff might simply be including SoDo in their reporting to capture relevant ROW investment (ID to SoDo) in their models, otherwise there might be confusion (internally & externally) in the miles of rail to be delivered in each phase as the project moves through EIS.

  2. Yes. 130th Station first, the three Stride lines second, Smith Cove-SODO third. I look at it as how it affects mobility opportunities for the largest number of people and widest cross-section of people this decade. The 405 corridors are suffering with the lack of all-day frequent limited-stop transit. You can get from Seattle to Bellevue and Seattle to Redmond frequently but not from Bellevue to Renton. On Sundays you can’t get from Bellevue to Bothell at all unless you go via downtown Seattle or take the slow local buses.

    The 522 corridor is not as urgent because the 522 is pretty good. It’s main problem is its 30-minute frequency. I think this will be improved with the Roosevelt restructure. Its second problem is the I-5 congestion, but that will go away with the Roosevelt routing too.

    I spent three decades wishing there were a subway between downtown, the U-District, and Northgate, and having to make do without. So when I look at Ballard-downtown I feel the same. If it could open this decade, I’d give it higher priority. But if I have to make do without it for fifteen years, what’s the difference whether it’s fifteen or twenty? In contrast, Stride can be delivered quickly, and will immediately benefit my and other people’s trips.

    Everett already has all-day frequent service via the 512 and 201/202, and there are fewer destinations and less circulation demand up there, so the Link extension beyond Lynnwood is not as urgent, even if Snohomish and Everett think it is.

    1. I agree with almost all of your points. Ballard Link is probably still one of the most cost effective lines, but it will take a very long time to build it, because it will be so expensive.

      Where I disagree is with the SoDo to Smith Cove idea. It is extremely expensive. You have to build a big tunnel, and add seven stations, but only four actually add coverage (and only two are really good). The new tunnel and the redundant stations (Westlake, Madison, I. D.) are essentially just overhead. You pay for that no matter how far you go with the tunnel. If the tunnel only goes to Smith Cove, it adds very little. You might as well wait until you can go all the way to Ballard. Then again, I suppose there is no harm in building in that order (as long as you build it after the other projects), although I do have one concern.

      So far as I know, no one has talked about the operational particulars of a stub line. If it is an independent line (with trains running from SoDo to Smith Cove every so often) that would be fine. But if trains from Rainier Valley/SeaTac are sent there (the long range plan) then this would have two bad outcomes. First, it would mean those riders have to transfer to get to the Capitol Hill, UW and other north end locations. Second, it would hurt frequency on the core of the line. Instead of trains running between Northgate and downtown every 5 minutes, they would run every 10. The first problem was mitigated somewhat by going to more destinations (Ballard along with Uptown and Denny). The latter problem was solved by running a second line from West Seattle. Given ST’s relatively weak record in regard to these sorts of issues, I worry that they might make a change that loses as much as it gains.

      What is true for Everett is also true for Tacoma and Issaquah. Express buses from downtown Tacoma to Federal Way will be very similar to buses that connect to the Tacoma Dome. Issaquah Link is silly — by far the worst project in ST3 (by every measure). It won’t help anyone get to Seattle, and will only help a handful get to Bellevue.

      1. Seems like the easiest way to do it would be to keep the Federal Way – Lynnwood line and the Redmond – Lynnwood line and just add a Federal Way – Smith Cove line. With the new tunnel there would never be more than two lines on any segment of track, and it would also optimize frequencies so that every section of Link except for Midtown – Smith Cove would have 3-5 minute headways. You could also mess around with rush hour service from Redmond – Smith Cove or something but the benefits from Amazon commuters would probably be outweighed by the loss of Microsoft commuters from North Seattle/Snohomish.

      2. Seems like the easiest way to do it would be to keep the Federal Way – Lynnwood line and the Redmond – Lynnwood line and just add a Federal Way – Smith Cove line.

        I don’t think that would work. First, you have Rainier Valley, which is limited to trains very 6 minutes. So that would mean that during rush hour, the train to Smith Cove runs every 12 minutes (significantly less than the combination of buses serving many of those stops). When the trains are running every 10 minutes down Rainier Valley, it would mean trains every 20 minutes to Smith Cove (about half as frequent as the D). Theoretically you could run the train every 6 minutes in Rainier Valley (and all the way to Federal Way) but that is very expensive, given the ridership and distance, and would still mean only 12 minute frequency for this new section (the section people think is worth spending billions on).

      3. It’s possible to run shuttles from Ballard (or Smith Cove) to SoDo AND run Tacoma to which ever end point is chosen. There is a natural reversal at the Forest Street MF using the outer ring track; it’s a reversal which does not require the operator to change cabs and so could be run as an unbroken out-and-back from the northern terminal. The northbound connection from the ring is a burrowing junction.

        Yes, Lander and Holgate would have to be overpassed, but that’s maybe $50 million between them, using the BNSF overpass for Lander as a template. And yes, Lower Royal Brougham would have to be closed at the rail crossing. That’s essentially cost-free; just drop a bunch of big concrete blocks in the traffic lanes.

        So the determining thing is, “Can ST come up with enough money and engineering good enough to ensure that the budget can be met to build from Smith Cove to the south portal plus the needed stations?” If so, then the headway problem is a non-issue; overlay as many shuttles as you need to because they are not limited by operator reversing at the south end.

        If sufficient funds cannot be expected within the ST3 time frame, but agreement from the community to pay for the new tunnel over a longer period of time can be secured and there is enough to complete the north portal to New Westlake section and a single tube with no stations south of there, then use Al’s for a service connection and run the new line as a stub shuttle until the big tunnel can be dug.

        If the new tunnel comes to be seen as always out of reach, then use my idea for a non-revenue connection using University/Symphony and make the transfer at New Westlake as good as humanly possible. South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne and Ballard are going to continue to grow; they need a subway sooner rather than later.

      4. There is no technical reason we can’t have a stub line. It is more about the limited value of one. Imagine we have a stub line from SoDo to Smith Cove. Now consider the station at Seattle Center, one of the best stops on the new line. If you are approaching from the north (on Link), or transferring from one of the other lines, it isn’t much different than the monorail. If you are are approaching on a bus or are starting from the north end of downtown, surface options may be better. It is really only the south end of downtown where the new subway line adds a lot of value. That is significant, but not huge (especially given the really high cost).

        Now consider if it is tied into West Seattle. The West Seattle riders get a one-seat ride to this station. That would definitely increase the number of people using that station.

        The plan is to instead send folks from the south there. This is a trade-off (and not a great one in my opinion) but at least it is a trade. This increases the number of riders to the station, while giving West Seattle riders a one-seat ride to the UW.

        The point being that a short line is not that valuable. No matter how you cut it, it won’t improve things until substantially until it gets longer.

      5. The reason to do a stub line is to build the thing incrementally because the region can’t afford to do it in one bite.

        To some degree you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth though. You have said that you think Link to West Seattle is categorically bad, so if a junction under Pine allows SLU, Lower Queen Anne and Smith Cove to be served, then there’s no need for any tunnel south of the junction. There’s no quarrel down in the International District. There’s no epically deep station at Midtown. There are no down-and-around-and-up-we-go transfers at New Westlake. Splitting at Pine meets all the goals you say you prefer except getting a Ballard-UW subway built. It eliminates the “redundant” tunnel with three problematic stations. It cancels the West Seattle fiasco. It gives a place for Line 1 trains to terminate. It preserves two lines through the high-ridership zone of Northeast Seattle.

        What combination of lines, stations, tunnels and service do you support? Is Ballard-UW the only Link extension in the North King subarea that meets your criteria? If so, you are going to be disappointed, because ST is not going to abandon SLU and Lower Queen Anne. They might abandon Ballard and West Seattle all together, but Seattle wants service to the Mercer-Denny corridor as soon as it can be supplied, and Seattle and its allies from North King on the County Council have a LOT of votes on the ST Board.

      6. I wrote that West Seattle Link is a waste of money, and not what we should build for West Seattle. I didn’t write that it is useless.

        Start from the beginning, and look at the only decent big project in ST3: Ballard Link. So now you have trains coming from Ballard, going through downtown. Now what?

        1) Send the trains to East Link. Geographically, this makes sense (as the train goes east-west). Bellevue would lose its one-seat ride to the UW, but the 271 (especially if it is improved) could provide much the same thing. The drawback is that service through the core would be limited to six minutes. This isn’t that bad, and probably quite sufficient (our trains are big). Unfortunately, you also have a major service mismatch. The core can justify six minute frequency all day, but Federal Way (let alone the Tacoma Dome) can’t. Running trains that far is very expensive, and if you run them every six minutes, they will be practically empty for most of the journey.

        2) Same idea, but send the trains from Rainier Valley to Ballard.

        3) Just end in SoDo.

        4) Send it to West Seattle. For all of its faults, West Seattle is not that far, which means that it doesn’t cost much to run trains there. It may not be a great project, but with forced transfers, you would get some riders. Once on the train, West Seattle riders would continue to Uptown and Ballard, increasing ridership on the new line.

        5) Same idea, but swap tails (with the West Seattle line going to the UW, and the Rainier Valley line going to Ballard). This is worse than 4, but better than the other options. You inconvenience south end riders (by sending their train to Ballard) but at least riders from West Seattle come out ahead. Either way, you get more riders than if it ends at SoDo, while avoiding the reduced frequency or service mismatch of the first couple options.

        Now imagine the train doesn’t go to Ballard, but ends at Smith Cove. The situation is similar, but amplified. Option 1 and 2 is still a bad idea. Ending at SoDo adds very little value (it is one thing to transfer to a train to get to Ballard, it is another to take it a short distance, with very good surface transit). So that leaves 4 or 5 as the only way to get decent ridership.

        The reason to do a stub line is to build the thing incrementally because the region can’t afford to do it in one bite.

        I understand that. I’m just saying that if you want to leverage the line at that point, you run across all of these issues. Option 1 or 2 are *worse* for a lot of riders. Yet is is quite possible that ST will adopt option 2 (in the interim) given their lack of concern over frequency. That is what scares me.

        Putting that aside, I don’t see much point in building it in stages. The best option is just to run a stub. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, you add very little value, which means it isn’t worth the time and effort to open early.

        What combination of lines, stations, tunnels and service do you support?

        Build a rail-convertable bus tunnel with the same stations. This would cost about the same as a stub, but provide much greater value. It would provide better frequency in the tunnel section. It would directly connect to the entire section of the ST3 project, and then some. It would provide riders from Ballard and West Seattle with a huge improvement over what exists now, while they wait for the train (which everyone acknowledges won’t be here for a very long time).

        Every trip would be faster with a bus tunnel instead of a short train line. Every single trip. Lots of trips would not only be faster, but much faster. No transfer, no long wait, just faster.

      7. Thank you, that’s clear. It doesn’t do much with the cost and complexity of the second tunnel, but it is certainly a solid strategy that saves a lot of money by not crossing the Duwamish and Ship Canal on new transit bridges and tunneling into “downtown” Ballard and West Seattle. And you’re right that larger areas both to the north and south of downtown Seattle would benefit.

        Maybe ST will be forced to consider it by the financial realities, but it won’t do so willingly. Not enough construction outside of downtown Seattle.

      8. One irony about West Seattle is with counting transfers. Unless someone lives within walking distance from a station, they will have to transfer. And before the second Downtown tunnel opens, they are transferring twice. And each transfer involves a level change as now designed.

        It strikes me that the second tunnel cost is now so great that West Seattle Link could have gone to White Center maybe for the same cost. I realize the role of the second tunnel for operations and overcrowding, but it’s extremely expensive and it essentially follows the current Link alignment south of Westlake.

      9. Send the [Ballard] trains to East Link. Geographically, this makes sense (as the train goes east-west). Bellevue would lose its one-seat ride to the UW, but the 271 (especially if it is improved) could provide much the same thing.

        I agree that bus service from Bellevue to UW is preferable to Link. East Link is a huge out of direction loop to get to UW. With the HOV/Transit projects that are included with Montlake it should be a quick bus ride. And then you get dropped off on the surface instead of down in the salt mine of Husky Station. And there would be numerous stops around campus.

        But, very few people want to go from Bellevue to Ballard. If East Link was to be reconfigured somehow I’d much rather have a one seat ride to the airport. I think that would get a lot of business travelers and service workers. I have no idea how to make this work with the rest of the system. It would create a Bellevue to Tacoma line and a Ballard to Northgate/Everett line. That might make sense since Ballard UW/Northgate DT/Capitol Hill to everywhere is where the most demand will be and would therefore concentrate the frequency where it’s needed. That is, I’ll call it the North Line will have more trains than the South Line which (Redmond/Bellevue/SEA/Federal Way) has much lower demand. Airport travelers would transfer DT which makes sense as Seattle is still the star from which all KC transit radiates from.

      10. But, very few people want to go from Bellevue to Ballard.

        I don’t think that is true. Ballard has a lot of people, the East Side has a lot of jobs. Besides, it isn’t about just Ballard to Bellevue, it is about all the combinations of trips.

        Geographically, there is no good alternative. That is what makes it different than sending the East Side line up to the UW. It takes 20 minutes to get from Bellevue Transit Center (BTC) to the UW. It will take 30 minutes to “round the horn” on the train. If the 271 were to go down Bellevue Way, it would be faster, and pick up more riders. Of course there are still plenty of riders from the East Side (those headed to Capitol Hill, those who started in Redmond, etc.) who would still take the train to stations north of Westlake. But chances are, BTC will be the most popular station on the East Side, and the two UW stations will be the two biggest stations north of downtown, which means the bus would grab a significant number of potential riders from the train.

        None of that is true with a line from Ballard to Bellevue. If they connected those lines, then there would be no good alternative. For every stop in Seattle, to every stop on the East Side, the best option would be the train.

        This is all academic. I apologize for muddying the argument with “what ifs” that will never happen. The only reason they want to send the south end line over to Ballard is because it is extremely long, and don’t want to send it all the way up to Everett. There are alternatives (turning it back at Lynnwood, if not sooner) but ST isn’t interested in that. The long range plan is to connect the Rainier Valley line to Ballard.

        The question is what to do in the interim. Folks have suggested running a stub line, either as an independent line, or connected to the Rainier Valley line. I believe that a rail-convertible bus tunnel would much more value.

      11. Ballard has a lot of people, the East Side has a lot of jobs.
        True, but having worked on the eastside the last 35 years I could probably count the number of coworkers that made the commute from Ballard. The vast majority of eastside workers live on the eastside. If people on the eastside work in Seattle it’s almost always DT or the UW. There used to be a fair number of Boeing engineers but that’s a tiny fraction of what it once was.

        My point was more that Ballard/DT/Capitol Hill/UW/Northgate is the highest ridership. I would expect ridership from Ballard to DT to be much higher than Bellevue/Redmond to DT. So from an operational standpoint it seems the frequency/capacity of East Link is better matched to SEA and points south.

        The big hit for East Link would be the loss of the one seat ride to DT. And that might be a show stopper. I don’t know what the airport ridership would be vs DT. I expect DT would be much higher peak but the airport would have more all day demand.

        If it were to be considered I’m guessing the “branch” point would be Mt Baker? This means some NB trains would still have to be routed to DT and points north.

        The gold plated option would be to reconfigure East Link to include a 1st Hill station and then loop back through the legacy bus tunnel.

      12. “It takes 20 minutes to get from Bellevue Transit Center (BTC) to the UW. ”

        That’s with an excessively padded schedule. In practice, the bus is usually early and it’s 15 minutes, not 20.

        Riding the train around, however, will never take less time than the 30 minutes the schedule says, no matter how light the traffic. Riding the bus is a huge time advantage.

      13. Thanks, Ross, for all the background! Yes, Bellevue to Eastgate/BCC makes a ton of sense.
        I wonder what ridership Factoria generates, but T-Mobile will probably generate enough riders to make a Factoria extension worthwhile, that way employees and shoppers could get to Eastgate/BCC more easily to get on Issaquah and Seattle buses or continue to Bellevue. Factoria has the 241 but it only runs every 30min.
        Btw, I’m not concerned about peaks in West Seattle either, even if 80 riders arrive on a bus, it will only take about 1min to clear the queue.

      1. The infill stations (Graham and 130th) are probably the best value in terms of ridership per dollar. I’m not sure about BAR, but then again, I’ve never quite understood the point of BAR. Are there plans to add a freeway station there, so buses can stop there on the way to downtown? Or is it just about feeder buses (e. g. in Metro’s long range plan they show a bus going on East Marginal Way to BAR to Skyway, likely replacing the 107)? I am curious what people see as the long term potential for the station there. As with the other stations, it wouldn’t take much to be cost effective, as above ground stations are relatively cheap.

      2. The point of BAR is for local bus transfers, and potentially a transfer to a future Sounder station. Tukwila wants the A extended to BAR for a future urban village at 144th, and to have a station close to the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School. Metro plans to route the truncated 150 through BAR on the way to Rainier Beach. Transit fans have sometimes suggested truncating the 101 at BAR, but Metro has never been interested in that. Metro plans to continue the 101 as an all-day express to downtown forever (and extend it to SLU and Smith Cove).

      3. Even though I like that 130th is being enabled as part of Lynnwood Link design, I think Graham has more TOD opportunities than 130th has. It’s why I make the pitch to bring it to the same level of constructibility as 130th ASAP. I could even see a case being made to open Graham before 130th.

      4. I’m a big fan of Graham St infill due to TOD, but at NE 130th, there isn’t much TOD opportunity, most traffic will come from Lk City and Bitter Lake. With the cost increases for that infill station, it might make more sense to run a gondola from Lk City to Northgate to NW Hospital to Bitter Lake to provide high-frequency connection to Link and tie these Northern urban centers closer to each other.

      5. I’m not very familiar with the Renton transit network, but have taken the 101 a few times. I think BAR might make more sense once Link extends further. Right now, if you want to go to Renton from anywhere to the north, you would take a bus to downtown, and then catch the 101. If BAR were there now and the 101 were truncated there, you would then take Link to the 101 which probably won’t save much time with the added transfer. If you were already on Link, though (i.e. you got on in Northgate), you would just stay on Link and then just transfer once at BAR.

        I’m not sure it makes as much sense if you were coming from the south, since you can always take the F from Tukwila. It really depends on whether Metro boosts the frequency on the 101 with the service hour savings from the truncation.

        I’m happy to be corrected, though, as that’s kind of an armchair analysis from some weekend trips to Renton.

      6. Can’t the 101 get to Rainier Beach Station just as quickly as BAR station, though?

      7. asdf2, at least based on the 106 schedule, it’s almost 20 minutes b/w RBS and Renton TC even at off-peak. At peak, it’s more like 25 minutes. With the I-5/SR900 routing, the 101 could probably do that in less than 15 minutes from BAR.

      8. BAR is kind of an orphan because three subareas come together there. I believe it’s funded out of the South King pot — but Renton (East King) buses and Seattle (North King) buses would feed lots of the ridership. It could also get riders as a mega parking garage site if electric vehicles become the rage and the public favors parking again.

        It’s at the south end of Boeing Field so high rises seem unlikely because it’s too close to the runway.

        It’s awkwardly placed for an eventual Duwamish bypass. 133rd would have been better for that.

        I expect BAR Station to be deferred indefinitely. I wouldn’t be surprised if funding eventually moves to an some new project elsewhere in Tukwila.

      9. SeattleSubway’s line through South Park to the airport would make a lot more sense than BAR. It would serve SW Seattle much better than a West Seattle line.
        On their latest alignment Seattle Subway proposes extending the Rainier valley line alternatively through Skyway to Renton, then BAR won’t need to serve Renton either.

      10. The point of BAR is for local bus transfers, and potentially a transfer to a future Sounder station.

        Yeah, I was thinking about a Sounder transfer. But that would be yet another project, wouldn’t it (ST4?). Or is that part of this project?

        Tukwila wants the A extended to BAR for a future urban village at 144th, and to have a station close to the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School.

        Couldn’t you just keep going, to Rainier Beach Station, and Rainier Beach itself (likely the biggest destination along that stretch)?

        Metro plans to route the truncated 150 through BAR on the way to Rainier Beach.

        Exactly. In which case, the station is nice, but doesn’t really gain you much, since the bus is going by a different Link station (the same direction) anyway. It seems like the only new route that really adds a lot is combining the 107 with the 124; have a bus run on East Marginal Way, then cross over the freeway (by the station) and then serve Skyway.

        All of these little things add up, I suppose. You have a quicker transfer to Link for RapidRide A or 150 users, while the new connector from Skyway to East Marginal Way would provide a better network for the area. But it would require a lot additional service in the area, which makes it different than the 130th station (which would dramatically simplify and speed up routes). Unlike Graham Street Station, I don’t see many people walking to the station (now, or in the future). It looks like the weakest of the three infill stations, by a wide margin. That being said, like some of the Stride lines, it is relatively cheap, and thus a good value.

        Its really a shame Link runs through an industrial neighborhood after it crosses I-5, then hugs 599/I-5/405, making this by far the only decent place for an infill station in that huge gap between Rainier Beach and TIBS. It is too bad Link didn’t go further west, as there appear to be several areas where a station could be added.

      11. Seattle Subway’s line through South Park to the airport

        is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. It is a really bad idea to run an extremely expensive subway line through miles of nothingness when there is already an existing subway line that connects to the most popular stop (SeaTac). Please, stop with the silly proposals.

      12. Graham has more TOD opportunities than 130th has

        Absolutely. 130th is just another freeway station (JAFS). In that sense, it is like just about every other station north of Roosevelt. But like Northgate (and unlike most of those stations) it is not that far from density. Unlike Northgate, it is easy to serve. The 125th/130th is a good corridor with plenty of ridership potential on both ends (Bitter Lake and Lake City). Throw in Greenwood Avenue north of 130th (where riders will funnel south to Link) and the strong anchor in Shoreline Community College, and you have the makings of a very good transit corridor, with the station serving it.

        If you look at the station in isolation, it ain’t shit. But if you look at it from a network standpoint, it is essential, and will likely have the highest ridership between Lynnwood and Northgate.

      13. RossB, of course a Georgetown / South Park / airport line only makes sense if it becomes the spine for additional traffic. One way to get ridership to it would be a gondola line connection White Center and Westwood and all the way to Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Another line could connect to South Seattle College and Georgetown and potentially the VA Hospital.
        Such connection would be faster than having to get on RR C or H and connecting via Junction or Delridge station.

      14. Both the A and 150 terminate at Rainier Beach Station in Metro’s 2040 plan. I should have confirmed the 150 before writing.

        The menu of ST3 candidate projects had both BAR Link and BAR Sounder stations. Only the Link station was in the ballot measure.

        BAR may be of little benefit but that’s what South King wanted to spend its money on, and Tukwila really wanted it.

        The argument for the Sounder station is for Sounder-Link transfers. Some people in the south end think that would make their trips shorter. I don’t really see it. A few have mentioned it as a way to get from Sounder-land to the airport.

      15. Actually, Al, for a true “bypass” — not the Seattle Subway Pink line with three stations — it’s perfectly placed. A true bypass would use the Airport Way pathway and the existing flying junctions at Forest Street. It would probably have a station in “downtown” Georgetown, but would bypass South Park and the geographical center of Georgetown completely.

        It’s also an order of magnitude less expensive because if Airport Way can be made three lane, there would then be room for two tracks between the street and the existing railroad tracks.

        Yes, there are section which have to elevated through Georgetown, but it’s perhaps 18% of the total distance.

      16. I’m a big fan of Graham St infill due to TOD, but at NE 130th, there isn’t much TOD opportunity, most traffic will come from Lk City and Bitter Lake. With the cost increases for that infill station, it might make more sense to run a gondola from Lk City to Northgate to NW Hospital to Bitter Lake to provide high-frequency connection to Link and tie these Northern urban centers closer to each other.

        The ridership will come from the entire corridor, not individual points. Specifically, the corridor between Lake City and Bitter Lake, extending up Greenwood (more or less this: There is density (or a destination, like a high school) pretty much the entire way. You are not going to have a gondola with a stop every five blocks, but you can have a bus like that.

      17. “The ridership will come from the entire corridor, not individual points. Specifically, the corridor between Lake City and Bitter Lake, extending up Greenwood”
        Ross, a gondola could serve Bitter Lake, Greenwood, and Shoreline College, but you’re right, a gondola can’t stop on each block. I wish ST/Metro would look at both a NE130th&bus vs Northgate&gondola option and see how both ridership, construction cost, and operational cost would compare. A lot depends on how often the feeder bus would operate at various times. With a gondola you have high-frequency at all times…

      18. Mike, rather than building both BAR Sounder and BAR Link to connect to the airport, wouldn’t it be easier and more useful to do a gondola line from Tukwila Sounder station to TIBS via Southcenter?

      19. Ross, a gondola could serve Bitter Lake, Greenwood, and Shoreline College

        Yeah, and it would probably be more expensive than the station at 130th. Keep in mind, that’s three gondola stations, plus another one for Northgate, and you still haven’t even covered Lake City or Bitter Lake. That’s at least six stations. This is in comparison to an infill station (not a new line).

        but you’re right, a gondola can’t stop on each block.

        It wouldn’t be every block. It would be about every five blocks. Just consider the highlights — the stops that would perform well along that corridor, staring from the north:

        1) Shoreline College
        2) 145th and Greenwood
        3) 140th and Greenwood
        4) 135th and Greenwood
        5) 130th and Greenwood
        6) 130th and Linden (for the Four Freedoms folks)
        7) 130th and Aurora
        8) 130th and Meridian (for the intersection to a bus that runs up Meridian)
        9) Link
        10) 125th and Roosevelt
        11) 125th and 15th
        12) 125th and 25th
        13) 125th and Lake City Way

        We are already up to 13 stops. Each one of these would have good ridership, but none would be spectacular. Each one is far enough from another that omitting it would lose ridership. This is common. Just look at boardings on the 41, inbound towards Northgate. I’ll lump some stations together (to keep an already long comment from getting too long):

        130th and 35th: 116
        130th and Lake City Way: 162
        125th and Lake City Way: 250
        125th and 28th + 25th: 117
        125th and 20th: 30
        125th and 15th: 121
        125th and Roosevelt: 126

        You get the idea. That’s 1,000 boardings, and we haven’t even come close to Northgate yet. With the exception of 20th, every stop has over 100 riders, and yet only one stop has over 200.

        Then there is the network standpoint. What you are describing is hub and spoke system, with Northgate as the hub. This is fine if you are headed downtown, but what if you aren’t? In that small section of the 41, I only listed the number of riders getting on. I didn’t mention those getting off. At 15th and 125th, about 100 people get off the bus. This is way less than the number that get off at the transit center, let alone the number that get off downtown. Yet it is still substantial, because this is a real urban bus, with real urban riders. They are not all making trips downtown.

        A bus that goes from Shoreline College to Lake City enhances the network. A bus that keeps going, and becomes the southern part of the 75 does so even more. It means riders can transfer, and connect to Sand Point and Children’s Hospital, along with all the other places along the way. Yes, there are other ways to do that trip, but catching a gondola, then taking the train, then catching a bus isn’t going to as popular as simply catching a bus. If I’m trying to get from the Aurora corridor to Lake City, I would just catch a bus — not a gondola to Northgate, then a gondola back. Especially if the gondola would require a sizable walk as well (because of the lack of gondola stops).

        Gondolas make sense when you have terrain that prevents an easy path, and a very strong point to point connection. Neither is really the case here.

        The place where a gondola might actually make sense is from Bellevue College to downtown Bellevue. Downtown Bellevue is a big destination (obviously) — much bigger than Northgate, Lake City or any of the other destinations we’ve been discussing. Bellevue College is significant as well. There are also some office buildings in the area, and a very nice bus stop connected to a busway. Instead of building a light rail line from Issaquah to South Kirkland (with Bellevue to BCC the only significant connection) you could run a gondola, and put money into the bus system. It still might not be worth it, but given the enormous expensive of that line, it could easily be a better value.

      20. Thanks, Ross, for the ridership numbers, where can I find those? I had thought that Lake City would draw higher numbers… extending 75 would be very attractive indeed…
        Your Bellevue College idea is intriguing, a gondola could run along Lake Hills Connector and provide much better value than Issaquah Link.

      21. The way a gondola could provide “much better value than Issaquah Link” would be to follow the routing of “Issaquah Link” to I-405 but cross I-90 to the center of Factoria and then cross both I-90 again and I-405 to South Bellevue Station. There is a whole lot of nothing except bird watching opportunities along Lake Hills Boulevard and Richards Road. Yes, going that way would be considerably shorter and avoid a transfer, but it would miss three decent activity centers, Factoria, the TC and Bellefields Office Park along the way.

      22. Tom, I can see two alignment options:
        1. BellevueTC to BCollege to Factoria or
        2. BCollege to Factoria to SouthBellevue to Bellefields
        What do you think makes more sense?
        I feel people from Issaquah who want to go to Seattle can transfer on Mercer Island, but if they want to go to Bellevue, the first alignment makes more sense.

      23. @Martin — I’m not sure how you can get ridership numbers. I get mine from a friend who works at Metro. Back in the day, this blog used to publish them from time to time.

        As for ridership from Lake City on the 41, my guess is the Lake City numbers are relatively low because there are other ways to get downtown. While the 41 is not *just* an express to downtown, it is still an express downtown. Around 3/4 of the people are riding downtown. But if you are in Lake City, you have alternatives (especially during rush hour). I don’t have the numbers for the 312.

        The numbers for the 522 are easy to find, though, as ST publishes them ( On page 102 they have the ridership numbers for the 522. The stops along Lake City Way make up a good portion of the ridership. You can see that while 125th has the highest number, it isn’t that much bigger than any other stop in the city. These are corridors with peaks and valleys, to be sure, but not peaks so high that other places aren’t worth covering.

        It is a similar situation with Link. The argument for Graham Street Station is not that it will be a fantastic stop, with ridership similar to Capitol Hill or the UW. The argument is that is *another* stop; a stop in an area too far away from the other stops. The same is true for most areas *in the city*. There are exceptions, but those are rare. Rainier Valley is similar. None of the stops are spectacular. The best station barely makes it to the top ten. Yet together, the four stations account for 11,000 boardings (or 22,000 trips). It is really unusual to have a situation where there is a really big destination in one place, and a really big destination at another, and not much in between.

        Bellevue College and downtown Bellevue may be one of those situations. Which brings me to another point:

        The way a gondola could provide “much better value than Issaquah Link” would be to [go to] South Bellevue Station.

        Sorry no. It should go from BCC to downtown Bellevue. There is nothing in South Bellevue. If you are headed to downtown Seattle, you would never take the Issaquah train (or this gondola) you would take an express bus to Mercer Island. You essentially have a trunk and branch system, with buses headed to Mercer Island, but stopping off at Eastgate. From Eastgate you not only have this gondola (for the trip to downtown Bellevue) but you also have buses heading north (and to a lesser extent, south). This means good frequency for Eastgate/BCC to Seattle, and fewer transfers for folks in Issaquah and Sammamish.

        Some riders have a slower connection to East Main. Big deal. You lose out on trips to South Kirkland Park and Ride (again, big deal). Run an express to downtown Bellevue if you really have the demand. Trips to stops like the Spring District might require a three-seat ride, but that is true for many of the riders of the train (bus/train/train versus bus/gondola/train). Other destinations may involve just one bus (from Eastgate). Factoria, meanwhile, continues to live with its one seat ride to downtown Bellevue (on a bus) which also has the connection to Link at South Bellevue.

        This wouldn’t be cheap. As the crow flies, it is a little over 3 miles. It would likely avoid a few obstacles here or there (I’m guessing) which means it could be closer to 3.5. There would be no stops along the way. Travel time would be somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes.

        Peak capacity would not be a huge issue. This is not like the West Seattle proposal, where everyone gets off the bus and lines up for the gondola. A handful of riders get off the bus and get on the gondola (most of the riders are headed to Seattle, and a handful are headed to Eastgate/BCC). If this isn’t the case — and there really are loads of people trying to get from some Issaquah location to downtown Bellevue at rush hour — then Metro will just run an express to downtown Bellevue (skipping Eastgate altogether).

        Again, this wouldn’t be cheap. But it would be much, much cheaper than light rail. Overall, transit ridership would be similar, and overall time saved would be as well. It might be worse for a few people during rush hour, but you would make for that with the much better frequency — especially in the middle of the day — for people trying to get from downtown Bellevue to Eastgate/BCC.

    2. Thanks Al for the history and alternative ideas.

      I agree ST is concerned about a long, deep tunnel under 5th Ave., even if the five subareas could afford the new estimated cost of $3.65 billion. We could end up with a tunnel without the funding to complete the lines feeding the tunnel.

      I still think the deciding factor will be the four subareas outside N. King Co. who were sold on paying $1.1 billion for 1/2 the second tunnel because ST claimed the second tunnel was necessary to meet their capacity, especially East KC. Now those subareas know that is not true, and none of them got expensive tunnels (but then NKC got stuck with paying for most of the spine, when as East Link proves the benefit is going to Seattle, not away from it, so those subareas should have paid more, and East KC paid 100% of the express buses until East Link opens, a $1 billion cost).

      The N. KC subarea has the largest deficit for ST 3. I don’t think the four other subareas will agree to pay more than $1.1 billion towards the second tunnel, because they don’t have the extra money.

      So whether the engineering is possible, or wise, is irrelevant if all five subareas can’t afford the ultimate cost of the second tunnel, which history suggests is more than $3.65 billion. No subarea trusts ST’’s cost estimates.

      I don’t think Seattle or I-5 have the road capacity to donate to surface rail, unless maybe along 3rd. So IMO that means figuring out how to run rail to Ballard and West Seattle (and West Seattle is listed first for political reasons) through the existing tunnel, or along surface streets, which means buses make more sense from a cost standpoint.

      1. I should have added that although some may see running surface trains or rail along 3rd Ave. as aesthetically unpleasing in a major city like Seattle, Seattle is beginning to orient its center from the bleak office “uptown” towards the waterfront and waterfront park (assuming the homeless camping issue is solved) and the “transit mall” along 3rd has already made 3rd the worst avenue in Seattle, so surface rail or more buses wouldn’t really harm 3rd. Think of 3rd like 112th in Bellevue, but seedier.

        The other option is to truncate buses from W. Seattle at the first rail station and let the residents deal with a two or three seat ride, and do the same for Ballard to reduce the number of buses on 3rd.

        If you bought in West Seattle you understood the access issues, although the bridge provides excellent access by car and bus. Ballard is like getting to Pluto (i. e. the Sammamish Plateau) and the real issue there is the terrible east/west access, and the fact the nearest light rail stations are so far east of I-5.

        On the other hand if we are looking at a 2051 or 2061 completion date for ST 3 how many of us will be alive, and what will the technology be then?

      2. The monorail was killed by downtown business interests that didn’t want it running in front of their 2nd Avenue windows and losing a car lane. Originally it was going to be completely down 2nd, but then they got it rerouted to 5th north of Denny, and then they championed five initiatives to try to kill it entirely and the fifth one finally succeeded. There was the financial gap during the last one that convinced some who had previously voted no to vote yes on it, but that doesn’t explain the first four.

      3. The other option is to truncate buses from W. Seattle at the first rail station and let the residents deal with a two or three seat ride, and do the same for Ballard to reduce the number of buses on 3rd.”

        Metro is planning to keep the C until the full West Seattle line is completed, so I assume it will do the same for the D. I’m not sure how it’s relevant since the cost is Metro’s not ST’s. 3rd Avenue is at capacity, but it can continue accommodating the current number of buses. Keeping the D wouldn’t add to the number of buses. The only direct benefit of reducing the number of buses would be to implement the Downtown Seattle Association’s vision of fewer lanes and wider sidewalks on 3rd.

        Truncations are more justified when the length of the segments is longer. Smith Cove is just two miles from Ballard. Mercer Island is five miles from downtown, and two of those miles is a wide lake. A rider from Issaquah would travel seven miles before transferring at Mercer Island.

        This follows from my experience on the ferries and other cities. The Vashon ferry is twenty minutes, so that’s enough time to sit down and have a coffee or rest for a while. In Moscow, many trips on the metro are five minutes riding, walking up stairs in a transfer station, and five more minutes riding, so it seems like you’ve always just gotten in when you have to get out again, and it gets annoying. It’s one thing if it’s just on one segment, like Northgate to downtown to First Hill, but it’s another thing if both segments are short like downtown to Smith Cove to Ballard.

        If you bought in West Seattle you understood the access issues, although the bridge provides excellent access by car and bus. Ballard is like getting to Pluto (i. e. the Sammamish Plateau) and the real issue there is the terrible east/west access, and the fact the nearest light rail stations are so far east of I-5.

        On the other hand if we are looking at a 2051 or 2061 completion date for ST 3 how many of us will be alive, and what will the technology be then?

  3. How much of the cost of these BRT projects are the park and ride lots? I think if you can defer that, they all become a lot more cost effective. My guess is that in terms of cost per rider, or cost per time saved, the infill stations are still at the top. But the Stride lines probably perform better than the new rail lines, making it quite reasonable to place them towards the top (with the infill stations).

    In general I would say prioritize infill stations and BRT in the realignment.

    1. I wish the monorail was removed from 5th Ave. The support pillars effectively use more than two lanes. Does anyone other than a tourist ride the monorail? What is there to do anymore at the Seattle Center other than special events, and do you get to the other entrance for the monorail?

      3rd Ave. is the place to run surface rail or more buses because it already reflects what a transit mall does to an avenue.

      Seattle doesn’t have a lot of good avenues left. 4th and 5th were the best, but 5th has terrible congestion, and the loss of Macy’s has made the Westlake center at 4th like 3rd and Pine/Pike. Ironically today 1st is better than 2nd and 3rd. The hope is the future is the waterfront.

      1. The monorail gets about 5,000 riders a weekday (according to Wikipedia). This is without a major league men’s team. In 2018, The Storm averaged 8,100 people a game, playing 17 regular season and 6 playoff games, on their way to another championship. The addition of Hockey and men’s basketball would significantly increase the number of events, as attendance is typically a bit higher (unless the team really sucks) and they play a lot more games.

        But obviously, this isn’t about events. The monorail goes to the Seattle Center, which is within Uptown, a major urban center. Many readers of this blog mentioned that they take it regularly, but found the lack of ORCA support annoying. This is why a grass roots group on this blog lead the effort to change the operating agreement with the city, and now the company that runs the monorail accepts ORCA cards.

        Other improvements are forthcoming. It is easy for long time residents to dismiss the monorail as a toy (similar to the Bubbleator) but it is real transit, and is an important part of our transit system.

      2. Agree with RossB. However, when Ballard Link eventually renders the monorail redundant, I would like to see it converted to an elevated park, rather than torn down. A Seattle version of the New York City Highline could prove very popular.

        The right lane of 5th on the narrower side of the monorail tracks should be converted to a bike path (although you’d probably need a Mercer/Dexter style signal pattern to prevent right turns from running people over).

      3. The support pillars effectively use more than two lanes.

        Why do you think that? The supports are not even a full lane wide. There are two southbound “through” lanes to the east of the guideway, with intermittent parking and a southbound “local” lane to the west, plus a parking lane. Three lanes plus parking on both sides of the street isn’t enough?????

        That single southbound lane to the west of the posts is wider than most Seattle lanes, so the guideway doesn’t even impact truck traffic on Fifth.

    2. Special events require high-capacity transit, when thousands of people are leaving simultaneously, or tens of thousands of people are coming over the course of a day. You may not go to the special events but other people do. There are also people going to the Science Center and IMAX theaters every day, people who go to sit at the international fountain or grab a meal in the Armory, local parents who take their kids there for an outing, people going to MoPOP, people riding the monorail to Uptown, and commuters who part at Seattle Center and ride the monorail to downtown.

      After the Women’s March there was a rally in Seattle Center, and when I was coming home from it the line for the monorail was so long I went to Queen Anne Avenue for a bus. The buses had a line too, so I slipped into a restaurant for a while and then went home.

    3. IIRC, parking is something like 1/4 of the entire project, and based on the most recent proposals I’m optimistic all of the parking will be deferred. I could see Renton’s parking be built because it’s wrapped up in the new transit center design, but the other parking garages are bolt-ons that can easily be deferred.

      From a capital realignment perspective, Stride is really paying for only 4 things – a bus base, 2 major interchange rebuilds (85th & 44th) and a bunch of parking. The rest of the improvements to ROW and stations are all wonderful but are so cheap they are basically irrelevant in the context of Link rail capital spending. 44th is already under construction so consider that ‘sunk’ cost. I think if all parking is deferred and Kirkland’s 85th interchange is spun off as a separate project, I think Stride projects could pencil as better than any of the infills (unless you are looking at only the incremental cost to finish 130th, which is presumably very small)

  4. It is true that it’s cheaper than other projects. But I am concerned that the benefit may be small. All of the stations are necessarily located on or near 405, which has almost nothing walkable near it, aside from Downtown Bellevue. And circumferential routes generally have low ridership. If we were starting from scratch, I might just have it go from Bothell to Renton. We are already building light rail from Lynnwood to Federal Way, so duplicating that service, even if it does save a few minutes, seems like a waste.

    That said, we have the unusual situation where some road money has been used for transit, so we might as well take advantage of it. Usually it is the other way around, where transit money is used for cars (i.e. parking).

    1. How else can you get from Bellevue to Renton, Bothell, Totem Lake, Burien, or Lynnwood quickly? The current service is spotty. This is the biggest thing to ever happen for Eastside transit mobility after East Link. If it had been proposed when I lived in the Eastside in the 1970s and 80s and was riding the existing transit then, I’d say get it done quickly. It’s a pity that so many 405 stations are at isolated freeway exits rather than in the middle of neighborhoods. But Bellevue station is in the middle of downtown, and Renton station is adjacent to part of downtown. Kirkland and Bothell don’t look great, but I used to ride the 340 which had a freeway stop at 70th in Kirkland and cursed the last-mile walk to downtown Kirkland. Still, I was glad that it was there, and it beat taking the local bus. And 85th station will be closer to things than 70th was.

      The Eastside may not have Seattle’s high ridership, but it does have hundreds of thousands of people who travel between the cities. And with Lynnwood and Canyon Park you’re adding even more people to its rideshed. (And giving an interim solution for the gap between Swift Green and UW Bothell.) If even semi-good transit like this exists, more people would take transit instead of driving, even in the Eastside. There would still be a lot of drivers for whom this is not good enough, or no transit would be good enough, but there are others who would ride it.

      1. For some people (specifically Seatac residents and those coming in on transit from the south) this new BRT plan makes getting to Renton or Bellevue take even longer. It’s only certain pockets of population that save any time with the diversion to TIBS. Sure, the frequency improves, but at the cost of timeliness. South King County has already felt that sting with Link, and 405 BRT will only make that bitter pill even harder to swallow.

      2. “It’s only certain pockets of population that save any time with the diversion to TIBS.”

        What diversion to TIBS? I thought they were going to have an inline station so that the buses don’t have to divert.

      3. The 560 goes via SeaTac instaad of TIB. So if you’re coming from the airport or south of it, it may be a longer trip. When ST was planning Stride South it asked the community whether it should go via TIB or the airport, and the majority feedback was to go via TIB. Because that’s faster for Burien, Burien doesn’t have very good transit access and isn’t getting much out of ST, people don’t go to the airport as often as Burienites go to Renton or Bellevue, etc. Going from SeaTac or the southern segment, you’ll also have the alternative of a Link-to-Link transfer downtown.

        TIB isn’t a diversion because 405 goes straight into 518 and TIB is right on the way. It’s SeaTac that’s a diversion.

      4. For the 560, very few riders from Burien/West Seattle are headed SeaTac; most are headed to Renton or Bellevue. Buses like the 161 should be adequate for that. Riders can also transfer, of course, as both Link and the A Line will connect with TIBS. There are a fair number of riders going from SeaTac towards Renton and Bellevue (more than from Burien) but still not as many as from Renton to Bellevue. Again, those folks can transfer using Link or the A Line (depending on where they started from).

        See page 144 on the service report:

      5. … and Kirkland Totem Lake. A stride there will benefit lots of new residents on the apartments at walking distance of the Kingsgate park and ride.

      6. “Burien doesn’t have very good transit access…”

        Wait, what? Burien Transit Center is huge. It certainly had better transit access than Seatac, and I’d argue it has better access than Tukwila (even with TIBS). Burien has very good transit, better than most cities in South King County.

      7. Burien is kind of isolated in the far west. The 120, 131, and 132 take a long time to get downtown. West Seattle is not much of a job center or destination center.

      8. Honestly, for those who can easily access the transit center or the buses heading south from it, the F + Link is a much better way to get into Seattle from Burien than the 120 or the 131/2, unless you’re specifically going somewhere along the 26’s route, then that’s probably still easier. Link is faster and a nicer ride downtown. And on the reverse trip, I mostly used the 131/2 when I was downtown during rush hour and needed to get home, they’re usually a lot less crowded than Link so a seat was easier to get (plus I could go shopping across from the transit center afterwards). The 120 only came into play if I left wherever I was late enough that I’d miss the last F heading west from TIBS at 12:30AM. Messed that up one night and had to walk 2 hours on 154th/156th in a skirt to get home. It was a nice night, at least.

      9. Ness, would it help if a gondola would connect BurienTC with TIBS throughout Link operations? That way there would be a high-frequency connection between the two at all times…

      10. I doubt that there will ever be a gondola between TIBS and Burien T/C. While planes are fairly high above 154th at the ends of the elevated runways, there are those glide path light arrays above the roadway which would be in the way. Imagine riding in a gondola that just barely clears the structure on the underside when a 777 lands with a hundred feet of separation between its belly and the glide-path. It would be terrifying; those are huge planes.

      11. In short, No.

        a) If we can’t run a damn bus down the corridor 24 hours, there’s no way a gondola system would also be ran around the clock.

        b) the takings required for construction and the superstructure of the gondola line would eat through a lot of residential area

        and c) the only viable route (ie that doesn’t go absurd distances out of the way) between the two points crosses the north side of the airport and would likely have to skirt 518 as well, and there’s no way in hell clearance would be granted for construction of such a large structure in that area.

        I’m not entirely opposed to gondolas where they’d make sense, but this is not one of those places. It’s a bad corridor for a gondola system.

      12. Sorry to say, but a gondola will take longer than either RapidRide F or Stride because those things don’t move faster than 20 mph.

        It’s cool and it looks good on a map, but it’s just reasonable to use for an every day rider.

      13. Al, a gondola would take 8min between Burien TC and TIBS. A bus would be faster, but the gondola would still beat the bus if you have to wait 10-15min for the bus to arrive. For such a short connection gondolas can really speed up the transfer, but as Tom pointed out, the airport approach lights make this a challenging gondola alignment, a people mover train would be more appropriate or run buses more frequently.

      14. Why not a cable liner system rather than a gondola? It is the same technology — but it moves faster and has easier accessibility.

      15. Al, a gondola would take 8min between Burien TC and TIBS. A bus would be faster, but the gondola would still beat the bus if you have to wait 10-15min for the bus to arrive.

        Which means you run the bus more often. Gondolas are cheap compared to subway lines, but they aren’t as cheap as just running a bus more often (especially a fast one).

      16. Honestly I kinda doubt it would get there in 8 minutes anyways

        The F rarely gets there under 20 and the time we had a driver who was going so fast we were literally gaining air at the tops of inclines, throwing us up out of our seats and generally scaring the shit out of us and driving recklessly (yes, I filed a complaint with Metro and never had it happen again) it still took 10 minutes.

    2. @Christopher — The benefits may be small, but the costs are fairly small as well (with the exception that Alex mentioned). If you cut out the park and ride lots, you are basically just paying for a handful of bus stops, some ORCA car readers, and service. That’s pretty cheap.

      The small cost and small benefit is in big contrast to the high cost and small benefit of much of ST3 (West Seattle Link, Everett Link, Tacoma Dome Link, Issaquah to South Kirkland Parking Lot Link).

  5. Kirkland is certainly planning to make the best of the 85th St station with Google and TOD changes and looking at a gondola to connect downtown. Totem Lake has already built TOD, let’s hope others will follow.

  6. How much of the I-405 North BRT budget/timeline gets eaten up by the 85th interchange reconfiguration? Have those cost estimates remained reliable?

    I have to agree with Mike Orr and RossB. When I completed the survey recently I put the 130th Link Station as my top priority followed by the BRT projects (even with the messed up deal with the 85th interchange for I-405). Sadly, the realignment discussions thus far with a couple of the scenarios utilized have the 130th station as a tier 4 option looking at a 10-year delay.

  7. I assume that schedule coordination at TIBS is off the table, with Link running every 10 minutes and STRIDE every 15?

    1. Coordination at Bellevue is more critical, for trips like Kirkland to Renton, Renton to Microsoft, Kirkland to Seattle, etc. There’s more interaction within the Eastside than between the Eastside and the SeaTac/Federal Way section. Coordinating at one point may preclude coordinating at another point.

    2. Correct; coordinating schedules would not align with global best practice. High capacity transit does require schedule coordination. Most riders will experience Stride at 10 minutes and Link at 6 minute frequencies.

      If the transfer penalty is seen as prohibitive at a certain time of day, the appropriate response is to raise the frequency, not fiddle with the departure schedule.

  8. I think it’s wise to look at each Stride line separately. The three lines are not planned to be through-routed and the transfers between them look minimal.

    405S still has some logistical problems in Renton. Even though this line in general looks more key to me, the hassle of getting buses through the 167 interchange and related 405 congestion to pull buses out of the center lanes. Plus, the TIBs stop looks quite inconvenient and the last stretch to Burien is served by RapidRide F (a parallel service between Renton and TIBS and Burien) which stops closer to Link platforms. The line does not connect with Sounder at Tukwila.

    I could see benefit for a KDM-Kent-Bellevue Stride line as a new one or a replacement for the 405 South line. That would send 405 buses on the bypass ramps on 167, connect to Sounder South (the current line doesn’t connect) and then tie into Link, enabling frequent feeding for much of South King. It could even use the new 509 highway to run up to Burien. To plan for this line better would require more time in the Stride implementation schedule.

    I also think the Stride can be a branded service for some current express lines — Lynnwood to Everett, Issaquah to Mercer Island or Judkins Park, and Federal Way to Tacoma Dome. The branding is of course wrapped up in whether ST can get its own bus OMF versus contract with one of the bus operators.

    1. I’m hoping 167 becomes the next Stride line. It would probably terminate in Renton rather than overlapping to Bellevue.

      Stride brand does not belong on ST Express routes. Stride implies all-day frequency, street improvements, off-board payment, and enhanced shelters. If you slap the Stride brand on routes that don’t have it, then it’s not a reliable indicator of the service level. And ST would never do it. ST Express is positioned as “not high-capacity transit, just an interim service.” What we should push for is to expand the frequent span of remaining ST Express routes. There’s no reason they can’t run every 15 minutes even if they don’t have the other Stride features or branding. The 512, 545, and 550 already do.

      1. I think the problem is that it won’t get that many riders. The 566 and 567 don’t get a lot. The 566 runs all-day (albeit infrequently). By 9:15 (when it is running every half hour) it has about 15 riders per bus. By noon it is under 10. The 567 does better, but still not great (and it only runs peak direction).

        Most of the people on the 566 are headed to Bellevue, not Renton (400 versus 75). Then you have the fact that the HOV lanes don’t go into Renton, but bypass it. This makes the express (567) much faster. I would extend the 567 to Auburn and continue to run it during rush hour (with better frequency, as it replaces the 566 rush hour service). After that it gets tricky. I would do one of the following:

        1) Run the 566 outside of rush hour. This means that the 566 and 567 never run at the same time (making it similar to the 510, 512). The bus wouldn’t go to Bellevue though — it would terminate at Renton. In the middle of the day, to get to Bellevue from Auburn, you transfer to Stride in Renton.

        2) Run the extended 567 all day. If someone wants to get to Renton, they take Metro, or they backtrack using the freeway station at NE 44th.

        3) Times are tough, no express routes outside of rush hour. Both of the alternatives above, as nice as they are, would be rather expensive per rider. I’m just not convinced there are that many riders making that trip in the middle of the day.

      2. I’m not sure how relevant the historical data on the 566/7 are for a future SR167 route. The 167-405 flyover ramp was transformative for bus speed & reliability on that corridor, but it wasn’t open long enough pre-pandemic to drive much incremental growth. The current Bellevue boom should also make Bellevue a stronger source of all day demand. But Ross’ general point is correct – the next step would be to invest in better STX service along that corridor, and if ridership starts to emerge then the region can consider an upgrade to Stride. STX operations will benefit from the major investments along 405 (mostly the WSDOT HOT lanes between Renton & Bellevue) so I am keen to see how the routes preform.

      3. The new HOV flyover and the office growth of Bellevue just strengthens my argument, which is basically:

        1) There aren’t that many people from Auburn/Kent headed to Renton (on ST buses). Folks are going to downtown Bellevue.

        2) Ridership is very peak oriented.

        The HOV flyover makes the peak oriented service to Bellevue even more attractive, but only during peak. The rest of the day it doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t make getting to Renton any easier. Thus the approach I outlined (with the three options) seems like the best one.

        It would be different if they ran HOV lanes all the way to Renton, so that a bus could go the whole way (from Auburn to Renton to Bellevue) in the HOV lanes. If that was the case, you would have a strong argument for simply splitting the southern end of the 405 Stride, with half the runs going to Auburn, and half to Burien. If the Auburn line failed miserably in the middle of the day, service could be truncated by running the bus from Auburn to Renton.

    2. Mike is right – the Stride brand is about quality of service (and off-door boarding); the branding has nothing to do with which vendor provides the service. ST could contract out Stride to CT and run STX buses out of its new bus OMF. Branding high frequency STX routes as Stride without making the investments in operations, ROW, and station amenities would just repeat the mistake of RapidRide. It’s important that Stride be seen by the public as Link on rubber tires, not bus with another set of colors.

      The corridors you mention (Lynnwood to Everett, Issaquah to Mercer Island or Judkins Park, and Federal Way to Tacoma Dome) all could be Stride corridors with additional investment, but to look at STX service along those lines and say, “just run the bus more and call it Stride” completely misses the point of Stride and why it is a different brand.

      Interesting that you don’t like the TIBS station; I feel like that is most useful think being built by ST along 405S. It will be a much faster & more reliable connection to Link for Burien and Renton (within the Stride station areas).

      1. My issue with TIBS are specific:

        1. It’s a horrible freeway stop. Buses are on the noisy freeway in a ravine. Getting to Link will require elevators. People will be waiting just feet away from high speed traffic.

        2. The connection to Burien is a bit redundant. The time it would take someone from RapidRide F to Stride and wait for a bus is longer than just staying on RapidRide. Even going between Burien and Link appears to beceasier on RapidRide F even if it’s three minutes longer. Unless a Burien rider is going to South Renton or Bellevue, it’s not advantageous.

        What looks good on a regional map isn’t always great for a rider.

      2. Unless a Burien rider is going to South Renton or Bellevue, it’s not advantageous.

        Right, but that is where people are going based on the ridership data. Burien riders are using the 560 more to get to Bellevue than to get to SeaTac (by a wide margin). The people going to Renton is also significant (and almost equals the number to SeaTac). Some of the riders who did head to SeaTac were probably headed to Rainier Valley (via Link). For Burien riders, way more people come out ahead than behind. For those that lose out, Metro provides an alternative (the 161) which is better in some ways (e. g. if you destination is somewhere on International Boulevard, you may avoid a transfer).

        I think the folks that lose out are the ones going from the airport to Renton or Bellevue. Unless Metro or ST supplements this with additional express routes, they will have a two seat ride, and a far more unpleasant one at that. On the old 560, this accounted for about 1/4 of the riders. While some of these folks may have transferred (from Link or a bus running on International Boulevard) it still looks worse.

        All that being said, I’m not sure if I would do anything different. The detour not only delayed the bulk of Burien riders, but it cost a lot of money. Ideally, you would have a split (with half the buses going to Burien, and half to SeaTac) but then frequency on both tails would be poor (as it is today). This will likely be a very subsidized route outside of rush hour, so I can’t see them running buses from Renton every 8 minutes so they can run each tail every 15. They had to pick one, and they picked Burien (over SeaTac) which was certainly the right decision politically.

  9. So what happens if the 522 Stride line gets delayed until well after Lynnwood Link is complete? Will ST just send the 522 bus there? I could see that, but traffic around 145th is really bad (which is part of the reason they want to spend money adding bus and BAT lanes). ST would lose a good chunk of their riders (those on Lake City Way) while offering folks to the north a faster, but still not congestion-free ride to Link. They will get a few riders on 145th, but Metro will grab a few of those as well (with the likely extension of the 65).

    On the other hand, if they continue to run the buses to Roosevelt, it would mean the 145th station would get only a handful of riders (the folks on 145th). I suppose just about any restructure will have riders coming from the north (e. g. the 65 would go past the station to 155th, then zig-zag its way up to Shoreline Community College). It would still be weird to have a station without the connecting bus service that largely justifies its existence. My guess is they just live with the congestion, and send the 522 up to 145th.

    1. The 522 is going to Roosevelt mainly because 145th isn’t open yet. ST wouldn’t even consider sending it to Roosevelt until suddenly this year it did. If you’re lucky, impressive ridership on the Roosevelt segment and new riders going to 65th may convince ST to keep it between 145th’s opening and Stride starting.

      1. Yeah, you are probably right. It will be weird though. A lot of the ridership of the 522 will suddenly disappear (my guess is around 40%). The bus will take less time to operate, but not a lot less.

    2. Is 522 at risk of delayed? I thought the risks were mostly around 405? Or you just meant from an alignment perspective?

  10. Add a stride line instead of everett boeing link. Have link go straight to everett station.

  11. Quick question — the slides from that meeting on May 6 on pages 11 and 12 refer to “SA Balances”. What are those? Pushing to plan out to 2051 is what Durkan and Constantine wanted in that letter they wrote.

    1. It was probably explained in the meeting, so where is the video for that? All the financial charts are somewhat confusing, so let’s pin down what they mean.

      2016ST2/ST3 Model SA Balances through 2041.
      $7.9 Funding Gap Model SA Balances through 2041.
      Hybrid Scenario SA Balances through 2051.

      The first one seems to follow construction costs, at least for North King and East King. North King is negative 2025-2036 (WS/DSTT2/Ballard). East King is negative until 2027 (ST2, Stride) and after 2039 (Issaquah). Snohomish is negative 2032-2041 (Lynnwood & Everett until 2036, unknown after that). Pierce is slightly negative 2028-2037 (TD until 2030, 19th in 2041). South King is negative until 2035 (FW until 2025, then Sounder?). At first I thought this chart was their cash balance, but that wouldn’t be right since their bond repayments would continue long after. The second chart may include bond repayments.

      The third chart, I don’t know. What’s that long zero period 2029-2051? Maybe the bottom halves are unaffordable debt rather than all debt. Then this would say unaffordable debt is not reached if we extend the timeline ten years.

      1. I think you may be mixing up balance sheet and income statement concerns. The charts included in that presentation are based off the various financial plan scenarios for sources and uses, which essentially are accumulated income statements over the time periods specified. The three charts reference the following:
        1. the original sources and uses financial plan following passage of ST3, which includes the revenues and spending for ST2 and ST3 from 2017-2041
        2. the updated financial plan for all of the above for where things stand as of now facing this $7.9B funding gap
        3. the updated financial plan under the hybrid integrated scenario whereby the plan is pushed out an additional ten years

        Hope this helps your understanding.

    2. Subarea (SA) balances are the net positions on the subledgers for each subarea. Sound Transit’s fund accounting system does not segregate net positions, inflows and outflows by utilizing separate subarea fund accounts. All of the detail is kept on the subledgers.

  12. Looks like link light rail is operating ten minute headways this weekend. The schedule on their website is also showing ten minute headways. Did this officially change early?!

    1. Not that I heard, but it would be great news. But just because the arrival signs have ten-minute intervals doesn’t mean the trains necessarily are. The signs are sometimes wrong. Or the ten-minute intervals may be due to a late train; i.e., the previous wait was longer than 12 minutes. ST is also testing Northgate Link, so there may be extra, non-passenger trains in between.

      ST has said it will restore 10-minute daytime service in October. But if it does it early, great.

  13. As RossB has suggested, the ST Board should consider cost-effectiveness, new ridership in terms of cost.

    First, cut the relatively unimportant aspects. The ST3 parking could be zeroed out; the land could be better used for housing next to frequent transit; the funds needed could either be cut or used to improve service frequency and reduce waits.

    Counter to the author, it would be okay to delay Stride3, as Route 522 meets Link at Roosevelt and also serves Lake City. Woodinville should be served by all trips. What is the news about the S2 NE 85th Street project? Is it feasible?

    I hope the infill stations at NE 130th Street and South Graham Street and the improvements to lines C and D get funded early.

    It may be good to delay the second tunnel decision as some boardmembers have suggested.

  14. Thanks, Al, I tend to agree that it might be time to rethink.

    I liked Brandon’s proposal using small diameter subway technology in What about if we would put an OMF on the ground floor of the new Armory neighborhood? We can still build housing above… And then run elevated through South Lk Union and enter a tunnel at Capitol Hill so that the line meets the existing Link line above the current tunnel and then continues South along 23rd as Seattle Subway envisions.

    I also like your idea of using the I-5 corridor. May be combined with Lid I-5 efforts or HSR efforts.

    West Seattle could be served by gondola to ID…

    I don’t think the mayor will help, she hasn’t been able to fund the CCC either, it might be better to deal with the mayoral and King county candidates.

    1. Armory neighborhood? Is that what they’re calling the Dravus or Amgen areas now? I hope it won’t affect the armory building in Seattle Center.

    2. There’s a very inexpensive way to get to the ground right behind Whole Foods. From a station at the end of an extended Helix Bridge north of Elliott the guideway takes the north to westbound single-lane bridge across 15th for the Magnolia Bridge, which is going away. There is room enough between the storage building and the bridge for one track and the bridge space would be sufficient for the other.

      After crossing the guideway curves to be directly adjacent to the BNSF tracks and runs at-grade all the way to Dravus. As mentioned, a station would be right behind Whole Foods and the quickly developing Armory neighborhood. Dravus can be at-grade with the platforms projecting out from either side of Dravus so that no buses have to turn and no one has to cross the street. Yes, Dravus might need to be raised a few feet, but it’s already high enough to clear double-stack and autoveyor cars, so should be OK for low-speed running with low pans like in the tunnel. A station is a good place to have low-speed running.

      Then if a bridge is chosen for the Ship Canal crossing, the guideway starts rising immediately north of Dravus, crosses 15th and then uses the end of 14th to launch. Ross is absolutely right that a “high bridge” is not needed. Just make it 70-80 feet above the carefully controlled level of Salmon Bay and it will hardly ever open.

      As I’ve said before there is real value for a station at 14th and Leary and of course one in Central Ballard. With a mid-level bridge and street running west of 15th, both can happen for a reasonable price.

      But I have to say, “Why 23rd?” It will never be dense; better to go south along 12th where there are a lot of renewable buildings and portal next to Rainier just south of Jackson. If San Francisco can sacrifice two lanes from Third Avenue all the way to Bayview, Seattle can give up two lanes from Rainier to Mt. Baker.

      1. Tom, 12th is certainly an alternative, but running on Rainier would create a challenging station under I-90, not sure how to get transit and car traffic to intersect…

      2. I guess given the small-diameter tunnel idea the trains have to be third-rail powered, and therefore they can’t run on the ground. So such a version of your idea would have to end at Judkins Park rather than Mt. Baker and couldn’t use at-grade through Interbay and in downtown Ballard.

        I just noticed that on Google Earth it’s obvious that a pocket track is being built just west of Judkins Park Station:,-122.3069382,116m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x54904362abfceed7:0xf7a248bbe8a1aff7!8m2!3d47.4695385!4d-122.3372802. While storing turnback trains from the north might be a “good use” of the width of the reversible roadway, it’s otherwise a very strange place to put a turnback. Does anyone know why it’s there? Is it to provide a way of turning back peak short-turns from the north?

      3. Sorry about the “Burien Transit Center” tag on that link. I had been looking at it before jumping to Judkins Park. I don’t know why it doesn’t show the last query. Whatever; you all know it’s clearly not “The Burien Transit Center”.

  15. I’m a big fan of Graham St infill due to TOD, but at NE 130th, there isn’t much TOD opportunity, most traffic will come from Lk City and Bitter Lake. With the cost increases for that infill station, it might make more sense to run a gondola from Lk City to Northgate to NW Hospital to Bitter Lake to provide high-frequency connection to Link and tie these Northern urban centers closer to each other.

  16. It is also important that WSDOT prioritize the 522-405 interchange rebuild ( This project is a prerequisite for Stride to have center lane operations between Totem Lake and Canyon Park and does most of the ‘hard work’ that has allowed the current 405N project design to be a significant improvement over the 405N representative project.

    With the COVID drop in 405 toll revenue, this project has been delayed. It is important for local leaders to ensure this project remains on track because ST will not launch 405N Stride until after this project is complete.

    1. “It is important for local leaders to ensure this project remains on track because ST will not launch 405N Stride until after this project is complete.”

      That’s a very good point. It’s also what I was hinting at in my earlier comment about the Kirkland-85th exchange and the I-405 North Stride Line (also echoed in eddiew’s comment). I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about the timing involved in both cases.

      This is somewhat analogous, although on a much smaller scale, to the situation with CT’s Swift Orange Line which was dependent upon Lynnwood’s long-delayed 196th street project until recently. (If I’m not mistaken, both are fully funded now and construction has commenced on 196th in Lynnwood.*) This is how it goes sometimes; one jurisdiction relies upon another to do its part before moving forward. The WSDOT pieces involved in Stride North are huge and critical.


  17. The I-405 BRT should be extended from Lynnwood to Paine field/Boeing and then on to the mukilteo ferry sounder station. This would complete a ST3 pledge to bring frequent service to Boeing and also create a northern connection between the ferry, sounder airport and the future link station.

    1. Um, that’s overkill. SOMEthing should go from Lynnwood to Paine Field/Boeing — and the terminal building — then on to the new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal, but not the STRide buses. They will be more frequent than the traffic will bear.

      Nobody wants to go to Paine Field any time except Boeing shift changes (if then…..), the terminal building hasn’t yet demonstrated that people really want to bypass Sea-Tac if the available destinations are only Spokane, Portland and Eugene, and Mukilteo has a very infrequent bus on the other end.

      1. Paine field has a few more destinations than that available.

        What will make a bigger difference than most think will be Lynnwood Link.
        The ‘secret number’ behind induced demand for that isn’t what pattern the travelers are showing now, it’s all the friends they ask to drive them to SeaTac that will drive those decisions.

        Once that extension is open, a lot of people will say “HA! Forget that! I’ll take you to the train, though”.

      2. “the terminal building hasn’t yet demonstrated that people really want to bypass Sea-Tac if the available destinations are only Spokane, Portland and Eugene,”

        As someone who lives just south of Paine Field and who has taken a couple of flights from there since commercial service commenced, I can’t agree with your statement above. As Jim C. pointed out, there are many more destination cities than what you’ve indicated. Traffic is increasing again at the airport, as evidenced by the number of aircraft I hear every day flying over my house. This of course includes Boeing aircraft test flights which now appear to be on the uptick as well.

        For those of us who live in this area of Snohomish County and looking to travel to Phoenix, Denver, LA, San Diego, etc. Paine Field is an option that allows one to avoid the long trip down to SeaTac.

      3. I’m with Tom. I just don’t see that many people headed to Mukilteo or Paine Field. I’ll explain why, starting with Mukilteo. Mukilteo is tiny, and the ferry runs every half hour. It should have bus service to match, which means it couldn’t possibly work with 405 Stride, which runs more often.

        Paine Field is relatively small. Paine Field peaked with about 100,000 passengers in August. SeaTac averages 140,000 per day. Despite excellent light rail service from downtown (and now the UW) light rail ridership averages about 6% modal share. Paine Field will be even smaller. A larger airport will have a larger percentage take transit to the airport because the alternatives are worse. Parking is more expensive and time consuming. Traffic is worse. One of the big selling points to Paine Field is that you can drive to it so easily. If you are between downtown Seattle and Paine Field, you can make a morning flight easily, even if it leaves at 9:00 AM (when a lot of flights leave). From every direction, a similar flight to SeaTac is a pain in the butt. Before the pandemic, SeaTac got about 6,000 riders a day (again, connected right to downtown Seattle). A bus, serving 1/30 the number of passengers (and roughly the same ratio of employees), directly connecting to Bellevue (not Seattle) will be lucky if it gets 1/30 the riders, which works out to 200 a day. I just don’t see it.

        I do like the idea of an extension though. It would be much better if it extended along 196th to Edmonds Community College or even all the way to Edmonds. That would essentially take over part of a Swift route, however, and require coordination with Community Transit. It might also make the route less reliable.


        SeaTac Daily Passengers in 2019 —

        Paine Field Passengers in 2019 —

        SeaTac Modal Share, 2017 (see page 18) —

        See page 25 for an explanation as to why Community Transit considered, but rejected the Mukilteo corridor for Swift in their long range plans:

      4. Jim, Tlsgwm, I stand corrected on the destinations. It looks like Alaska is making a real effort to go beyond regional jump jets. I guess they don’t want American or United to make it a Puget Sound hub.

        But as Ross says, if Sea-Tac with hundreds of flights a day can only get 6000 riders, any bus to Paine will be feelin’ the Paine.

        Do remember that Link is not going to stop at the terminal. The walk will be a lot longer than the walk at Sea-Tac. It’s 4/10 of a mile from the terminal building to the corner of 100th SW and Airport Road. According to the Link project maps, the guideway will be coming to ground right about that intersection, so there could someday be a station there. But the project map does not show one, even a “deferred” or “possible” one. So, we can be confident that ST will not leave a straight spot in the tracks for the platforms.

        The Paine Field terminal will not, as they say, “be a trip attractor”.

      5. “The Paine Field terminal will not, as they say, “be a trip attractor”.”

        On that we are in agreement. A bus route “feeling the Paine” is very apropos.

      6. I note with some distress that the flight stats page says that all the flights are flown by Embraers. That’s not a good look in Boeing’s home port. Jes’ sayin’……

      7. Those are regional planes. I don’t think any airline uses Boeing for those types of flights because Boeing doesn’t make a plane that size. Alaska doesn’t want to be a Southwest clone and fly only one type of plane for all routes.

      8. I’m sorry but airport connections are overrated in the US. Just look at how many riders use the Salt Lake or Oakland or Dallas — all much busier than Paine Field would ever dream to be. Plus, i don’t see the terminal getting a physical station since the line would not terminate there (a through station at the terminal poses huge costs).

      9. @ Tlsgwm — I wasn’t referring to your comment, but Tom’s. Come to think of it though, I should have responded to the original comment, since that who the comment was really in response to. In short, the Paine Field/Mukilteo Ferry Terminal corridor is not big enough to warrant a connection with this route.

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