Light rail tracks now snake north along I-5, more than a year and a half after Sound Transit broke ground on the Lynnwood Link Extension. Stations take shape as crews place girders for light rail’s long-awaited descent into Snohomish County.
In late May, crews installed the last of the 188 columns that line the 8.5-mile Lynnwood Link Extension. Girder spans are 75% complete, with 94 of 126 in place. Sound Transit projects daily ridership along the four-station extension could reach 55,000 just a few years after opening in 2024.
The track towers over I-5 as it rollercoasters its way from Northgate to the first of two stations in Shoreline. A provisional station at NE 130th, part of ST3, will eventually bridge that gap.
At the South Shoreline Station, located just east of I-5 at NE 148th Street, a 500-stall parking garage hides behind a maze of construction.
Renderings show a bus loop running between the station’s elevated platform and the parking garage – where riders can connect to Sound Transit’s bus rapid transit line, Stride 3. Scheduled to open in 2025, the line will run between Shoreline and Bothell along State Road 522. The line will include a separate car drop off area.
At the next stop, a couple miles to the north, a revamped 185th Street Station design places the 500-spot parking garage on the east side of the highway, much closer to the station.
Here, in late May, the site was the quietest of the four. An under-construction parking garage was the only sign that light rail was coming. Eventually, a bus loop will occupy the top deck of the partially-buried garage.
At the Mountlake Terrace Station, a nearly empty interim parking lot overlooked the bustling construction site where crews prepared the ground for a surface lot and continued placing girders. If Sound Transit had predicted a global pandemic would keep many people home for more than a year, the agency could have saved some parking costs.
No new parking is planned for the transit center, which has space for about 670 cars between a garage and surface lot.
In anticipation of the light rail expansion, developers added hundreds of units of housing and thousands of feet of commercial space in the station vicinity. Once trains start running, residents at one of these buildings, Terrace Station, will be able to watch trains come and go from the comfort of their living room. This front row seat costs between $1,400 for a studio and almost $3,000 for a larger floor plan, according to Zillow.
Shortly after leaving the Mountlake Terrace Station, the track bends west, taking the train over I-5 and toward the Lynnwood City Center Station.
Activity stretches across several blocks as workers weave the track through the site — the interim terminus until work begins to complete the spine to Everett.
The first signs of the station platform are visible from the ground. A new parking garage will eventually be built between the station and I-5.
The track ends just after crossing 44th Avenue W. The first trains could begin running on the newly laid track by late 2023, when the extension enters the testing phase.
162 Replies to “Light rail cascades into Snohomish County”
I know this didn’t make the cut for ST3 – but did the track end up being built in such a way that an infill station at 220th is possible – e.g. as a possibility in ST4? Or is that now impossible (short of completely rebuilding the track)?
It looks like they’ve designed a site to be compatible with a potential future station!
Although, construction of the station, like the originally planned construction of the 130th St station, would probably disrupt Link somewhat at key junctions, like actually attached the above-grade station to the track.
It will probably be more disruptive than 130th (where they are building ~1/2 the station prior to Link operations to minimize disruption), but far less disruptive than Graham or BAR where the existing alignment doesn’t anticipate a station.
Yes, there’s a deferred station at 220th. There are a couple medical-insurance offices buildings there. If the neighbohood someday expands into a larger jobs center, ST might build the station.
ST needs to resist “bus think” where every little cluster of jobs or little activity center deserves an infill station. Go down that line of reasoning and pretty soon you get a real slow line that serves very few people well.
I think Metro now realizes this problem and is working diligently to remove unwarranted stops to speed up service. In some cases they are using the restructures to support ST Link as “cover” to do the right thing. Good for them. Whatever it takes.
220th is based on Link’s typical stop spacing of 1-2 miles. The excessive Metro stops are every two blocks. Metro’s current standard is 0.25-0.33 miles, so the stop diets are implementing that.
If there is no “there” there, then there shouldn’t be a station there.
Doesn’t matter what the distance to the next station is. If the location doesn’t generate enough net ridership to justify its cost and the time penalty to other riders, then ST shouldn’t build it.
Lynnwood Link has a freeway alignment. There are very few theres there. Freeways are hostile to pedestrians. They are to pedestrians as dams are to fish. Could 220th Street attract good bus-Link ridership? This is similar to NE 130th Street. Neither is dependent on a cluster of pedestrian villages growing next to the freeway. ST2 gave us lemons; we are seeking the lemonade recipe.
Lynnwood is the center of a large concentration of residents and businesses, from Edmonds to Mill Creek and Montlake Terrace to Martha Lake. It’s the largest concentration between North Seattle and Everett, and Link is to serve a lot of it. There are hundreds of north-south express buses every weekday, so it makes sense to convert that mass to rail. That’s what cities in other countries do. Link gets less effective in Everett because the distance and travel time goes beyond its sweet spot, but Lynnwood is definitely worthwhile to Lynnwood at least.
Bingo! You exactly hit on the stupidity of stations like 130th and the proposed 220th St stations.
Simply put, if you are going to artificially create transit demand where none currently exists by busing riders in from the far flung corners of the known universe, then you could just as well bus those same riders to one of the pre-existing stations and save the cost of the new stations. Additionally you’d have a faster LR line.
Link isn’t a bus route. It shouldn’t have a station every 3 blocks and next to every convince store. That is a role better suited to buses.
Relative to 130th St. Station, Lake City is not “from the far flung corners of the known universe”. And, it is clearly superior to just using other stations. 148th is an out of direction backtrack. Northgate, the bus gets stuck in traffic.
A 130th st. Station is also the only way an east/west bus through lake city gets enough riders to be run at a more than skeletal level of service, so anyone going between lake city and north Seattle or shoreline also benefits from the station indirectly, even if they aren’t using it.
There is no there there in the NE 145th Street station. There is a potential there at NE 185th Street due the Shoreline Center. Once the freeway alignment was selected, some suggested stations at NE 130th, 155th, and 185th streets. MT and Lynnwood were givens.
Pfff to the comments below, 220th street has more convenient access (no maze of Lynnwood lights) and heavier on-ramp usage than just about any street north of Seattle proper, saving 128th Everett.
Yeah, the station to eliminate is 145th, because it is a terrible place for any sort of transit use. 130th doesn’t have a freeway exit, so bus to train interchanges would be easier on riders.
The MAX stations built next to freeway interchanges (SE Main & 97th, Holgate & 94th) get a lot more traffic from the surrounding neighborhood than those at freeway interchanges (Eg Foster Road & 94th, even though there are new apartment and condominium complexes at Foster). Foster gets bus interchange traffic, but that’s because several busy and one not very busy bus route goes there, and the freeway makes it vastly more dangerous. At Powell & 94th, the freeway interchange adds about 10 minutes to being able to get from #9 westbound to MAX. There’s so many lanes of traffic the stop is all the way over at 92nd.
So, stuff like 130th is nice if you expect to have safe transfers to a feeder bus system.
That first one about Holgate and Main should have been “not built at freeway interchanges”.
You can also see this at places like Cedar Hills Transit Center. Virtually Nobody gets there by walking, and even though they have a pedestrian bridge to connect it with the areas further south, I’ve yet to see anyone actually use that bridge.
ST needs to resist “bus think” where every little cluster of jobs or little activity center deserves an infill station. Go down that line of reasoning and pretty soon you get a real slow line that serves very few people well.
No, go down that line of reasoning and you end up with the Paris Metro or New York Subway. Large stop spacing leads to lower ridership and less frequency (which leads to even lower ridership). By worldwide standards, Link has stops that are way too far apart, not too close together.
you could just as well bus those same riders to one of the pre-existing stations and save the cost of the new stations. Additionally you’d have a faster LR line.
You could say the same thing for every station north of Northgate. Eddie is right, although you clearly don’t understand his argument. I’ll try again:
None of the stations north of Northgate will have a huge number of walk-up riders. There is not a single Capitol Hill among them, let alone a U-District. Every single one is heavily dependent on bus service. Oh, there will be a handful who walk, and a handful who drive and park, but the bulk of riders will arrive via a bus. This may not justify a light rail extension, but it certainly justifies a station. Not only does it save those riders a significant amount of time (and increase ridership) but it creates a better transit network.
Back to your original point, the time delay to pick up riders is minimal and would be more than made up for by increased ridership. There are apartments as well as existing bus service on 220th. There is a smattering of retail, medical and office work there (including Mountlake Terrace City Hall). If anything, the walk-up ridership case is stronger there than most of the stations north of Northgate (like 145th). That would be supplemented with connecting bus service, mostly from the east, where there are apartments as well as a growing number of medical buildings.
Link should have a station every 1-2 miles even in low density areas. The exception is areas that are zero-density like between Rainier Beach and TIB, where it’s all industrial, the products can’t ride the train, and there are hardly any workers who could take the train. 220th isn’t like that. It has a couple office parks, which is a concentration of workers, and the surrounding houses. The line isn’t being built for that neighborhood, it’s being built for the Lynnwood urban center and bus intercept, and 220th is lucky enough to be on the way.
Advantages of 220th ST: The station is at least on the same side of the highway as where the “density” is, and MLT has been open to some denser re-development.
Disadvantages of 220th ST: Not only is it next to the expressway, but it is next to some of the busiest highway ramps in South Sno-Co, and 220th is a bit of a car sewer. It is not really “on the way” for any existing or proposed major bus corridors (871 runs there but only limited peak hours), unlike 130th with (potentially) Lake City — Bitter Lake busses. I suppose you could truncate/divert some Highway 99 busses there, but even then doing it 200th to get to Lynnwood TC would make more sense.
All told, I don’t see how it would be worth the disruption to the system and the increased travel time to add the 220th ST station.
The criteria I suggest is having a minimum and maximum station spacing, but otherwise have a minimum number of expected average weekday riders at each station. The number should vary based on its station costliness — surface, aerial or subway. Something like 1K for surface, 3K for aerial and 6K for subway sounds about right.
Doing that puts some onus for cities to upzone, regulate parking or become more intent on creating a bus transit hub. Cities should “earn” light rail stations rather than “demand” light rail stations — and sometimes expensive garages or excavated vaults and tunnels.
Exactly, and ST does perform analysis similar to what you suggest. However, instead of looking just at riders at a given station, they look at net new riders to the system. I.e., ridership that is merely scavenged or redistributed from adjacent stations is discounted as not providing significant new benefit.
The problem with the 130th St Station is that the original ST analysis indicated that the station brought in exactly 0 (zero) net new riders to the system. All the predicted riders at 130th were predicted to be existing Link riders scavenged from Northgate or 148th.
And yes, you can obviously build the station at a cost of $50M to $75M and then spend another $10M to $30M on bus infrastructure to generate new ridership that makes it appear like the station is performing. But why do that when you could just invest in bus infrastructure to boost ridership at the existing stations while not slowing Link down for the other LR pass-through riders?
Na, sometimes the most pro-transit thing to do is to NOT build a LR station and invest in supporting infrastructure instead. Sometimes that is where the most bang per buck is.
[A 220th station] is not really “on the way” for any existing or proposed major bus corridors (871 runs there but only limited peak hours), unlike 130th with (potentially) Lake City — Bitter Lake busses. I suppose you could truncate/divert some Highway 99 busses there, but even then doing it 200th to get to Lynnwood TC would make more sense.
It is nowhere near as valuable as 130th when it comes to bus connections, but it does have some potential. The 119 could stay on 220th all the way to 56th, and then go south. The 130 would go across 220th, then go south on 66th, then regain its route at 236th. That would retain all the existing coverage, add some additional coverage, and connect riders to Link much faster.
The problem with the 130th St Station is that the original ST analysis indicated that the station brought in exactly 0 (zero) net new riders to the system. All the predicted riders at 130th were predicted to be existing Link riders scavenged from Northgate or 148th.
If that were true (and its not) then there would be no net riders with Lynnwood Link. They could just take express buses to Northgate. But it doesn’t work that way. Ridership gains are based on the number of people who can save time and how much time they save. That is why ridership goes up with frequency or speed. 130th would be a big improvement for people from Lake City, and a huge improvement for people from Bitter Lake*. But Sound Transit never studied the bus network, since that would require a commitment from Metro (in terms of routing and frequency) that Metro wouldn’t be willing to make.
So they based their ridership predictions on walk-up riders and drivers to the park and ride lots. Since 130th doesn’t have a big lot, there was nothing to add there. 130th doesn’t have much in the way of existing walk-up riders, and the city wasn’t ready to commit to TOD. That is likely to happen, but without a commitment, ST couldn’t pencil in riders. Thus they came out with ridiculously low ridership numbers.
Net ridership is an interesting number, as is rider time saved. Both need to be considered in the context of money spent. That is the big logical flaw with your argument. It is quite likely that in terms of either metric (rider time saved per dollar spent, or net new rider per time spent) that an infill station at 220th comes out better than the rest of Lynnwood Link. It isn’t that the station would get a lot of riders, but it would be relatively cheap, compared to the enormous cost of building a line to Lynnwood.
* It is worth noting that Lynnwood Link doesn’t change life for those in Bitter Lake. If you are headed downtown, you take the 5 or the E. If you are headed to the the U-District, you take the 5 or the E, then the 44. It takes too long to get to Northgate, and the bus is too infrequent. But if the 130th station existed, you would take a bus to Link, then go south. Thus you would get new riders on Link with a station on 130th, just from people switching from the bus to Link.
Again, it was a political decision. Link exists because the politicians and voters wanted it. There’s not some binding formula that if it gets X new riders it can proceed, if it gets X-1 it can’t. The majority political opinion expressed by both politicians and the public was they wanted Link to bypass existing highway congestion. When there’s over a hundred express buses a day in a corridor, that’s a good candidate to be upgraded to rail, even if zero new riders appear. But they will come because Link is more reliable, and more frequent off-peak.
Link’s sleeper hit will be between Snohomish County and North Seattle: there’s large pent-up demand in that area that the existing bus service doesn’t address so it doesn’t appear in current ridership. The 512 is unreliable, less frequent than Link, and doesn’t stop at Northgate or Roosevelt. The only alternative is to take local buses or go down to 45th, and people won’t do that. Northgate isn’t just the mall, it’s all of mid-north Seattle including Greenwood, North Seattle College, Lake City, and Sand Point. People who live in Snohomish work in those areas, and people who live in those areas go to Snohomish.
And the medical and office buildings north of North Seattle College. I worked in one of those office buildings, and in central Ballard, and in northeast Seattle, and in all those places I had coworkers from Lynnwood and south Everett. It was futile to recommend transit to them, because it would have taken an hour or two each way on local buses, and that was beyond reasonable tolerance. Some of them do take transit on other occasions, and would commute on transit to North Seattle if there were better options.
“There is no there there in the NE 145th Street station. There is a potential there at NE 185th Street due the Shoreline Center. ” That’s a wild misunderstanding of Shoreline’s updated zoning. Shoreline has zoned both stations areas for equivalent ‘there’ with future development. With a football field immediately adjacent to the station, I don’t see the Shoreline Center creating much ‘there’ for transit ridership unless it is completely redeveloped.
The rationale for 220th is very different than 130th. 130th will hopefully become a new urban village, but the rationale is all about bus intercepts. 220th is about stop spacing and TOD, mostly to the west of the station. 220th was also a ‘cheap’ station because the relevant parcel was already bus land (school district, IIRC) and the station footprint was acquired for construction staging purposes.
*relevant parcel was already public land
Ross B: Pretty good idea about using Community Transit 119 and 130 connect to a Link station at 220TH ST SW. That could work. Both of those routes are pretty indirect and could use some reconfiguration.
Be sure all the windows are tinted black so we cant see all 6 riders, just like the buses.
What are you talking about?
The 512 is pretty full all day. My friend in North Lynnwood visited Sunday, and the southbound bus at Ash Way was late and was so full it wouldn’t let her on, and another bus came soon after. She says ST is running de facto 15-minute frequency on Sundays even though the schedule says 30 minutes, in order to meet demand and avoid overcrowding. So there are a lot more than six riders going north-south on transit.
Granted I haven’t ridden it since COVID, but I can say that I have personally had to stand on the 512 many times on weekends. It is very well ridden.
Ahhhooooo-gahhhhhhh! Troll alert! Troll alert!
“Link should have a station every 1-2 miles even in low density areas”.
First you need the money for all those stations. This is reality. You use the limited funds you have to build stations where the riders are. Ross makes an argument for a station at 220th precisely because he thinks it will have the ridership to support the cost of a station, not because it is one or two miles from another station. Ross also makes the point you will get higher ridership from urban stations, if you haven’t blown those funds on stations will low density and ridership. Using urban station spacing for 90 miles of rail where much of it is commuter rail is not affordable, and is not practical.
Second, if you have long runs like from Seattle to Tacoma or Redmond to Seattle that are effectively commuter rail you will or could have up to 30 stops to Tacoma with spacing every mile or two. That is fine for urban rail with the density of Paris, but slow and frustrating for commuter rail between the three county areas, so you will lose riders.
Either you have built urban rail or commuter rail, which of course depends on density and ridership, and station frequency depends on that distinction. I think it is a big mistake to think Link will manufacture the density and ridership that does not exist now, especially next to interstates, and that suddenly commuter rail will become urban rail. If it does add a station when it does.
ST made that mistake, and ran out of money for the urban rail and stations.
It’s not “all those” stations. It’s ONE station. Lynnwood and MT stations are near city centers. 185th is for Shoreline, 145th is for Stride 3, and 130th is for bus feeders to Lake City and Bitter Lake. No other stations in Lynnwood Link are proposed. 220th was deferred because it couldn’t fit into ST2’s Snohomish budget, so there’s your affordability issue,
Which stations would you drop in East Link? 130th? Mercer Island? Surrey Downs station (SE 8th Street) was moved north to Main Street, so it has a denser station area than the preliminary concept. In South King and Pierce Link you would drop, which stations? The only stations proposed to be added are Graham, BAR, and maybe 144th. Not a lot of stations. And whether South King can afford it depends on their total wishes relative to their budget at some particular time.
Each added station adds 20 seconds of travel time. So adding a few stations is no big deal. It’s when you’re adding ten stations that it drags things down. But there are no proposals to add that many stations.
No, Mike, not “20 seconds of travel time”. The train has to decelerate from 55 miles per hour when it’s traveling on elevated or subway right-of-way. It then stops for those twenty seconds and accelerates back to 55 miles per hour. Those accelerations and decelerations take from thirty to sixty seconds, depending on gradient.
It doesn’t take an advanced transit degree to understand that the train will reach the same point it would have reached in one minute from the point deceleration begins considerably later than one minute and twenty seconds later than when it begins decelerating. It’s actually about two minutes, or a total scheduled delay of one minute.
And then there are the door forcers.
“Again, it was a political decision. Link exists because the politicians and voters wanted it. There’s not some binding formula that if it gets X new riders it can proceed, if it gets X-1 it can’t.”
I am not sure the average voter — or politician — really understood what they were voting for, or wanted rail that badly. Hell, voters voted for Donald Trump too. In fact, what they received from Central Link and ST 2/3 is much different than what they voted for, and I think most would agree the cost estimates and project delivery were flawed.
Link was based on ridership estimates that assumed large population and ridership increases, and a tax formula most did not understand. Sure, when ST opens a new line total Link ridership increases like it will when Northgate Link opens, but ridership on Link grew very little in 2018 and 2019, while bus ridership declined.
Link was about growing the transit pie, not just switching transit riders from buses to rail, which is why ST used such optimistic ridership estimates when selling Link. It was also about promises to make the trip faster and more convenient, especially for all those commuters who live in the four other subareas.
My guess is voters did find the idea of a train better than a bus, and that is true, and like buying a car or house ST sold ST based on your monthly bill (except it was not honest). But again my guess is we will find out as more commuter runs like East Link and Northgate open that voters were thinking of Link in lieu of buses, not in combination with, adding one, two or three seats to their ride just to get to Link, and then to work. Like funding formulas for car values, they never thought about first/last mile access, but then neither did ST.
If the commuter comes back in Seattle post-pandemic, and/or regional population increases, Northgate Link and East Link will be the first time Link is really a peak commuter system, and pretty much after Northgate, Link to Lynnwood is designed as commuter rail to Seattle, which is why it runs along I-5.
Commuters are a different breed of transit rider because they generally hate transit, or being on transit, during packed peak hours. These are not voluntary or discretionary trips. If the trip is longer than on an express bus, or the transfers too aggravating, they will really hate transit, especially if they work in SLU (or Bellevue Way).
I suppose it is interesting to debate stations at 130th, 145th, 220th and so on, but all that tells me is we are not debating any urban stations or lines, like West Seattle, Ballard, SLU, and so on. Am I the only one who finds it odd to debate stations from Northgate to Lynnwood but none in urban Seattle? Will everyone coming to Seattle from the north then take a bus to West Seattle or Ballard, SLU or First Hill? And what about the tiny sliver of East King Co. East Link serves?
“ Northgate Link and East Link will be the first time Link is really a peak commuter system,”
That’s a rather odd and probably naive statement. UW students will gain greatly from Northgate’s opening as the U-District station will provide better campus (and campus-related businesses) connectivity. Campus access from the north will become newly possible on Link.
Further, Link today connects many workers in SE Seattle and Capitol Hill, and Angle Lake has an 1100-space garage. There has been peak commuter use pretty much from opening day.
East Link may end up a bit more concentrated with commuters but half of Line 2 is still running through North Seattle serving UW.
Finally, any issues with ridership projections are imbedded with lots of assumptions from anticipated parking costs to feeder bus service to ignored parking constraints if suburban lots fill up to how many riders are on a train at a peak hour. It’s not just land use at stations.
The big inaccuracies that ST is facing are much more about inaccurate cost estimates rather than inaccurate ridership forecasts. Sound Move put its 2010 forecast at 107K weekday riders — but had Convention Place, First Hill and U-Dustrict riders; with 80K riders reported in 2019 and those three stations likely adding 10-15K more boardings (then doubling for return trips) it was remarkably close — and much closer than the capital cost estimates were. Meanwhile, the WSBLE project is about 80 percent costlier than the public was told in 2026.
I can fault ST for reporting only segment and station ridership forecasts. It’s very hard to find what overall Link system ridership is forecast to be. Are new Northgate Link riders there because the line will get more frequent after East Link opens or just because Northgate Link opens? With higher frequencies after East Link opens, are the reported ridership increases coming with more frequent trains to Northgate (and Lynnwood) counted towards the East Link project or the Northgate Link (or Lynnwood Link) project? Finally, lots of these forecasts stem from researched behaviors and land use forecasts prior to 2018 (no recent real-world calibration) and ST has yet to do a public rollout of updated forecasts. I’m not saying that their material is wrong, but those forecasts are very very stale and the ingredients are very very dated. I could say new forecasts actually being higher because central Seattle has redeveloped much bigger than they thought for example. The bigger point is that a public “refresh” of their forecasts is badly needed. However, likely because ST doesn’t want to create a legal challenge to the draft EIS for WSBLE and TDLE, ST remains mum about revising forecasts. Interestingly, Durkan and others are asking for better ridership info as part of the realignment — so stay tuned! I actually think the best outcome may be to defer the realignment until after the EIS’ are released — or for the EIS work to be put on hold until new forecasts are made public and realignment occurs. There could be egg on everyone’s face if the EIS is released based on stale forecasts that contradict reality.
There is never a good time to roll out new forecasts, but it’s badly needed. It’s irresponsible to make decisions in multiple billions of dollars based on stake forecasts — or more obviously no forecasts at all (letting politics decide rather than updated and detailed ridership data).
A warning to those who believe that hybrid work environments (3 days in the office, 2 days at home each week) will eliminate peak hours traffic congestion so that people don’t need to bother with transit anymore.
My company recently conducted a survey asking for people’s preferences on specific days to be in and out of the office. Not surprisingly, nearly everyone said Monday and Friday at home, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday in the office. If all the other companies do something similar, traffic will be just as bad midweek as it was pre-COVID and transit will be important those days as ever.
Excellent post. I agree with all of your points. While ST’s ridership forecasting might continue to be overly optimistic, as it has been in the past, it’s the agency’s incompetence with cost estimating on its capital programs that is the systemic larger problem. I still don’t think we know the full scale of the ST3 program’s estimation miss.
“The bigger point is that a public “refresh” of their forecasts is badly needed.”
Agreed. As the agency and the board work through their realignment of the capital program, this aspect should not be overlooked. Sadly, from what I have seen thus far in the process, the agency seems content to use these now quite stale projections. Just this past week, the agency published a proposal for realignment from the board chair, R2021-05. There was no mention of taking a new look at ridership projections. The good news is that in said proposal, the infill station at 130th has moved up to a tier 2 consideration.
Btw, I know you meant to say 2016 in the last sentence in your sixth paragraph.
Yes there are typos in my above long comment. 2026 should be 2016 and a stake should be stale, for example.
I just watched yesterday’s meeting. It appears that the Board game is all about schedule and not about substance. The latest compromise proposal just moves dates. It makes West Seattle Link the priority over Graham Station (and let’s not forget that Move Seattle included $10M towards Graham). It continues to ignore the project definition elephant in the room.
The more interesting presentation was the other main agenda item, which fully ascribed at least 60 percent to design mistakes — 40 percent for construction cost estimates directly and 20 percent for inaccurate estimates of ROW needs. Noting this is a “systems” mistake covers up the bigger truth, which is the bulk of the increase is from WSBLE and most of the rest from TDLE — ignoring that the other Link projects still have not advanced to more detailed design concepts. This suggests that WSBLE is actually more like 70-90 percent off on construction cost estimates and another 35-45 percent off on ROW requirements.
“The track towers over I-5 as it rollercoasters its way from Northgate to the first of two stations in Shoreline.”
“Rollercoasters” is a very apt description of the Lynnwood Link extension. I’ve noted the undulations along the line to my spouse for months now each time we’ve passed by the ongoing construction along I-5. It’s going to be quite the ride. (I also note the absence of my sibling’s old house and neighborhood in the North City area, both condemnation casualties.)
Just out of curiosity, is there any other light rail line in the US with so many elevated sections and so many elevation changes?
Great article and pics. Does this mean Lizz is back as a contributor?
In the space of about 7 miles, MAX green line:
1. Drops under NE Portland streets.
2. Drops further to get under I-205
3. Comes back up to freeway level
4. Increases in elevation up to Powell Blvd station
5. Drops down to get under Holgate
6 drops then rises slightly to get over Foster
7 drops to ground level
8 rises again to get over the Springwater bike path, drops to ground level for the station at Flavel
8 rises to get over 92nd
9 drops to ground level
10 rises to get over Johnson Creek Blvd
11 drops to freeway level
12 has two very small drops to get under existing freeway overpasses
It’s either that or add to the construction cost.
@Glenn in That Other City,
You are correct again! The elevation changes on Lynnwood Link are FAR from unique, and are indeed present partly to reduce costs. It would be a ridiculous waste of money for ST to increase the height of Lynnwood Link between stations just so the track looks more level to the cars on the freeway below (which also has its undulations BTW).
Additionally, having stations at an elevation slightly above the main running track aids in accelerating and decelerating the LRV’s as they enter and leave the stations. That also saves on cost.
Thanks for the feedback, Glenn. I’ll have to take a longer ride on the Max green line the next time I’m down there in your fine city. To date I’ve only ever been as far out as Gateway and have never made the turn southward.
For the record, I get why the Lynnwood Link extension is being constructed in this manner. I do think the number of elevation changes increased as the project evolved and ST blew thru the project’s estimated ST2 cost (2017-2018’s “value engineering” exercise). The N39 package that was actually included in the 2008 ballot measure was estimated based on an entirely aerial alignment, primarily along I-5.
The visualization that ST put together back in 2015 seems like less of a rollercoaster ride. Lol. We shall soon see if reality meets expectation.
Thanks again, Glenn!
Both East Link and Federal Way Link have some vertical interest segments to them as well — as each negotiates a few hills with aerial structures in some parts while going back down to the surface elsewhere. I don’t expect the effect to be very noticeable.
I’m actually a bit more curious about the sound implications. When light rail is next to a freeway, the road noise covers up the sound of the train generally. In that way, freeway alignments have an advantage. The problem comes in at stations, where adjacent freeways can raise the noise levels for waiting riders to an uncomfortable level.
ST has build sound walls to buffer freeway noise for the Mercer Island and Judkins Park surface station riders. However, ST often chooses glass panes over concrete panels for aerial stations and those can amplify adjacent road noise more strongly , including from open wall gaps at the end of platforms. It would be a great technical study to assess Station platform noise levels once all the new stations open by 2025 (12 of the 19 new stations opening in 2021-2025 are next to or inside freeway corridors).
“It would be a great technical study to assess Station platform noise levels once all the new stations open by 2025…”
Fwiw. A few months ago I went over to my sibling’s old house/neighborhood in the North City area of Shoreline where the N Shoreline Station is being built and walked around a bit. (His former house/property and much of his neighborhood is long gone, but enough of the local streets are still there for me to locate where things once stood.) The temporary sound wall that ST has erected did little to contain freeway noise once I walked to the end of the now dead-end street at the north side of the construction site. It was quite loud and I guess I never realized how much noise dampening the previous permanent sound wall that was there provided to that neighborhood. I sincerely hope that the eventual permanent wall that ST says it will construct here will be as good if not better. It will be interesting to see what the freeway noise levels will indeed be at the station platforms you’ve mentioned and what post-opening mitigation actions ST takes in response to any discovered inadequacies.
TIBS and Seatac Airport stations are the only currently operating stations with platforms near a higher speed highway — and those are not as busy or wide, or have as many trucks as I-5 does.
ST could go out now and assess freeway noise at Northgate platforms today now that the station is so close to opening. That would assist in understating what potential issues would emerge with nearby Lynnwood Link station platform noise — and give ST some time (three years) to procure some mitigation for problems.
I’ll add that the noisiest station on the Lynnwood Link segment will appear to be 130th or 148th. Those will be sitting up in the air next to the freeway. They are not too much different than Northgate is.
IIRC the decibel limit for a station is 72 decibels. Mercer Island’s station was given an exemption to 78 decibels I believe. Not due to the train, but because the station sits below grade between east and west bound I-90 lanes, and the sound reverberates off the concrete walls lining I-90 that rise at least 20′ above the I-90 lanes at this location.
ST constructed concrete sound barriers between the below grade station platform and I-90, but still there is a lot of reverberated noise because the station is so far below grade.
I don’t think it will be a pleasant station to wait for a train, as it is shady, well below grade with views of little but concrete walls, pretty narrow, with lots of car fumes, and loud. Some of us lobbied for a solid wall along the perimeter of the station at street level (which is really a perimeter wall around I-90) because of the sound of I-90, but so far no go.
Again, based on memory, this part of I-90 is scheduled for less noisy concrete when it is time to repave. I think parts of the new 520 bridge have received this quieter concrete, and that it helps quite a bit.
If the existing Mountlake Terrace freeway station is a guide, freeway noise will be a very big problem. Just waiting 5 minutes for a bus left my ears hurting a good 30 minutes later. I didn’t measure the sound, but it felt like at least 90 dB. The parking garage was even worse, with the sound bouncing around off the concrete.
After that experience I vowed to never use that bus stop again without hearing protection, and it’s possible 148th St. Link station could be similar. By contrast, the other freeway stations, such as 45th, Eastgate, and Evergreen Point are not nearly as bad.
“IIRC the decibel limit for a station is 72 decibels.”
That’s an interesting technical point. Do you happen to have a source? Thanks.
Just passing this link along as I thought you might enjoy perusing the findings. It’s a paper from a few years back from a Masters graduate at the Urban Planning Dept. at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. It’s titled “Passenger Exposure To Noise At Transit Platforms In
Los Angeles”. (Sorry, but it’s a direct download of the .pdf file.) It’s far from a comprehensive study but it does offer an interesting look at the very subject matter of noise levels at transit platforms that are located alongside freeways.
I believe Chicago’s El train alternates multiple times from elevated to subway and back again in some stretches.
Yeah, and I think the New York Subway does as well.
Sure. I was inquiring about US light rail systems however.
My guess is it is relatively rare with light rail. Most light rail is on the surface. The interesting thing is that light rail being so nimble allows it to navigate surface streets more easily, and do the sort of thing you mentioned.
San Diego’s trolley extension through UCSD is an elevated fish hook design, but I don’t know how much elevation change there is. The Trolley blue line has an undulating pattern as it follows I8. It rarely uses the freeway alignment itself, but like Link is it frequently elevating to go over barriers while trying to run at-grade as often as it can without hindering reliability. It also pops underground through SDSU.
LA’s light rail system also frequently switch grades, but they are mostly very straight alignments so perhaps not as noticeable.
You obviously meant to say the trolley green line. That’s the one that runs east-west north of I-8 and the river (mostly) until it gets to the Grantville Station, and gets one out to SDSU.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the opening of the Mid-Coast Trolley expansion of the blue line scheduled for later this year. This line should perform well imo based on the alignment and selected station locations. My spouse and I go to SD fairly often (we have a property there) but my experience riding the trolleys around the region has been limited to the downtown core and the Coaster line a few times. I think this blue line expansion will be a very nice improvement to their overall transit network. Your thoughts?
Fwiw, I have very little experience with LA’s light rail system to speak of, other than riding the green line between Norwalk and LAX for many work-related trips.
Yes, meant the Green line along the river, thank you.
I’m not as familiar with SD, but last time I was there we drove around UCSD (my first time to that campus) and I noticed the elevated viaducts for the under construction Trolley extension, which given the geography are probably necessary. A connection to a large university should only do good things for transit ridership in SD; I’ll be curious if the Trolley gets good ridership from students & staff simply trying to move around within campus.
Al, I doubt many would believe ST’s ridership projections if new ones were rolled out.
The EIS for East Link was basically deceit, and now ST claims it doesn’t have to revisit the EIS or addendum despite implementing a bus intercept on Mercer Island. ST’s ridership projections had more to do with selling a levy than actual “researched behaviors”, which is why the projections are always high. “Durkan and others are asking for better ridership info as part of the realignment” means Durkan wants manipulated ridership numbers that support the West Seattle line (and new bridge), not an honest EIS assessment.
The better course of action is to wait and see what actual ridership is on Northgate Link and East Link, the two major commuter runs. The delta between what ST predicted and actual ridership will likely be a pretty good delta to apply to any future ST ridership projections because it will be post pandemic actual ridership, which will take a few years to stabilize, and compare to declines in bus ridership.
But much of this is moot. ST’s budgets — whether due to poor or deceptive cost estimating, lower ridership and farebox revenue, or lower general fund tax revenue post pandemic — limit rail and stations to what is budgeted in the spine now. There is little point to a new EIS or ridership projections on lines that can’t be built and no one will believe.
The cost overruns for the second tunnel (and no one really knows what the actual price would be, but $4 billion seems low today), rule out any new rail lines in N. King Co. alone. Stations at Graham St., 130th, and 220th also look unlikely. Even the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line looks unlikely even though affordable, because folks have had a chance to understand ST’s deceptive cost estimating, and question the need for some of this rail for rail’s sake.
Whether UW students are commuters can be debated. I didn’t consider them work commuters because many don’t ride peak hours five days/week. But my point to Mike’s post wasn’t whether to build more stations because there isn’t the money for that, my point was many voters were thinking rail when voting, not bus to rail to bus to work, so let’s see how that pans out when Northgate Link opens, which is why I support continuing express buses until that unknown is known.
ST has ignored first/last mile access from day one like it is Metro’s problem, but really with the peak commuters coming with Northgate and East Link that part of the trip will be what determines success and failure, not new lines and stations because even if wildly successful the money isn’t there for new rail lines and stations.
Al, when you write Seattle Subway has allocated $10 million towards a Graham St. station is that money Seattle Subway has now, or is based on a 1304 type levy passing?
I said Move Seattle — the 2015 levy that voters approved. Graham funds are in the referendum.
Just a note on the two Bridge over I5 pictures.
These appear to be shot facing South from the 238th street Overpass.
The undulations are no big deal – probably not even noticeable physically from the train (visually probably noticeable).
But what I’m really curious about is the view from the train. Because in many places it is pretty high. Going to be a good pocket view at least!
Also, I’m not a big fan of putting LR alongside the freeway, but it sure is going to be annoying to all those cars and buses stuck in traffic to just sit there and watch the train whizz by.
Right you are. Gonna be a heckuva ride.
“Also, I’m not a big fan of putting LR alongside the freeway, but it sure is going to be annoying to all those cars and buses stuck in traffic to just sit there and watch the train whizz by.”
That is an interesting comment Lazarus — and would only be true during peak hour congestion — but others have said a side by side comparison of car speeds on an interstate and ST’s trains will highlight cars are faster, with no stops or first/last mile access issues.
The fact is peak hour commuters have to take transit anyway because of the parking costs in downtown Seattle, and during peak hours buses have access to the reversible dedicated HOV lanes on I-5 and may not even see trains until Northgate. If that many buses are still running peak hours in peak direction on I-5 alongside Link we have a problem with Northgate Link.
There are no “ reversible dedicated HOV lanes” on I-5.
There are GP reversible lanes, but they end at Northgate, which is pretty much exactly where the freeway congestion begins. And that is also almost exactly where Link exits the tunnel and begins to run alongside the freeway.
Locals know this.
If Link were 65 mph or higher instead of 55, it would always be faster than law-abiding cars. Instead it’s only faster during congestion. That’s a lost opportunity. In the UK I noted that trains between Edinburgh and London and Cambridge and London are twice as fast as buses, giving a real incentive to ride them. In the US it’s the opposite: buses are often faster than trains because the rail lines are so half-assed implemented, and the trains only have an advantage during heavy congestion. But in the Northgate/Lynnwood corridor’s case, heavy congestion southbound occurs all afternoon from noon to 7pm every day, so it’s not just peak hours.
The ship canal bridge on I-5 south is a real problem for congestion, but a big part of that is trucks, and trucks can’t use transit. I have always thought barriers should be placed at the entrance to I-5 at 45th that would prohibit accessing 520 east. Make those cars use the left lane entrance at 65th, or Montlake, to access 520, except Montlake opposes that. Widening the bridge wouldn’t hurt, but then the same narrowing occurs at the convention center. I-5 is very poorly designed, which is why it has as much congestion as it does during non-peak hours from the convention center to Mercer St. to Northgate.
A couple of weeks ago I had to drive to Vancouver WA on Memorial Day. My new car has the speed odometer in the windshield so you see it all the time. Traffic was 80 mph or more the whole way.
I think it is mistake to see transit as competing with cars. They have different purposes and different strengths. Even if peak hour commuters to downtown Seattle wanted to drive they can’t afford to park, so make sure first/last mile access is good, and like rail provide dedicated paths.
I also think rising costs of transit are an issue, including park and rides. One advantage transit has, or should have, is cost, and round trip fares of $4 when East Link opens, plus charging for park and rides in a huge area with very poor feeder bus service, is negating the one advantage transit has in an area in which driving is preferred and so to get those drivers to use transit voluntarily will be hard enough.
Transit advocates often complain of cars as though that will make transit better (even though a lot of transit is funded by car and truck tabs), but I rarely hear car owners complain about transit, including the cost. I hear many more complaints about dedicated bike lanes because no one ever sees anyone using them, and they strike many as political folly.
“Traffic was 80 mph or more the whole way.”
That’s very hard to believe, unless you were driving in the wee hours of the morning or something like that. My last trip to Portland (from my home just north of Lynnwood) a couple of summers ago took over 3.5 hours. It was a total slog thru the Joint Base section of I-5.
Link’s fare structure is $2.25 for the first five miles, and 5c per mile after that rounded to the nearest 25c. Westlake-Angle Lake (12 miles) is $3.00. UW-Angle Lake is $3.25. Westlake-Bellevue is about 12 miles so it will be around $3.00. Westlake-Lynnwood is 15 miles so it will be around $2.75. So even Westlake-downtown Redmond will probably be around $3.50.
The goal is to make transit people’s first choice if they’re not carrying bulky items and their origin-destination pair are typical. For that they can choose either transit or driving, and factors like travel time will make a difference. Mass transit can’t go nonstop door-to-door for everybody, especially the most isolated houses and tiny office parks, but it can aim for the largest cross-section of riders and trips. It has to be, if not as fast as driving, at least not excessively slower.
Wait, Lynnwood is further so it would be more expensive, so I have a mistake somewhere. But a 15-mile trip is definitely $2.75 based on (2.25 + (0.05 * 10)). So $4.00 would cover a 40-mile trip (2.25 + (0.05 * 35)). That would be like UW to Tacoma, Redmond to Des Moines, or Redmond to Shoreline.
“ Link’s fare structure is $2.25 for the first five miles, and 5c per mile after that rounded to the nearest 25c.”
Is that as the train track aligns or as the bird flies? Surely this is mentioned somewhere.
With a U-shape, Line 2 (East Link trains) could have some fares actually be cheaper for a longer trip if it is the latter. UW is physically closer to Redmond than Westlake is. Most other lines don’t reverse course — but East Link does.
It’s as the track goes. That’s what ST’s expenses are, and the reason it has fares in the first place.
55 mph vs. 65 mph actually impacts travel time very little at urban scale distances, especially when a train is slowing to a stop every couple miles to serve a station.
What matters a lot more is the frequency of service and how long it takes to get to the station.
For 55 mph vs. 65 mph to really be important, you need a service running much longer distances with much fewer stops, such as Sounder or Amtrak Cascades.
What matters a lot more is the frequency of service and how long it takes to get to the station.
Exactly. BART goes 70 MPH. It has very few stops. Yet outside the urban core, it gets very few riders. That is because outside of the urban core, most of the day, driving is significantly faster for the vast majority of trips people take.
This is a fundamental problem with more distant transit systems, and why they never have the ridership of the system within the city. If you run an express, then you serve very few people. Sounder is fine, but there are only nine stations, and none of them have huge ridership (except Seattle). You could add more stations, but you would get very few trips between stations, while delaying those that take longer trips. You could certainly squeeze more ridership out of it (with more stops), but you would never get anywhere near what an urban system gets.
That is because you have relatively few trips *between* stations. Either the trips are too time consuming, or there is little there. It is highly likely that people who lives in Roosevelt will spontaneously decide to visit Capitol Hill and almost all of them will take Link. Someone in Lynnwood is far less likely to do that, simply because it takes too long. They are also unlikely to visit 185th, because there isn’t much there.
Every long line should be viewed with caution, especially given the long history of underperforming long lines built in this country. The one exception is probably L. A., but that is because L. A. has good density over a very large area, but lacks a strong core. In that regard, it is unique in North America, if not the world.
I meant, heavy congestion occurs somewhere between Northgate and downtown all afternoon. It’s not continuous congestion from Lynnwood to downtown, but pockets of it, most commonly at 45th, the Ship Canal Bridge, or SLU.
“Traffic was 80 mph or more the whole way.”
“That’s very hard to believe, unless you were driving in the wee hours of the morning or something like that. My last trip to Portland (from my home just north of Lynnwood) a couple of summers ago took over 3.5 hours. It was a total slog thru the Joint Base section of I-5.”
As I noted, it was Memorial Day and Joint Base is currently working from home. Plus my trip south on I-5 begins after downtown Seattle since I am coming west on I-90. There was some traffic through Tacoma, but I think that was bridge traffic due to issues with the Bremerton Ferry.
Lynnwood to Portland is 189 miles. If you deduct the time you spent going through the congestion at Joint Base (which is pretty peak oriented) and getting into Portland that means you averaged over 60 miles/hour for the rest of the trip, which isn’t bad. The real point however was traffic speed limits are not the limiting factor, congestion is. No congestion and traffic on I-5 travels at 80 mph.
My prediction is when East Link opens a fare across the lake will be on average $4 each way. Peak bus fare today across the lake is $3.50 one way I believe, even from Mercer Island.
$8 round trip is still less than parking in downtown Seattle or Bellevue, unless there is a charge for park and rides. I think transit (at least East Link) needs to be careful because during the pandemic and working from home employees who did go into the office at times often received subsidized parking rather than subsidized transit (which under the 2017 Tax Act is no longer deductible for businesses), and may want that after the pandemic.
If parking is subsidized for employees who now work fewer than 5 days/week, and park and rides charge (based on a monthly five day/week worker), then you have flipped the entire cost advantage for transit.
“Peak bus fare today across the lake is $3.50 one way I believe, even from Mercer Island. ”
ST Express is a flat $3.25 for all routes. Multi-county routes used to be higher and single-county routes lower, but ST equalized them. That’s part of a larger push by both ST and Metro to simplify their fare structures, so that ORCA riders wouldn’t be faced with so many variations. Metro also equalized its 2-zone peak, 1-zone peak, and off-peak fares to one flat fare.
The speed line on I-5 is 60 mph in the city, 70 mph in rural areas. Going 80 mph anywhere along I-5 is illegal and can result in a speeding ticket.
I thought it was 65 mph in Seattle and 70 mph down past Everett and Lakewood somewhere. But I don’t drive so what do I know.
55 to 65 isn’t much but it adds up when you’re doing long trips like Seattle to Tacoma. And there are trains that can go 65 mph or 85 mph. Link could have done that if it had been written into the spec.
Mike, it goes to 70 in South Olympia and just north of the big casino north of Marysville. It’s 60 everywhere in between I believe, except when the lane-specific limit system is functioning.
“55 to 65 isn’t much but it adds up when you’re doing long trips like Seattle to Tacoma”
Right, but the typical Link trip won’t go nearly that far. For trips like Northgate to downtown or Bellevue to Seattle, 55 vs. 65 means very little. 6 min. vs. 10 min. frequency would matter more.
Driving, the same situation occurs on rural roads all the time. Do you risk an accident by passing someone in the oncoming lane to drive 5-10 mph faster? A lot of drivers drastically overestimate the actual amount of time saved and under estimate the risk of an accident (what if a dear suddenly crosses the road? What if there’s a cyclist going the other way you didn’t see?). I did it once and saved a whopping 5 minutes in exchange for my heart pounding the entire rest of the trip. I vowed never to do it again.
A lot of drivers drastically overestimate the actual amount of time saved
Exactly. They are either really bad at math, or just don’t bother to do it. The only time top speed matters is when you are going a long distance (e. g. between cities).
“Every long line should be viewed with caution, especially given the long history of underperforming long lines built in this country.”
Agree with Ross on this one, and would add cost, which is ridership per mile, and density that favors cars.
But since it is 2021 and not 2001 what we have is the spine, and the one subarea with some true density — N. King Co. — without the funding to complete its urban rail, and missing at least two key stations: First Hill and SLU, maybe a missing piece in Ballard to UW, and the wrong route through South Seattle that is still waiting for its TOD because it turns out transit does not determine development.
IMO Link has to be divided into commuter rail and urban rail, and many have posted on this using Germany as an example. Rather than dozens and dozens of “urban growth clusters” built around TOD and light rail stations that don’t exist today, identify true large cities — Everett, Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue, maybe Redmond — and then understand rail between these cities is commuter rail. That means fewer stops and stations, both for time and cost, especially if WFH becomes a factor.
When that is done you can see how other than Seattle there isn’t much of an economic case for intra-urban rail in the other cities, except maybe a tiny bit of Tacoma. If you are Seattle you should also begin to understand you run rail TO Seattle, not from it, and too much was spent on rail from downtown Seattle.
The real problem is funding. Where is the money going to come from for the urban stations and lines in Seattle, even if stations at 130th, 145th, and so on are eliminated. Ross’s cautionary tale (although he has raised it for some time) is too late unless someone can find the money. In the end ST built commuter rail with the money it had, probably hoping for more money somewhere down the road, in large part because it totally misunderstood the sheer size of the three county area, and their lack of density.
So now that we all know the problem, does anyone know where ST can get the money to fix it?
SOV drivers can speed and have contempt for the police. Bus and train drivers who speed risk losing their job for violating agency policy. So it’s not equal.
When did I-5 go down to 60? When i was a kid it was 70, then 55, then 65, but I don’t remember it going to 60.
If it is 60 that makes Link look better. :) It’s only 5 mph slow.
I don’t believe it was ever 70 within the Seattle City Limits, except possibly on the very well protected reversible lanes. If it was 70 on the main lanes it was before the 1970’s.
Everything dropped to 55 to save gas. Then when they went back to allowing higher limits, they limited speeds in cities. Top speed varies state by state. Lower speeds may vary by state as well — with even lower limits in tricky areas.
For I-5, the freeway has a maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) in rural areas and 60 mph (97 km/h) in urban and suburban areas, which includes a 100-mile (160 km) section between Tumwater and Marysville (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_5_in_Washington).
When I came to Seattle in 1972 as a child the signs on I-5 said “Speed limit 70; trucks/night 50”. It dropped to 55 during Carter’s fuel-saving measure, and up to 65 when that was repealed.
“Everything dropped to 55 to save gas.”
Yup. 1974. One of the last pieces of major legislation signed by Tricky Dick, it was in response to the oil embargo imposed by OPEC in the previous year. I still remember my relatives in upstate NY and NJ kvetching about the gas price increases, the long lines at gas stations and the license plate odd-even strategy employed to mitigate that. My family lived in the city and didn’t own a car so we didn’t have to deal with any of that, but I do remember the cabs lined up at gas stations and the “no gas” signs. I think Congress repealed the act that Nixon had signed into law eventually in 1995.
I thought Carter signed it and Reagan repealed it. Wasn’t it part of Carter’s “save energy by turning off lights and wearing a sweater” campaign?
No, the Carter administration initiative you’re thinking of was a separate energy conservation effort that followed the Nixon-Ford years. Nixon’s push for the lower highway speed limits was due to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo that caused gasoline shortages and significantly (historically) higher prices at the pump, since his administration believed that the lower speeds would conserve fuel and thus mitigate the nationwide shortages. The National Maximum Speed Limit statutes were included in Congress’ Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1973, which Nixon signed into law in early Jan 1974. Ford later made the lower maximum speed limit permanent a year later when he signed off on the Federal Aid Highway Amendments of 1974 in early Jan 1975.
Mike, OK, if you remember that it was 70 through Seattle, I can’t argue; I don’t remember and didn’t have a car then anyway to see the signs.
I just remember it because it was so interesting. The “Speed Limit 70” part was a white-on-black sign they have now. The part below it, “Trucks/Night 50” may have been yellow on black, and was in reflective letters so it lit up when headlights went past.
The Evergreen Bridge was 50 and the Mercer Island Bridge was 40. They were more primitive bridges then.
Everything dropped to 55 to save gas.
One more little tidbit from the era, Washington was “progressive” and lowered the speed limit State wide to 50mph. Then the Fed’s mandated 55 so WSDOT had to go back and slap a new 5 to cover the zero on all the signs they just changed. And let’s not forget MT response to the Federales, OK, you drive over 55 mph and we might just ticket you for a $5 environmental infraction. The stupidity of driving from Butte to Billings at 55 mph is just beyond what the beltway can comprehend.
Comparing travel times of Link with single occupant vehicles is a real-time challenge. For example, Saturday afternoons can be terrible on I-5 in North Seattle.
The opportunity that ST has is to inform freeway drivers in real-time with the Lynnwood Extension. They could begin by hanging large fixed signs on their own garages (saying “28 minutes of hands-free driving to Westlake from here” on the Lynnwood City Center station garage, for example) and then determining how best to divert freeway drivers upstream from that with real-time information. ST needs a partnering strategy with WsDOT to put fixed and changeable signs on and near freeways about anticipated travel times or most drivers won’t think about using Link as an alternative.
That strategy should also probably reveal the number of available garage parking spaces as well.
That’s a good idea if it can come up with a concise clear wording. WSDOT has freeway signs listing the minutes to various cities based on real-time congestion, and even 4th Avenue South in SODO has a sign for the times to the stadiums, midtown, and Seattle Center. If WSDOT adds Link to it in Lynnwood, it could say something like, “Downtown Seattle (by light rail) 28 minutes; Downtown Seattle (by car) 60 minutes”.
The key to driving on a highway is to go with the flow. Minimize lane changes, don’t drive slower than the rest of the traffic, don’t drive too much faster. You will never get pulled over by the police if your speed is consistent with everyone else, and a good rule of thumb is people will drive around 10 mph faster than the speed limit, which is not enough to get pulled over.
The real limiting factor on highways is traffic congestion (except maybe I-5 that is just poorly designed).
When it comes to transit vs. cars however I don’t think a comparison of speeds is all that relevant. Most people are not riding transit because it is faster than a car.
First there is first/last mile access, second there are stops, third the less than linear route. They are riding transit because it is cheaper, maybe more convenient, or they like transit or not owning a car.
When it comes to peak commuters, especially along I-5 into downtown Seattle, I could see where light rail would be better than a SOV, depending on first/last mile access. I could also see where rail would be competitive when going to difficult to access areas with little parking, like UW or Capitol Hill, which is why UW students are heavy transit users.
Will light rail fundamentally change land use patterns? I doubt it because I think citizens value their style of housing more than mode of transportation, but that is not transit’s goal, just ST’s to meet its fantastical ridership projections and huge cost.
My concern when I see those fantastical ridership projections (41,000 on Northgate Link, 55,000/day on Lynnwood Link, 43,000 to 52,000/day on East Link) is if those estimates are remotely accurate there is no way first/last mile access will be able to keep up, which will be peak oriented, and I just don’t see riders flocking to apartment buildings next to parking garages and I-5 so they can walk to transit (and on the eastside these new TOD’s will be some of the least affordable housing of all).
I understand ST and transit advocates want to coerce as many car drivers as possible onto transit, for some valid and some not so valid reasons, but if that actually happens there just is not the first/last mile access to handle all those riders, and that IMO is the real rub, not number or location of stations, or a comparison of speeds.
If Lazarus is correct (and I tend to agree with him on this) that there is no there there for too many of the planned stations north of Northgate then ridership and not first/last mile access will be the rub, but if others are correct and a station creates its own ridership then lack of frequent first/last mile access will be the hornets nest. (Of course the N. King Co. subarea’s finances might make this argument moot).
I just don’t think that some have considered that when it comes to first/last mile access, most of those who will switch to rail are going from a SOV to rail if there is going to be an increase in ridership over buses, not really understanding the first step — SOV to walking to feeder bus to riding feeder bus– is going to be the traumatic part.
Once on a train heading to downtown Seattle with no traffic congestion a rider will think this is ok (if they have a seat) despite the stops and routing through Roosevelt, UW and Capitol Hill, if they work near where the station is, but the shock is going to be from SOV in the garage to walking to feeder bus to riding feeder bus to get to the train.
My guess is that step is where all the angst will come from, and if too inconvenient (because going from a car in the garage to walking to a feeder bus is inherently less convenient, rain or shine), it is here at this step folks will decide to keep driving, even if it takes longer.
I think Ford signed it.
Daniel, you JUST do not understand how rail substitution works. ALL those hours CT and Metro buses which now travel to downtown Seattle but will be truncated spend stuck on Stewart, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourth South AND DEADHEADING in the off-peak direction will be returned to the agencies. Even IF the revenue leg of the trip is quick as a greased pig in the HOV lanes, all the overhead is a huge burden.
Now there may be political fights about what the agencies do with the hours, but there will be plenty to add “first/last mile” frequency where needed. This will be especially true of the “satellite ” Park’N’Rides where the portion of the trip to Link will be 20-40% of the current time for a current run. Some wil, have a bus scheduled to meet every Link train. That’ how it’s done, and it’s Metro — who definitely knows how to do it — who will be doing it.
I’m afraid you have the chronology wrong. President Ford made the changes permanent, but it was Nixon who signed the original bill that forced lower highway speed limits. (See my reply to Mike Orr above.)
This is what Ford signed off on:
Dude certainly hasn’t driven I-5 north of Seattle any time lately.
Thanks TT, I think I understand bus truncation. Your point is Metro will reinvest express bus costs into feeder bus service so that even with one or two transfers the trip on Link will be faster and more convenient.
Let’s see how it works with peak commuters. Especially to SLU. There is a reason Metro is continuing peak express buses after Northgate Link opens.
I don’t know why it would be worse for folks headed to SLU. Some buses from the south and east go a few blocks into Belltown or SLU itself. Folks who rode those and walked to SLU destinations will be worse off.
But there’s a vehicle headed into SLU on Westlake every three or four minutes, and no buses layover around Fairview, so folks headed there won’t be any worse off. Yes, they’ll have another transfer, but the time from the P’n’R to Westlake should be roughly the same if Metro runs timed shuttles.
It sounds like you do understand the theory behind rail substitution but just don’t believe Metro and CT can execute. As you say, we shall see.
Shoreline – Lynnwood and Northgate area congestion is hardly limited to just peak commute hours. 10 AM – 12 and after 7 PM, it’s “usually” un-congested.
TT, I don’t think peak work commuters will tolerate three seats: feeder bus to Link, feeder bus from Link to work. I don’t care what the frequency is.
My comment to Mike is I think voters had a vision of train from doorstep (or on the Eastside from the park and ride) to work. But that was pre- pandemic.
Naive? Maybe, but voters never blame themselves for naïveté.
If commuters find three seats — or two seats — intolerable they will make that known. Employers like Amazon can increase WFH, or continue dedicated bus shuttles, or subsidize parking, or build parking like Microsoft.
What post pandemic work is looking like is a rebalancing of the employer—employee relationship, and commuting to work five days/week on transit or in a car is the thing they hate the most.
Transit advocates are arguing commute on transit and accept it no matter how intolerable. However a significant portion of the work force is now claiming no, I won’t commute, whether 1, 2 or 3 seats, or in a car. They are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.
Articles by McKinsey and The Gates Foundation have predicted a 5% reduction in peak commuters will have a devastating long term funding impact on transit, and ST’s peak ridership estimates look to be at least 20% inflated out of the box pre-pandemic.
ST is on a knife’s edge. It simply can’t afford crummy first/last mile access for work commuters. People are just not going to put up with shitty service anymore. Northgate Link is make or break, IF the peak commuter returns at all.
Commuters take a huge amount of resources from everyone else, and a shift to work from home would ultimately benefit everyone.
For those that want to see improved transit, it means fewer hours wasted trying to serve peak periods.
For those that drive, fewer resources need be wasted on highway lanes that are really only necessary several hours a day
For those that want to see a more active downtown, it means less land wasted on parking and traffic lanes, and possibly less office space, opening up vast areas that could serve housing needs or a number of other purposes.
As far as transfers go, thousands of people already have to do this every day. Some people will choose to drive, just like they do now. Some others will prefer the new services that are possible that can’t be provided because of the huge number of bus operating hours that prividing a one-way, peak only service absorbs.
I can see how McKinsey, professional lackeys to the MOTU, would make such a ridiculous prediction. I don’t see why the Gates Foundation would though, or for that matter why they think commuting is in their wheelhouse.
I generally agree with your opposition to the long extensions beyond ST2, but your glee at potential problems has caused me to roll out the klaxon: AHHHHHOOOOOOGAAAHHHH Troll Alert! Troll A!lert
If Amazon wants to run its own dedicated shuttles from park and rides to Amazon buildings to go after the crowd that insists on nothing short of a nonstop one-seat ride from park and ride to office, Amazon is welcome to do so.
But, Amazon should not expect King County Metro to fund such shuttles out of its own budget, and have non-Amazon employees get less bus service as a result.
While Amazon is free to do what it wants with its own money, the taxpayer funded services need to be more efficient than that in terms of riders per dollar spent – especially for commute oriented services that don’t contribute anything to all-day service frequency or coverage. Once Northgate Light Rail opens, the efficient way for people to get from Northgate to SLU is for them to ride Link to Westlake, then have the choice of either walking or switching over to a bus or streetcar. Not a pattern where every park and ride has its own special bus to South Lake Union that follows the same freeway that Link seeks to avoid, just to take a slightly different exit and drop people off a few blocks closer.
Chicago’s Blue Line might be a good comp for the “oh no the cars are passing us!” phenomenon. Every time I’ve ridden the Blue to/from O’Hare, freeway traffic is faster than the train for the first 2~4 freeway stations but by the time train goes underground the freeway is inching along and the train is wizzing by car traffic. As others have pointed out, there is congestion in more than just Seattle and in more than just rush hour. Transit needs to be time competitive in aggregate, so the fact that it is slower than driving for part of 1 leg of the journey is irrelevant. (Plus, people will take transit even if driver is ‘faster,’ for various reasons including cost of parking)
Amazon and Microsoft ran dedicated shuttles before the pandemic so I imagine they will run — and fund — their own shuttles post pandemic, although both are building huge parking lots on the Eastside.
Not only are these dedicated shuttles more convenient for staff who don’t get a reserved parking space, they are more efficient for employers. These employees are very valuable per hour, and having them spend unnecessary time on transit is not financially efficient for the employer, and not a good way to attract this talent.
When asdf2 writes having a commuter who may have already transferred once or twice to reach Link then transfer after Link to reach SLU is more “efficient”, the question is more efficient for whom?
Certainly not the rider, and for high value employees not the employer. It may be more “efficient” for ST or Metro, if that beleaguered commuter puts up with it. Losing a large chunk of commuters and their fares might not be “efficient” for a rail system designed for peak commuters because they are a majority of (full fare paying) riders. If peak commuters don’t show up rail still must run, just with much less revenue, which translates directly into less frequency.
People — riders and employers — will do what is best for them. They don’t give a damn about what is more efficient for Metro or ST. There are many alternatives for getting from A to B, including WFH.
History is littered with businesses and agencies that built things that were efficient for them that went out of business. I give credit to ST and Metro for continuing some express peak buses to downtown Seattle after Northgate Link opens — even though both Metro and the subarea are stretched thin financially —because once a rider finds an alternative to transit it is very hard to get them back.
Telling commuters we built a very expensive light rail system that has major first/last mile gaps but tough luck is rather arrogant IMO (especially when ST is cutting major ST 3 projects but the taxes remain) even if the remedy affects non-peak riders, because ST and Metro know the money is in the peak rider who has alternatives, which is why Link is so commuter oriented. Does anyone really believe the region would have voted to spend tens of billions of dollars on light rail from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond to make non peak trips faster or more convenient when there is no congestion. Why build dedicated rail for non-peak riders when buses are infinitely more “efficient” for those trips?
Of course, efficiency for the taxpayers matters. If it didn’t, Metro could just run taxicabs directly from home to office. Faster for the worker than stopping at a park and ride, but costs way too much and clearly doesn’t scale.
Ultimately, public transit of all forms is a balancing act between minimizing travel time and minimizing taxpayer subsidy. Usually, you can’t lower one of them without raising the other, but you can look for cases of assemetry – services that cost a lot to operate relative to the amount of actual time saved for riders over alternatives.
An express bus from Northgate to SLU is precisely such an example. The operating cost is expensive. Schedules are drawn in advance, so Metro has to pay for traffic congestion on I-5 and downtown streets every trip – including trips where there is no congestion. Metro also has to pay to run all those buses empty in the opposite direction to get the bus to the route’s starting point. But, the actual amount of time saved for riders is small. The wait time for the 40 or C, peak hours, is about 5 minutes. And the tallest buildings in SLU are towards the southern end, where you don’t even have to wait – you just walk to the office from Westlake station. Many of the SLU express buses are really just express buses to Fred Hutch and don’t even serve much of SLU (and can’t without driving around in circles).
Of course, if the time of certain workers is especially valuable, prioritizing them for special treatment can make economic sense. That’s the reason why Amazon pays for special shuttles for its own workers.
But, a taxpayer funded service can’t give special consideration to highly paid tech workers and say their time is more valuable because they get paid more. It has to value everyone’s time equally, and that means, for the greater good, peak hours commuters from Northgate to Google or Fred Hutch need to either transfer or ride a private shuttle that somebody else is paying for, so that more transit service is available to people traveling other places or at other times of day. For instance, SLU and First Hill still have no direct all day bus between them in spite of being a mile apart in the middle of the city. This is unacceptable. All day service between SLU and First Hill needs to come before special boutique peak-only service from distant park and rides to either destination.
“The opportunity that ST has is to inform freeway drivers in real-time with the Lynnwood Extension. They could begin by hanging large fixed signs on their own garages (saying “28 minutes of hands-free driving to Westlake from here” on the Lynnwood City Center station garage, for example) and then determining how best to divert freeway drivers upstream from that with real-time information.”
That could be a good idea Al, except if you “divert” freeway drivers to Link they need someplace to park their car for free, which your post seems to acknowledge by hanging signs on park and ride garages. I would also suggest the signs indicate how much parking is available. Nothing is more aggravating than driving through a garage looking for a parking stall (the garage at the airport being the perfect example).
Two minutes ahead of you on posting that parking availability topic! Lol
There definitely should be parking counters. They do have counters at the airport, and it is by floor. The few times that I drive there, I don’t even bother trying to look for a spot until I get up to the first floor with plenty of available spots.
Another thing they should do is put a real time sign where Link crosses the highway at Lynnwood: “Downtown via Link: 20 minutes, wait time: < 6 minutes."
In Chicago wherever the Metra or L has a bridge over the freeway, they have a banner advertising how much better transit is than whatever freeway traffic the driver is sitting in when she reads the sign.
There will certainly be aggravated drivers surprised to discover they aren’t the only one looking for parking. I believe Angel Lake filled up within 6 months of opening, and the Lynnwood Link garages will likely be more compelling for more people. The solution is to 1. charge for parking, and 2. have good signage for disappointed drivers directing them to alternatives, such as satellite parking lots or info on the various feeder bus routes
Yeah, these are extremely expensive structures to built, they really don’t benefit that many people for their expense, and they are only used during weekdays. Everyone has to pay part of the transit fare, so why is it necessary to provide this limited premium service for only a few free of charge?
Well were missing some big things here…. First off.. all the graffiti on the structures, then the homeless… WAIT (unsheltered) we need to be P.C. here… and who in their gods mind portrayed the aerial view with so little traffic…. lets be real… the ST projects are a joke, waste of resources and money.
The stereotypically homeless are less than 1% of riders, more on some routes than others, but a tiny fraction overall. Graffiti is a problem everywhere, so why target trains in particular? I had an acquaintance in Bremerton and he and his girlfriend would come to Seattle sometimes to spend a day “tagging”. The Link construction area is closed off and not open to the public, so it’s difficult to get in there to tag, and that’s not as popular in Snohomish County anyway. People don’t need pictures of freeway congestion because they know what it’s like; it’s the reason many Snohomans voted for Link. As for being a waste of money, what do you think would be a worthwhile investment, and what should it accomplish? I’m interested in not just a way to get through peak freeway congestion, but a convenient all-day transit option. ST Express isn’t exactly convenient, and trains are more efficient because they can accommodate more people and destinations and can absorb demand spikes while using less energy than buses or cars, and it’s easy to make it renewable energy because it comes on a wire.
And, another new troll! Two in one day. Let’s see how long they last.
Yes, two trolls in one day. I wonder why this particular article attracted them.
You Look Like A Thing,
And I Love You
Speaking of trolls, T1 hasn’t been around for a while.
T1, T1, Sam, Emperor of the Comments Section, how are you doing? Hmm, how does it work in Bewitched? “Endora! Endora! Serena! Calling Doctor Bombay, calling Doctor Bombay, emergency, come right away.”
In my experience, Mike, the measures you and your need take to get the illegal point off the wood, steel and metal could easiest be registered would make a few paint drops, in a sight otherwise.
Though long-term, might want to check how much it’d check to to get the perps perps secured surprised and sprayed. Glad to see everybody on the line and actively campaigned. Good phase all around.
Dublin’s back and incomprehensible as ever!
Great article. Great to here from a real reporter (again). I hope you can do more stories (I think it has been a while).
It’s been forever since there was an open thread so I hope this doesn’t get moderated:
Saturday, a belated Father’s Day gift, my son and I are taking Amtrak Cascades down to Portland. The mission is to visit the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Bizarre that the Amtrak “neighborhood map” doesn’t show it but does show their equivalent of the History & Industry museum. We’ll hit both and they are essentially the anchors of a MAX line. Lots of other things to fill any time left over.
Cascades leaves SEA at 7:30aM and return is 10:30PM. Pretty perfect for a day trip. From Bellevue we’ll drive Sat AM to MI P&R and catch either a 554 or 550. Ditto on return. The 255 truncation at UW sucks. I don’t have a functional ORCA card and would need two to do the transfer to Link. What dumb ass decision to end this route at UW. I have no reason to get a new ORCA card until East Link opens. For me, this transition has been the absolute worst decisions possible. Looking at the 550 route; it saves ~3min vs the 554 on Rainier Ave S. Routing both buses on Rainier seems like a no brainier. Anyone (like me) that might use the bus to Rainier Ave S isn’t going to make a 15 minute bus ride into a 30 minute bus ride with a transfer after I’ve already driven to a P&R since they took away the 249 that was the only walking distance route on Northup I could access. “METRO,,, We Want You to Drive”!
Sounds great, Bernie. Hint: take MAX one way between Portland Union Station and the Streetcar the other. The car doesn’t go RIGHT to the station; you have to walk about four blocks over to Eleventh Avenue to go south, but you get both lines. The Pearl District is what South Lake Union could have been if they hadn’t gone all-in on car sewers.
If you happen to get the “B” (Blue) Line (counter-clockwise loop), it will take you exactly to the Science Center station. If you get a Green Line (N-S Line) it will let you off at Moody and Meade and you can walk across the Tillicum Crossing. It’s a very cool bridge.
You can take the MAX Yellow/Orange Line to or from the Greyhound Bus Terminal right next to the train station. Yellow/Orange Line trains also have stops at the west end of Tillicum Crossing, and the Water Street stop on the east side is right next to the Train Museum.
If you have never done it, do take a ride through the Robertson Tunnel; the sounds of the wheels on the rails are pretty amazing. If you want to see what converting an old lightly used railroad to LRT in a tecchy city can mean for housing, stay on after you ride through Robertson at least to Orenco.
Since you’re going on Saturday, you can’t take WES to Wilsonville, and ride perhaps the most wildly subsidized rail system north of Sonoma County.
The two MAX stations closest to the train station are terrible in terms of homeless encampments. I’d take the streetcar first so I’d not have to wait at the MAX platforms. Or take bus route 9 or 17.
Oh! I should say:
The one thing you will need to get at the MAX station is a day ticket. The streetcar tickets are cheaper and so aren’t transferable to TriMet, but TriMet tickets are valid on the streetcar.
But you have to go past there anyway to get to the other stops. I just wouldn’t wait at the MAX station.
Or, if you have an iPhone, install PDXbus on your phone and watch the MAX train position on the map and head out to the MAX station a couple minutes before the train gets there. It’s organized a bit different than OBA however so you’ll want to spend some time leaning how it works.
Most of the people there aren’t dangerous, but are annoying to be pestered for money.
Thanks for the tips. My son has an iPhone so I’ll see if he can load the PDXbus ap. Between the Rail Heritage Center and the Science Museum we won’t have a lot of time to explore Portland via transit. It looked like everything we were interested in was along the Orange Line. After the rail and science venues I was thinking of taking the Ariel Tram up to the Health Science University for the novelty and the great view of Mt Hood. Anyone know if they have any museums or displays like the UW? And if there’s still time at the end of the day was thinking Powell’s City of Books. I think there’s also so brew pubs in the area? My son’s the expert on that. He’s actually been to Portland with friends several times in the last 10 years.
If you have the day pass, you can take the streetcar back to Johnson to return to Amtrak. It’s right on Tenth and there’s a stop at Couch.
The areal tram still isn’t open to the public yet.
Keep in mind Seattle is well ahead of the rest of the country in terms of vaccinations, so some stuff isn’t open yet here.
so some stuff isn’t open yet here.
Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately I blew up my internet connection Saturday morning and missed the tip about the Ariel Tram. Wasn’t a big detour and now we know where it is and learned a little about the streetcar network and some strange “quirks” with the way MAX lines work.
Some stuff isn’t open is a understatement. Portland is closed. The Pearl District is nothing special. Powell City of books was busy but pretty much everything else is closed, boarded up or has barricades around it.
2 of the 3 streetcar loops were out of service in the afternoon due to a power outage. MAX was running 20 minutes behind or not running at all. Amtrak lost an engine to the heat in Centralia SB. Coast Starlight was 10 hr behind schedule partially because the bridge over the Willamette wouldn’t lock in place (heat expansion). 7:30PM 508 Cascades was a no show so everyone was put on the Starlight. Got back to Seattle at 2AM instead of 11PM. $30 Lyft since no buses were running.
I’ll write a page 2 trip report.
A bunch of stuff on Hawthorne, Division, etc is open. Much of downtown is closed because a bunch of that was retail. With everyone buying stuff on Amazon the retail market is gone. A bunch of those places were starting to close up before the pandemic.
If you go to places where people live, (Hawthorne, Division, etc) almost everything is open. Shopping malls and other retail where people have to spend hours of time driving to get there have been on their way out for a long time now. They had a huge drag Queen contest at Clackamas Town Center mall a few weeks back because they can’t figure out how to get people to shop there any more – and that’s in right wing country.
We can hope that eventually the vacant spaces get turned into something more useful. As shown on Hawthorne, etc if you have sufficient people living nearby, stuff prospers. 45% of our downtown land is parking lots, so those don’t generate any useful activity.
Yeah, I should have said DT Portland is closed. I’d heard so much about the Pearl District and was underwhelmed. Large parking garages that are empty. Mostly big new buildings with high end retail that was closed, deserted or boarded up. It was also in part due to the heatwave and none of the Universities being in session. But this is where the investment in rail and transit is centered. There are several large new residential buildings right next to Union Station but other than that not much that I saw. We went over the Willamette on the Tilicum bridge and it turns into light industrial. Coming into Portland on the train it’s heavy industry right up until you get to Union Station.
If the Pearl District isn’t “it” what are the Portland neighborhoods that would compare to Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne or the U District in Seattle. Or DT Bellevue for that matter which is open for business.
NW 23rd is still very, very active. At least it was as of a couple weeks ago. I think the Pearl District thing is trying to create something that doesn’t really exist yet.
NW 23rd is still very
Looks like a cool little place to live. Mostly single family? Not a destination you’d visit taking the train from Seattle. Just looking at Google Maps it looks similar to Beacon Hill in Seattle. I’ve said before that if I had to live in Seattle that’s the neighborhood I’d choose.
I think the Pearl District thing is trying to create something that doesn’t really exist
I’d agree. The whole Pearl District is what South Lake Union could have been meme is a charade. S Lk Union may not be ideal; could have been Central Park but Seattle rejected Paul Allen’s generous offer. But the Pearl District, despite huge public investment in transit currently is a fail.
NW 23rd has a huge number of upstairs apartments and other multi-resident buildings nearby. All low rise stuff. You have to go a few blocks north and east for the single family stuff, but even there it’s got small apartment buildings.
Transit investment in the Pearl District (wherever that is – I’ve not seen it defined and think of Old Town, China Town, etc) hasn’t been that great. They extended MAX to Union Station, but that’s really China Town, and was basically part of the transit mall already. The most expensive part was putting down MAX tracks, and that was done at street level so it’s not like Link. They also spent money altering the traffic flow because businesses thought somehow allowing some auto traffic on the mall would increase business. Since all it takes is about 8 autos per block to bring it to a standstill, that was really an investment in making things worse for transit at the benefit of a few squeaky wheels.
They put in the streetcar, but that route is two blocks away from the transit mall and basically replaced the north end of the 17. It allows them to send the 17 over to Broadway, but makes getting around slower because now all they have in northwest Portland is the 15 and 77, unless you are headed much further south and can use the streetcar. It’s different but I’m not sure it’s a significant improvement.
SE Hawthorne might be a bit closer to the Capitol Hill as it was a hippie district up until about 15 years ago. Some remnants remain and there are still few chains on it. 1x Fred Meyer, 1x Safeway, 1x McMenamin Brothers and 1x Burgerville. The American Apparel store closed. McDonalds wanted to demolish one place and put one of theirs in but there was enough neighborhood protest it didn’t happen.
Transit investment in the Pearl District (wherever that is – I’ve not seen it defined
They stick a placard on top of the street names to define “the Pearl District”. Interesting that a Portland resident and promoter isn’t as “all in” on the Pearl District as most of the Seattle folks are as holding it up as the Holy Grail.
Saw one car on the transit mall. Looked scarey. The only place I saw what I’d count as traffic was Burnside. Other than that DT Portland was a lot like DT Tacoma… nobody. In DT Seattle, even today, you don’t bike/skateboard down major streets with no cars/buses to worry about. Maybe that’s a good thing in Portland?
Of course there’s nobody in downtown Portland on Saturday. As I said, 45% of the land is parking. Actual residential buildings in downtown are few and far between. So, there’s nobody to generate activity there. As I said above, places that rely on people driving long distances for shopping are not doing well. Have you not heard about the trend in abandoned shopping malls across the country that’s been going on? Downtown Portland on a Saturday is basically that, because residential buildings are clustered in the north and south end. The downtown core is parking, office buildings, and some retail aimed at commuter traffic. Saturday Market was once huge, but was reduced in size about 10 years ago and forced across the street into Waterfront Park in order to provide better parking for one of the office buildings (which has now been fenced off to keep the homeless out, as nobody actually drives there apparently). The surrounding retail that once complimented it got turned into offices too.
It’s also extremely hot, and for the most part people in Portland don’t spend time in town during this type of weather.
Keep in mind due to right wing influences, our property taxes are kept fairly low due to assessments tied to 1980s valuations. Therefore, some of those new buildings that you see were marketed as investment opportunities in Asia for people to get investment visas, and not really intended for people to actually move into right away. Many of those are also really, really new, and not fully occupied yet, as they were finished during the height of the pandemic.
The only time I go to that part of Portland is to go to Powell’s or Forest Park. I know NW 23rd is pretty much it’s old self as I went through there to Forest Park.
As far as the signs saying what part of Portland is what, they change with marketing campaigns. For a time they called NW 23rd the “Alphabet District” which makes no sense to me. The named streets are the same north of Burnside no matter what part of NW Portland you go. The various real estate developers do what they do. It seems like everyone has a different definition of what the Pearl District is, and some people say they are in “The Pearl” when they are in either China Town or Old Town, or even NW 23rd.
As for Tacoma vs Portland, the comparison seems apt as both cities seem to be oriented around providing huge amounts of parking, cutting down on the actual activity because of the reduced portion of land available for other stuff.
As far as being a Portland booster, I have no problem pointing out the various problems in the city and the mistakes.
I also want people to enjoy their visits to Portland (I can’t say “here” as I am currently in Shoreline visiting your area) so I do provide advice here when asked.
“The 255 truncation at UW sucks. I don’t have a functional ORCA card and would need two to do the transfer to Link. What dumb ass decision to end this route at UW.”
You can’t design the bus routes around people who don’t have functional ORCA cards. And even if you did, it only works for people heading to specifically downtown – go anywhere else in the city, you still have to transfer anyway. Also, every Link Station dispenses Orca cards. So, even if you don’t have one, worst case, you overpay the first time you make the trip, get one, and never have that problem again.
You’ve also forgotten what the frequency was like under the old 255 that went downtown. 15-minute service existed weekday daytime hours only. At 10:30 PM, when the train returned, you would be at risk of being stuck downtown for up to an hour, depending on how the timing happened to work out. The new 255 extends 15 and 20 minute service frequency into far later in the evening than the old 255 did.
The key for the truncation to work is frequent service. When Link was running only every 30 minutes in the thick of COVID, it had major issues, but that’s fixed now. I did the 255->Link transfer to go downtown today, both directions, and experienced minimal waits for both bus and train and no issues. I’ll take that over getting stuck at a downtown bus stop for 20 minutes any day.
Agreed, and it’s also got to be much more reliable since it doesn’t have to merge from the far-left lane at the I-5/520 interchange to the far-right lane to leave I-5 a mile later. I’ve been on 255s and 545s where that easily added 10 minutes of creeping forward waiting for some SOV driver to take pity.
It’s not more reliable since it’s stuck in the Montlake Muddle that is consistently worse than I-5. If you’re going anywhere else (an DT is stil the #1 destination) you 99% chance have to go DT to get your transfer. The extra frequency is because of more money not because the truncation saved any platform hours. The 255 just lost the lottery for surface capacity when the bus tunnel was taken over by Link.
ORCA’s a joke. I’ve had 3. Constant problems with the system. Why can’t Seattle like any other city just allow credit cards to buy a cardboard day pass with an RFI chip. $5 in Portland; works great. Nashville has a more technologically advance fare payment system than Seattle.
“If you’re going anywhere else (an DT is stil the #1 destination) you 99% chance have to go DT to get your transfer.”
Only really true for destinations south of downtown. Once you get north of Seattle Center/SLU, the optimal route doesn’t go through downtown anymore. You just take a different bus from the U-district.
“The extra frequency is because of more money not because the truncation saved any platform hours.”
The truncation absolutely does save platform hours by avoiding the slog through downtown and I-5, even accounting for potential delays on the Montlake bridge. Remember, to keep schedules reliable, every trip under the old 255 had to be schedule-padded as if there was congestion downtown, whether there actually was or not. On light traffic days, the bus routinely got to Kirkland quite a bit early, but being early doesn’t actually save Metro any money because the buses assigned to each route are fixed and planned in advance.
It is true that not all of the funding for better frequency came from taking the 255 out of downtown – some of it came from making the routes more efficient within Kirkland – but most of it did. If the 255 were to resume going downtown, it would be back to buses every 30 minutes after 7 PM weeknights and all day weekends and buses every 60 minutes after 7 PM on weekends.
While it is true that service hours ultimately have to be temporarily added to the 255 to maintain their schedule when they’re on some kind of construction reroute, that’s temporary and only for specific days or parts of days when that reroute is in effect.
Assuming you actually do have an Orca card and Link is running every 10 minutes like it’s supposed to, the transfer penalty is overblown. Worst case, you lose about 5 minutes, but often it becomes a wash, due to congestion downtown or maybe you’re going to the airport and have to be on Link anyway.
Considering the amount of money dumped into 520, it seems like a better solution than the clusterfuck at Montlake should be available. 8 blocks of elevated busway above Montlake would probably serve more Eastside riders than all of the Kirkland-Issaquah light rail line. But, that’s not what people wanted, apparently.
The west end of 520 isn’t finished. WSDOT was considering a separate transit bridge over the Ship Canal but it apparently didn’t make it into the final plan. When it’s finished the traffic flow issues may be different than they are now.
WTF? 8 blocks of elevated busway along Montlake? No, and absolutely not. When did anyone ever suggest such a monstrosity?
Didn’t this region learn anything from the DSTT debacle? $500M spent so eastsiders can glide from their homes to their Seattle jobs without leaving their cocoons or rubbing elbows with the “wrong” type of people in Seattle.
And Metro was never able to operate the DSTT at anywhere near the promised capacity or reliability. ST had to take over to finally unlock its potential. Build a giant monstrosity of a busway above Montlake and it would just be deja vu all over again. Not to mention another urban planning disaster for the region.
Na, fix the Montlake triangle mess. That would do more for transit than an elevated busway at much less cost.
Don’t we ever learn?
Nobody is goi g to give transit dedicated lanes on the bridge. I don’t know what other solution would work there, other than figure out how to get a station entrance at the freeway station. You’d wind up with a very expensive small bore tunnel under the ship canal and some moving walkways or something to cover the distance.
It’s hard for me to know how difficult that would be as I don’t really have a feel for how much further south the platform goes from the surface entrance.
And Metro was never able to operate the DSTT at anywhere near the promised capacity or reliability.
Wait, what? It was plenty reliable. Buses passed buses with ease. It was also under capacity. In other words, it could have handled way more buses. Having buses with level boarding would have been nice, but this was well before we spent significant money trying to make things a little bit better. Huge numbers of people traveled through it. It is hard to say when (or if) we will ever have that many people going through it again, as long as ST is afraid to run the trains frequently.
No it wasn’t. Buses were unreliable due to wheelchair lift action, breakdowns, and traffic making them enter the tunnel late. This caused bus bunching and trains waiting behind buses and buses platooning out of order all the time. With the end of the ride free area it became even worse, and practically every weekday when I took the 71/72/73X southbound and arrived at Convention Place around 6pm, it took ten or twenty minutes to get from the driveway to Westlake Station. This happened for months and months until U-Link started and the number of buses was reduced.
RossB is right. The number of people using the Bus Tunnel was much higher before the dominate form of transit, the one the tunnel was designed for, got booted out. ST doesn’t operate anything; or build anything. They are a contract writing agency. Link was a huge investment and ST is under pressure to make it look good or no future ballot measures will pass. ST is really a board of appointed/elected officials most of which know/care little about transit. Not only did the bus riders get screwed but so did all the vehicles (including transit) using the surface streets. That’s what the bus tunnel was built for and with a good chunk of it paid for by the eastside.
“under capacity”? “it could have handled way more buses.”? Wow, that is putting some serious lipstick on this pig.
It isn’t that there wasn’t additional capacity in the tunnel, it’s that, in approx 30 years of continuous bus operations in the DSTT, Metro was never able to OPERATE the tunnel at capacity. I.e., the tunnel was constrained by Metro operations.
Mike Orr is correct, you just can’t reliably operate something like the DSTT when your buses are arriving randomly, you have periodic wheelchair lift issues, you have too many general breakdowns because, you know, “Breda”, and you can’t maintain platooning order.
And he is correct again when he says that reliability went up when they added LR and the number of buses went down. And reliability went up again when it went to 100% LR.
Oh, and that center lane isn’t technically a passing lane. It’s called a breakdown lane. It’s addition was a little nod by Metro to the fact that they expected breakdowns to be a big issue in the tunnel.
Let’s be clear on the history.
1980s: The DSTT was designed to be initially buses but eventually rail. The Hadley I-90 bridge opened with rail-convertable express lanes. It was assumed rail would use the I-5 express lanes north of downtown. Early DSTT sketches showed several West Seattle and Ballard lines in the tunnel. These were placeholders for future route decisions, but they show an expectation of more city routes.
1990: The DSTT opens. The initial routes are mostly to north, east and south King County. Seattle service is limited to the U-District, northeast Seattle, Rainier Beach/Othello, and the SODO busway.
2009: Link starts, initially Westlake-TIB, extending to SeaTac nine months later. The 194 (SeaTac) is deleted; I don’t remember if other routes were kicked out. Was the 174 (Pacific Highway local) ever in the tunnel? Buses prove unreliable as above and delay trains. Mark Dublin says the tunnel has signaling/platooning features that would have made buses more reliable but Metro never used those features.
2012: The Ride Free area ends, so buses start charging downtown. Metro tries to mitigate it with “ambassadors” to scan ORCA cards before boarding, but it still causes a huge traffic jam.
At some point the 107 stops going downtown, the 106 is downgraded to local, and the 106 eventually leaves the tunnel. I don’t remember when these occurred.
2016: U-Link starts (UW and Capitol Hill stations). The 71/72/73X are deleted. The huge traffic jams go away but buses are still unreliable.
2020: All buses leave the tunnel. Most notably the 41, 101, 150, 550, and the northeast, Eastside, and Shoreline peak expresses. Trains become more reliable. Tunnel ridership falls until ST2 Link replaces service to the northeast, Shoreline, Eastside, and Federal Way (but not Renton or Kent). Two months later covid thows all ridership patterns out of whack.
Is the new Metro route 20 part of a suggested Link restructure route or an actual guaranteed service change for October 2nd? If it is a new route across Northgate Way, it will be my first/last mile feeder trip to Northgate Link. Technically 1.1 miles according to Google.
It’s in the approved service change. Lake City to Northgate via the current route 41, Northgate to U-District station via the current 26. Both of those are being deleted so without the 20 there would be no service in those corridors. The official service-change ordinance is in the county’s website somewhere. Metro has to schedule and train and hire drivers a couple months ahead, and the ordinance has to be in place by then.
See the 5th item in the May 6th news roundup.
Metro will restore some Eastside service June 25. Weekdays routes 208, 225, 250, and 255 will have more trips. Saturdays routes 226 and 241 will have more trips. This will restore 10-minute service on the 255 during parts of the midday. On October 2nd several suspended routes will be restored. (It doesn’t say which ones.)
From Sound Transit this afternoon.
All Link Light rail trains will operate at reduced speeds due to excessive heat on the tracks.
ST is NOT into “Kinky”…….
That’s the case everywhere from Amtrak on down.
Though the reality is, Link has concrete embedded track over almost its entire length, so it should be much less subject to kinks than almost any other operation.
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