Some things we didn’t mention over July:

This is an open trhread.

59 Replies to “News roundup: July highlights”

  1. What? It’s been 3 months and ST hasn’t fixed the DSLRT escalator problem yet? Oh the horror. The horror!

    Can we just park the faux outrage for a minute and admit that the debacle that is the Metro escalator problem has been decades in the making? I’m sorry, but as good as ST might be, it is going to take more than 3 months to reverse that.

    Escalators aren’t something you just buy off the shelf at Home Despot. They are long lead time items, and that is only AFTER you get all the specs right. And that is not easy either.

    I give ST 2 years to bring the Metro DSLRT escalators up to the level of performance of the other ST escalators. I’d love it if it happened sooner, but this much decay takes time to reverse.

    And it has to be done right.

    1. I’m not going to defend Metro on this. But I will say the debacle that is the frequent and long shut-downs of the elevator at SeaTac Airport Station (or TIBS or Mt Baker) is a larger failure that will cost more to retrofit than just changing out escalator parts.

      That’s because the passengers who are used to using the escalators have other escalators and stairs they can use. Riders have to climb stairs? Oh, the horror!

      Those who need the elevators … I hope they are paying attention and taking good notes about how to ride the bus to another station to get back to that station, when the message plays every few minutes. At least ST has a working public address system at each station, including in the tunnel now, I believe. There is that.

      One of these problems is a nuisance. One is a frequent denial of access. But that’s okay, since the non-redundant elevators only have to work 95% of the time to meet ST’s standards. Guess which problem is getting worked on?

    2. I agree that it it’s not a quick fix. I am still frustrated that the problems were known before 2016 — yet ST3 did not earmark any money to specifically upgrade these stations. Further, they did a targeted (escalator and elevator/ stairs) study in 2018 and still did not propose a capital upgrade strategy for these stations.

      When ST3 comments were being taken, I raised this exact issue. I got very little support on STB and Sound Transit didn’t even confirm that they received the suggestion. It’s like no one wanted to address the looming problem. I’ve even put this comment in when scoping the new extension studies that ST is doing.

      If ST was surprisingly handed the keys to the stations, this could be blamed mostly on Metro. However, ST should have known that a major upgrade was needed years ago, and had some funds ready. I rest the inaction onto ST’s doorstep now that 2021 is almost over.

      At this point, the most I could suggest is to assign the DSTT upgrade costs to various Link extension projects. After all, it’s the added cumulative ridership from the upcoming extensions that will put the most wear and tear on the system. FTA allowed BART to include this in Downtown San Francisco as part of the BART to SFO project. The extension bean-counters won’t like doing this, but it seems to me the only fair and practical way to remedy this overlooked need and cost.

      1. I disagree. ST should not be using any expansion dollars to backfill repair of Metro’s problems.

        Expansion dollars are for exactly that – “expansion”. Diverting them to repair is intellectually dishonest. It violates the whole concept of asking the voters for “expansion” funding.

        Additionally, the whole point of putting a package in front of the voters to fund expansion is to get the package passed.

        Despite what Nickels did with ST2 after R+T failed, a failure at the ballot box is normally debilitating. You only get so many shots.

        So ST really needs to present a clean package to insure passage, and adding funds to repair Metro’s pre-existing issues is bad optics. Even though the problem is Metro’s, the appearance is one of ST not being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

        I.e., the average voter won’t distinguish between Metro’s screwup and ST’s solid management. The risks of failure at the ballot box go up.

        Much better to keep the accounts separate and maybe hope for some additional outside funding to help with repairing or replacing Metro’s escalators. Whether that funding comes from the Feds, or maybe from Metro, is open to debate.

        But at least ST3 got passed, and at least ST is finally in charge of the escalators. They will be fixed soon enough.

      2. How can upgrading a 31 year old tunnel that wasn’t designed for rail be “bad optics”? Just turn on HGTV and you see lots of homes from that period being renovated. You see full road reconstruction on pavement just 30-50 years old.

        And why shouldn’t new riders who will start using the tunnel help pay for it? Their presence adds wear and tear and riders coming on line starting Saturday will probably be the majority of tunnel station users by 2032.

        To assign the cost to Metro would be like assigning light rail construction costs to WSDOT for the Link segments on freeway ROW.

      3. ST3 did include a fund to renovate the DSTT stations. It just wasn’t large enough. I think ST said it didn’t have full access to the stations until the changeover so it couldn’t make a complete assessment, and thus didn’t realize how awful the state was. That’s similar to SDOT in RapidRide J, which assumed the cycletrack would be on Fairview but later studies showed the Eastlake/Fairview infrastructure was much worse than expected. Of course, any passenger could tell ST which DSTT escalators and elevators are repeatedly broken and the extent of their outages, so why couldn’t ST staff make at least the same assessment? The problem of DSTT escalator and elevator outages goes al the way back to the 1990s, so passengers have extensive knowledge of this.

      4. Lazarus, will you just stop with your green-with-envy resentment against Metro? What did Metro do to you? Did a bus not come at the right time’ and you missed that all-important job interview at Burger King?

    3. OMG, you cawed about the DSTT tunnel when ST got it from Metro in 2016 because buses were evil in it. Fine. I worked in Pioneer Square, used that stop multiple times per week, remembered that the escalators were running okay at the turnover, and were running fine when ST needed to do the track upgrades in fall 2019. ST got the stations on as-is basis AND has been operating DSTT for 5 years. This escalator and elevator fiasco is firmly in STs court.

  2. Throwing this out to the horde— if McGinn defeated Murray (or Murray had to step aside because what took him down came out earlier) what would have Seattle’s SDOT proposal to ST3 looked like– IIRC, there were four options of Ballard to DT (and a really expensive underground option that captured Fremont and Upper QA)? Remember the SLU/second tunnel thing was a last minute Kubly special (that did not go through public comment) whereas the others did.

    Would McGinn have had the juice to overrule ST’s original Ballard gets nothing proposal? Given that McGinn was not loved by the state for his viaduct position (whereas Murray was a former state legistlator), would Seattle have been stuck with the original garbage ST proposal ?

    Or would one of the Ballard to downtown proposals which covered Belltown (or the much loved Ballard to UW) made it to the ballot? Would ST3 be in better shape given the situation– and all we’d be arguing about today is whether West Seattle and/or Ballard gets an expensive tunnel?

    1. It’s a sobering thought that investing tens of billions of dollars over 30+ years have been allowed to be guided by a single elected official and his department head. Rather than ponder if it would be different with McGinn I would rather ponder how can our planning be more analytical and democratic, and less opinionated or backroom.

      1. No doubt, but would the ideal process have advocated for West Seattle light rail in ST3? If it didn’t, who gets to convince Dow C. that it isn’t going to happen?

      2. If it hadn’t been for McGinn, the ST3 vote would have been in the 2020s or later. The corridor studies in ST2 (Ballard-downtown, Ballard-UW, and a few others) would have been done at the end of ST2. McGinn was the politician who championed Ballard-downtown, so who knows what ST4 would have looked like without him. Maybe it would have had Ballard-UW instead, but that’s a best-case scenario. Maybe it would have had something awful to support a spine/suburb only approach. Maybe the other subareas wouldn’t have gotten motivated to pursue it so there would have been no ST3 vote in the 2020s or 2030s.

        “Given that McGinn was not loved by the state for his viaduct position (whereas Murray was a former state legistlator), would Seattle have been stuck with the original garbage ST proposal ?”

        I’m not sure the state’s behavior would have been different. The legislature knew there would be an ST3 ask at some point to complete the Everett-Tacoma spine, and it probably would have given the same level of tax authority at any point. It all depends on how scared they were of the Eymanites, and the latter’s influence was waning in the 2010s and would have presumably continued that trajectory. The legislature gave ST tax authority for a 15-year concept, open-ended in that it could be extended for increased costs or scope, the same as it had done in the previous rounds. ST ended up increasing the scope to 25 years. I’m not sure that Murray remaining in the legislature and McGinn having a second term or never being mayor would have affected this.

      3. It’s not opinionated or backroom, it’s POLITICAL. How we’ve decided in the US we will deal with disagreements. I agree it doesn’t always produce the best outcomes.

      4. Mark H, I didn’t say it to ponder a non-political plan. I said to ponder a less political plan. In the case of the Murray chosen alignment for SLU and Ballard in ST3, it never got any analytical study or public debate as a preferred alignment alternative . It was sold as a “representative alignment” for the vote, and morphed into a fixed alternative that could not vary by more than 3 blocks after the vote.

        It’s pretty clear that ST expansion currently places more emphasis on “stakeholders” and “elected officials” than they do “riders”. Just look at the structure of subsequent extension committees. It’s like building schools to keep neighbors happy rather than prioritize what students need. I see no discussion about combined walk + ride + walk travel times of the alternatives — and lots of discussion about where light rail bridges go.

        And those aspects are not particularly overtly in the public arena — or purely “political”. They are clearly backroom choices made by opinionated people who have either been given power or who wield it given their visibility or ability to invest money in Seattle. It’s that system which turns the term “political” from being mostly a good thing to mostly a bad thing.

      5. The Lynnwood Link Alternatives Analysis after the vote considered alternatives as wide as I-5, Aurora, 15th Ave NE, and Lake City Way. The only must-serve stations were Northgate and Lynnwood, because they’re designated urban growth centers. ST could have deviated from I-5 by simply writing a statement justifying it. It didn’t do so for political, inertial, and judgment reasons.

        In the case of DSTT2/Ballard, ST said that there would be time to advocate for a First Hill detour later, but when that time came it said First Hill was “out of scope” for the project because the ballot measure said downtown, not First Hill. Not because of the distance, but because downtown it the largest urban center in the region so it couldn’t be skipped.

        Re moving the Belltown alignment east, there was never any acknowledgement that Belltown might be important or essential: the growing urban center was SLU, not Belltown.

      6. “It [WSBLE] was sold as a “representative alignment” for the vote, and morphed into a fixed alternative that could not vary by more than 3 blocks after the vote.”

        “It’s pretty clear that ST expansion currently places more emphasis on “stakeholders” and “elected officials” than they do “riders”.”

        Is anyone surprised by these statements? Wasn’t that true in ST 1 and 2?

        WSBLE was sold by folks who knew it would not be affordable, even with surface or elevated lines through Seattle, and surface stations and lines in West Seattle. WSBLE was designed to sell N. King Co. on ST 3, because ST 3 was necessary to complete ST 2 and the spine, but Seattle needed some bling in ST 3.

        Show me the route for WSBLE that is affordable then, even with the realignment, and West Seattle and Ballard accepting above ground or elevated light rail stations and lines. As Ross has pointed out, the cost of these routes never made sense to begin with, but if you are trying to sell ST 3, express buses are not the bling Seattle voters like, or Seattle Subway dreams of. ST was selling dreams in ST 3, not transit. Look at the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.

        Of course politicians and stakeholders determine the route of rail, and that route was determined many, many years ago in ST 2 (and ST 1, with the spine). Maybe if riders paid 100% of light rail they would have more of a voice, but if 60% of operations and 100% of capital costs are paid by someone else then yes, riders are not going to have a lot of say unless they organize and become stakeholders.

        Really I don’t understand this argument about light rail. Its course was fixed a long time ago, in ST 2, based on public ROW’s which reduced costs, and subarea equity along with a delusional design to “link” small cities like Everett and Tacoma far from each other with even less in between, because this enormous three country ST taxing district was suddenly going to “urbanize”.

        I think this argument makes more sense for Metro. Metro can change its course, its frequency, its coverage, depending of course on money. It is pretty hard for any transit agency to know exactly what best benefits riders until the new routes begin, and ST takes the position riders and zoning will bend to it, although I doubt it, certainly post pandemic.

        Metro can bend to riders. It can change courses, like the restructure on the Eastside, which is way premature but gives a peak into the future as Metro and ST see it on the eastside. But still it can change with the future. Metro can make a mistake, and correct that mistake for not a lot of money, and it can follow changing rider patterns.

        The good news I suppose is the DEIS will force this reevaluation of WSBLE some want. I think the firing of Rogoff was the Board telling the next CEO to make sure the DEIS is honest this time about costs. Don’t wait until the project bids.

        TT thinks some value engineering, and stations and lines I am not sure West Seattle and Ballard will agree to, will make rail to these cities affordable within the revenue in N. King Co. and ST 3, although no one knows what that revenue is long term.

        Personally I have my doubts. I think everyone might be a little disappointed at the DEIS, because if honest about costs I think it will suggest the money is not there for the DSTT2 if cost contingencies are included, or any kind of light rail to West Seattle and Ballard. It isn’t the $12 billion in the report that concerns me, it is the “+” at the end of the $12+ billion for WSBLE.

        Then the discussion is if not light rail then what? I suppose that is the kind of argument Mark was making, although I get the idea he and others are really dreaming about an alternative light rail route, rather than a bus route.

        If light rail is not affordable, then of course the question is how much money is there, and what can be done to satisfy West Seattle and Ballard? For West Seattle it is no loss of car capacity in any new bridge, and for Ballard some kind of dedicated access east because Ballard is basically Uranus (with Magnolia being Pluto), along with express buses from downtown to each.

        But then I don’t think the $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland will get built either, although the subarea may have the money, but my guess is there are things Issaquah would rather have with that kind of money, like decent entrances from I-90 to 405, and some express buses to downtown Seattle after East Link opens. Issaquah to S. Kirkland was just the same bling as WSBLE ST used to sell ST 3. Good news: neither is built yet, and no one has started digging DSTT2. But we won’t know that until East Link opens and we know where folks want to go.

        The course of WSBLE, and Issaquah to S. Kirkland may be fixed, just not the mode.

    2. I didn’t realize there was still an argument over the second downtown transit tunnel, except whether it goes under First Hill. Those for First Hill have lost, sadly. Those against a second downtown tunnel have lost, too. Gentlemen, those arguments are over.

      And now, the argument over a tunnel under the Ship Canal to Ballard appears to be pretty much over, too. Ballard might never be able to complete the Missing Link (in the bike trail), but the station at 14th Ave NW appears to have a begrudging consensus around it among the deciders.

      West Seattle is still having arguments over paths decades after we voted to send high-capacity transit there. But they are not arguing over whether it should be by tunnel. I argued against tunneling, but I lost that argument, and the EIS process needs to move forward if light rail is going to reach West Seattle in my lifetime.

      Okay, so some will keep arguing. But the only thing stopping these tunnels is an economic downturn, a calamity upon humanity much worse than the delta variant, or a surprise revelation from the engineers that these tunnels are infeasible. Arguments are too feeble a weapon to make any of that happen.

      1. “Okay, so some will keep arguing. But the only thing stopping these tunnels is an economic downturn, a calamity upon humanity much worse than the delta variant, or a surprise revelation from the engineers that these tunnels are infeasible. Arguments are too feeble a weapon to make any of that happen.”

        Brent, I think those are some of the arguments over DSTT2 and WSBLE, even with surface stations and lines. It is called MONEY. The engineers will tell you just about anything is “possible”, but whether it is affordable is a political judgment, and with a brand new CEO the judgement will come down to the Board. That is why we have the DEIS process, and I guess why we had a “realignment”, and the ST CEO is history.

        An agency can manipulate a DEIS a million different ways to support the project (e.g. ST 1, 2 and 3) but it is the project bids, including the 50% cost contingency on these huge public projects, that is where the rubber meets the road. What will someone build all these tunnels for, including the risk and the profit, and who will pay. In the past ST was a Ponzi scheme, with ST 3 covering the gaps in ST 2, but I don’t see a ST 4, so like Bernie Madoff the merry-go-round stops.

        As someone who lives in the East King Co. subarea my only “argument” is that my subarea’s responsibility for DSTT2 be limited to the original $275 million in ST 3 (despite the delay in our park and rides although we have the money for them, and they were promised in ST 3), and zero responsibility for the costs of WSBLE.

        In fact, I have no objection to Seattle passing its own levy to build everything proposed by Seattle Subway in the Seattle subzone (although I think it should start with the $3.5 billion bridge repair/replacement unless every bus route is going to be replaced with tunnels, including under water).

        The four other subareas are spectators when it comes to DSTT2, even though they know their share of DSTT2 was based on phony ST capacity arguments for DSTT1. No need to preach to us about DSTT2 and WSBLE. Our cost is fixed on DSTT2, and our cost for WSBLE is zero, and our fare for both will be the same as someone in the N. King Co. subarea, so dig baby dig.

      2. The ST3 taxes can be extended indefinitely as much as it takes to build DSTT2 and the elevated representative alignments in Ballard and West Seattle. ST has built tunnels so I assume its estimate for DSTT2 is still in the ballpark. You have given no evidence that it isn’t; you’ve just asserted that DSTT2 is “unaffordable” and the ST board believes that, without evidence for either. It’s widely known that the Ballard and West Seattle representative alignments were pushing the bounds of ST3’s budget because of the water crossings, and the local demands for tunnels there only add to that. But DSTT2 was always going to be a tunnel. The debate over whether International District 2 station should be shallow (inexpensive, and the representative alignment) or deep (expensive) is a side issue.

      3. Ok Mike, the cost estimate for DSTT2 in ST 3 was $2.2 billion. That is still the cost estimate I believe, although WSBLE is now up to $12 billion based on the recent “audit”.

        The four subareas other than N. King Co. are required to pay half, or $1.1 billion, or $275 million each. Some like Pierce, S. King Co. and Snohomish Co. subareas don’t have more than $275 million because they budgeted for $275 million, and some need addtional money even with the realignment. The four other subareas are obligated to pay zero for WSBLE.

        So N. King Co. can build whatever tunnel it wants. It is N. King Co. that better make sure ST’s cost estimating for DSTT2, which a lot of of us think is “optimistic”, is accurate, because N. King Co. is on the hook for 100% of anything over $2.2 billion.

        The Board can extend ST taxes I suppose, again, but still it is the revenue in N. King Co. that must cover the costs for DSTT2 over $2.2 billion, and WSBLE.

        The rest of the subareas are spectators. Their exposure is capped at $275 million each. If DSTT2 eventually costs $4 billion and the Board again extends taxes to cover that addtional cost for N. King Co. I guess the four other subareas will have to find another place to spend their additional tax revenue from another extension so N. King Co. can finish DSTT2. But how many $4.5 billion lines can you run from Issaquah to S. Kirkland. Maybe Renton to Bellevue, or Bellevue to Bothell.

        We will know when the project bids go out, with a likely cost contingency of 50% for a tunnel under downtown Seattle. Will a 50% contingency be needed? Who knows, but that is why you have a 50% contingency on a tunnel. You certainly don’t start without the contingency in the bank, or you end up with an unfinished tunnel because there probably won’t be a ST 4.

        If the bid with contingency is closer to $4 or $5 billion, then the Board can decide whether to extend taxes. But you don’t start tunneling until the money for the bid plus the cost contingency is in the bank.

        My guess is the next CEO will take Rogoff’s public firing to heart, and will want the DEIS to very accurately estimate the cost of DSTT2 and WSBLE, even before putting the projects out to bid. I think the Board made it pretty clear no more surprises. I don’t think $2.2 billion is accurate but I could be wrong, and I am mostly relying on others who said that in 2016, and predicted the realignment in 2016, but at the same time my subarea has no skin in the game.

      4. Thanks. Are you sure you’re not conflating 2016 dollars vs future inflated dollars? Much of the 6X difference could be that.

    3. I never thought that the SLU reroute was something Kubly alone championed; I thought it was both Kubly and the mayor/council, prodded by the SLU businesses and residents, and recognizing that if you build a highrise cluster you really need high-capacity transit there. That should have been obvious when the city council first started planning highrises there, but somehow everybody missed it: both ST and the city and Metro and transit activists. The SLU reroute in 2016 was the first dose of sanity about that.

    4. @mdnative this is a GREAT question. McGinn commissioned the Seattle transit master plan. That plan at the time did not designate West Seattle as a default LRT corridor, because the data did not support doing so. So would argue it still doesn’t. The decision by Murray and Dow to insist on two LRT projects in Seattle for ST3 is one of the most fateful of the whole saga. McGinn may have insisted on LRT to WS in the end, but my guess is he would have been more discerning.

      1. ST 3 had to pass. It was existential to complete ST 2 and the spine. So you promise every neighborhood or city what they want, and massage the cost estimates and revenue to kind of match so general fund tax increases were limited (until extended). Some transit experts saw the deceit, but most of us did not in 2016. Progressives tend to be very optimistic people.

        No one predicted a pandemic, and the hope was the economic juggernaut of downtown Seattle would continue to grow, not shrink, which is the N. King Co. subarea, and would help cover the low balled cost estimates in ST 3. Now it looks like any kind of ST 4 is unlikely, and ST was always a little bit like a Ponzi scheme (as is most major development and developers using funding for a new project to complete a past project).

        The issue with the realignment is the ROW and construction costs (inflation) increase as fast as the additional revenue, so it really does not solve the funding issue, but is a handy political solution until a new CEO is found.

        I don’t think ST has any intent to build DSTT2. I think in firing Rogoff the Board signaled it wants the DEIS to be honest about real costs (before the real test when the project is sent out for construction bids), including very large cost contingencies like 50% for a tunnel under Seattle, and just what West Seattle and Ballard will get for stations and lines, which probably may seem unfair when even neighborhoods like the UW, Roosevelt, Capitol Hill and Northgate got tunnels.

        According to ST 3, DSTT2 will cost $2.2 billion with the N. King Co. subarea paying 1/2, which means the four other subareas will each pay 1/4th of 1/2, or $275 million each. But Triunity’s report states: “As part of the ST3 Program, WSBLE is a large complex megaproject that is currently projected to cost more than $12 billion. WSBLE is currently in the planning phase at approximately 10% design with the Final Environmental Impact
        Statement (FEIS) anticipated to conclude in 2023.” https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Report%20-%20ST3%20Cost%20Estimating%20Assessment%20Task%203%20Final%20Report%2009-20-21.pdf

        $12 billion+ is a lot of money.

        So it is Seattle and the N. King Co. subarea that have to make sure the true cost of DSTT2 is known including contingencies before promising anything because the other subareas will balk at paying more than $275 million/each, and WSBLE is solely N. King Co.’s funding issue.

        I think Tom Terrific was the first to state the solution raised above: create the capacity in DSTT1 for WSBLE. Don’t forget a lot of time and angst has been spent on ST’s highly inflated ridership estimates (tunnel capacity) used to sell levies and to convince the four other subareas to contribute 1/2 the cost of DSTT2, including the litigation between ST and Mercer Island over the intensity of a bus intercept that according to the recent restructure has only three peak buses accessing Mercer Island, and headways below what MI has already agreed to.

        So ST 3 in N. King Co. has a lot more funding issues than just DSTT2, although a deep bore tunnel under Seattle is fraught with risk. Huge, unknown risks. Risks that could bankrupt N. King Co. and even the rest of ST.

        After that it is having the DEIS bring home the hard truth to Ballard and West Seattle about stations and tunnels. One benefit is the closure of the West Seattle Bridge has reminded West Seattle their critical need is car/truck access, because the bridge is such a great conduit to I-5 and I-90. The difference between express buses along the repaired and future replacement bridge and light rail to West Seattle is minimal, but any loss of car capacity is huge.

        I don’t know enough about Ballard to know whether Ballard would choose some kind of tunnel to UW over rail to downtown Seattle. According to Tom Terrific you can’t just drill a hole in an existing station at the UW to tie in a line from Ballard, so that would need an entirely new station. But if the cost is much lower than the WSBLE, and West Seattle prefers car capacity and so will accept express buses, and Ballard gets express buses to downtown plus some kind of direct transit to UW, and N. King Co. needs only one transit tunnel, that might be the solution, and really always was until ST began promising the moon and Seattle neighborhoods started demanding every line and station be underground.

        I think it is important to understand that during ST 3 rail was a kind of status symbol. For example, Issaquah — a city of 35,000 that is a nice city but basically unwalkable and very car oriented — demanded a $4.5 billion line to S. Kirkland, although no one is Issaquah even drives to Kirkland. Same with West Seattle and Ballard (and even Renton): you were not a player unless you got rail, and if Angle Lake, Federal Way, Lynnwood, 145th, 130th, Graham St., and Redmond were getting rail you had to have rail too or you were unimportant.

        It might not hurt if ST started questioning the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line by offering Issaquah something else, which could help sell West Seattle and Ballard on something else than WSBLE. Other than ego I can’t imagine Issaquah has its heart set on a line to S. Kirkland, or even Bellevue. There is a better use for $4.5 billion even for Issaquah.

      2. Daniel, you misquoted me a bit on the Ballard-UW solution. You might be able to “drill a hole in an existing station” to create a subterranean connection to a different set of platforms, if the wall structures at one of the mezzanine levels is sufficiently sturdy to transfer the loads to some additional supports surrounding the hole. The punching a hole business is about the walls of the bored tunnels between the stations. Building a junction into an existing bored tunnel requires creating the equivalent of a station box around the tunnel to expose and support it and remove the compression rings. It would be enormously tricky.

        But thank you for indirectly reminding people that because of that difficulty in creating an underground junction, a stand-alone Ballard-UW would require a very difficult to site small maintenance facility somewhere in Ballard, Interlake or perhaps at Sand Point and some way to ship cars requiring heavy maintenance to a bigger MF. Maybe they could be towed in special trains on the BNSF trackage which connects to Forest Street, but it would be pretty “non-standard” LRT operations, probably requiring trains to be stored at the “away” terminal to keep the MF small during the nighttime.

        AJ has suggested using trams for a Ballard-UW stand-alone line, and I think it would be a proper technology that might require little tunneling if it went through Lower Fremont.

        However, I believe that a better solution for the entire problem is to value engineer the SLU-Ballard route to be elevated through SLU if the transition from tunnel to elevated can be made in the Westlake Avenue right of way and the dive back into tunnel through Lower Queen Anne somewhere next to Gates Foundation. Build the entire alignment from the west portal of the Lower Queen Anne tunnel to the new bridge at 14th at grade with the exception of a new bridge over 15th West in the footprint of the existing westbound Magnolia Bridge approach ramp. To do this the businesses between Mercer Way and an extended Helix Bridge would be taken, then north of the station there the alignment would run behind the existing businesses. Then north of the 15th West crossing the alignment would run next to the BNSF tracks with at grade stations at Armory and Dravus (under the rebuilt street).

        This would replace two tunnel stations with elevated ones, possibly allow the new platforms at Westlake to be above the existing track level rather than below, which would in turn make Midtown two stories shallower. Then, obviously, build New IDS shallow in Sixth South.

        Doing these things would make the line affordable.

        But WAY before then, Seattle could make a strong statement that it wants to serve Ballard using transit more than cars by giving the 44 the priority it needs and deserves through Wallingford. Do that and you don’t need a Ballard-UW subway or tramway unless the station sites are strongly upzoned.

      3. I guess I still don’t understand why Ballard-UW has to be so complicated.

        Apparently it is vital to have an elevated station for the Ballard – downtown section, so just build the junction there. 14th is a street with a railroad (though an abandoned one) down the middle. There’s plenty of space for something like that there. Neither line will be frequent enough to require the lines be grade separated from eachother, so it could be an elevated junction as done in 3 locations on the Chicago loop.

  3. When I see the neighborhood around Othello Station it looks like a neighborhood should. There are apartments, shops, etc.

    And then I see Rainer Beach station, and there is nothing!

    1. I went down to look at the Rainier Beach station area after Sam said there’s no development there. Yes, the new apartments go south to Othello and then stop. One multistory building northwest of Rainier Beach Station that I thought was recent apartments/condos, looks like it was actually built earlier in the 90s or 00s, and I can’t tell what it is. Is it apartments, an industrial company, empty, what?

      Developers and and middle-class consumer demand is gradually spreading southward. It started in the Eastside and then spread to East and Southeast Seattle, starting near downtown (the Central District) and gradually moving further out. Columbia City was an early hotspot because of its intact historic district. Middle-class lesbians and artists started moving there in the 1990s and transformed it from decay, and it led the Rainier Valley renaissance. (A different working-class renaissance emerged on MLK/North Rainier, as Vietnamese businesses sprang up, also transforming it from decay. This is seen in the two-story strip malls at Othello, a generation before the the multistory mixed-use apartments.)

      Rainier Valley’s growth and gentrification was inevitable given the back-to-the-city movement that was spawned in the 1990s. And Columbia City was first, for the reasons above. It was just a question of how long it would take, and how quickly multistory mixed-use buildings would have happened without Link. There are arguments both ways on this.

      In any case, Rainier Beach has always been middle-class peoples’ last choice because it’s so far from downtown, and in the 1990s it was the most violent area. So developer interest is taking longer there. But it will inevitably become like the rest of MLK. It’s just unclear whether that will happen in the 2020s, 2030s, or 2040s.

      The city has also capped Rainier Beach upzoning to a slower timeframe than the rest of the valley. This was done in the past few years to address concerns about displacement. The argument is that it will give the low-income communities more time to adapt to inevitable growth, and perhaps to establish an institution or two serving the current demographics. Some institutions that have been suggested are a community college branch or culinary-arts facility. I don’t know if those are still being pursued. The idea is that they could be established on a station-area parcel or two before developers propose a more expensive aapartment building and drive up the land price beyond what a community organization could pay.

    2. Both Othello and Columbia City had land that was already assembled (as former public housing or school sites). Plus there were existing business districts within a few blocks so creating a village was simply easier.

      Rainier Beach has several limiting constraints:

      1. A huge swath of land is under high voltage wires and can’t be developed.

      2. The nearby hillsides are steeper.

      3. There are several uses that are not residential near the station.

      4. The station only has one exit rather than two. Had the station planned for a south exit (maybe with stairs and elevator connected to a skybridge linking the two hillsides), it could have lots more.

      5. I’m not sure, but it may be more restricted about heigh limits since Boeing Firld is pretty close.

    3. There is more than “nothing” at Rainier Beach Station, but like Columbia City, it is obvious that the train station is nowhere near the center of the neighborhood. In both cases you have to head east a couple thousand feet. One hint for the underlying problem is one of the developments in the area — Greenbelt Station Townhomes.

  4. “Stolen [escalator] parts.”

    Tell me more. I’ve heard of thieves cutting and stealing copper wires along the Link track. They’re stealing escalator repair parts too?

    Um, what would somebody do with an escalator step? Put it in the corner of the living room as a conversation piece? Would metal-scrap dealers want an escalator step? Would metal-scrap dealers in Mexico want it? (My parents say that when people steal cars, then often take them to Mexico to sell them there.)

  5. On Friday the last day of the # 41 it is kind of an historic moment as the route was the successor of the old Blue Streak route the first express route within the city of Seattle.

    I know that the #307 was there but the #41 resembled the Blue Streak route that operated from the north end to downtown on I-5. I know that I am showing my age as I remember when the Blue Streak started as it really broke the mold of the old Seattle Transit routes that seemingly never changed and when the Blue Streak started it was a radical change for transit in Seattle.

    It took a long time after Blue Streak but it laid the groundwork for the express routes that have been operating for years and now the extension of Light Rail to Northgate.

    1. If I understand it correctly, the idea with the Blue Streak is to serve a neighborhood, get on the freeway, and then go downtown. It seems rather basic, but this is different than a lot of express routes. Either they are limited stop along a highway, or they serve park and rides.

      The 41 had a big parking lot, but it also served the neighborhood. As time went on, the parking lot became less and less important. They closed down the second parking lot up by 117th. Its funny because I have friends who live in the area. There are 4-Hour parking limits on the side streets. They didn’t want people parking there, and then taking the 41. Those signs have been out of date for quite some time (no one does that — there is no point).

      1. Blue Streak was basic but it broke the mold on transit routes in the city which were rarely changed in those years so when it started it was radical for its times. In those days you did not have Park and Ride lots so it did serve a neighborhood before going to downtown but it planted the idea for the future to what transit could be.

        I lived in north Seattle and I rode the Blue Streak at times and to have it express on I-5 versus riding my regular route meandering through various neighborhoods before reaching downtown made Blue Streak something special.

    2. I never saw the Blue Streak, but from the descriptions it was the first all-day expresses. It sounds like the Chicago El’s purple line, the express from Evanston that makes some intermediate stops, and that once had midday or Saturday trips that were marketed to women shoppers.

  6. Re the El purple line, why is Evanston the only line with an express train? Is it the largest/densest suburb? Or was it when the line was built? Was it a 4-track experiment that was never repeated? Is it the only direction without Metra? Or is Evanston just lucky and everywhere else can eat rocks?

    1. I’m not sure, but it is not the largest or densest suburb, and there is Metra in that direction. In fact I wouldn’t say they are lucky either; the Purple Line only goes all the way to the Loop during peak times. At all other times, it requires a transfer to the Red Line.

  7. Wikipedia has lots of details on the history of the Purple Line.


    Its evolution (tracks and vehicles) differed from the Red Line, and the express runs use Brown Line tracks once they merge onto the Red-Brown overhead viaduct. (The viaduct has four tracks rather than just two.)

    The Red-Brown-Purple (express) stations are themselves interesting as the platform placements dictate which train line can stop at a station. If every train stopped at every station, Evanston riders would have to endure about 30 stops before reaching Downtown Chicago! Because the directions of trains are adjacent to each other (two adjacent southbound and two adjacent northbound) CTA has switching tracks that can enable trains to change tracks in emergencies or during overnight maintenance.

    Station platforms at Belmont and Fullerton are set up for trains from both lines to be able to stop, facilitating cross-platform transfers. This is the track arrangement and platform setup I’ve been pleading for at SODO Station — but ST so far has not proposed. Instead, ST currently proposes multiple platforms without level transfers and each adjacent track alternating direction (making train switching both difficult and expensive).

    1. Yes, most of my time in Chicago has been around Belmont, Diversey, and Fullerton Avenues. I noticed immediately that Belmont has all three lines (Red, Brown, Purple), while the “express” Purple stops at Diversey and some stations south of it with the brown, while the “local” Red doesn’t. I usually took the Red to avoid those stops, except when I was going to Diversey. (On Diversey I found a Days Inn, Costco, and a waterfront farmers’ market.)

      I’ve never made it to Evanston. I went to Howard station once, where the Purple and Yellow shuttles start. I was surprised they were one car when the Red is like ten cars. Another time I tried to go to Evanston midday, but the distance was longer than I thought, so by the time I got to Loyola it had already taken an hour (or would have with a round trip,. I don’t remember) so I turned around. The distance from Belmont to the Loop seems longer than I’d expect, and the distance from Belmont to Howard too. It may be a distortion of the map.

      1. I had a project working out of a former employer’s Downtown Evanston office. I must have spent about 3-4 weeks there during the late 1980’s. I returned for a conference at Northwestern a few years ago.

        Evanston is an upscale older suburb and college town for mostly wealthy students. The giant old homes are beautiful. The streets are clean and almost manicured. Their Downtown has many 5-15 story buildings. It’s flat and bucolic Lake Michigan is within walking distance of the Purple Line. It’s the kind of outcome that I think the Seattle “village” concept is going for once it’s been around for 80-100 years.

      2. Yeah, Evanston is pretty far from the downtown loop, like 13-14 miles if memory serves me correctly. I’ve only been there a couple of times, back in the 1970s when I went out to visit one of my high school friends who chose to go to Northwestern University. Back in those days, even though the city was no longer completely dry, the temperance movement history was still having a major impact on the sale of alcohol there. So, just like many of the other students around the campus area, we would either go to a neighboring community like Skokie to get booze or just take the train back into Chicago to get our drink on. (For the non-boomer crowd, the drinking age then was 18. I don’t think grocers were able to sell any alcohol in Evanston until the early 1990s if I’m not mistaken.)

        That’s been my only experience taking the Evanston Shuttle/Express, as it was known then, as my high school friend usually came back home to NYC on his school breaks. The friends I have in Chicago today live in the Andersonville neighborhood, and previously in Wrigleyville, so
        when I visit there today I’m typically only using the Red Line.

        My memories of Evanston are similar to those expressed by Al S.. The city is very pretty in parts, has tremendous lake views and the liveliness that comes from Northwestern University being located there. Still, overall I found it to be a rather sleepy suburb, as did my high school friend who attended NU and eventually returned to NYC after graduating.

  8. With the fast approaching opening of the Northgate Link expansion, I got to wondering about what the board did in regard to the naming of the three stations being added to the line.
    Just as a reminder, the 2015 authorizing legislation for the additional taxing authority included in ST3 contained the following provision:

    “RCW 81.104.140 (10)(b):
    (b) A regional transit authority that imposes a motor vehicle excise tax after July 15, 2015, imposes a property tax, or increases a sales and use tax to more than nine-tenths of one percent must undertake a process in which the authority’s board formally considers inclusion of the name, Scott White, in the naming convention associated with either the University of Washington or Roosevelt stations.”

    In response to this provision, in Oct 2016, just before the ST3 general election vote, the board adopted Motion M2016-107:

    “A motion of the Board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority establishing a
    process to consider inclusion of the name Scott White in the naming convention associated with the U District or Roosevelt stations and to consider including the name Joni M. Earl in the naming convention associated with an appropriate Sound Transit station or facility, and directing staff to return in six months with recommendations for Board consideration.”
    “It is hereby moved by the Board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority that a
    process be established to ( 1) consider inclusion of the name Scott White in the naming convention associated with the U District or Roosevelt stations and (2) to consider including the name Joni M. Earl in the naming convention associated with an appropriate Sound Transit station or other facility. Consistent with the naming policy established by the Board in Resolution No. R2012-02, Sound Transit staff will identify naming opportunities at the stations and facilities that meet the criteria and work with stakeholders as appropriate to develop options for Board consideration. Results of the
    process should be presented to the Board by April 27, 2017.

    “APPROVED by the Board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority at a regular
    meeting thereof held on October 27, 2016.”

    Does anyone happen to know whatever became of this requested process and staff report? I remember all the hullabaloo about the renaming of the University Street Station but I haven’t heard boo about this mandated consideration. Additionally, I have no idea why the motion muddied the water further by referencing the U-District Station rather than the University of Washington Station.

    Did I just miss something? Any relevant links you could provide would be appreciated of course.

    1. https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/FinalRecords/2017/170427%20BoardMinutes.pdf

      “Delay for Scott White/Joni Earl Facility Naming”

      “Last October, the Board approved Motion No. M2016-107 to establish a process to consider inclusion of Scott White and Joni Earl in the naming convention of a station or facility. The motion stated that staff would return to the Board no later than April 27, 2017, to present recommendations. There were no objections to the CEO’s request to bring the action to the May 25, 2017, Board meeting as staff has determined that additional outreach is needed with stakeholders and family members to finalize recommendations.”

      This is from the April 27 2017 Board meeting. No idea what happened later or who Scott White is. I have to think there are more worthy Americans than folks who collected a very large salary (Earl) to work for ST simply because their predecessors were dishonest and nearly terminated federal funding.

      1. Thanks for link to the April 2017 board minutes. I wonder if the whole thing was just another one of these ST to-do items that got the customary “yeah, yeah, we’re working on it” treatment until it became just files collecting dust on some staff members’ desks.

        The late State Senator Scott White’s wiki page:

        Thanks again.

      2. Does anyone understand why a two year state senator from 2009 to 2011 had a R.C.W. to name a station after him? Here is his bio linked to from Wiki. https://web.archive.org/web/20090508180754/http://www.housedemocrats.wa.gov/members/white/bio.asp

        I just don’t understand what White did to have the legislature insist a station be named after him. Or Earl. Shouldn’t stations be named after their name or place (UW, Northgate, Roosevelt, Bellevue, et al), or I guess some President like Obama, although naming a station after Obama doesn’t tell you anything about the station. Is any other light rail station named after a person?

      3. I guess ultimately one would have to get into the weeds to see how this provision got worked into the 2015 transportation package. Since my current state senator (Liias) is on the transportation committee, perhaps I should draft an email to his office to see what his group knows about this. I doubt I’d get a forthright answer, to be completely frank.

        While the practice of naming transit stations after a relevant party isn’t unheard of (Diridon Station in San Jose, for example), I do find it odd that this particular provision was added to the underlying authorizing legislation.

    2. Yeah they certainly let the topic drop, didn’t they?

      It’s not my preferred name, but I was fine with Union/ Seneca as the University Street replacement.

      As far as the new stations go, I’m not a big fan of U-District but at least it’s just a “U”.. It sounds like there should be U Street there. I would have preferred that the UW Stations had “UW/…” names: UW/ Upper Campus and UW/ Lower Campus? UW/ Brooklyn and UW/ Montlake? Something like that. After all, we will soon have Shoreline North and Shoreline South.

      I think the biggest travesty is how much PR and input Sound Transit took — and then changed nothing. The ultimate subtext is that they don’t care about public input at all. That’s one of those situations that deserves investigating to see who at ST did what amongst the Board and senior leadership. Maybe an investigative reporter will someday expose the mechanics of that.

      I’ll close by adding that station renaming occasionally occurs with most US rail systems. There is no shame in doing it.

  9. If anyone wants to meet up for the Northgate Link opening Saturday, I’ll be on the Westlake platform at 9am, the guy in the flat cap. My plan is to go straight to Northgate, see the bridge opening ceremony at 10am, and then backtrack to the Roosevelt and U-District festivals.

    1. I plan on having explored all 3 stations by then and be well on my way to my normal daily routine. And the 10:00 opening of the bridge is just way too late for me.

      Less than a day to go until NG Link opens – the greatest improvement in transit mobility that this region has seen since the opening of U Link in 2016.

      And still crickets on this blog? Surely they will post something today, right? Because the mainstream press has been having about a story a day.

      1. I think Covid has dampened the enthusiasm. If there was no pandemic, we would all be excited about how UW students would be better served, riders would be skipping the North Seattle gridlock, 1 Line would have the highest ridership for a single light rail line in the US (even more riders than the entire DART system and approaching the ridership of all of Portland MAX) and all sorts of other great news.

        Once we return to more commuting, the benefits will be appreciated more. The novelty of light rail is still there for some, but to many people (beyond those in North Seattle and points north of that) it feels like a mere extension. It also feels a little bit like “finally” for those that voted for Sound Moves 25 years ago.

        I think the opening of the 2 Line will see much bigger enthusiasm everywhere. 10 stations will open in 2023, three additional cities will be connected, the North Seattle trunk and DSTT will get at least 5 minute service from early morning to 10 PM — and Covid will not be dominating our lives (hopefully)!

      2. The bigger problem is it might be too early for some people. Previous STB first rides started at 10:30am, and some people have a 30-60 minute bus ride to get to Link. But I said 9am so that we can get to Northgate by 10 even if the trains are crowded. (They may not be crowded due to covid, but in 2016 and 2009 there were long lines.)

      3. Covid has affected the lives of the volunteers writing this blog in so many ways, including dampening enthusiasm. I can’t speak for the others but it is hard to find motivation to do even what was a pre-pandemic routine.

        I will be covering the opening weekend of Northgate Link but even ST is taking it easy with station opening exhibits up for all of October.

      4. @Oran,

        Sorry, but if the keepers of this blog can find time to cover Link driven bus restructures ad nauseam, then it seems like they should have at least a little time to acknowledge what is driving those restructures – Link expansion.

        And a News Roundup that doesn’t include links to the excellent NG Link coverage of the Seattle Times is at the least incomplete, at worst……

      5. @Lazarus,

        I don’t recall any Page 2 articles you’ve written. It’s a lot harder to actually create a blog post than just comment. Try it, you might like it. If you’re really committed and have something of value to pass along you can be a guest contributor. Complaining that others who volunteer their time aren’t performing to your standards seems really selfish.

      6. @BH,

        Right, but it just seems odd that there is enough time in the day for a half dozen posts on bus restructures and open threads with 10+ links about this and that, but not enough time for a single post dealing directly with the reality of NG Link opening.

        Tomorrow is the biggest and most important day in regional transit since U Link opened in 2016. That is important, and I intend to celebrate that tomorrow. And I will follow up on the coverage of this momentous event even if the only source of news coverage is the Seattle Times.

        Don’t get me wrong, Mike Lindblom has been doing an excellent job, but I expect at least as good a coverage here. Nothing doesn’t really compete.

  10. Was just up in the Northgate area because I needed to do some banking. A couple of impressions:

    1). The Kraken Ice Complex is a wasted opportunity. Lots of land area taken up (parking and buildings) with not a single housing unit above. Simon doesn’t get urban redevelopment.

    2). Don’t attempt to walk from the NG Link station directly to the Ice Plex. It’s a pedestrian nightmare. Take the long way and stick to the street grid. Hopefully it gets better I. The future, but currently it is really bad.

    3). The NG Link station is open for wandering around on ground level. You can’t go up, but it is really nice to be able to see the bus level at least. Good job ST.

    4). Metro is pushing the envelope per the restructure. Their departure boards at NGS are showing that the 62 and the 45 are currently leaving from NGS! Obviously this is erroneous. 12 hours more to get it right!

    5). The NG Ped Bridge is a swarm of people. Wiring isn’t done, concrete is still being poured, railings are still being placed. I suspect SDOT will open it on time, even if they need put in temporary crowd control devices, it holy cow is this cutting it close.

  11. I went by the pedestrian bridge an hour ago. It loks like there are temperary railings on parts of it. Maybe it will be open, but it does not look complete. And it doesn’t look like a job that can be done in less than 16 hours.

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