It’s busy season for transit news around the Sound. Amidst the numerous announcements of late (zoning reform, East Link, state funding, oh my) the most concrete development has been the release of Sound Transit’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the West Seattle/Ballard Extension (WSBLE).
With the comment period now open and several virtual public meetings scheduled, we can focus on the proposed alignment. This material is intended to arm prospective attendees of these meetings with, at the very least, a general understanding of the options on the table.
This post will be the first of several in a “Deep Dive” series. Today’s will be “Interbay/Ballard focused”, to match the subject of the first public meeting being held on March 15th.
Sound Transit granted each alternative a memorable label; the preferred alternative for this section is “IBB-1a”. We can refer to this as Alternative 1a.
Each of the detailed route profiles contained in the DEIS can be conveniently viewed here on one page.
Alternative 1a – Elevated track from 14th Ave in Ballard over a fixed bridge to a railyard-adjacent Interbay Station
Alternative 1b – Elevated track from 14th Ave in Ballard over a fixed bridge to a 15th Ave Interbay Station
Alternative 2a – Tunneled track from 14th Ave in Ballard to a retained cut railyard Interbay Station
Alternative 2b – Tunneled track from 15th Ave in Ballard to a retained cut railyard Interbay Station
Alternative 3 – Elevated track from 15th Ave in Ballard over a moveable bridge to a 15th Ave Interbay Station
Below are some site context photos scraped from Google Street View. Note that these are the approximate suggested station locations, not the suggested station entrance locations.
Alternative 1a Ballard Station – Looking southwest from 14th Ave NW and Market Street
Alternative 1a Interbay Station – Looking northwest towards Queen Anne from W Dravus
Alternative 1a Interbay Station – Looking northeast towards Magnolia from W Dravus
Alternative 1b Interbay Station – Looking east from W Dravus bridge over 15th Ave W
Alternative 3 Ballard Station – Looking west from 15th Ave NW and Market Street (complete with cute Rapid Ride D cameo)
A few notes about the alternatives:
With access to 17th Avenue and the West Dravus bridge to Magnolia, the preferred Interbay Station site isn’t exactly fertile ground for transit-oriented development or bus connections. The alternative station location (effectively constituting Alternative 1b) is positioned 50 feet above the intersection of 15th Ave W and Dravus. Relative to the 1a station, this option entails more disruption (including a six month partial closure of 15th Ave) and more residential displacements (est. ~100 residents for 1a vs ~150 for 1b). Both segments have approximately matching price tags near $1.6 billion.
Alternative 3 suffers from the immense downside of being subject to inevitable delays across the moving bridge at the whims of the Coast Guard.
The tunneled routes benefit from minimal displacement, relatively shallow station depths (especially compared to other proposed WSBLE stations) and avoid disruption of the Burke-Gilman Missing Link Trail. That said, before getting too invested in these, consider this disclaimer from the DEIS:
“Although a tunnel alternative and option is considered in the environmental review for this segment, a tunnel in Interbay/Ballard was not included in the Sound Transit 3 Plan; therefore, third-party funding could be required for the tunnel alternative and option.”
Be sure to speak up in the comments about your preferred alternative. Which station pair supports the best value for ridership? Do the tunneled routes merit overcoming the potential funding obstacles? How would an elevated or underground Ballard terminus impact a future UW or Crown Hill extension?
Feel free to chime in with any feedback on the format and information in this post as well. I’ll do my best to integrate suggestions into the next one.
Other useful links:
DEIS Executive Summary
DEIS Section 2 – Alternatives Considered
Public Comment Page
WSBLE: Interbay and Ballard Community Advsiory Group Meeting #2
138 Replies to “WSBLE Deep Dive: Interbay and Ballard”
Seattle is so bloody car centric that it can’t even imagine moving people except along major roads. In Ballard, you want to go to old Ballard, where the bars, restaurants, and nightlife is, not 15th/14th. That intersection is way pedestrian-hostile, and getting off on 14th especially means dealing with a few wide roadways.
Nobody realizes that the beauty of light rail amd subways is that you don’t have to be restricted by where the big, wide, car thoroughfares are. You’re not using the roads, you can just go directly to the narrow streets where walking feels more comfortable.
But Seattle is unimaginative, and think cars are the ultimate form of transportation, so this is what we get. I’ve made comments like this on Sound Transit’s RFCs before, but I’m just one voice.
100% agree that Old Ballard is the best place for Link, thats where’s walkable and thats where people wanna go. I’d be willing to pay extra for funding it, but sadly most people just vote no on any tax they see.
The board needs to ask ST to study a station on 20th Ave NW. Ideally the station would be stacked, leaving enough room for a half a bell mouth at the north end so that a 15th line and Ballard/U district can be interlined at the Ballard station. The 15th line would continue north to a retained cut station around 65th/15th and continue elevated from there.
Seattle Councilmember Strauss asked about 20th Avenue NW during the ST WSBLE briefing on Tuesday. It is not being studied in this round.
20th Avenue station was screened out in 2020: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/6-wsble-drafteis-chapter6-alternativesevaluation-202201.pdf
Mainly due to the requirement to either have the Ballard station be super deep or relocate several large storm sewer systems.
While having the station on 20th or even 17th would be nice, ST would have to complete a pretty significant Supplemental EIS to achieve that.
20th Avenue station was screened out … Mainly due to the requirement to either have the Ballard station be super deep or relocate several large storm sewer systems.
Yes, exactly. It was screened out because of poor assumptions. You can use the same tunnel you would use for 14th or 15th — you don’t need to use the tunnel to the west. This means it wouldn’t be super deep, but as deep as every tunnel planned thus far.
While having the station on 20th or even 17th would be nice, ST would have to complete a pretty significant Supplemental EIS to achieve that.
I agree, and that is exactly what they should do. The preferred alternative is terrible, which is why they are looking for (relatively little) additional money to build something much better. For the city to chip in, they need to have something that is worth chipping in for — a station at 20th.
It’s because Sound Transit cares more about reducing construction impacts to waterfront industrial businesses than actually providing the project that is most beneficial to the most riders.
@jsera – 100% agree.
Even worse, Seattle doesn’t even use the one advantage of building along busy car corridors. Namely, that you can build elevated lines *right above the existing road* without having to tear down hardly anything. I can hardly think of a better way to avoid “impacts” (and potential lawsuits!), given that they’ve decided to build the system around busy car corridors.
Said it before, a 70′ clearance dual lift span is not an “immense downside” if it’s paired with the more useful stations on 15th and Market and 15th/Dravus. The bulk of commercial traffic going east of fisherman’s terminal is tugs pulling barges nowhere near tall enough to call for opening a 70′ span. Especially with Foss closing up shop on the canal.
It’s twice as high as the Fremont Bridge so only a few tallest sailboats would need it to open. The Coast Guard doesn’t open the other bridges on a whim or leave them open, so it won’t do that to this one. If I recall ST even said it would open only a few times a year.
Yes, exactly. The bridge will rarely open, and never during rush hour (even the short bridges don’t open during rush hour). This means that a bridge will open only when the trains are running infrequently. It won’t open when a train is approaching, and will likely be coordinated not only with the other bridge, but the trains. This means that the bridge won’t open until there is a relatively large gap between trains. Thus it is quite possible that the trains are never delayed.
In contrast, station decisions cause delays for every rider. The farther away it is from the surface, the more delay. A station that causes every single rider to travel an extra minute is far worse than a two minute delay once or twice month for a single train. Making matters worse, a station at 14th will be farther away from the vast majority of riders.
The best option from a rider standpoint is likely the elevated station on 15th, unless the tunneled station on 15th is especially close to the surface. Given that a tunneled station would be much more expensive, the best option is Alternative 3 in Ballard.
Why can’t there simply be a fixed bridge over 15th instead? What makes 14th ave so different?
The odd thing about a DEIS is that it’s really just a “statement” of “environmental impacts” as its purpose. It’s not intended to do much planning beyond mitigating impacts. So I try to focus any response with that “impact+mitigation” logic.
Also, each alternative has impacts, so if the range of impacts applies to every alternative, it’s expected that it should be repeated for every alternative. Just copy and paste when commenting on each alternative!
For example, putting a station east of 15th Ave may be too far from old Ballard, but the DEIS impact is identifying the consequences to that in an environmental context and then recommending a mitigation to change it. Just saying that it’s too far from Old Ballard doesn’t really force ST to do anything but say “opinion is so noted” and put it in the vault of procedurally ignored comments on the DEIS.
So, my suggestion is first to identify ignored impacts (like the extra time and difficulty and increased risk to cross 15th Ave) as well as state that an impact is ignored (like the impact of taking two minutes to wait for the pedestrian crossing does not appear to be considered in the travel time or ridership impacts to walking or bus transferring riders) and then to suggest one or more mitigation actions (like a pedestrian separation from west of 15th to the station, or turning the station to be east-west underneath 15th Ave or installing a sideways elevator operating between the station and Old Ballard).
I plan to start assembling my comments this weekend. I’m using STB comments to build my responses. Given ST’s tendencies to completely ignore individual comments, I’m particularly eager to find out what interested organizations say — so if you see their responses, please share them so we can as individuals can endorse them as appropriate!
Rats! I meant this to be a separate comment!
Great post, Al S. Yeah, I think a lot of folks misunderstand what the purpose of the EIS process actually is.
I just wanted to add one observation. I for one would not give a lot of credence to the capital cost or ROW displacement numbers stated in the DEIS. One only needs to look at the example of the Lynnwood Link DEIS and FEIS documentation, the latter completed in July 2015. For instance, the FEIS listed total residential displacements at 124-129 and business displacements at 9-10 for the PA’s for the three segments involved in the proposed alignment. The most recent Link Progress Report now lists relocations required at 387. As you know, the Lynnwood Link extension runs largely in the I-5 ROW and still here we are.
It’s to force an investment of a bunch of time and money studying detailed impacts of a project, and then write it all down in a report. Then when citizens say “hey these options seem bad actually” they have the excuse of “well, we didn’t actually study any good options in the EIS, and you wouldn’t want us to go back to square one with that whole drawn-out process, now would you?”
Lol. The snark is strong with this one.
Well done, Eric. Yeah, I can’t argue with you here.
Have you ever been involved in developing an EIS? (or known anyone who was in from the beginning?)
I was involved in the EIS when the ferry system wanted to move the Keystone terminal south to accommodate older Issaquah class ferries.
I was a newbie. Luckily lead outside counsel for WSF was at my old firm K&L Gates. He told me there wasn’t a chance in hell an EIS would survive the litigation.
Then I met with my state Senator Jim Horn who was chair of the transportation committee (R’s controlled the senate). He taught me how budgeting works (two year cycles) and how small subgroups in agencies want that $80 million because it makes them important and creates job security.
But most of all he taught me it is all politics, no one cares about this part of the state, and fortunately Haugen was ranking D on the Senate transportation committee and Kessler ranking house member. One represented Whidbey Island and one Port Townshend.
There is where your remedy lies Horn told me.
So I attended the public meetings. I met the confused business owners. I was a free lawyer. I learned the motivation was to dump old Issaquah class ferries on this run so they could be available if a ferry went down on a more important route, and to avoid the costs of building two new smaller ferries for the run.
But this meant a single ferry with 90 minutes between runs when the restaurant cycle is 45 minutes during high tourist season. When I explained this to the local chambers, councils and businessss they went to Haugen and Kessler and the project was killed, and two smaller ferries commissioned. Horn complained about the cost of the two smaller ferries, but that is how the sausage is made.
What I learned is you want to control the politics before the EIS because the agency controls the EIS and wants the project to pass.
But ordinarily the politicians control the money. That is not so true with ST, except it is with WSBLE because the voters control the project. Without another levy DSTT2 and WSBLE are not affordable, which is why as I predicted the project has morphed into pie in the sky super deep tunnels and underground lines through Ballard and West Seattle.
It makes sense because West Seattle and Ballard won’t approve a surface line, so why not discuss what they will approve if all the alternatives are unaffordable. Easier to find the money then make Ballard and West Seattle drink the bitter juice, as TT puts it, because we saw with East Link and Bellevue when you tell a city to drink the bitter juice. Next thing you know East Link is running on 112th next to 405 when the subarea always had the money to tunnel under Bellevue Way, which made infinitely more sense than tunnels in Ballard or West Seattle.
Eric, LOL! That pretty much sums up the problem with this DEIS!
Jim, I have! Me! I’ve spent hours in a former job reading and responding to responses to a DEIS.
It’s an established industry that employs thousands of people. It’s an agency tediously “grading its own paper” as succinctly and advantageously as possible — and the major concern is merely not getting that agency sued for errors or omissions in the disclosures.
“What I learned is you want to control the politics before the EIS because the agency controls the EIS and wants the project to pass.”
This pretty much sums it up.
However, it seems that Sound Transit, and other transit initiatives must go through the gauntlet associated with the PUBLIC VOTE.
I have yet to see a “Washington State Ferry Improvement initiative”
nor a “Washington State ROADS ONLY Initiative” with all the benefits and costs listed so voters can make the decisions.
Kitsap County did their own Fast Ferry initiative and it passed. (Poulsbo wasn’t happy being included in that district, since they preferred more bus service)
When I was on the I-405 Corridor Project Citizens Committee, we were giving input on Pre-EIS decisions (which led to an amusing exchange between myself and the Program Manager prior to a meeting).
That’s where the politics happened, and why I personally have a problem with the decisions made on the ERC.
There’s an idea for the “everyone wants to drive” crowd,…
maybe you can convince Kemper and the boys on the ETA that instead of getting your trained organ-grinder monkey to put an anti-tax initiative out there, put an actual Puget Sound Road Improvement Initiative on the ballot.
Kemper Freeman had his “Reduce Congestion Now” plan back in 2000.
Update it. Sell it. Get the people to Vote For It.
Al, good point! Eric, great summary!
The DEIS should have included detailed walkshed analysis for each alternative and key destinations, not just for Ballard, but ID or Junction as some alternatives make it much more difficult to reach high value destinations and how to mitigate such impact. If you build a bridge on 14th, it would be ok if you turn West afterwards and add a station on Market station (or a gondola/APM). For me Ray Dubicki’s proposal of a 14th Ave road bridge makes more sense. Sound Transit won’t evaluate any of it as it wasn’t approved to be included in the DEIS unless the Board would tell them to start over. Same applies to the DSTT2 alternatives which were discussed here or the walkshed for a Fauntleroy Ave vs 42nd station walkshed in West Seattle and the fact that only a gondola could serve the Junction directly which had been promised to voters. So besides commenting on the DEIS it might be important to also comment directly to the Board with better alternatives which were not considered in the DEIS.
Comments to the EIS are included in the EIS, so your objections will be there for everybody to read.
Hey Al, I just wanted to thank you for this excellent contribution and let you know that I’m referencing it as I draft the next discussion segments in this series. I certainly think spreading your wisdom about the incentives inherent to the process would benefit anyone looking to comment on the DEIS.
I think your perspective would be invaluable to include in this type of post, if you don’t mind me quoting you at some point. Frankly, I’m just trying to make sure the conversation happens; I get the sense that you would be much more qualified to prescribe advice to the community or to make editorial contributions!
Does ST say anything about where the line would go from either a station at 14th or at 15th?
Or how a line from UW to Ballard would interact with this line?
For instance if a future UW – Ballard line would include a station somewhere in ‘old Ballard’, as well as a stop at 14th then maybe I would feel better about the DEIS.
Sadly ST only seems to study what is voted on so projects proceed without regard to how a future system might be best planned out.
Much of our current system is based on routes and corridors that have, for the most part, remained the same for generations. Old streetcar and bus maps show routes that either reflect what we have today or something similar. I suspect Link will continue to follow 15th Ave and traverse along Holman, just as the current D-Line does. I hope ST4 includes a rail line continuing to Northgate.
Seattle can make this mess beautiful, but only if it’s willing to give up car lanes on Market. Do the “preferred alternative”, which is cheaper and makes better use of available at-grade right-of-way, but move the planned station south to between 52nd and 53rd to serve the ripe-for-large-development half-square-mile between 15th and 8th from the waterfront to 58th. Then turn the corner above Market, cross 15th and immediately drop to grade either in the center or Market or along the north curb. The remainder of the street would be two lanes for freight and buses only.
Put at at-grade station stubbing right at the Leary Way intersection and you’ve served the activity center as it should be served: with no 40 foot climbs or 60 foot descents.
This would take a LOT of guts from Seattle officials, but it would ensure that “Old Ballard” remains the charming pedestrian place it is for decades.
I’d make the curve at 14th and Market “stacked” so that either a Ballard-UW tramway or a 15th NW extension could be connected without the ST operations people getting the vapors. Making the curve stacked also allows making the station stacked which makes putting a narrower platform on each side of each track means nobody ever has to cross the street. Yes, everyone has to go one level higher one direction or the other, so put the northbound track, which will be “arriving” for the majority of passengers, on top.
I’d personally make a change farther south by building behind the buildings on the north side of Elliott at-grade. The two or three which extend too far back would have to be demolishes, but they could be replaced with ones build above the trackway.
But that’s probably not on the table.
“of Market” not “or Market”
“demolished” not “demolishes”
“built” not “build”
This is an excellent idea. The at-grade station in ‘real’ Ballard can wait for a later project, but I agree the ST3 station (if elevated on 14th) should be south of Market to allow for the train to turn and run along Market. Having the terminus at-grade is ideal for station access. Only issue is probably need to close one of the N/S streets at Link transitions to at-grade b/c I don’t think that can be done in 1 block; probably close 17th, and then Link can cross 20th at-grade and the station itself sits between 20th & 22nd (is that long enough for a 4-car train?).
But I don’t think you need to stack the station; at 6 minute headways, a regular junction should be fine, like at ID where the two lines meets. From the station at 14th & 53rd(ish), a train can turn west into Ballard, east toward UW, or north* to 15th. If there’s a desire for a Ballard-UW line, it could be a wye-junction immediately north of the elevated station.
*Either zigzag at Market or continue up 14th. If it goes up 14th, it could do the same as you propose in old Ballard – cross Market elevated, and then near the terminus at 65th (or elevated station at 65th and at-grade terminus immediately south of 85th?)
AJ, that’s exactly the orientation on Market Street that I’ve suggested before. Seventeenth would have to be closed to vehicles, but it would probably still be high enough to have a pedestrian underpass.
At International District (I thinks that’s what you mean by “ID”) the two lines “do not meet” in the way you mean. There is no level crossing of one revenue track of another. The South line continues is flat and while the East line will merge with it, but without a diamond. The East to North track will merge with the South to North track just south of the station with a trailing-point turnout. However, the North to East track diverges from the North to South track just south of the station with a facing-point turnout and does a flyover as it rises to the level of I-90 to head east.
I grant that the traffic at IDS will be much heavier than at 14th and Market, and ST is apparently going to allow a level crossing of the eastbound track of East Link by the southbound track of Issaquah Link, so maybe they’ve relaxed their standards for the ends of lines.
But if that’s true, why are they not doing the cheap thing along the busway and sharing the existing tracks between SoDo and the new tunnel? The Rainier trackage is limited to a train every six minutes and Lord knows, West Seattle won’t need that frequent a service interval. So it should be easy to interlace the trains and a whole lot cheaper than building a mile of elevated down the middle of the busway.
Stacking the station allows having platforms on both sides of each track, so that folks never have to cross-the street. And, really, it doesn’t make the station any higher, because ST will put a Mezzanine in for a “first floor” that will actually make EVERY trip a two story level change, rather than a single level.
Yes, the station has to straddle the street if it’s stacked, but there’s already a track’s width of vacant space there. The street it two lanes on either side of the old trackway, so the station would cover the trackway and the two center lanes with the supports at the edges of the outer lane and a two-lane busway underneath and bus platforms between the supports. There should also be overpasses between the lower deck and the sides of the street for walk-up passengers.
If there are to be gates or turnstiles on Link because of the fare evasion problem, they’d be at the tops of the stairs on the lower deck.
That does make the surface station on Market more difficult.
Yes, Tom I agree that the 14th Ave platforms should be further south. Not only would it allow for an eventual curve, but it is easier and safer for a pedestrian to cross 15th Ave at 53rd than at Market with all those left turn phases.
I think that one truly “off”thing about the 14th Ave proposals is the mezzanine! There is not really any need for a mezzanine unless they don’t want to get too close to the residential buildings at 14th and Market’s NW corner. No one should be accessing the platform unless they are going to get on or off Link. 14th Ave is more than wide enough to place a station in the right of way rather than to buy parcels to its east for station entrances! No wonder cost estimates are so high! Something like Wilburton Station is closer to the street as well as is much cheaper. I have to wonder that the overbuilt mezzanine plan is there so that they can axe it in the future when they do value engineering. Anyway, moving it fully south of Market makes the mezzanine even less essential.
Yes, ID = ID Station. I didn’t realize there was a flyover ramp for an ‘outbound’ train heading east to Bellevue.
The parallel tracks between SoDo and ID is probably more about redundancy, not capacity, otherwise that becomes a single point of failure for the entire network. But yes, that does feel like an opportunity for cost savings to simply interline and share the SoDo station.
“Stacking the station allows having platforms on both sides of each track, so that folks never have to cross the street” I’m not following you here; it’s an elevated station, just put the station in the middle of the street and have a single center platform? 14th should be a transit mall, so crossing the street should be very safe and easy, even if there is a mezzanine, a pedestrian bridge feels unnecessary. If should feel like Downtown Redmond station. Would having one station a floor higher than the other station necessarily mean the upper station is higher than it would be if it was a level station?
I’d rather have a drawbridge (vs high bridge) at 14th if that eliminates the station mezzanine.
The problem with station stacking at Ballard is that this is an end of line station for many decades as planned. That means that inbound boarding platforms will alternate unless there is a longer tail track and a switch that allows enough room for trains to be reversed. A rider would have to be constantly told which level to be on for the next train, and if they miss a train they will have to change levels to catch the next one.
Al, that’s a good point; stacking eliminates the opportunity for an immediately adjacent scissors for terminal reversing. But I would assert that the additional cost for three extra blocks of elevated structure and the surface station could be paid for by Seattle and the “extension” included in the original opening.
AJ, yes, the flyover is the southbound bus ramp that was built when the tunnel was connected to I-90.
What I meant about having Spanish Platforms was to get the benefit of a mezzanine — access to the platform one requires for this trip above cars and buses. You can’t have that from both sides of a street in a normal sise-by-side station without some sort of mezzanine.
But dual platforms at stacked tracks allow a rider from either side of the roadway to climb (or descend) to either level without crossing any lanes.
You guys may be right that 14th will be a Transit Mall, and that would make crossing less of an issue.
“but move the planned station south to between 52nd and 53rd to serve the ripe-for-large-development half-square-mile between 15th and 8th”
You’re throwing away known density and ridership between 24th and 17th for a theoretical upzone east of 15th that’s not on the city’s radar and may never happen. Ballard Ave is where most of the housing and businesses are around and the bars and farmers’ market and old town are. 17th has a hospital and clinics with nurses and patients and visitors coming all day. East of 15th doesn’t have anything comparable. And contemporary developers have shown themselves incapable of designing buildings and neighborhoods that get as many enthusiastic pedestrians as pre-WWII developers, except when they restore an old building. 14th is an industrial area so it doesn’t have old buildings like that, and 15th was on the fringe and a neglected highway for decades so it doesn’t have much either.
ST originally chose 15th because it’s a six-lane highway (public ROW) and because it had many underused lots for new development, some of which has been built in the meantime. But that’s making the same mistake you’re making. It’s throwing away a proven high-pedestrian commercial center to gamble on a new neighborhood they say will turn out better but it will probably be worse. Like MLK in Columbia City. How many people walk to the few restaurants there or enjoy the windswept atmosphere, vs Columbia City proper? Why are the sidewalks so empty there but not on Rainier?
What really makes 14th bad is that the distance between 15th and 14th is like three regular blocks. That’s on top of the distance between 22nd and 15th. The city’s zoning plan for east of 15th calls for tapering down over a few blocks. Not being as high as west of 15th all the way to 10th or 8th. That could theoretically happen with a different city council and mayor — but first we have to get that city council and mayor, and we’ve failed for ten years, so what’s the likelyhood we can get it in the next ten or twenty years?
“give up car lanes on Market.”
Again you’re holding your breath for something that will likely never happen. Giving up car lanes is exactly what we need to do do speed up the 44 — and then we might not need Ballard-UW Link or Ballard-downtown Link, but that’s pretty much off the table. It’s easier to get the city and voters to approve a light rail tunnel than it is to get them to approve converting one or two GP/parking lanes to transit. The opposite of Paris, which does that to make room for BRT and protected bike lanes. Paris even eliminates 100-200 parking spaces per year out of principle even if it’s not planning to install BRT,. Seattle has queue jumps here and there but hardly any transit/BAT lanes for more than a block or two at a time.
As for turning toward Market or having a second station, I don’t see that happening unless we get new boardmembers. ST wants to narrow down its current alternatives, not add more.
All the pre-planning and the representative alignment assumed 15th. That’s because of old thinking on development and ridership, as I said above. It’s the same reason Northgate and Shoreline South stations are where they are, because planners in the 90s thought existing P&Rs next to freeway entrances were the best location because they’re thinking like P&R drivers and express buses and using existing public land. But rapid transit stations need to be where the pedestrians are. Which in Ballard is between 17th and 24th; in Northgate is around 5th & Northgate Way or 5th & 105rd; and in Shoreline is at 155th & Aurora.
But Mike, the whole point of moving south to 52nd/53rd was to MAKE A TURN ONTO MARKET toward a station betweeen 20th and Leary. HOW is that ignoring “known density between 17th and 24th??
Honestly, you simply did not read the comment.
I think Mike’s point is that we better get a commitment towards the station on Market, otherwise we might set ourselves up for a very bad station in Ballard, and nothing else. The Market Station (the main station if you will) doesn’t have to be built right away (it can be provisional) but planning for it would have to go along with the other work, which would be a commitment of sorts.
Ross, OK, I guess it would work to delay the station, but if you put the station at Market, with tail tracks, then you can’t make the turn west. They show it across Market. At least, you couldn’t make the turn anywhere south of 57th, and I REALLY doubt that the City Council will put an elevated railway transitioning to the surface on 57th. It’s way too narrow.
Because of the sewer interceptor the only way to get any kind of station in Old Ballard around Market and Leary is to build the elevated “terminal” station south of 54th, and it either has to be stacked in the middle of the street or single-level on the east side of 14th. The transition to Market can’t be streetcar or “El” sharp. The neighborhood won’t go for screeching wheels. You can do it in the air, but it has to be discreet. That means a relatively wide radius for the curve and a low speed. MAX gets away with screeches at the ends of the Steel Bridge and in the U-turn at Sunset because nobody lives around the Steel Bridge (and the freights already squeal) and the U-turn is down in a deep ditch. Screeching at the top of a 30 foot elevated structure in the middle of a bunch of nice apartments would not be welcome.
This is your only option for a station in “Real Ballard” which you have said over and over is the only one worth building. I will applaud ST for planning a pedestrian overpass from the west side of the street for the 15th elevated station. It’s the least they could do.
Now the estimates that the tunneled options are NOT two or three hundred million more that the PA (tunneled 14th is supposedly the same), does make the tunnels much more attractive. But not tunneled 14th; I agree that is too remote from Old Ballard when the vertical access is included. Maybe not if there were an underground gallery a la The London Tube (in many places a person can get food or a service along the way) with a west portal on the Ballard side of 15th. Removing the horrid crossing of 15th would surely make up for a lot of walking.
But even that is inferior to a surface station on Market at the Leary intersection. In ANY other Light Rail system that would be the terminal.
Thinking about this some more: Wouldn’t it make sense to just build the surface station in Old Ballard (the one you describe) as the next step? Make the elevated station on 14th a provisional station (similar to BAR, or 130th). That doesn’t seem a lot more costly — it might even be cheaper. You’ve got some extra track, but a surface station is typically a lot cheaper than an elevated station. It would certainly be cheaper (and a lot better) than an underground station. One really good station in Ballard (on the surface, in the heart of Ballard) along with the possibility of a future station on 14th would much better than any of these options, and might be cheaper than some, if not all of the alternatives.
Ross, Oh, so you’re saying delay the elevated station and make the surface the first one. That is an interesting idea. Then, if the area south of Market doesn’t develop, then there’s no need for a station there; if it does, build it.
I like that idea.
As a matter of fact, given the similarity of costs between the bridge and 14th tunnel alignment, the same thing could happen with an “inverted” version. You’d need to build the vault for the station around 53rd otherwise the station could never be added, but right now it’s a “meh!” thing to dig a big hole in the middle of 14th there. It’s not (yet) surrounded by six-story buildings. So dig the station vault immediately and then the water-crossing tunnel — do this ASAP because the neighborhood might transform quickly once the decision has been made, raising costs and disruption. Complete the cross-Canal tunnel and then move the TBM’s across the vault (as was done at Roosevelt) continue northward to the curve at Market and westward to pass under 15th with a removal vault between 15th and 17th. Once the machines were removed, the vault could become the beginning of a cut-and-cover ramp up to the surface for the station at Leary.
The one downside is that 17th would definitely have to be severed, even for pedestrians.
I think those advocating for a “14th & 53rd” station are supporting it only in the context that it better facilitates a “Market and 17th(ish)” at grade station, and also in the context that the 10 minute station walkshed (particularly to the east) is upzoned in response to the station. On the later point, I think Tom’s last comment has it backwards – the station location drives growth, not the other way around. No one is going to stand at 9th & 52nd as say, “hey, let’s upzone this to midrise, and then if developers show up, maybe you’ll get a Link station.” Like in Roosevelt, Shoreline, Bel-Red, Kent, and elsewhere, the upzone needs to be paired with a commitment to put in the station; perhaps the 14th station can be provisional pending Seattle changing the zoning (that might be what Ross was getting at?), but the station shouldn’t wait for the upzoning to occur first.
I suppose the 14th station could be provisional and the at-grade station is built first, but I was proposing the 14th & 53rd alternative because it would make for a cheaper (and therefore built sooner) phase, with the at-grade station following in a separate construction phase. The cost savings of a provisional station, if the ROW is built, is ~$100M, which is real money but probably not large enough to impact the timeline. I also like delaying the at-grade station until the Ballard-UW project moves into design, so a rail interchange at Market & 14th can be built properly. For example, would this at-grade station be a shared terminus for Ballard-UW and Ballard-Downtown, or only be used by 1 line? It’s probably best to get the entire project through EIS but then focus on getting ID to Smith Cove built out first, and don’t move Smith Cove to Ballard to 100% Design until after Ballard-UW completes EIS.
Yes, a north/south minor street will need to be truncated, but I think that’s certainly worth the improved station access that comes with an at-grade station.
I suppose the 14th station could be provisional and the at-grade station is built first, but I was proposing the 14th & 53rd alternative because it would make for a cheaper (and therefore built sooner) phase, with the at-grade station following in a separate construction phase.
Yeah, sure, but then you get into the problem Mike mentioned. It becomes like West Seattle. You build a poor station, because it has the potential to be expanded, and then the expansion never comes. There is no reason to assume that we will build anything after ST3, let alone that this would be the top priority.
Of course the area area 14th and 53rd would see an upzone, but the fundamental problems with development on this side of 15th would remain. Much of the area is industrial, and altering those zones is very difficult. A lot of the industrial land is contaminated, making development expensive. To the east you have newly built high end townhouse, which again makes development expensive (the per acre costs are very high, people who live there won’t want to sell, and you need lots of people to sell). If Seattle makes a major city-wide change in zoning (which seems likely, given the trend) than tearing down very nice townhouses to double or triple the density just isn’t worth it. You have 15th itself (a wide, pedestrian unfriendly street with very long light cycles) cutting you off from the bulk of humanity to the west. At best you build a tiny version of Old Ballard* (New Ballard if you will) with not quite as many people or attractions, but more than exists now. In short, a second rate station.
And yet the development that does occur would be visible to those who drive by (on 15th and Market) giving the impression that it “caught up” with the area to the west. This would make it more difficult to justify a new station. A lot of people would object (“Ballard already has a station, why spend the money on them — besides, New Ballard is just as big as Old Ballard”).
A surface station on Market would be very difficult politically. Sound Transit has already said they won’t do any more surface running with cross streets. Of course this would be fundamentally a lot safer (since the train would be going much slower — like a streetcar) but that official policy would have to change. Well meaning but naive groups like Seattle Subway would object as well, since it wouldn’t be grade separated. They would probably argue for an elevated line, which has its own detractors (articles about how Rainier Valley doesn’t like the surface line fail to mention that what they really didn’t want was an elevated line). There is a “go big or go home” attitude emerging when it comes to mode or grade separation, which can lead to going home. Holy cow, one of the big selling points of a Ballard line via Interbay is that you can run on the surface with minimal cross streets, and yet that isn’t even being considered. Running a train on Market — literally on the street itself — will not be an easy sell.
Then there is the question of bus access. If you take a lane, you reduce the chance of taking a lane for the buses. If you don’t, then the train not only has to deal with cross traffic, but cars (making it essentially a streetcar through there). You could take a lane and then mix in buses, but you would still need a way for the buses and trains to get out each other’s way. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it would require a level of cooperation and sophistication not seen here since the 1980s (when we had the good sense to build a bus tunnel designed to be converted to rail). Let’s face it, ST does not have a good record in this regard.
In contrast, a provisional station is simply one that gets built later, for financial and political reasons. No, you don’t save a huge amount of money, but you build just as many stations as you said you would. Building two stations makes the most sense (like all of our lines it should have more stations) but with cost overruns, there is no way we build two now. Build the one station in the heart of Ballard, with a provisional station in West Woodland. Otherwise we are likely to be left with crap.
* “Old Ballard” in this context doesn’t mean the historic area, but rather the station name at 20th and Market (give or take a block).
Could you fit a single track on the ground next to a single bus lane and general purpose lanes on the outside? Buses may have to go around the block to pass in the right direction but if they end at the station, that’s not a big deal.
Great point Martin (I remember thinking of running a single track, but forgot). So you have a single track train, with a single platform to one side in the middle of the street. The simplest thing at that point is to just have BAT lanes on the outside, with the buses stopping there. That would mean buses running in BAT lanes, the train running in the middle of the street, and one general purpose lane each direction.
But you could go further, as you suggest. You could essentially build a three lane transit mall in the center roadway. For sake of discussion, number the lanes 1 through 6, from north to south (1 is the northernmost lane, used for parking right now for vehicles heading westbound). The setup would be like so:
1 — Westbound general purpose
2 — Train
3 — Platform
4 — Westbound BUS lane (contraflow)
5 — Eastbound general
6 — Eastbound BAT
Lane 4 is exclusively for buses. It is also contraflow (so we don’t have to get buses with doors on both sides). This means the westbound bus would be in a lane that is currently used for eastbound vehicles. Normally a contraflow lane in the middle of the street has big safety risks, but with the train going both ways in the middle of the street, pedestrians are smart enough to look both ways while jaywalking. It helps that the buses and trains will be going relatively slow — this isn’t a big long corridor like MLK. If a bus goes fifteen miles an hour there it is fine — we just don’t want it to average three. Another issue with single lane contraflow lanes is bus bunching — a bus can’t pass a stalled bus. There would be off-board payment along this corridor, and there wouldn’t be that many buses there. The 40 wouldn’t bother with the exclusive lane, since it is on Market for only a couple blocks. That leaves the 44 and 15/D. I think the speed improvements outweigh the ability to pass a bus. When the train and trains stations end, the westbound bus lane become the middle westbound lane and the bus moves over to get curbside.
So that would give us an exclusive bus lane one direction, and one BAT lane the other direction, with one general purpose lane each direction. Works for me.
You would likely have to ban left turns (especially for eastbound cars) but that is done through there anyway. Only one lane for cars and trucks heading westbound might be a sticking point. There would be congestion there, as cars backup behind other cars turning right. You could ban right turns, since this wouldn’t be that long of a stretch (at most you would ban right turns on 17th, 20th and 22nd — all minor streets). This would make those crossings safer, while not being a huge burden on cars or trucks. With the lane expanding to two lanes there wouldn’t be congestion with cars going straight.
Oh, and while I’m calling it a six lane road, it isn’t really, as the street narrows to four lanes (to make it easier for pedestrians to cross). This wouldn’t be an easy project, but it seems quite plausible to me.
To support frequency & reliability, 2 platform terminus station is important. A much better approach would be to simply turn that stretch of Market into a transit mall, and put Link in the middle with a center platform station (so Operations can alternate which side trains arrive on) and buses serving the sidewalks. Emergency vehicles would still be able to use the bus lanes, but otherwise closed to general traffic.
But if that’s not politically possible, Ross’s approach is also a good idea.
Ross, yes, I also originally mooted a single track station with the wye immediately to the east. However, I think your six-lane solution is dreaming. There are simply not six full lanes on the street. Look at Google Earth. It’s five lanes at the widest point, just east of Leary. There’s a parking strip on both sides, but the one on the south side is REALLY skinny.
I suppose you could make the platform narrower than a full lane, but if you do this, all the curb bulbs have to be removed.
The best thing is just to reroute traffic via 60th and Leary. Leary is almost never overcrowded, and getting traffic away from the 15th and Market intersection would be a hugely good thing for everyone, especially the drivers.
So just ban private cars from the street between, at a minimum, 17th and Leary. Better would be 15th, but there may be some ambulance issues with that.
Ross/Tom, I tend to agree that a full transit mall would be best, a more pedestrian oriented Ballard would make Ballard even more attractive. There are plenty of alternatives (60th, Shilshole…) for cars. Emergency vehicles could still use the bus lanes.
There’s a parking strip on both sides, but the one on the south side is REALLY skinny.
It is wide enough to park a car. Four general purpose lanes, plus two parking lanes = six lanes.
I suppose you could make the platform narrower than a full lane, but if you do this, all the curb bulbs have to be removed.
Yes, definitely, it would require getting rid of the curb bulbs. I mentioned that. My guess is you could also make the general purpose lanes a bit narrower as well (six inches off each and now the lane you are worried about is two feet wider). I’m not going to go down there with a measuring tape, but I’m confident you could fit six lanes in there.
The best thing is just to reroute traffic via 60th and Leary. Leary is almost never overcrowded, and getting traffic away from the 15th and Market intersection would be a hugely good thing for everyone, especially the drivers.
I assume you mean 65th, as 60th is a residential street, and doesn’t go through between 24th and 32nd (both 65th and Market do). Leary runs at a 45 degree angle towards Fremont. It isn’t crowded in part because only so many people are coming that direction, but also because it is roughly the same as Shilshole Way (traffic is shared between them). It is also where the 40 runs (and where it would run if the station is on Market).
Turning that part of Market into a transit mall would be great, but it would have a dramatic change to traffic. Without other changes, 15th would be much busier (and it is plenty busy right now) as people would have to dogleg over. You would have to add traffic signals on 14th (along with left turn lights) to avoid that. That means a lot more traffic on 14th as well as Leary. It would still be problematic, as cars and trucks would detour well out of their way to go the east end of Market or Seaview, etc.
I would definitely be in favor of this, I’m just saying it would require an unprecedented level of compromise. Driving a car or truck wouldn’t be a little bit worse — it would be much, much worse. Again, this would be worth it, but we are talking about a city that has done basically nothing on 45th, despite it being nowhere near as radical. Add BAT lanes on the outside and drivers can still use the street as they use now (since left turns are restricted) along with nearby 50th, which is two lanes each direction. This is a corridor looked at for BRT (by Sound Transit) and yet it can’t have anything as basic and effective as this. Yet we think we can turn Market in Ballard to a transit mall? I’m dubious. I think ST wants nothing to do with the sort of fight that would entail, especially since it runs counter to their new official policy (or not running trains on the surface if there are cross streets). The mix of issues (street width, running on the surface, mixing with cars or not) are enough for ST to just give up. I just don’t think it stands a chance, even though I think it would be the best option.
1) The first comment above (Jsera’s) is spot-on. Is it because 15th Ave is so ingrained in our mentality for generations that we can’t think of anywhere else to place Link? Yes, 15th & Market is a busy intersection but it’s not a destination. Ballard Ave and the western end of Market St is the primary attraction of Ballard. These proposals are so far from “actual Ballard” that I would continue to take bus 40 instead.
2) Does anyone know why the fixed bridge via 14th Ave is 138ft and doesn’t open yet the 15th Ave bridge is 70ft and must open? Why can’t we just have a fixed bridge that doesn’t open along 15th?
3) If I had to choose, the tunnel option (BB-2B) sounds best.
Reading between the lines of which alternatives got advanced to the DEIS, I would chalk up the disappearance of the 15th high bridge to “Port of Seattle didn’t like it” – it would’ve required a lot of disruption to fisherman’s terminal. They don’t like the 15th lift bridge alternative either but it moved forward since it was the original ‘representative alignment.’
As far as I know, ST is in the same position with respect to the Port that they were with respect to the UW – you’re not going to pull eminent domain on a fellow state-chartered agency, so you have to work around their preferences unless you try to get the legislature to intervene.
Realistically the best outcome is that the Port is motivated to contribute some cash to the 15th tunnel alternative to avoid any in-water impacts.
Sound Transit is actually on the same footing of the eminent domain heirarchy as the Port. Port districts and regional transit authorities have the same eminent domain powers as cities of the first class. The UW, as a state institution, is higher up the pecking order.
I guess I’m slightly less cynical here. I don’t think the problem is a failure of imagination. I think it’s that putting the station in Old Ballard is more expensive and more disruptive. I think it’s worse, and I’d make that tradeoff, but I feel like I could live with a 14th Ave station if it results in more aggressive up-zoning in that section of East Ballard *and* we eventually get an east-west line to connect to Old Ballard (and UW.)
The fact that a line connecting Old Ballard with the UW was not built first also shows a lack of imagination. It’s backwards, and more auto-centric thinking.
Running trains next to freeways or expressways doesn’t add much in ridership, simply because the buses are already fairly fast. It takes the 15 about 20 minutes to get to the middle of downtown during rush hour. A train will be faster, but when you count the time spent getting up to the platform (or down to it) plus the time it takes to get out of the station downtown, you don’t save much time. Riders who take the 15 from other stops (north or south) would likely lose time. The 15 doesn’t run all day, but it could. I would run the 18 all day instead. Again, this would get the riders from the heart of Ballard downtown faster, while allowing them to transfer easily to get to Uptown (something they would have to do with a train anyway). If they then dealt with some of the bottlenecks (like the approaches to the bridge, and the bus stop on Dravus) the buses would be significantly faster for the majority of people. That would take millions — maybe even hundreds of millions in the case of the bridge — but it wouldn’t take billions, and bike riders would have a much safer and more comfortable path across the Ballard Bridge as well.
In contrast, the 44 is extremely slow, all day long. There is only so much they can do — it isn’t an expressway. Thus building a grade separated train would be dramatically faster. Unlike the other line, you would complement fast bus service, not replace it. With connections to fast buses like the RapidRide E, lots of riders to the north would have a much faster connection to Ballard or the UW (as well as Wallingford, Fremont, etc.).
Another example of lack of imagination is the fact that ST never studied a new bus tunnel downtown (even though we built one before). Their “BRT” plans had the buses running on the surface, taking a long time to get through downtown. Thus they had it significantly slower than the train, which means it wouldn’t be BRT at all. If you read the comments, you can tell the folks here (and on the Urbanist) have way more imagination when it comes to these projects. A new bus tunnel; a surface stop on Market (proposed by Tom Tomorrow above); significant improvements to the buses outside of downtown; a stop on a Ballard to UW subway that would connect to both Aurora and Fremont; moving the Ballard auto bridge to 14th with the train on 15th — these are all ideas that originated outside of Sound Transit. The only imaginative idea that Sound Transit came up with were terrible stops in Ballard and West Seattle.
Ouch, but true.
While there are some taller structures, Ballard Ave still has mostly 1-3 story buildings and there are less active land uses just to its southwest. The Market Street corridor is where the most density and activity is — unless you are looking for a niche destination like shopping for scented soap or wanting to dine in a fusion vegan restaurant.
I do feel that there is a horrible base assumption — just one Ballard Station. I think a good mitigation is to recommend planning for two stations, with one on each side of 15th Ave. Spending billions to cross the Ship Canal for just one station when a much larger district exists is just not very cost-effective.
@ Al S. I would have to disagree with you – to an extent. Indeed, Old Ballard is filled with small shops that cater to daytime niche shopping or eating/drinking after 5p. However, that does not negate its popularity and heavy pedestrian traffic. Also keep in mind there is high residential density just a mere couple of blocks away off Market St both to its north and south in the 22nd/24th Ave areas – perhaps(?) even more so than the 15th & Market area. I’d argue the reason it seems busier (in terms of traffic) on the eastern end of Market St is because 1) it’s 4 lane configuration and 2) traffic flowing in/from 15th Ave Bridge. Aside from Safeway, a mini Target and a handful of shops, there’s not much happening in that area.
Ballard Ave is fun — but let’s be honest that it’s catering to a specific clientele and frankly a more affluent and white demographic. Many of those drive from single family homes nearby.
That’s not to say that there aren’t other reasons to have a station west of 15th Ave. There are plenty of important destinations around there! I’m just pointing out that Ballard Ave is not that prominent in the larger context of the draw for rail transit.
There’s a pretty significant draw south and east of 15th Avenue – the burgeoning brewery scene along with significant new development along Market between 14th and 8th.
The focus on the established Ballard is forgetting the opportunities that arise for planning and development in the low-rise neighborhoods on the eastern side of the Urban Village. Maybe New Ballard will be hip and interesting in 20 years!
A stop in the middle of Ballard Avenue (e. g. Ballard and Vernon) would be a bit too far west. I believe there are plans for some big office buildings along Shilshole, but you still limit yourself, while moving further away from a bunch of apartments just north of Market. If anything, Vernon and Leary would be better, since there are a bunch of apartments there and you are closer to Market.
I still think the ideal would be 20th and Market. You can walk to just about everywhere from there. The apartments, the hospital, the cultural center of the region — everything is a fairly short walk. It takes advantage of the street layout. If you go down 20th, you can angle southwest to Vernon, or angle southeast to access the hospital/clinics and new apartments over there. From an east-west perspective, this puts you in the middle of the development — within reach of apartments on 24th and 15th. From a bus integration standpoint, a stop on Market makes sense (for the 44). The 40 would still be able to go down Leary, retaining coverage there. At most you move a couple bus stops, or make a short jog on 20th (which would be nowhere near as bad as the current jog for the 44 around the U-District station). The 15 and D would turn on Market and connect those riders to the heart of Ballard, along with Link.
Maybe New Ballard will be hip and interesting in 20 years!
OK, but if that is our approach, why bother going to Ballard at all. It would be a lot cheaper to just head to Magnolia. Likewise, we could have skipped the cultural center of Capitol Hill, and built a station up by Miller Park, hoping that in 20 years, it is hip.
The problem with that line of thinking is that it neglects to serve places that are destinations *now*. Even if 14th becomes a destination, you still fail to serve the existing heart of the neighborhood (well to the west). It sucks that First Hill isn’t being served, even if other places get developed. The same would be true for Ballard.
Oh, and it is unlikely that 14th will ever be the destination that Old Ballard is, because it isn’t well, old. Old Ballard has charm that can’t be replicated. Both areas are somewhat industrial, but 14th has bigger challenges if it wants to make the kind of transformation of Old Ballard. A lot of the industry is oil based (Bardhahl is two short blocks from the proposed station).
Ballard Ave is fun — but let’s be honest that it’s catering to a specific clientele and frankly a more affluent and white demographic.
Wait what? You are saying that people who go to clubs are mostly white and affluent? That has not been my experience at all. Old Ballard (or what many people call simply “Ballard”) has nightlife, which makes it a destination. In the middle of the day it attracts people who just like to walk within an old urban landscape (which is rare in Seattle). That is not a fundamentally expensive endeavor, nor is it one that only attracts wealthy white people. We aren’t talking about U-Village here, or the mall that will replace Northgate. Old Ballard has soul.
“ You are saying that people who go to clubs are mostly white and affluent?”
I’m not saying that at all. Club goers are only around a few hours each week (often when fewer transit options are taken and on-street parking is free and Link even could be shut down for the night) as opposed to Ballard Ave eaters or shoppers that are around many more hours of every day. It’s a small proportion of Ballard Ave trips.
Clubbing and transit are a whole other topic! It deserves attention. However, it’s a citywide need and not restricted to Ballard Ave.
I do think there might be some snobbery going on in the Old Ballard vs 15th debate. 14th-15th & Market has stores and restaurants like Safeway, Walgreens, Target, Subway, McDonalds, and KFC. Old Ballard: D’Ambrosio Gelato, Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, and Salt & Straw. And, please, don’t jump on here and start listing working class stores and restaurants in Old Ballard. That’d be too predictable. “But, Sam, what about the hospital?!?” I’ve already debunked that. From 15th it’s a 3 minute walk, from 20th it’s a 2 minute walk. Besides, I still remember the comment section said it wants to eliminate the route 345 Northwest Hospital detour, making the walk further for hospital-bound riders, so I know the Ballard hospital walking concern is fake.
I do think there might be some snobbery going on in the Old Ballard vs 15th debate.
More BS. Here Sam, try this: Open up a Google map that shows the whole area. Now pick restaurants, and choose only those with 1 dollar sign (the cheapest). Here is the link for that: https://goo.gl/maps/NYahDwL2QAXZbFgFA. Notice that almost all of them are west of 15th (only McDonalds and Jack in the Box are to the east). There are a couple more restaurants that are on the west side of 15th, but the biggest cluster of cheap restaurants by far is in Old Ballard. A station at 20th and Market would be within a 3 minute walk to 9 cheap restaurants. From 14th you’ve got maybe 4. From 14th you’ve got 3.
There is just more of everything (except brew pubs) in Old Ballard. More shops, more restaurants, more jobs, more housing, more things to do. Simply more people day and night. They just make less beer. I’m a big fan of beer, but I don’t think we should base our transit decisions on the areas that have more brew pubs.
If the station opens in 15th (or worse yet, 14th) ridership will be low, and everyone will think of some reason why it didn’t get that many riders (e. g. telecommuting). The real reason — a reason ST’s study even suggested would happen — is that fewer people live or visit that part of Ballard (although a lot of people drive by).
As folks have said, I think that is the big problem. There is a car-centric view of these stations, as there is with most of ST3. Not only does this lead to a lack of imagination when it comes to serving the needs of the public, but it leads to misunderstanding the neighborhoods. If you drive by 15th and Market, you assume it is booming. You see new buildings, and signs about new buildings. But if you get out and walk, you see that a couple blocks away, there is far less action. What little is happening is town houses. In contrast, if you walk around Old Ballard you see block after block of big buildings in every direction. What little isn’t tall is still very dense. Not just from a population standpoint, but a retail standpoint. Instead of a restaurant with a huge parking lot, there is a restaurant squeezed in between other shops, with no parking at all. It is not like this is a new concept — this was covered in great detail — with facts, not conjecture — in this essay: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2019/03/21/a-better-ballard-option/.
“Club goers are only around a few hours each week”
But they’re hundreds of people traveling at the same time, which is what transit is best at and should serve.
“(often when fewer transit options are taken”
Fewer transit options are available: buses are less frequent, stop running before the bars close, and in many other neighborhoods they stop running before the crowd even goes to the bar.
“and on-street parking is free”
That doesn’t help if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive. It fails to reduce carbon emissions or the other externalities of people having so many cars. Part of the reason people have cars is so they can get to bars when there are limited or no transit options.
“Link even could be shut down for the night)”
If we’re going to have the kind of transit a city of 750,000 should have, and Vancouver BC and Chicago have, we need to stop thinking like that. The El doesn’t shut down at 9pm because you don’t think it’s justified after that. It runs until late night and some lines run 24 hours because that’s what large transit-oriented cities do. They want people to think of transit as a first resort, not a last resort. And they want to keep the schedules simple for people who don’t obsess about transit like we do: the El runs every 5-10 minutes, its map is easy to remember, and it connects a lot of residential areas to areas with bars and clubs.
I mentioned visiting a friend in Bistol, England. He drove a large truck delivering kegs to bars. Off work he seemed to drive everywhere, but when we went to bars in the evening he took a bus so he wouldn’t have to drive home afterward. His American counterpart would probably drive because there would be limited or no transit options.
When I went to evening shows in Ballard I took the 44, which is one of the few routes that runs until 2am. When I’ve wanted to go to shows or events in other areas, I’ve often had to leave in the middle to catch the last bus, or not gone at all because I didn’t want to leave in the middle before the main event.
If they’re going to close 15th to build a station above the 15th & Dravus intersection, why does it also displace 100-150 people?
I ask this not because it isn’t shown in the DEIS, but so that people compare the amount of land consumed by these stations and those consumed by, say, the Main Street / Science World SkyTrain station. There, the bulk of the station is above the street, and only a narrow strip of land at each end is really needed for actual permanent displacement.
I don’t see Bus access to this station being especially important. The D will probably not be operating, and the 31/32 will probably continue to Elliott Bay or Seattle Center. The only other bus routes in the area are the 1, which would have to be extended to get it to either station, or the 33, which is father from 15th.
To me, the station needs to be above Dravus stadding it like the SkyTrain Main Street station does, with whatever land needs to be consumed taken from the ballfield south of Dravus. It should wind up being only a few hundred square feet, and during the entire 7 years my friend lived in east Magnolia, I never saw anyone actually using that particular field. It should be possible to design a station that, like the aforementioned SkyTrain station, only consumes a minimum corner of the park.
Glenn, you kinda bring up another point: potential bus access to Ballard Link. Routes running along 15th probably wont be altered to enter Dravus station, just like the A-Line doesn’t enter Angle Lake.
However, is it feasible to extend the #1 across Dravus? Or even further west into Magnolia so there’s actually a true east-west route that serves the heart of both neighborhoods with a fantastic connection to Link? *IF* that were to happen, I would be in support of de-wiring the #1.
I don’t think trolleys could make the turns at 11th & Dravus/Barrett you’d need to get the 1 down there. Better to extend the 3/13 from SPU to the Interbay station. The 17th station plans show a potential new connection between the station and Nickerson that would make that work pretty well.
The Interbay Athletic Complex? In the 7 years I lived in E. Magnolia its under constant use once the sun is out (like every other park in W. Washington). Why take park land and start a fight you will lose when you can use vacant industrial buildings that literally have an abandoned rail snub line in front of them to the north of Dravus street?
Why would the D not be running? It will have lower peak frequency, but that’s still an all-day frequent route on 15th.
@ AJ…*being a devil’s advocate here.* BRT is supposed to be a substitute for expensive rail. If the D is BRT and Link is coming to Ballard, why continue with the D-Line? ; )
That’s just me being pissy about our overspecialization of RapidRide when in actuality 1) Rapid Ride is not BRT and 2) many of RR’s features should be a normal experience in all of transit in general. But yes, AJ, the D-Line or some frequent transit must be maintained along 15th Ave… though the deviation through Uptown could be reconsidered.
RR can complement Link given different stop spacing: A Line and FWLE; B Line and East Link; E Line and Line 1; R Line and Initial segment. So, the D has work to do between the Link stations. Over the mid-term, more bus routes could be given RR traits.
Right – there will be a “frequent” route on 15th, Whether it is “rapidride” or how it goes in downtown Seattle is irrelevant.
I was under the impression that the plan for the D would be for it to go to the Ballard station, then turn west into actual Ballard to provide a link between Ballard and the station. The 33 and 24 would wind up being moved to Dravus when the Magnolia Bridge can’t be used anymore. Both of those would be better served by a pedestrian bridge type station over Dravus, as they would be Seattle-Dravus-Magnolia routes.
If built the way the Main/Scienceworld SkyTrain station was, such a station would only remove some of the trees that act as a barrier between the north athletic field and Dravus. This seems to be the least used of those fields anyway. I’ve only seen one person exercising their dog there. It’s not a pleasant place to be because of the racket from Dravus.
The reason this is preferable to having the station on the north side of Dravus is transferring to buses on Dravus (which would be a plan if the Magnolia Bridge becomes unusable by buses) would be vastly better than having the station way up north. Even without buses, Dravus is a pain to cross on foot, and southwest of Dravus and 21st there are a fair number of residences that already take the 31 and 33. Link would give them a closer option.
Of course, I’m hoping someone can convince ST that a very busy station can be built in the footprint of the Main/Scieneworld station, which can take trains of the same length as Mt Baker in about 1/4 the land footprint due to using space beneath the tracks for entrances, using the space above the street for platforms, and fare collection under the track. Keep in mind if the line along the BNSF is chosen, there will already be a line down the west side of the athletic field. This just puts a station under the space occupied by the elevated track.
Yep, Glenn’s got it. Once Link gets to Ballard, it doesn’t make sense to run a bus over the Ballard Bridge. Buses on 15th NW would be truncated (ideally after serving Old Ballard). All of the buses from Magnolia would go over the Dravus Street Bridge. Most would turn north, and head towards the UW, while I could see one bus providing coverage along 15th W/Elliot. It really doesn’t matter where on Dravus they put the station, as long as it is close to Dravus (ideally straddling it).
It would be nice to connect Queen Anne with Dravus. One option would be to split the 1. One branch ends at Fulton (like the current bus does) while the other goes down Gilman, continues north, crosses Dravus and then goes to Magnolia. While this would connect Magnolia with Queen Anne, it wouldn’t connect that much of it (it skirts the hill, and doesn’t get you to the top). Nor does the 1 connect to any of the other buses on the top of Queen Anne (you might as well take the train, and then take those buses back up the hill).
Another alternative would be to follow the 13 or 3/4 route to McGraw, and then head west on McGraw, backtrack on 10th, and then head down Gilman. That still covers Gilman, while making that connection from the top of Queen Anne to Dravus (and Magnolia).
As mentioned, another alternative is to extend the 3/4 or 13 to Magnolia. I don’t think that gets you much though. There would be no new coverage. A trip to Magnolia itself that way isn’t justified, especially since you can just transfer (assuming most of the buses from Magnolia head to the UW).
You connect to Link, but in a roundabout way. Neither Interbay nor Smith Cove are big stations. If you are headed to Lower Queen Anne or stations to the south it is likely faster to just head south. Link will go to Ballard, but only for one stop (unlike today, where the D serves a dozen stops to the north). If you want to connect to Ballard, I think it makes more sense to head towards Fremont, and connect to the 40 (especially since Fremont is a bigger destination than Interbay).
For any bus that goes from upper Queen Anne to Magnolia you have the problem of too many buses in Magnolia. Ideally Link would be built so that you wouldn’t need a shadow, and all the Magnolia buses head to the UW. But you will likely need one that goes along 15th W/Elliot, along with buses that go to the UW. Sending another bus to Queen Anne would likely mean fewer buses from Magnolia to the UW, which would be bad.
One possibility is to have a Gilman bus turn around on Dravus (which is easy) and head downtown via 15th/Elliot to downtown. The bus could just start at the top of Queen Anne, using the old layovers. So basically this: https://goo.gl/maps/jfRrdJf9EGrxqjUj9. This is a goofy looking route, but it is basically two buses in one, saving you the hassle of finding layover space in Interbay. There are a lot of nice things things with this. All of the buses from Magnolia could go to the UW. You connect all of the Magnolia buses to upper Queen Anne. Riders from parts of Queen Anne could transfer to Link. Gilman gets coverage, and you connect various parts of Queen Anne to each other.
The challenge is finding the money for it. Fortunately, ST3 came with a ton of money to improve the bus system. Ha, just kidding. The buses will be underfunded, while we debate how best to spend billions on a single stop in Ballard.
Ross, do you think SPU would demand enough ridership that a gondola to the Interbay station along Dravus would justify it? You might even extend it from SPU across the ship canal to Fremont to connect it with Link.
Ross, do you think SPU would demand enough ridership that a gondola to the Interbay station along Dravus would justify it?
No, not with frequent (and relatively fast) bus service along that corridor. SPU to Fremont might work, given it is a very short distance. You would just go right across at essentially Third, or maybe an east-west crossing as an extension of Bertona. This would put you on the west side of Fremont, which is fine. It makes less sense with the improvements they are making with the 40 though. That will make the 31/32 much faster, especially heading towards Magnolia.
You might even extend it from SPU across the ship canal to Fremont to connect it with Link.
Not much value in connecting Fremont to Interbay either. Interbay is a minor destination. So is Smith Cove. If you are heading towards Ballard from Fremont, the 40 is much better. If you are heading downtown or to South Lake Union, the 40 is better, while the 28 provides an express. That leaves Lower Queen Anne. For that the 40 followed by the train would be fine. The surface options should improve in the future with an 8 (or similar bus) that goes across SR 99 on Harrison, and then doglegs up to Mercer. There would be people that prefer the gondola/Ballard Link combination, but not enough to justify the cost. We would be better off building the Capitol Hill/SLU/Seattle Center gondola, which would help that connection as well (take the 40, then the gondola). That remains the only gondola I would build in the city.
I’m seeing slides in the advisory group video that 51% of the 13.100 boardings are from bus transfers.
ST already identified that 15th and Market is a barrier to access but the 14th Ave ignores this.
For some reason, both 14th Ave stations straddle Market Street. It’s not really clear why a station should straddle Market St but not 15th Ave. This straddling creates a need for a mezzanine. The most obvious reason would be for riders transferring to and from westbound buses on Market St.
The 15th Ave platforms all lie south of Market St. They all include entrances on both sides and a mezzanine across 15th Ave. There is no explicit entrance north of Market on these alternatives but they raise the possibility.
All alternatives involve at least a 55 foot elevation change to the platform. That appears to be 94 stair steps in total. That’s akin to walking up or down to a six or seven story building. There is no discussion about escalators or elevators. Problems and skimping on providing good and redundant vertical circulation is of course a huge institutional blind spot for ST. (Observation: If all alternatives have a mezzanine anyway, why not have an east-west station platform alternative?)
The advisory group quickly dug into walkshed issues and RapidRide transferring issues. ST appears to whitewash the impact of waiting to cross the street and punts on the need for RapidRide buses to shift to serve the 14th Ave station alternatives.
By waiting until the end of a very long meeting to discuss Ballard, it appears that ST has again limited Committee discourse and solutions finding. I really wish there was more harsh criticism for ST doing this kind of topic manipulation by staff at these meetings. Ballard should have been the first topic — not the last.
The Ballard/Interbay CAG meeting discussing the results of the DEIS was Meeting #3, which is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjZoa2xSViE
For other folks’ reference, the actual 10% design concept drawings are here: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/10c-wsble-drafteis-appendixj-drawings-ballard-202201.pdf
The sidewalks aren’t wide enough north of Market to allow for station entrances or exits without at least partial demolition of the two new buildings on the northwest and northeast corners of Market – and that’s a massive no-go.
What’s surprising to me is that ST has now estimated that the cost to build a bridge over the canal (while mitigating impacts to the Canal in addition to the real estate costs) to be similarly expensive (within ~5-10% of cost) of drilling a tunnel.
So, based on that analysis, I think we may see a preference for a tunnel station in Ballard. As much as I’d love to commute to downtown on a high bridge with gorgeous views of the Cascades, it’s seeming like real estate costs are simply going to be too high.
One thing that ST has identified really nicely in their underground 15th Avenue concepts is the idea of a public pedestrian underpass for 15th Avenue. However, their plans putting the station deep below grade alongside 15th Avenue, which appears to be driven by the depth the tunnel needs to reach under the Canal. However, my ruler suggests that if they maintained the 4% grade all the way 52nd, they’d be able to get right below grade. An 80′ deep station at 15th/Market is bonkers – only slightly improved by the 65′ deep concept at 14th/Market.
WoW!1 very eye-opening documents not just for Ballard but the whole line. I’m looking at the pecs for the second International Dist….they’re considering a stacked platform…
I agree that it looks like a tunnel is the route they will take. The impacts of in water construction are likely to push them away from any bridges.
I think the deep 15th station is because the station will not be below the ROW. It will be off where the safeway gas station is now. To the north is the new building with Target, so they probably need to steer clear of their underground parking garage.
All the more reason to put the station at 20th, but it might already be too late for that one.
I just did a deep dive into the Target building permits/plans and found that their deepest vertical piles are 32 feet below grade, while the tunnel-15th plan has the top of the tail tracks at 64 feet below grade. I’m no structural engineer and it seems like there ought to be a way for ST to dig more shallowly beneath that building.
Interesting, that’s great information. I agree that ST should look at making the tunnel shallower.
The only other thing I noted was some crossover tracks between where the slope transitions from 4% to 1%. This might have something to do with the slope closer to the station having to be flatter, thus resulting in a deeper station. But I imagine that they could still find a way to push the station at 20-30 feet up without causing any real construction risk.
Thanks for pulling the design concept drawings Nathan, I’ll be sure to include a link to those in the next post.
Not sure why its not listed more clearly in the post. But the estimated cost of each alternative. I bring this up because according to this the tunnel options either costs the same as a bridge design or a measly 100mil more. Raising the question of if 3rd party funding is really needed, or even that much of a barrier.
IBB-1a = $1.5 to 1.6B <fixed bridge
IBB-1b = $1.6B <fixed bridge
IBB-2a = $1.5B <tunnel to 14th
IBB-2b = $1.7B <tunnel to 15th
IBB-3 = $1.5B <draw bridge
Additionally I'm not sure what makes a tunnel to 15th 200mil more expensive than a tunnel to 14th?
Yes I agree that the categorization doesn’t match the cost facts as presented. It actually makes me skeptical of all the cost estimates. Is it more expensive or not? ST is talking out of both sides of their mouths.
My understanding, based on a question answered in the third CAG meeting, the “Third Party Funding Required” flag was established by the Board prior to completion of the DEIS. Only with the DEIS was it found that for the IBB segment the costs are similar. So, once the Board is looking at the FEIS and considering what design to advance to construction, they’ll either have to pursue third party funding for none of the alternatives, or for all of them.
Fifteenth and Market is a block closer to the Canal than is Fourteenth and Market. That’s why the station is deeper. Since the station it requires more excavation, thicker walls because of the greater pressure and weight of the structure itself.
Thus, an extra hundred million dollars.
“Since the station is deeper”
Nice theory, but it doesn’t track with the concept drawings for the tunnel, since it reaches the depth of the 15th/Market station a few blocks before it gets there.
OK, thank you. It must then be that they need ten or fifteen feet of earth above the tail tubes, which sounds right to me. Remember the tubes are about 20 deet OD, and the tracks are about five feet from the outside bottom (one foot for the compression rings and four feet for curvature).
So a 65 foot deep platform would give a fifty foot deep top of tunnel. That would be fifteen feet below the building’s deep foundation. So they might be able to come up five feet, but probably no more.
My guess is the extra cost is because at 15th you have traffic issues from all directions, and more expensive property.
Thanks for the feedback! There are a couple reasons why I was wary to list these prominently in the post. First, these preliminary estimates seem subject to change (look how we got here). Second, the nebulous third-party funding hitch is difficult to evaluate alongside the top line numbers. Third, I confess that I was just a little bit suspicious of how the tunneled options could be so comparable to the cost of an elevated route.
In retrospect, I think it’d be best for me to include these numbers more clearly going forwards. It seems like there’s no shortage of interest in parsing the involved details.
Im looking at how riders get to and from the station. A few observations:
1. I’m rather doubtful that these stations won’t have lots of drop offs and pick ups. (When asked about it in the video, the staff suggested that it is “out of their purview”. That rings hollow to me as it affects rail ridership.) I suspect that ther methodology predates survey data about shared rides as well as texting household members. BART is up to over 20 percent of riders arriving this way at many stations for example — with percentages much lower 20 years ago. Surely Magnolia and Loyal Heights will produce lots of drop offs and pick ups.
2. It just seems so odd that Smith Cove Station has less than 1000 riders arriving by bus and Ballard Station has more than 7000 riders arriving by bus, yet they reserve 12 bus bats at Smith Cove — but provide no emphasis about the number of proposed bus bays at Ballard. The numbers are the opposite of the concern. I could see how the cruise ship terminal could need shuttle buses, but that’s not mentioned in their presentation. Bus arrival ridership at Ballard alone are supposed to be as high as the total ridership to both Smith Cove and Interbay combined!
I think the assumption is that almost every route that stops at Ballard is continuing on to somewhere else but just about every bus that will stop at Smith Cove will be turning around to go back to Magnolia.
The Magnolia Bridge is going away. The Magnolia buses will go across Dravus. Most will go to the UW. If a bus does go south past Smith Cove, it will keep going to downtown (via Western). The bus bays at Smith Cove are for buses coming from the other direction.
“The Magnolia Bridge is going away.”
That sounds like the same kind of wishful thinking as “West Woodland will become as dense and busy as Real Ballard.” You think it should go away but the city has never shown willingness to consider it. We wanted the Alaskan Way Viaduct to not be replaced by a freeway and even had two votes against it, but the city and state replaced it with a freeway tunnel anyway saying it was needed for car circulation. Until I see some willingness from the city to consider a Magnolia Bridge-free future, I can’t believe it won’t be replaced by another bridge.
You think it should go away but the city has never shown willingness to consider it.
Yes it has, read the reports (https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/BridgeStairsProgram/bridges/Magnolia/MBPS-AlternativeAnalysisMemo-Spring2019.pdf). Not only is it being considered, but the favored option is to get rid of the bridge. Replacing the bridge is down the list.
The analysis has gotten a lot of criticism (https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/05/30/new-armory-way-bridge-highly-rated-in-faulty-magnolia-bridge-study/). I’ve been very critical as well (they spend way too much money trying to get the handful of people to Smith Cove easy access from every direction). But just about everyone agrees that replacing the bridge is just too expensive. Either they build a new bridge at Dravus or at Armory. Either way, the buses should all converge onto Dravus, even if there isn’t a Link station there.
Rather than “should” more along the lines of “have to” as even now there are only three ways road vehicles can get across the BNSF yard: Magnolia Bridge, Dravus and Emerson.
My point is even if there are four ways to get across in the future (with a new bridge at Armory replacing the Magnolia Bridge), *all* of the buses should cross at Dravus. That should be the case when the Magnolia Bridge is removed, where there is a Link station there or not.
1. BART serves very long distance suburbs. So does Link, but not here. Riders are more likely to take a bus to make that connection in the city (even the suburban parts of the city).
2. Ballard riders will arrive by bus, but the bus probably won’t terminate there. For example, if the station is at 15th, the D will turn west on Market, and lay over with the 44. More than anything though, they can’t spare the space. In contrast, Smith Cove is in the middle of nowhere, so making room for a bus bay is cheap. There are several possible layovers. One would be to extend the 8, providing coverage for parts of Elliot. Another is to extend a downtown bus along Western to Smith Cove, taking the place of coverage provided by the 24/33. That would leave a service hole between Smith Cove and Dravus, but that might be OK. Or that section gets covered by an infrequent bus, while Western gets more frequent service. I agree though, that many bus bays seems excessive.
I think my new Ideal Scenario for the IBB section of WSBLE is the elevated station over the Dravus Bridge, leading to a tunnel to 15th Avenue. The tunnel portal could be in a very similar location to where it’s conceived right now (just south of the Emerson bridge, west of 15th) and the underground station on 15th would sport a neat pedestrian underpass.
I foresee this station getting a lot of use when the Ballard Bridge needs to be replaced.
The residential and industrial impacts inherent in the aerial alignments will push the Board to go for the tunnel route.
14th went from a throwaway alternate to a majority of alternates? Is it April 1st already?
Lot’s of new large apt buildings being built on Market between 11th and 9th. The 15 Ave NW corridor is the future of growth. Yes, Old Ballard is the sentimental heart of Ballard, but it’s not where most growth will occur in the future. 15th is the future, Old Ballard is the past. Old Ballard has no upside potential like 15th does.
Cool. So you’d be OK then with putting DSTT2 down Broadway because Ye Olde Seattle isn’t the future?
I say this only partly in jest. Parts of MAX have spurred new development in a number of places, but others remain pretty dead because the economic reasons for their deadness wasn’t something that MAX could bring, or could bring being built where it was.
In 1998, the Beaverton MAX station opened. Downtown Beaverton remains a quaint district of small restaurants similar to Magnolia Village. There isn’t much near the MAX station itself, though there are things within a half mile walk or so. The problem is there’s a wide, busy road and some blocks distant between old downtown Braverton and the MAX station, sort of like 15th acts as a wall between areas. Even some 25 years later, there’s still a big vacant lot north of the station.
At the same time, the first MAX line had some $1 billion in development next to it within several years of opening, and on the 1980s $1 billion was a lot of money.
So you have to use the “placemaking” argument carefully. Properly done, transit improvements absolutely can create places. However, it can’t work miracles and the certain thing to do is add transit to places that already exist.
The argument is for Real Ballard, not Old Ballard. It’s not just for the old-fashioned storefronts on Ballard Ave but the entire dense area between 24th and 17th, which has a lot of new buildings as well as old buildings. East of 15th the zoning tapers down to single-family a few blocks away, so it will never be as large as west of 15th unless the city has an about-face on zoning.
Even if 15th to 8th becomes as dense or more than 15th to 22nd, can we count on the pedestrian concentration moving with it? Swedish won’t move. The recreation and tourist attractions on Ballard Ave won’t move. The library and commons park won’t move. So a certain number of pedestrians will still going to those places regardless of development east of 15th. Others might move east to future trendier bars and better open space and a wider variety of businesses, but is that guaranteed? Or does past experience show the opposite? Roosevelt Way in the U-District and MLK in Columbia City were built up, yet people still mostly go to the Ave and Rainier Avenue because they’re unique and have unique things and atmosphere that people want, while Roosevelt and MLK are generic and indistinguishable from any recent suburban development.
So we can say that the center of the neighborhood might move, although it’s at least as likely that it won’t. And there’s a high likelihood that the new neighborhood’s density won’t be increased above the ST3 tapering, and that it won’t attract anybody but people who live in those new buildings. It’s a good thing if people inhabit new buildings east of 15th and use the planned Link station, but the buildings west of 15th will still be there and also have residents, and there’s more units per mile there — as well as the unique things that currently attract people from out of the neighborhood.
Nice one Sam — the king of the trolls. There is way more development west of 15th than east of it. The development to the west is also bigger. 14th will never catch up to 15th in terms of potential ridership, let alone pass it. Never.
It wasn’t an alternative at all until the Port objected to 15th after the vote. It could have objected to 15th in the 1990s when it was first drawn up, or in 2000 when the Monorail was planned on 15th, or in 2012 during the corridor study, or in 2016 when it went into the ST3 system plan when the ballot measure was being written. Instead it led us all to believe 15th was fine, and then in 2019 suddenly decided it didn’t want light rail near it.
If you are going to pay for a tunnel, it should go to 20th. Even if it is cheapest to cross under the canal at 14th, it should turn and go to 20th. An underground station at 20th (oriented east-west) would be ideal from a rider standpoint.
It would also set us for the future. A reverse split is less than ideal from a headway standpoint, but unlikely to be much of an issue (neither line should run more than every six minutes, so interlining in Ballard would be fine). That would dramatically cut the cost of a future Ballard to UW line (one station would already be paid for). You wouldn’t need a station at 15th, since the buses that run on 15th (the 15 and D) would turn on Market and serve the station. That leaves only three more essential stations. You would want to have provisional stations for the future (at maybe 8th and/or Stone Way) but that would provide most of the benefit of the Ballard to UW line, especially if you designed it to serve both lower Fremont and the Aurora buses (which in my opinion, would not be that difficult). Even if these stations are expensive, that isn’t a horribly expensive project. The interlining would be much easier, since the station would be built for it in the first place (unlike the UW station). The UW to Ballard bus would not continue towards Interbay, but few would ride it if did (unlike Ballard to UW to Capitol Hill).
If we are going to build a very expensive underground connection to Ballard, it should go to the heart of Ballard, and provide the potential for the connection to the UW.
I agree. Based on the DEIS as it currently stands, a tunnel seems highly likely based on the relatively low cost increase and the larger impacts of in water construction. And if a tunnel is decided on, 20th wouldn’t be that much more expensive than 15th – something the City of Seattle could easily figure out a way to pay for. This all assumes that the political willpower to do so exists, but first the board would need to direct ST to study a station at 20th as a supplemental DEIS.
Early in the process, 20th was ruled out because they looked at getting there in the most direct way possible. Again, this is a lack of imagination. If crossing to the east is cheaper, so be it. Trains can turn. An east-west station is just as good if not better than one oriented north-south. For that matter, it could be at an angle if that works better. There are a number of different ways to get there, and a number of different ways to build the station. But unlike some of the other plans, this looks less disruptive.
My guess is the staging area would be at the triangle formed by Barnes, Market and 17th. That part of Barnes would be closed off, making it similar to how they did construction for the U-District Station. If they have to, they could buy up some of the land in that triangle, because unlike most of the neighborhood, it hasn’t been developed. Other than the 1906 building on the corner, it is neither valuable nor historic. You’ve got two low slung buildings off of Barnes (https://goo.gl/maps/WrrtnGVnJ9VtasEJ7) and parking. It is possible you wouldn’t need to buy up anything (just tear up Barnes). Worse case scenario they buy up the entire triangle, but that is only 4 million according to the last appraisal, with all of the value in the land (https://blue.kingcounty.com/Assessor/eRealProperty/Dashboard.aspx?ParcelNbr=2768400005). Neither of the low slung buildings are long for this world (eventually they will be sold and converted to big buildings) but it is possible they could just dig up the parking lot. No matter what, this seems quite plausible, and relatively cheap (compared to the other underground options).
I am strongly considering asking ST (during the next CAG meeting) what pressure would be required to get them to consider a supplemental EIS for an east-west station off Market between 20th and 22nd, south of 56th. All that’s there is parking lots, 56th from 15th to 20th is plenty wide for bus traffic and currently sterile.
Some will argue that this makes further northward extension very difficult, but my response would be that a northward extension from Ballard is not in the ST Long-Range Plan, whereas a line from Ballard to UW is, and an E-W station in Ballard would serve the LRP better than forcing a poorly-placed N-S station east of the center of the Urban Village.
I would suggest promoting the general concept of an east-west station under or over Market anywhere from straddling 15th to 20th. I would even mention an at grade assessment as some have suggested here. I would hate to see the idea discarded just because it was presented too specific.
I noticed that CID had a diagonal alternative in the DEIS that I don’t remember being considered before. It was presented as a variation to an existing alternative. ST also move mdr the Shoreline South station northward after the DEIS was published. Perhaps the option would not merit a whole new environmental review process if the platform was closer to the existing 15th Ave station alternatives while following the 14th Ave corridor for the ship canal crossing (a mix-match variation). So maybe an east-west Ballard Station wouldn’t even require revisiting the DEIS!
“a northward extension from Ballard is not in the ST Long-Range Plan”
I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Earlier versions did have an extension to 85th. That’s logical since it’s a north-south line, and terminating in the middle of Ballard is awkward for north Ballard. (I lived on 65th, which would get a station.) I’ve been puzzled over why ST3’s LRP seemed pared back compared to earlier versions. That might mean one of two things.
One, the LRP only limits what ST can build now, but ST can modify the LRP anytime to add things. So it may have removed the 85th extension until it gets closer to considering it. ST did remove the Georgetown bypass concept saying it’s unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean ST is prohibited from ever doing it: a future board could re-add it if it changes its mind.
Another interpretation is that ST is winding down and doesn’t expect much beyond ST3. The original goal is fulfilled: Everett Station, Tacoma Dome, and Redmond downtown. The short extensions to Everett College and Tacoma Mall are small projects. The Puyallup-Orting line was downgraded from commuter rail to “HCT” meaning either Stride or rail. There’s an unrealized ST Express on Aurora which ST has never pursued; that may be the biggest speculation besides Orting. It was widely expected the suburbs would lose interest in large projects as soon as they get Everett-Tacoma-Redmond, so this may reflect that.
So if ST ever gets into another expansion mood, it may look again at extending the Ballard line north because it’s low-hanging fruit. But I’m somewhat skeptical ST is even thinking of another large expansion now. ST3 includes much of what was previously expected to be in ST4 (e.g., Mariner-Everett), and lengthening it from 15 to 25 years (per the original estimate) ST saw as keeping it busy “for a generation”. I don’t think it will consider further expansions until at least the 2030s and maybe now 2040s. Especially with ST3 getting so many cost overruns and delays.
I also don’t see ST giving up on the possibility of extending Ballard north and throwing its weight on turning it east or west. At every open house and in every feedback since the early 2010s when U-District Station planning was revived, I said the station must include a transfer stub to a potential east-west line so that it would be prepared for it. I said the same thing about Ballard. The Ballard-UW study was already underway so ST knew about that possibility. But ST’s attitude has always been, “We’ll look at a transfer interface when/if it comes time to build that line.” and “We can’t spend money on a transfer stub to a line that hasn’t been voter-approved yet, and it may not meet U-District Station at all.” (At the time alternatives included going on Northlake Way to UW Station and 520.)
So I don’t see ST committing to turning east or west and foreclosing a northern extension, which is still clearly low-hanging fruit. Especially with Ballard High School at 65th, and 85th being the end of the densest area and a transfer point for east-west routes. And ST can’t be entirely blind to the possibility of extending it further north to Northgate, even if it considers it so speculative it won’t put it in an LRP.
Thanks Nathan, I hope you do that. Well put.
I really think they painted themselves into a corner with the Ballard Station. The assumption when all of this started was that a station at 15th would be cheap and easy. Their own studies showed a station at 20th would get more riders, but sometimes you take the cheap way out.
But then they did detailed studies, and found that it wouldn’t be cheap or easy. There was development along 15th, increasing the cost. The Port objected, making it hard. So they looked for alternatives.
They looked at an elevated line to the west, but it was even more problematic. So the looked east, and found it to be cheap and easy (just much worse than 15th, which is much worse than 20th).
They looked underground, and this is where the big mistake was made. They looked at going straight across (towards 20th) and found it to be prohibitively expensive (because of sewer lines or something) and simply gave up. They never considered alternative ways to get there. Meanwhile, they looked at going to 14th or 15th and realized it wasn’t that bad, so they continued to study these alternatives. They figured they would end up with an elevated line, since it would be much cheaper, but you never know if a federal grant (or the city) would chip in and put it underground.
Now, clearly, things have changed. Elevated is no longer dramatically cheaper. The cost difference between the various options are minimal. They need to go back and study an underground station at 20th, but with a crossing well to the east.
I also don’t think it matters for future expansion if the station is oriented east-west. Light rail trains can turn — look at the curve from Westlake to Capitol Hill. Since this is underground, it really isn’t an issue.
@Mike — Expanding to the north is only low hanging fruit if the train is on the surface or (to a lesser degree) elevated. An underground expansion to the north will cost a lot of money, no matter where the station is.
Furthermore, there is no issue with an expansion if the station is underground. It is a 90 degree turn. For that matter, it wouldn’t have to be a 90 degree turn. The train could be oriented northwest-southeast (the same orientation as Leary and other old Ballard streets) or somewhere in between. It would be underground, giving you plenty of flexibility.
“a northward extension from Ballard is not in the ST Long-Range Plan”
I wouldn’t be too sure about that.
The point is it isn’t in the official Long-Range Plan, whereas the Ballard to UW line is. The only talk about going north was when the the train was on the surface, where the route was obvious (up 15th). There is no obvious route to the north with a deep bore tunnel line. It is quite possible that a train with a station at 20th and Market would have trouble serving Ballard High School, but there is no reason to believe that a station there is essential. A new station on 65th would require TOD whether the station is at 15th or 24th. I could see the train going to 24th and 65th, then serving 15th and 85th. That connects you to the buses on 15th and 24th, and sets you up for buses on 65th (which are possible from 8th to 24th).
Planning for a stacked station is one thing — planning for a shared station is another (it is a lot cheaper). Yes, ideally they already have the stub lines, but even if they don’t the station itself is where things get very expensive. But again, with the UW to Ballard line in the official long range plan (unlike other proposals) it would be more likely that they would future-proof this part of the line.
Even if there is a desire to extend the line due north, it’s not going to be easy. Ballard High is just 1/2 mile north of the current stations, so the areas south of there are within walking distance of Market Street. Outside of 15th Ave itself, the neighborhood is mostly low density. If the best direction to extend the line beyond 15th/ Market is objectively assessed, heading north is almost assuredly going to score lower than heading east or west.
If the best direction to extend the line beyond 15th/ Market is objectively assessed, heading north is almost assuredly going to score lower than heading east or west.
Exactly. Based on the long range plan, added value, as well as interest from a neighborhood standpoint, the next step after this would be a line to the UW, not an expansion north. It isn’t even close. The only reason anyone looked at expanding north was because they figured it was a cheap addition with a surface line. An underground expansion north is not an ST4 project, it is an ST5 or ST6 project (or simply a never-gonna-happen project, like so many of the rail fantasies around here).
If you look at cities with huge or very successful systems in the U. S. and Canada, they simply don’t expand in that manner. It takes them years and years to just do the lines that carry way more people. It took almost 100 years to do just one tiny piece of the the Second Avenue Subway, even though the full line will carry over half a million people a day. The Broadway/UBC Skytrain would replace the busiest bus corridor in North America, and they are just now getting around to working on part of it. With all of this Link expansion, it is easy to assume that it will continue indefinitely, but no one does that (not with the high costs we have). Eventually you switch to simply maintaining what you have (and we will have a lot to maintain). That gets expensive, and with relatively low fare recovery, a large burden. Sometimes there is an expansion, but only if it is extremely cost effective. A Ballard to UW subway seems possible (simply because it would add so much) while an expansion to the north doesn’t.
It also isn’t clear where a northern expansion would go, or how it would connect to the rest of the system. The Northgate station is high up in the air. You can’t connect with an elevated station, as there are building to the east (along with trying to gain altitude to the west from an underground line). You could stay underground the whole way, but then your connection is from a deep underground station to a station high up in the air. It would take forever to make that transfer unless you build really expensive elevators. It isn’t clear how many would even be interested. If you are headed to Ballard, you just stay on the train and transfer at the UW. If you are headed to Uptown, you might as well backtrack at Westlake. The only big benefit is to get to places between Northgate and Ballard, as well as between Ballard and Uptown (i. e. stations that are less popular). It would be a lot of money for relatively little benefit.
In contrast, a UW to Ballard subway connects to the second biggest destination in the city (if not the state). Unlike heading north, it would replace an extremely slow corridor. Not only would this benefit people in Ballard (and along the way) but it would connect to buses (many traveling as fast as a train) along every north-south corridor. The places along the way (Fremont and Wallingford) are worthy stops because they are necessary for this function. They are good stations in their own right, but with the connections (that an northward expansion simply wouldn’t have) there is no way such a line would be considered.
Ross, did Sound Transit or anybody else look at the elevations on a UW to Ballard line? It goes up and down quite a bit, could it be done without excessively deep stations? Has anybody looked at that yet? Where would the stations be located?
The current design for 14th Ave station has a tail pointing North. It would make it difficult to continue East.
@Martin: Some introductory reading, here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/06/14/sound-transit-reviews-ballard-uw-options/
Ross, did Sound Transit or anybody else look at the elevations on a UW to Ballard line? It goes up and down quite a bit, could it be done without excessively deep stations? Has anybody looked at that yet? Where would the stations be located? The current design for 14th Ave station has a tail pointing North. It would make it difficult to continue East.
They looked at it, but at only at a high level (similar to the way they looked at various options for the Ballard to West Seattle line). They had a surface rail option, a bus option as well as underground options to upper and lower Fremont if I remember right. I think they ruled out a line following the Burke Gilman. But again, it was very high level.
I’ve looked at from a topographic standpoint, which is how I came up with this. This was actually conceived with an elevated line in mind (and either surface or elevated on Market). The train to the UW would go underground somewhere between the station on 14th and the Fremont station.
It makes way more sense as a completely underground line, and wouldn’t follow that pathway if there is only the station on Market. It would be more like this. But there would be a lot more flexibility (the curve of both trains could be done sooner or later, and the station at 20th and Market doesn’t have to face due east-west).
The crux of this plan is the station in Fremont. This has always been challenging, as the buses travel up above, but the people live down below. With an underground station, you basically split the difference. It would be close to the surface, but under the hill (close to the troll). Thus the western entrance would essentially go sideways (not down). The eastern entrance would be just a few feet down. 36th would be torn up in the process, but it is a minor street (unlike 35th). The transfer from buses up on Aurora would involve a short walk. A stop for the E would be added up there (something lots of people have wanted for a long time for its own sake). It wouldn’t be an ideal transfer, but we have worse. When you consider that the platform would be close to the surface, it would be better than many (e. g. at the Roosevelt station you have to cross the street to get to the station, and then go way down to the platform).
With only three additional stations, we could spend more on this, if we had to. Every underground station is expensive, so building a few extra entrances (and even elevators) here could be justified given the overall cost. I normally wouldn’t favor a line with so few stations, but in this case, it works. The stations would connect to every north-south bus (the buses on 15th will turn on Market to serve that station). The 44 would still be a decent bus route, as opposed to just a shadow. It would be used to connect people who live along that corridor, which means that most trips would be short (making the inevitable slow travel less of an issue).
I could see adding a few stations, but they would be provisional. Basically just alter the tunneling a bit in certain areas to create straight and level sections. I’m not sure if it would ever be needed though. We are moving towards a less density-stratified city. Right now the model is low density and high density, with very little in between. It makes sense to run the trains between these handful of high density stations (even if we fail in our attempts at times). In the future, I expect more of a mid-level city, with plenty of neighborhoods with lots of people, but not enough to justify an underground rail station. For them (the vast majority of the city) bus service is key, especially if it is integrated with the subway. A Ballard to UW line would do that for just about everyone north of the ship canal.
“If you look at cities with huge or very successful systems in the U. S. and Canada, they simply don’t expand in that manner. It takes them years and years to just do the lines that carry way more people. It took almost 100 years to do just one tiny piece of the the Second Avenue Subway”
That’s an indictment on those cities and on North America in general. New York stopped building subways in 1940 and only restarted on a small scale in the 1980s. I see one extension in 1989, a connector track in 2001, renovations in 2002 and 2004 (to restore 9/11 damage, not additional service), the Second Avenue Line in 2017 with future unfunded phases. In contrast, London and Moscow are currently building metro and commuter rail continuously, and as soon as one line is done like the Jubilee or Overground or Crossrail they immediately start on another. Eventually the market may get saturated, but London and Moscow are growing so fast they have to build or it will melt down with overcrowding. New York didn’t have that problem (although it does on a couple lines), but forty-year gap and lackluster growth after that made the city and region less transit-oriented and more car-oriented than it could have been or that peer cities are.
The Netherlands and Vancouver BC also pursued a Los Angeles style car-and-highway direction in the mid 20th century. But Vancouver did an about-face and switched to density/walkability and rapid transit. The Netherlands was traumatized by cars killing children and a public movement changed its direction to bikes and transit. I don’t know as much about how Germany rebuilt after the war, but when I was there in 1998 it had a robust network of trams, metro, regional trains, intercity trains, and high-speed trains. Western Europe generally abandoned its streetcars while Eastern Europe kept them and modernized them. Both of those are examples of what the US, Canada, New York, and Seattle should be doing and should have been doing ever since WWII.
That’s an indictment on those cities and on North America in general.
Sure it is, and there are many plausible reasons for it. For example, costs are extremely high. Cities are expected to shoulder the burden for the safety net and schools that should be handled by the federal government or at the state level. This leads to high local taxes, and eventually these cities have higher priority than improving the transit system. We are also worse off than many cities in that we have an extremely regressive tax system (a county wide income/capital gains tax could potentially be a great source of revenue). Oh, and of course there is overbuilding, or more precisely, overbuilding in the wrong area. This leads to high maintenance costs with poor fare recovery. Then there is just the sprawling nature of our cities. Even if we did everything right, it would be hard to get the kind of results that you find in Europe and Asia.
Seattle does not look like an exception, in any of these categories. We seem to check all of the boxes (with an extra box for our regressive tax system). If anything, it looks like a great case study for why cities in North America (and especially the U. S.) have crappy transit systems. It is easy to think that we are special — that we are unique — but we aren’t.
Ross, I don’t think you understand what the “stacked station” folks have been talking about really is. It is a station with only two platforms and only two tracks with one set of a-platform-and-a-track directly above another set of a-platform-and-a-track. It’s not normally two sets of tracks with two center platforms one above the other because that’s really expensive so why not share tracks, though that is certainly possible if traffic is heavy, like in New York.
I’ve been saying “make the 14th [or 15th] station stacked” so that BOTH a north extension and integration of an east-west line can share platforms. Most transfers would be in-line on a single platform.
With a stacked station at 52nd/53rd and 14th or 15th, oriented north-south, trains running on the Ballard-UW line eastbound would come from the west, curve onto the southbound “main line” (probably the deeper of the two), call at the station and then turn left at Leary or 54th. A train traveling from Crown Hill to downtown would follow the main line south through the merge from Ballard, call at the station and then go straight on south at the divergence south of the main station. Half the trains headed downtown would start at Old Ballard, follow the route of the Ballard-UW train above, call at the station and then continue south to downtown.
The three plausible reverse moves occur on the other track and at the other platform.
No train fouls another at any time with this system, except one broken down of course. It also makes it easier to fit the system into the relatively narrow confines of Market and 14th Avenues. Fifteenth is of course plenty wide for a center platform station with a cross-street mezzanine.
A [“stacked station” in this case] is a station with only two platforms and only two tracks with one set of a-platform-and-a-track directly above another set of a-platform-and-a-track.
Fair enough, but my point is that planning for that is likely more expensive than simply building the type of station you would anyway, but with a couple holes in the tunnel along the way for future expansion. We are largely getting into implementation details again. The point is, an underground station at 20th would be much better. That is true if the system never gets expanded.
But since there is a the possibility of a future Ballard to UW line, they should definitely take steps to reduce future costs. Even if it is a minimal amount and we end up regretting we didn’t spend a bit more, that is better than doing nothing.
With a stacked station at 52nd/53rd and 14th or 15th, oriented north-south, trains running on the Ballard-UW line eastbound would come from the west, curve onto the southbound “main line” (probably the deeper of the two), call at the station and then turn left at Leary or 54th.
Yeah, sure, but why put an underground station at 14th or 15th, when you can put it on 20th. That is my main point. Whether it is a train coming from the north, south or west, 20th is a better station.
Thanks, Ross, very helpful, I thought people would go over the top and bypass Fremont, this makes more sense. Do you envision the UW/Ballard line to run separately or for downtown trains go to Ballard and then turn around and head out to UW?
I think it makes the most sense as a completely separate line. It is just easier logistically, and unlike going the other way, you really gain very little by continuing. If they interlined the Ballard to UW line with the main line (and didn’t build this) then plenty of riders would stay on the train to get to Capitol Hill and downtown (big destination).
But there are very few trips that make sense going the other way. For every stop on the Ballard to UW line, going downtown via a bus would be faster. For riders going on the main line from the north (e. g. Northgate) it makes more sense to transfer downtown if you are headed to Uptown or South Lake Union. Likewise for people on buses like the E, 5, 28 and 62 . The 40 connects Fremont with South Lake Union, making it the faster choice once it gets improved.
That doesn’t leave much. It would mainly benefit people headed to Interbay, Magnolia and Smith Cove (relatively minor destinations). It would still add value, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be worth it. The Interbay/Ballard line is meant to connect to the line serving SeaTac (and eventually Tacoma). I doubt they would want to extend it unless it added a lot of value (e. g. with an extension to the north).
Before walking away from providing flexibility, I’m curious if the tunnel or bridge crossing the ship canal should be dual-mode for buses (like the DSTT was) or bicycles or perhaps a streetcar line. It seems like a big investment being used for a train only every six to ten minutes in each direction could be more cost effective.
If also used for buses or streetcars, what routes? Where would access points be?
I’m sure it would add cost, but the additional cost seems much lower than starting from scratch.
Grade will make for an unpleasant bike/ped approach, buses crossing the ship canal shouldn’t be important if the bus intercepts are well designed in Ballard, Dexter, and Smith Cove, and streetcars are silly, so probably not.
Yeah, I’m with AJ on this. Shared corridors are challenging. You could have the buses running next to the train, but that increases the cost, and like AJ wrote, I don’t expect the buses to go over the ship canal once this is done. You could build the tunnel with four tracks — trains in the middle, and bus lanes on the outside, but that would be expensive. It could connect to the Aurora buses, and buses coming from the south (like Renton). But it would be expensive, and you remove much of the value of a bus tunnel (that it would serve West Seattle and Ballard buses). It would also fix our mythical capacity problems. If we had a lot more money, then it would be something worth considering — but we don’t.
If we could pull off the elevated-on-14th to surface-on-Market idea, then I could see the buses sharing the lanes. It would get tricky, but I think MAX does that sort of thing.
I think if they go underground, the station should be built east-west, and designed for a reverse split (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2022/02/17/wsble-deep-dive-interbay-and-ballard/#comment-890104). Basically design it for future rail expansion (while improving the stop in Ballard). It would be a weird split — more about cost than the advantages of a split. But folks in Ballard would be able to take advantage of it for trips to Capitol Hill (where either train would do). During rush hour I could even see some riders taking the train to the U-District and transferring to downtown if they just missed the other train.
Other than that though, I think this will be designed only to serve this one purpose.
Depends a bit on what part of MAX shares lanes.
There is a shared transitway from OMSI to Lincoln street that’s two lanes wide. The part over the Tillicum Bridge is shared with the streetcar. However, at the MAX stations everything gets split out into a bus and streetcar and MAX side, so they don’t attempt to share platform space. MAX + streetcar + bus routes 9, 17 and working towards adding the 2. At OMSI and South Waterfront the buses and MAX share platforms, but are on opposite sides of the platform. On a map South Waterfront top to bottom it would be:
Westbound bus + streetcar
eastbound bus + streetcar
The transit mall is a different beast, because it’s two one way streets three lanes wide. There, buses and MAX share lanes but MAX tracks move from the center lane to the right lane at MAX stations, so MAX acts like an elongated bus through there.
As best as I can tell, it works vastly better than the transit tunnel method of combining buses and light rail at the same side of the same station platform.
If it’s a tunnel, hard no on sharing with buses. If it’s a bridge, it’s certainly technically possible to share the lanes with buses; I’m simply skeptical it’s worth the higher cost and complexity.
I think a more interesting proposal is to build the transit bridge first (and move the car bridge over to 14th) and run buses on it immediately, as Al suggests. Later, Link will run on the bridge, and whether buses continue to use the bridge or are fully displaced by Link is something that can be sorted out later.
Thanks Glenn. I agree, sharing platform space is problematic. I was thinking more of sharing right-of-way. If Market was turned into a transit mall, I could see them building something similar to what MAX has.
Otherwise it gets really tricky. Market is six lanes wide. If the train ran in the middle of the street, you have to add platform space, which gives only one lane each direction for all the cars, trucks and buses. Even if the bus traveled in that middle lane, it would have to get out of the lane to serve the bus stops (otherwise it risks delaying the train). That sounds rather messy — a bus could have trouble getting into the general purpose lane, thus slowing down the train. It also sounds slow — even slower than what the buses have to deal with now. Meanwhile, you only have one general purpose lane (shared with buses) each direction.
It is possible the platform would be only one lane wide. That means you are only taking three lanes for the train. I’m not sure if that gets you anything (except maybe some bike lanes). Ultimately the buses would be in heavy traffic one direction or another (or both) even if they drove in a transit lane for short stretches.
The train could run in the outside lane, but then there are issues with the buses. A bus stop in that outside transit-only lane could be problematic. If a bus gets delayed at a bus stop, it could delay the train. Buses (serving Ballard) simply run more often (creating headway problems for the train). Even if every bus had off board payment and level boarding (along Market) it still takes time. You get into the problem we are trying to avoid — delaying the buses because a train is coming. You aren’t sharing platforms, but you have the same basic issue.
A transit mall seems like the only way this could work. While this would be fantastic (they could even add bike lanes) I think it is unrealistic. Third Avenue is a transit mall because there are adjacent streets that are just as good. In the U-District, they haven’t made 45th a transit mall even though drivers can use nearby 50th. When Link went down MLK, the street was mostly just a thoroughfare, with obvious alternatives (I-5 and Rainier). Even then, they widened the street (which would be crazy expensive on Market).
The more I think about it, the more I think a surface station on Market just won’t work very well. It would be fantastic for people getting on and off the train, but it would cause too many other problems (for buses as well as cars and trucks). I think the only realistic hope for a station at 20th is underground (and only because it would be roughly the same cost as every other option, including an elevated line to 14th).
I think a more interesting proposal is to build the transit bridge first (and move the car bridge over to 14th) and run buses on it immediately, as Al suggests.
I’m not a strong advocate for a dual mode crossing — but I would note that it could be used for RapidRide buses years earlier — until the full line is operating. Discussing it for rail branching for a streetcar or light rail would ensure the design could be used for a future connection eastward to at least Fremont if not UW in the future.
Considering the Ballard line is one of the last pieces on the schedule, it seems a bit nuts to me they’re limiting the study now.
Anyway, to me it seems like one option that would be good to study, if it were allowed, would be a ship canal crossing further west. A long, sweeping relatively high speed curve wouldn’t really add the much time, and could be built above the industrial areas east of Commodore Park. Then, enter Ballard from the west end, say somewhere around 26th or so. By train you’ve added maybe a minute, but you’ve saved a lot of people a 15 minute walk. It then could be extended north along 15th with the same curve as would be needed for a 15th to Market line, and/or extended east to UW, or whatever.
You’d need a straight section for the movable bridge segment, but that should be possible.
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