Sound Transit finalized and voted to move forward with the realignment of the Sound Transit 3 program on Thursday. This day marks the end of an almost year-and-a-half long process of planning just how to delay projects so that the program remains affordable, and projects can be delivered.
Starting in early 2020 with dire projected COVID-19 impacts to revenue, Sound Transit immediately hit pause on projects not yet under construction when the agency seemed on course to run out of borrowing capacity in 2028. The tough early days of realignment were about expectation setting. Nothing was certain except that the ST3 program would not be completed on time. Getting the program back on track could require action as drastic as a five-year delay on all project. And of course, the pandemic itself made the public wary of transit just as we were about to begin a major expansion of Sound Transit.
From here, things got better and worse. It got better as the recovery from the pandemic started happening quicker than expected, and it got worse when the cost of the most expensive Seattle rail projects started ballooning out of control. Costs on the West Seattle to Ballard Link corridor rose more than 50%, driven by sharply increasing property values (notably including a 306-unit apartment building project that started after ST3 passed, but which Sound Transit did nothing about). Costs were rising to a lesser degree in other parts of the planned program, mostly due to rising property values and increasing construction costs. In contrast to expensive light rail projects, ST’s BRT projects saw little cost increases overall, and the projected cost of I-405 BRT actually went down, likely thanks in large part to ST’s smart decision to acquire land for I-405 BRT early, rather than wait. Things improved further with funding from the federal government, and Sound Transit’s embrace of a strategy of severely delaying parking to shield actual transit projects from the brunt of the impacts.
By mid 2021, thing were really stretching out, and some even wanted to extend realignment another year. But by then it was getting to the point that realignment itself was delaying projects as uncertainty remained on how to proceed. Finally, in June, ST board chair Kent Keel presented a near-final realignment plan that was affordable and integrated the project prioritization developed over the past year:
The plan itself was met with disappointment, frustration, and sadness as it was now understood more or less what the delays would be. Some were rightly wondering if the recovery would continue faster than anticipated, making some delays unnecessary, while others were noting that overoptimistic projections were what got us here in the first place. In an effort spearheaded by Claudia Balducci, the board developed an alternative plan that retained the same base schedule, but allowed projects to be accelerated if finances allowed. Tier 1 projects could be accelerated first, followed by tier 2 projects, and so on until all projects would just have planning delays of a couple years if revenue improved enough. This gave Sound Transit a flexible framework to plan projects around. There was a promise that ST was confident it could stick to, but also a realistic goal that it could achieve if revenues improve. This approach has been described as a tightrope with a safety net, a remarkable work of collaboration that left all parties feeling like they finally have something they can sign off on. And that brings us to today.
The board approved the base plan unanimously, and then approved a number of amendments. The Urbanist has a good detail overview of the amendments on their July 31 coverage of the process, but some of the highlights (and the lowlights) of the changes include the following:
- Acceleration of the ST3 infill stations from 2036 to 2031, and moving the N 130th St Station up to 2025. This brings all infill stations back to opening on the original ST3 schedule except for NE 130th St, which will open just one year after Lynnwood Link.
- Accelerating the NE 85th St and I-405 interchange by one year to 2026. Though not called out specifically, this would potentially allow the NE 85th St stop to open for ST Express routes 532, 535, and Metro routes before the rest of Stride is completed.
- Interim access to station which have delayed parking. This could mean additional connecting bus routes to some stations (some of which are in areas without much in the way of bus connections already), or microtransit options.
- Accelerated parking for Tacoma Dome Link, which would move parking at Tacoma Dome, Fife, and South Federal Way stations from 2040 to 2038. This would be paid for by delaying new South Sounder trips from 2045 to 2046. While not impacting the light rail line itself and leaving parking still delayed from the original ST3 plan, this is definitely a step in the wrong direction, and the one real disappointment of the day.
- A cost savings amendment put forward by Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan to review all types of costs as the ST3 program is executed.
With realignment behind us, it is now time for Sound Transit to restart ST3 with a new schedule and hard lessons learned. It’s a long road to completion, with the program wrapping up in 2046 (but hopefully sooner) with additional Sounder trips between DuPont and Seattle. But with any luck, the end result will be a robust regional transit system that gives people a real alternative to car ownership, and one that will last for generations to come.
190 Replies to “Sound Transit wraps up realignment”
The anti-transit NIMBYs in West Seattle who are engaging in bad-faith sloganeering for their “gondola” “proposal” will have a super sad face that the words “gondola study” didn’t make it on the grid of projects up there. For the life of me I don’t understand how gullible people fall for this not-even-very-thinly-veiled effort to cast just enough doubt over the light rail to delay it (forever). The outright lies of these “gondola” “supporters” are so transparent and easy to see, even though their “proposal” and “petition” will be used as a toilet scrubber in Sound Transit’s bathrooms. Such a total joke.
Well Jort, I am not sure Martin might not have the last laugh.
Right now the “realignment” — if you believe ST’s current budget deficit estimates — contains a stub rail line from West Seattle (without really specifying the stations in W. Seattle) to Sodo (when both the King Co. executive and mayor of Seattle live in W. Seattle, but may not when this project commences).
The cost of an upper bridge that has no loss of car capacity — which West Seattleites claim is their number one demand for any new bridge — plus rail is exorbitant, and right now Seattle has $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repairs and replacements, and my guess is in 2022 Republicans will take at least one of the houses of Congress which will end the transit subsidies.
I posted a link the other day showing all the demands currently on the lower W. Seattle bridge, and I doubt those will lessen with port expansion at Pier 5 and its new large cranes (and even pier 46). These longshore jobs are the best paying blue collar jobs in the region (although ironically longshoreman rarely use transit).
I think the realignment only makes sense financially if one accepts it will never include the DSTT2 (and $6.5 billion is the actual long term budget deficit). So I don’t know where the rail line from West Seattle will ever go after it reaches Sodo.
At the Sodo station, most West Seattle transit users will have already used three forms of first/last mile access (from front door to feeder bus, feeder bus to light rail station, light rail to Sodo) and they are still in Sodo, hardly anyone’s final destination (and God forbid they are going to SLU). If they want to go east they still have two more transfers, for a total of five forms of transit to get to the eastside. At the same time the West Seattle bridge is one of the best forms of access for cars and buses, tying in directly to I-5, I-90, and 1st Ave. leading to the tunnel.
Would you rather take a direct bus from West Seattle to the eastside, downtown Seattle, SLU, or all the other areas Link does not go to, or five forms of transit to take Link somewhere from W. Seattle?
I was never a proponent of the gondola (and neither was ST since thinking outside the box is not ST’s forte), but then I was comparing it to the WSBLE. Comparing a gondola to the West Seattle stub (assuming someone figures out a new bridge configuration and the actual stations and pays for it) is a closer call IMO, with both options not very good.
Good points, Daniel. The current ST3 plan is a LR stub from Fauntleroy Way (most likely), Avalon/35th, Delridge Way to SODO. Yes, you may have to resort to five forms.
SkyLink proposes 3 stations right on California Ave (Morgan, Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction) and also High Point, Avalon, and Delridge and connect not only to SODO but ID. We expect many people will need to transfer at ID anyways to go East or later to Ballard or use the street car or busses.
For a map see: https://www.westseattleskylink.org/comparison
ST has never said who would use the WSJ-SODO stub, or made a convincing argument that they really would. Metro plans to continue the C until the full WSJ-downtown-SLU segment is open. The question of whether passengers will or should transfer vs a one-seat ride depends on the distance of both sides of the transfer and on whether there are slowdown bottlenecks. If the second segment is only a mile or two, then forcing a transfer is excessive and pedantic. If it’s longer, or the first segment is very long, then it makes sense. The point is to avoid terminating just short of a major destination, or making people transfer twice within a two-mile distance (if they’re doing a Link+bus trip), or making people feel that they’re spending as much time getting in and out and waiting than they are moving.
So I would say that forcing a transfer at 12th & Jackson (re the streetcar, 9, 60, 7, 14) would be excessive because it’s just a mile more to the Broadway terminus, and a person going from 10th Ave E to Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley should not have to transfer twice. On the other hand, a transfer in the U-District (compared to the 71.72.73X) makes sense because the Link segment is three miles. And a transfer at Mercer Island or South Bellevue (re the 554, 111, etc) makes sense because it’s six miles to downtown and a lake in between. But when you come to SODO (re the C and 55), forcing a transfer is more questionable. It’s only two more miles to downtown, and on a fast highway and a boulevard-with-future-transit-lanes.So it makes sense to continue the bus routes to downtown. And that raises the question of why accelerate the WSJ-SODO stub at all? Because both the bridge fix and the boulevard renovation will probably be finished years before the stub opens.
I’d rather take the bus from West Seattle to two link transfers to get to the Eastside than take the bus to the Eastside. I’d rather take the bus from West Seattle to two link transfers to get to the University District than take the bus or drive to the University District. The same to get to Northgate as well. The problem with the buses from West Seattle during rush hour is that they have to sit in a sea of cars to wait to pass through the I-90 entrance to get going northbound. If there is an car accident on the bridge, the buses are at the mercy of the car traffic and have to sit with the cars. I understand that transfers between trains are pretty normal as they are in most cities with subways/rail, and should not be a problem provided that the headways are not long. Definitely not a problem is one is going to a Mariner game in SODO.
Link will be a great way to open up other parts of the city, North and East, to West Seattle residents without having to rev up a car or endure a very long bus ride. Not every resident is some parochial being that needs to merely get downtown or to a babysitter in some other part of West Seattle.
I am waiting for the big surprise: Trains from Tacoma will be stubbed instead of trains from West Seattle. If this episode demonstrates anything, it’s that West Seattle Link is the top priority among officials and the “stub” can easily be changed in operations with little advance planning. Plus it’s pretty demanding to have one driver on duty from Tacoma to Lynnwood or further north (TDLE+FWLE adds about 32 minutes to the route) .
I’d prefer having three lines in the DSTT, but if it can only be two surely someone in power is going to put West Seattle desires ahead of SE Seattle and South King desires. The cynic in me is expecting it.
@Mike — Well said.
I’d rather take the bus from West Seattle to two link transfers to get to the Eastside than take the bus to the Eastside.
Good, because except for the 560, which barely serves West Seattle, it is the only option. The 560 makes sense because it is so far south that it is quicker to go around. At least it is normally — right now it isn’t, because everyone who drives is going that way too. In any event, if you live in most of West Seattle, your best option is to take a bus to downtown, and then transfer. Right now that transfer is to a bus, but in a few years it will be to a train. When West Seattle Link gets to SoDo, nothing changes. Your best option is still to take that bus to downtown and then take the East Link train. Otherwise, you are taking a bus to a West Seattle station, then a train to SoDo, then the main line to I. D., then the East Link train. That’s a four seat ride. If you are headed to Factoria, Eastgate or Issaquah, you are looking at a five seat ride. That’s just silly.
I’d rather take the bus from West Seattle to two link transfers to get to the University District than take the bus or drive to the University District.
So you are saying that if you are on the RapidRide version of the 120, about to get on the West Seattle freeway, you would rather get off the bus, take the escalators high into the air, wait for a train that runs every 6-10 minutes, then catch another train that runs every 6-10 minutes? You would rather do that, than just stay on your bus as it gets downtown, followed by a transfer to a train that runs every 3-5 minutes? Fair enough, but you are in the minority. As Mike pointed out, people hate transferring when they are extremely close to their destination. It is why so few buses from West Seattle end at SoDo. It is why just about every bus that comes close to downtown goes through downtown. We could easily build a fast, frequent streetcar — much more frequent than Link — from one end of downtown to the other, and then have the buses turn around at each end. The problem is, people would hate it. They put up with some delay, because it is just easier, and often, it is actually faster.
The problem with the buses from West Seattle during rush hour is that they have to sit in a sea of cars to wait to pass through the I-90 entrance to get going northbound.
Right, but that is a minor delay, and as you pointed out, one that occurs only during rush hour. The vast majority of transit trips don’t occur during rush hour. This is what I was getting out earlier. Bit by bit, you end up shrinking the pool of riders that will use this stub line:
1) It only makes sense if you are close to a station. There are only three stations, and the one at Delridge has only a handful of people.
2) It only makes sense during rush hour.
3) It only makes sense if you are headed to a Link destination on the main line (a relatively small part of the city, let alone the region).
So, yes, we’ve basically come up with a faster version of the 50, but with far fewer stops. The 50 does not get that many riders, which is my point.
I’m not saying it will get no one. I’m saying it will get very few. Average buses in West Seattle — buses like the 21 — will get way more riders than the entire line, despite nowhere near the investment. It would not surprise me that in terms of ridership per dollar spent — just on operations, not including the massive cost of building the thing — put it well behind buses like the 21, let alone our higher performing buses. It is a specialized option that won’t be that popular. Building it first just doesn’t make sense.
Some specific example:
for someone who works in Bellevue, it will mean riding the C to 3rd & Seneca to transfer to East Link (a 40-45min ride to I.D. in good traffic). Once the WS Link becomes available in 2032, he may take the C to the Junction, waiting for a Link train, riding to SODO, waiting for a Link train from Rainier Valley to ride to the International District (I.D.) and wait for a Link train to Bellevue – a 4-seat ride. During rush hour the Rainier train may already be full, requiring waiting another eight minutes for the next train to arrive. During off-peak hours, that may not be an issue, but in summer heat or winter cold, the rider may have to wait up to 10 minutes at a station. So the ride from Morgan Junction to the I.D. may take between 25 – 50min if the Rainier train has space.
A gondola connection could get a rider directly from Morgan Junction to the I.D. in about 20 minutes, with a 2-seat ride.
I think the realignment assumes DSTT2 won’t get built, and that cost will revert back to the five subareas based on the original share of the cost. Otherwise if WSBLE and DSTT2 were really still in the plan I don’t think all the infill stations would be prioritized, or affordable. The delay for parking is mostly politics IMO, because it doesn’t make much financial sense to me to transfer that cost to Metro and then build the park and rides, at least on the eastside. I know some car haters hope the delay eliminates the park and rides, but my guess is poor feeder bus service will accelerate the park and rides.
If you look at the realignment as eliminating the DSTT2 and using that money for other projects in the subareas — with N. King Co. realizing $1.1 billion — it simply corrects an error in the original ST 3 that was a political error due to the makeup of the Board and King Co. exec. The WSBLE/DSTT2 was never worth all the infill stations and other projects that could be built with the funding.
My guess is we will see the same with the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, not due to cost but because Issaquah will want direct transit to downtown Seattle if it is needed post-pandemic, because it will be commuter transit. Folks from Issaquah will drive to Bellevue or other areas on the eastside because they need to pick up something like groceries.
The issue with a stub from West Seattle and first/last mile access is not so much direct bus vs. bus/rail to Sodo/to rail/rail to somewhere else where Link runs ( which is a very small part of King Co.) although the cost of the stub will be massive including bridge, it is rail vs. car, because the West Seattle Bridge is fantastic car access to I-5, I-90, and 1st Ave.
Right now I think 4X as many West Seattleites cross the bridge by car than bus according to Dan Ryan. I would think that ratio would increase if the transit trip was doorstep to bus to rail to Sodo to rail to somewhere else. I know some on The Urbanist have visions of no cars when the new bridge is built, but West Seattle will make sure that never happens, especially if they are getting a stub to Sodo.
If Seattle is struggling with the cost of the current repair of the W. Seattle Bridge I doubt a brand new, no loss of car capacity, super high bridge with rail is affordable in a decade or so, especially for a stub to Sodo, just like a stub from Issaquah to somewhere makes little sense.
Rail to WS simply makes no financial sense, no matter where the stub is, and without DSTT2 there will be stub. Buses that use the current bridge make sense, just like they do from Issaquah to Seattle during peak times.
The rescheduling is done, but not really the realignment, which will come later.
“Trains from Tacoma will be stubbed instead of trains from West Seattle.”
What does this mean? How would the lines go?
ST considered several operational alternatives for Lynnwood+East Link. One had three lines, with a Northgate-SODO relief line during the daytime. then it went to two lines: Lynnwood-FW and Nothgate-Redmond (the latter extending to Lynnwood peak hours). Then it extended all Northgate trains to Lynnwood thinking it would need the midday capacity, and that’s the current plan. So the lines could evolve like this.
ST’s long-range plan envisioned an Everett-Tacoma line, but when the staff got to studying it in the run-up to ST3, it said that 2.25 hour runs were too long for drivers, so it split it in the middle. Now Everett is connected to West Seattle, and Tacoma to Ballard/Rainer.
So would you do something like this?
I think Northgate-Stadium relief runs are more likely.
“If this episode demonstrates anything, it’s that West Seattle Link is the top priority among officials”
Another factor has recently emerged too. ST and Metro have gotten more into equity, partly because of the Floyd murder and BLM demonstrations, and partly because during covid the lower-income areas retained their ridership the most and were recognized as essential workers. The largest concentration of lower-income people and their jobs is in South King and Pierce, so ST gave them more priority in the realignment. That’s part of why Tacoma Dome and Tacoma 19th Avenue are going full steam ahead in tier 1. And if Daniel is wondering why East King is delayed a bit, that may be why.
“I think the realignment assumes DSTT2 won’t get built,”
It’s right in tier 2. Do you think tiers 2, 3, and 4 will all be canceled? That’s going far beyond what any politician has even mused on. ST can’t delete a major thing from tier 2 without also deleting everything after it in tiers 3 and 4. Otherwise it would look like ST is taking money from higher-priority things to spend on lower-priority things. If it doesn’t intend to build the tunnel, it should put it in tier 4, because it’s reasonable to assume tier 4 alone might be chopped off. But it’s not reasonable to assume that tiers 2, 3, and 4 will all be chopped, or that ST would delete something from tier 2 to gain money to spend on tiers 3 and 4, or that it’s secretly planning to ditch DSTT2 for some DSTT1 or surface alternative without even mentioning it in the realignment plan.
“ What does this mean? How would the lines go?”
I’m thinking that ST will send West Seattle trains to Lynnwood, and SE Seattle/ Tacoma trains would “stub” at SODO. I don’t want this at all and it’s an appalling degradation in service for SE Seattle and South King. Given the West Seattle power brokering going on it would not surprise me though.
I don’t think that change would get announced until near the WS opening day.
And the budget shortfall is not that much that it must delete DSTT2. The shortfall is a few billion out of a $28, $54, or $100 billion budget depending on how you want to look at it. And it’s only temporary: ST just needs to reduce spending for a few years to stay under the debt ceiling. Deleting large projects for a temporary cash-flow problem doesn’t make sense. And the deficit may shrink if ST gets more grants or state funding or the economy improves. The budget is based on a pessimistic scenario of jobs and commuting coming back slowly, because it can’t count on more. But if more comes, as it did majorly in the 2015 recovery, then the deficit would shrink or maybe disappear. And it wouldn’t make sense to have things already deleted at that point. Not when we all agreed in the ST3 vote to build everything in it.
“I think the realignment assumes DSTT2 won’t get built,”
“It’s right in tier 2. Do you think tiers 2, 3, and 4 will all be canceled? That’s going far beyond what any politician has even mused on. ST can’t delete a major thing from tier 2 without also deleting everything after it in tiers 3 and 4”.
Sure they can. They just did it.
You and the “realignment” still assume DSTT2 will cost $2.2 billion, when it will cost close to double that based on current estimates, if everything goes well with a tunnel under most of Seattle. Just because ST tells you there is a $6.5 billion deficit, when it was $12.5 billion a few months ago, and something is “in tier 2” doesn’t make it affordable, or doable. Don’t believe everything ST tells you. The reality is the funding deficit will likely increase over time, and costs will rise higher than estimated, because this is…ST.
The realignment plan is a political document, correcting a political document called ST 3. Some pretty smart people on the eastside said this “realignment” was always coming, before ST 3 was passed, and they have always said the plan and risk and cost for DSTT2 is staggering.
But who knows. I hope I am alive when they break ground (likely) and finish DSTT2 (unlikely no matter how old I am). We will just have to see in 16 years. I am not trying to be a downer, I think this realignment corrects a dishonesty in ST 3 that was always going to need correcting, and spending the cost of an unnecessary DSTT2 on so many other projects was always the better choice.
It’s one thing to say “I think DSTT2’s costs will double and it will be unaffordable”, vs “DSTT2’s costs may increase and ST may adjust the schedule again later” (as I think), vs “ST boardmembers and staff have a secret conspiracy to do something radically different than this, and I know because I can read their minds or I have inside knowledge of what they intend.” The latter is a baseless accusation, unless you have evidence to support it that you haven’t mentioned.
I’m also really enjoying this curious and remarkable intersection between anti-transit NIMBYism allied with certain vocal anti-West Seattle light rail pro-transit advocates. Both of them have been using different arguments to achieve the same goal: prevent the construction of light rail in West Seattle. The dishonest, two-faced gondola NIMBY frauds are at least open and blatant liars about their poisonous intentions, but the STB commenters who couch their distaste for West Seattle rail are only doing so because they want the money spent in other places that THEY think would work best (BALLARD BALLARD BALLARD BALLARD). Both are contemptible both are allied with each other, but people should at least view their “arguments,” such as they are, with eyes wiiiiiide open.
“It’s one thing to say “I think DSTT2’s costs will double and it will be unaffordable”, vs “DSTT2’s costs may increase and ST may adjust the schedule again later” (as I think), vs “ST boardmembers and staff have a secret conspiracy to do something radically different than this, and I know because I can read their minds or I have inside knowledge of what they intend.” The latter is a baseless accusation, unless you have evidence to support it that you haven’t mentioned.”
Mike, I never said DSTT2’s costs will double. I said they had doubled. I think Seattle Subway was the first to reprice the tunnel at $3.56 billion last year, but that was hardly news to transit advocates. (If SS is more realistic when it comes to project cost estimating something is wrong, and my guess is ST had leaked that number). ETA been stating this since before ST 3 was passed. You need to understand project costs (and future ridership) in ST 3 were made up to sell ST 3.
You tend to believe whatever ST tells you. As a result I imagine the realignment was a shock. I am more cynical by nature. But I know the DSTT2 is still estimated to cost $2.2 billion in the realignment but it will cost much more than that, and that burden will fall on N. King Co. which has the least ability to afford a multi-billion additional cost.
Lawyers don’t spend time trying to read other people’s minds, but they are trained to identify when what an agency says — especially an agency with a very long history of bad cost estimating and dishonesty — is different than what the numbers show. How many times have I stated it is all about the money.
If what you are really saying is there will be another “realignment” I agree with you, but with the elimination of DSTT2 and a significant extension in completion dates and tax revenues I don’t think another “realignment” will be necessary, because that was the real realignment when the rest was just rescheduling (just like ST 1 ended up with many fewer stations than promised).
ST will probably use the EIS to break the bad news to Dow and West Seattle on DSTT2. That is how it is usually done.
To be honest, my suspicions on the realignment began with Ross, who is knowledgeable about transit, when he posted he thought the stub from West Seattle was maybe the dumbest idea he had ever seen, and I thought yes, Ross is right, even I can see that. So why would an agency that is dishonest but likely knows when a project is the dumbest idea Ross has seen — and I imagine he has seen a lot of dumb transit projects in his time — propose it?
My guess is to let the EIS be the bearer of bad news to Dow and West Seattle about DSTT2, which at that point (like Issaquah) they will have to decide if a stub is the best choice (when no loss of car capacity on a new bridge will be their number one demand). Of course, who knows, maybe ST and N. King Co. will reap a windfall of revenue or government largesse and DSTT2 is back on, but the logistics and unknowns of DSTT2 terrify me, and I think ST.
Daniel writes: “I think the realignment only makes sense financially if one accepts it will never include the DSTT2 (and $6.5 billion is the actual long term budget deficit). So I don’t know where the rail line from West Seattle will ever go after it reaches Sodo”. Of course, the ST3 dream or plan was for West Seattle Link to be hooked with the Lynnwood Line and the Ballard and Tacoma lines to be hooked. West Seattle was not dependent on the second downtown tunnel.
Jort, if your concern is preferential treatment for Ballard over West Seattle when it comes to WSBLE (which most of the transit experts on this blog seem to think is reversed for political reasons) I think you will be happy when both West Seattle and Ballard have rail stubs that terminate at nowhere because there is no DSTT2, and the other subareas object to WSBLE using DSTT1, and I am afraid that nowhere will probably be on the West Seattle and Ballard side of the new bridges because a no loss of car capacity bridge with new heights for ships plus light rail is not affordable for Seattle.
Now on the eastside, with the extra revenue from uniform tax rates and new extension in tax revenue, we have to find someplace to spend an additional $4.5 billion that is not as ludicrous as the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.
I am not sure which is worse: not getting promised rail like WSBLE, or spending billions and billions on light rail projects no one will use because you have to spend the money someplace.
Daniel, you’re wrong about “the funding deficit”. It will shrink and a “funding surplus” will balloon along with the enormous tide of climate refugees who will be moving to Puget Sound in the next decade.
I know you don’t believe me, but it is absolutely inevitable. The Central Valley of California is going to become untenable for cities, because what water will remain will be essential to grow food for the rest of the nation. For that reason alone the HSR system will probably be a boondoggle. It won’t be serving the riders generated from the expected boom in the SR99 corridor. That boom won’t happen; instead the fires and blistering heat will drive people away.
The first waves who can get something for their ultra-valuable California properties will come the western Washington. Those who try to ride it out will eventually be forced out of almost worthless properties to the Midwest. The Okies will return home a century later for exactly the same reason their ancestors west west: climate change.
WHAT is this obsession with a new highway + light rail bridge. There was a brief flurry of interest in that about eight or nine months ago, when it looked like the existing bridge had to come down.
But that has been put to rest by the analysis that the bridge can be repaired to last about twenty years for a relatively modest amount of money. Yes, yes, multi scores of millions of dollars, but in this day and age, that’s “relatively modest”.
If you’ll notice from the diagrams, Sound Transit expects the LR alignment to “belly south” at the Duwamish, and that’s to ensure that it doesn’t make replacement of the damaged bridge impossible. There is room left for a lower-level temporary “shoo-fly” bridge which would block high marine traffic for a couple of years, but not permanently.
You are full of these ridiculous scenarios that cast Seattle and Sound Transit leadership and feckless bumblers. Ross is right that they don’t understand the fundamentals of high capacity transit, but neither do you!
Try to keep up.
@Tom — Agreed. It is like the tunnel idea (for both the cars and the train). They looked at it. It didn’t make sense. Now move on.
I can live with no Downtown Tunnel if West Seattle learns to live with no bridge replacement. If we are not spending on transit infrastructure, we shouldn’t waste money on car infrastructure.
“STB commenters who couch their distaste for West Seattle rail are only doing so because they want the money spent in other places that THEY think would work best”
Isn’t that what everybody should be doing, advocating what they think is most necessary and justified? The arguments against West Seattle Link are based on transit-network best practices: serving the largest concentrations of pedestrians and destinations and most-willing riders. That’s obviously the U-District and Capitol Hill, and Ballard is not that far beyond that. Ballard is the largest urban village furthest from an ST2 Link station. Ballard has a 2-dimensional area thick with apartments, and jobs and an industrial area, and the most bars in one neighborhood, some with bands playing, and a hospital and clinics, and tourist attractions that people from all over the metro and international visitors go to, and is walkable. That’s exactly the kind of area that needs regional transit and a lot of housing (I’m thinking of a further upzone).
West Seattle has some of that in the Junction and along California Avenue, and it’s done a great job of assembling a mix of retailers (it reminds me of the Ave in the 1980s). But it’s still smaller than Ballard or the other urban centers, and doesn’t have something like a hospital or major tourist attractions to draw a large number of people. The multifamily area ends just a couple blocks west of California Ave and peters out in the Admiral District. The residents are fiercely against upzoning any more of the penninsula, so that gives a limited number of potential riders. People’s trips funnel from Alki, Admiral, the Junction, Fauntleroy, 35th, Delridge, and 16th to the bridge and downtown, but Link will only directly serve the Junction neighborhood. Everyone who lives along most of 35th or Delridge or 16th or Admiral/Alki will have to take a bus to Link and transfer, or ride the remaining 120 and bypass Link. Given the shortish distance to downtown and highway speed on the bridge and 99, it’s unclear that Link serves those transferring riders better than an open BRT system would, where buses could serve each of those streets and then combine to serve common stops to downtown. So the argument against West Seattle Link is that West Seattle isn’t large enough, has too many people who drive and torpedo upzones, and the one line won’t serve the vast majority of residents who don’t live within walking distance of the Junction neighborhood or one of the two other stations, whereas a multiline BRT or just better bus service would.
When there are only two sides to choose from, sometimes you get some strange bedfellows. That happens all the time in our two-party democracy and in yes/no initiatives.
Mike, yes, West Seattle is quite spread out. SkyLink proposes to serve not only the bus stops on Delridge/Avalon/Junction, but also High Point and 3 stations along California Ave: Morgan/Alaska/Admiral Junctions. That way many more people can enjoy a one seat ride on grade separated transit by 2025 and the savings of $2b can be used to fill holes in DSST2 and Ballard budget.
You can’t have a “junction” in a gondola line, so how do you propose to serve all of “High Point”, “Morgan Junction” and “Admiral Junction”. I can see a fishhook alignment for the first two, but Admiral loses out.
More recent gondola tech allows for junctions, if you want to stay with traditional tech, one of them would be a separate conjoint line. The big advantage would be that such alignment would also provide mobility within West Seattle, not just to downtown and the region, and help turn WS into a 15min city.
Martin, no bridge and you can have your gondola, deal?
Frank, for now the WS bridge gets fixed. With the new Terminal 5 etc projects, WS will still need some road capacity, at least for trucks, but once the bridge gets rebuilt, may be we should downsize it.
That brings me to another idea: I don’t think we should replace the aging Magnolia bridge but instead turn its center into an urban village and connect it via gondola to either the Interbay or Smith Cove station.
“Isn’t that what everybody should be doing, advocating what they think is most necessary and justified? ”
I think an issue is some people contrast the compromised reality of our current alignment options with the idealized version of their preferred scenario.
As a West Seattle resident, I find it kind of crazy that they prioritized West Seattle link and set Ballard Link on the path to further delays/cancellations. I get the political reasons to punt on the more complicated portion of WSBLE, but from a pure transit perspective the WS-SODO ridership is going to be awful unless they perfectly time the trains+transfer so there are no headways at SODO. But even so, I’m looking at the design for the Avalon station, which is closest to me, and it looks basically like the Mt. Baker Station in form and function. It’s hard to see how any of this would be more useful than the C-line until the train keeps going to at least the ID station. Which might never happen given the $1.8 billion budget shortage which has yet to be accounted for.
Assuming it does happen, which seems inevitable after the realignment vote, I think the smart thing to do would be to re-route the C-line in 2032 to bypass downtown through the 99 tunnel and go straight to SLU.
As for light rail, next year is going to be crucial for the community to take a close look at the proposed West Seattle alignments/stations and ask whether isolated elevated stations are appropriate in a dense urban area. Is a scorched earth policy the correct plan for building light rail in a populated areas? A gondola offers no advantage over a ultra-frequent bus like the C-line, but Marty is right to point out that there are some serious flaws with how West Seattle light rail is designed, and it will be interesting to see how the politics play out after the dEIS comes out this fall or winter.
It is nice to see that the board finally put the infill stations first. These are the most cost effective, and in the case of 130th, fare recovery alone will pay for opening it sooner. That being said, Graham should open before Boeing Access Road. Graham is a quality infill station — no one can make a case for BAR unless they invest in other infrastructure (freeway bus stops or a Sounder station) for which there are no plans. At best BAR is a chicken/egg problem (maybe WSDOT will add a freeway bus stop now that ST is committed to the station). At worst it is station with very few riders.
That being said, the cost is minimal compared to other projects, which means even if it has low ridership, it may still be a better value than half the projects out there. It is by no means the worst decision.
That goes to the insistence on building West Seattle to SoDo before Ballard Link or the tunnel. Five years before the trains even get to Queen Anne (let along Ballard) riders will be able to get a ride from any of the three stops in West Seattle to SoDo, the lowest performing station in our system. Other than riders who live close to the West Seattle station wanting to connect to Link (of which there are few), and folks going to a ball game, no one will ride this. Putting this project first is nonsensical.
The good news that many of the issues could, theoretically, be fixed in the future. The key is what will be built in the next few years. The infill stations and the BRT improvements look solid — those should be, and are, the priority. I’m not thrilled with the parking (which I assume is what “Kent, Auburn, Sumner” stands for) but I can live with it to get the other projects. Overall, this is solid action by the board and a huge improvement over many of the ideas discussed earlier. Kudos to Chairperson Kent, you already seems better at this thing than Constantine.
“Overall, this is solid action by the board and a huge improvement over many of the ideas discussed earlier. Kudos to Chairperson Kent,…”
Agreed. I had a big sigh of relief after reading this STB piece. I’m actually thrilled with the outcome concerning the 130th St. infill station. (I plan on watching the recorded meeting when it’s posted for more details. Out of town at the moment.)
BAR would still be useful if 124 has a strong transfer to the new Link station? Connecting BAR to the various job centers in southern SoDo and industrial Tukwilla seems useful, particularly for the many workers that live south of Seattle. Same with connecting White Center and South Park to Link via an squiggly east/west route, kinda like a southern version of the 50, replacing the SoDo transfer with a BAR transfer?
BAR could become the anchor for a bunch of southern Seattle (west of I5), even without a Sounder station and/or WSDOT investments.
If the 124 (or a similar bus) is extended as far as BAR, then it would make way more sense for the bus to keep going, past the Rainier Beach station, and then end by the high school (the current terminus of the 7). That directly connects those riders to way more people, doubles up the connection between the Rainier Beach Neighborhood and Rainier Beach Station, and connects to the 106, 107 and 7. That would cost more, but give you way more. A bus that is similar to a bus designed to serve 130th. Extending the 75 all the way across 125th/130th to Bitter Lake and Greenwood Avenue does a lot. It connects to various neighborhoods, various buses AND Link. Just going to BAR only connects to Link.
Either way, it means splitting the 124. Unless you expect the bus to somehow detour to BAR, and find its way back, which doesn’t sound like a great idea to me, even if they can pull it off. The best way to connect the area west of the Duwamish with Link is to run a bus to Rainier Beach, since it would also connect to so much of the area east of it. That is possible now, without a new station.
Yeah I don’t see many routes terminating at BAR, just like there are no routes that terminate at SoDO station. I meant that I hope the BAR station entrances are situated such that there is a good transfer to the 124, without the 124 needing to deviate, but yes it would also be great to have new route that goes onwards to Rainier Beach, after following the 124 (or maybe the 131/2) from BAR to SoDO. I could also see a route that follows the 60 but then turns south on Marginal before going onwards to Rainier Beach?
My general point was there are plenty of interesting and useful things to do with a BAR station even without Sounder or WSDOT investment.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that a BAR station has no value. But from a bus intercept standpoint, it really doesn’t change the dynamic. At best it means that someone riding the bus gets to make the transfer a couple minutes earlier (at BAR instead of Rainier Beach). But I don’t see the buses doing anything different than what they can do today. You also have a parking garage (with 300 parking spaces) as well as a handful of people who will walk or bike to the station. But overall, it just doesn’t look very promising, and nowhere near the value of either the 130th station or Graham. I just find it weird that it is lumped in with Graham, even though the case for Graham is much stronger. I would rather delay BAR and add Graham sooner.
With a freeway bus intercept, on the other hand, it changes the dynamic. The 101 and 150 (along with other express buses) are easily connected to Link for access to the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill stations. If Metro does run buses over to the station (and to Rainier Beach) it enhances the network in that way as well. From downtown Renton to East Marginal Way would be a very straightforward simple connection (101 to the new 124). Without the freeway station, riders at best would take the 106 to Rainier Beach, followed by backtracking over BAR to get to East Marginal Way. In some ways, the freeway station without a Link station changes the potential for the bus network more than a Link station without a freeway station.
Similarly, a combination Sounder/Link station would have significant benefits. Sounder doesn’t run often enough to fully take advantage of the connection, but it would make the case for additional trips (especially in the reverse commute direction) stronger. For a northbound train, over 1,000 riders get off at Auburn, Kent or Tukwila. It stands to reason that a significant number of people in Rainier Valley are headed that way as well.
Yes, Kent/Aurburn/Sumner are ST2 Sounder garages that are through ROW & design but not construction. South King wanted those projects to be completed, which might then overwhelm Sounder post-covid and make the decision to push out Sounder capacity investment look foolish. We shall see.
“BAR is a chicken/egg problem (maybe WSDOT will add a freeway bus stop now that ST is committed to the station).”
BAR is for local bus transfers, particularly planned modifications to the A and 150, and the 124 would connect to it also. There my be another route or two that would use it but the Metro Connects map isn’t working so I can’t confirm. Officials have also suggested a Link/Sounder transfer if a BAR Sounder station is ever built (it’s not in ST3). I’ve never heard any officials suggest a BAR freeway stop.
BAR use cases include:
– Transferring to the A to a planned urban village at 144th. (The A’s route would be Federal Way-BAR.)
– Transferring to the 124 to the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School. (The 124’s route would be downtown-BAR.)
– Transferring to a revised 150 that would go south to Southcenter and Kent. (The 150’s route would be Kent Station-Rainier Beach.)
(The 101 is not truncated in any of Metro’s scenarios.)
– Transferring to the A to a planned urban village at 144th. (The A’s route would be Federal Way-BAR.)
– Transferring to the 124 to the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School. (The 124’s route would be downtown-BAR.)
– Transferring to a revised 150 that would go south to Southcenter and Kent. (The 150’s route would be Kent Station-Rainier Beach.)
Right, but again, if you are going to send the A all the way to BAR, then it is much better to just keep going to the Rainier Beach neighborhood, and then ending there. That way, you directly serve way more people, and you connect to the rest of the network (the 7, 106, and 107). Likewise, if you are going to split the 124, and send the northern end over to Boeing Access Road, you might as well keep going to Rainier Beach, the largest neighborhood within miles, and the cultural center of the region. All of this can be done without a new station, and would get way more riders per hour of service than ending at Link. Yes, the bus would be going a bit farther, but it would get way more riders. Link carries a lot of riders in Rainier Valley, but so do the 7. Throw in the 106 and 107, and you just connect to a lot more riders.
It kinda reminds of the 522 Swift line. By ending at 145th and the freeway, you retain awkward three-seat rides (e. g. Kenmore to various places on Aurora). It makes way more sense to connect to the most popular bus in the region — one of the more popular buses in the state — as well as a large community.
Ross, I expect that BAR will be used as a major bus-intercept for riders from Southeast King County. It’s just north of the Martin Luther King Jr Blvd split to Renton and has access to and from that street and I-5 southbound with no stoplights. Yes, buses entering and exiting the station to and from the east will have a stoplight there, but one stoplight is better than three along MLK Blvd between BAR and Henderson. And of course, the buses will load and discharge directly adjacent to the station, so passengers will have no need to cross half of the busy arterial as they do at Henderson.
I recognize that the plan as shown by Oran on Flicker does not mention any southeast buses, but I’m confident that it will be seen as a great opportunity.
One interesting thing is I expect it to become a “go to” transfer point for Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup riders headed for the airport. Kent folks will have their own direct route, but farther south along 167 this will be the premier way to get the Sea-Tac quickly, at least during the times that South Sounder operates.
Yes, buses entering and exiting the station to and from the east will have a stoplight there, but one stoplight is better than three along MLK Blvd between BAR and Henderson.
Wait, from the east? You are saying that a 106 or 107 will detour to BAR, somehow? How then, will they cover the parts of Rainier Beach they cover? Are you saying the bus will cut over, and then cut back? Or are you saying they will skip the section that accounts for a substantial amount of the ridership?
Sorry, but I don’t see it. I see buses from the west being sent there (and my point is, if you do that, you might as well keep going to Rainier Beach). But I don’t see existing buses from the east being diverted there — the geography just doesn’t work.
I mean the buses like the 102 and 150 which go deep into the Southeast and maybe the 101, though it does seem like Renton deserves an “all day” direct express. Any other peak direct expresses from the region like the 102 could be truncated there as well.
So far as the 106 and 107, they’re obviously too far east when they pass BAR.
The 101, 102 and 150 are express buses to downtown. It isn’t the section between BAR and Rainier Beach that causes them to continue to run downtown. It is the fact that either way, the freeway will get them there much, much faster. As much as people want the buses to be truncated (to save service hours) it just isn’t going to happen.
It is a relatively short distance, and wouldn’t stop an agency from truncating, if they wanted to truncate. Look at the 522. Sound Transit could wait until the faster connection at 145th, but instead they will run it on Roosevelt Way, which has plenty of congestion and traffic lights. Likewise, if Metro really wanted to truncate the 101 or 150, they would do that now (at Rainier Beach).
It will always be a judgement call, but most believe that even after BAR is added, the freeway buses will continue to go downtown. Federal Way (and places south of there) are a different story. In part because it very far, but also because the train acts like an express south of Rainier Valley (with very few stops per mile).
I’m happy to see that the board (wisely and responsibly, imo) moved up the 130th St infill station project to Tier 1.
Also, I’m glad to see that they have the project properly slotted as a Central Corridor project, and not a North Corridor project as shown on the draft Exhibit D2 documentation.
This would be paid for by delaying new South Sounder trips from 2045 to 2046.
What are those trips, anyway? What will South Sounder look like when this is all paid for (in 2046)?
The number of trips is undefined, pending BNSF negotiation, but my understanding is the consultant analysis basically boils it down to keeping a simillar span of service and boosting frequency from 20 minutes to 15 minute headways.
Check out the Final Sounder South Strategic Development and Implementation Plan
Thanks. I wasn’t sure if this was the longer trips (to Dupont), more trips or bigger trains. It sounds like it is the last two — whatever they can do to get more capacity. Obviously running more often is better, but it could easily prove to be a lot more expensive (and cause reliability problems). Adding trains seems to be the cheapest, especially if they have open gangways. It is only King Street Station that needs to unload very car. At every other station, people can get on in the front, and move their way back (to find seating). Keep in mind, this is all done for seating — the fear is that eventually people will have to stand, not that they would be left behind at the station.
This definitely looks like a degradation, but it is hard to get worked up over it. My guess is they are simply waiting for this to actually become a problem. It is quite possible the estimates are wrong, and ridership levels off, instead of increasing as they assume. While having the trains run more often would be a significant improvement, it would be crazy to spend a lot of money dealing with capacity problem that never occur.
They are adding trips and cars, but not trains. The fleet would grow as the trains go from 7 to 8 then 10 car trains, but all additional trips would be roundtrips so in theory this would allow for better leverage of the Sounder fleet and staff.
Yes, adding cars is clearly cheaper than adding trips, but after 10-cars, ST starts running into major station footprint issues in the intermediate stations, at which point adding trips are cheaper than expanding 7 stations to extend across multiple blocks. The SSDIP did this exact analysis and projected the right cadence of train extensions vs trip additions.
The near $1B budget is specifically for creating the infrastructure needed to ensure 15 minute headways are reliable (with a small fraction for the upgrade from 8 to 10 car trains). Also, investing in additional trips (rather than longer and longer 20minute trains) should make for better reliability because it’s less of a wait for the next train.
“It is only King Street Station that needs to unload every car.” Pre-Covid, Tukwila station had near 100% turnover, so the capacity issue was Kent to King, not Tukwilla to King. Passengers were already regularly standing pre-Covid during both am and pm peak trips. ST doesn’t want passengers standing for 30 minutes regardless of the mode. Yes, if the ridership doesn’t rebound sufficiently to require anything more than 10-car trains, no trips will be added.
Dupont won’t cost anything to BNSF. ST already owns the trackage. The only cost is operations, and some sort of terminal station. I would hope they’ll also put an intermediate station at the JBLM entrace and that the Army will provide shuttle service.
Pre-Covid, Tukwila station had near 100% turnover
Wait, what? You are saying that when a train from Tacoma stops at Tukwila, everyone gets off? Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense, nor does it match the data.
This is a typical commuter train. At every stop, there are people who get off an inbound train before Seattle, but the vast majority just wait until the train gets to King Street. For a northbound train, the Seattle station has 6,346 departures (on average). Tukwila had 571.
This means that for an inbound (northbound) train, the vast majority of riders who want a seat can simply move to the back of the train. The relatively small number of people who depart at Tukwila will work their way forward, just like the people who departed on Kent, Auburn, etc. When the train pulls into King Street, though, everyone — a full train load — gets off the train.
Going the other direction, there is a similar dynamic. If you are headed to Tacoma or Lakewood, you head to the back. By the time you hit Puyallup, the train is largely empty, and you can move forward. The only station that has huge numbers of riders getting on and off is King Street. The idea that every station has to be huge to handle a full ten car train load is silly. As long as people can move between cars on the train, all they need to do is add them.
Ross, I think he means that at Tukwila every person who got off was replaced one-for-one by a person getting on.
These are bi-level cars. Everyone gets on and off near the middle (1/3 or 2/3 of the way “back”). The stairs are right by the doors. There’s no specific “entrance” or “exit”.
I think he means that at Tukwila every person who got off was replaced one-for-one by a person getting on.
Fair enough, but that doesn’t change anything. For a northbound train, a relatively small number of people get off before King Street, which means that the only station that needs a lot of places for people to exit is that one.
These are bi-level cars. Everyone gets on and off near the middle (1/3 or 2/3 of the way “back”). The stairs are right by the doors. There’s no specific “entrance” or “exit”.
Yeah, that’s what I figured. My point is that if you have a really long train and open gangways, then several cars can extend beyond the platform at most stations. People board, make their way towards the back, have a seat and relax. If the rider is one of the handful that gets off before King Street, then they make their way towards the front. If not, they can just wait until King Street, knowing that they can exit their car at that station.
The Urbanist article on adding the eighth car pictures the operation you described of moving into the trailing car of an eight-car trainset. It said that ST will not make the trains longer again until it extends the platforms. Apparently 10 car trains can be accommodated by lengthening all the platforms everywhere but Auburn and King Street itself. They may have to extend the “throat” of the track ladder to the south there. That might be difficult because of the football stadium.
That means that ST used the method you describe to add the eighth car, but that it doesn’t want people to have to walk through one trailing car to get to another, just into the last one.
That last sentence should say “any” car, although “their” car works as well.
“I think he means that at Tukwila every person who got off was replaced one-for-one by a person getting on.” Yes, sorry that was what I meant. Clearly only the termini have 100% turnover :)
“then several cars can extend beyond the platform at most stations.” I’ve wondered about this, and the SSSP specifically discusses this option (check out figure 4-14). I think there are two issues, one with ADA and another with the trains blocking intersections. Combined, ST doesn’t believe it is feasible to run trains longer than 10-cars and have them stop at all the Sounder stations. I suppose some cars can be reserve for only riders using the longer stations (notably Tacoma & Seattle), but I speculate that legacy rail systems that don’t allow for all cars to serve all stations might be grandfathered into ADA? (Tom makes a good point about walking through 1 vs multiple cars)
But ultimately it comes does to cost. Adding trips is expensive, but it also avoids cost in longer stations, bigger O&M facilities, and larger fleet size. Notably, the SSSP iterates between both solutions, proposing grow to 8 cars, then add trips, then grow to 10 cars, and then add more trips (Figure 4-16), which suggests that adding 1 or 2 trips is more effective than growing to 10 cars, as the SSSP is evaluating solely through the lens of adding capacity.
Yes, the Dupont extension is independent of the BNSF negotiations. It’s a separate ST project with its own budget and timeline, though the subarea has decided to place it at the end of the line.
This has my most urgent priorities in tier 1: NE 130th station and the three Stride lines. So cooler heads prevailed. The least affected subarea seems to be Pierce: Tacoma Dome Link and the 19th Avenue streetcar extension are in tier 1, and something called “Lakewood/S. Tacoma”. If ST is delaying Sounder expansion then I don’t know what those are. Pierce’s luck is unsurprising since its Link extension isn’t that expensive and Pierce has been saving up for it since ST1.
I would consider DSTT2 and Ballard urgent except they’re so far away that it was going to be twelve more years without them anyway, so it’s hard to get more frustrated with 13 years. And ST is leaning toward the worst alignment options, with a 14th NW station and an expensive deep-bore Intl Dist station. That Alaska Junction-SODO priority still bothers me: better to delay it a bit and accelerate DSTT2 and Ballard a bit. West Seattle privilege and the bridge closure. But the car bridge will presumably be fixed before the Link stub opens, so we shouldn’t be basing decisions on things that won’t apply then.
I agree, Mike, NE130th and Graham and Stride is great and SODO is useless if you need to wait for a train to arrive from Rainier Valley and it might be full in the am, only a direct connection will be competitive with the C line, but that will have to wait until DSTT2 is done in 2037. A gondola could connect to the ID transit hub by 2025 and the $2b savings could accelerate Ballard and Everett spine.
Boeing Access Rd is questionable for the following reason: If the Rainier line will need to serve Renton, then we need to build the Duwamish/South Park line asap which would serve Burien much better than Boeing Access Rd.
I think if there is to be a Renton spur, by far the best option is to simply overlay that line on the existing RV alignment to give ID-RV the same excellent frequency as the Seattle stations north of the ID.
Burien is connected to Link via Stride to TIBS.
Sorry, I meant Tukwilla, not Burien
At some point the RV line will be limited by the fact that it is at grade, sooner or later the Duwamish line has to be built. Running a spur just between Renton and Rainier Beach may be too complex, it would be much simpler to do a Duwamish line and on the RV line, split trains between Renton and airport.
sooner or later the Duwamish line has to be built
No, sorry, that simply isn’t true. It is unlikely it will ever need to be built, and it is unlikely it will ever be built.
The beneficiaries of the Duwamish bypass, Pierce and South King, don’t want it. It was in ST’s long-range plan then they started revising the plan in 2014 in the run-up to ST3. The board deleted it from the plan in 2015. Neither Pierce nor South King nor North King said one word to save it. North King has many higher priorities: it won’t build Duwamish before Ballard, West Seattle, 45th, or Lake City-Bothell. And it doesn’t really want it at all because Georgetown’s residential population is so small. The people saying a Duwamish bypass is high priority to speed up trips to SeaTac and Federal Way and Tacoma aren’t living in reality. Those subareas don’t want it and don’t want to pay for it. Even though they know travel time will be an hour or more without it. South King has higher priorities, namely more Sounder service (always), the WSJ-Burien-Renton extension, and I hope 167 Stride will get on their radar. Plus South King doesn’t have much money for any of this, since it’s the poorest subarea.
Building the WSJ-Burien-Renton line will be challenging as there is no road to follow through West Seattle South of Fauntleroy. A Duwamish bypass could serve similar neighborhoods (White Center), either directly, via busses, or via gondola. There are a ton of diverse and low income riders in that area. Renton may get served through RV.
If they pass “Move King County” in 2022, they may get funding.
The only issue with the timeline you’re talking about with the “gondola” is that you’re neglecting to mention that the gondola is an actual, stupid literal waste-of-time joke. You should mention that in your comments, too.
Ross, I don’t know where growth to accommodate the flood of climate refugees from California and Arizona that’s just beginning will be found other than Southeast King County. North Snohomish is a possibility, but access to the economic core of the region from there is pretty tenuous; Everett and the Snoqualmie River marshlands are in the way. So the quadrant southeast of Renton will experience the next great boom. Let’s hope that King County blocks establishment of new municipalities and annexations by existing ones until a full urban structure can be established.
It’s quite a bit cheaper to build an almost all at-grade cutoff along Airport Way for Airport-Federal Way-Tacoma trains in order for the Rainier Valley line to accommodate a Renton-Enumclaw branch — yes, you heard it here first — than it is to trench or elevate the RV line under traffic. That certainly could be done, but it would not be a walk in the park and terribly disruptive. I saw how complex it was to keep the Market Street cars in operation while they dug the BART/Muni tunnel.
We have gotten a taste of what climate change is going to mean for the region between the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean these past three years, and it’s only going to get worse. There is no longer any refuge within California, and Oregon is getting dicey. The Puget Sound region will have 10 million residents by 2035, the UP will be double tracked and all non-local freight that isn’t headed over Stampede will be running that way. Sound Transit will own two of the three tracks on the BNSF main and Sounder will run every 20 minutes as the trunk line through Kent, Auburn and Puyallup.
The State and County will overrule the NIMBY’s along the Kirkland Corridor and the Issaquah line will be extended at least to Woodinville with discussions about Snohomish.
These super suburban lines would be well-served by “Sprinter” services and the ST fleet will probably include some higher-geared trainsets for them.
Tom, if the plan is to serve Enumclaw via RV and with the known capacity limits of RV line, then it seems a Duwamish bypass to Seatac/Tacoma would need to be built around the same time, am I mistaken?
mixio, that’s exactly what I said; please re-read.
Everything I said is predicated on relieving the RV line of trains destined south of the Airport by using a much cheaper alignment along Airport Way, not the grandiose, multi-tunnel Seattle Subway wet-dream.
I think there should still be turnback service through the Valley as far as Sea-Tac or perhaps Angle Lake because a lot of airport workers have settled in the RV because of Link. Keeping it also allows for somewhat more service to and from downtown, keeping in mind the capacity limits.
Sorry, that reply was to “Martin” who has the same profile image as mixio. I got confused.
ST’s own projections show that the highest demand segment on a per train basis is forecast to be between SODO and Beacon Hill. It’s higher than the DSTT (and the common argument for DSTT2 is overcrowding.
In other words, the SE Seattle riders may also want the Duwamish Bypass to relieve overcrowding. If that bypass ends up being considered, it will be motivated by overcrowding rather than travel speed.
I also think that the BAR station location benefit is if Sounder stops there. Otherwise it should be south of where the BAR track curves to allow for the Duwamish Bypass to be useful as a transfer station.
Al, I like the Southern BAR station idea. If the Duwamish Bypass gets built and RV goes to Renton, you could have an automated train shuttling back and forth between Rainier Beach (or wherever the Renton branch will be) and BAR to connect the RV and Tacoma line.
Al, I agree completely. A location along East Marginal about 112th and a little construction to provide a flyover southbound and simple exit northbound between SR599 and Interurban Avenue would make for an even better bus intercept. It would also actually serve some direct passengers.
But, IF there is a transfer between South Sounder and Link, then having it where proposed makes sense.
Tom, how about running the Duwamish Bypass along E Marginal Way instead of Airport Way? That way you can serve South Park etc…
a more radical idea: As more car traffic is using Hwy 509, do we even need Hwy 99 or can we at least downsize it? Then we could use that ROW…
Tom, how about running the Duwamish Bypass along E Marginal Way instead of Airport Way? That way you can serve South Park etc…
or a more radical idea: As more cars are using Hwy 509, do we even need Hwy 99 or can we at least downsize it? Then we could use that ROW and it would be easier to integrate with SW Seattle lines…
In any case it might be interesting to look at a gondola serving White Center, Westwood, and even Fauntleroy ferry terminal (quite hilly route).
Martin, airplanes occasionally cross East Marginal Way. There’s no way to have pans tall enough for the catenary to clear a 777’s tail. Besides, 16th and East Marginal isn’t really “South Park”.
No, it would be a fuster-cluck.
There’s a very low-cost opportunity for an 80+% at-grade “bypass” using the outer loop at Forest Street and going just east of Airport Way along an old railroad spur. It would have to go elevated from Seattle City Light a few blocks until it passes under the Michigan Street off-ramp and diagonals across the railroad tracks to land on the west side next to airport way. There is enough room for two tracks between the street and railroad south to about the Boeing Field Terminal. South of there the bypass would have to take the easternmost lane of Airport Way. It would become one lane each way with a center refuge.
The way that Airport Way links to Boeing Access Road is a template for a full flying junction at the south end.
This can be done for considerably less than a half-billion dollars.
Tom, I didn’t know about the Airport Way route, very intriguing, I guess it would allow for a Georgetown station and may be a Boeing Field Terminal station if ridership warrants. From Georgetown you could run a gondola along Corson Ave to South Park, White Center, Westwood, to Fauntleroy ferry terminal and/or via Lucile to South Seattle College, but such line would be quite long.
I ran into Reconnect South Park at the Duwamish Cleanup Festival today. They are advocating shutting down Hwy 99 as traffic has been shifting to Hwy 509. How about using Airport Way but continuing along Corson/8th Ave, crossing Duwamish and then using one lane of Hwy 99 until it meets the existing Link line South of BAR? That would be more expensive, but serve South Park directly and allow for a shorter gondola ride towards White Center.
Here is their website: https://cultivatesouthpark.org/reconnect
“Lakewood/S. Tacoma” is presumably part of the Sounder access program? I’m all for pushing parking to Tier 4, but it appears that the non-SOV station access investments (bike, ped, and bus) also got delayed because they are grouped into the same projects, which is a bummer. I wish ST staff had created “station access no parking’ projects, to mirror the Link-expansion-no-parking projects.
Agreed, especially since such pedestrian/bike improvements are close to no-cost in the accounting for Sound Transit’s enormous budget.
So, they’ve managed to basically keep everything to either COVID-delayed (<2 years), or about 4 years behind (Ballard slipping from 2035 to 2039), with less immediately important stuff (parking, Sounder) kicked down the road a decade or so.
I'm glad we can move on from realignment and get back to bickering around actual alignments.
I think it'd be OK if Ballard went to 14th Ave, as long as the city "expanded" the urban village to go to 8th or 3rd ave and up to 65th. Lots of 6+ story apartments going in along Market between 14th and 8th.
Agree, a 14th Ave location can be fully mitigated (in the long term) by Seattle adjusting the FLUM and zoning in response to the final station location.
Right. It doesn’t matter if it actually serves the existing cultural, residential and employment center of the area. We can build a new one, while neglecting the old! It is so simple — we should just send the train to Magnolia — that would save even more money!
Ross, “the existing cultural, residential and employment center in the neighborhood” will do just fine serving and employing all the people in the big new buildings coming to West Woodland. And if Ballard Link doesn’t continue north the city can build an elevated extension over Market across 15th, bring it to grade west of 17th and have an at-grade station just east of Leary. That is much more appropriate to Old Ballard than ST’s proposed station at 54th and 15th. You’re not going to get a subway station at 22nd.
This the same solution as Alaska Junction should have. They’d be like Ninth and Judah which is a happenin’ place. Cars ought to be subordinate in Old Ballard and The Junction. This is a way to achieve that.
Sorry. Should have said “Ninth and Irving.
Ross, “the existing cultural, residential and employment center in the neighborhood” will do just fine serving and employing all the people in the big new buildings coming to West Woodland.
So the entire neighborhood is just going to move? Man, that makes things even simpler. We can save a bundle by just moving everyone to Smith Cove. Brilliant!
And if Ballard Link doesn’t continue north the city can build an elevated extension over Market across 15th, bring it to grade west of 17th and have an at-grade station just east of Leary.
Yeah, right. In another forty years. Just like DC Metro now serves Georgetown and Link will finally add a station at First Hill. Oh wait…
Sorry for the snark, but it isn’t cheap or easy to fix mistakes. It can be done, but the fact that we didn’t solve the First Hill problem — even with a second chance that most agencies would love to have — just shows that if we screw this up, that’s it. The Mount Baker Station could be moved to better serve the neighborhood, and better integrate with buses, but it won’t. Likewise, Columbia City and Rainier Beach Station are still quite a ways from the cultural, employment and residential center of their respective namesakes. Oh, and they aren’t building skyscrapers by the train stations either.
15th was a compromise — a cheap alternative that is at least somewhat tolerable for the vast majority of riders (coming from the west). 14th is not. It will be too far for people to walk, which means that lots of people will simply drive, most of the day. Oh, it will be busy during rush hour, but unlike say, the Capitol Hill Station — which gets lots of riders all day long — it just won’t generate much ridership. Not when you have to hop on a bus just to get to the nearest station. Even for transit riders, the faster and more frequent 40 will look appealing. Sure, the train will be faster, but not everyone wants to transfer.
The Ballard rezone tapers down at 14th, going down to single-family in a few blocks. There won’t be a large village centered on 14th unless the zoning changes again. There’s no indication the city will consider this, so we can’t count on it.
There is also plenty of industrial land around there that won’t change. Even if it did, cleanup would probably take decades.
More than anything, the idea that irritates me is that we can just ignore the existing density, in hopes that new density comes along. It is a crazy concept, that would ignore places like Capitol Hill and the UW, in hopes that neighborhoods like Lawton, Laurelhurst and Hawthorne Hills magically leapfrog them. No one does that. It is true that many systems expect growth in areas that have very little when the line is built, but those areas are on the way, or an extension where there is nothing around in any direction. Nobody skips over the dense parts to serve the low density areas. There is simply no good reason to end the station at 14th. The folks in charge have to work things out with the port — not turn the Ballard Station into another Mount Baker Station.
Hmm… An other option would be to terminate Link at Interbay for now and run a gondola to the center of Ballard along 20th Ave with a stop at Fishermen’s Terminal. At least you wouldn’t loose as much time waiting for a transfer. Once the Ballard bridge gets rebuilt, we could add LR to it and continue further North. I bet it would be cheaper than building a separate bridge and provide high frequency service to downtown Ballard.
I am confused. During the realignment process I never saw any ST figures that suggested the East King Co. subarea had any project deficits. Just the opposite: the subarea has more revenue than estimated in ST 2 and 3. I didn’t see any delay in even the $4.5 billion Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.
So why delay any projects in the east King Co. subarea?
And where will east King Co. spend the additional revenue from extending the ST taxes for projects in other subareas due to uniform taxing? Does east King Co. now have to find another Issaquah to S. Kirkland line in order to spend the additional ST revenue?
The amendment proposed by the mayor of Kenmore was adopted:
“Interim access to station[s] which have delayed parking. This could mean additional connecting bus routes to some stations (some of which are in areas without much in the way of bus connections already), or microtransit options.”
But who will pay for this increase in Metro coverage in these undense areas? As the article notes, many of these areas have no feeder transit now, and many areas have issues with even getting from doorstep to a bus stop. Why would ST and Metro delay park and rides paid for by the eastside subarea from ST funds that still will be built, just later, with Metro and microtransit during the delay? Does Metro have excess revenue and funding to provide this new coverage to these large areas, or will it reallocate coverage and frequency from existing areas?
Sound Transit would be paying for the connecting buses regardless of whether they’re blue-and-white or green-and-teal. It has some reserve operating funds for things like extra STEX runs during highway closures or overcrowding, it just doesn’t have a lot of them for permanent increases. So it may come out of that, or from a slightly further delay of the parking. It’s all a question of how urgent it is to have this interim service now. ST refused to increase the 550 Sundays and 594 every day to 15 minutes for decades, and now suddenly it’s planning to in 2022. And my friend in north Lynnwood says the 512 is already de facto 15 minutes Sundays even though the schedule doesn’t say so, so it’s using some reserve funds there. (And it deserves it, because the 512 has surpassed the 550 as the highest-ridership all-day route.)
I don’t have firsthand knowledge of East King’s budget, so I have no way to evaluate your contention that it has plenty of money for all its ST3 projects. But this realignment is about hitting the overall debt ceiling ca. 2029-2035, which is not subarea specific. ST needs to reduce its expenditures during that period to stay below the ceiling, which means slowing down construction during that time. It doesn’t matter what it slows or in which subareas, as long as it slows something. So it’s a political decision how to reorder the expenditures, and there may be subarea winners and losers. Subarea equity refers to the total amount paid at the end of ST3, not how expenditures are scheduled during it. The board probably wanted all subareas to have some sacrifices so it wouldn’t look like it was favoring one subarea over another.
Could delaying Ballard give ST, or Seattle, more time to come up with a plan to get the station somewhere, anywhere, other than 14th?
If that were the outcome of a delay then I’ll say it is a win. If it stays on 14th then it’s a loss.
That would require anyone with decisionmaking authority to think 14th is a bad idea first.
Even without a delay construction won’t substantially start until Lynnwood Link is finished, because the ST3 budget uses all the ST 1/2/3 tax streams, and the ST 1 and 2 streams are maxed out until ST2 is finished and its bonds partly paid down. When ST confirmed it won’t delay ST2, it means that only a third of the ST1/2/3 revenue will be available for ST3 until 2025 when the last ST2 bill is paid.
Maybe? Having Smith Cove to Ballard in Tier 2, the EIS process is not delayed. EIS and alignment selection moves full steam ahead, the only delay is final design and construction, so the move away from 14th would need to occur during final design rather that during the EIS process.
Yes, I was trying to say that the final alignment doesn’t need to be decided until construction starts. ST can mix and match EIS alternatives to assemble an alignment. If it wants to include something not in the EIS (e.g., a 20th station), then it just has to publish a supplemental EIS for it. That takes a year to study and write and approve, so it would add time, but that may be insignificant compared to the benefit and ridership of a station closer to Ballard’s center.
Yeah, I think in general anything that buys us time for the flawed Ballard and West Seattle alignment is a good thing. I hate to see Ballard — one of the most cost effective projects in ST3 — being delayed, but It would be worse to see it butchered.
Ballard can wait, but 130th, where nobody lives, and where few riders will transfer, needs a station asap? That seems backwards to me.
Plenty of previous discussion regarding the merits of the 130th street station, and its value.
It should be obvious that the 130th station will already have the track laid, building the station around the track is a much simpler task than building the entire line to Ballard.
It’s for bus transfers to Lake City and Bitter Lake. Lake City is the fifth-largest urban village in Seattle, and has a significant number of lower-income people and room for growth. A modest upzone in the station area is also planned, so there will be a few more apartment buildings within walking distance of the station.
Lake City was left out of ST2 and ST3 because it’s not designated as a PSRC growth center, but that’s just because King County’s criteria for growth centers is flawed. It’s based on the amount of zoned job capacity. So Totem Lake and Issaquah zoned that capacity to make them must-serve by ST. But Lake City and especially Ballard-Fremont have a more even balance of jobs and housing, which is good for a well-functioning urban village, but it makes them fail the county’s formula. The county should reform the formula or make an exception for Lake City and Ballard-Fremont, but it hasn’t. (The southern Ballard industrial area is an INDUSTRIAL growth center, so that’s how Ballard got some clout in ST3. The other industrial growth centers are Redmond Tech Center and Paine Field, and maybe Kent-SeaTac-Tukwila-BAR.)
Lynnwood Link considered four alternatives: I-5, Aurora, Lake City Way, and 15th Ave NE. The only absolute requirement was it must serve the Northgate and Lynnwood growth centers. The Lake City Way and 15th Ave NE alternatives were discarded early. ST chose I-5 because it thought construction would be cheaper, and Aurora would have a 4 minute longer travel time. ST’s ridership estimates said that those four minutes would make it lose more riders in Lynnwood than it would gain on Aurora. That’s based on current Aurora zoning, since ST couldn’t include speculative upzones the city hadn’t approved. Obviously Aurora could be wall-to-wall midrises if the zoning allowed, and then it would have hundreds of thousands of residents and many new Link riders. Both Aurora and Pacific Highway should be zoned like that, but the cities refuse to.
So when I-5 was the frontrunner, it was assumed that Lake City would just be left out and people would have to take a feeder to Northgate or 145th, and there was no way to make it better. But the Aurora alternative had an extra station at 130th (that was ST’s idea). So after Aurora was axed, people started saying, “If Aurora could have an extra station, then I-5 could too.” That led to a public movement to add an I-5 station at 130th, or move 145th station to 130th, or split 145th station into two stations at 130th and 155th. ST refused to move or split 145th station, because it was in the ballot measure and Kenmore/Bothell didn’t want to go through Lake City to get to Link to downtown and 145th is a state highway and has existing stop/P&R land. So 130th was left out of ST2.
The public movement for a 130th station continued on a high level. Of all the comments on Lynnwood Link, 130th had the second-largest number of petitioners. The largest was a 200-ish person petition to move Lynnwood station to a different side of the P&R to avoid cutting into Scriber Lake Park or the businesses on the south side of 196th. Deborah Juarez, the district councilmember and maybe an ST boardmember, called CEO Rogoff every day to advocate including 130th in ST2 or ST3. ST finally agreed to when the ST3 ballot measure was drawn up. But it wouldn’t accelerate it to open simultaneously with Lynnwood Link, which was already under construction or about to be. But the movement kept pushing for it, and now ST has agreed to accelerate it and put it ahead of the WS-Ballard projects. If it opens a year after Lynnwood Link, that will be similar to SeaTac station, which opened nine months after the initial segment to TIB. (And that was because it was a few years after 9/11, and the feds forced ST to relocate SeaTac station to move it further away from the terminals, so that a suicide bomber couldn’t blow up the station and take out an airplane terminal and planes with it.)
Mike Orr, the Lynnwood Link alignment was probably set by board and senior management action. The study of the SR-99 alignment and the four-minute travel time difference was driven by its goofy alignment to bend back to serve Mountlake Terrace. A better option would have been Link on SR-99 to Lynnwood and fast bus on I-5 between Everett and Northgate via Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, NE 185th Street, and Northgate. Two lines were not considered; ST had a one-track mind. Once I-5 was chosen, the best station combination was NE 185th, 155th, and 130th streets, but the ballot measure had shown 145th. Full freeway interchange and stations do not mix well. So, ST and the small cities gave themselves lemons and have been searching for the lemonade recipe ever since. Stride3 is jamming BRT through congestion (as does Madison BRT). SR-99 Link would have been great; I-5 Link will be great, just not as great. Freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish. Link should serve pedestrian centers.
Sam, 130th is one-twentieth the cost of Ballard-Downtown. You’re comparing Watermelons to Kumquats.
Now that this chapter of “realignment” (or more accurately mere rescheduling) is over, I want to say that this past year’s drama rings hollow to me. I feel like is was a mostly a publicity stunt to make the Board look fiscally responsible — not not face the many problems of ST3 designs.
1. The West Seattle EIS and subsequent litigation would have delayed the process to 2032 even without the funding challenge. Since the project may still have some tunneling and massive housing displacement with land acquisition, even 2032 is being optimistic. East Link started construction in 2016 and opens in 2023. Seven years back from 2032 is 2025 — and that gives ST just three years to refine designs, but property and settle litigation as the ball can’t really get rolling until 2022.
2. The second DSTT has to also wind its way through SLU and LQA in addition to the ID. Massive transfer station vaults must be built. The new Central Subway in SF is a ten-year project and the sensitivity to adjacent skyscrapers with footings pales in comparison to this project. Even without the realignment, 2037 seemed inevitable.
To be clear, the original ST3 timeline was always overly optimistic and ST proposed shortcuts to meet it. The rescheduling seems to just removing those unrealistic scheduling shortcuts for the most part.
The next debate chapter that I see coming is the EIS and the upcoming surprises with new Downtown subway platforms and costs and the design issues within West Seattle. Will a lawsuit challenging the narrowness/ lack of the EIS alternatives occur? Will the refined designs be so significantly different that the project alternatives could be challenged in court as inadequate?
I see the other remaining projects as relatively simple to move forward with compared to these. There will be issues but they won’t be as costly and messy to address.
Yes, the downtown stations will be challenging and the West Seattle EIS will expose a ton of issues. A Junction station was promised, we may only get Fauntleroy and Avalon might get skipped. A gondola would not only meet the promises, but add 3 extra stops and serve all three urban centers in WS rather than just one.
Assumptions that an Avalon or Junction station will be removed have no basis in any current fact: they are only crass assumptions being said by “gondola” “supporters” because they want to scare people into supporting the anti-transit “gondola.” This is fear-mongering and it’s dishonest.
Sound Transit already removed the actual Junction station behind Husky Deli from consideration. https://wsblink.participate.online/stations/alaska-junction only shows a station along Fauntleroy (which they seem to favor in recent cost estimates) and various potential stations along 41st or 42nd which is more or less downhill from the Junction. The further away from the Junction, the less attractive to shoppers and the more tedious for busses along California to get to the station.
Removal of Avalon has been discussed many times, let’s see what happens.
Removal of Avalon has been discussed *by anti-light rail detractors,* not by policymakers. And the reason it’s been “discussed” is the same as the “gondola” is discussed: because the pro-gondola, anti-light rail obstructionists don’t want elevated light rail in West Seattle. Please do not continue to perpetuate blatant lies regarding the actual, formal status of station placement in service of a disingenuous policy diversion meant to intentionally cancel light rail in West Seattle. It’s unseemly, disgusting, dishonest and abhorrent. Above all it is shameful.
Some gondola proponents are sincere and want to improve transit at a lower cost. Others may be using it as a pretext to kill Link and they don’t want a gondola either, but that’s not all the gondola proponents. Saying it is doesn’t make it so. If you can point to a manifesto they wrote, and show that all West Seattle gondola proponents have signed onto it, then you could make a better case. Otherwise you’re asserting you know what they’re thinking when you don’t, and slandering sincere gondola proponents that I think exist, because they’ve suggested gondolas in several corridors on STB over time, and West Seattle is one of them.
My doubts about a gondola solution are: (1) ST hasn’t shown any willingness to consider it, (2) there’s no Seattle-only plan for it and Seattle has many other transit priorities, (3) it may not have enough capacity at rush hour when thousands of people are leaving the penninsula simultaneously, and (4) it may be slow, as in 30 mph or slower. Some people say gondolas have enough capacity and come every minute so speed doesn’t matter, while others say it would be very slow and couldn’t handle rush-hour crowds. I don’t know which is right, but I don’t want to commit to a mode until I’m sure it will be capacious and fast.
Jort, you may need to check your sources. Light rail alignment has been quite contentious in West Seattle as it would displace a lot of houses and businesses. A tunnel has been proposed as a way to mitigate some of the impact. As part of that discussions both policymakers and staff discussed skipping the Avalon station to pay for the tunneling. Totally unrelated to gondola discussions.
Mike: (1) ST paid for a mode study which concluded that gondolas can be advantageous for feeders, no idea why they haven’t applied their own research (2) yes, existing priorities are a concern (3) pre-pandemic there were 26 buses per rush hour going from WS to downtown, a gondola has the capacity of 60 buses (3) Light rail is faster and therefore great for the spine, but on spurs transfer/wait time is the bigger issue, with gondola cabins arriving every 10-30sec depending on technology it means average travel time is lower or at least comparable depending on headways.
The light rail alignment in West Seattle would only “displace a lot of houses and businesses” simply because the good Burgers [sic] of West Seattle don’t want a surface station on Alaska west of Fauntleroy. If the line is going to be a stub — and it looks like that is the case as nothing in ST3 is predicated on a future extension south — the a surface station in the heart of the district is the very best solution. It removes traffic from the area and is very accessible for riders.
The same is true of Ballard. A surface station in Market just east of the Leary intersection would be ideal, especially if matched with an elevated station along 14th about 53rd. This would be a spectacular combination, preserving the pedestrian orientation of “Old Ballard” while sparking a renaissance in “West Woodland”.
Tom, I agree, Alaska stub and Ballard Market stub makes sense as both lines will probably not get extended. Most displacement however is in Youngtown are around the Delridge station as well as on Pigeon Point, will see when the final route is chose (DEIS).
Martin, I agree with the Youngstown and Pigeon Point problems. For those reasons I have long advocated punching straight through Pigeon Ridge at Genessee with the station straddling Delridge, crossing the Duwamish south of the West Seattle bridge, thus getting the LR line out of the inevitable constraints when the high bridge is replaced, and using Diagonal Avenue to get up to Spokane.
Yes, crossing Argo Yard is a bit difficult; two long spans would be required, but it’s not impossible.
Yes, the Pigeon Ridge tunnel was a great idea, no idea why it got turned down. In fact ST had at some point looked at that tunnel to get to Delridge and then run LR along Delridge to serve White Center towards Seatac instead of Duwamish bypass. That could have addressed the RV capacity issues and would have been easier than going up the hill to the Junction and replace 120/H. The Junction and 35th Ave stations could be reached by gondola. That way you may even be able to serve South Seattle College.
The fact that a West Seattle gondola is not the craziest idea in the world just show how crazy West Seattle Link is. It is extremely expensive, yet only consists of three new stations, one of which is simply a connecting station (similar to Mercer Island). The new line follows the same basic path as a freeway. Yes, a freeway.
Consider how different this is than Northgate Link. Unprompted, my wife told me that she was excited about Northgate Link, since it will make getting to Capitol Hill much easier. There is nothing like that with West Seattle Link. About all it does is connect riders to downtown, something the buses have done for decades. It is as if Northgate Link consisted of an express train from Northgate to downtown, with no stops in between. I suppose if you can walk to the station it is a bit better than the bus, but for everyone else, it is worse. Put it another way. If Metro decided to ignore Northgate Link, you would still have tens of thousands of riders taking trips on Link, to places like Roosevelt, the UW and Capitol Hill. Unless Metro truncates the buses in West Seattle, ridership will be extremely low for those stations, because they serve relatively small communities, and there are only three stops.
So the entire line is dependent on Metro truncating its routes. That’s not good. It will save service hours, but it means we are spending billions to save millions. We would be much better off just running the buses more often (it would be way cheaper). Or, of course, we could leverage the existing infrastructure — a freaking freeway — and make the buses faster. While doing that would cost some money, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as the new train line, which adds so little. None of the riders would be forced to transfer, which means that the vast majority of riders (the folks who can’t walk to a station, and don’t ride when the train is faster) would come out ahead.
Neither a train nor a gondola makes sense for the sprawling, low density peninsula that contains dispersed destinations, only one of which will be served by this line (both the college and Alki won’t). But since the train will cost a bundle, and since there are only three stations, a gondola sounds somewhat reasonable in comparison.
Ross, yes, West Seattle is distributed and LR will never serve urban centers such as Admiral Junction. For that reason SkyLink suggests to serve not just 3 stations but 6 stations (High Point, Morgan, Alaska, Admiral, Avalon, Delridge) and would serve California Ave directly which LR won’t.
As you pointed out, LR ridership depends on Metro lines which reach further South like White Center / Westwood. If we build the Duwamish Bypass and then another gondola line serving White Center / Westwood, more people would enjoy a high frequency transit connection without having to transfer from a bus and have more opportunities for TOD around any such stations. The WS and White Center gondola lines and Duwamish Bypass could probably built for less than what’s currently budgeted for WS LR.
Mike: (1) ST paid for a mode study which concluded that gondolas can be advantageous for feeders, no idea why they haven’t applied their own research (2) yes, existing priorities are a concern (3) pre-pandemic there were 26 buses per rush hour going from WS to downtown, a gondola has the capacity of 60 buses (3) Light rail is faster and therefore great for the spine, but on spurs transfer/wait time is the bigger issue, with gondola cabins arriving every 10-30sec depending on technology it means average travel time is lower at at least about the same.
We wanted to ride the gondola on a recent trip to Portland but they are only allowing students, faculty and staff at present. That seems kind of crazy on a weekend when 90% of the cabins are empty. Obviously they were able to pull it off in Portland but I wonder how gondolas meet ADA requirements. The cabins don’t stop and loading with a wheelchair would take some skill.
So, could two gondolas be built for less than the cost of Link to W Seattle? I’m thinking a continuation from W Seattle down to the ferry at Lincoln Park. I also seem to recall being at some ski area where there was an intermediate load/unload “station”. Maybe that was a gondobbie and I’m just imagining it ;-)
Portland is a tram, meaning 2 cabins which completely stop before going back, no ADA issues. Gondolas usually slow down in a station to a point, that it’s easy to get a stroller, bike, or wheel chair on. Newer ones can even stop completely on demand (push of a button).
Bernie, I reviewed the budget for recent lines in Mexico City, VancouverBC, and Los Angeles and discussed our plans with a gondola engineering firm and believe we could build 2 lines for less than $1b whereas ST estimates $3.2b for building the West Seattle LR stub which doesn’t even include the OMB and rolling stock needs. But a more detailed engineering study would be necessary to verify these estimates.
Bernie, yes, some ski areas have midstations. Urban gondolas like in Mexico City usually have several midstations http://gondolaproject.com/2021/07/15/leitners-latest-press-release-announces-calbebus-2-in-mexico-city-is-ready-for-operation/
Bernie, what Portland has is a “tram”, not a “gondola”. A gondola has detachable cars on a constantly moving unidirectional cable. It’s an enclosed amusement park sightseeing ride..
With a gondola there is very low waiting time, but pretty low forward speed. With a tram the speed is high, but the wait is long.
And those detachable cars add a lot of flexibility.
Eg, if brought down to ground level they can be moved to a 2nd set of ropes to go to a different destination or make a sharp curve. High capacity boarding can take place by having multiple boarding areas. Etc
Yes, I realized my mistake. We would have liked to ride the tram (like Snowbird and Jackson Hole) but were shut out even though the majority of tram cars on the weekend were empty. A gondola is starting to make a lot of sense for W Seattle. I never would have thought that but looking at the cost vs ridership vs average travel time it actually starts to pencil out; especially if you offset it against the cost of building whole new road bridge.
Glenn, check out https://www.bartholet.swiss/en/ropetaxi for some additional flexibility.
Bernie, check out https://www.westseattleskylink.org/comparison for detailed comparison
The link to the Swiss “Rope Taxi” was fascinating. The Swiss can pull this off (runs like a Swiss watch); the Germans, maybe (set your watch by the train’s arrival time). ST and SDOT… fa-getta-bow-d-it. SDOT can’t even keep a bridge “running” (greasing palms instead of bearings).
The Skylink was clearly bias. But even if it’s only half right (and ST’s projected costs are most likely low by a factor of at least 2X) the gondola idea, of which I’ve been a huge skeptic, really seems to warrant serious consideration. It has worked in other places. I’m thinking primarily of Mexico City where they have terrain challenges similar to Seattle.
@Martin, are you going to publish my pg 2 submittal or should I just post to an open thread? I have episode 2 half way done.
@Bernie, not sure what you’re referring to, btw I’m not Martin Duke…
Is it possible to ask again why we need an entirely separate downtown tunnel alongside the existing one. Obviously, we need some downtown tunneling for Westlake to Queen Anne, but why do we need a whole new tunnel with whole new stations before. You would think it would be possible to reuse existing Westlake->SODO stations for the new line and punch a whole in the wall to make a branch to the new tunnel, for something less than the billions it would take to dig an entirely new tunnel and new stations for the Westlake to ID segment. Even with whatever signalling improvements necessary to allow for trains every 2-3 minutes in the existing tunnel.
Yes, it is just barely possible to do that, but ONLY within the existing station boxes. You can not “punch a hole” in a bored tube tunnel unless it is in top-quality rock and has no compression rings. That is not true of DSTT1.
As I’ve written countless times, the only way to get into a compression tube in use is to excavate and wall in a containment around it, support the base of the tube, and then very carefully remove the upper 3/4 of the compression rings and of course the inside coatings. Once that is done it and the diverging line is laid and tested up to the point of the junction, it would be possible to take the tube out of service for a couple of weeks to do the necessary trackwork for the connection.
There is, however, a wall on the north side of the western extension of the Westlake Station box at the curve. That wall was probably not built to be demisable, but if the street were opened up and the wall were no longer supporting it and the overburden, presumably it could be taken down. So, if Sound Transit would allow a level crossing that wall could be knocked down and a double track junction to Ballard with a station just to the north could be constructed. It would probably be center platform with a mezzanine connected underground to the main Westlake mezzanine to save digging.
Given ST’s evident reluctance to have a level crossing carrying riders anywhere in the main north-south Spine, that does seem unlikely. This would be in the heaviest portion of the system.
However, it might be possible to connect the northbound divergence within the University/Symphony station by using the bus bypass lane, demise the north wall between the existing tubes and connect a line that dips down quickly enough to pass under the Westlake Station box and have a stacked station under Third Avenue just north of Pine. The engineering and tunnel boring would be exquisitely difficult; in fact I’m pretty certain that Third would also have to be opened up just north of University and the connecting tunnel be excavated rather than bored, to ensure that neither of the existing tubes would be touched. But it could be done.
The obvious downside here is that this line could not serve University / Symphony, but “New Westlake” would be only three blocks north and Pioneer Square only five blocks south.
That would put the northbound SLU line underneath Third, which means that about Virginia it would have to make a sharp turn to get over to Westlake, but, again, it’s possible to envision, especially if a stacked station is used for “New Westlake”. If AJ’s suggestion to make the WSBLE trains shorter, perhaps the station could be short enough that “New Westlake” would fit between Pine and Stewart, making the turn into the Stewart ROW easier.
“Could not serve University / Symphony northbound“. It could stop southbound, but that might be weird.
Down would probably be easier. Put the new tunnel below the existing one. Still means new station boxes, but could use the same surface entrances.
“That wall was probably not built to be demisable”.
The wall was already cut through to build U link. If they did it once, they can do it again.
Don’t forget the BNSF RR tunnel around this area too. I think is underneath around University St Station about this point, so may not be able to go underneath.
Wrong wall, asdf2. I’m talking about the north side wall WEST of the Westlake platforms, at the curve under Third and Pine. That wall was built long before any demising activity was expected.
Yes, the wall in the ventilation shaft next to the Paramount was built to be demisable by the TBM’s. ST had already broken through the old south wall under Pine Street to make the tail track stub and built the ventilation shaft at the end of it. It was the east wall of the shaft, directly adjacent to the west edge of the freeway structure, that was demised.
And you reminded me that if ST is willing to allow a level crossing, a wonderful place for it is right at that curve as I explained about two months ago. Ballard-SLU could go “straight” a few dozen feet and then curve under the Pike Street off ramp, follow it to Minor and curve into its right of way. There could then be a spectacular station between Howell and Denny for the large collection of high rises there and also the western fringe of Capitol Hill west of Belmont across the freeway. The tunnel would then go west under Denny and rejoin the proposed alignments around Westlake where the main SLU Station would be sited.
Obviously, that half-mile or so of tunnel would consume some of the savings, but what a station!
Glenn, that is a great idea with the caveat “How the HELL are you going to dig the station cavern?” I do have one idea, though, that would work for University / Symphony and Pioneer Square. Set up construction walls on either side of the bus bypass lane as close to the train envelope as possible rocking would allow. Then dig down to the next level, removing the dirt with trains of special LRT-pulled side-dumper trains at night. You could probably pile one day’s worth in one end of the construction “slot” and empty it in one three hour period at night.
The biggest problem would be driving the I-beam temporary supports to get down to the lower level. Once there you’d mine outward, supporting the roof for all you’re worth. Eventually the whole thing would be encased in concrete, the TBM’s would break through and double level escalators to the mezzanine placed in the slot, like the BART escalators below the Muni level. At one end of the station box you’d have the ADA escalators and at the other stairs. To enable good transfers, I’d suggest having the lower tunnel deep enough that passages to the left and right could be included in those stairs, connecting to the side platforms above.
The concern about the BNSF tunnel may make this impossible, but it is a very good idea. Thank you.
Let’s keep these good ideas coming, folks.
Glenn, I thought of something else which is “not so good”. Ten will get you a hundred that there are pilings driven into the hillside beneath both Pioneer Square and University / Symphony which would play hob with the process of mining a lower level.
We would need to find out if that’s true.
Perhaps asdf2’s insistence that DSTT2 be dug under Fourth Avenue and the Pioneer Square and University / Symphony mezzanines be connected laterally to Fourth is the right solution. Fourth would still have to be opened up in the blocks adjacent to the two stations, but the actual construction would be pretty straightforward.
Given the elevation difference between Third and Fourth it might be possible to angle the connection passageways down a bit and go up to the platforms. How’s that for some “lateral thinking”?
And that’s a pun. Thank you. Thank you.
@asdf: Because if you’re building new core capacity, you may use that core to serve part of the core not yet served by Link.
Because of this, I think that DSTT2 should gone through First Hill.
That would be a very good argument if DSTT2 were actually serving First Hill. But, it isn’t. Each new station in DSTT2 is just one block away from a station in DSTT1.
That’s not really true of them all. Yes, New Westlake and New IDS would be quite close to their original namesakes to accommodate transfers, but Midtown would be two blocks east and two blocks south or north of University / Symphony and Pioneer Square.
So did a lot of people, but ST does not want two other places where its tunnels underrun I-5.
Because of this, I think that DSTT2 should gone through First Hill.
So did just about everyone who knew anything about transit. But Dow Constantine did not. His priority was serving West Seattle, not maximizing value.
Midtown would be two blocks east and two blocks south or north of University / Symphony and Pioneer Square.
That’s a distinction without a difference. Look at this way — will anyone transfer from one line to the other to get to a tunnel stop between I. D. and Westlake (inclusive)? No, of course not. They are all so close together, it isn’t worth it. Would people transfer to get to a First Hill stop? Of course.
That, in a nutshell, is the flaw with the new tunnel. Just about everyone in the world tries to maximize downtown coverage with a new tunnel. ST didn’t, and as a result, every stop is redundant, and a big part of downtown (First Hill) will remain without subway service.
Ross, I might be wrong, but I thought the reason First Hill plan had to be abandoned was that such station would get too deep. Am I misinformed?
My recollection is that 1st Hill was abandon because soil conditions were too risky for a bored tunnel. As it turned out they had soil issues on Beacon Hill. A bunch of sand slid into the bored tunnel and wasn’t noticed by the construction crew that should have been keeping track of the total removed. That ended up in some large sink holes and, IIRC a house or two being damaged. Don’t recall if ST ended up eating the cost or if it was charged to the contractor.
Midtown Station serves the library and Madison Street, which were left out of DSTT1.
First Hill station was dropped because ST was afraid of soil risks causing cost overruns.
In ST3 in the early stages of DSTT2 planning, ST said a First Hill station could be considered later in the design, by moving Midtown station east to 8th & Madison. But when that time came ST said it was too late and we should have asked for it earlier. It also said at that point that First Hill was out of scope for the project so it couldn’t be considered.
Is it possible to ask again why we need an entirely separate downtown tunnel alongside the existing one.
Sure, but then you would ask why they decided to build West Seattle rail, given the enormous cost, and low density, trunk and branch nature of the peninsula. Or you would ask whether it really makes sense to run a subway line all the way to Everett or Tacoma, given that the New York Subway system — the largest and most used in North America — doesn’t go anywhere near as far from the urban center. Or you would ask about the Issaquah to South Kirkland Park and Ride line, which might consist of one word (“Whaaaaa?”). All good questions indeed. They can’t be answered by looking at the geography, and estimating the costs and benefits of each project. They can only be understood by acknowledging that none of the people on the board knows anything about transit, and are unwilling to delegate to those that do.
Yes, it is possible for the same dozen people to come back to this blog and have the same debate month after month. It’s what we do best.
I know people won’t like what I have to say but Sound Transit needs to vote or submit a referendum that removes subarea equality for the construction of the regional light rail system. Because people will travel between subareas why not have the entire region build the system that was the system can be built quicker and possibly cheaper.
The regional financing already exists. Central Link was built in part with a loan from the East subarea. The eastside was collecting more tax that it needed to fund bus operations so a intra area loan was set up. It was a win for Seattle (aka North King) since they got a better interest rate than issuing bonds and a win for the eastside since they got a higher rate of return than any other option since any investment would have to be federally insured. The problem now is no subarea has excess cash.
I hate to say it, but based on the current “realignment”, and my belief that the DSTT2 will never get built so rail to West Seattle will be stub to stub with several transfers to get anywhere, and the cost of that stub to stub line, I hope the EIS seriously studies the gondola idea.
West Seattle residents will always demand no loss of car capacity in any new bridge, and West Seattle has great car capacity to the major freeways. Currently four times as many residents cross the bridge by Carv as on buses, and I doubt that percentage will change with rail, especially a stub to Sodo.
So maybe a much cheaper gondola with better first/last mile access in WS with a dramatic ride to the ID for a transfer to Link or East Link is worth studying.
The Board already voted on the EIS alternatives. Gondolas are not on the table. The EIS is only legally required to identify environmental impacts. It might identify design mitigations for those impacts, but those are generally limited to moving things around and not changing technologies completely.
The lack of vehicle alternatives is an oversight traceable back to the pre-ST3 bus-or-rail studies and even somewhat back to ST2 authorizing the studies. These were initiated in 2013. It’s only recently did the lack of study become politically apparent — and even among many transit advocates there is a general mass denial that a step was skipped. I think the step was skipped because the monorail debacle a few decades ago created a perception to avoid taking a risk on a different technology.
If technology options are re-examined, I would highly advocate for also including short-automated light rail (steeper grades and shorter subway station platforms), cable-liner systems (similar technology to gondolas but generally faster) running on structures, and maybe even rubber tired guided trains (possibly using current bridges) or third-rail or battery power (enabling narrower tunnel bores). I think it would be foolish to limit a technology study to one new one just for part of the WSBLE because the outcome would be predictable (stick with light rail).
Al, the funny thing is that ST paid for a mode selection study in 2014. It focused on the spine and gondolas were deemed insufficient for the spine, but viable for feeders. I guess the WS connection wasn’t even under consideration for ST3 at that point. When the WS stub was added later, gondolas should have been considered. Yes, the board would need to authorize a supplemental EIS. VancouverBC reviewed all the modes (incl. SkyTrain and LR) you mentioned and selected bus and gondola as the only viable methods to get up the hill in winter and ultimately decided to build a gondola due to its lower operational cost. ST may save some time/money by review the Burnaby case, it might be close enough to WS that they could adopt its outcomes with slight modifications or hire the same team of experts to do it for them (the work was lead by an Olympia/Seattle based engineering team).
Martin, can you please share a link to the mode selection study?
AJ, unfortunately Sound Transit didn’t put it on their website, seems they only provide it on demand. They did summarized it for the public (gondola is considered: “not regional HCT” but “Several of the technologies that have moderate to high HCT capabilities, but are generally less suitable for Sound Transit, could be considered for some service if that service would operate on principally exclusive rights-of-way and is not intended to interline”) see:
https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/lrpupdate_finalseis_04_chapter2.pdf but I would be happy to email it to you.
If there is no DSTT2 and no Ballard Link — which you claim above to be unaffordable as well — there will be plenty of space in DSTT1 for West Seattle trains; no stub will be required. In fact it’s likely that the West Seattle trains will have to run through the tunnel from the day that Link opens south of Federal Way to create a route which is driveable within the hour and forty-five minute window that everyone wants for the operators.
So far as the supposed inability of the existing trackage along the busway to handle more trains, all that has to happen is the Lander and Holgate be bridged over the tracks and the lower level of Royal Brougham closed at the crossing. That’s it. Once those things are done, trains can run the four-two schedule that having Pierce County and West Seattle trains share the tracks would require very easily. (The other two minutes of the six would be the East Link trains, running to Lynnwood or 128th.
Without DSTT2, ST will have to double deck a turnback at Northgate or double-seat every Pierce County train that turns back there.
With six minute minimum headways on traffic-affected lines and as you predict no ridership will be stressing East Link, there will be abundant space in DSTT1 for the West Seattle trains to “run through”. Remember, every inch of the line north of IDS is grade separated and free of automobile conflicts. Two minute headways through the main stem north of IDS can easily be accommodated, and indeed, will be necessary by 2035. With gasoline at $10 per gallon because of Carbon taxes that the world will insist we levy, the non-MOTU’s you so valiantly champion won’t be driving to work.
All these improvements lumped together would be a tenth to a fifth of cost of the IDS to Smith Cove “DSTT2”, not to mention the cost of getting across the Ship Canal.
Remember that ST planners are forbidden from assuming ridership from un-built TOD, delayed park-and-ride lots, and shuttle bus services which aren’t formally planned. So they say that three minute headways north of IDS will be sufficient.
They won’t be sufficient once people discover how much faster and how insanely more reliable bus-to-Link at Lynnwood for trips to King County will be for all Snohomans.
The climate catastrophe is going to fill up the three county SoundTransit service area FAR more quickly than anyone is planning for.
Read Farhad Manjoo’s article in today’s NYTimes. What indeed, will California be without “the weather”? Well I’ll tell you: it will be Baja California — a searing arid desert with lots of interesting cactus. The Redwoods, though magnificently fire-resistant, will all perish with the collapse of the marine fogs, and the non-fire resistant parts of the northern and eastern California forests will all burn.
“that Lander and Holgate”
“can easily run the four-two schedule that having Pierce County and West Seattle trains share the tracks would require”
Martin, the Ballard Historical District absolutely balks at any above-ground transit intersecting the neighborhood, and the subway idea to 20th got nixed because there’s a massive storm-sewer retention tunnel going in from Ballard to Fremont. I doubt the Fisherman’s Terminal is going to be very happy with any attempt to land a bridge on the west side of 15th Ave, and it’s been well established that it would be dumb to run a train across a bascule bridge (as originally proposed in ST3). We’re basically stuck with a bridge on the east side of the Ballard Bridge, and from there you have to land on either 15th or 14th.
If 14th saves a literal billion dollars and can span the ROW, I think it’s a worthwhile compromise. People can hop catch a sped-up 44 to get across 15th to Old Ballard.
From 14th, the train can and should turn east and underground to UW, but that’s likely going to have to be a seperate, Seattle-only transit levy in a couple decades.
crud, the page reloaded and kicked my reply to the bottom.
I would suggest turning the line west to be in a Market Street median or cut-and-cover under Market Street. I would have two stations north of the Ship Canal — the first one nearer to Old Ballard (ST4 funded?) and the second one either straddling 15th over/ under/ adjacent at Market St or aerial at about 52nd St.
Another concept would be to replace the 15th Ave bridge with a slightly higher bridge on 14th Ave for cars, open the new car bridge, and then demolish the 15th Ave bridge to replace it with a rail or maybe rail+trail bridge. That would put the Ballard Station west of the wide north-south street.
What I think is really needed is a more comprehensive multi-modal circulation planning process for Ballard and Westlake Woodland combined — as opposed to the current “where do the tracks and single station go” level of incremental corridor planning.
I can see the city finally closing the Ballard Bridge for rehab in 2040 and suggesting former bridge-crossers to catch the newly opened light rail bridge across the Canal. Interbay freight won’t be happy about it, but they can take Elliott to Denny or Mercer get to I-5, or keep their loads on BNSF’s cars.
My understanding of ST’s assumptions with crossing the ship canal is that they’re seeing the best option as landing the bridge at 14th regardless of where it ends up.
If they stay on 14th, they don’t have to take any land (except for the station) and can use single-pile supports down the center of the street (since the median is currently gravel parking). If they cut to 15th, they have to take a bunch of well-occupied warehouses, then build cross-avenue supports to get the station on top of 15th (or worse, they’ll just demo a bunch of well-liked businesses on the east side of 15th and then put the station where the safeway gas station is, which will likely involve an expensive remediation project).
Regardless, any excavation of Market would be best included in the construction of the extremely cost-efficient (on a per-rider basis) Ballard-UW, but you’re right in that we need a more holistic transportation plan that dethrones cars as the prioritized transportation in all cases and allows for more coherent long-term planning.
“I can see the city finally closing the Ballard Bridge for rehab in 2040 and suggesting former bridge-crossers to catch the newly opened light rail bridge across the Canal. Interbay freight won’t be happy about it, but they can take Elliott to Denny or Mercer get to I-5, or keep their loads on BNSF’s cars.”
I think this plan depends on:
1. Whether there is light rail to Ballard;
2. Where it goes to. If it ends in a stub I doubt Ballard any more than West Seattle will drop its “no loss of car capacity” demand for any new bridge, although car access from WS to I-5 and I-90 is much better than access from Ballard.
If you truly want rail to Ballard, including the cost of the rail bridge, I don’t know why you would want to condition it on eliminating a bridge for cars, because in the past whenever that choice has been given to the folks who actually live in these communities they choose car capacity every time.
I have read a lot about a “line” from Ballard to UW but don’t really understand the mode, or the true cost. If it is a tunnel (and how else to cross I-5 or run down 45th) how in the world can that be cost effective? From what TT has written, you don’t just bore through the existing station wall to connect your new line, so you need a new station at the UW, and we know that won’t be on campus. So where would the new station go, and how far would it be from the other stations? Would it also be underground?
I think the current odds for light rail to Ballard are less than 50/50 (unless the next county executive and mayor of Seattle live in Ballard), and even then we are talking about a stub, so I wouldn’t start by telling Ballardites they will lose their car bridge in lieu of of a train that will take 90 minutes to reach Tacoma or Redmond, not counting the transfer at the end of the stub.
Don’t pick fights you don’t need to fight in my advice. Getting rail to Ballard, and someone from Ballard other than a stub in nowhere, will be tough enough.
Dan, you clearly missed the “rehab” portion of my first sentence – the Ballard bridge will very likely need to be completely closed for some period in the near-ish future for repair and rehabilitation – it’s over 100 years old and has a couple moving parts. Al S. suggested that SDOT might opt to build an entire new bridge before demolishing the original, but I think SDOT’s going to be politically and financially forced to wait until the bridge is at or near failure (like they did with the West Seattle Bridge).
No one is calling for the deletion of the Ballard Bridge, similar to how no (sane) person is calling for the deletion of the West Seattle Bridge (but that straw man sure is fun to argue against, huh?) Sure, Ballard Bridge could probably use some restriping to help the various buses and bike riders get across, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Regarding Ballard-UW, it was a project studied that didn’t make the cut for ST3. It would have been a 3.4 mile underground LRT basically turning the 44 Bus into a subway – the 44 is super slow and yet averaged over 9k riders per weekday in the before times. The UW extension was $1.8B for 3.2 miles and two stations, gaining about 20k daily riders; the last estimate for Ballard-UW was $~3B for 3.5 miles and 4 stations and a new OMF. Each of the stations would serve very dense portions of north Seattle and each of which would engender sorely needed up-zoning. Unfortunately it was left on cutting room floor in 2016, and now it’s up to ST to figure out if it’s worth leaving the door open for Ballard to UW as an extension of Ballard-Downtown, or whether it’d be its own line.
DSTT2 is going to happen – either as cut-and-cover or a bored tunnel. It’s going to probably be way over the initial estimate, but with Downtown’s population already fully rebounded from 2020 and ominous calls for climate-driven interstate migration, we’re going to need the train throughput capacity and it will be worth whatever the cost ends up being.
Why would they not just send light rail straight down the middle of Elliott/15th starting at Mercer? If ROW acquisition and construction disruptions are the main issues, then the existing street is clearly the best option, especially since the biggest intersections already have overpasses so you wouldn’t need any at-grade crossings. Then a multimodal Ballard Bridge would be an easy solution with either an at-grade or elevated station at 15th in Ballard. It seems like most of those pieces are already part of the draft EIS alternatives, except for the multimodal bridge which is an obvious way to save costs.
As for future extensions, the line should obviously keep going north, do you think “historic Wallingford” wants a train? And Fremont hasn’t exactly been a growth magnet either. Get that train to Crown Hill and then over to Lake City.
A new multimodal bridge at 15th would mean no bridge at all for a year or more during construction, which is why most people are suggesting either a rail or car bridge at 14th first and then a new bridge at 15th.
Running down 15th in Interbay should be less ROW cost, but that might be offset by higher construction cost, as ST would need to rebuild anything it touches, notably the Dravus interchange; a rebuilt Dravus bridge tightly integrated with a Link station could be a really compelling solution, but it also is likely more expensive at this point in the analysis. In contrast, running on 15th north of Market, at grade or elevated, is likely a much more straightforward build for ST given the lack of interchanges or major over/under crossings.
A new multi-modal bridge would also not necessarily be cheaper than two separate bridges. That was one factor in why TriMet built the Tilikum Crossing for transit and peds only.
Arguably, a transit only bridge would be the biggest benefit of Link to Ballard. Start it out as built for buses and get the D off 15th for even just a little distance.
AJ, a gondola could provide transit capacity while the multimodal bridge gets rebuilt. Glenn, a multimodal bridge may not be much cheaper, but it would allow Link to continue along 15th which is a much better corridor than 14th. But if you turn from 14th onto Market, then you might as well build a separate bridge.
Who cares if the Ballard bridge is closed for a year? There are two other bridges nearby. How many billions of dollars per year does this state spend mitigating traffic during construction? Just rip off the band-aid and get it over with. West Seattle has survived over a year without a bridge. Life goes on. At the pace we’re going, the Ballard bridge is eventually going to permanently break and everyone is going to be stuck without it anyway. Or if they end up building the Link station that straddles 15th, they will have to be constantly closing 15th anyway.
It doesn’t really matter if it’s a multimodal bridge or a car bridge with a rail bridge next to it. Tear down the current bridge and free up the space to keep the rail directly aligned with 15th. People will always complain, complain, complain but as long as there is enough warning and a mitigation plan in place, people will adapt.
“I have read a lot about a “line” from Ballard to UW but don’t really understand the mode, or the true cost. If it is a tunnel (and how else to cross I-5 or run down 45th) how in the world can that be cost effective? From what TT has written, you don’t just bore through the existing station wall to connect your new line, so you need a new station at the UW, and we know that won’t be on campus. So where would the new station go, and how far would it be from the other stations? Would it also be underground?”
It was in the half-dozen pre-ST3 corridor studies. ST studied a line from Ballard to Redmond, separable at UW. It would be all underground in Seattle. I think it remained near 45th, although another alternative zigzagged down to central Fremont and back up to Wallingford. it was both less expensive and higher-ridership than Ballard-downtown. The latter won out because Mayor McGinn championed it and gave ST money to accelerate a study of it (and a Westlake streetcar corridor), and that acceleration was the catalyst for all the other subareas to push for accelerating ST3 too. So that was the reason the ST3 vote was in 2016 rather than in the mid 2020s.
ST never defined the transfer interface at UW Station. The original design should have had a transfer stub to future cross platforms, because 45th is the highest-volume east-west corridor in North Seattle outside downtown. But UW Station was designed before the Ballard-UW corridor study, and ST said it couldn’t spend money on a transfer interface to a line that wasn’t voter approved yet, and at the time it was still uncertain whether the east-west line would be at 45th crossing U-District Station or Pacific Street crossing UW Station to 520. The Ballard-UW study settled on U-District Station, but that was later.
ST has a pattern of not designing transfer interfaces between existing stations and new platforms until late in the new station design. It did that with UW Station and it’s doing it now with Intl Dist and Westlake Stations. That’s a serious flaw in ST’s methodology: it should design transfer interfaces to potential future lines from the beginning. That’s what Toronto did with the original north-south Younge subway at Queen Street: it made an underground transfer interface to a future east-west Queen line. The flip side happened with that. The east-west subway was delayed a few decades, and when it was finally built it was located a mile or two north at Bloor Street, and Queen Street still has a streetcar. So the transfer interface will never be used. That’s what ST is trying to prevent, but it causes major problems if the cross line is built at the expected location. Transferers at UW Station may potentially have to exit the station and cross 45th and enter another station. All because ST hasn’t specified where exactly U-District-2 station would be or how it would interface with the existing station.
“It was in the half-dozen pre-ST3 corridor studies. ST studied a line from “Ballard to Redmond, separable at UW. It would be all underground in Seattle. I think it remained near 45th, although another alternative zigzagged down to central Fremont and back up to Wallingford. it was both less expensive and higher-ridership than Ballard-downtown. The latter won out because Mayor McGinn championed it and gave ST money to accelerate a study of it (and a Westlake streetcar corridor), and that acceleration was the catalyst for all the other subareas to push for accelerating ST3 too. So that was the reason the ST3 vote was in 2016 rather than in the mid 2020s.”
Thanks for the history Mike. So a transit tunnel from Ballard to UW through Downtown Seattle and finally to the station to intersect to Redmond (I assume on East Link) was cheaper than WSBLE? How could that be? Or was this part of ST’s magical cost estimating for tunnels? Other posts on this blog I have read put just the cost of rail/tunnel from Ballard to the UW alone at or above cost estimate for WSBLE including DSTT2.
Were the four subareas other than N. King Co. suppose to contribute to this line and tunnel, and if so why?
And was ridership higher because ST counted folks going to the UW, plus riders to Downtown Seattle, and to the eastside even though they were actually taking East Link, and were those riders double counted for East Link? Just what was the end station for this proposed line that ST used to estimate ridership? ID? Judkins Park? I tend to suspect ST’s ridership estimates when it comes to levies these days.
“So a transit tunnel from Ballard to UW through Downtown Seattle and finally to the station to intersect to Redmond (I assume on East Link) was cheaper than WSBLE?”
No, Ballard to U-District only, without downtown. People going from Ballard to downtown would transfer at U-District Station or continue taking the D or 40. The travel time with a transfer at U-District is actually comparable a the direct Ballard-Westlake line, because the latter is the long side of the triangle. It was in the list of candidate projects for ST3 compiled in December 2015 — along with the DSTT1 upgrades and BAR Sounder station and WSJ-Burien-Renton line — that were all not included in ST3 in 2016.
The study showed high ridership in the Ballard-UDistrict segment, lower cost than Ballard-downtown, and a short travel time because the tunnel is less than three miles. It’s unclear whether it would have a separate maintenance base or use the existing ones; the latter would only be possible if it interlines at U-District or Ballard to the other bases. It could interline only for non-revenue use to get the trains to/from the base if ST doesn’t want to interline passenger service. Interlining passenger service raises three issues: overcrowding between U-District and Westlake, and too many trains in DSTT1 if DSTT2 is not built, and not serving SLU. ST was especially concerned about overcrowding and not serving SLU.
The study also showed that UW-Redmond would be low ridership and would be too redundant with East Link. I don’t remember where it would join the East Link track, but it would be too close to it before that. This alternative would exclude downtown Kirkland; it would cross South Kirkland instead. The Issaquah-South Kirkland line wasn’t certain then; it was another corridor study occurring at the same time.
ST is keen to serve downtown Kirkland, and the UW-Redmond alternative wouldn’t do it. Other UW-Kirkland alternatives ST talked about studying someday include a Sand Point-Kirkland lake crossing, or going north to Bothell and bending back south to Kirkland. That would share tracks with the Northgate-Lake City-Bothell line in the long-range plan. But in the end ST chose Ballard-downtown and Issaquah-South Kirkland, and deferred everything else for consideration later.
Re subareas, North King would pay for Ballard to U-District, and East King would pay for UDistrict-Redmond. The northern alternatives never got far enough to determine which subareas would pay, but presumably North King would pay to the last station in North King.
“Interlining passenger service raises three issues: overcrowding between U-District and Westlake”
I didn’t say this clearly. ST was concerned about overcrowding regardless of whether it’s interlined. ST is already concerned about possible crowding with north-south passengers on their own, so Ballard transferers would add to it. The most likely scenario would be a Ballard-UDistrict shuttle line, possibly extending east or northeast later, so everyone going from Ballard to downtown would have to transfer. The interline scenario is a branch from Westlake to UDistrict to Ballard, a third line. Or diverting some existing trains to Ballard, but that’s certainly not going to happen because Northgate and Lynnwood need all their trains. A third line would of course raise all the issues of more trains in DSTT1.
Thanks Mike for the history. Fascinating.
Joe, what you’re proposing requires taking three lanes out of Elliott and 15th West. Though the lanes on Elliott are pretty wide, those on 15th West are pretty narrow and there is a left turn refuge through most of both, except under Dravus where it becomes a median.
While technically possible, it would remove any possibility of left turns anywhere except Dravus, Emerson and Garfield. Two LR trackways are a bit wider than two “urban” highway lanes and there has to be a couple of feet outside the train envelope to keep autos that tangle with the chains off the tracks. So, you might be able to widen the two remaining lanes in each direction, but it would not be popular.
The station at Dravus, assuming it spanned the street with a narrow platform where the median is now, would certainly be efficient as a bus intercept.
If they did it this way, the train would be limited to the speed limit for cars on the roadway and would have the occasional difficulty with the signals that Link does now through the Rainier Valley.
Yes, doing this would save a large amount of money, but you could achieve most of the same low cost by putting the portal just north of Mercer Way, removing the businesses at the base of the hillside to about a block east of the Helix bridge, then going behind the businesses to the Magnolia Bridge interchange. You’d need to remove Queen Anne Office Furniture, the green apartment next to it, Beyond Home, the Dog Lounge, the Wine Outlet, Coast Products, Fuji Bakery and Wilson Machine Works to get to the station directly across (and connected by a pedestrian overpass extension) from the Helix Bridge. North of there you would just go behind the businesses to the Magnolia Bridge interchange, except for DGM Controls which is behind two others fronting the street.
“Don’t remove businesses!”, you say? Well, I’d say that they probably can move with a nice relocation bonus to help with a possible different rent. The Starbucks and Taco Time can rearrange their drive-throughs or be replaced by more “officey” space attracted to the closeby Helix Bridge Station.
Once at the Magnolia Bridge interchange, the alignment would rise to the elevation of the Bridge and basically replace it across 15th West. The minor volume of traffic headed for Smith Cove itself can turn left at the traffic light at the east end of the bridge.
Once across 15th West, the alignment would descend to ground level directly adjacent to the BNSF and run there the full distance to Dravus. You could put a station right behind Whole Foods to serve the up-and-coming neighborhood at Armory Way, and the Dravus Station should be directly under the bridge, straddling the street.
It would then rise up to cross over 15th West, cross the Ship Canal at 14th West, which would be roughly half as long as a 15th West Crossing. If everyone gets the vapors with a station on 14th, the alignment can jog over using half of a low-value block (probably the one between 49th and 50th).
OR, there could be a station at 53rd and 14th NW for “West Woodland”, the structure would curve into Market, cross 15th and 17th, then descend to a stub station between 20th and Leary Way. Twentieth would be severed by the LR trackage, but that’s not a great loss.
This puts the station right in the heart of Old Ballard without large elevation changes to access a deep tunnel — any tunnel crossing the Ship Canal will be deep, sadly, because The Coast Guard has embargoed “trench-and-drop” BART-style tunnels. That’s basically the marine version of cut-and-cover.
I understand that the Historical District would like to keep old Ballard intact and would not allow a bridge etc but would they not even allow a gondola fly over it? Towers could be South/North of it… In Koblenz (Germany) they built a gondola through a world heritage site! I just think it might be easier to build a combined car/LR bridge a bit later rather than a 14th Ave LR bridge now. The gondola could be removed/reused after light rail reaches Ballard…
Martin, I don’t think even a gondola lobbyist could do a better job than you promoting gondolas.
Thanks, Sam 😉
Nathan, who cares what the Ballard Historical District wants? A surface station in the Middle of Market just east of Leary Way would be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood. If Ninth and Irving — a historical district MUCH older than “Old Ballard” and MUCH more crowded and popular — can put up with the N Judah running through every four minutes each direction at the peak hours, Old Ballard can host a stub end station.
This is a case of biting the hand that feeds them. When gas is $10/gallon from Carbon taxes young hipsters paying 48% of their income on rent in SLU aren’t going to drive to Old Ballard.
The Ballard Historical District, much like the rest of our over-empowered historical preservationist organizations, has the ability to nix pretty much anything that would visibly or even invisibly affect the neighborhood. I won’t get into an argument about historic preservation, but it’s also a neighborhood that will likely never grow taller than it is right now, whereas north and east of Old Ballard are going to have to grow upwards to accommodate the ongoing return to the city. If it’s easier to build 6-over-2’s along Market east of 15th and south of 65th, then a station there will be well-used. The hip kids can take a SPIN scooter over to Old Ballard or south to the still-growing brewery district, or walk home to their apodment on 54th and 11th with A/C.
The thing is, Nathan, ST can’t build to 15th without diaganoling across south Ballard. There simply can’t be a bridge built in the 15th NW envelope; the Harbormaster has the Coast Guard on his side and says “Stop! Fisherman’s Terminal must be preserved in its totality.”
That means that a bridge in the 15th envelope must slam square into PCC. Is that what you want?
A bridge in the 14th envelope can approach the water unimpeded to the north, and use air rights over Thorndyke and Nickerson. By the time it crosses 15th it should be high enough to pass over the businesses between Nickerson and the waterfront.
Ross has argued for a long time that a 70 foot clearance bridge for LRT makes the most sense, because it will hardly ever open and save a bundle. I agree.
To get from 14th back to 15th is tough though, because Leary hasn’t begun it’s diagonal, and Shilshole is too close. Best to serve the hip kids on eScooters with a station at 52nd and 14th and then turn west to that surface station serving Old Ballard and the cluster of apartments on 24th.
How civilized to have walk-up, at-grade LRT steps from the Old Ballard entertainment district.
Whoops, I said a dirty word unwittingly. Spellcheck highlighted it so I went to look for the proper spelling. It’s apparently an “improper” thing spelled properly.
Martin, out of curiosity where would the gondola to/from Ballard terminate? I can understand a gondola from WS that terminates at the ID station, but where would a gondola from Ballard terminate.
Daniel, I have not studied Ballard as much as I have West Seattle, but one possibility would be from the Interbay Link station across BNSF train yard to the SW corner of the Fishermen’s Terminal and then along 20th Ave W across Salmon Bay to either Leary Way or Market St. It would be similar to the Emirates Air Line which crosses high above the Thames River https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emirates_Air_Line_(cable_car)
It could serve the Ballard center sooner until a combined bridge gets built saving some money short term while serving the center more frequently than buses could and also getting bike riders across Salmon Bay safely.
That would get closer to Ballard than any of the current proposals would. It would be really easy to cross the area at Fisherman’s Terminal on the west end that’s basically just crap storage. The Ballard terminal could be built above one of the surface parking lots.
Hell, make it a multi-point system and run one up to Magnolia Village.
Sure. Co-locate the interbay link station with a sounder station, and then run a gondola line from the link station to Magnolia, and to the top of Queen Anne, and another gondola line from interbay link to Ballard.
The multimodal network connection could be good. I just can’t imagine magnolia or Queen Anne being okay with wires and gondolas over their houses.
Yes, Glenn, I was thinking of a line from Magnolia Village to Interbay and then along Dravus to SPU and across the canal to Fremont.
Yes, Glenn, I was thinking of a line from Magnolia Village to Interbay and then along Dravus to SPU and across the canal to Fremont.
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