Like most observers, we were shocked when we saw how deep Sound Transit’s station plans were for the new downtown tunnel. Beyond engineering complexity, deep stations can present a problem for riders: getting to and from the surface isn’t always easy and fast.  This concern is particularly amplified by the location and intention of these stations, downtown stations are expected to be high-ridership and a lot of trips will be short. 

Before the pandemic, a large portion of trips in the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) both started and terminated in the tunnel.  We would expect demand for these kinds of trips to be even higher when the new ST3 tunnel opens, which adds high value tunnel destinations at Denny, South Lake Union, and Seattle Center. That demand might look elsewhere if the rider experience is bad, adding 5 minutes to both sides of a short ride just to get to the platform doesn’t really make sense for riders. The scale of the investment detaches from the utility of the infrastructure.  In short – this tunnel is very expensive and better be very good too.

So, is it possible to have deep stations but maintain a good rider experience?  The center of this issue for riders is about speed and reliability to get to and from the train platform.  The depth of the station isn’t an issue if you and 200 of your fellow riders can get from the platform to the surface in a couple of minutes.  That means that escalators are pretty much out as a primary means of getting people in/out of a station that is over 100 feet deep. Sound Transit’s DEIS presented the following depth options for each station: Midtown:  140-190, Westlake: 125-140, Denny 100-125, SLU 85-120, Seattle Center 85-120.  That means it’s very likely that every station in the new DSTT would fail riders if the primary conveyance is escalators.  

  Midtown station, ℅ Sound Transit.  Riders are skeptical.  

So… we need to talk about elevators. It’s possible for elevators to move a lot of people, fast.  It helps that what we ask transit elevators to do is so much less complex than what an elevator in a building has to do.  Transit elevators are almost always just about going from one place to one other place.  But let’s be clear, the one place should be the surface and the other place should be the platform, yet some of the options presented include a deep elevator to a mezzanine that then requires  escalators to reach the platform.  Just… no.  I’m sure we’re not the only ones imagining getting to the mezzanine just to find the escalators to the platform out of service.  

Worse, Sound Transit doesn’t have a great track record on this front.  The elevators at Seatac are a full on maintenance disaster and Mount Baker isn’t far behind.  Our only example of a deep station that relies on elevators is Beacon Hill and those elevators leave a lot to be desired.  Some of the issues are larger ,such as maintenance problems leaving too few elevators in service.  Some of the issues are smaller but really matter:  It shouldn’t be necessary to wait for the elevator doors to close to call another elevator to the platform while a crowd of people waits. Yet this is the kind of substandard experience Beacon Hill riders deal with regularly.

 The worst of both worlds. Image ℅ The Urbanist.  

So what does a good elevator experience look like? Since Sound Transit’s future proposed ST3 stations are going to be using 2020’s technology, we’ll go a step further – beyond mastering the basics – elevators should be automated to be called to the platform when a train arrives.  And yes, directly to the platform, not to another mezzanine with escalators. On this front Beacon Hill station got it right.

As an aside, the new stations at Westlake and ID should have both platform to surface elevators capable of moving a lot of people and escalators for transfers to the other tunnel that allow riders to use the existing escalator exits as well. Multiple options and pathways are a very good thing to have at these two extremely high ridership transit hubs.

All that said, we’re still skeptical of deep stations. The best station in the current system for riders is International District Station.  Grade separated and shallow, open, easy to access, easy to see what’s happening on the platform from most entrances and most important:  Very fast to get to the platform from the surface. If it was center platform and didn’t leave part of the southbound platform open to the elements, it would be close to the platonic ideal station for riders. We had hoped that a shallow station that is level with the existing platform under 5th was possible but Sound Transit didn’t study it. We’re also curious if it’s possible to build a shallow 4th aligned station that goes over the existing DSTT tunnel when it crosses to 3rd.

We’ve requested more detailed information from Sound Transit about what is driving these lines to be so deep but haven’t received a reply, other than the same high level reasoning repeated elsewhere: building depths and tie backs.  It seems like a shallow line directly under the 4th or 5th right of way is possible, but without more information we don’t actually know why it’s not. Though there are engineers involved in our group, we won’t play armchair engineer on this. That said, we know it’s worth asking if obvious things were looked at because sometimes process can get in the way of engineers doing their best work.  

So, are deep stations a problem?  Not if people can reliably get to the platform fast.  If there are truly no other options but to make the new downtown tunnel deep, the details of how people will get to the platform and how much time it takes becomes critical. This new tunnel isn’t just for long suburban trips, it has to serve all riders well.  We should have this as a minimum expectation from Sound Transit for such a critical piece of infrastructure.  

326 Replies to “Are ST3’s Deep Stations a Problem?”

  1. The deep station discussion needs to be separate for transferring and non-transferring riders. I’m rather surprised that the post hasn’t honed in on this. It’s bad enough for a rider to need three to five extra minutes to get into a station and another three to five to get out. But a third three to five minutes gets added for the transfer. Two or three conveyances are often required for a single station and it one breaks down, it’s adds even more time. So it means more time could easily be spent in stations than on an actual transit vehicle. We could end up making someone go from Midtown or SLU to Capitol Hill ride 9 escalators and need 15-20 minutes to make these trip of barely a mile.

    Plus, ST has not disclosed the transfer numbers in the advisory meetings. Is it in the document? I expect that number to be quite high. It’s not uncommon to have to wait to get on an escalator from the platform at Westlake already and that adds even more time.

    Finally, we need to talk about down escalators. There is somehow a bias — usually from an able-bodied guy — that they aren’t essential. Arthritis afflicts 1 of 2 seniors and 1 of 4 of all adult American women. It’s much more painful and difficult for a sufferer to go down stairs than up stairs. In both CID and Westlake today, there are no down escalators to the existing platforms. This results in a huge amount of time waiting and riding elevators as the only option. I have yet to see ST commit to providing downbescalatira or redundant escalators.

    1. How bad would it be though? What are we looking at in terms of transfer height distance (i. e. time spent on the escalator) assuming they avoid the really deep station at I. D.? (I could chase down this information, but I’m hoping someone has this handy.)

      1. The headline poses a question. The answer is yes, but the real issue are the tradeoffs. It is about minutes (waiting, up and down, transfer walks) and dollars (capital and operating). ST could attempt to maximize ridership; part of that will be to save passengers minutes by spending more capital up front and more operating funds on short headway.

      2. Thanks for the link, Al. Interesting stuff. It doesn’t go into the estimated times for a transfer at SoDo, or even what the platforms would look like. I assume with the at-grade options, riders would walk across the tracks, like they do today if they are making the transfer from the bus to the train ( If they go with the elevated option, it would probably take a bit longer, but would still be the shortest transfer.

        Do you have a similar link for the Westlake station?

      3. The more I think about it, the more I think the transfers should be its own post. From what I can tell, the SoDo transfer will be minimal — either be a few seconds (level crossing, similar to the bus-to-train transfer that exists now) or less than a minute (with an elevated new station). West Seattle to Bellevue is the same no matter what the options (up and over). So copying the little table I made below, I can fill in some of the info:

        West Seattle to Ballard — SoDo — Minimal
        West Seattle to Bellevue — I. D. — 2 minutes, 10 seconds
        West Seattle to SeaTac — SoDo — Minimal
        SeaTac to UW — SoDo — Minimal
        SeaTac to Bellevue — I. D. — ? (Could be up to five minutes)
        UW to Ballard — Westlake — ?
        UW to Bellevue — Westlake or I. D. — ?
        Ballard to Bellevue — Westlake or I. D. — ?

        At some point I could put in a range for the question marks (or someone else could).

      4. Ross, in your table, UW to Bellevue won’t require a transfer, as it’s a one-stop ride. Or if you accidentally got on the wrong train (to West Seattle), it’s a zero time transfer at any station between UW and ID. I say zero time because you would have spent the same time waiting at UW for the correct train as you would waiting for the transfer at any other station.

      5. @Pete — Thanks for the correction. I appreciate it.

        Now that I look at this, I think I took a sloppy approach. It is much easier if I just write out all the combinations (this time in clockwise order) then fill in the ones that don’t require a transfer. Then, after that, fill in the possible transfer locations and times. That leads to:

        Ballard to UW — Westlake — 3 to 4 minutes
        Ballard to Bellevue — Westlake or I. D. — ?
        Ballard to SeaTac (no transfer)
        Ballard to WS — SoDo — minimal
        UW to Bellevue (no transfer)
        UW to SeaTac — SoDo — minimal
        UW to West Seattle (no transfer)
        Bellevue to SeaTac — I. D. — ? — up to 5 minutes
        Bellevue to West Seattle — I. D. — 2 minutes, 10 seconds
        SeaTac to West Seattle — SoDo — minimal

        (Hopefully I got that right this time).

        A lot of these transfers take place via SoDo, because it is the best option. That being said, it still isn’t ideal. If you are headed northbound, at best you use the last train car, and then walk around the back, hoping you aren’t delayed by a train heading the other way. You still might have to hustle to get to it. If lots of people are doing this, the last train could be crowded. Interlining would be better in every case.

  2. I wish Seattle Subway would push for same-direction cross-platform transfer between the 3 and 1 Line at SODO station. The sixteen doors on a Link train would sit just 20 to 25 feet away from a matching set of sixteen doors on the next train. A transferring rider would not need to walk down the platform a bit to get to an escalator or elevator. The would reduce a three-to-five minute transfer from 3 to 5 minutes to just 10 seconds. It can be fully at or above ground there. It just takes reconfiguring the existing tracks as they approach the station!

    The current proposal will make everyone going from UW or Snohomish to SE Seattle or Seatac take multiple escalators or elevators at SODO as the least effort transfer location between the 1 and 3 Lines. Keep in mind that these trip pairs require no transfer today. ST is increasing the travel time for the trip from today for their alternatives. The are making using transit take longer than today.

    A final benefit is that if northbound trains are on one side and southbound trans on the other, platforms can be switched with scissor tracks that could easily be added north of the station. That’s hugely helpful when service disruptions occur. Only a fool would assume that service disruptions won’t occur.

    1. That’s a good point. I tend to focus on the other two transfer spots, but SoDo has the most potential for being really fast. Just wrapping my head around the possible transfers (using broad terms) and where they can occur:

      West Seattle to Ballard — All three
      West Seattle to Bellevue — I. D.
      West Seattle to SeaTac — SoDo
      SeaTac to UW — All three
      SeaTac to Bellevue — I. D.
      UW to Ballard — Westlake
      UW to Bellevue — Westlake or I. D.
      Ballard to Bellevue — Westlake or I. D.

      SoDo could very well be the most important transfer, given that it could be the fastest. Digging into the details a bit, some of these transfers aren’t as common as others. A trip from the UW to Ballard for example, will take place on a bus. The same is probably true for a trip from Capitol Hill to Denny or South Lake Union. Most trips from the East Side to Rainier Valley will involve a transfer at Judkins Station, and the 7. Likewise, an express bus may carry riders from Bellevue to SeaTac, and will certainly carry riders from Bellevue to Lynnwood. There will still be a bus from Bellevue to the UW, and it will be much faster than today.

      Yet the same direction transfers will have few alternative. From just about anywhere on the southern line (Federal Way, Angle Lake, SeaTac, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill) to anywhere to the north (Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, etc.) it makes sense to transfer at SoDo. Likewise if you are headed from West Seattle to anywhere along the new Ballard line. Thus not only does SoDo have unique transfers (West Seattle to SeaTac) but it probably has the most transfers.

      It is clear that all three are important, but we should try and make the SoDo transfer great, instead of simply avoiding making the other two terrible.

    2. SODO is also a great transfer location because the station isn’t all that busy with people actually going to SODO. Westlake and International District will be a chaotic zoo and very unpleasant placing to transfer while fighting crowds. SODO, not so much

    3. Why not just serve the same platforms? The RV is limited to six minute headways and West Seattle will be lucky to fill a train every fifteen minutes. Yeah, that means that Lander and Holgate have to be overpassed and Lower Royal Brougham (probably) closed. But whoop-te-doo.

      Obviously even better would be a single shared platform at each station, but that would mean rebuilding the trackways at Lander and IDS.

      1. That’s a good point. I could definitely see that, making same direction transfers really easy. Just a review of the future system:

        This would mean more switching though. The green line would merge with the red line before SoDo, then there immediately split off of it. That might be tricky to pull off though. Seems like it should have been studied, given the obvious benefits (no need to build a new station, great transfers, safer, etc.). It increases the interdependence, but that doesn’t seem like a big problem either. The green is synced with the red for one small section. The red and blue are synced to the north, which means all three are synced together (which isn’t ideal, as one delay can cause a cascade) but given the section by SoDo that doesn’t seem like a big problem. In other words, let’s say the northbound green line is supposed to arrive 3 minutes before the red line, but is delayed. My guess is the red line could be relatively close behind it without an issue.

        Anyway, like a lot of these ideas, it will never happen, nor ever be studied. Fun to play armchair engineer though.

      2. Also, Ross, “increasing the interdependence” isn’t all bad. The extra “overlay” trains running at the peak could take a different path from the base service. A few Tacoma/RV trains could go to Northgate in order to give UW employees (and eager-beaver 8:00 AM class students…) a non-transfer ride; a couple of extra West Seattle trains each hour could go to SLU and Ballard.

        You’ve mooted such cross-linkages a couple of times, and they make sense, especially at peaks when people really value one-seat rides.

  3. The added transfer time is almost as high as the six minute frequency of each line. That means that if lines 1 and 3 coming from the south were run as mix/ match with lines 1 and 3 from the north at 12 minutes it would take about the same time and no sane direction transfers would be needed between lines 1 and 3. I know how wild some posters get at the prospect of waiting 12 or 20 minutes for a light rail train, but the long time added for up to a five minute transfer makes the operating scheme less punitive. It’s much easier to stand and wait another six minutes than it is to drag luggage through a transfer station using multiple vertical conveyances that could easily take longer than six minutes.

    1. Another advantage of a mix/ match operation is that the 2 Line from East King riders could have an easier transfer heading south towards SE Seattle and SeaTac. The time consuming transfer for East king would be headed towards Ballard and SLU only.

  4. Beacon Hill’s elevators are the best in the system, with 160′ taking a ride time of 22 seconds from doors closed to doors open. Their problem is the single call button , which leads my friend to joke that Beacon Hill doesn’t have 4 elevators, but “1 elevator with 3 backups.” This setup is something that no new station would emulate. But they are in another category, positively, from the slow, terrible ones at Mt Baker, SeaTac, or downtown. I’m totally ok with elevator-only downtown stations if they are high speed, have at least 4 per entrance, and allow continuous rotation instead of a single call cycle. Remember that at Midtown there will only be one train line running every 6 minutes tops, which is sad waste of capacity (that’s another issue) but also makes conveyance easier. Much more important is properly retrofitting and overhauling IDS, Pioneer Square, Symphony, and Westlake, since they’ll need reliable conveyance for two lines with service as often as 3 minutes (or 2 minutes with signal upgrades).

    1. I think this could be fixed with some fixes to the elevator’s programming. From what I remember visiting Helsinki and London Heathrow’s airports as both have deep subway stations (like 140-200 ft deep) is that they have elevators when idle that will usually go back down to the platform instead of sitting idle in one position at either end of the shaft.

  5. Look, I lived in Tokyo for years, and the hundreds (thousands?) of escalators and elevators in the public transit system there ALWAYS WORKED. What in the world is it with Seattle??

    1. Many other systems have at least 3 escalators in a well. That way, there is one up, one down, and one available to be reversed as needed (demand surges, one out of service).

      Here is a recent video of London’s deep Elizabeth Line that shows this:

      ST has yet to do this. I can’t understand why unless it’s some sort of sadism inflicted on riders in the name of saving a few bucks.

      1. “Riders” are icky, disease-ridden, sloppy impediments to ST’s sparkling trains running on time.

      1. I’d wager that the ability of Tokyo’s (private!) transit operators to develop and lease the land on and around their stations for profit allows them to have a beefier maintenance budget.

      2. I don’t think urine has much to do with it. Escalators on the Northgate extension were out of service on *opening day*.

  6. I’ve wondered if Fourth Avenue should shift west between S Dearborn and S Main St in a new viaduct over the tracks, opening the existing Fourth Ave to be shallower. That could also reduce the challenge of pedestrians crossing all the lanes at Fourth/ Jackson which is a stresser today.

    Similarly, I’ve wondered if the elevation change and transfer vertical difficulty could be reduced if it was done at University St or Capitol Hill.

    Rather than merely declare huge elevation differences as distasteful, shouldn’t we be asking ST to add new alternatives to mitigate the now-apparent flaws?

  7. Direct to platform elevators mean that each station entrance becomes a portal to only one direction of the tunnel; platforms must be on the side rather than the center between the tracks. Either that or there is only access from one street, which would be terrible for Midtown. You can’t have something like what is pictured with the mezzanine spanning the built area between two north-south streets allowing access to the center platform from either. With direct elevators the top of the shafts are typically directly above the bases.

    You can’t use angled elevators from a center platform without a mezzanine because the shafts would block the trackway.

    Now a wide platform with clusters of elevators arrayed down the middle would allow doors on both sides of the cars to open, with ingress on one side and egress on the other. That would be hard to “enforce”, but perhaps over time people would see tha value and comply voluntarily.

    It would have to be VERY wide though to accommodate the waiting passengers from an arriving train, and, again, access would be only from one north-south street.

    1. Direct to platform elevators mean that each station entrance becomes a portal to only one direction of the tunnel; platforms must be on the side rather than the center between the tracks.

      That still sounds better. Just have two entrances, on either side of the street (which is common in New York). That means you might have to walk across the street, but at least you don’t have to go down a set of escalators. This reduces costs (both short and long term) which can go into higher quality elevators.

      1. Yeah this is common in many older systems. If I’m on the west side of 5th Avenue and want to head northbound, I have to cross the street before entering the station. There should be no mezzanines if it’s an elevator only station.

      2. That’s because they’re old systems. The New York and Chicago subways have too close station spacing in some areas, the one-way entrances are limiting (make sure you’re the right direction before swiping your metrocard or you’ll be charged for a trip you can’t use), and some of the New York platforms seem too narrow like the Pine Street sidewalk in front of the Six Arms. Those are not things to imitate; they’re mistakes that likely wouldn’t have happened if they’d been built later.

    2. Direct to platform elevators mean that each station entrance becomes a portal to only one direction of the tunnel; platforms must be on the side rather than the center between the tracks. Either that or there is only access from one street, which would be terrible for Midtown.

      Why? Link platforms are roughly 400′ long. That’s more than the width of blocks downtown. You could have entrances on either end of a block, with elevators going down to either end of a center platform. All you have to do is put the platform right below the entrances.

      You could even put entrances farther apart than this. Put elevators going straight down to some point beyond the end of the platform but still between the tracks. Put a short pedestrian tunnel from the end of the platform to the elevators. That’s still less time and walking from surface to platform than the elevator->mezzanine->escalator->platform design that Sound Transit is considering.

      1. That’s a good point. I think Tom and I were thinking of the entrances from an east-west perspective (perpendicular to the line), but it could easily be north-south (on either end). That would provide just as much functionality, if not more so, given that the stop spacing is wider on that line (it is a ways from MidTown to I. D. or Westlake). Stations at say, 5th and Madison and Fifth and Spring could work out really well.

        The same is true for the other stops as well. The Denny Station could have stops on Westlake, on either side of Denny. The other stations look no worse (if not better).

      2. But if the station is immediately under an Avenue, then the elevators would pop up in the middle of the street? So the station vault would need to be slightly offset, which may be fine for LQA or SLU, but for Midtown I think the station needs to be under an avenue to avoid demolishing entire blocks of high-rises?

      3. …for Midtown I think the station needs to be under an avenue to avoid demolishing entire blocks of high-rises?

        Why would you need to demolish a highrise to dig an elevator shaft next to it where the station entrance will go? Surely we’re not assuming that the only reasonable way to build the Midtown station is to dig a 15-story deep hole covering the entire footprint of the platform?

        If we are assuming that, then building under 5th Avenue would mean closing a couple blocks of that street for several years. Would it be such a bad thing to reopen it as a pedestrian-only street with elevators in the middle?

      4. Eric, the reason the DEIS favors the deep bore tunnel through downtown Seattle is to avoid years of disruption from a cut and cover tunnel along 5th, one of the nicest avenues through Seattle, especially with 3rd becoming a transit mall that has destroyed its retail.

        I doubt those same stakeholders are going to agree to years of disruption to build a tunnel a la the International District to then have 5th Ave. reopen as pedestrian only, especially when one has to cross or use 5th Ave. to access I-5, just to get folks from West Seattle and Ballard to downtown Seattle.

        The DEIS alternatives are not transit stupid people coming up with a transit stupid plan. The DEIS is a Board and ST coming up with the only alternatives the vested stakeholders will accept.

        Much easier to find the money for the acceptable alternatives than as Tom Terrific puts it force some very powerful groups and neighborhoods with lots of lawyers and voters to “drink the bitter ale”, because they won’t drink the bitter ale.

        As hard as it is for some on this blog to understand, the vast majority of these powerful stakeholders don’t think Link is the most important thing to their interests, or the second, or third, or fourth, or tenth. As Bellevue proved with East Link, easier to move Link to a remote location like 112th along 405 rather than drink the bitter ale. Link is going to them because they existed before Link, because people wanted to live or work there, BEFORE Link. The changes many on this blog extoll from Link are changes these stakeholders don’t necessarily want, especially if they feel it will hurt their neighborhood character.

        So everyone on this blog needs to ask themselves a few questions:

        1. Who are the powerful stakeholders? Certainly not the folks posting on this blog. IMO the downtown Chamber Harrell is desperately trying to woo to hopefully revitalize the downtown, because if not Link is pointless, West Seattle (Dow), and Ballard.

        2. What do they want out of a design? Like everyone, they prefer to not see transit, especially when they look at 3rd Ave. through downtown. Put it underground, anywhere, like other cities. They also don’t want years of disruption, or to be told Link will replace buses but destroy other transportation capacity, like general purpose car lanes, especially over bridges.

        Buses work well, and they are far cheaper, and easier to move to where the riders are. The vast majority of residents don’t think Link will make that big of difference in their lives or communities, especially post pandemic, so they are willing to sacrifice very little for Link.

        I was not surprised when I saw the DEIS. In fact I predicted the preferred alternatives. I don’t think the drafters of the DEIS are stupid. Their preferred designs are designs they think are political acceptable to very powerful stakeholder groups, the same demands I predicted for some time.

        The only complaint I have over the DEIS is I don’t understand the third-party funding, and with a future ST 4 very unlikely N. King Co. can’t start a $12 to $20 billion project it won’t be able to afford to finish, and the fundamental reality is three subareas just don’t have the money for their share of a very deep bore tunnel through downtown Seattle, the Chamber, property owners, and business interests won’t put up with cut and cover, and Harrell is desperately trying to keep these cash cow groups from moving to the eastside (where of course the highest priced properties are on Bellevue Way when East Link is on 112th). This group does not ride transit.

        Solve the DSTT2 conundrum ($$$$) first and then maybe WSBLE is doable, depending on how much N. King Co. has left over from the SB 5528 levy.

      5. Eric,
        1. I was assuming the tunnel would be bored under an avenue so it wouldn’t need to go under tower foundations. Creating a station vault underneath a large building without disrupting its foundations is difficult & expensive and shouldn’t be attempted unless absolutely necessary.
        2. Global best practice is to excavate station vaults, so yes I’m assuming 1~3 blocks of 5th Ave would need to be closed, probably for 6 months. NYC is the only NA transit agency that excavates subway stations without closing the street overhead, and the 2nd Ave Subway extension is a case study in how to not contain costs.

        If the station vault can be under a park or plaza, then great! That may be possible at Denny (unless saving a few trees is more important than hundreds of millions of lower capital cost), but where in midtown is there open space for a station?

      6. Daniel, I get your skepticism and certainly you have some cynical yet true observations. However, you have missed two things:

        1. The “preferred alternative” was decided by official Board action many months ago. It’s not predicting any outcome. The DEIS is merely restating the preferred alternative adopted at that time.

        2. Westlake alone is shown to have 71K daily boardings! Most will be of voting age. That’s three times more voters just boarding at that station than the number of voters on Mercer Island. Most riders trust ST to design the station correctly. However, the more people look at the details, they are horrified and angry. It’s not that ST is stupid but that they think future riders are stupid or at least gullible or unaware and are not yet as powerful as they soon will be.

        The more this comes to light, the more outraged riders will get. As Link extensions open, more riders will be on Link and thus will be aware of the actual experience of using a DSTT station. Public opinion is only going to get more powerful about the bad station designs. I’ll be curious when a local political challenger makes a campaign issue of bad ST oversight. I think it already was an unspoken factor in Rogoff and Todd and others leaving ST

      7. @AJ
        “2. Global best practice is to excavate station vaults, so yes I’m assuming 1~3 blocks of 5th Ave would need to be closed, probably for 6 months.”

        Refresh my memory here if you can. How many blocks were involved in construction of the vault for the U-District Station? What property takings were there in this case? Finally, how long did that construction site have adjacent streets closed off? Thanks in advance for any info you can provide here. (I’m not on my usual mobile device and don’t have access to my saved files atm.)


        Both Brooklyn and 43rd were closed for a long time, while the station itself is slightly offset from the road, requiring the acquisition of a half block. Notably, the half block under the station was mostly 1 story buildings and surface parking lots. I don’t think ST would do a long term closure on a major road like 5th, so I’m looking at LA’s Purple Line as a better comp that U District, where Wilshire was closed for only a few months at a time for station excavation.

        I don’t see a half block in Midtown that is mostly lowrise buildings & surface parking, unless the Feds want to pitch in and give up the front yard of the courthouse for a few years. If the courthouse could simply be demolished (presumably a new courthouse build nearby beforehand), that would be a great full block for a giant hole.

        But even then, the station would be rather deep if it wasn’t directly under 5th Ave, to avoid the parking & foundations of other towers… I was suggesting the station would more likely be under 5th and have side platforms, rather than offset from 5th and have a center platform.

      9. Al, how do you do what you say?

        First, I assume you’d take the busway lanes; I don’t see how you can have platforms at the same level without doing that. So, let’s say that To West Seattle was the “outside” — the furthest west — track at SoDo, to RV/SeaTac/Tacoma next to it, from West Seattle where the current southbound platform is and from RV where the current northbound track is. The southbound platform would be between To West Seattle and To RV/SeaTac/Tacoma, and the northbound where the current southbound track is. Isn’t this what you’ve written before?

        I get how it works at the south end: the “hill up” to the curve moves over to the current northbound busway lane and To RV/SeaTac/Tacoma curves into the existing bridge using an easier curve. Maybe From West Seattle has to dip a bit to tuck under it, but no big deal. From RV/SeaTac/Tacoma remains as is.

        But how do you avoid a level crossing at the north end? Would you continue the southbound bore of the new tunnel well past Lower Royal Brougham and rise to grade between From West Seattle and To West Seattle? That would work, but it needs to be made explicit.

        And if you’re going to do such a thing to avoid a crossing, then the same exact thing can be done for the southbound track from a new tunnel, but instead of continuing side-by-side, they run through a trailing wye into a single track southbound. The place to do this is at the tail track south of Stadium. The revenue tracks are widely enough separated there that a rising ramp from the new tunnel could come up into the space occupied by the tail track and use the south wye for the connection. Just even with that south wye is an old spur to the east which could provide the beginning of the descent to the tube using the parking lot of the Information Distribution Center and, perhaps, some of the employee parking lot just to the north. The DC and the parking could simply be elevated over the trench once it was dug and the tracks laid.

        The south end is a bit more difficult because the hill up starts about fifty feet south of Lander. But it is doable. Here’s how.

        First, Lander has to be overpassed. There will be too many trains to leave it at-grade. For southbound trains simply connect the West Seattle Branch elevated structure to the existing curve into Forest Street and divert West Seattle trains there. There must be and elevated structure south of here, because you can’t have a grade crossing of Lower Spokane Street. The train has to cross above the West Seattle Freeway.

        For the northbound track from West Seattle there is sufficient room between the existing northbound track and the buildings fronting Sixth South between Lander and Forest if you take that one block of the SoDo trail and divert east at Lander. The northbound side of the elevated structure would begin to descend somewhere around Hanford Street and take the old spur closest to the busway alongside the Franz Bakery. There would still be two tracks for Franz to receive grain shipments from, and ST could pay for a replacement siding off the track that angles across Sixth South with a junction just north of Horton. If more distance is needed to descend, the current Franz spur could be moved over a track width and come from the angle track across Sixth South a few yards to the north, leaving the entire length of the westernmost track available for the descent.

        This track might have to descend a couple of feet below existing grade to underpass the current structure. It would merge with the existing northbound track via a trailing point turnout, probably under the Lander overcrossing.

        This solution has the strong advantage that the busway could continue to operate without loss of capacity. Since Holgate and Lander would be over-passed, they should run at higher average speed. The only stops would be for pedestrian crossing signals.

      10. Tom, in the surface option with a Lander overpass alternative, the busway is assumed to go away anyway. In that alternative, I think the best strategy is to move the southbound track to RV/ Seatac to the outside or westmost track. That puts West Seattle trains in the middle and RV trains on the outside. Of course Lander would have an overpass. (Side note: it’s silly to make pedestrians climb an overpass. Simply design a pedestrian walkway under all of the tracks and have that lead to the station. It’s much easier on elevation changes.) It may be that the existing tracks have to shift over to create room for the northbound center platform but with four tracks it is easier to close a single track to shift it over. At worst, one center platform could work like Connect 2020 (before West Seattle Link opens) during construction.

        If the two-track elevated alternative is chosen, it would be similar but northbound trains could be on the surface like today and southbound trains would be upstairs. With a timed transfer, both trains from WS and RV should cross Lander at almost the same time anyway — meaning fewer Lander red lights for the train compared with today.

        As for north of the station, the drawings show that both DSTT2 tracks must cross under both existing tracks starting just north of Holgate. Putting northbound trains on the east 2 tracks and southbound on the west 2 tracks would actually mean that one less tunnel would be needed. In a macro sense, it would be replacing the proposed two new tunnels north of Holgate with one new tunnel north of Holgate and one new overpass south of Lander — and given that SODO is on fill, it probably would save money to trade that tunnel portion for an overpass…

        It’s such a minor reconfiguration that it probably could even be done without a DEIS supplement.

        It’s of course better for West Seattle to have a platform transfer during those years while DSTT2 is finished.

      11. Eric,

        If you put the headhouse(s) across the end(s) of the station [e.g. on Madison and Spring, between Fifth and Sixth say], you only have the width of the platform for elevators to land. If you have a center platform, you can certainly have two and (perhaps?) three. With side platforms you’d certainly be limited to two on each side.

        We all agree that for a deep downtown station you need lots of elevators. I don’t know what “lots” is in practical terms. Beacon Hill and Washington Park each have two, and they’re pretty lightly used stations. If you used a center platform as ST seems now to prefer with three elevators at each end, you’d have six. Is that enough?

        Now it’s possible that if you did the “extension” out the end you mentioned, you could put a bank of elevators along one wall and have the passageway be the width of the platform minus the width of the elevator bank. That might be a way to have plenty of cars.

      12. “Why would you need to demolish a highrise to dig an elevator shaft next to it where the station entrance will go? Surely we’re not assuming that the only reasonable way to build the Midtown station is to dig a 15-story deep hole covering the entire footprint of the platform?”

        Have you met Sound Transit?!?! they’ll do that AND a mezzanine.

      13. 1. I was assuming the tunnel would be bored under an avenue so it wouldn’t need to go under tower foundations. Creating a station vault underneath a large building without disrupting its foundations is difficult & expensive and shouldn’t be attempted unless absolutely necessary.

        I (not a structural engineer) was naively assuming that 140-190 feet would of course be deep enough that you could bore a tunnel pretty much anywhere without worrying much about the buildings above. A quick bit of research tells me that skyscrapers do sometimes have foundations that go down that far, depending on soil conditions. TIL. My bad.

        2. Global best practice is to excavate station vaults, so yes I’m assuming 1~3 blocks of 5th Ave would need to be closed, probably for 6 months. NYC is the only NA transit agency that excavates subway stations without closing the street overhead, and the 2nd Ave Subway extension is a case study in how to not contain costs.

        I fully understand that digging out a station area from a bored tunnel instead of coming down from the surface isn’t a cheap or straightforward thing. I however assume there must be some depth where it becomes more expensive than this to dig from the surface just because of the sheer volume of dirt you’d need to remove—many times as much dirt as the volume of the station—plus shoring up the sides of the giant pit. Is 140-190 feet not pretty close to (or beyond) the break-even point here?

        If the station vault can be under a park or plaza, then great! That may be possible at Denny (unless saving a few trees is more important than hundreds of millions of lower capital cost), but where in midtown is there open space for a station?

        There’s half a block of open space in front of the federal courthouse, right next to where one of the alternatives envisions putting a station anyway. You’d of course need permission from the Biden administration to dig that up during construction. I’d hope that permission wouldn’t be impossible to obtain. Has anyone at Sound Transit asked?

        If you put the headhouse(s) across the end(s) of the station [e.g. on Madison and Spring, between Fifth and Sixth say], you only have the width of the platform for elevators to land. If you have a center platform, you can certainly have two and (perhaps?) three. With side platforms you’d certainly be limited to two on each side.

        A couple solutions I can think of:
        1) Make the platform wider.
        2) Supposing the platform can only be wide enough for two elevators plus walking space on either side, you could put pairs of elevators across the street from each other. Suppose the Midtown platform goes under the courthouse’s front lawn. You could put two elevators in each corner of the lawn, facing the sidewalk on Madison and Spring Streets. Put another one (or two) facing 5th Ave on each end. Put another two elevators in the building across Madison from the courthouse, and also in the building across Spring from the courthouse. That’s 10-12 elevators.

      14. What AJ said about Fifth and side platforms could certainly work. If you have side platforms you can have as many elevators as will fit along the 400 foot wall. Actually, that’s more than you need.

        But, that means that direct-to-platform elevators are good only in one direction. EVERY round trip will require crossing Fifth Avenue one time, either on arrival or departure.

        That’s all I was saying. What you could do is have a couple of elevators on each side of the street — preferably in the middle of the block from where people would have to walk the farthest to change sides — which would go only to a small central mezzanine a story up from the platform allowing people to descend to the “opposite” platform without crossing the street.

        Since there is no TBM which produces the fanciful triangular tubes shown in some of ST’s “deep station” diagrams, adding a five yard wide “mezzanine” crossing above the tracks with a couple of elevators landing at its ends wouldn’t cost much more than omitting it.

        Actually, since existing very expensive buildings essentially line Fifth Avenue , what’s more likely is a pair of mined hallways perpendicular to the platforms, with a bank of elevators in it, so that the frontage at the surface can be minimized.

  8. ST must produce a more thorough report of how much more expensive or impactful shallow construction would be along 5th and 6th avenue. Would a cut-and-cover tunnel be that impossible to coordinate? As a geologist, it’s implausible to me that tie-backs are truly a significant impediment to near-surface excavation. Sure, a TBM can’t bore through them, but it’s nothing a few large excavators can’t handle. Is SEM tunneling really that impossible to do near-surface for a few miles? It doesn’t seem like the half-mile dig through Bellevue was that bad, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it so I may be totally wrong. My understanding is that many of these options were considered before the DEIS, but it’s obvious now that many of the assumptions that precluded those ideas (primarily cost and impacts) must be revisited. To assume that a shallow tunnel would be less practical in the short term just to end up studying two idiotically deep tunnels that will have permanent long-term impacts to the city is ludicrous.

    The deep stations at Denny and Uptown are terrible. They really can’t get any closer to the SR-99 tunnel, above or below? Shameful engineering with no regard for the riders.

    Finally, there’s a significant equity issue with DSTT2, since with its completion, northbound riders boarding south of SODO will have to transfer at CID or Westlake to continue north to UW and beyond, and endure extreme vertical conveyance issues. Meanwhile, North Link and East Link riders will still get to use the shallow DSTT1 and northern connections in a single seat. Therefore, the new DSTT2, with its deep station and long transfer paths, will worsen the transfer experience for South Seattle and South King riders heading to downtown Seattle, which is an major inequitable impact to communities which are already disadvantaged relative to the Eastside and North Seattle. In 2040, gas will be routinely higher than the “insane” prices we’re experiencing now (as it should be), but Seattle (and other cities) will left behind if it’s not providing high-quality transit and permitting dense homes as the climate and housing crises worsen.

    DSTT2 needs to go back to the drawing board. I don’t know about West Seattle, so I don’t address it. I’ve talked at length about Ballard, and the routing from Smith Cove is fine.

    1. Bingo. Until ST engineers convince us otherwise, it must be assumed that a shallow cut and cover tunnel similar to International District Station is not only possible–but it is also likely cheaper and quicker to build than a deep bore tunnel plus mining out the stations and elevator shafts.

      The decision not to even consider cut and cover is most likely a political one made back when it wasn’t clear ST3 would pass. Inconvenience to businesses and cars. Look, with the Alaskan Way waterfront highway (!) opening up and THREE Link light rail extensions operating for several years by the time the construction would start, nobody should assume that the temporary loss of car capacity on 4th or 5th (a block or two at a time, mind you–not even all at once) would cripple downtown Seattle.

      With overwhelming support of ST3 in Seattle and the relevant subregion of ST, and the need to find cost savings, Sound Transit needs to seriously consider a cut and cover tunnel, rather than cutting corners on vertical conveyances to expensive deep tunnels and stations.

    2. There’s no technical or cost hurdle to cut-and-cover; it’s just politically infeasible. Downtown businesses remember when Third Avenue and Pine Street were closed or semi-closed for months for DSTT construction and they don’t want that again. The International District remembers both DSTT construction, the First Hill Streetcar construction, and I-5 construction. The American mindset thinks of transit construction as a negative impact and ignores the decades-long benefit after the project is complete, and looks at short-term impacts to driving and parking instead of the long-term benefit of improving transit access and walk-in customers to the businesses, and improving staff commutes.

      Equity may be a winning argument with ST. All the local transit agencies and governments have been emphasizing it since 2020.

      ” In 2040, gas will be routinely higher than the “insane” prices we’re experiencing now”

      Most if not all car manufacturers are phasing out gas cars before then.

    3. DSTT2 does need to go back to the drawing board. SLU is desperate for Link service but I don’t know whom we are really trying to serve with that station at SR 99 / Harrison. I do like the notion of enabling transfers to SR 99 bus service, but otherwise this is a bad location for a station. As discussed here, it’s super deep. The tunnel portal and associated infrastructure is not developable land. It’s nice that you can now cross the street there, but this will never be a great urban location. The Gates campus is suburban. We already have the monorail for locals and tourists to get to the heart of Seattle Center.

      SLU and Denny Triangle deserve two stations, but Westlake/Denny and SR 99 / Harrison are really too close and I feel like it’s going to get value engineered down to one in the end as a result.

      If it were up to me I’d forego serving the Whole Foods and the Denny Playfield, a location that is pretty accessible now via the streetcar or your own power on Westlake on what is a extremely flat route. I’d look at a wider swing for that tunnel even if costs a bit more. I’d look at putting two stations further apart, like one around Denny/Fairview and another around 9th/Mercer. Imagine how much more useful that would be versus the current plan. Maybe you can mostly tunnel under street ROW and avoid having to go under deep foundations.

      In West Seattle, I would just forego Link there, and let all those folks in Delridge continue to live there, and receive major upgrades to bus service.

      In Ballard, the conversation needs a reset around the merits of 14th Ave. vs. Real Ballard as previously discussed here.

      I think DSTT2 only comes out ahead with some special set of assumptions in which reusing DSTT1 is just over some kind of arbitrary limit. It’s got to be close. We should invert the question and ask, what is the best we could do while reusing DSTT? It might be way, way cheaper and in various ways, better, if not in every last way.

      Leveraging and reusing the existing DSTT downtown has the potential to make the rest of it affordable. Saving tons of people a time-consuming, inaccessible, burdensome transfer downtown, or Journey to the Center of the Earth and back might more than make up for a little system delay here and there in peak periods with the short headways.

      1. I agree with all of your points as well Jonathan. I’ve long argued that the Denny Station is too far to the west, and should be moved closer to Fairview. Likewise, the “South Lake Union” Station is a disaster from a walk-up perspective. It is designed as a bus intercept, but very few will use it. No one will get off the E or the 5 if they are headed downtown. The only connection that makes sense is from the Aurora corridor to Rainier Valley/SeaTac, and even then it only saves a couple minutes (over making the transfer at Westlake or University Station, like they do today). That is just too much money for too little time saved for too few riders, especially when it is the worst possible location from a walk-up standpoint.

        Without a doubt we should explore re-using the existing tunnel. This would dramatically improve the experience for numerous riders, while saving money.

    4. I agree with all of your points Nathan. The impact to existing riders (from Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and places south) has often been ignored, and it will result in a worse transit experience. Of course the same thing will happen with lots of West Seattle riders as well. At least Ballard riders will still have the 40.

      Its why the best parts of ST3 are the cheapest parts, like the small extension to downtown Redmond, the infill stations, and the BRT projects. The big projects are just not worth it. The best pieces aren’t that good, and the worst pieces are terrible.

  9. Looking at the ST diagram above, there is a great opportunity for a pedestrian crossing over I-5 from the left-most yellow “station entrance” zone in the station over I-5. I find it hard to believe that such a bridge hasn’t been explicitly planned.

  10. It’s an odd thing to write, but the development of ST3 has ended up as a bit of a spiritual lesson for me. Not pleasant, but necessary.

    Between the depressingly off-center placement of the Ballard station at 14th and these preposterous deep-bore tunnels–both of which ST seems to be past the point of considering any changes to–I’ve finally come to a place of acceptance that ST3 will never actually be built. And it’s a GOOD thing.

    The real reason why it isn’t going to be completed was baked into the cake from the beginning: the long, long, LONG lead time, combined with the unwieldy route determined by politicians who never ride transit, all designed without any significant input from “examples that work”, that whole mess being baked into the aforementioned lumbering bureaucratic cake, and finally frosted with the Seattle Process ™.

    Of course the specifics of how it will finally fail aren’t immediately clear at this point – some suggestions can be found in the ongoing concrete strike (labor), the ever-spiraling cost of land and materials, the shakiness of our national financial situation (which this project relies heavily on for its funding), and geopolitical issues that are sooner or later going to overshadow local concerns. Or maybe these recent reports are a cry for help, for us transit-loving Seattleites to give the agency enough cover to deliver a mercy kill? It’ll end up being one thing or another, though. Just depends how the butterfly flaps its wings.

    It’s interesting to contrast my current understanding of these matters with my optimistic self back in 2016 when I voted for these measures – a vote I don’t entirely regret, because I think the new taxes ended up getting funneled to (probably) complete ST2, a project with relatively more merit. (I remain hopeful that the city will actually manage to complete the Microsoft line across Lake Washington and the extension to Lynnwood and Federal Way before the curtain comes down. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, sacrifice a rodent…) I hedged my bets a little even at the time: I knew the Everett and Issaquah extensions were pure trash, and West Seattle was little better, but the 2nd downtown tunnel *might* have worked. The Ballard station *might* have worked. I voted, and I hoped. And then the spiraling cost of living pushed me out of the region in 2019.

    But now I understand the following: projects that CAN’T work–because the fundamentals are as weak as ST3 always was–should not be supported. It is cruel to ask a region to pay increased taxes for projects that cannot succeed. The city, like me, voted based on hope. And where did hope get us?

    Then again, perhaps there is a place for hope. I am hoping that once the ST3 hangover wears off – I’m thinking sometime in the 2060s – the jaw-droppingly obvious solution of a cut-and-cover tunnel for downtown will be placed back on the table, where it should have been from the beginning. Perhaps this city will even be wise enough by then to understand that functional systems send the transit where people actually live, with walksheds that return your investment. The next north-facing line should go up Aurora Avenue – always should have. The geographical extension of light rail should be halted immediately in all other directions (perhaps even scaled back), and possibly replaced – if sufficient value exists – with heavy rail. No more parking garages should ever be built with public money.

    But Seattle–and this blog– can’t achieve these obvious solutions by arguing on forums, compromising with politicians, or bargaining with bureaucrats – I had hoped we could, but I see now, no. We reach them exactly one way: through suffering. And in that suffering, learning. Knowing. **Remembering**.

    The next decade or two is going to be a hell of a ride, Seattle transit nerds. Buckle up, hold tight, and remember: knowledge is the one useful fruit that grows out of Hell. Take it with you… or you’ll end up with nothing at all.

    1. I’ve been contemplating life without ST3 for quite a while now. When Link reaches Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way, that will resolve the biggest needs for trunk transit. I supported Ballard Link because of the 30-45 minute overhead of getting into or out of Ballard on existing buses and the political infeasibility of converting GP or parking lanes to transit-priority lanes for the D and 44. But the 14th Avenue station that came out of nowhere to become preferred after the vote makes me wonder, “What’s the point of building it if it doesn’t fulfill its basic mission well?” The ST1 and ST2 alignments have several flaws but none of them is as bad as that, and UW Station was never intended to be a long-term train+bus transfer for most routes , it was just an interim transfer until U-District Station opened.

      The most critical things in ST3 are the three Stride lines, the short Redmond and Federal Way extensions, and 130th (Jackson Park South) Station. I could see building just those and extracating ourselves from everything else.

      But cancelling ST3 would run into opposition by Snohomish, which really wants its Everett extension and Paine Field detour. Pierce also wants Tacoma Dome, although one boardmember suggested that if Tacoma Dome is not on time Pierce might secede from ST. But that was before covid and the realignment. (And it’s still unclear whether a subarea can secede, and what would happen to Sounder South in that case. And if they have to pay off their existing debt, taxes would go down for a couple decades.)

      Of course, the other subareas could continue as-is and just North King (WSBLE) reduced. The city council and a lot of people would be opposed to that. Still, if that’s done, and Seattle somehow gets enough money to upgrade bus service instead, it could look at multi-line BRT for West Seattle (fanning out from the bridge) and something TBD for Ballard and 45th.

      Without WSBLE, ST would have to do something to avoid an Everett-Tacoma Dome line, which it says is too long for drivers (2.25 hours). I assume it could do something like Everett-Stadium and Tacoma Dome-Northgate. Or it could look at Line 2, which is expected to terminate at Mariner while Line 1 goes further to Everett. It could reverse those and have an Everett-Redmond line (1.66 hours).

      I hope sensible heads prevail and at least the Stride lines and short extensions will be finished this decade.

      1. The Stride lines and the extensions to FW/Lynnwood/Redmond are safe, with work on all 7 projects (3 Stride + 4 Link) well underway today.

        Next up is design/build for OMF-S and TDLE; I expect those to move forward whether or not WSBLE stumbles into the wilderness. More interesting will be whether Everett Link also runs into major cost issues, and if ST begins an initial phase (Lynnwood to Mariner?) and defers the rest until WSBLE is sorted, or tries to build it all at once as initially planned. I agree that Snohomish (and Tacoma) politicians are the main thing preventing ST3 from simply finishing its early wins and just calling it a day in 2026.

        We had a good thread a few weeks about ‘what else’ Seattle could do, while the Spine is completed to Tacoma and Everett:

        The beauty of subarea equity is the Board can ‘pause’ WSBLE once it is judged a dead-end, and North King accumulates positive equity until ST goes back to the voters with a new set of projects. A new vote can be a blank slate, assuming there is a political coalition around a new set of projects.

      2. I don’t understand the constraint of a line being too long for drivers when the train continually stop at platforms where the driver could be swapped. Isn’t that sufficient? Regardless, trains from Everett could turn around at Stadium if there’s no West Seattle line. Or modify Mount Baker to allow trains to turn around, and solve the Beacon Hill tunnel capacity problem at the same time.

      3. The realignment tiers have Everett built in two phases (Mariner and Everett), and Ballard in two phases (Smith Cove and Ballard), so the subareas have already agreed to that.

      4. Or just convert the trains to driverless and the length becomes irrelevant.

        Mike, good point on Everett Link already broken into two phases, thanks.

      5. “I agree that Snohomish (and Tacoma) politicians are the main thing preventing ST3 from simply finishing its early wins and just calling it a day in 2026.”

        The Snohomish County political position is understandable though given the historical perspective of past promises. While I don’t think extending light rail all the way to DT Everett is needed nor a good use of our limited transit dollars, I can understand why the “push” to complete the spine is there. I think ST painted themselves into a corner on this one when they eliminated the additional two stations in Lynnwood/Unincorporated Snohomish County after the failure of the 2007 Roads and Transit measure and came up with their second try at ST2 in 2008 in which the Alderwood and Ash Way stations were cut out of the plan. Although I voted in favor of ST2 I have always thought that move was a very foolish and shortsighted one. The argument for extending the line beyond this point would have been much harder to make had ST2’s northern terminus reached Ash Way. Sure, SnoCo’s representatives would’ve argued for the same push to the north based on the same rationale they used in their support of ST3 but their argument would’ve been significantly weakened had this been the case.

      6. I agree with what you wrote, Mike, and felt that way from before the vote (which is why I opposed it). The good projects are the little ones, while the big projects are a huge waste. My theory was that if we voted it down, we would get a smaller package, and it would be a better value (I wanted quality, not quantity).

        I didn’t feel that way about ST2. It had its flaws, but overall it was really good, and comprehensive. So much so that I could probably live without any other major projects. As much as I think that a Ballard-to-UW subway should be built (and be the next major project) I could live without it if we invested enough in high quality bus service. I’m thrilled with the work that is being proposed for the 40. The RapidRide G — though not without its flaws — will be a great model for what we can build (fast buses every 6 minutes through the urban core — count me in). When you get right down to it, the main rail line that we *really needed* in this city was UW to downtown. Of course it makes sense to extend it (on either end) but eventually you get diminishing returns. Lynnwood and Federal Way may be too far; going beyond it definitely is. They are good terminal stations, besides. Each provides an excellent connection to the freeway from both directions, which means that buses can terminate there, or keep going as expresses (providing connections in between). East Link is worth it, but just barely. It will work, but bus service is so poor on the East Side, it is quite possible that simply pouring money into bus service would work out better. But like every ST2 project, the case for it is fairly strong. That isn’t true of Issaquah to South Kirkland, just like it isn’t true for West Seattle to Ballard. West Seattle is just the wrong mode — it is a classic example of a place where Open BRT (trunk and branch) makes so much more sense. Ballard remains the only close call, but there are so many flaws with the project (covered in other comments) that it just isn’t worth it. ST2 transformed (or will transform) transit in the region. ST3 won’t.

      7. Tlsgwm, do you think Snohomish politicians would concede to a truncated ST3 that gets Link only to Mariner? That seems like the most likely end point in a world where there is no WSBLE and no OMF-North.

    2. I agree with much of what you write Shinjuki.

      What you are seeing with WSBLE is a conundrum the Board faced, and always knew it would face although most of us learned later after ST 3 passed: whether to go with a design that the stakeholders would accept but is not affordable without a large ST 4, or whether to go with a design that is more affordable but was not acceptable to the stakeholders. The last time the Board had this conundrum they chose cost, and East Link was moved to 112th, which is nowhere in Bellevue.

      A very deep DSTT2 that does not disturb Seattle’s downtown commercial center that is gasping for air these days, along with tunnels and underground stations in West Seattle and Ballard, are politically palatable. Whether 14th, 15th or 20th or 156th is a valid debate if underground, and if there was the money for tunnels and underground stations, or if tunneling under water really cost the same as a bridge.

      I naively thought the public firing of Rogoff, and the disingenuous “realignment”, meant the Board was going to bring in a new CEO who was going to pull the band aid off on the dilemma: cost or design. But of course the Board was not going to do something so politically risky or foolish.

      I think what the Board understood and I didn’t (except that their political life span is much shorter than WSBLE or even the EIS , and Dow thought he would be running for governor in 2021 except Inslee’s performance in the Presidential election ruled him out for a cabinet spot) is there isn’t the money for any of the options, even if politically palatable. SB 5528 or HB 1304 are about as financially realistic and practical as Seattle Subway’s plan. We are talking ten Move Seattle levies, maybe more.

      Now post pandemic the big question is how many damn people are actually going to ride Link, and how many of those just transferred from buses because the great population boom doesn’t look like it will happen, at least not along Link. That is the issue Rogoff is raising now: farebox recovery, and ridership levels which were inflated to begin with.

      I agree the best thing to do now is to simply “extend” all of ST 3, even crazy projects subareas can afford like Issaquah to S. Kirkland, and open East Link, Lynnwood Link, and Federal Way Link, and see how many damn people are actually going to ride — and pay for — Link post pandemic, and to where now that downtown Seattle is looking less like the hub it was. Take the wins off the table like East Link, Federal Way Link and Lynnwood Link, and “extend” the WSBLE DEIS five years.

      If WSBLE is going to be all underground ST really doesn’t have to worry about escalating ROW and land costs, but there has to be the enthusiasm and ridership to support some kind of ST 4 or very large SB 5528 levy to complete WSBLE, because I don’t think there is any chance downtown Seattle commercial interests (or Harrell who is desperate to restart the downtown) will go for years of a cut and cover tunnel along 5th (even if that were affordable), and Ballard and West Seattle will not and never were going to agree to surface lines and train stations through the heart of their neighborhoods. At least that part I always understood.

      The DEIS is honest that “third party funding” will be necessary, although it isn’t clear to me how much, for what, and what funding vehicle. I think a ST 4 is out, as you note changes at the federal level in 2022 will reduce federal largesse, any SB 5528 will need to be HUGE for a palatable WSBLE that benefits few neighborhoods, and maybe most important of all three subareas simply do not have their contributions for DSTT2, let alone double, and you can’t get blood out of a turnip (or S. King Co.).

      Better chance to complete Everett and Tacoma Link just because of cost and subarea equity rather than WSBLE, although the Board prioritized WSBLE for some reason. In the end I think it will come down to how much all of Seattle wants to tax itself to complete WSBLE, so let’s start with the SB 5528 levy, and make project cost estimates honest this time. I think Seattle voters will say no when they see the true price tag, and maybe that is what the Board is hoping so they are not the bad guy.

    3. I think there are four basic overarching logic flaws at work with the Downtown segment:

      1. Deep tunnels do not match with short distance demand. It’s just quicker to use transit near the surface. A deep tunnel would be great for regional or high speed rail where a rider is on a train for at least 30 minutes so the extra effort required to go deep is less significant.

      2. The corridor’s vertical challenges were not considered. Straight lines are great for flat cities — but we don’t live in one. The design from the outset should have examined how to have both aerial and subway segments that takes advantage of hillsides rather than just a subway one that has to thus be very deep.

      3. Not enough technology options were considered. Deep tunnels are good for faster trains that do not stop often. Automated trains can have better grade changes between stations. Designing everything to fit the current Link vehicles is as costly as a third rail subway yet yields top speeds to that of a mere tram.

      1. 2. I think the geography was considered, but then the EIS process threw a major curveball. The alignment isn’t a straight line – the arc through SLU is enabled by a subway – and the initial design included natural transitions underground south of the ID and Smith Cove stations. But the 99 Tunnel ruined everything (this is Doug’s take on The Urbanist); once the technical staff/consultants did more design work, they realized how deep the stations would need to be to avoid the Deep Bore Tunnel. Without the 99 tunnel, the LQA, SLU, and Denny stations could be much shallower.

        I think the 99 Tunnel depth is enough of a disruption to the 2016 design assumptions that ST should go back and consider an elevated alignment (e.g. 5th-Westlake-Thomas-Elliot)

      2. Oh I agree with AJ that some aerial segments may be useful in SLU. The alignment that I ponder is turning the line to portal near Fifth and Mercer, run above Mercer, and the turn south along the west edge of I-5 (closing southbound ramps during construction). A variation on that would be to bore east and have Capitol Hill transfers and then turn to have a station near Virginia Mason at Boren before descending to Midtown. I’d also consider how to portal near City Hall Park and run aerial over the railroad tracks headed south.

        Of course, I would also endorse a study of having three lines in the current DSTT with an automated shuttle headed to SLU and Ballard.

        I think the point is that more alternatives should be considered that are notably different than the slight variations in the DEIS.

      3. 3 lines = WS, Tacoma, and Redmond, all in 1 tunnel? If Dow insists on building WS first, and then Ballard-ID stumbles into the wilderness, that may end up happening.

        I would love to see 3 lines = Tacoma, Redmond, and Kirkland (i.e. the ST3 S Kirkland stub, but extended further), with Bellevue/Issaquah Link converted to Stride. That would mean not only would Seattle (145th-ID) get a boost in peak frequency, but ID-Bellevue also get a nice boost. With trains coming super frequently in the single tunnel, it becomes more palatable for WS-ID and Ballard-Westlake to be built as standalone shuttles. WS Link as a stub line makes much more sense as a 1-car (autonomous) Link car running every 90 seconds rather than a 4-car train every 6 minutes.

      4. Just buying new rail vehicles without driver cabs at each end would increase the capacity of DSTT by 15-20 percent. That’s a much cheaper fix.

        I’d look at 7.5 minute trains for each of the three lines. That’s 2.5 for the trunk. ST2 assumed 7.5 minutes at peak as did the East Link EIS.

        I’m fine with Ballard-Westlake as a stand-alone automated line. I’d look to using the monorail corridor — either a new structure or as part of a cut and cover line. After all, it’s not going to run indefinitely and it’s already 60 years old.

        When I looked here, I saw that the greatest capacity problem is PM southbound between Pioneer Square and CID:

        However, I’m not sure if forecasted commute patterns are what the assume. There is lots of flextime and partial work from home that seem to be permanent.

      5. I agree with those three issues Al, and can’t wait for the fourth :)

        (I’m guessing you changed your mind, and decided to only have three — I do that sort of thing all the time.)

        Anyway, I would add another issue: Transfers will be extremely important with this station. That is true everywhere, of course, but it is especially true with these lines. West Seattle is the extreme case, as none of the stations on the peninsula will have a huge number of walk-up riders. That entire side of the line will be largely dependent on bus-to-rail riders. The same is true for the Dravus Station — riders will be swapping out their one-seat ride to downtown for a two-seat ride on the train. For the Ballard Station to be really popular, it will have to be convenient, otherwise riders will just take the 40. The “South Lake Union” station is designed as a feeder station for Aurora buses, sacrificing walk-up ridership in the process. Despite the size and enormous cost, that leaves only a handful of places where riders will ride the train, and only the train.

        Then there are the train-to-train transfers. The line to Ballard stretches to Tacoma, which does increase the number of one-seat, train-only trip combinations (e. g. Columbia City to Denny). But to really take advantage of a lot of the new stations (like Denny) you want to connect well to the other lines. In some cases the connection should be fine (West Seattle to Ballard should work well with the transfer in SoDo) while in others (Bellevue to Denny or Northgate to Denny) it could be that it isn’t worth the trouble.

        With poor bus-to-train and train-to-train transfers, this new, very large investment becomes a lot less useful. Riders heading southbound on the 5 or the E won’t bother with the transfer unless they are headed south of downtown. Even for a trip to Rainier Valley, the 7 may be a better option (especially if it is improved in the intervening 20 years which seems highly likely). Trips within greater downtown (even as far as Denny to I. D.) become rare on the train. Even if the trip is timed perfectly, a lot of West Seattle and Magnolia riders lose time (and convenience) with the transfer. Without great transfers, the only clear value added is the station at Uptown, and that assumes that the transfer there is better than the one between Link and the monorail (a safe bet, unless someone invests a lot of money in that connection).

        Unlike ST1 and ST2 projects, this line is hugely dependent on transfers. With a combination of frequent service, and easy transfers (from buses and the other line) it could work well for a lot of people. Without that, it simply won’t work for that many trips. Right now, things don’t look very good.

      6. When I looked here, I saw that the greatest capacity problem is PM southbound between Pioneer Square and CID.

        Even if that is the case, this seems like a poor way to handle the problem. Just to back up here, these are people headed south through downtown. If these are people headed south or east, then the new tunnel won’t help. Capacity is limited to headways on each line, which is limited to every six minutes.

        Thus this is a combination of those riders, as well as riders taking trips just within downtown. But if the train is full, then the short-distance riders will just take the bus. For the new tunnel to actually provide an alternative to both the bus and the existing train it has to be better. It has to be easier to access, and run more often than the other line. The current plans call for the opposite.

        I think this is a flawed approach. The best way to handle short distance travel is with surface transit, not a very deep tunnel, with only a few stations.

        The only reasonable argument for the second tunnel is if you don’t believe the existing tunnel can handle trains every two minutes. Given everything I’ve read, I really doubt this will be a problem. At worse you get a little bunching (i. e. delays) but in this case, not only is the solution extremely expensive, but it is worse than the problem. With the new tunnel, if I’m trying to get from Bellevue to Denny, I have to put up with a two minute walk. My wait could be up to 10 minutes in the middle of the day. A midday business meeting (between two business centers in the region) could turn out to be a major chore. In contrast, if they shared the same lines, it is quite likely these lines could be paired (given the obvious geographic advantages) which means that it would be a one-seat ride. A trip from West Seattle to Ballard would involve a transfer, but one involving the same platform, and a wait of somewhere between 2 and 5 minutes at most (not 6 to 10). Putting up with the possibility of some delay (which is common in many systems) is worth it, given all this.

        The best solution is to share the tunnel with all three lines. Run the train from Ballard to Redmond, Lynnwood to Tacoma, and Everett to West Seattle. It’s not ideal, but it is a lot better than what is planned, and a lot cheaper.

      7. @RossB
        “The only reasonable argument for the second tunnel is if you don’t believe the existing tunnel can handle trains every two minutes. Given everything I’ve read, I really doubt this will be a problem.”


    4. Shinjuki I think many here are at different stages on the “this is rather silly and costly” train on the ST3 path.

      My frustration is seeing a core inability to think even modestly out of the box about the rider experience since the vote on a mere “representative project”. The structure of the entire WSBLE study effort since 2018 has been driven by aesthetic tastes (aerial is ugly) and limited or inaccurate information that screened alternatives to a very few (mist costing about the same). I don’t see the 2016 vote as the major problem but instead I see that the steps since 2018 as the problem.

      For example, the early discussions focused on the Ballard issues, the West Seattle issues and the CID impacts. There was very little info and very little discussion about the Downtown/SLU stations until now. However, the Downtown/SLU segment is the costliest and most utilized segment of the project.

      The biggest time waste was the “realignment”. The staff was either not able or not willing to revisit the core system assumptions and turned the whole ordeal into a phasing/ construction scheduling debate again focused mainly on the Ballard and West Seattle ends. The result was merely pushing out the schedule — which was going to happen anyway as the ST3 pitch overpromised the schedule in the first place! It merely gave ST a way to raise more money and to correct the timetable to be a bit more realistic.

      The advisory committee members appear quite concerned. Many are transit riders and easily see how things are not designed well. But even they don’t seem to be influencing anything substantive.

      So what to do next? The essential task is to respond to the DEIS. That means identifying each negative impact or each impact still not addressed in a written response to ST. (I’m convinced that electronic comments are summarily ignored.) plus, copy your district council member, Harrell and Dow. Focus each comment on an impact and then a “mitigation”.

      The second thing is to push on the City of Seattle response staff to the DEIS. It’s a rather uphill effort, as I think most staff just want to get through the process by compiling a list of comments and then responding to them as a mere administrative task. Still, the City comments cannot be waved away like those from us individuals will likely be.

      Time is running out on responding. More time to respond is needed. I’m discouraged that I haven’t seen an elected official wanting to do this.

      Then, an effort to revisit the 2018-21 work is needed. My suggestion is to do it in this way:

      1. Update the ridership forecasts. For example, the percent arriving by shared ride or Uber/Lyft is so remarkably low that I think the assumptions date from 2010 or even 2000. Staff never says what base year was used in developing the assumptions. When asked if the time to get to or from the platform inside the station there is never a clear answer. Before debating systemic changes, this tool needs to be spotlighted and made better.

      2. Focus on capacity and technology. Where are there capacity problems? How does that add travel time to a transit rider? Having to wait for the third or fourth elevator to get off the platform or walk a block and still have to wait a minute to hop on an escalator (and going through this several times) is an element of time still apparently not considered by either forecasts nor in the estimates of connection time needed inside a station. The same is true if there are situations where someone cannot get on a crowded train. Those time estimates that ST staff have been rolling out are “best case” as if no one is in front of you making that connection slower.

      And let’s not forget that if the ST standard of 95% working escalators/ elevators is met and there are eight different devices required for a trip, that 34% of the time, one can be out of service (.95^8). It’s why redundancy is so badly needed for the proposed escalators and elevators.

      Similarly, different train cars can increase capacity by eliminating cabs and having open gangways . Automated systems can create more frequent trains and have smaller stations with protective doors on each platform. With full grade separation, it could be better to have third rail power and/or high platform vehicles.

      The hardest part of this is getting ST to abandon their current line configuration and train frequencies . Most systems proposing mixing lines using the same vehicles and tracks do a systems utilization study. That could result in short-turning peak trains or different frequencies based on demand. For example, it may be that the RV line needs 5 minutes but East Link line and West Seattle Link line can handle peak loads staying at 10 minutes. The result is that DSTT2 becomes necessary and the deep stations punish RV riders more (adding up to 5 more minutes in travelling for both transferring and getting to Downtown destinations).

      1. +100. This whole comment is excellent, Al S. Definitely worthy of a stand-alone page 2 post imho.

        “The biggest time waste was the “realignment”….”

        I could’ve cited the entire paragraph here as it’s spot on in its analysis. Well said.

      2. Agree great post, but can #1 be done prior to Seattle reopening after the pandemic? A new ridership forecast generated today would be raw speculation.

  11. Yes, the deep stations are a problem, for two reasons. One is, they are so deep, and the other is, they probably don’t need to exist and will inconvenience the population here for the next century.

    For one, Link to West Seattle is itself both unnecessary and, in fact, counterproductive with all the additional transfers, as discussed before on this blog (IMHO at least.)

    But even if you retain Link to West Seattle, I remain unconvinced that there isn’t room for one more line in that DSTT that we have now with (random guess) less than 20% of the expense of digging a second tunnel and all those additional stations. I’ve experienced headways under 2 minutes, even 90 seconds, in various cities outside the US. 2 or 2.5 or 3 minute headways or something like that sure seems doable to me here.

    This is Seattle, not Tokyo, London, Paris or Hong Kong. The burden on proof ought to be on those who claim the second tunnel is absolutely necessary. If it is, then build it. If it isn’t, then let’s do something better and more cost effective. ST ought to really try and make it work, and tell us here are the actual tradeoffs.

    As we do this, we should consider system legibility and reliability, accessibility, safety, operational expenses over time, and the risks and environmental costs of construction. As in, let’s study it, for real, before we sleepwalk into a multibillion-dollar planning mistake.

    1. ST has said DSTT1 could handle 90-second headways with capital improvements. There was an ST3 candidate project for that but it wasn’t selected when ST decided to go with a second tunnel instead. The issue is reliability: ST is concerned that having more than 20 trains/hour now or 40 with the capital improvements would cause train bunching and late trains.

      1. Actually, that’s great if they have already admitted 90 second headways are possible – very encouraging. How much are these capital improvements and why are we not having a conversation about that concrete amount of money and whether it’s worth it? The tunnels are physically there. It’s got to be, essentially, underground traffic lights and a number of sensors that are probably no fancier than the ones on my phone. I mean, come on, how much can this really cost?

        I don’t think we even need 90 second headways. I suspect 2 minutes would probably be fine. I’m less concerned about the possibility of occasional delay (which happens constantly with all the buses) than I am the certainty of a years of messy construction downtown (I remember the original DSTT construction on Third Ave. in the late 80’s, from which it never recovered), followed by century of inconvenience for visitors and locals alike.

      2. There’s the cost to run trains more frequently (mostly electrical work), and then there’s the cost to ensure there’s sufficient station egress capacity. Either way, if there’s no junction put into an existing tunnel, it’s small fries relative to overall ST3 plan.

        However, boosting capacity on the trunk line does nothing for Ballard-Downtown, which is why it was likely discarded. If Ballard-UW remerges, it will probably be needed to handle the higher ridership UW-Downtown that would be induced by Ballard-UW.

      3. The issue is reliability: ST is concerned that having more than 20 trains/hour now or 40 with the capital improvements would cause train bunching and late trains.

        Exactly. But there are worse problems than late trains. We are seeing them here. Bad transfers, longer trips up the surface, you name it. These all cost riders more time than the occasional train bunching.

        However, boosting capacity on the trunk line does nothing for Ballard-Downtown, which is why it was likely discarded.

        That’s not true. First, it dramatically reduces the price of the entire project. Second, it makes transfers much easier. If trains can run every 2 minutes through the existing downtown tunnel, then the only thing a second tunnel does is increase reliability, and make frequency to the north end more consistent*. These are good things, but not worth the trade-off to riders, let alone the cost.

        *Imagine all three lines running through downtown. Each line would run 6 minutes during rush hour; 7.5 minutes in the middle of the day, and 12 minutes at night. During rush hour, the gap between trains through the UW would alternate between every 2 minutes and 4 minutes. This isn’t as good as running trains every 3 minutes, although it still isn’t bad. In the middle of the day, it means train alternate between 2.5 minutes and 5. This is actually a bit better than expected (but requires more investment). At night it would be 3 and 6. It isn’t until they run the trains every 15 minutes that things would be bad, and even then, the prospect of “5, 10” would work out really well for half the riders. Even though the spacing isn’t ideal, it really comes down to how often we decide to run the trains (as always).

    2. I’m assuming we are building Link to Ballard (Real Ballard, no less) to be clear. What I suspect is that those new trains could somehow fit into the existing DSTT, and from there, to Tacoma or Redmond (or West Seattle, if we must), in some way that gives us a better transit system at a lower cost, with less construction and environmental impact, and greater efficiency for users vs. the current ST3 plans requiring a deep second tunnel and all of the messy connections underground and at the surface.

      1. those new trains could somehow fit into the existing DSTT

        That “somehow” hides a lot of sins, Jonathan. What is your suggestion for a way to get Downtown-SLU-Ballard out of the tunnel box on the north end without a level crossing junction somewhere east of the Westlake platforms?


      2. I’m only an armchair civil engineer; my thought is, let’s have the pros study how to make a split just north of Westlake, because it’s got to be much easier than constructing an entire second DSTT with all the deep stations and egress points in an environment that’s almost entirely built up.

        Off the top of my head, it seems like the northbound DSTT needs to diverge after Westlake (right around where we are building the giant Convention Center. I would have designed around this concept from the start, which requires coordinating big projects run by different organizations, something we don’t do a very good job of around here.

        If NB can split and dive low enough to get under the Pine Street tunnel in a wide swing up towards Denny/Fairview or thereabouts, southbound could merge in via the same entrance we just blocked off that used to go to Convention Place, and we avoid the level junction. It’s probably inconvenient now, not sure how much.

        Or, if that doesn’t work… how verboten is a level junction, really? Isn’t every intersection in the Rainier Valley kind of a level crossing? Wasn’t that part of the purpose of light rail vs a lightweight subway, so it can coexist in traffic with other vehicles? Don’t we have level crossings in downtown Portland with sort of similar vehicles? Aren’t the speeds low near the station, with professional drivers in a highly controlled environment where you know every vehicle coming from miles away? Isn’t this done elsewhere with a good safety record?

      3. Jonathan, I once had a chat with a seasoned engineer when I was in college who told me this: It’s not that things are impossible to build, but that they aren’t practical to build.

        The question isn’t whether a Junction can’t be built but how difficult and costly would it be. Going with one DSTT would save billions (about $4B from what I can tell). That could be spent on the connection or more escalators and elevators in the DSTT or given back to taxpayers. Then there are possible disruptions and possible tall building purchases.

        I’m still of a mind that a stand alone automated line between Ballard and Downtown (it doesn’t have to be Westlake) along with a three line DSTT (6 trains each at peak hour to Redmond, Tacoma and West Seattle and 4 more short turning at SeaTac or so if needed for capacity) would be doable and wonderful! That would offer no construction in the ID, no West Seattle stub, more train frequency between Northgate and Downtown, high frequency riding to SLU and Ballard and a transfer station design that can let one direction of transferring riders stay in the same level.

      4. Al, I agree, transfers would become a non-issue with a single DSTT. Yes, Ballard riders would need a transfer but at least automated trains would run more often and wouldn’t have to wait for transfer at Westlake.
        Instead of serving West Seattle, the RV line could extend to Renton and Seatac could be served via South Park along the Duwamish. The West Seattle hills and White Center/Westwood hills could be served by automated gondola also providing high frequency and speed up transfer.

      5. Thanks Martin!

        I can’t tell you how easy it would be to have not only the main trunk at 3 minutes but also Ballard and SLU too! It would feel like Oaris with its frequent trains. And no schlepping for 3-5 minutes deep inside a hole to catch a train or transfer! Man it’s such a more appealing way to ride Link.

      6. Jonathan, putting a “swap” in every run is a huge fustercluck. It takes at least four minutes to shut-down, transfer control, and reboot the train, and that assumes that the new driver is already standing by the door when the train stops and the old driver disappears as soon as she or he steps out of the cab. In real life, of course, there’s an extra minute for ingress and egress.

      7. I agree with Al’s thoughts: Ballard-Downtown as a stub and three lines in the tunnel. Whether or not you waste money to go to West Seattle is a political decision. It is certainly not needed.

        I would say to Jonathan that I agree with the location you mentioned of such a diversion would open up a dense part of SLU. I wrote two or three long treatises over the last year about how it might happen. But on closer inspection, the narrowing of the Pine Street tunnel east of Westlake means NO junction can be built that doesn’t involve a level crossing of the northbound SLU track and the southbound Capitol Hill track. ST is not going to abide that.

        There is no way to square that circle except by taking the main line out of service long enough to widen the tunnel enough to have three tracks under Pine Street, one of which plunges when the other two rise. Nobody wants the main line out of service for two years, plus tearing up Pine Street.

      8. ” which requires coordinating big projects run by different organizations” Dow Constantine runs the KCM, has strong influence over the WSCC, and brokered a sweetheart deal between the two entities for the current expansion; it would have been straightforward to anticipate a spur under the WSCC, but it was never consider, or perhaps was considered and dismissed by KCM/ST staff because (as Al points out) a level crossing at the point of maximum ridership wasn’t seen as a useful piece of infrastructure.

      9. If WS is going to run in the DSTT1 (presumably with investments to boost DSTT’s peak capacity), and the Ballard line is going to be stub (and probably a completely different tech, with short & frequent trains), then I would simply pivot and build Ballard-UW instead. It would be a much shorter & therefore cheaper*, and with the enhanced capacity with 3 lines running between U District and Downtown the core Link line would be able to handle all of the transfers coming from the Ballard-UW stub.

        As mitigation, QA can get investments in the Monorail, and Interbay can get better bus stops for the D.

        *Unless Ballard-Downtown is all elevated, like a modern version of the Monorail; perhaps would be cheaper than Ballard-UW mostly underground. Could run 15th/Elliott-Thomas-Westlake?

      10. This discussion demonstrates the need for the type of long term thinking we do pretty well on this blog, that doesn’t seem to happen on the ST Board, which is elected officials more concerned with stuff like “The Spine” and service to Paine Field. I get that, if you’re from Everett.

        My basic feeling is, we are sleepwalking into a civic tragedy, as much as I love the notion of expanding Link in Seattle. The sure-to-be-value-engineered version of this ST3 WSBLE, with a West Woodland station at 14th Ave., a big swath of Denny Triangle high-rises left without easy access, these super deep stations and burdensome transfers, people always running between platforms at SODO and missing connections, half of Delridge taken out to build a palace in the sky that slows down commutes on the RapidRide line we are building right now, taking down brand new big apartments in West Seattle we didn’t think to postpone, combining Avalon and the “Junction” into one weak station — All of it is just not worth building, when we could build something great for the same money.

        If adding a junction to the existing DSTT has what amounts to a fatal flaw on the north end, then fine, I would consider just ending a Ballard line at Westlake and essentially forcing a transfer there. Through downtown, there are already many options, including Link. I would add the missing streetcar segment (sooner rather than later) to boost surface capacity which, as Al S. points out so effectively, is more useful for medium-short hops downtown than the deep stations. It’s cheap, and it would help meaningfully.

        I would add a fleet of newly commissioned, clean, battery electric buses to make West Seattle whole with the existing street network, which will be sufficient for the growth as soon as the high level bridge is restored. This is West Seattle, not downtown Bellevue. Run buses on SR 99, which has a bus lane. Have some of these clean buses continue through the tunnel and provide direct access to SLU bypassing downtown.

        I would design Westlake to Ballard so the stations are in more useful places with better coverage of our new high-rise districts. How about around Denny/Fairview, and 9th/Mercer as we’ve discussed here.

        I would look at building Westlake to Ballard in such a way that the tunnel can continue to Ballard-UW in a second phase, which is a better destination than Northgate. This is consistent with the original Sound Move long range vision and the updates to it. I would look at a tunnel alignment, with a 20th Ave. Ballard station in Real Ballard, pointed east. Put the OMF in Interbay. Maybe it could be fully automated with smaller vehicles and short headways for less money, like SkyTrain, while still having enough capacity, or maybe ST is determined to have one single fleet of vehicles – either way could work.

        That Ballard-UW line can eventually pop out of the hill by the 45th St. Viaduct and serve the major activity center of that urban hub by U Village which already has a gazillion employees who have to park elsewhere. Children Hospital’s is up the street. You could launch the TBM’s right into that hill, when it comes time for that.

        If the currently envisioned project were completed today, summer 2022, how much better off anyone really be? I am just not sold on its value. It feels like it needs a reset while it’s on autopilot, heading in the wrong direction.

      11. Furthermore: If downtown Link capacity is a problem with the Ballard-Westlake stub approach, then we can do those capital improvements to get headways down to 90 seconds and add trains to decrease headways (and thus increase capacity) in the critical segment from, say, Northgate to SODO. If some folks need to transfer at Westlake who otherwise might have stayed on into a DSTT2, that isn’t the end of the world.

        If West Seattle riders are on (a fleet of new, electric) buses, they can just stay on these buses if they are headed a few more blocks north into downtown, or, they can transfer to Link at the earliest opportunity, maybe Pioneer Square Station.

        I don’t see a fatal flaw with a Ballard-Westlake stub in terms of capacity. We can add capacity in the existing DSTT without a new junction, and we can leverage that SR 99 tunnel for express trips that completely bypass the downtown segment to access SLU.

        The billions saved on DSTT2 would pay for every improvement in station location and egress we could dream up.

      12. Next, this Ballard stub line would never intersect with traffic anywhere. Switching to a smaller-scale, higher-frequency automated line for this new service would reduce the costs and impacts of subway station construction, while reducing long term operational costs, and, also, improving average wait times versus the current plan. Why not have two minute headways for both Ballard and North Link at the same time?

        Are we really okay mortgaging the grandkids’ future to commit to a system envisioned by bureaucratic default, when it’s so easy to imagine something better?

      13. And if there’s no place to elegantly insert/remove/turn around a TBM underneath Westlake, maybe it could keep driving a few more blocks and emerge from the hill in Belltown, yielding some kind of waterfront terminus station in that otherwise perpetually ignored, super-dense zone. I’m dreaming, but all of these plans are no more than dreams today.

        The point is, if you actively looked for the best way to improve transit service to Ballard, SLU and West Seattle for this amount of money with anything approaching an open mind, you don’t end up with ST 3 WSBLE, you end up with something that looks very different. And I think DSTT2 has an extremely poor long term ROI.

        I’m full of ideas, but the most important one is: The planning process for WSBLE needs a reset, though I don’t know how to effectuate such a thing.

      14. my thought is, let’s have the pros study how to make a split just north of Westlake, because it’s got to be much easier than constructing an entire second DSTT …

        Off the top of my head, it seems like the northbound DSTT needs to diverge after Westlake (right around where we are building the giant Convention Center)

        Bingo! I get your concerns Tom, but they all boil to down to “That will be hard!” So what? So is the new tunnel! That should be clear by now. The only question is whether a split would be harder (i. e. more expensive) or provide a worse experience for riders, and at this point, I think the answer is clearly “No — it would be better!”.

        The new tunnel is extremely expensive. Even the best alternative will suck for riders. While we are all trying to find a way out, it is quite possible the real engineers (not the armchair ones) have already considered those options, and have basically said “yeah, sure, we could do that, but it would cost a lot more money and be a lot more disruptive”. It is like building level junctions in the I. D. — of course they could do that, it is just that it would have cost a lot more.

        A split is likely to be hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars cheaper than a new tunnel. It is full of trade-offs, but the rider experience for most would be better. Transfers would be easier, the downtown stations are better, riders from the south get their one-seat ride to the UW — it is just better. There are worse things than train bunching, and this is it. Building the second tunnel just isn’t worth it.

      15. The point is, if you actively looked for the best way to improve transit service to Ballard, SLU and West Seattle for this amount of money with anything approaching an open mind, you don’t end up with ST 3 WSBLE, you end up with something that looks very different. And I think DSTT2 has an extremely poor long term ROI.

        I’m full of ideas, but the most important one is: The planning process for WSBLE needs a reset, though I don’t know how to effectuate such a thing.

        Exactly. There are a lot of us in that same boat.

      16. I’m still of a mind that a stand alone automated line between Ballard and Downtown (it doesn’t have to be Westlake) along with a three line DSTT (Redmond, Tacoma and West Seattle) would be doable and wonderful!

        It would certainly be a lot cheaper. Not only because you avoid the cost of a new tunnel, but also because the new stations northwest of Westlake could be smaller. This in turn would mean that trips just on this train (or those involving a bus-train combination) would be much better, as frequency could increase.

        But you would still have many of the same problems as this proposal. The stations between Smith Cove and Westlake could be too deep. The Ballard station could be outside of Ballard. The transfer from the main line to the Ballard line — more important than ever — could be bad. It is possible that with the extra money they could lessen these problems. It is also possible that the different nature of the line (smaller lines and different alignment) could as well. It would certainly offer more flexibility, which increases the likelihood of a better design.

        There is really only one area where it could be worse. If the transfer between lines at Westlake is bad, then it effects more riders. Someone coming from Ballard headed to the south end of downtown would be worse off. The South Lake Union station becomes even less useful (riders might transfer to get to Uptown, and that’s it).

        But again, the big advantage is that it would be a lot cheaper. There is a lot to be said for that, as it might allow for some significant improvements as a result. I think the key is that Westlake transfer. If you can nail that, then I could definitely see that working out quite well. With three different lines running through downtown, and the Ballard line being automated, the transfer itself would be the issue, not the wait time.

        I think I would still prefer interlining all three lines, with one of them going to Ballard, but your suggestion is definitely worth considering.

      17. These two ideas (I like both) are actually separable:

        1. Terminate the Ballard line at Westlake, a stub, saving $$$B by not constructing DSTT2.
        2. Re-envision West Seattle Link as a separate hub-and-spoke electric BRT system to downtown, maximally leveraging SR 99 and the tunnel to SLU, saving $$$B, while having no need for DSTT2.

        Nobody needs a one-seat ride from Ballard to West Seattle. I contend that there is no reasonable planning scenario in which DSTT2 is strictly necessary, and the sooner we stop digging ourselves into that multi-generational hole, the better. Why are we as a region, with so many pressing needs, not questioning whether we need a multibillion dollar new deep tunnel that doesn’t go anyplace new?

        Even if the region insists on the full-scale West Seattle Link, it can be served just as well using the existing DSTT. We should do those capital investments to minimize headways there and then maximize the utility of that prior investment. That, plus a new subway to Denny Triangle, SLU, Uptown, Expedia, Interbay and Ballard that has better (if slightly more expensive) station locations, and I’d call the whole thing a success.

      18. The objection putting in a junction at Westlake is not that it is hard; it’s highly likely that it will be cheaper than WSBLE as proposed simply because the new tunnel would be significantly shorter. On the technical side, it’s presumably no more difficult than tunneling directly under the DSTT at Westlake.

        The objection is that a junction will be too disruptive. Too disruptive during construction, when the DSTT will need to be closed for a length of time, and too disruptive to operations, either by degrading the capacity north of Westlake (because some fraction of trains will now head to SLU) or by overwhelming the DSTT capacity (too many trains leading to bunching/reliability issues, or too many humans leading to fire/safety issues).

        It’s plausible that a junction is worth the tradeoffs I just described, but I think you are misunderstanding the tradeoffs by describing them as “too hard.” It doesn’t matter how elegant the engineering is, by inserting a branch at Westlake you will permanent decrease the operating capacity of the Westlake-Northgate tunnel. And maybe that’s totally fine! But that’s different that saying a junction will be ‘hard.’

      19. It’s a fair point that disruption to the existing line (avoidable though it might have been) is a bad thing, either temporary disruption due to construction, or anything that jeopardizes reliability. I don’t see a junction being introduced north of Westlake at this point for that reason alone. The time to do that was when this Convention Center plan was coming together and the impetus wasn’t there.

        Nonetheless, simply cancelling DSTT2 by stubbing the Ballard line at Westlake would avoid most of the disruption downtown due to WSBLE. New Westlake as a stub could be closer to the surface and provide better transfers. If SODO is OK as a transfer point for West Seattle for a half decade, then Westlake should also be OK as a transfer point too. Westlake is even a destination on its own, unlike SODO.

        I would think the opportunity to save a few billion bucks while ending up with a better transit system in the end would be seen as extremely helpful, especially when we are short on funds and thinking we’re going to have to go back to the voters for more money.

      20. “Nobody needs a one-seat ride from Ballard to West Seattle.”

        WSBLE is just a convenience bucket for the two corridors. Earlier they were described as Ballard to Westlake, Ballard + DSTT2, and West Seattle to SODO. ST’s current plan is West Seattle-Everett and Ballard-Tacoma, and never the twain shall meet in a one-seat ride. The monorail had a unified Balllard to West Seattle line, but that was a different-scaled project with no other corridors and no concerns outside the city limits.

      21. “Nobody needs a one-seat ride from Ballard to West Seattle.”

        Nobody needs a light rail one-seat ride from Bellevue to UW (when a bus is faster). Lots of people assumed they’d get a one seat ride from Bellevue to SEA. But honestly, more people will benefit from a one seat ride to DT Seattle. I wonder what the time difference is from BTC if you take Link and transfer vs an interlined schedule where half the trains go north an half go south. Transferring with luggage and when you do it not so often I bet some people would take a time penalty vs a transfer.

      22. Nonetheless, simply cancelling DSTT2 by stubbing the Ballard line at Westlake would avoid most of the disruption downtown due to WSBLE.

        Jeebus, Jonathan, don’t you read anybody else’s comments? At least a dozen of us have proposed that very thing over the past year. We all agree it would be superior, but there’s that old problem of “Where do we maintain the cars?”

        You could certainly find somewhere in Interbay to store cars overnight and clean them, but there really isn’t room for a full maintenance facility. Transit cars need heavy overhauls every few months, and that requires cranes to lift them off the trucks in enclosed quarters. They’re heavy.

        Glenn suggested using the CCC and some non-revenue trackage along First, Denny and Elliott to get cars needing service to Line 1 trackage somewhere near Union Station. I’ve mooted a ramp between the subway and surface trackage on Westlake to get to the CCC, and alternatively suggested the possibility of hauling cars dead-in-tow from a junction track to BNSF in Interbay. AJ has suggested moving them on flatbed trucks.

        Whichever of these might be chosen, going cut-and-cover down Westlake while turning it into a transit street like Market in SF, maybe all the way to Mercer, then cutting and covering on Roy to the bluff above Elliott might save a couple of billion in expensive stations [though it would be more expensive BETWEEN the stations…].

        The thing is we need to come to some sort of agreement about the scope of Downtown-Ballard, the Ship Canal crossing and the location of the Ballard station(s) so that our ideas are not lost in a sea of pipsqueaks.

        Seattle Subway is, frankly, unhinged in the scope of their aspirations, but they’re a coherent group so they get a hearing. There’s a whole lot more good sense here on the blog.

      23. I have another idea on the OMF. Certainly do minor maintenance adjacent to the corridor. The major maintenance could be simply put on a rail ferry to a remote OMF location. There are several places where a tail track could end at a dock. Of course, the streetcars have their own little OMFs and that seems to work fine.

        If there are two-car driverless trains and a round trip is 39 minutes (Ballard to Downtown is supposed to take 15 minutes in one direction per ST) and trains are spaced at 3 minutes, that’s 13 train sets x 2 cars or 26 cars. Then maybe 6 spare cars and it seems that just 32 cars are required. OMF East holds 96 vehicles for comparison. ST says that 20-25 acres can handle about 90-100 cars. Finding an 11 acre site (500 x 1000 feet) is what apparently would be needed.

      24. Ross, it won’t just be hard!, it would almost certainly mean taking the existing system down for at least a couple of years and digging up Pine Street for several blocks. Yes, ST took the tunnel out of service for a couple of years to relay the tracks, but the transit system is a lot more dependent on Link now than it was then (by definition).

        The only street that approaches Pine from the north between Westlake and the freeway at anything less sharp than 90 degrees is the I-5 off-ramp, so that’s where the split would have to be. There are footings for substantial buildings on the north side of the street at every corner; the turnouts would have to be extremely tight to go north anywhere west of the curve into the Capitol Hill tunnel.

        Let’s assume that you get ST to agree to a level crossing of northbound SLU/Ballard and southbound Capitol Hill/Lynnwood. You can put that right at the curve to the Capitol Hill TBM vault and there isn’t even a demising wall to worry about. Hey! Pretty nice. You don’t have to touch the existing system except to put in two turnouts, a diamond and the necessary overhead.

        But that is a huge assumption. Much more likely is ST saying, “We cannot put a level crossing in the busiest section of the system.” So that means that you have to engineer a plunging divergence between the end of the Westlake platform and the curve to the TBM vault just east of 9th.

        That in turn means that the entire tunnel between the curve and the east end of the platforms has to be opened up from above, the north and south walls torn down and the trench widened six or so feet on either side, a descending trench put in on the south side and the lid put back on.

        Now maybe you could cheap out and just do the south side, moving the northbound Capitol Hill track over to be as close to the southbound track as possible and just pushing the south wall out twelve feet or so.

        That would be ideal, but it would put the wall pretty close to the footings of the buildings on the south side of the street. They are generally less substantial than those to the north, so it might work.

        In any case, you simply can not run trains through the trench when the lid is being ripped off, even with single-tracking. And the existing tracks are pretty close to the north and south walls; it would be extremely difficult to tear down the adjacent wall(s) with traffic a couple of feet from them.

        I don’t know if Capitol Hill can serve as a temporary terminal (does it have scissors to the north? I don’t think it does). It is pretty close to Westlake so there may be a saving grace there. Is there enough room for a scissors west of the Westlake platforms, though? It’s not far to the turn. If there is, it wouldn’t be impossible to run a bus-bridge between Capitol Hill and Westlake for a couple of years.

        So, the scenario requires ST to agree to take a major chunk of the system out of service for a good long while (too bad we weren’t ready to do it the last two years!). And, Seattle has to be willing to have Pine Street nuked again.

        I guess the best thing to do is ask!

        Al, yes, I suggested using a switcher with a “handle” ending with a special flatcar having a railroad coupler on one end and an LRT coupler on the other to move cars from Interbay to Forest Street. “Handle” is a railroad term for a cut of cars used to drop or retrieve a car on a steep spur so the locomotive can stay on flat ground. In this case, the trackage accessed wouldn’t be “steep” just “dedicated”.

        If the trains were indeed short automated shuttles, and ST did not want 24 hour service, four trains could be parked at the platforms of Ballard and Westlake overnight.

      25. OK, so siting or accessing the OMF is flagged as an issue if there is no interconnect between the new line and the existing one. Frankly it doesn’t seem to me like the existing LRV’s are ideal for Westlake-Ballard and beyond, because a fully-grade-separated system with smaller automated vehicles and short headways, like they have just up the road in Vancouver, seems superior both in function and cost. It’s not like we wouldn’t need to order additional trains anyway.

        I see a potential benefit to making the trains interchangeable between the lines, but is that worth waiting longer for the train at a stations that cost a lot more to build? My instinct is no. As it is, we have a couple of different models of LRV now, plus the streetcars (with two separate facilities since they don’t even connect), plus Sounder, etc. and life goes on.

        Regardless, Interbay is a big place with what looks like a lot of nothingness. I realize it’s a patchwork quilt of land owners, regulations, restrictions and the like, but there is a soccer field, a golf center, a bunch of low value commercial stuff that is not marine related, huge parking lots… Are they all sacred? It’s hard to imagine there isn’t a solution to this problem. It doesn’t look like a non-starter to me.

      26. I will add that the City of Seattle is in need of a new Ballard Bridge, and a replacement of some kind for the Magnolia Bridge (a bit of a hot potato issue) in a similar timeframe as this project. Neither will be easy or cheap, but they will be stirring things up in the same zone. That means there is an opportunity for conflicts, but also for synergy of some kind, both in the planning, and the construction, which the city should take the lead on.

        With the Ballard Bridge, if we’re building a replacement it has to be alongside, so maybe it should move to 14th Ave. as argued so effectively by Ray Dubicki in the Urbanist.

        And by me, here, back in 2018:

        But the larger point is, with all the moving parts in Interbay, there must be some opportunities to coordinate these projects… and find space for an OMF. Unfortunately it’s structurally challenging to simultaneously optimize projects going through the environmental review process in parallel. The City should be a lead or co-lead agency on all of the projects in Interbay, and then actually lead. I think the City may be the best point of leverage to improve this project, as it’s wholly contained in Seattle.

      27. FWIW, if ST decides to put in a junction save costs, I think the more likely outcome is a level crossing and a permanent degradation of maximum throughput. If we are going to put in a branch in the middle of downtown, then we are effectively choosing to give up tunnel capacity to save billions of capital dollars, so the level crossing becomes less impactful. UW-Downtown will never run a sub-3 minute frequencies because it will always need to be merging with a Ballard-Downtown line. Once the decision is made to branch, how it will branch is mostly a technical decision (which is more or less Ross’s point when he says “who cares if it is ‘hard'”). I don’t like the branching option because I want to preserve that max capacity UW-Downtown and not disrupt operations, but if we decide to branch I’m not really concerned about how to branch.

        FWIW #2, ST can move Link cars by truck, they’ve demonstrated they can do that moving vehicles both from factory to OMF and from OMF-C to OMF-E, so if they are going to go with a satellite OMFs the mode of transport is a technical issue to be sorted out later.

        Jonathan, Ray has written entire series on The Urbanists about how hard it is to coordinate multi-agency projects in Interbay. Unless BNSF or the Port want to play ball, there isn’t actually much flat open space that isn’t ‘sacred’ (park land) or won’t have a midrise building on it by the time Ballard Link gets around to ROW acquisitions. ST could grab the Amory site … but it’s just as likely that parcel gets turned into affordable housing.

      28. @Tom — I have a feeling you don’t quite get what Jonathan proposed (and what I proposed a while ago) for dealing with the line headed to Ballard. It essentially involves a U-Turn. The line splits from the main line at some point between Westlake and Capitol Hill. This could be right after the station, or much later. It then parallels the main line, and then at some point dives down (as necessary) to make a wide U-Turn. There is quite a bit of flexibility, because the station does not have to be on Denny nor does it have to be angled north-south. An east-west station at Thomas and Boren, for example, would be fine, and arguably better. But again, it could be practically anywhere. There is even more flexibility with the tunnel heading to Ballard. It could go under the freeway twice — it doesn’t matter. It could be very deep (as deep as these proposals, which go right under skyscrapers).

        The only key thing you need then, is to punch a whole in the existing tunnel, which is very similar to what you need for the other tunnel (coming from Ballard). This would be disruptive, but similar to what happened to I. D. — weeks of mild disruption, not years of shutdown. There would be drawbacks. The trip from Westlake to “Denny” could be long, with trains making sharp turns (making people wonder why it takes longer to get from Westlake to Denny than the other way around). That station would probably be deep (like every proposed station). But most of all, this would be expensive. This is the type of thing that the big boys in transit do all the time. They do it because they move millions of people, and this sort of complicated, expensive work is worth it in the long run. They don’t shut down key stations for two years, they simply spend a lot of money building redundant infrastructure to avoid that. This is the type of thing that would be nuts for a city our size to do, if not for the fact that the alternative is worse and more expensive.

        This is how this process works, and it always works. You set the criteria, and let the real engineers come up with alternatives. This is exactly what the engineers did in this case. They have several options along the way, and all of them have trade-offs. They range in cost, effectiveness, displacement and disruption. Holy cow, one of the proposals would shut down Jackson for two years. Jackson! But not one of them said “we need to have a level crossing”, or “we will shut down a major station for two years”, because those don’t meet the explicitly stated (or implicit) requirements.

      29. If Ballard is reconsidered as a stub then how about Ballard to Northgate. Sure UW is a more popular destination but Northgate is an Urban Center on the rise. You also get better bus connections, especially to points north (i.e. SnoCo commuters that work in Ballard. You’ve got an easy transfer rather than a journey to the center of the earth. Once on Link you’re minutes from UW, Capitol Hill, DT and the stadiums.

        The big advantage is I think it would be way cheaper using 15th/Holman/Northgate Way. No water crossing and no deep debt tunnels. A future extension could be to Seattle Center, S. Lake Union and Westlake.

        Thing B: If a stub is built Ballard to UW what about following the water along Leary Way and Pacific. Again, no bridge and no tunnel required.

      30. Jonathan, have you been Rip Van Winkling the past two decades? Or are you just an unconscious plagiarism? EVERY idea you “come up” with has been written on the Blog over the past few years, many MULTIPLE times.

        I give you credit for choosing the good ones. You are a realist and have good instincts for what is possible. You’d be a very good speaker at public meetings, bringing the consensus view of the folks here without some of the negative baggage that some of the Old Warhorses (certainly including me) would bring.

        But it might behoove you to scan back through the posts and comments of the last decade, looking specifically at the ST topics. You’d be very surprised at how many things we’ve thought about.

      31. Ross, it doesn’t matter where Jonathan hopesto put a burrowing junction. You can’t “punch a hole in the tunnel” any where except along Pine Street!!!

        From the TBM vault just west of I-5 between Pike and Pine on toward Capitol Hill and points north, the tunnel is twin TBM bores. Why will you not believe that you can’t make a junction in a TBM tube? At least, not without building a vault around the tube and disassembling the upper sections of the compression rings. Doing that under traffic would be a complete no-no”. You could build the vault around the tubes, but disassembling the tube structure and then adding a turnout would take quite a while. I don’t have an idea, but many weeks would be required at a minimum.

        Pine Street and a burrowing junction requires completely rebuilding Pine Street as detailed elsewhere in this comment se tion.

        Otherwise, it’s Pine Street and a level crossing.

      32. You can’t “punch a hole in the tunnel” any where except along Pine Street!!!

        So What???!!!

        Even if that is true, then just punch holes on both sides. That still doesn’t mean you need a level junction. The train coming *from* Ballard would loop around, and merge into the southbound track. The train going *to* Ballard would do the same thing from the other side. How does it avoid a level junction? By going under or over the other track. Two holes, two tracks, taking different paths until they meet up again before the next station.

        This sort of thing happens all of the time in fancier systems. Of course it is easier if you plan for it originally, but agencies do it all the time even if they don’t. It is expensive (two holes, two tracks) but nothing like what we are building.

        But again, enough with the armchair engineering. We need to ask the real experts how much it will cost, or if it could be done without a major disruption. My guess is they would say the disruption would be minor (similar to I. D.) and would be hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper.

      33. Ross, you’re certainly due your opinion, and it’s usually at least mostly right. But it is wrong in this case. The way that the tunnel narrows just east of Westlake means that either both sides of the tunnel have to be widened about six feet or the south side of the tunnel has to be widened about twelve feet. It looks to be about 28 to 30 feet wide now, so bear that in mind when we try to get another ten to twelve feet. Some of the space in the current tunnel is indeed wasted, probably because it was a bus tunnel and they wanted to eliminate possible side-swipes in the fairly dark tunnel.

        Pine Street is just not a very wide street. At 7th it’s two lanes plus a parking lane. That’s about thirty feet! I think that’s why the tunnel narrows; it needed to fit within the fairly constrained street right-of-way.

        Sure, you can also use the space beneath the sidewalks, but you really can’t go any farther than them.

        Look at this old diagram that Metro used to host of the tunnel’s extent into the blocks alongside it:

        As you can see, just east of Westlake the tunnel narrows notably, but it still bulges outside the street boundaries. It sure looks like the retaining walls for the Pine Street tunnel are already right at the footings for the buildings along the street.

        As soon as the trains leave Westlake they start to rise and by the time they get to the curve, they’re only one story below the street surface, so though you’re in pretty good shape to avoid smallish buildings right by Westlake, by the time you get to Seventh the floor is perhaps ten feet shallower.

        There is no way to deviate south anywhere east of Sixth without running smack into some REALLY BIG STUFF at 7th and Pine (here:,-122.3343241,3a,83.2y,108.76h,91.82t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s2mcsW5cyUOJRqy5WP1I-fQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656). I have no idea how deep the foundations of the Marriott Hotel are, but I’d put $100 on the barrel saying it’s “way too deep” for Link even at Westlake platform depth to underrun it. It only gets harder the farther east you go and shallower you begin the turn.

        Between 8th and 9th, the block looks like this:,-122.3331582,3a,88.6y,93.03h,115.51t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1smcoNvrWFFbbiOknJQE_LUg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 No respite there, either. The south side of Pine, all the way to the Paramount which is too close to the curve south to dive under it, is a fortress of half-billion dollar buildings.

        Scorn me as you will, this was baked in the 1980’s, not when the Convention Center Station was torn down.

        I whole-heartedly wish it could be done, but it can’t. It simply cannot without a level crossing at the curve.

        If you can get ST to agree to it, we are saved, but far more likely is they’ll say Categorically “No!”. So the answer is to build just Ballard-Downtown as an independent stub as extensively discussed. Also, as you and others have mooted, it would be possible to improve the Monorail to serve Belltown and SLU, including an underground station directly abutting the Westlake Mezzanine. If Westlake were then made Transit-Only with stop signs on the northeast-southwest bearing streets then SLU would be better served as well. Put a station at Battery or Wall and you have fairly decent walking access to quite a few thousand residences.

        The Monorail can climb much steeper grades with its rubber tires. It could get down off its structure in two blocks up in Belltown. That would require closing one of the northeast-southwest streets (Traffic Calmed Bell, anyone?), but it would require a pretty disruptive fenced hole to descend through.

  12. 1. SODO to West Seattle is happening and will open in the early 2030s as planned. A big part of “realignment” was getting shovels in the ground by the mid-2020s and it has been decided (for better or worse) that West Seattle is first. The board needs that political win.

    2. West Seattle will benefit from Link mostly from the bus restructure improving service in Admiral/Alki. Delridge is a wash or a net negative. I also expect that the Fauntleroy corridor between the Junction and Avalon will grow in a positive way from TOD.

    3. Initially, getting the SODO transfer right is huge. Not just because West Seattle may exist as a spur for decades or longer, but also because the transfer to the southbound 1-Line will forever be important — improving on some West Seattle destinations currently served by the slow route 50 or a painful transfer from the 21 to Link.

    4. There’s still plenty of time to make major changes to DSTT2 and Ballard. I strongly support the push to re-evaluate a 20th station in Ballard and a cut/cover DSTT2.

    5. Give stakeholders the choice between dropping the Midtown + ID stations or doing cut/cover. If they want minimal construction impacts, then give them zero construction impacts by bypassing them entirely. Cost savings are needed and that seems like an obvious win/win. Make Westlake the transfer point for everything.

    1. 5. Dropping ID is a bad idea. While Westlake is a bigger overall destination, ID is a more important transfer node, between Sounder, Amtrak, and East Link. West Seattle to East King is a more important trip pair than West Seattle to SE Seattle/Seatac, given that Bellevue/Redmond is the 3rd most important regional destination (after Seattle’s greater downtown and the UW).

      Someone else (sorry forgetting who) has beat the drum of dropping Westlake and using Midtown as the northbound transfer, which I think is much better than dropping ID. A shallow ID station should be the easiest of all the DSTT2 stations to build.

      1. A shallow ID station should be the easiest of all the DSTT2 stations to build.

        But, but, but, “equity!!!!!!”

      2. Of course they should build a shallow ID station, but there are far more stakeholder requests than there is money for WSBLE. So if the ID stakeholders don’t want a shallow ID station, then the obvious choice is to build the shallow tunnel and skip the station. Same for Midtown. The cost savings can be used to tunnel on the Ballard and West Seattle ends.

        Someone needs to grow a spine and draw a line in the sand. Just because the engineers can draw it up doesn’t mean it is practical. Pay off the businesses that are complaining and be done with it.

      3. From what I can tell, even the shallow stations have their drawbacks. In both cases the transfers are poor. Ballard to Redmond (or the reverse) could take about four minutes. Consider what this means for someone who is making a trip from Denny to downtown Bellevue (a typical midday business trip). First they have to go deep into the Denny Station. Then they wait for a train that runs every ten minutes. Then they make a four minute transfer, and again wait for a train that runs every ten minutes. They are probably better off ignoring the new tunnel, and just walking (or taking the bus) to the old line.

        Of course this transfer could be done at Westlake. Unfortunately, this will take 3 to 4 minutes there as well. My point is that either way, a shallow station at I. D. does not solve this particular transfer problem. But it is possible that it might be better in one direction, and savvy riders will do some sort of combination, averaging around 3 minutes a transfer (not counting wait time). That still isn’t good, obviously.

        There are only two transfers that are necessary at the International District. First there is West Seattle to the East Side, and this will involve reversing directions on the same line (essentially no change from ST2, just involving different riders). The other is East Side – South End. It isn’t clear how many riders would do this, but it would take at least 3 minutes.

        The time to the surface won’t be great either, even with the surface stations. There is a significant difference between the stations, even between the two shallow stations. It doesn’t specifically mention the travel time to the surface (which is nuts) but it does mention the time it takes to get to the same platform level (in some cases the exact same platform) as the existing line. That is the starting point. The 4th Avenue Shallow is the best, as it gets to that level in 1 minute 20 seconds. 5th Avenue Shallow takes 1 minute 50 seconds. 4th Avenue Deep and 5th Avenue diagonal takes 2 minutes 40 seconds. 5th Avenue Deep takes 2 minutes 50 seconds. Again, this is the time *in addition to* the existing time from the platform to the surface. There is not a single station option that is as good as that, and even the best (4th Avenue Shallow) takes about 90 seconds longer.

        The 4th Avenue Shallow is clearly the fastest for getting to the surface. It is just bad in other ways. It would displace 120 people, but a minimum number of businesses (all of the options displace businesses). It would close Stadium Station for two years. Fourth Avenue South would face a partial closure for four years. Second Avenue Extension would be completely shut down for two years, and Fourth Avenue between Jackson and Main would be completely shut down for four years (presumably opposite each other). Oh, and Jackson between 4th and 5th would be completely shut down for two years. In other words, it would be a complete mess for the dozens of buses that run on Jackson and Fourth into the city, carrying tens of thousands of riders. The streetcar would be shut down for a couple years as well, and Link would be closed for 6 to 7 weeks between SoDo and I. D.

        And again, this station — the one that provides the best experience for riders — is still significantly worst than the existing station. All this disruption, so that we get something worse.

        We really need to study the possibility of running all of the lines through the same existing tunnel. This would involve a relatively trivial interlining of the West Seattle line at SoDo. It would either involve a tricky split at Westlake (with a new line headed to Ballard) or a stand-alone line from Ballard to Westlake. Both have their issues, but both should be studied, as it is quite likely these would not only be billions of dollars cheaper, but they would be much better for riders.

      4. I certainly agree on the wisdom of studying reusing DSTT1, as well as Westlake-Ballard as a separate stub.

        Here’s a wild idea to solve that northbound split constructibility/geometry problem: Avoid the need for a northbound split!

        Stick with the plan to use the same LRVs we use now. But then, construct Ballard as a loop such that it’s one way into the existing DSTT, southbound, the easy way into the tunnel just north of Westlake Station…


        One way into the Ballard tunnel, via a branch of the SOUTHBOUND DSTT between Westlake and Seneca/University Street Station.

        This way, it’s southbound in, southbound out, and no crossings required. This basically solves the OMF issue. It means you can’t run trains straight from Tacoma to Ballard, boo hoo. Wouldn’t this solve the biggest problems though? Am I missing something as I think through this?

        This makes the southbound DSTT platform at Westlake a very busy place… Where you could transfer to Ballard!

      5. Let me try to clarify this wild idea: It’s a way to add a branch to Ballard **without** branching the northbound line.

        Trains from Ballard would enter the southbound DSTT around where the buses used to come in from the old Convention Center bus station.

        Trains to Ballard would exit the southbound DSTT via a newly constructed exit that veers north instead of south towards Seneca/University St., and through the rest of the DSTT.

        So, this creates the opportunity (though not the need) for an asymmetric routing pattern. A train could go from Everett to Ballard… via Westlake. Then it could turn around and go from Ballard to Tacoma. Northbound, you might actually have to use that Westlake mezzanine.

        You could run trains around this Ballard-Westlake loop, or you can turn them around after SODO, or in West Seattle, or wherever makes sense to the south. Two minute headways downtown in the existing DSTT would be nothing but helpful.

        I don’t see a fatal flaw with this approach. You have to be willing to take southbound tunnel temporarily out of commission… so just single track it and use the other track during that time. Problem solved… I think. What is this, $3B cheaper at least versus DSTT2?

      6. This concept leverages the fact that the existing DSTT is basically east-west under Pine Street to turn what would otherwise be a U-turn into a much less severe one.

        The new routing that’s the easiest to comprehend is the symmetrical one: A loop, from Ballard to the existing Westlake station, and then back to Ballard. This means a lot of people would disembark at southbound Westlake and wait a couple of minutes for a train. Given that there are 3 lines they might want to target (West Seattle, assuming we build that, Tacoma, and Redmond) a lot of people would need to transfer somewhere anyway.

        The Ballard-bound single bore would have to dive, probably under 3rd Ave. north of Pine St., and then head east underneath Amazon HQ. It should just take whatever route it needs to take to get to the Denny station, which really ought to be further east as discussed here, like Denny/Fairview.

        The SLU station needs to move, too. The giant pit at 9th/Mercer would be perfect but I think that’s about to get filled. Anyway, everything from Uptown east obviously needs a do-over, and everything from Interbay north deserves one for different reasons previously discussed here. The middle part with Expedia et al, that ST could retain.

        New service to Ballard without the need for DSTT2, offering same-platform transfers with existing DSTT – check
        Reuse existing fleet and OMFs – check
        Coexists peacefully with any timing or configuration of Link to West Seattle – check

        Struggling to think of the flaw here…

      7. If we could add a center platform at Westlake nobody would even need to use the mezzanine to transfer. Then it’s same platform transfers from anywhere on the Ballard line to anywhere else in the system, that platform being Westlake. But if that doesn’t work, the mezzanine transfers in the same station will work fine.

        Someone please tell me why this approach doesn’t solve our problem for probably $3 billion less than DSTT2. The DSTT2 conundrum can’t be that easy… but maybe it is?

      8. But then, construct Ballard as a loop such that it’s one way into the existing DSTT, southbound, the easy way into the tunnel just north of Westlake Station…

        Jonathan, now that is a very good idea! You are right that entering the main tunnel from the north is eminently doable any place between the curve from the Capitol Hill tubes (a few yards east of Ninth and Pine) and the Westlake platform. It would be best done at the curve itself, because it’s flat there. Farther west the southbound track is descending and the streets are perpendicular to Pine, making the necessary curve very sharp!

        The way out is to break through west wall of the Westlake Station box at the curve, connect the track in the curve at a bit of an angle southward in order to get as close to the south curb as possible before turning north. Then turn hard north at Second, head a half block north to Stewart under the west side of the street which comes at an angle, making the curve into its ROW easier and supporting a bit higher speeds.

        Run back on Stewart to the station at Fairview and Denny to rejoin the route north.

        This would require running “left-hand” like in England and on the old Chicago and North Western, but you know what? That simplifies doing a dogbone in Ballard, too. ONE TBM can fit down 56th and ONE TBM can fit down 54th and north on 22nd, and the station can be under 56th between 20th and 22nd where Nathan found such a good spot. Starting the separation at 54th allows a station at 52nd for West Woodland. There would be money for it without the full DSTT2.

        For anyone making a transfer to go farther south, half the transfers would be in-line at the same platform. The return would require going up, over and down. Or maybe, if the box bottom is strong enough, it would be less level change to go down, over and up.

        Anyway, this is a fantastic idea; it gets the simplicity of Al’s idea for a loop around Westlake without the problem of making the mainline trains go through four tight turns.

        I really think this could work smoothly. Thank you!!!!!!

      9. I hadn’t read your second item about going north under Third. Not possible, I think. You’re on the north side of Pine leaving Westlake and you can’t impinge on the northbound track to belly south. There is a minimum effective radius for LRV turns. I believe that you’d be too tight trying to turn into Third from the north side of Pine.

        That’s why I said exit the existing tunnel westbound under Pine at a slight angle southward, to get to the south side of the street; you could dive but it wouldn’t get you much in that short block. It makes more sense to cut-and-cover through here since TBM’s have minimum curve radii as well. It’s only one track width which reduces the impact on traffic greatly. Once you’ve made the second curve into the Stewart ROW, you could transition to a TBM.

        I’ve decided that you would have to make the entrance at the Convention Center Station curve, though, because of the grade and sharpness of the curve necessary from those narrow northwest-southeast streets (7th, 8th, and 9th) into, again, the north side track under Pine. Go at it directly from the east at the Convention Center curve. It gives you a straight stretch to wait on and allows full acceleration to slide into the flow of traffic.

        There’s a good path underneath the Pike/Pine reversible ramp to Minor, then Minor to Denny then wherever you want to go from there. A station between Stewart and Denny under Minor would be right in the middle of a big cluster of buildings.

        I also very much like your idea of adding a center platform at Westlake for reverse direction transfers. It’s such a huge station there must be room for vertical circulation to and from it at the ends of the platform. But don’t get rid of the side platforms. There’s not THAT much room in the middle. Make it clear it’s for transfers though emergency access would be provided by the vertical circulation at the ends.

        One refinement to my reply, also. Take Olive then Howell from the Olive junction with Stewart in order to make use of the low building at Howell and Minor for the curve into the Minor Station. Buy that corner NOW!

        Who knew that the old “dogbone” model railroad layout could provide the template for a minimal impact Ballard-Downtown tunnel? How cool!

        P.S. Frank or another Admin, please fix the close bold in the previous comment. I though I had been careful, but alas, no.

  13. Thank you for raising the elevator call button issue in Beacon Hill station. One of those seemingly trivial things that has small, but real, impacts on thousands of people every day.

  14. As a supporter of Soundtransit overall, I have to say that the deep station issue is so serious that every portion of the relevant segment needs to be fundamentally redesigned. Having looked at the designs they are already a functional failure long before breaking ground. The only way this concept functions in Beacon Hill is relatively low ridership. In the middle of downtown it would be a constant series of bottlenecks for system users.

    1. The only way this concept functions in Beacon Hill is relatively low ridership.

      I agree. Beacon Hill is also somewhat cut off from the other locations. It provides a unique transit connection from either direction. Walking or biking would be really tough as well. The tunnel just seems right, since the geographic constraints are obvious (its a big hill, with steep sides).

      In contrast, none of that is true with the downtown stations. For a lot of trips, the buses will be a better option. They aren’t quite as fast, but have been getting faster. They are also quite frequent, and cover more of the terrain. The idea of walking two blocks, then dealing with a deep station, then waiting for the train, then another deep station, then walking another two blocks is just not appealing. For some trips walking is better, and if the city ever gets a real bike share system, that would be ideal for some of these trips. I suppose the Midtown Station will get you up the hill a ways, but so will the RapidRide G, and it will run more often.

      Consider this example: Let’s say it is thirty years from now, and this is all done. Now let’s say you want to get from the Westlake and Denny to Fourth and Madison. The train seems like the obvious choice. Except not so fast. It is the middle of the day, and the train runs every ten minutes. You’ve got those deep stations to deal with as well. Both the 40 and C will get you down to Madison just fine, and both are off-board payment for this section (if not their entirety). You glance over your shoulder, and sure enough, there is a 40 coming down the street. You take it, and save yourself some time.

      But imagine instead you are headed up the hill a ways. Let’s say you are trying to get to the Polyclinic, up on 8th. This is quite a schlep up from 3rd, and not as bad from 5th or 6th. But it still isn’t right there. The whole reason you are going to the clinic is to deal with your arthritis in your foot. So again you take the bus down to Madison, and simply transfer to the RapidRide G, and you are right there. You really haven’t cost yourself any time, and yet you’ve minimized walking.

      This is a direct trip — one that doesn’t involve a transfer, or a huge amount of walking to or from the station. It is quite reasonable by train. The fact that taking buses is a good alternative — and quite often the best alternative — shows how flawed this system is. Keep in mind, this station — at the edge of South Lake Union — is often considered the main rationale for the entire line. Downtown has grown to the north, and we need to serve it. The problem is, it won’t be served very well with this multi-billion dollar system. Riders from the north or the east (or West Seattle for that matter) will be asked to transfer, and again, the best option will often be to get to the surface, and either walk or take a bus. Your destination has to be practically right over the station for this to make sense (and even, as shown, it often doesn’t). It is only the folks that come from the south that gain access to this new part of downtown, and yet most of them would rather have that direct trip to the UW.

      Unless you can get into and out of the station quickly, this just won’t work.

  15. No. Deep stations are not a problem if you want a new subway under a dense downtown. Good God, Seattle is so….. precious. There are systems all over the world with deep stations. Roslyn and Woodley Park come to mind in the DC Metro system. These are essential, heavily used stations. This is precisely the sort of debate that is irrelevant to the question of how and when will these facilities be delivered. This community is so, SO good at making the perfect the enemy of the transformative. Literally, really, this is the problem right here, this issue. You are making it worse. For this love of all that is good and right in the world, stop it for once. Let the pros do their jobs.

    1. The problem is that ST’s proposed deep stations have none of the features that make other deep stations tenable. Woodley Park has triplicate reversible escalators, for example, which allows individual escalators to be replaced while the other two are running.

      Also, ST has a major vertical circulation PR problem, so it doesn’t help that they propose stations that will entirely depend on elevators and escalators.

      1. If you have an example of a deep station in the USA that handles high rider volume with banks of elevators and only banks of elevators, I’d like to see it.

    2. This community is so, SO good at making the perfect the enemy of the transformative.

      Transformative? In what world is this transformative? We aren’t arguing for perfect, we are simply arguing for good. Let me copy a paragraph from the excellent comment up above:

      My basic feeling is, we are sleepwalking into a civic tragedy, as much as I love the notion of expanding Link in Seattle. The sure-to-be-value-engineered version of this ST3 WSBLE, with a West Woodland station at 14th Ave., a big swath of Denny Triangle high-rises left without easy access, these super deep stations and burdensome transfers, people always running between platforms at SODO and missing connections, half of Delridge taken out to build a palace in the sky that slows down commutes on the RapidRide line we are building right now, taking down brand new big apartments in West Seattle we didn’t think to postpone, combining Avalon and the “Junction” into one weak station — All of it is just not worth building, when we could build something great for the same money.

      As currently proposed, this is not only extremely expensive, it is bad. A lot of people would be better off with what we have now (or will have soon) let alone improvements that would cost half as much. The vast majority of riders from West Seattle. Riders from the south headed to the UW. Riders from Ballard who will be forced to transfer, then deal with these super deep stations, ultimately putting them in the same boat as the folks from West Seattle. This is not transformative, it is a poorly designed waste of money.

  16. It’s not been explicitly discussed, but it’s clear that the forecasts used to discuss alternatives have changed since the data was shown to STB in 2020 here:

    I first noticed the change with lower numbers for Avalon and Interbay but it looks like there are changes at almost every WSBLE station.

    Here is a summary of the changed boardings:

    Alaska : Old =6800; New = 6400
    Avalon : Old =4800; New = 1200
    Delridge : Old =5100; New = 5800
    SODO : Old =7500; New = 14600
    CID : Old =44700; New = 34200
    Midtown : Old =12900; New = 15500
    Westlake : Old =77700; New = 73900
    Denny : Old =8900; New = 15300
    Aurora : Old =4500; New = 10500
    LQA : Old =8300; New = 11300
    Smith Cove : Old =3900; New = 2600
    Dravus : Old =4400; New = 4200

    WS Segment : Old =16700; New = 13400
    Ballard-IB Segment : Old =18500; New = 19900
    LQA/SLU Segment : Old =21700; New = 37100

    The performance of the West Seattle segment drops by 20%. Ballard-Interbay grows by 8% and the LQA/ SLU segment grows by 71%.

    I have doubts that the added effect of deep station vertical times have been considered yet. West Seattle is forecasted to be significantly more unproductive.

    Does anyone else spot any more “game changers” in these updated forecasts?

    1. Great find! I’m skeptical of the significant increase noted in the LQA-SLU segment. What do you think the driver is for that? Simply higher employment/residential populations forecasted for 2040?

      1. Yes, I think most of the changes are probably from revised land use forecasts. Another likely factor is however how many riders make a choice between a surface buses and subway train.

        The increases in SLU don’t appear to take the deep station walk travel time.

        I’ve noticed that several advisory group members keep asking for a deep dive on forecasting. Of course, ST staff never answer the request and never ask a forecaster to even attend and answer questions.

      2. One other factor could be newly increased parking cost assumptions in South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. Parking cost and availability are a big factor in choosing driving or transit for many people. Paying $20 a day to park would get lots more riders on transit if they had been assuming $4 before.

      3. I’d sat in on forecast discussions in internal ST meetings when I was on staff. They were both very interesting and also mostly useless more than a few years out.

        Here is a really good discussion between Jarett Walker and Chuck Marohn, where Jarett explains why his preference is to refuse to provide ridership forecasts:

      4. Thanks for the link, AJ!
        (I haven’t listened to that particular podcast as of yet but am aware of Walker’s position on this.)

      5. “One other factor could be newly increased parking cost assumptions in South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. Parking cost and availability are a big factor in choosing driving or transit for many people. Paying $20 a day to park would get lots more riders on transit if they had been assuming $4 before.”

        I disagree with this approach Al for the following reasons.

        1. Number one, rather than making transit competitive in areas transit can be competitive it allows transit to be crummy, but seeks to make every other form of transportation just as crummy, or crummier rather than focusing on transit’s advantages, or what is best for the citizen. So we are going to spend $130 billion on ST, and because it is crummy we are going to make every other form of transportation just as crummy. Might as well have saved the $130 billion.

        2. Parking downtown is $8 PER HOUR on the street, not $4/day, or was pre-pandemic. Now Seattle is talking about increasing its 12.5% commercial parking tax, that applies to hospitals and very other organization that charges employees for parking. On the eastside parking is basically free, as it is in malls, and employers have discovered that with most employees working less than five days/week subsidized parking — which is much more popular especially, with female staff — costs the same or less than subsidized ORCA cards. With such a premium on staff these days parking or transit subsidies are irrelevant, at least for those employers and employees you want in a downtown core. Our firm is leaving downtown Seattle after 32 years in large part because we can’t get female staff to come here.

        3. If Harrell cannot clean up Seattle and revitalize its commercial and retail operations and bring back the commuter running rail or any transit to downtown Seattle is pointless, let alone a boondoggle like WSBLE. Right now employers like Amazon are shifting workers out of downtown Seattle. When I am talking about safety I am not talking about experienced urban transit male riders who post on this blog, I am talking about eastside females, because they make up a huge number of staff, and female staff run the world (at least in the legal and medical fields).

        4. The transit slave is gone. That slave — the work commuter due to traffic congestion and parking costs — is now discretionary with the ability to WFH or work outside downtown Seattle, and this loss is a much bigger risk than WSBLE. That is how city cores die. For too long in this region transit has relied on the transit slave who dutifully pays 100% of their (too often her) fare for packed and hot unsafe buses even though they hate every minute on transit because employers were too lazy to implement WFH, and felt everything ran through downtown Seattle so the Seattle Council got just as complacent.

        5. The key decisions about what mode of transportation someone takes are: 1. safety; 2. safety; 3. safety; 4. time (including transfers which are a very big factor); 5. cost; 6. convenience (one or more riders/kids/dogs/carrying stuff, weather, which makes driving cheaper than transit). For years I have heard people on this blog write that commuters will do transfers even though they hate them. Wrong. For transit the one advantage for the discretionary rider comes down to traffic congestion on one hand, and coverage/frequency on the other hand. In this environment, with so little congestion, transit simply cannot compete with cars on really any issue except maybe cost. With the current safety issues throughout downtown Seattle — which by far is the number one issue on mode — and so much transit, especially Link, running through downtown Seattle without secured stations, transit and Link cannot compete, so all transit loses the discretionary rider, and even more importantly than farebox recovery is the atmosphere on a bus or train becomes even less acceptable for the discretionary rider with a car in the garage.

        If the safety issues are not addressed in downtown Seattle all of this (Link, WSBLE, DSTT2) is basically pointless because the commercial and retail vibrancy won’t return to downtown Seattle. My advice is to pause WSBLE not because the design is poor (or I would argue politically realistic if unaffordable) but to see if the downtown core revitalizes post-pandemic or whether it dies out like a white dwarf star. If it doesn’t revitalize then Lynnwood Link and Federal Way Link and God knows East Link are not worth the money over buses, because there is no “hub”.

        What the pandemic has proven is cars do scale, if peak hour demand declines. Our roads and freeways are built for peak capacity, and that is the one time Link has an advantage. Otherwise why take a train from Northgate that stops twice in the UW, then Capitol Hill, before it gets to downtown Seattle?

        Unless that commercial and retail vibrancy comes back the Seattle core will slowly die, and without the traffic congestion and lack of parking Link cannot compete for the commuter, and Link is premised on fantastic growth in the core and the transit slave.

        Start with safety during the pause which I think could take many years, because otherwise the conversation is over because all transit modes won’t get the 100% fare paying rider back who helps create a better transit experience, and then see if even after that the work commuter returns to the Seattle core, with or without transit.

        The major employers will move to the eastside if necessary, and the eastside drives. Or they WFH. If the work commuter does not return none of the assumptions for the extravagantly expensive Link make sense, and its operational cost assumptions and revenue don’t pencil out. Parking is essentially free outside downtown Seattle, and today there is no traffic congestion.

        The Seattle Council — and to be honest some transit advocates and progressives — have nearly killed the golden goose, which is the downtown commercial and retail core. What is the point of transit in the first place if there isn’t a “core”. The eastside has very little core, which is exactly why transit does so poorly there.

        If you think raising parking rates in SLU to $20/day — which it is now by the way — is the solution to WSBLE then WSBLE is dead, and pretty much all of Link was based on fantastical ridership estimates (especially those switching from cars to Link) in the levies and EIS’s.

      6. Here are four articles trending on eastside Nextdoors:





        These few eastside Nextdoors reach around 75,000 residents, although I can’t access all the Nextdoors. The fact news organizations in England are publishing these articles is worrying. They are mixed in with lost pets, school issues, stuff for sale, local politics, saving mature trees, and life in suburbia in general that draws readers especially female readers, except there is never a post about transit. Except these, except we think this means Seattle. I suppose the good news is there isn’t a lot of angst over East Link opening behind schedule.

        Pause WSBLE to see if commercial and retail vibrancy in the downtown Seattle can be restored. Otherwise, the design is pointless because there won’t be the riders and the money can be spent on a new paradigm for transit that reflects the lack of any “core” in the system, which means buses.

      7. DT: I’m just talking about how assumptions may be mathematically affecting the resulting ridership estimates — and I get a response that I’m wrong?

        If you honestly believe that parking costs don’t influence transit choices in reality or in models, I must admit I’m flummoxed on how to respond. If Downtown parking was free and plentiful, most people would drive there unless traffic was so bad that it was unrealistic. Similarly, if parking was $100 a day, almost no one would drive there even with no traffic congestion. Almost everyone from the biggest transit advocate to the stubborn auto-centric suburbanite would understand that I’m right that parking costs are a major factor in choosing to ride transit.

      8. Almost everyone from the biggest transit advocate to the stubborn auto-centric suburbanite would understand that I’m right that parking costs are a major factor in choosing to ride transit.

        Yes, of course you are. One of the big explanations for why Calgary (a very sprawling, suburban city) gets very good ridership on their light rail line is because downtown parking is very expensive.

      9. Al, I did not state you were wrong, I said I disagreed that raising parking rates in SLU (to what they are today, $20/day) would fund WSBLE, or make it practical, or supply the lost ridership. Transit has to stop trying to handicap other modes of transportation because it sucks.

        The world has changed. I don’t think the transit slave will return. Today the downtown garages are half filled, and private parking prices have declined. Your assumption is that we built Link for the work commuter, but just need to force them onto Link. I worry that rider is gone no matter what, and if we had known that 29 years ago I think our current transit system would look much different than today, with more buses and much less light rail, because it would be focuses on those who have to take transit.

        The bigger issue is revitalizing downtown Seattle, because that is the point of spending $130 billion on Link. I am not sure that is possible anymore, and in any case it will take years to reverse the perceptions of downtown Seattle, or return businesses lost to the eastside. You can’t really raise parking rates if garages are not filled, because as Ross notes parking rates are a function of supply and demand.

        Make Seattle safe, restore the commercial and retail vibrancy of downtown Seattle, then look at building WSBLE, and/or raising parking rates. If you can’t do these two things the riders will never return, and let’s cut our losses on Link. The reality is the downtown Seattle businesses, the downtown itself, and transit needed that transit commuter slave much more than they needed us, they were treated like shit, and they have found other opportunities. Good for them. As I always say, it is very hard to make people do what they don’t want to do.

    2. Interesting. I agree that they haven’t factored in the deep station issues. For example, where will these 10,500 riders at Aurora come from? The station won’t attract many walk-up riders, because of the location as well as the depth. Riders on the Aurora buses will stay on the bus if they are headed to downtown. So that means that the bulk of ridership will come from people transferring to get south of downtown (e. g. Licton Springs to Rainier Valley). Call me skeptical.

      Similarly, the numbers for Denny look too high. For Denny, you either have to be very close to the station, or be making a one-seat ride. A lot of riders from Ballard will just ride the 40. Riders coming from the East Side, West Seattle or the north end will just leave from Westlake Station and walk (or take the bus if their destination is somewhere different than close to the Denny station). Except for the folks who are the main line (from the north and south) the poor transfer environment will essentially shrink the walk-share path of the station. I suppose you could have 15,000 from people who have one-seat rides on the train, since Westlake had around 9,000 before the pandemic. I’m still skeptical.

      One of the more interesting numbers is SoDo. I think they are expecting a lot of people transferring there. Like Delridge, these are not happy riders, but reluctant ones. They will pine for the days of old, when the train just kept going to the UW and Northgate, but will instead cross the tracks to take the other train (don’t forget to look both ways!).

      Meanwhile, Avalon dropped dramatically. What’s up with that? Maybe this is a sneaky way to try and get them to cancel that station. Dravus seems too low, although maybe not. Currently the Magnolia-to-downtown buses carry more than that. So this basically expects no increase in ridership from Magnolia to downtown (or Uptown/SLU) due to this line, or just natural growth. Quite possible, I guess. Or maybe they expect Metro to run a bus from Magnolia to downtown, in which case the station will have fewer riders than this.

      1. I think the ridership model is underestimating Avalon, but if you look at the buses and walksheds you can see how it might arrive at its conclusion.

        The only bus that would connect to the Avalon station is the 21, so the rest of the ridership is dependent on walking. The northbound 21 could easily be rerouted to turn left on Alaska from 35th and drop off at the Junction station.

        That leaves the walkshed as the rest of the ridership. Everything west of 37th or so is closer to the Junction station. Everything east of Avalon is closer to the Delridge station (especially if you consider the giant hill that nobody likes walking up).

        That doesn’t leave much walkshed for the Avalon Station, especially since a huge portion of that immediate walkshed is the stadium, golf course, and bridge onramp. It’s just a handful of apartment buildings along Avalon/35th.

        If they decide on the “Medium Tunnel” alternative I think they can keep the Avalon station because a retained cut station is pretty cheap/easy to build. But everyone in that area wants a longer tunnel, so it should be an easy win to drop the station and build the longer tunnel.

      2. The assumed bus network in West Seattle isn’t discussed in detail in anything I’ve seen, Joe Z. However, having different routes serve individual stations when they are close together is not good. While it can add Link riders by forcing a one station double transfer between Delridge and Avalon, it’s terrible for the rider to change twice in such a short distance. My hunch is that the feeder bus networks were changed and Avalon was not assumed to get as many buses as before.

      3. Oh, I get it. They moved the Junction (Alaska) Station to the east, which means it cannibalizes the Avalon Station. Not only does it lose ridership by being farther away from The Junction, but it reduces the value of the other station. Yuck.

      4. Ross, I believe that the 2016 ST3 representative alignment was east-west on Alaska between Fauntleroy and 41st so it wasn’t that much further east. Regardless, ST needs to better explain how Avalon lost 75 percent of the boardings since their 2020 ridership forecasts were issued.

      5. It isn’t clear which station they are using for the numbers, as there are two “preferred alternatives” for West Seattle (both elevated). I’m guessing they choose the one on the east side of Fauntleroy (WSJ-2), since it is cheaper. This puts it quite a bit farther from California, and quite a bit closer to the other station. The Avalon State may be worse as well, as it appears to be on Genesee (instead of Avalon) and thus closer to the freeway.

        This combination could explain it. The Alaska Station is a little worse. It gains some riders from the east, but loses some to the west. But there is nothing to the southeast, and the golf course (due east) now takes up more of the walkshed (it is only four minutes away). Meanwhile, it does take some of the riders who used to use Avalon. For example the apartment at 36th and Snoqualmie is now closer to the Alaska Station ( than the Avalon Station ( Much of that triangle area (Fauntleroy, 35th and Alaska) has shifted to the other station, leaving Avalon with mainly just Avalon itself.

        Another theory is that they now assume that most riders coming from the 21 will now use the Alaska Station, but they feel like that won’t make up for losses that occur to that Alaska Station. These could be the result of the new station location, or just a reassessment.

        Anyway, just guessing.

      6. My vision for a combined Junction/ Avalon station is something that I think is very obvious in the big picture even if it adds 500 feet to a walk. It’s very simple.

        Close Fauntleroy between Alaska and Oregon and pu the station box there.

        That puts one entrance near Alaska and 39th and another near Oregon and 37th. Fauntleroy traffic could be routed to 39th between Alaska and Oregon and the parking on 39th would be removed during construction or 39th between Alaska and Oregon would be one way southbound and 37th would be paired to run northbound.

        That would free Alaska to then be a more local, low speed pedestrian and transit focused street — almost a transit mall for buses from across West Seattle.

        That has advantages. Just one underground station to fund and build. A lower vertical profile for a Delridge station since this station would be underground.. No huge property takes near Fauntleroy. Any eventual future line southward can follow Fauntleroy. An urban plaza in front of the station could have a signature treatment like a fountain, clock tower or large sculpture on Alaska.

        I’m sure there are details to work out in terms of temporary street closures and other issues. Still it seems much easier to do than the complicated and expensive options on the table now.

      7. That puts one entrance near Alaska and 39th and another near Oregon and 37th.

        Yeah, except that is much worse than the original plan. It is amazing how both West Seattle and Ballard got considerably worse once they started doing the actual planning. It is almost as if they knew both projects would have problems, but didn’t want to go into that much detail, figuring that by the time they started digging, people would accept whatever crap they come up with.

        This has the same basic problem as Ballard, with an extra twist. You are too far away from The Junction to actually serve it. Instead of a beautiful train ride followed by a short walk towards the junction (elegantly avoiding any semblance of a hill) you have a schlep up from the ground, and along a car sewer. Thus The Junction becomes a place where people drive to (very quickly I might add) as opposed to taking the train.

        Now the twist: Much of your walk share is eaten by the golf course. That was true of the original Avalon proposal, but remember, the whole idea was that it was supposed to be cheap (like 15th in Ballard). Yet now we are at the point where we are closing down a major arterial (Fauntleroy) and dramatically reducing ridership in both places, while likely spending more money.

        My point is not to attack your proposal Al, but merely to point out that it is like the “preferred alternatives”, in that it sucks. We are doubling down on the worst part of ST3. We should be talking about adding stations, or moving them closer to the urban centers, not eliminating them, or moving them farther away (or both). But we can’t, because reality has hit us upside our head. There is no good way to shine up this turd. This is a terrible value for the people it is supposed to serve, let alone the region.

      8. Yes, any of the DEIS alignments for West Seattle are worse than what was originally planned. A gondola could easily serve California directly and RR-C could continue along California towards Admiral. Then an Avalon station would still make sense and connect with the 21. A Delridge community center station could connect with RR-H so that it could continue west under the bridge and up Admiral Way to serve Alki. I bet that would provide higher ridership than what’s currently anticipated for the light rail alignment.
        As cabins arrive continuously throughout the day and each stations could be built right above each bus station, the transfer delay would be minimal providing a much better rider experience than any of the currently proposed solutions at a third of the cost of a light rail connection and operation would be fully automated and therefore about a third of a light rail solution.

      9. Ross, do you understand that California Street is not the center of the Junction but on the far west edge? It turns into single family just a block west of that street.

        The “middle” of the area’s density is now about 40th to 41st. There are two 7-8 story apartment buildings at the Alaska and Fauntleroy corner as well as both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. There are several other tall apartment buildings inside the 35th, Alaska and Fauntleroy triangle (the dense part of the Avalon walkshed).

      10. Al, California is towards the West, but extends quite a bit North and South and therefore it would be very convenient if RR-C could run along it and stop directly at a station. Any other alignment would require a bus detour and miss on part of California that way.
        In fact the Morgan Junction and Admiral Junction urban centers are also along California Ave, serving them by a direct bus (or even gondola) would drive a lot of traffic to the Junction station.

      11. Martin, I understand that California Ave connects these places. However, no current alternative gets any closer to California Ave anyway. All of the alternatives already look at using Alaska Street for transfers.

        If Alaska is oriented more like a transit street and traffic is shifted away, then every bus would turn more easily at California and Alaska would turn more into a transit center function.

        That leaves riders who go between Morgan Junction and Admiral without a direct route. Still, only Route 128 makes this direct connection and it operates only every 30 minutes. With such terrible frequency, it’s going to be faster for that rider if that service goes into service hours on another route that goes down Alaska St more frequently and transfers (which is probably what most riders do anyway).

        Because so much new has been built on Alaska east of the Junction, a station vault near Alaska and especially an aerial structure would be very disruptive and expensive to install. The extra cost of having to take hundreds of existing apartments is going to add hundreds of millions dollars. Even ST is saying that Avalon won’t pick up many riders (down to 1200 boardings daily). At 100 trains a day, that’s an average of 12 boardings per train. That’s lower than the lowest demand Stadium Station in 2019. Is it worth taking hundreds of apartments and investing in a mammoth subway vault or aerial structure for just a few riders when other station platforms are just a mere 2000 feet away (less than 1/2 mile)?

      12. Al, I understand the challenges of an elevated line and the cost of a light rail tunnel none of which could serve California directly. I was referring to my earlier post that a gondola could provide a station on California and Edmunds which would make it much easier to serve the California corridor as envisioned on

  17. Good points here. Are you all considering safety and sense of safety from the perspective of women and vulnerable populations as well? While escalators would be long, some might find that a better option in evening hours or hours with lower ridership. And open air stairways for when the escalators are out. No one solution works for all, but ultimately these stations have to be attractive to many user groups and we want everyone to ride. I say “yes and.”

    1. Good point, Jacqueline! I’ll add that 1 in 4 adult women suffer from arthritis and that can make walking down stairs painful. I actually view the ST approach of providing too few escalators and no up escalators in many stations to be abhorrent and even sexist.

  18. I think one overarching lesson is that the 2016-created approach to winnow the alternatives first and then do the DEIS has spectacularly failed. The original reason was to fast track the project and that’s no longer possible as realignment demonstrated anyway. The few alternatives in this DEIS have lower cost differentials than was presented in 2018-20 and the winnowing occurred without discussing deep stations.

    So what’s the right way to respond to the DEIS?

    1. Request that the DEIS be severed into two. It’s clear that West Seattle will open many years earlier and that train operations are not dependent on having DSTT2. It’s clear that West Seattle will never have the demand for any more than 10-minute frequency using existing Link vehicles.
    2. With a stand-alone WS DEIS, request that the technology alternatives should be expanded to rapid bus enhancements (no build), current LR vehicle proposal, automated vehicles at frequent headways and maybe a gondola or cable-loop system that can better accommodate the ups and downs of West Seattle terrain. Even adding back the Pigeon Point short tunnel and a new combined Junction/ Avalon station option may need to be added. I would also suggest at least one new transfer layout alternative at SODO for cross-platform transfers. ST can fast-track and punish a revised DEIS for this smaller segment well within 2 years.
    3. For the remaining DSTT and NW Seattle segment, request that ST develop a new DEIS (Central-Ballard DEIS) and issue that in about 2-4 years. All alternatives should run between Ballard and SODO with the studied technologies be broadened to include existing LR vehicles and automated systems. The alternatives should study combinations of Ballard-Westlake and Westlake-SODO with different technologies possibly used. The current DSTT capacity would be an issue flagged in the DEIS and if needed, new LR vehicles that have fewer driver cabs can be added as a “new technology alternative”. At Westlake or at a nearby Link station, different transfer station designs can be studied both vertically and horizontally (I personally feel that using University St or Capitol Hill station as the transfer point are still worthy of study as new alternatives). What it would take to connect tracks or alternatively have a separate OMF for Downtown-Ballard should be studied for feasibility and trade offs. This would answer the $4B question of if DSTT2 south of Westlake with its major construction in the ID is really needed.


    This is a suggestion in addition to responding to traditional specific DEIS impacts and technical inadequacies of the current document.

    1. I think it failed in the context WSBLE. For a straightforward, mostly freeway running project like TDLE or Lynnwood to Mariner, it may still be the right approach.

      #3 – if a different technology (or stub line) is on the table, then the scope should probably include Ballard-UW; if Ballard-Downtown isn’t going to be tied into the Link OMFs, then there’s no reason to presuppose Ballard-Downtown over Ballard-UW.

    2. I agree that an abbreviated DEIS process is better when a corridor already exists, AJ. I debated adding that point, but my post was already quite wordy!

      The basic fact here though is that this is isn’t the case with WSBLE anywhere unless one counts the short SODO busway segment.

  19. This discussion is still alive. If the the following comment saves $3 billion, you’re welcome. If it’s worth only two cents, hopefully it is at least thought-provoking.

    This idea is to construct the new Ballard line such that it terminates as a one-way loop flowing southbound (which is actually sort of westbound) through the existing Westlake Station in the existing DSTT, overlapping the other Link lines in exactly one place. All the transfers to and from the Ballard line occur there.

    The line merges in from the ghost of Convention Place Station just north of Westlake, stops at Westlake like any other train, and then (optionally) diverges from the DSTT at 3rd Ave., taking a right instead of a left to dive into a new subway tunnel, to head back to Ballard instead of continuing to Seneca/University St. Station.

    This concept avoids the need for any new level crossings. It’s nothing more than one new merge followed by one new diverge on an existing southbound DSTT segment. It is constructible if we are willing to tolerate single tracking a segment of the DSTT for a little while, and temporarily detouring a couple of downtown blocks or lanes thereof for cut-and-cover work. These both seem doable.

    This approach allows for same platform transfers in all directions, sharing of LRVs (surely preferred by ST) and OMFs (apparently an issue). It is decoupled from all of the West Seattle decisions (or can be). We’ve already determined (here at least) DSTT2 is not needed for Link to West Seattle; West Seattle can could fit in DSTT1 with signaling and safety upgrades to get the headways down. I believe this avoids the need for DSTT2, New Westlake Station, Midtown Station, and all the angst in the ID.

    I do read all the comments here. Is this idea new? I don’t know, maybe I read it here before. But regardless, I can’t think of a reason it wouldn’t work. Can you?

    1. I like creative solutions! It would reduce the capacity of the DSTT1 however. I’m not sure it’s worth it.
      Talking about creative solutions: What about running the Ballard line as an elevated line along Mercer including a station straddling Hwy 99 to serve both sides of the highway, and then turning South along Westlake and deadending at Westlake with elevators into the Westlake station. (you would need to find space for an OMF around Interbay) It may replace the streetcar to make space for columns…

      1. The problem with a station at Aurora and Mercer (whether above or below ground) is that it can’t serve the Aurora buses (unless you completely redo Aurora). When they built the SR 99 tunnel, they did something profoundly stupid, which is to have the southbound downtown exit on the left. You would think they would learn from the mess that exists on I-5, but no. As a result, it means buses have to abandon the curbside lane (the lane with bus stops) to get over into that left lane, and exit. Thus the only good reason to put a stop close to Aurora (connections to buses) just won’t work. This is why the Mercer Street Tunnel proposal is also a very bad idea.

        You could abandon the idea of that bus connection, but then it is just a really bad station. From a walk-up standpoint, the two proposed stops (Aurora/Mercer or Aurora/Harrison) are both terrible. They are the worst possible station locations in the area. Something like Mercer and 9th would not be quite as bad, but Mercer itself is not great — you want to go at least one block south.

        All that being said, elevated might save you a lot of money, I’m just not sure you could pull it off. I don’t think any of the initial plans had elevated south of Elliot (they were either on the surface or underground). My guess is the most feasible elevated line probably runs through Belltown. I could easily see the train starting in Ballard, going down 15th, Elliot, Western and then turning on 4th or 5th (the angles are good). Throw in a stop in Belltown and it starts looking good. You would want to extend it south, through downtown, with a stop at around 5th and Madison, 5th and Jackson (with the connection to I. D.) and on south to West Seattle (look at that, we’re back to the old monorail proposal).

        I do wonder if the monorail proposal, if done by more competent people, would have been much better than what we’ll end up with. It had some big flaws, but those are showing up here. Monorail only makes sense if everything is elevated. You can’t take advantage of running on the surface (which is cheaper). At it turns out, we are running elevated and underground (a combination that is more expensive) without any surface running. The monorail transfers (elevated to underground) were bound to be awkward, and yet this has awkward transfers as well. A Belltown Station is just as worthy as a station in greater South Lake Union, and wouldn’t have the problems of the other stations. You lose the station at Seattle Center, but for that you have the old monorail. It isn’t quite as good, but it would likely be a bargain compared to what we are planning. Too bad those folks had no idea what they were doing.

      2. The left-exit problem can be solved by providing a bus-only ramp off to Sixth Avenue North just south of Mercer and adding a bus-lane to Sixth Avenue. That’s an improvement that’s worthy regardless what happens with Link through there.

      3. The left-exit problem can be solved by providing a bus-only ramp off to Sixth Avenue North just south of Mercer and adding a bus-lane to Sixth Avenue. That’s an improvement that’s worthy regardless what happens with Link through there.

        Agreed. That is justified in its own right. If you did that, then southbound trips to the station would be easy. Just add a southbound bus stop on Mercer and you are done. The other direction you would have to add a bus stop on Aurora (which might be caught in traffic turning on Roy) along with a very unpleasant walk under Aurora (next to Mercer). Not great, but at least in the realm of possibility. Back to the point of the comment, elevated would probably be better. You would be above the car sewer below, not swimming in it.

        Building the ramp doesn’t look too had, but it doesn’t look trivial either. You could fly over sixth, and merge as 6th straightens out (the equivalent of roughly Republican if it went through). You couldn’t split off north of Mercer unless you destroyed the hotel that is about to be built there ( It wouldn’t be cheap, either (although WSDOT is spending a lot more on a lot less).

        Another option would start with straightening out 6th. Have it basically go straight north-south from Mercer to Harrison. Then the curvy part of 6th (no longer connected to Mercer) would become the end of the ramp. It would be an odd intersection, but I think it would work. Either way you would have to redo the pedestrian walkway (and I don’t know of a good solution there).

        This is an important project, that people should be talking about. My guess is no one wants to admit that they have to fix the mistake they made in building the new interchange. Maybe they had this in mind from the beginning (but just ran out of money) — I doubt it.

    2. Very interesting, and very different (if I understand it right). The station order involving the Ballard Stations would be:

      Ballard … SLU, Denny, Seneca, Pioneer Square …
      … UW, Capitol Hill, Westlake, Denny, SLU … Ballard

      Basically the “northbound” line to Ballard is a big U, while the southbound line really is southbound. It could definitely work and be the best value.

      Just to complete things, I would pair things this way:

      West Seattle to Everett
      Tacoma to Northgate
      Redmond to Lynnwood
      Everett to West Seattle
      Lynnwood to Ballard
      Northgate to Tacoma
      Ballard to Redmond

      None of these seem too long. Tacoma to Northgate takes about as long as Tacoma to Ballard, and is way more useful for riders. If we automate the trains they can go longer (e. g. Tacoma to Lynnwood), but for now this avoids really long train trips.

      You retain all of the one-seat rides from what we have, or will soon have (e. g. Rainier Valley to Northgate). There is no rider degradation, like the ST proposal. My guess is fewer people would transfer as well. Half of the combinations south of Northgate either don’t involve a transfer, or a same platform transfer (e. g. Ballard to West Seattle). Most of the reverse direction transfers were expected (e. g. Redmond to West Seattle). Likewise, Ballard to Northgate riders were expected to reverse directions. There are three combinations that involve reversing directions that didn’t before: Ballard to either Redmond, Tacoma or West Seattle. This could be done in Westlake (by crossing over) or Capitol Hill (with a cross platform transfer — a huge bonus for those that are mobility challenged). The only significant drawback is that Ballard to the southern end of downtown would require this transfer. That being said, a trip from Northgate to Ballard would be one seat. This means that trips along the way (e. g. Northgate to Denny, South Lake Union, Uptown) would be a lot more convenient. This seems like a reasonable trade-off, considering everything else.

      From I. D. to Northgate, you’ve got three trains going northbound. This is an improvement over splitting at Ballard. For example, assume it is late at night, and you want to get from downtown to Northgate. The trains are running every 15 minutes, giving you have 5 minute frequency. In contrast, with a split at Ballard, you would have a somewhat awkward 5, 10, 5, 10 gap. Worse case scenario, you arrive at the station as the train is pulling away, only to find you have a 10 minute wait for the next one. This plan is much better for these riders, who likely make up the bulk of our system.

      From the southbound direction it is similar, but split at Westlake. This means that Northgate to Westlake as well as Westlake to I. D. would have the same sort of improvement over the Ballard split. Northgate to I. D., however, would have to deal with the inconsistent gaps. Still, this is no worse than splitting at Ballard.

      Overall it works really well. This looks like a huge improvement over the Sound Transit proposal while being much less expensive. It has some trade-offs compared to the Ballard split, with enough advantages to be considered a wash at worse.

      1. No, Ross. There’s no train from Capitol Hill and points north toward Ballard in Jonathan’s proposal. The train from Ballard would join the southbound DSTT track at a merging, trailing point junction next to the old Convention Center Station. It would stop at Westlake to discharge all of its passengers. Then it would take a new diverging facing-point junction at Third and Pine to a track that would return it to wherever the southeastern-most station in the Ballard-SLU line is.

        Jonathan believes that the curve north can happen at Third; I think it needs to be at Second to fit in a practical LRV turn radius. The Civil engineers can make that call, because the result is the same “dogbone loop” at the southern end of the line.

        Everett-West Seattle (or Everett-Forest Street MF loop to save the most money), Lynnwood-Redmond, and Northgate-Tacoma trains would run through the tunnel every ten minutes as needed on a 3-3-4 schedule, with the Ballard trains tucked into the 4 minute gap between Lynnwood-Redmond and Northgate-Tacoma.

        As Martin states, this does limit the peak hours potential for the RV/Tacoma line, so the “save the most money” option of just turning Everett trains back at the SoDo maintenance facility loop during non-peak hours makes the most sense. Give West Seattle (and Magnolia) peak hour direct express buses to and through downtown Seattle for the lawyers who might otherwise be prompted to sue for losing their bar-car equipped Hamptons train.

        The turnback trains could be extended to either the tail track at Rainier Beach or the one at Sea-Tac airport for extra peak hours capacity through the Rainier Valley.

      2. Addendum, the use of the tail tracks for reversing means that double-cabbing would be needed for the Everett-Rainier Beach or Everett-Sea-Tac trains at peak hours at the south end of the run. The second operator would have to board southbound at Othello or TIBS and the first operator depart at that same station back northbound. That means some sort of operator recovery facility would be needed at whichever station the swap occurs. That makes Sea-Tac preferable, because Othello is a “streetcar stop” style station.

        During normal operations the operators would just swap in the Maintenance Facility loop at the closest point to the operator staging facility.

        The same thing would be true at Northgate for the Tacoma trains. A relief operator would need to board the rear car at Roosevelt and the relieved operator depart at Roosevelt back southbound. I don’t know of an operator relief facility is included in the station, but there is a veritable warren of smallish rooms throughout the structure.

        This would have to happen for all trains, except perhaps after 10 PM when fifteen-minute service on the three lines would allow a single operator could “walk the train” at the tail track safely.

      3. OK, I think I’ve got it now. So basically from a rider standpoint it would be like so:

        Ballard … SLU, Denny, Westlake [end of the line]
        Westlake, Denny, SLU … Ballard

        It is basically the same as a Ballard-Westlake standalone subway, but reusing the stations (and a tiny bit of track). If this is true, I don’t like it as much as my misinterpretation of Jonathan’s idea. You lose your one-seat ride from Ballard to the south end of downtown with less to show for it. You do have better transfers than a stand-alone line, but that’s it. You’ve still got a bunch of transfers — including one end of downtown to the other (Denny to I. D.) — with no new transfers. Worse yet, you’ve messed up the timing of the other line (we are back to 5, 10, 5, 10 everywhere north of Westlake).

        I still think the best option is what I thought Jonathan was proposing, or a full, bidirectional split with trains going to Ballard. Whether we could pull off any of these is another matter.

      4. RossB describes a creative approach to routing that sounds appealing and workable to me. Also, nothing would prevent a Ballard – Westlake line that simply loops back after Westlake with this concept. There’s tons of flexibility to address any specific operational limitation, not all of which can be predicted in advance as the city evolves.

        This dialogue is raising my spirits about this project, because I see what looks to me like the bones of an affordable solution to the DSTT2 conundrum that does not require anyone giving anything up, that looks like it almost smoothly fits into the backwards planning process we have constructed. It’s the same overall program, a vastly more efficient way. So far nobody has blown a hole in this concept.

        What short term describes this concept so someone who thinks it’s a good idea could support it?

        Westlake loop? I don’t know, I’m from Chicago, long ago… This is more of a weave, but weave has weak branding with the Mercer weave on I-5, and it isn’t what’s important from a user perspective. The point is, Westlake Station, the one we know and love with its cool 1980s murals, becomes the main transfer point between Ballard-bound and non-Ballard-bound trains. Westlake Hub? I think the city already uses that term for that area, which is fine. I don’t know, the concept needs a name, a diagram and maybe a post on its own. Seattle Subway folks?

        You could pave a center platform with gold (and make West Seattle and Ballard whole) for the amount of money saved on DSTT2 and its three deep stations. Transfer activity at that location is fine, a positive thing from an urban perspective, better than, say, SODO. Transfers enliven the surrounding area as a positive side effect, from 3rd to the Convention Center, an area with a lot of assets already that could use a little enlivening. But nobody would even need to exit the station to transfer between Link lines, unlike ST’s current plan.

        This approach asks no sacrifices of anyone, really, except maybe any tunnel contractors who would otherwise be happy to dig themselves and all the rest of us into a hole in front of the library for five years that we can backfill with tax revenues for the next 50. I would say, throw them a bone by doing the right thing and making the Ballard tunnel a wee bit longer to accommodate stations where they maximize the utility of the system, instead of being the cheapest places to put them. Once again, this would be one further east and up the hill from Denny/Westlake, and another closer to where people would rather be, not right at the SR 99 tunnel portal.

        From a user perspective, nobody knows a DSTT from an OMF. What matters is, we can add Link service to both West Seattle and Ballard without constructing a second deep tunnel through downtown, or even a second deep New Westlake Station. From the perspective of a ST board member from Everett, this is a way to avoid paying for a downtown tunnel nobody needs, and putting what resources we do have into the route and the details that will make the system we build more effective, and better integrated into our communities.

        Environmental benefits are on the list of reasons we invest in these transit systems. Avoiding the need for all this construction has an immediate and substantial environmental benefit that we should value greatly. Up front environmental costs are the worst from a climate perspective. Avoiding the need to construct DSTT2 while still providing effective and sustainable transit to more of the city would be a climate victory.

        I remain in favor of having the pros evaluate all these possibilities, with or without DSTT2, but nothing looks infeasible here.

      5. Any of these suggested routings are possible; probably all of them are valuable. From Northgate to Ballard via Westlake is very appealing. So is Ballard to Redmond. Westlake to Westlake via Ballard is fine, too. But really, it doesn’t matter much when the transfers are same-platform and headways are low.

        Tom Terrific suggests Second Avenue is better than Third for diverging to the north. I’ll bet that’s right. Indeed, the pros will figure it out. We are doing some preliminary screening as a thought experiment and I see that Second Avenue, which isn’t much further, is roomier. So what if the tunnel is a tiny bit longer. Second Avenue is wide, it’s one way, and it isn’t even a major transit corridor. If we had to tear it up for a while and detour traffic, life would go on.

        We didn’t just construct ourselves into a corner with the new Convention Center, did we? I think and hope not. We have the street ROW…mostly, I think. On the east side, is it 9th that would need to close for a while? Somewhere around there. I do not have all the 3D geometry loaded into my head there. This will be easier in a few years when we all have AR/VR glasses. Anyway, it all looks eminently feasible and easier than DSTT2 + 3 new stations.

        Westlake Hub? What term best connotes the central role of Westlake in this concept, while simultaneously avoiding the need for this second downtown transit tunnel?

      6. I like the idea of avoiding DSTT2 too, Jonathan.

        One major inconsistency with ST3 is the loss of Midtown station. I don’t personally have a problem with it, but some stakeholder might.

        A possible remedy for that loss would be for a “hill climb” project from either Sececa/ University or Pioneer Square. Maybe it’s escalators and moving sidewalks. Maybe it’s a diagonal elevator or funicular shaft underground. Still, it’s way cheaper and easier to remedy than digging and accessing a huge deep cave! It could also even go further up to First Hill and honor that 1996 Sound Moves promise better than the FHSC.

      7. I like RossB’s notion of trains from the north swinging through SLU towards Uptown and Ballard. UW would love that. I like the notion of trains from Ballard heading out to Redmond. I think those are trips a lot of people want to make. So are all the others. So what if reverse trips might involve an easy and quick same-platform transfer.

        I can imagine ST balking at an asymmetric routing plan because of “system legibility”, though really, the greatest thing we can do for legibility is not to build two different Westlake Stations and two different ID stations with labyrinthine connections at each.

        All the alignment and station location decisions in West Seattle and Ballard, important though they are, are sort of orthogonal to this concept. The key thing is, saving $3 billion or what have you by avoiding DSTT2 + 3 deep stations pays for all the improvements people are saying they want. That smells like a political winner to me. After Bertha, is anyone really chomping at the bit to tunnel under the heart of downtown yet again when we don’t even have the money in hand?

      8. I like the notion of trains from the north swinging through SLU towards Uptown and Ballard. I like the notion of trains from Ballard heading out to Redmond. I think those are trips a lot of people want to make. So what if reverse trips might involve an easy and quick same-platform transfer.

        Agreed. The strongest argument for this sort of alignment to Ballard is that it connects to South Lake Union and Uptown. This would maximize those connections, with one-seat rides and same platform transfers.

        I can imagine ST balking at an asymmetric routing plan because of “system legibility”, though really, the greatest thing we can do for legibility is not to build two different Westlake Stations and two different ID stations with labyrinthine connections at each.

        Agree. I’ll admit I had trouble wrapping my head around the idea at first, and it turns out I was the one who came up with it :). Still, it isn’t too hard to understand on a map, with little arrows. The stations themselves are far more confusing. There are only a couple spots where someone might wonder why they can’t just reverse their trip. Overall though, there appear to fewer bad transfers, and fewer transfers overall.

        What short term describes this concept so someone who thinks it’s a good idea could support it?

        Your idea, and my misinterpretation of it (which I prefer) are all just variations on the same theme. There all fall under the “No New Tunnel” category. Reuse the existing stations, and branch off of them. How those branches occur is a different matter. They all require running more trains through the tunnel, although this doesn’t appear to be a deal breaker. They all have trade-offs, in terms of cost, disruption (which we are largely guessing at) and user experience. But the biggest obstacle is getting ST to even seriously consider re-using the tunnel, and running trains every two minutes in it, instead of three minutes in it, and six minutes on a second tunnel. They both have the exact same throughput, but running with two minute headways might cause some delays.

        But it would be much cheaper and a much better experience for the user.

      9. Jonathan, I agree that going with a three line DSTT solves many political, circulation, “equity” and constructibility problems.

        There is one looming other problem too: West Seattle Link. The forecasts have lowered the ridership to a paltry 11K boardings with all three stations combined. The $3B+ price tag is not going to compete for New Starts funds. It was low in 2016 and 2020, but it’s even worse now. It’s way too low to justify 10 trains an hour during the peaks, which opens up those slots for more RV/ Seatac trains so that’s a silver lining. Still, it looks like more of that will either need to come from local sources or be really scaled back.

        With the elimination of the West Seattle stub at SODO hassle, those stakeholders would rejoice getting a one set rail ride from opening day with the configuration that you’re embracing! However, the need to save money and scale back expectations (current alternatives remove up to 600 housing units in total) is the next obstacle in this process.

        It’s one reason that I think that the West Seattle Extension needs to be a stand-alone DEIS and the pencils need to be sharpened.

        PS. If the golf course was reduced in size and/or moved to Pigeon Ridge, that land could become an urban village and put lots more riders into that line bringing back some productivity.

      10. One major inconsistency with ST3 is the loss of Midtown station. I don’t personally have a problem with it, but some stakeholder might.

        I could see that, but the main thing is, the Midtown Station doesn’t actually add anything. It was put in so that riders from Ballard or the South End wouldn’t have to transfer to get to the middle of downtown. Most riders would much prefer being on the other line (with its two stations in the area, not one) and very few would bother transferring to it. I wouldn’t. I could be headed right next to a station entrance, coming from West Seattle (with the best same-direction transfer in the system) during rush hour (when the trains run every six minutes) and I still wouldn’t bother. There is no value added to the station — it is part of the new tunnel because there is a new tunnel.

      11. Al, I agree, higher frequency/capacity to Seatac is more important than a West Seattle Link, but RV is the bottleneck, therefore I come back to the Duwamish bypass: branch off at SODO to go straight south. I don’t think we even need to double the track through SODO though we want to add bridges at Holgate and Lander and close Horton. That would increase capacity going south and allow the RV line to be extended to Renton at some point. You could connect the Junction and White Center/Westwood via gondola lines or redirect the bus lines to serve the new stations:
        We discussed this earlier this year…

      12. As far as I’m concerned West Seattle would be better off with a five-star, newly-commissioned fully-electric express bus hub-and-spoke network that maximally leverages the West Seattle Bridge and SR 99 the way they exist now, while leaving the charming community around that proposed Delridge station intact, or fully available to redevelop as appropriate. I would have some routes that fly through the tunnel and go straight to SLU in five minutes to sweeten the deal. That would be sweet, no?

        But if we are going to go with Link in West Seattle, which is in the program, as many trains as we need should fit in DSTT1. I don’t understand why we as a region act as if these “capital improvements” to get the DSTT1 down to 90 second headways are some formidable, scary thing. They are a bunch of sensors and traffic lights, not a deep tunnel and 3 deep stations. Let’s plan on them, and do them.

        I would think the message that we can deliver the same basic Link program without DSTT2 would resonate soundly on the ST Board.

        As far as a lack of Midtown Station goes, it’s redundant by design; it’s barely even a loss, and anything to make the Madison RapidRide stops more accessible would be about a 1000x better value. More active hill climb assistance somewhere would help, for about 100x better value. Helicopter service is a better value than DSTT2 just to obtain a stop at Midtown.

      13. What you gain, Ross, from Jonathan’s idea is a connection to the outer world without a non-revenue tunnel. Trains scheduled for maintenance don’t take the turnout at Third and Pine to go back to Ballard. They stay on Line 1 to Forest Street or Bellevue once it’s open.

        Trains returning from Forest Street or Bellevue would have to go north to Northgate and reverse in the tail track, but that’s not a huge volume of trains per week. Tacoma trains would be reversing regularly there, so an additional operator would be available to make the reverse.

        Or, if Ballard-Downtown is sourced out of Lynnwood (not impossible) the trains returning run through Westlake and take the turnout while those headed for service turn back in the pocket at Stadium or just west of Judkins Park.

        It appears that all three of those tail tracks have been laid out to make “walking the train” possible, though the Brotherhood won’t like it.

        So far as the “triangle route” you proposed, that might be fine. though pretty confusing. I can go from SLU to Redmond, but I can’t get back without transferring or riding to Lynnwood? It just seems kind of odd.

        As Al says, there’s not a LOT of difference between this and a stub terminal, except that pathway to the maintenance facilities. Of course that could be provided by a tunnel from the curve between Pine and Third and a connection to a new tunnel under Westlake as well. It would require that a cross-over be put in the middle of University/Seneca for trains returning from the south, and one under Westlake Avenue for those trains to continue north, but neither is a difficult problem.

        However, the very best thing about Jonathan’s idea is that all transfers at Westlake are at least potentially same-platform if his idea of adding a center platform there is included. The same thing could be done at Pioneer Square for Eastside/South End transfers, though the ingress/egress problem for a center platform is more difficult there because the station is smaller.

      14. And Ross, while you might have “Denny to I.D.” in your proposal you don’t have “I.D. to Denny”. At least, you don’t without a tiny, short, you-won’t-notice-it detour to….Lynnwood!

        “Asymmetricity” (if that’s a word) in transit is NOT a good thing.

      15. As far as affecting the environmental process goes, it’s no small thing, but I’ve played a role in effecting major change to an open EIS process before, on SR 520, multiple times over a period of many years, and I can share a great deal about that from personal experience. In that context, around 2004, we rejected the state’s original proposal with 9 lanes across Portage Bay and no improvements at UW Station. We repeatedly proposed radical stuff that cost more (including the pedestrian/bike bridge to UW station that got built), but we got a hearing from city and state government and WSDOT, because our proposals actually accomplished more as a transportation system. That’s a very long story, but my point now is this:

        A concept that starts with the premise of delivering the same program for $3 billion in today’s environment is guaranteed to get a hearing. All it needs is a group of impassioned advocates and an effective case, including some nice graphics like the kind Oran always draws up. The comment period is open for another five weeks, and there’s time to impact the dialogue. Lots of things in this world are heading in a bad direction, but this project could be heading in a much better one with a little more advocacy.

        Bottom line: There is surely a way to deliver Link to West Seattle and Ballard with relatively minor modifications to DSTT1, yielding a transit experience that is superior to one involving DSTT2. If there’s some little obstacle in the way, is it worth $3 billion? Probably not. If it’s only a $1.5 billion savings in the end, let’s take that.

      16. Jonathan, I don’t think anything “on the east end” would have to be closed except for about a block of Pine Street between the curve away from Pine Street to Capitol Hill and the Pike/Pine ramp to/from I-5. It could be decked over for traffic flow.

        You don’t want even to consider Ninth as the north direction; the curve to get into would be too sharp. Use what tail space is already available in the tunnel east of the curve trending diagonal across it if goes very far in order to get close to the south curb on Pine. Then you have to dig a curving merge into the ROW of the Pike/Pine ramp, which is what you have to deck over for construction. That probably has to happen in the on/off ramp as well in order to dig the trench under it as far as Minor. Then curve into Minor’s ROW go a block north and have a fairly deep station in the Minor ROW that can be TBM’d on the north side.

        With all that will be saved on the deep tunnel, there might be money for three SLU stations, one a Minor, one a bit west of Fairview a block or two north of Denny and the “northwest corner” somewhere near 9th and Mercer. They’d have to be reasonably deep because they’re “orthogonal” to the street grid.

      17. Meant to say, anything that starts with the premise of delivering the same program for billions less, is guaranteed to get a hearing. Who doesn’t like that? It’s asking for billions more that makes those meetings harder to schedule. (And even those are possible, speaking from experience!) Point is, have faith. Climate change is hard. Changing an EIS process is way easier.

        Does anyone have any examples of this asymmetric routing in any other transit systems around the world? I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of them. It sounds perfectly feasible. You can do whatever routing ST is able/willing to do. A tiny bit of flexibility on the system requirements is all that is needed. It is a lot less flexibility than we would be asking of Seattle residents who would be putting up with DSTT2 construction while paying for it.

        By scheduling West Seattle first ST is already saying, don’t build DSTT2 right away. This message is, don’t build DSTT2 at all then, and here’s a promising way for how to accomplish that. Spend our pennies elsewhere; there’s no shortage of worthy recipients.

      18. I love Seattle, and I love New York, but Seattle is not New York and we do not need DSTT2.

        LRVs are not buses, but the bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel carries 1,850 vehicles per hour. The tube under the Hudson River carries 24 actual trains per hour. There is a system running reliably with 75 second headways in Sao Paolo.

        The idea that we need to construct a second tunnel under downtown and a three cavernous redundant stations to add what amounts to one more line with a train every six minutes at minimum is, frankly, absurd. Let’s go ahead and study DSTT2, so we can have a point of comparison for how much money we are going to save by not building it. But, really, the world is burning and we do not have time for this nonsense.

      19. Note there is an existing crossover (and potential turnaround) at UW. Trains would not need to go all the way to Northgate to reverse direction and enter the Ballard tunnel in this configuration. I think there’s another crossover somewhere else in that stretch. Whatever else is needed can surely be added for some tiny fraction of DSTT2’s most optimistic cost.

      20. If you make the turn under 2nd Ave. as Tom Terrific suggests, it’s one more swing under Virginia St., and then it’s a straight shot to tunnel under street ROW the entire way to the landscaped corner of the power station at Denny/Minor that would make a pretty darn good station location for that cluster of high rises up there. Boring might still be cheaper / lower-impact than cut-and-cover, but there is no forest of high rise foundations you’d need to cut under. There are, like, none.

      21. From Denny/Minor, it’s also a very short way under Minor to the zone where you would need to develop an approach to the existing southbound DSTT. Minor is perpendicular to Virginia. This is one of those weird five-way intersections at the edge of the street grids on Denny.

        One solution then is to construct the “Denny” Station at Minor as a stacked X, one level for one direction, and the other level below, and perpendicular. Is this done anywhere in the world? Probably.

        A station doesn’t have to be right there, though that looks pretty useful to me. My larger point is, the more I look at this, the more it looks totally doable. It actually looks hard to argue the opposite case, that we absolutely positively cannot live without DSTT2, no way, no how.

        Of course it is cheaper and easier and more effective to maximally leverage DSTT1, versus building DSTT2 + 3 deep new stations, unless there is some fatal flaw with that. Is there such a fatal flaw? Nobody has identified one. We should officially look at it.

        The message should be an easy sell to a tax-weary public impatient for transit improvements. Spend less, reduce impacts, get a better result. What’s not to like? Usually political battles are a lot harder than this one looks.

      22. What you gain, Ross, from Jonathan’s idea is a connection to the outer world without a non-revenue tunnel.

        Fine, but I think it is safe to say that 99.99% of the riding public doesn’t care. When I right about “gain”, I’m writing about riders gaining something, unless I specifically mention something else (typically cost) and that is usually speculative.

        The main value added for this option (over a stub) is that riders get to share the same station, making same direction transfers trivial (and even reverse direction transfers straightforward, if not ideal). But again, from a user standpoint, that is true of all of the shared-tunnel options. Within the various shared-tunnel sub-options, there are trade-offs. From a user standpoint, I would put it this way, with the first three options involving the reuse of the stations:

        1) Ballard Split — Great for Ballard (and the places along the way). Causes the Westlake to Northgate section to have weird frequency.

        2) Ballard Stub to existing Westlake Station — Causes more same-direction, same-platform transfers from Ballard. Causes the Westlake to Northgate section to have weird frequency.

        3) Triangle — Causes some transfers, but eliminates almost as many. Westlake to Northgate is ideal. Confusing.

        4) Ballard Stub to new Westlake Station — Causes more transfers, none of which are same-platform. Westlake to Northgate is ideal.

        These are trade-offs. I would lean towards the first option (just for simplicity) but I’m not thrilled about the pattern north of Westlake (although this sort of thing is common). I like the triangle, but I’ll admit it is very weird, and while triangles are common, I’m not sure if they are quite like this. It is unusual, to put it lightly (although I really can’t see anything wrong with it). If it wasn’t for the weirdness, it would be my first choice, as I see the Westlake to Northgate section as the core of our system (more or less).

        All of these options have financial costs, and could cause a lot of disruption. My guess is the fourth option is the most expensive, although it might be the least disrupting. I would also guess that all of these options are much, much cheaper than a new tunnel. Cost and disruption are big issues, which is why option 2 could easily turn out to be the best choice.

      23. Thinking of messaging here… In terms of messaging, “No new tunnel” is not quite right, as the Ballard project will involve plenty of new tunneling. The thing worth avoiding is a dumb new tunnel that is parallel to, and redundant to, the transit tunnel we already have.

        A catchy slogan eludes me at the moment. But that idea is gold.

        West Seattle trains can share the tunnel we have now. And Ballard trains can share the Westlake Station we have now, by merging trains in from Ballard just prior to Westlake, and introducing a southbound split after Westlake as we are envisioning here.

        All the service patterns RossB floats are better than the ones involving DSTT2. I don’t care what service pattern ST agrees to if we can solve this problem without $3B of redundant infrastructure and the gloomy ritual of long subterranean connections for the rest of time.

        That deep DSTT2 tunnel might arguably make a good mass shelter for future heat emergencies — but SR 99 is deeper, bigger and better, even for that purpose. I cannot imagine any future in which DSTT2 is actually required. It should be scrapped and we should focus our collective energy on solving the same exact problems, without it.

      24. This would be the time to lid a block or two of I-5, to at least attempt to integrate support for that into the construction plan where the line from Ballard ties into the DSTT, using the approach under Minor which Tom Terrific seems to believe is plausible.

      25. Also, we do not need to move heaven and earth to create a station at Denny/Westlake. There’s a hotel and grocery there, but we already have a Whole Foods on Link and that spot is a short flat traverse from the existing Westlake Station. It’s so short that even a glacial streetcar (we could name them after Puget Sound glaciations, like “Vashon”) is going to look better than going down to a deep station to go four long blocks.

        So if it’s more convenient to bring those two tunnels (to Ballard, from Ballard) together at a place that’s a better location for a station anyway, we should do so. Somewhere around the Denny/Minor/Virginia/Boren/Fairview block (one block touches all these streets!) looks like an awesome target to me.

        Then something north and west in SLU with a complementary walkshed, basically, anywhere up there, it’s all pretty good now, literally anywhere that isn’t directly over the SR 99 portal, on the backside of the Gates complex, by the vent shafts, dodging traffic on a dark rainy night.

      26. “A concept that starts with the premise of delivering the same program for $3 billion in today’s environment is guaranteed to get a hearing”

        That’s good to hear. I’ve gotten overwhelmed by ST3 and have stopped reading all these unofficial tunnel alternatives and Ballard alternatives etc because I have a feeling we can’t turn the ship around and I can’t picture whether these alternatives would really be good or not or which ones might have a chance. I have no idea what to tell ST in the feedback.

        But I see a tactic, even if I don’t know what I could support. Let’s take cancelling the second tunnel as an example. We can write anything we want in the EIS feedback, so we should send in our alternatives even if ST won’t take them seriously. They’ll get added to the EIS and visible for everybody to read, including the federal grant writers. So that’s a start.

        Second, the best starting point for promoting an alternative is to write an article about it. That gives something to point to and generate support for. It can answer the why and how and “How much money?” and “What about this contingency?” questions in a coherent way. Nobody is going to follow this spiral of proposals in comments; it’s not enough to build a movement on.

        Third, what facts to we have. For canceling the second tunnel, there’s this:

        1. In December 2015 ST had a list of potential projects for ST3. One DSTT2. The other was was capital improvements to DSTT1 to increase frequency from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes. ST deselected it when it decided to go with DSTT2. But it could be revived, or we could press ST for details on what those capital improvements are and how much they would cost.

        2. West Seattle really would be better served with multi-line BRT fanning out from the bridge to the 16th, Delridge, 35th, California north, California south, and ferry corridors, with honorable mention to Alki. The problem there is downtown congestion if there’s no tunnel.

        3. The biggest Link capacity bottleneck is between Westlake and Capitol Hill. This has implications for the Y transfer and SLU-Capitol Hill trips:

        3A. Neither ST’s alternatives nor the other alternatives that join Westlake address this bottleneck.

        3B. Ballard Link wasn’t designed for SLU to Capitol Hill trips. It was 50/50 with a good transfer: would it really be worth it to ride 3 minutes, transfer 6 minutes, ride 3 minutes more? Transfers make more sense when each segment is longer, and when the walk+wait is a smaller percent of the total trip. There is an alternative: bus 8. Pre-covid it was severely stuck in Denny Way congestion. Since then SDOT has made some improvements around Fairview. I haven’t ridden the 8 west of Summit since covid started, and it’s hard to tell while offices are closed, but that might be sufficient, or SDOT could do more to get the 8 out of traffic. Metro is still planning to reroute the 8 to Madison Park in the RapidRide G restructure as far as I know, so any unreliability would affect that route.

        4. A Ballard-Westlake shuttle line would have to transfer at Westlake. How would that work, and would it scale to multi tens of thousands of riders?

        5. There is an overhead right of way north of Westlake called the monorail. The new monorail was going to replace it, and when that was dashed there may have grown a resolve to keep the historic monorail. But an elevated Link line could replace it. The trains might have to be shorter than 4 cars to fit the downtown aesthetic, and a shuttle line might make a convincing case for automated trains since it would be disconnected from the rest of Link. Vancouver has short automated trains every 2-3 minutes all day and evening for not much money, because it doesn’t have to pay drivers’ salaries.

        6. Joining DSTT1 at Convention Place depends on whether the station shell is filled in, and whether re-excavating it could support the weight of the convention center now above it. The block south of it, the Camlin Hotel’s 3-story addition couldn’t be taller because of the tunnel void under it.

        7. Joining the underground line elsewhere, such as north of Capitol Hill, runs into the issue of whether if’s feasible or expensive to break the tunnel’s seal, and whether you could build a Y underground without tearing out surface blocks to build it or to extract the TBM. And a TBM hole is multiple blocks large.

        8. Going around to the south end of downtown to join Link at Intl Dist (I think a Ballard-IntlDist-Northgate line was suggested) would require another tunnel, elevated, or surface through downtown. Another tunnel would have the same costs as DSTT2. Elevated could use the monoral corridor north of Westlake, but there may be heavy opposition to extending it south on 5th. The monorail’s four cancellation referendums were led by 2nd Avenue businesses who didn’t want it in front of their windows or taking their street parking. Surface would run into downtown congestion.

        9. Still, if you’re looking for surface, there’s the CCC corridor. The city has already agreed on center transit lanes between Olive and Yesler. And the north part of 1st (Belltown) needs better transit service. However, Belltown is incompatible with SLU unless the line does a narrow U shape on Denny. Which raises concerns about “This isn’t Manhattan” (not enough ridership for a U), and the Tacoma Link alignment (backtracking from 19th to 1st).

        10. Would a bus alternative work for Ballard? I don’t know. There’s no way to fan out like in West Seattle. Three possibilities are upgrading the 40, upgrading the D, and removing the Uptown detour. (I.e., to follow the 15. Uptown passengers could still get off at 1st & Denny.)

      27. “No new tunnel” is not quite right, as the Ballard project will involve plenty of new tunneling.

        Good point. It is more like “No new downtown tunnel”, but even that isn’t great, since “downtown” is vague. It is also negative. I think it makes more sense to just say: “Reuse the downtown tunnel”. That’s pretty simple, and pretty obvious. For people who have been following this whole process in detail, or those who are just turning in, it immediately raises the key question: Do we really need a new tunnel for this segment?

        There are two ways to re-use the old tunnel, but both involve running more trains in it. That itself is a project, and will cost money. It has trade-offs. There is an aspect to this that is interesting, which might increase the amount of support that it gets: The new tunnel is being paid for by every subarea.

        This gives proponents a lot of leverage. This is not just a Seattle project that will delay trains from Ballard to West Seattle, this effects every project in the system. If they can save hundreds of millions of dollars here, then they can build other projects (in other parts of the region) much sooner. These other subareas will still be asked to chip in (for Traction Power Substations and what have you) but not nearly as much. This is definitely a trade-off, in that trips to Lynnwood, Everett or Tacoma might not be as reliable. But this could be negotiated, and it is quite possible the other subarea representatives would be thrilled to avoid paying for what looks like a boondoggle at this point.

      28. Does anyone have any examples of this asymmetric routing in any other transit systems around the world?

        That’s the big issue. It’s different. I’m not a fan of different (to say the least). To answer your question, I don’t know of any. Tom brought up the idea of a triangle, which is common. Typically these involve a loop without a transfer (the train at SeaTac is an example). This would require a transfer.

        But the basic concept isn’t complicated. It happens all the time on the surface, with cars and buses. It is essentially a roundabout, with Westlake Station in the middle. Likewise, the concept of asymmetric transit travel is very common in the world of transit. This is a nice essay, and I’m sure we can all relate to these ideas: Compared to a stub line with a new Westlake station, it is better for all trips. At least you don’t have to transfer southbound from the Ballard line.

        But it still freakin’ weird! No question. If it was our only set of trains, then it would be weird enough, but we’ve also got two additional sets of trains going north-south as well. Simply representing it becomes challenging.

        It is quite possible that no one has done this “permanently”. But I’m pretty sure it happens all the time on a short term basic. Being forced to transfer because of construction (in only one direction) is common. People adapt. We could call this temporary, with plans to build a Westlake to Denny line someday in the future.

        The main thing is, as long as you don’t get confused, this would be as good, if not better than any realistic alternative.

      29. In December 2015 ST had a list of potential projects for ST3. One DSTT2. The other was was capital improvements to DSTT1 to increase frequency from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes. ST deselected it when it decided to go with DSTT2. But it could be revived, or we could press ST for details on what those capital improvements are and how much they would cost.

        That’s huge. The fact that they considered it feasible makes a huge difference. I really think this is the starting point. We have several variations, but the key thing is to re-use the existing tunnel, to save money AND improve the rider experience. The current proposal — though quite reasonable — just isn’t good for users. There are too many bad transfers ( Keep in mind, the SoDo transfer (one of the good ones) is still not great. A trip from Rainier Valley to the UW is much worse than what we have now. Any transfer is bad, but both trains will be infrequent at this point. To make the transfer you have to go around the south end of the train and cross two sets of tracks (look both ways!). Yet this is the good transfer! Everything else — same direction mind you — is much worse. Bellevue to Denny is much worse; so bad that most riders wouldn’t even bother. That means Ballard to Bellevue — responsible for substantial total-rider-time savings — would be hammered by this bad transfer.

        These problems can be minimized by sharing the stations. Same-direction direction transfers would be trivial, and involve a minimal amount of wait time. Rainier Valley to the UW would involve a two minute wait during rush hour. Some reverse-direction transfers would improve as well.

        It isn’t *just* the transfers either. There are fewer downtown stations served with the new line. The vast majority of riders headed to downtown would prefer to be on the old line, not the new one. The new station (Midway) is OK, but there were *two* stops in that area before. The old line is just better.

        Studying a plan that would be better and cheaper just makes sense.

      30. Ross, that’s a great refinement. I had envisioned flying over Sixth and merging after the wiggle, but you may have a better geometry: use the wiggle. We would have to ask if the steeper grade on the straight road is acceptable, but if it is, great.

      31. Jonathan, did you see my 2:27 PM post of yesterday? I completely agree that Denny and Minor is a fantastic place for a station though I wasthinking of approaching it on Howell and having the two directions stacked but parallel.

        Minor runs into the reversible ramp at a pretty wide angle, and the ramp crosses Pine at another obtuse one. That makes the curves better than any of the northwest-southeast streets.

        Anyway, we basically agree, a station there at Mi or,, one about Westlake and John and a third one around Mercer and Dexter is optimum and even serves northwest Capitol Hill.

      32. Jonathan, while reversing using an upstream scissors is fine at a terminal station, you can’t do that in scheduled service at a “theough” station. It fouls the tracks for other trains wanting to pass through.

        You can certainly do it in an emergency, but bot repetitively.

        The trains would have to go to Northgate to reverse.

      33. Tom Terrific suggests three new stations: Something around Denny/Mercer, and two more in SLU. I do not think adding a third station in this stretch is going to be seen as necessary or worth it; even two stations was sort of a late addition. I do think the stations should move from their currently proposed locations for all the reasons we’ve stated here. I think that’s good enough if they are sited better.

        There isn’t going to be some other line coming through here in our lifetimes that fills in the gap in Denny Triangle or better covers SLU. This is it. It would be nice to include Belltown on it but because of the geography you can’t really serve Uptown, Belltown and SLU; SLU is the bigger employment destination and Uptown is the bigger cultural/sports/entertainment destination, so I don’t see what you can do for Belltown here. Meanwhile, First Hill remains off Link, which is unfortunate, but that ship sailed a long time ago; at least we have Madison RapidRide plus the streetcar as a consolation prize.

        Only a significant reset of the Ballard plan will move these station locations more than a block or so. There isn’t much worth saving in the current Ballard plan. The segment from Uptown to Interbay is probably OK. Thankfully nobody is expecting to ride this before 2039; that gives us time to fix the plan, if we use it well.

      34. Ack, I meant Denny/Minor for a new station, not Denny/Mercer. Denny/Mercer would be a great location though, if it existed!

      35. OK, I wouldn’t fight about a “Central SLU” station, but I do think one would be well used. So maybe move the northwest one to Ninth and Republican to get it closer to the development? Not as far north as Mercer,, though.. wpI don’t think the transfers from Aurora are going to be all that important an issue. As Roo notes, Aurora buses have a very fast path to Westlake and beyond. That would be too big a hole between there and Westlake.

        A better version of the Eight can take folks to eastern SLU from the Aurora buses.

      36. Mike,

        In response to #6, a connection at the Pine Street curve into the TBM vault would not go into the Convention Center basement. It would continue straight along Pine Street for a half block to the Pike/Pine reversible lane right of way and curve into it, under the roadway.

        The tunnel void under the Camlin was that “neck” into the bus station. A few years ago Metro had a Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel map on its website which was extremely useful. It showed that the bus tunnel jogged a bit north just before Ninth Avenue in order to enter the bus station cavern. The train tracks continue straight for a few yards to get past the Paramount then take a fairly hard southward turn into the triangular structure just east of the Paramount, which is the roof of the TBM vault in which Brenda landed (twice).

        The connection would add a turnout at exactly the place that the tracks curve to the south. The “straight” track would be the entrance for Ballard-Downtown trains. The northeast wall adjacent to that track would have to be punctured for the merging straight track and a trench in Pine Street a bit more than half a block long dug to the reversible lane right of way.

        NOTHING is needed under the Convention Center; the entire connection is in the Pine Street right of way.

        A corner of the Convention Center Annex does cantilever over Pine, but it doesn’t have footings, so there would be no conflict.

        I agree with #2, and I think almost everyone on the Blog does as well.

        About #3, there isn’t going to be a bottleneck because downtown Seattle isn’t going to grow as much as once thought. Look at all the residential space that has been built there. It just about “keeps up” with the forest of towers. There won’t be that much of a “peak” in the future.

        As to #4, if you choose the Westlake Stub rather than the dogbone, the easiest thing is to put a two-track, center platform station under Westlake Avenue directly north of the existing platforms and allow direct access to the north platform from the center platform of “New Westlake”. Yes, this could not be a TBM station, but any “New Westlake” is going to have a hole dug for it. Just north of the two platforms, there would be a “terminal” scissors to flow trains into an available platform track.

        Heck, if you’re going to have really frequent headways, you could have three tracks with two platforms, like at Beaverton TC or Gateway. There would be a short extension of the existing mezzanine into the space above the platform(s) and tracks, and, ideally, another partial mezzanine at the north end to serve the area north of Olive Way.

        To get people to the northbound platform the simplest thing would be to have them go up to the mezzanine, across to the southbound side of the station, and down to the platform. That of course is twenty-some feet up and down, so maybe a pedestrian tunnel underneath the station box would require less climbing, since people are shorter than pantograph-decorated LRT vehicles. That’s only a speculation.

        You are very right about #7. You simply can’t open up a bored tube tunnel without building a vault around it, carefully peeling off the upper 2/3 of the compression rings and then installing a turnout.

        It can be done, but it isn’t.

        In #9 you mentioned the CCC. That is an interesting concept, but it would require either a step-down from an elevated structure or a ramp up from a subway, presumably along Westlake. Otherwise, how are you going to get the cars to the CCC?

        I do agree that if the CCC is built, an extension along First makes a lot of sense.

    3. I like the concept of a loop at the end. However, if it’s a driverless train it isn’t as essential. I’m reminded of how the airport people mover works at SFO with a loop at one end and a stub at the other (center platform at the stub end).

      I’m not averse to the Ballard line running under Fourth, Third or even Second. Even connecting at Seneca/ University seems doable. The challenge is likely turning the tracks to connect SLU near Westlake Ave. That’s the appeal of using Fifth or Sixth.

      Also, a driverless train would be a tad risky from an operations perspective if other lines stop at the same platform.

      Even if the connection is only by using the mezzanine at Westlake (up to the mezzanine level and walk a block and down to another shallower platform), it’s still less effort to walk to another platform for a Ballard train than the deep platforms being currently proposed by ST.

      Rather than lock ST into the details, the task is to get ST to study a three-line DSTT with a Downtown-Ballard short line. I’m happy if ST would simply decide to study it objectively.

      1. If we consider Ballard as a separate high frequency automated elevated line and don’t interline it in DSTT then maglev might be an option which keeps the elevated structure as transparent as possible and keeps the noise down: (it’s an extension of Germany’s Transrapid technology, they have a test installation in China going)

      2. Woo-hoo! A gadgetbahn, just what we need.

        There’s nothing that says “energy efficiency” like burning millions of watts to support urban railcars running between stations 2/3 of a mile apart in order to avoid the enormous frictional losses of steel wheels rolling on a steel rail!


    4. I see the current alternatives have an Achilles heel: equity impacts. After all, it’s not only the wild cost to taxpayers but also that transfer environments get much worse. Among those riders are those from SE Seattle where there are more riders of color and poor transit-dependent riders, so any current build alternative is a major negative equity impact. Even areas like White Center get worse transit because of adding transfers at a tall Delridge station. On top of these impacts, building anything around CID harms a whole other community of interest. I see the “no build” actually offering the least impactful equity outcome than any of the current alternatives on the table. Why do we want to spend billions that harm disadvantaged populations?

      In sum, a full DSTT2 makes things worse for existing riders than another choice because the transfer situation is much worse than even a no-build and the construction is so impactful in the ID.

      Nothing tends to shut down political support faster in our region than equity or climate change does. I’m looking to see if or how the progressives on Seattle City Council react to this aspect . Are they sincere about equity or is it a mere populist aura that they create to win votes?

      A procedural point is to send actual written letters responding to the DEIS and copy locally elected officials. Any electronic comments I’ve ever submitted never got even modest acknowledgement that they were even read.

      1. “I see the current alternatives have an Achilles heel: equity impacts. After all, it’s not only the wild cost to taxpayers but also that transfer environments get much worse”

        It’s not just equity, it’s bad transit. We want Link to be the first choice for people’s trips in its corridors. To do that the transfers need to be as seamless as possible, like transferring subway trains in other large cities. Anything less is just hindering Link from reaching its potential, and has less transformational and environmental benefits.

  20. Also with all the downtown shootings, the building of deep stations is bothersome to me. More places for hkmeless and criminals to hang out.

  21. First of all, the work to reduce headways to 90 seconds should just be done ASAP, certainly in time for the ill-advised (but perhaps inevitable) West Seattle Link. What does that cost? I don’t know why it wasn’t designed for short headways from day one. Why do we deliberately build inferior infrastructure? And who came up with the “everyone must transfer at SODO” plan? That is the most asinine routing imaginable, for five days let alone five years.

    It must be physically possible to join the southbound DSTT somewhere slightly west of I-5, and to construct a divergence after Westlake. Stay west of I-5 for sure. My expectation is that ST will dismiss with a hand-wave every DSTT2 challenge at this stage while inflating the potential risk of any proposed change to their plans. But while there may be challenges, there will not be $4B of challenges. The money is the forcing factor in this conversation.

    You do have to be willing to close half of the DSTT (the southbound direction) for some period of time and single track through this stretch to weave in the Ballard trains. That is a biggie and that might require preemptive construction of some new crossover somewhere which would also have construction impacts (single tracking for a while), but $4B pays for a lot of impacts and mitigation. Imagine the economic impacts of constructing DSTT2. And the environmental impacts… If we actually care about them, we should not build DSTT2.

    Operationally, you also have to be willing to possibly slightly delay a Capitol Hill to Westlake train because a Ballard train is occupying the platform at Westlake. Sacrilege! That is the heaviest segment in the system. But this is an operational decision. Preference could be given to Capitol Hill trains if they arrive at the same time, if that’s better for system efficiency. It’s still better than forcing a 6 minute underground transfer to a $4B tunnel we don’t need. Those Ballard trains, what are they, a train every 6 minutes in the current plan? We couldn’t possibly find room for that?

    Structurally, I think the best path may be to break up the current EIS into two separate projects, West Seattle Link Extension and Ballard Link Extension, and to associate DSTT2 (or lack thereof) with the second project. The current EIS survives but shrinks to become the West Seattle EIS so we can shovel dirt on that stupid project sooner. Ballard got pushed out with a delivery date of 2039, so there should actually still be time to spin up a new EIS with the same end date and get things right.

    Hard though this is, it may be easier than asking Seattle voters to come up with billions in new revenues to close the gap on a boondoggle. If we don’t raise any additional money, how far can ST actually get with this program? We’d certainly have to cheap out on every single aspect of it.

    My sense is, what is really needed is leadership, and that is going to have to come from Seattle, and probably that means it really has to come from our new Mayor. He has presumably deputized some folks to come up with the City’s response, but SDOT has an Interim Director right now (Kristen Simpson.) My guess is everything is more or less on autopilot and officials will try to ignore this until the bill comes and everyone sees the check, hoping someone else is going to pick it up.

    West Seattle Link should be turned into a BRT project, but there’s surely room for West Seattle Link in DSTT1, so it’s almost a separate issue except for the fact that it’s tied to Ballard in this EIS. That project has its own fans and opponents. I can tolerate West Seattle Link more than a DSTT2 that degrades service for everyone. I think DSTT2 so bad, it’s is worth actively opposing… construction impacts, environmental impacts, deep transfers forever. Why aren’t we working harder to to avoid all those things? I voted for it, because that’s all I was presented with, so I’m part of the problem, I guess. But are we truly powerless to change a plan that’s still in draft form, that we can’t afford?

    I think the next step to turn the DSTT2 lemon into lemonade is a proper post here with some diagrams of the quality Oran would draw (hint, hint) showing how a Ballard line could weave in and out of Westlake Station. This could set the stage for something with a higher media profile, to create some buzz, which shouldn’t be hard to achieve on this issue.

    The ST board is comprised of elected officials who are on point to deliver the stuff their districts expect. I don’t think the non-Seattle board members mostly care much about the Seattle-only extensions. They can get their stuff sooner if they don’t have to chip in for DSTT2.

    All the citizens who desire more expensive things at the ends of these lines in West Seattle and Ballard should be very interested in something that shaves billions off the bottom line, as well as anyone in the general public who thinks it’s a bad idea to dig a giant burn pit and fill it up with sales tax revenues.

    1. “I don’t know why it wasn’t designed for short headways from day one.”

      The DSTT was designed in the 1980s before Sound Transit existed and when King County’s population was 45% lower, and Snohomish and Pierce’s populations were negligible and mostly separate job markets. “The region” then meant just part of King County. They hoped for trains in the future but they had no idea when, and they had only a vague idea of what trains would be like. They also couldn’t really picture what growth would be like and how much train thoroughput would be needed. That’s partly because they still thought the vast majority of people would drive on highways, and didn’t try to design a transit system for the majority.

      “Why do we deliberately build inferior infrastructure?”

      Because we don’t prioritize transit like The Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, the UK, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China do. We don’t give it enough resources to be like those networks. The same people who brought you the DSTT with its sham rails that couldn’t support real trains, also brought you no down escalators. Every department store in that era had bidirectional escalators or their customers would shop elsewhere, but with transit it’s a captive audience and not average people. Also, there was a belief that escalators were only justified for “one level up, two levels down” or more. Even though the department stores and office buildings didn’t operate like that.

      “the best path may be to break up the current EIS into two separate projects”

      That’s a good idea. It has been two or three projects in the past; it was only bundled together for convenience reasons. But smaller EISes would allow each section to consider a wider range of options different from each other.

      “They can get their stuff sooner if they don’t have to chip in for DSTT2”

      Snohomish is maxed out with its long Everett extension and Paine Field detour. Lynnwood to Everett is almost as far as Seattle to Lynnwood. And Snohomish’s contribution is relative to its tax base. So subtracting DSTT2 and adding a DSTT1 alternative wouldn’t yield much more money for Everett or make it much sooner.

      1. Just a note that the DSTT2 segment south of Westlake is getting funded from all subareas and not just North King. Retooling DSTT for capacity rather than build a full DSTT2 will open up more funds that can go to their other subarea projects. To date, there has been a gentleman’s tacit agreement to not question WSBLE outside of North King but as money gets tighter this may not hold.

      2. I would also point out that they built the tunnel to allow the buses to pass each other at the stations. Thus, they couldn’t have center platforms.

        There would have been no reason to install a high capacity subway control system for something that was just buses. At some point, “future proofing” becomes a luxury as it means unnecessary features that may never be used.

        In the face of a multi-billion dollar deep bore tunnel, what’s appropriate to spend improving the existing tunnel is a whole new conversion.

    2. I don’t want to see rethinking SODO station layouts for same direction cross platform transfers to get lost in the eagerness to reduce the tunneling needed Downtown. If DSTT2 moves forward with these deep stations, getting this SODO transfer as seamless as possible needs to be highlighted as a mitigation.

    3. While a 90-second goal is admirable, eliminating DSTT2 doesn’t require that. The peak 6 minutes proposed for each of the three lines is 30 trains an hour (10+10+10) or 120 seconds (2 minutes).

      I’m also wondering how a Northgate turn-around would work at that frequency. That is what I think is the operational bottleneck. Of course, a Ballard branch would eliminate that problem but we generally don’t know if it can be done.

      Demand on the West Seattle branch is so low that 6 trains an hour is more than enough. Even East Link may be fine at 6 or 8 trains at peak times. 24 trains an hour (10+8+6) or 2.5 minutes (150 seconds) is really all that seams to be needed. It can be hard to accept that different lines can have different frequencies on paper, but this is the way it usually is in subways across the world. Once a line is frequent enough (say 10 minutes), going more frequent than that is usually a function of operating funds and overcrowding in mature Urban rail systems.

      Going from 3 minutes to 2.5 minimum or 2 optimal is a much easier design lift.

      1. If an ST3.5 pivots to a single tunnel with 3 lines, I would look to a branch somewhere in the surface*, rather than a pure turn-back. For a surface (or elevated) line, putting in a branch is reasonably disruptive (the ID-East Link time in as an example). A spur from Northgate to Lake City could be nice, but if North King doesn’t have a money (presumably b/c it’s occupied building Ballard-Downtown or Ballard-UW), perhaps a branch to serve 99 (the Lynnwood Link path not taken) … if Everett Link construction has not begun, could even put in a junction in Lynnwood and have 1 of the 3 lines veer over Edmonds CC, with a strong connection to Swift Blue?

        *assuming that both branching at Westlake and branching at U-District are too disruptive and/or technically infeasible

      2. AJ, those are good suggestions for the North. Edmonds CC and downtown spur could also be accomplished with a gondola line.
        For the South:
        If we favor BRT for WS instead of LR, instead of the buses getting stuck downtown, how about running them on the Busway to the SODO station?
        We may also want to do a Duwamish express to improve capacity to Seatac and serve South Park and better connect WhiteCenter/Westwood. Then we could also do a new station as bus intercept right by the WS bridge (and save the SODO detour).

      3. Al, you are right to worry that the single tail track at Northgate is inadequate for single-operator reversing. It is completely so at the peaks with only six minutes per train for occupancy of the tail. Other times of the day it might be OK with ten minutes for occupancy, but it will always be unpleasant and dangerous for the operators to “walk the train” there.

        It will require double-cabbing, for sure. During peaks the second operator would need to board at Roosevelt in order to be fully ready to take control as soon as the train comes to a stop in the tail. During times that ten minute headways are in operation the second operator could probably board at Northgate itself.

        The operator who brought the train north would deboard at the same station at which the relief boarded, to take a later train as reverse operator after a break.

        Adding a branch, especially one along Aurora, nice though that would be, would extend the in-service period to too long a timespan. A two-station spur to Lake City would be attractive, though. It’s probably short enough to consider.

    4. Without expanding the Link fleet, increasing frequency in the downtown tunnel would require turnback trains, in effect stealing frequency from elsewhere in the system. Boosting headways in the current tunnel to 90 seconds likely only makes sense in the context of additional OMFs and a larger fleet. Investing in higher peak frequency in the built-out ST2 system makes little sense, but may be a useful investment after OMF-S opens and ST has some of its 3rd generation vehicles.

      1. Expanding the Link fleet is certainly doable, as well as affordable, if we cancel DSTT2. We shouldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul, we should give both of them a ride in a shiny new 3rd generation Link car.

        90 second headways in the tunnel can’t cost much, and strikes me as hard to argue against since it doesn’t require a new tunnel. It enables operational flexibility and enables 3 (or maybe even 4) “lines” to share one tunnel. 2 minute headways is probably enough for our needs in practice. Mike Orr is right on all the history of our downtown bus tunnel, but we could have dug a third tunnel with all the foot-dragging ST has done on this issue over the years.

      2. You wanted 90 seconds headways “ASAP,” which I thought meant you wanted those headways with the existing fleet. OMF-South’ budget is current north of $1B, excluding vehicles.

    5. I like the dogbone approach, but I’m concerned about the construction impact and the capacity reduction at a time Sound Transit is already concerned about having enough tunnel capacity. A few alternatives:
      1. Use dogbone approach on Olive instead and provide underground walking connection at mezzanine level between Olive and Westlake station (for example under 5th). A single track may allow limited traffic to continue during construction.
      2. Replace monorail with short automated trains to Ballard like the maglev I posted above. Then you need to improve Westlake transfer.
      3. Go elevated along Mercer and Westlake Ave.

      I’m concerned about serving West Seattle just by bus. RR-C has already been at 6min headway, any more and bunching will happen. I still think a gondola would make sense, even if it would just complement buses.

      In general we may be better off to invest more on East/West connections than spend money on DSTT2. For example we could finish CCC and reduce the bottleneck between Westlake and Capitol Hill by improving the 8 or adding a gondola line from Belltown and then up Denny or John St to connect the Ballard line with the 1 line at Capitol Hill and continuing to Group Health hospital.

      1. Replacing the monorail seems unlikely now that it was just upgraded, the new Climate Pledge Arena is relying upon it, it is a historic and beloved artifact of the World’s Fair along with the Space Needle, physically embraced by the shiny Frank Gehry blob, and it actually pays for itself as a financially sustainable, environmentally sustainable mode of transit. An elevated line along Westlake looks physically sort of possible, but I don’t think 100% the new condo dwellers there would be thrilled at the prospect. I don’t think it’s anything like a magic bullet for the cost and construction impacts.

        Elevated along Mercer looks sort of possible with the median, but now a lot of people have views they don’t want to block. There isn’t actually much room down at street level in that area and construction impacts would be really bad. I suspect nothing elevated pans out there.

        I think the concerns about construction impacts plus long term impacts to current service in the DSTT are the biggest bugaboo with sharing the tunnel. That’s the uphill battle with ST. But really, in the end, it’s just adding another train every 6 minutes or something like that. We don’t need 75 second headways like São Paulo.

      2. Jonathan,
        The current tunnel proposal along Mercer or Republican is not great either, the stations are very low which is generally bad but in particular if an event at Seattle Center/Climate Arena is over. Also, construction impact is huge, some major orgs are pushing back:
        An elevated line using preassembled modules may keep disruption at a minimum and could be installed mostly at night/weekend, eg.

      3. “An elevated line along Westlake looks physically sort of possible, but I don’t think 100% the new condo dwellers there would be thrilled at the prospect”

        It would block their views of Seattle Center and its parking garage?

      4. Probably depends on what the result looks like. If you take out the streetcar you have more options to create an inviting space underneath and with maglev technology, you won’t have less noise than the streetcar produced and the guideway is very transparent allowing for an even nicer environment as Montreal is envisioning:

      5. Martin, if you dogbone on Olive, you might as well just have a stub station. The point of the doggone is twofold:

        1. Transfers are superb, especially with a center platform specifically for them, and

        2. It creates a connection to the Maintenance Facilities which doesn’t require putting a cross-over in the center of University Street Station.

        Those two things are valuable.

      6. I do understand, Tom, just trying to look at it from different angles to make sure we look at all the options and tradeoffs.

  22. I like the idea of slowing down the EIS to reevaluate its assumptions and consider more alternatives. Splitting it into a Ballard-DSTT EIS and a West Seattle-SODO one makes sense too.

    1. Based on observations over time, my understanding of the environmental process (governed by NEPA but also by SEPA here in WA) is that shrinking the scope is done all the time, and that expectation is actually sort of built into the process, whereas expanding the scope often triggers a new EIS.

      Shrinking the current plan to be West Seattle only can be done in the name of fast-tracking that project, though, frankly, we’d actually be better off restarting that, too, so it can include a legitimate, solid five-star BRT option.

      As we’ve laid out here, Ballard could tie into DSTT1, or it could be a stub. I’m not sure how you solve that OMF problem if it’s a stub, but the pros should look into it.

      The demand should be for ST to study a West Seattle plan that ties into DSTT1, and, separately, a Ballard plan that does not require DSTT2. They should look at this new “Westlake Hub” concept (what to call it?), a way to tie into DSTT1 at Westlake with minimal disruption, and they can look at a separate stub as well. We’ve identified an OMF issue with the stub approach, but that’s not insurmountable.

      The fact that a few of the station locations are weak-to-terrible in the current plan is all the more reason to reset it. Something is going to have to give because of the money. How short are we, at minimum? And then, how short to build the termini people want? There’s some new state legislation related to this…

      1. Actually, I can confirm it is not necessary to rescope the EIS to add radical new alternatives to the mix. We did that twice on SR 520, once with a new new bridge over the canal (the Pacific Street Interchange in 2005-2006), and again with a new tunnel under the canal (2007-2009.) Neither of those got built, but there are shelves weighted down with EIS documents in the library that prove my point here. You can modify an EIS process after it’s already started.

        The lead agency needs to lead (in my prior experience, WSDOT, in this case, ST) to make it happen. ST means the ST Board, comprised of elected officials. Among them are these:

        Debora Juarez, Seattle City Council President, who fought very effectively for NE 130th St. station

        Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who spent many years on the council and has the big picture

        King County Executive Dow Constantine, relevant accomplishments too many to mention

        All three of these folks seem to me like the sort of people one could appeal to with a rational and reasonable argument in favor of an approach to save a few billion dollars, reduce construction and economic and environmental impacts downtown, while ending up with a better transit system in the end. And if these three were unified on some reasonable, rational position, that would greatly affect the dynamic on the ST Board. That’s how this can happen.

      2. ST can add any alternative to the EIS, and it’s legally obligated to study all reasonable alternatives (that should have been done in the Alternatives Analysis). The thing is, “reasonable” is undefined since it’s city-specific, so ST has a lot of leeway to say what’s reasonable. It’s just a question of whether somebody can successfully sue ST if it leaves something out, and that depends on what it is, what arguments the proponents can raise, and how the judge who gets the case views it.

        But actually building a distant alternative would run into the issue of whether it’s within the scope of what voters voted for. That too is somewhat arbitrary and depends on how the judge who gets the case views it. ST would understandably be cautious. What voters specifically mandated was high-capacity rail transit between downtown, Market Street, SLU, and the West Seattle Junction urban villages. Whether you could eliminate DSTT2 and substitute elevated or buses or streetcars is an open question. You can certainly reduce scope, but you can’t substitute things that are outside voters’ reasonable expectations. Ballard-UW seems certainly out of scope.

        “expanding the scope often triggers a new EIS.”

        Who cares, We need it done right. The current EIS is arguably flawed and should be scrapped. I certainly think it’s leaving out important factors and reasonable alternatives. I may not be the kind of NIMBY who has leverage over the “character of the neighborhood”, but I have concerns about whether it’s living up to its mobility expectations. Let ST take longer planning and spend more money to get it right. Planning costs much less than construction. This isn’t the south Bellevue situation where the line was basically good and Bellevue/Freeman/Wallace obstructed it over NIMBY considerations. This is basically substandard transit, less effective than the representative concept, and that raises the question of why build it if it won’t meet some of its basic goals.

        I don’t even remember now what the representative alignment in south Bellevue was. I think Bellevue Way was eliminated earlier than that, or was it? I didn’t know as much then because it was before STB and I didn’t know about the hearings or board meetings..

        “Shrinking the current plan to be West Seattle only”

        Ballard/SLU is more critical transit-wise than West Seattle. We mustn’t have West Seattle Link without Ballard. I don’t care if the technology changes as long as it’s as fast as Link. If it’s easier to split the EIS by relegating the current one to West Seattle and starting a new one for Ballard/downtown, that’s fine.

        An interesting point is that an early West Seattle-SODO stub is in the plan. Well, that could become the permanent solution. And if it’s officially disconnected from the rest of Link, then its technology could change.

        West Seattle’s early deliverable and Link line was because of politics. That may possibly be changing, but I have no idea. Would Dow be open to reconsidering West Seattle? (Since he lives there and is one of the reasons it’s prioritized.) It seems unlikely but I suppose it’s possible. Is there any openness among the West Seattle Blog types? Constructive openness, I mean.

  23. I want to back up, and attempt to summarize some of the ideas here, as well as the rationale for them. First, the problem. In short, the new tunnel is very expensive, and compared to the old tunnel is better for some, but worse for a lot more. It has very deep stations, fewer downtown stations and bad transfers between the two lines. I could write an entire post about the drawbacks, but I’ve already mentioned a lot of them in the comments above.

    All of the alternatives involve merging the West Seattle line with the main line. Thus they all require improving the headways in the tunnel. This is something that ST representatives believe is possible, but would cost money, and could result in less reliable operations. A lot of us (including me) believe that the user experience would still be substantially better, even with the occasional delay. It is also extremely likely it would save a huge amount of money.

    Within this category (broadly thought of as “No new tunnel between Westlake and I. D.”) there are several alternatives:

    1) A new line from Ballard to Westlake, with a new station. From a user standpoint, this is less than ideal, as riders to and from the Ballard line have an awkward transfer in every direction, including the south end of downtown.

    2) A new line from Ballard, serving and ending at the existing Westlake station. This is similar to the first option, but with much better transfers. Those headed from Ballard to the south end of downtown (or anywhere south or east) would get off the train, wait a couple minutes, and take the next train. The train from Ballard would be heading back to Ballard (initially heading south, then turning around).

    3) A new line from Ballard, merging with the existing line. This is quite straightforward conceptually, and likely the best option from a user standpoint. Tom has raised concerned about the engineering involved, and how much disruption would be involved.

    4) Two new tracks, in an asymmetrical pattern, to avoid the technical issues from option 3. From Ballard, the southbound line would merge at Westlake, as with option 3. From Westlake, the southbound track (coming from Capitol Hill) would split, with a new line headed towards Ballard. From a rider perspective, this would be OK in my opinion, except for the fact that is highly unusual, and would be confusing. To get from Ballard to I. D. would not require a transfer, but to get from I. D. to Ballard would.

    In my opinion, we should push for 3, very hard. If they come back and say that it would require closing Westlake Station for a couple years, then we should look for alternatives. But engineers can be creative, especially if they are given enough money. You could build a new temporary Westlake station and redo the old one and it would cost less than the new tunnel (and its stations). My guess is it wouldn’t come to that, and while it wouldn’t be cheap, they could find a way to get the tracks over there without too much of a hassle.

    Let me know if this is a good summary, and if I’ve forgotten an alternative. I have another idea, but I’ll put that as a comment (it will be option 5).

    1. The most discussed alternative missing from the summary is Ballard to UW instead of Westlake (expensive but not disruptive tunneling but no ship canal crossing). Somewhere in the noise I raised the question of Ballard to Northgate as I believe using Holman & Northgate Way would be way cheaper. Transfer to/from Ballard to DT would be simple although a few minutes longer. Ballard to Capitol Hill/Pill Hill about the same. Ballard to UW slightly faster. SnoCo commuters to Ballard score a big win and Ballardites get win for Stride and future bus connections to Bothell.

      1. Ballard-UW alternative may also benefit from much shallower stations due to the general lack of major underground obstacles. The problem with the 2nd downtown tunnel is less “a 2nd tunnel is dumb” and more “oh crap, to fit under the 99 freeway tube and the existing transit tunnel, these new stations are going to suck”

      2. I’m a fan of Ballard-UW, but there’s a lot of momentum and an EIS underway for Link service to SLU, Uptown, Expedia, et al… SLU is an “urban center” in our planning typology, which continues to see growth, whereas Wallingford is a “residential” urban hub aiming to designate historic districts. Ballard – UW is consistent with Sound Move and the long range plan, but it’s not so appealing to East Link riders and folks from the south end. For better or worse, ST has never advanced it beyond a swoop on a long range map.

        The downtown – Ballard project remains voter-approved, somewhat funded, and under study, and seems likely not to disappear even if there are problems with it… Hence the urge to morph it into something palatable that will work a lot better and cost less.

      3. I would put “Ballard to UW” in the category of a complete do-over. Unlike every other proposal, it is significantly different, with completely different stations. Reusing the existing tunnel involves getting rid of the Midway tunnel, but otherwise is very similar to what was approved by voters. I don’t think it would require a new vote, while I do believe that “Ballard to UW” would.

        To be clear, I would be thrilled with a do-over. I would be strongly in favor of an alternative that consisted of a Ballard to UW subway, along bus improvements (even if it didn’t include a new bus tunnel). But I think that would require a new vote.

      4. Agree it would require a new vote to to move to design, but I think it could be included in EIS as an alternative? Also, Ballard-UW as a study is approved & funded within ST3, and improvements in the RR-D are funded, so I believe ST could put WBLE on pause*, do a few nice things for RR-D, complete a Ballard-UW study, and then go to the voters with an informed view in 2030 (or whatever date)

        *Presumably they’d at least finish the EIS

      5. “improvements in the RR-D are funded, so I believe ST could put WBLE on pause*, do a few nice things for RR-D, complete a Ballard-UW study”

        There you go! What foresight we had to put RapidRide C & D early deliverables into ST3 for just this contingency. ST could just do them, pat itself on the back for early deliverables, and rethink WSBLE in a more sensible way.

        Also, if a revote occurs in 2030 or later, everyone will be seven years older, political terms will have expired and been replaced, some people will have passed away, and newcomers will be voting. So what happens then would not necessarily be what would happen now, and is somewhat unpredictable. There’s, er, also the problem of international politics and climate change possibly cutting off access to raw construction materials in the next several years, making it harder to build anything.

    2. Oops, my other reply was supposed to be here. The summary is a good one. Our discussion revealed both challenges and opportunities with these approaches. Nothing looks like a deal-breaker. A $4B (or whatever it is) expense is an easy target when it comes with so many self-evident drawbacks beyond the cost. And it’s hard to imagine anything but public support for trying to make the most out of the big investment we already made.

    3. I would note that 2 & 3 would mean that Westlake-UW will have less* throughput capacity as Westlake-ID. That might a completely acceptable trade-off, but I think it should be noted.

      *With 3 lines, it would have 2/3 of the capacity, but in theory only every 4th or 5th train could go to Ballard, allowing Downtown-UW to have 4/5 and 5/6 of the capacity of Westlake-ID, and so forth.

      1. I agree. It comes from the overall increase in frequency along the main line, which is enough to compensate. With the current proposal, there would be at most 10 trains an hour between Westlake and the UW. With options 2 and 3 there would be the same, as long as we have two minute headways. Instead of a train coming along every three minutes, you have a two minute gap, then a four minute gap, then a two minute gap, etc. This could lead to crowding on the train with the four minute gap, but overall throughput would be the same.

        Furthermore, the lines could be oriented to compensate. In all likelihood, one train would go to Everett, while the other train turns back at Lynnwood. Southbound, the train from Everett would be followed by a four minute gap. Thus from Lynnwood (and all stations to the south) there would be more people getting on the train with the big gap, but it would have fewer people on it initially. Northbound, the train to Everett would show up after the two minute gap, while the train to Lynnwood would appear four minutes later. Thus a random rider is more likely to encounter a train to Lynnwood, and some of those riders would skip it, since it won’t take them to Everett.

        If they did manage to get 90 second headways, then throughput could be higher than proposed, even if you didn’t address the 6 minute headway limitations in Rainier Valley and Bellevue. You would have to send a train from the north-end somewhere though — either turning around at SoDo, or to West Seattle. Through downtown you would have four lines, with trains running 90 seconds apart. Three of those four would run north of Westlake, which means 30 trains an hour (the same as if we had 2 minute headways, and no split). Again, the one with the biggest gap would be the shortest line, turning back at say, Northgate.

      2. Yeah a key part of the messaging will be to ensure Snohomish & Bellevue are not losing any capacity to move trains in/out of Seattle. Under 2 & 3, North King will be solely responsible for the capacity improvements to the existing tunnel. Under option 1, while North King needs to fund its new station & line to Ballard, the cost to increase capacity on the existing tunnel & stations could be categorized as a regional asset, as the additional trains running through the tunnel could continue onwards to Lynnwood or Bellevue or SeaTac.

      3. That is an interesting point AJ: using only DSTT1 could impact capacity for East Link or Snohomish Co. (or south of Seattle), which could cause some friction. Or perceived capacity.

        However, each subarea would also save the money for its contribution to DSTT2 (which three subareas don’t have anyway), which would solve some of their ST funding issues. N. King Co. would realize $1.1 billion based on the cost estimate in ST 3 which would reduce the cost of any SB5528 levy. I could see some kind of regional contribution to DSTT1, especially if there was a way to access SLU.

        I do think however train capacity and rider capacity are two different things.

        East Link is limited to 8-minute frequencies, but even at 8-minute frequencies I don’t see any capacity issue, especially cross lake. The capacity debates on East Link in 2016-2021 were based on ST’s inflated ridership estimates, which were inflated even pre-pandemic. The eastside transit restructure highlighted what I had suspected: Bellevue wants more transit commuters to go from the coveted Issaquah/Sammamish areas to Bellevue and not Seattle, Metro thinks that is the future pattern anyway, ST’s ridership estimates on East Link are not realistic post pandemic, and one seat buses like the 554 are a better form of transit on the eastside which is heavily commuter oriented (especially with East Link running along 112th).

        Whether the eastside commuter returns, especially to Seattle (and the commercial sublease market in Seattle tells me they are not coming back), who knows, but if they do from these areas expect direct one seat buses during peak times if Seattle does not want them to go to Bellevue on the 554. So really how many TRAINS per hour does East Link need across the lake based on ridership, if like me you don’t think frequency creates ridership, or not very much. And how many riders will actually go all the way from Everett or Tacoma to or through downtown Seattle when over long distances Link will be sloooooow?

        West Seattle will probably be the same. To accommodate the actual number of riders trains won’t have to run very frequently, and like the eastside West Seattle will battle first/last mile access. But that is really an argument against running light rail to West Seattle, not ditching DSTT2 which is simply too expensive, and whose design is too deep in order to meet the interests of the stakeholders.

        This presents a catch-22 for ST: admit DSTT1 has the capacity for the number of actual Link riders post pandemic because the number of riders will be significantly less than estimated (which is a problem for operations costs), which means the frequency of the trains — at least on some runs — won’t be very good, probably around 15 minutes peak although it will be much quicker through the downtown core (which is not a very good “shared regional” argument for the other subareas, or areas south of Sodo).

        One rub is the eastside subarea might look at the subsidies it has already provided N. King Co., such as paying 100% of the east/west/east buses until East Link opens ($1 billion), 100% of East Link across the bridge span (probably $1 billion), extending the park and rides it has the money for, and paying to run East Link trains to Northgate with 2 or 3 minute frequencies when East Link is limited to 8 minutes and has one short tunnel it paid 100% of, and demand a certain train frequency through DSTT1, probably 8 minutes. But I am also not sure eastsiders will give a shit about East Link when it opens, because Link and East Link’s routes just don’t seem very sympathetic to eastside travel or work or life today.

        This could result in some kind of agreed-to capacity agreement. The eastside subarea would claim a higher priority than say West Seattle based on the amount it has contributed. Snohomish Co. , Pierce and S. King Co. received a benefit when N. King Co. paid for a disproportionate amount of the spine to reach them so their claims might be subordinate, and who knows how full their trains will be. The irony for some is train frequency through DSTT1 might depend on the number of riders, when some think ridership depends on frequency.

        I don’t think ST will ever proactively address this. Instead I think ST will adopt the alternative in the DEIS that meets the desires of the stakeholders, but leave the “third party funding” up to others (voters), and wait for East Link, Federal Way Link, and Lynnwood Link to open to see ridership levels, which as I noted will likely determine train frequency, not the other way around.

        Ultimately I agree with some like Ross that WSBLE is just bad transit policy. West Seattle is dictated by its bridge and excellent access to I-90 and I-5, and the zoning it desires. That is the key to WS. Ballard is just Pluto, impossible to get to, and it is unlikely to change its zoning or character much, certainly not to support Link. But neither have the ridership to support the cost of Link, or the destruction WSBLE will cause. The different acrobatics some on this blog make to find a Link route that avoids DSTT2, or tunnels in Ballard or West Seattle, miss the point IMO: the ridership does not and will not support Link. My guess is that will become much clearer after East Link opens, and Federal Way and Lynnwood Link.

      4. Just because the gap entering Westlake might need to be irregular (2 minutes, 4 minutes) doesn’t mean it has to be that irregular all the way from Lynnwood or Northgate, does it? Can you operate the system so it’s more like 3 and 3 further out?

        What is the minimum headway ST ever expects on North Link? Wasn’t that going to be 3 minutes due to the fact that Rainier Valley and I-90 are both 6 minutes at minimum? Is 3 minutes enough long term for Northgate/Lynnwood? The perception that Snohomish is “sacrificed” would doom a reuse of DSTT1… hopefully no sacrifice is required.

      5. Even if DSTT2 were free and magically had zero construction impacts, it still comes with an eternal transfer penalty.

        Because of that, even if we somehow introduced an average delay of 2 minutes per train (which would never happen, right?) via sharing DSTT1, it might still be a wash, since so many people save a 4-6 minute transfer.

        What sorts of delays are tolerable, and what are not? 2 minutes is one cycle at a traffic light, and buses go through about 30 of those downtown. Some tiny delay is not enough to justify DSTT2 even if it’s common.

      6. Jonathan, about your last post, I just have to say you’re not thinking it through. “Delay” as we’re meaning it is systemic delay. It happens regularly, not to every train, but to many of them. That means that occasionally — more than once or twice a day for sure — you are going to have two successive trains which suffer an exogenous delay before they enter the shared section. The trains arrive at Capitol Hill, Judkins Park or SoDo station already late and impinging the following train’s clear blocks.

        It might seem like it would be good if the next train were also late, but it is not. Something around half the time the follower will be less late than the leader, so the follower will actually have to get later in order to maintain train separation. And around half the time it will be later than the leader, but as a result it won’t “make up time” because it will still have its normal station dwells. It won’t get worse, but in most cases it won’t get better either.

        So, when two successive trains enter the system late, on average they make the system later than either of them. You get cascading failures.

        This is why having a 3-3-4 gapping coming from Capitol Hill is important. The Ballard trains should be slotted in one minute after the second “3” minute Capitol Hill train so that it can wait its turn to enter the shared section and be ready regularly to take its slot.

    4. For #1, I’d note that an independent line could mean an independent mode. If the standalone line is automated & highly frequent, it may be worth the tradeoff to have an inferior transfer from Ballard to southern downtown if Ballard-northern downtown trips have 2 minute headways.

      Also, an independent line could then go ‘somewhere else’ after serving Westlake. For example, to serve First Hill take Doug’s rubber-tired Magenta line, but Ballard-Downtown-First Hill, rather than Aurora-Downtown-First Hill. Again, the awkward transfer between a new elevated station and the existing underground Link station might be totally worth it if riders can transfer to destinations north & east of downtown.

      1. Also within alternative #1 is to serve Ballard-Downtown as BRT, and simply invest in excellent bus infrastructure along the corridor. BRT investments may pair well with a pivot to a Ballard UW subway, or just offered as a cheaper option within a slimmed down* ST3.5

      2. Yes, option number one could offer an independent mode, although I think BRT would require a new vote (see my comments above). It could involve an automated line though, with smaller train sets, smaller stations and more frequent trains.

        Of course the same is true of the new line, as long as West Seattle is paired with Ballard (something you’ve been pushing for some time now).

        I agree though that eventually option 2 could involve the train going somewhere else. It is basically a “take it step-by-step” approach to the situation, putting off the eventual destination of the Ballard line. It works for now (reasonably well) while saving a huge amount of money.

    5. Now for the next alternative:

      5) Have the Ballard line skip Westlake, and merge at University Street Station. It is less than ideal, but it might be significantly cheaper and less disruptive than 3. Like option 4, it only makes sense if the ST engineers come back with bad news about option 3.

      From a user perspective it is worse than 3, but not much worse. The gap between the Denny Station and University Street Station is significant, but not huge. The preferred alternative puts the Denny Station just south of Denny, with an entrance at roughly 8th and Lenora (and Westlake). This makes it about 900 meters from the northernmost entrance to the University Station. This makes it similar to the proposed gap between I. D. and Midway stations on the new line. While not the type of thing you want, there are examples of this sort of thing on several very good subway systems. Even in the New York Subway system — known for its excellent, close stop spacing — I found a very similar example. On the A Line, between 14 Street and W 4 Street/Washington Square, there are no stops, making the walking distance between them similar, and a bit too long ( Like our situation though, it only effects those on the A-Line, while others have alternatives (e. g. the W 4 Street/Washington Square serves several lines, and there are stops closer to it to the north).

      Overall, from a user perspective, this is a step down from option 3. But it is clearly better than option 1, and better in some ways than option 2. I think it is better than the ST proposal, while likely being much cheaper.

      1. I definitely think it’s reasonable to look at University St (Seneca). The only major benefit to Westlake with a shared tunnel is with the monorail connection, the current SLU streetcar and maybe a few bus routes. The University St station however loads onto Third Ave bus routes including RapidRides.

        Now for a new alignment idea: Push the Ballard-Downtown alignment east of I-5 and bring it back into University St under Union St or University St as a stub (a reversed “C”). The tube would cross existing Link under lower Capitol Hill. Even if it has to go under the tubes, the extra distance will give more room to change elevation to be higher plus the track would take advantage of the hill slope downward towards Elliott Bay. In other words, ST gets the ease of a deeper tunnel while riders get the benefit of a shallower station. A side benefit is that the Denny Station could then move a few blocks further east to be near Fairview or a new station could be added near Boren and University or Belmont and Pike.

      2. Also, the impact of closing Union St between Third and either Fourth or Fifth for years is much less than closing Fifth or Fourth Avenue.

      3. Bypassing Seattle’s biggest transfer point and retail center would be a hard sell. Almost all bus routes downtown transfer around Westlake Station. The “few bus routes” that don’t go further south are the ones to Capitol Hill, and in the planned 2, also to the CD and Madrona. Abandoning Westlake is one of those things that makes me think, “Why are we building Link if it won’t fulfill one of its primary goals?” So I think the board would be the most resistant to that. Still, I don’t want to quash any ideas that may have a 1% chance. (Gondolas have less than 1% since that would be a technology leap for ST, which is particularly adverse to those.)

      4. So, trains to Ballard would serve Seneca/University St. station, but not Westlake, with approach #5. Those two stations are really quite close, though if you’re going to the Convention Center, it’s a bit of a hike from 3rd Ave.

        As long as you had the opportunity to transfer further south, you could still get to Westlake. From the north, you’d have to go one more stop before you could transfer, which would not be a plus.

        This concept seems to hinge on it being possibly easier to split along 3rd Ave. than under Pine St. after Westlake, which may be the case. You could target Denny/Westlake next with this approach. I personally prefer a station further east like Fairview or Minor.

        You could take advantage of this new branch point to add a Belltown Station on the way… the high rise neighborhood always left out of these plans. From a ridership perspective, it would be great to pick up Belltown, Denny Regrade, the heart of SLU and Uptown in a big swoop. Though adding a station seems unlikely at this stage, to be sure.

        A branch north of University St. has its pros and cons but all of these are better than DSTT2.

      5. Now for a new alignment idea: Push the Ballard-Downtown alignment east of I-5 and bring it back into University St under Union St or University St as a stub (a reversed “C”). The tube would cross existing Link under lower Capitol Hill.

        I don’t think you would have to go that far east, but that is the basic idea. Basically these new lines go outside of the existing, north of University Street Station. Northbound, the line split off to the east, and immediately starts going downhill, while the main line(s) are going up. Ideally it goes down low enough by the curve that it can simply keep going straight. If not, then it curves around (continually getting lower) following the other line (always to its right) until it can go under. The southbound line is more straightforward, and stays west of everything.

        The only reason to do this is if it turned out to be a lot cheaper and less disruptive than splitting after Westlake (option 2). That’s it.

      6. I meant Belltown, Denny Triangle (not Regrade), SLU, Uptown. But it’s probably actually more important to put a station in Denny Triangle vs Belltown.

        Virginia Street makes a beeline from 3rd Ave. to Denny/Minor through public street ROW without going under a single building foundation. And Denny/Minor is a great location for a station. Just saying.

      7. “ Bypassing Seattle’s biggest transfer point and retail center would be a hard sell.”

        With Macy’s gone as well as several other stores, Westlake is no longer the retail center like it was in the past. Stores like Target are closer to University Street. Pike Place Market is about the same distance from either station platform.

        It’s not closing a station, but would merely be where the Ballard line starts. The DSTT spine would be fully accessible from both stations. Plus, both the monorail and streetcar would serve localized trips to Westlake that are much easier to reach.

      8. NO! NO! NO! NO! University/Seneca isn’t long OR wide enough to host turnouts except possibly a cross-over or scissors between the tracks.

        But there’s NO PLACE TO GO out the end. I tried and tried to figure out how to get a single track to connect there, but the north end tubes are too close together. Just look at this picture:

        This is the north portal (the 100 series buses are on the left hand platform which is the west side of the street). Look how close together the tunnel rings are. They intrude well into the space that a center track would use.

        Sorry that this is the only north portal picture I could find. Everybody who takes a picture gets lazy and stands on the north Mezzanine looking south.

        There is insufficient room between the tubes to put another one in.

        Now, you might try to use the platform space on the right to lead into a burrowing ramp down to underrun the Pine Street turn. You can connect the southbound tracks two blocks north at the curve from Pine to Third with absolutely no problem.

        But, if you did try to burst through the north wall of the northbound platform, you’d have to shorten the northbound platform by at least one full car length, because you have to have the track far enough to the right to clear the tube ring. There it is again; those damn compression rings. The destroyer of all good plans to connect to an existing TBM tunnel.

        Do you want to limit the entire system to three car trains in order to have your Holy transfer-free path from Ballard to Pioneer Square?

        I even considered branching at the south edge of USS and dropping DOWN in a ramp in the middle lane, and you know what? You probably could get deep enough that only the pans would pass through the gap between the tubes and they’re narrow enough to fit. IT WOULD LOOK WEIRD to see a train go down that ramp.

        But golly Gol Darn! The unprotected top of the fricking BNSF tunnel is fifteen feet below the station box and that ramp down would get VERY near it. You can be sure that ST, BNSF, and the ASCE would throw a lynching if we suggested it.

        It is SO frustrating that there’s NO WAY OUT of the DSTT except in the Pine Street cut-and-cover tunnel. As I’ve said ad infinitum, it’s very narrow and on a steep enough grade that any turnout would cause the cars to tilt unpleasantly as they made the curve to the Ballard line. I’m sure they wouldn’t tip into the tunnel wall; it’s not THAT steep. But it would be very uncomfortable for standees and even seated people would be thrown together. The only practical way out is straight down Pine Street east of the Paramount.

      9. Oh I am not suggesting it for turnouts. I’m only suggesting it if Ballard-Downtown is a stand alone automated line.

        I don’t really like Ballard as a branch anyway. I see the need to have frequent trains as far as UW, and Ballard would take many of those away. Plus, it would be hard to get trains on the Ballard line to be at high frequencies because it would be a branch.

        With a stand alone automated line to Ballard, both the entire DSTT all the way to Northgate could have trains every 2-3 minutes as could SLU and Ballard.

        The bigger point of which I think we can all agree is that we should assess DSTT alternatives better rather than spend $5B on DSTT2 and very deep stations without more study.

      10. This concept seems to hinge on it being possibly easier to split along 3rd Ave. than under Pine St. after Westlake, which may be the case.


        OK, now for a variation of option 3 (a normal Ballard branch north of Westlake) with a new twist, based on this same assumption:

        Make the same branch, north of University Street Station (USS). But instead of skipping Westlake, you go to a new Westlake station, next to the old one, but lower. The station would be quite similar to what the engineers have planned, but it is just for northbound travel. Same-direction transfers would not happen here, as riders could use any of the other downtown stations (e. g. University Street) to switch trains. So this would only effect those making reverse direction transfers (e. g. UW to Seattle Center) which we knew wasn’t going to be perfect. You maybe have a long walk, instead of going up and over (the way everyone will soon be making reverse-directions at I. D.). You’ve added some expense, but only one new station, and only for one track (although I don’t know if that saves us much). The southbound track would merge with the other track between Capitol Hill and Westlake (a merge we are assuming is relatively easy).

        Again, this only makes sense if this is significantly cheaper and/or less disruptive than a more straightforward way of achieving option 3.

      11. Al, the “No’s” were for Ross’s Option 5 suggestion. I understand that you would have an independent stub station sort of next to USS but perpendicular in orientation so that it was approached from First Hill.

        I don’t see what that gives that a stub next to Westlake doesn’t.

        So far as Ross’s suggestion that just one track diverge at USS, the same problems I wrote about above pertain for diverging the easy and cheap way within the station box: it’s only four cars long, the tube compression walls to the north intrude on the space of the middle lane that might be used to diverge, and the platforms are too narrow to carve a turnout into them without significantly shortening the platforms.

        However, it might be possible that the northbound tube be vaulted immediately north of the University/Symphony Station box and a diverging then diving junction be built there. If it dropped quickly enough — a pretty big “if” — it could pass under the curve at Third and Pine and then turn at Stewart and Olive to a small station at the north side of McGraw. You suggested curving to match the existing tunnel if it hadn’t gotten deep enough and since there aren’t any big buildings west of Fourth on the south side of Pine, that might work but it would be a very tight curve.

        Such a change might be doable and it’s reasonable to ask them to study it.

        But do not downplay the difficulty of disassembling the existing tube through the vault. I found an example of doing so in London on the Northern Line extension to Battersea Power Station here: It involved a six month closure of the segment that was opened, stopping service on the existing line at the station just “upstream” from the diversion. In this case the original “tube” wasn’t dug by a TBM. It’s from the early 20th Century and so was almost certainly cut-and-covered, but it is tubular in shape and was disassembled for the junction.

        TfL actually created the underground vault by mining, not cut and cover. It’s a pretty nice neighborhood:,-0.1055558,3a,60y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sFB9VbNHwr9pWipYnFp3TpQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

      12. Tom T, thé “under Union” or “Under University” option is something I suggested as a way to make construction easier. They are easier streets to close for months or years . They don’t carry much traffic.

        However, it really only makes sense if ST commits to deep boring. By stubbing a station in this direction, the elevation change in the station is minimized from a deep bore. It wouldn’t make much sense for a cut and cover project — and stubbing on 3rd, 4th, 5th or maybe 6th would seem to be cheaper and more direct, as you say..

    6. I think that it’s important to frame the alternative as having not only lower costs, but also lower environmental impacts. This is a draft EIS and is legally required to identify and possibly mitigate impacts.

      1. Stations closer to the surface save riders travel time, attracts more riders, and improves project ridership and productivity. The aggregate result should also be more trips on transit generally — even for long trips like SeaTac to UW or Lynnwood and that reduces greenhouse gas emissions once the line opens. Did I miss any impact on this aspect?

      2. No Chinatown – International District major construction would not be required. This saves neighborhood buildings being taken as well as prevents massive street disruptions and the associated noise, vibration and congestion impacts. Did I miss any impacts on this aspect?

      3. There would be no need to bore a tunnel next to several of our tallest and likely heaviest buildings. This avoids possible unforeseen building damage that could cost extra billions to remedy. Did I miss any impacts on this aspect?

      4. The number of transfers decrease. This means that extra building that require stations to have expanded, have added vertical devices and already propose major busting through the side walls at Westlake and CID stations. Did I miss any impacts on this aspect?

      Are there any other aspects that I’ve missed?

      The key here is to propose it as a mitigation to impacts and not just a new alternative. ST is legally obligated to identify and mitigate impacts while they are not legally obligated to study a new alternative.

      1. Sorry about the accidental double negative on 2. It should instead say this:

        No Chinatown – International District major construction would be required.

      2. 5. It would avoid the messy impacts that would be created in order to build Midtown station. By the way, how many of the Midtown station riders are cannibalized from the current DSTT stations?

      3. I agree. From an EIS standpoint, as well as a political standpoint, this is one of the strongest arguments for these alternatives. It is far less disruptive than anything else.

      4. 6. Line 2 not disrupted during construction. During weekend shutdowns of SoDO to tie in West Seattle, Line 2 can run at full frequency so that most riders within, north, and east of downtown aren’t impacted. No need to run bus bridges within downtown, like we did during East Link tie in.

    7. Ross, I gather that #3 is a “full split”, both southbound and northbound. Since it does definitely mean that Pine Street has to be torn up and North Link operations ceased for at least a couple of years to widen the c-n-c tunnel for the northbound diversion, it is the last option “we should fight for”.

      That’s because the Convention Center folks would object vociferously about tearing up Pine from sidewalk to sidewalk east of Sixth, and they have the ear of the Legislature who can Bigfoot any plan.

      I freely grant that a full split would offer the greatest possible flexibility for operations, but it would also necessitate uneven headways on the north line

      A single track approach from the north to the dogbone solution (option #2) from under the reversible ramp would require a short trench on Pine from whatever is left of the bus ramp to the old Convention Center Station to the edge of the freeway. That’s quite a bit less than a block, since the track curve to Capitol Hill avoids The Paramount. It’s pretty shallow by then.

      Since there appears to have been no construction in the Pine Street ROW when Link was connected to the old tunnel, I expect that the old stub goes at least a few feet before a new wall protecting the tunnel from dirt and debris was built. That wall would have to be pierced.

      The trench to be dug would be only one track wide, but it would have to be curved a bit to set up the transition to the reversible ramp ROW. Therefore it would disrupt one driving lane plus whatever parking is allowed next to the CC Annex. And of course it would require a single track c-n-c tunnel under the reversible ramp as far as Minor. That could be dug with decking for the traffic.

      As a practical political matter, option #1 (a separate line with its own platform) is likely to be favored by risk-averse politicians, so it should be the prime “fallback” option while Jonathan’s idea takes first place because of it undeniably better transfers and the “Southwest SLU” station location.

      As far as cross-overs for a minimal single-track segment, I expect, though I admit to not being certain, that a southbound to northbound reverse running cross-over could be fit into the TBM vault at I-5. It would probably spill into the curve into Pine, and being on a curve always makes turnouts dicier, but they exist all over the world.

      The reverse cross-over (northbound reverse running to southbound) can almost certainly fit just west of the platforms at Westlake. If not, a much inferior (because of the longer transit time in reverse running) solution is to put the cross within University-Seneca.

      However, since these cross-overs will take just as long to install as will the turnouts to and from the dogbone, why bother except for some possible future emergencies. There should have been LOTS more cross-overs sprinkled into the system, but I do understand they require maintenance and every one is a very slight derailment risk.

      While option #4 is indeed an elegant addition to option #2, it will be laughed out of the room for its quirkiness and complexity.

      What is the promised option #5?

      1. Ross, I gather that #3 is a “full split”, both southbound and northbound. Since it does definitely mean that Pine Street has to be torn up and North Link operations ceased for at least a couple of years to widen the c-n-c tunnel for the northbound diversion, it is the last option “we should fight for”.

        Please, just stop. We are all getting tired of it. We’ve bent over backwards to accommodate your armchair engineering, but now you are doing more than wasting our time, you are making things worse. You remind me of all those folks who kept saying that we couldn’t improve headways in the tunnel because of the Montlake Vent shafts. When asked, the real engineers told them that was nonsense.

        We don’t “definitely know” that Pine Street has to be torn up and North Link operations ceased for at least a couple of years. That’s the whole point! Until someone actually studies it, we don’t definitely know anything. It is all speculation. That is the way real engineering works. You look at various alternatives. People do the same sort of brain storming we are doing here, but with far greater skill, and a shitload more data. We’re well over 200 comments now, and no one has a 3-D diagram of the existing tunnel! That is clearly the starting point. We would also need to know the depths of the various buildings, as well the their age, utilities in the area, and so on. There is a bunch of information that has to be gathered before you can even start working on this, and no one here has that data. That doesn’t include the sort of hand waving that people do routinely while playing SimCity with these lines (how quickly can the train gain or lose elevation, how tight a turn can it make, etc.). These are all things that the real engineers, assigned to this project know, but we don’t.

        Look, I get it. Armchair engineering is fun. But my guess is very few people expected the ST proposals to look like this, even though they are all quite reasonable. ST has proposed a new Westlake station using the McGraw Square quadrilateral. It would be connected to the old station via a pedestrian walkway. I didn’t see that coming — did you? Of course not. This is what happens when real engineers are assigned a task — sometimes they surprise you.

        As citizens, we can only push for what makes sense for users, and hope that the engineers in charge tell us good news. In this case it would be that it is plausible, would not be especially disruptive, and cost less that building a new line. If instead they tell us otherwise, then it is on to plan B.

        But for crying out loud, please stop making these asinine assumptions that will reduce the chance that we actually make this a decent project. We are not doing the engineering now — all we can do is ask the engineers to study it. This should be studied because it would be best for the users, and has a very high chance of being considerably less costly and disruptive than the current proposals. If not, then we can pursue alternatives.

      2. I closed all the bold tags but one. In that last paragraph I only meant to emphasize the word “chance”. This is all speculation at this point — thus the emphasis on “chance”.

      3. It’s nice to know that you are the arbiter of “what’s enough” here on the Board. How much do you donate each month to have that power?

      4. Would you put it north of the existing station along Olive? It’s elegant and as you say places Westlake Station more evenly between University and Denny Way.

        Certainly the connection along Third Avenue is easy enough. Instead of just going through a wall at Third and Pine with a southbound connection as Option 2 or a single track “service” tunnel would for a stub tunnel could, you can build a full connection including a level crossing and send both tracks through the north wall. That’s eminently doable, as is the curve into Stewart through what is fortunately an obtuse angle with a slight extra bend a half block later to curve into Olive. The street ROW is a bit narrow, but this would be C-n-C so two tracks would fit.

        I know you’re going to hate what follows, but too bad, so sad. You apparently don’t give enough to get me banned so here goes.

        You have a depth problem connecting at the east end. Ideally when you come out of the TBM bores through that triangular structure by the Paramount you’d just keep going across Pine Street diagonally and then curve into Olive. That would be smooth and relatively fast to run.

        However, the tracks are only one (fairly sizable) level down from the street grade there, having climbed up the ramp from Old Westlake a bit more than a story. They’re roughly at the Mezzanine level, rather than the MSL elevation of the platforms. The gotcha is that the Convention Center “Annex” (my word, I don’t know the official name) is already under advanced construction all the way west to Ninth and the hole that was there goes down easily two stories. That hole used to be the bus station, so the tracks are, ipso facto at the same level as the “basement” of the Annex. There’s a big foundation athwart the ideal path of a deviation to Olive.

        So the tracks can’t continue on that straight diagonal over to Olive; they can’t magically get down to downtown TBM depth to pass under the CC from the depth at which they enter the upper reaches of the Pine Street tunnel.

        So you’d have to get over to Olive somewhere between the curve and the existing platforms at Westlake, and there are BIG buildings all along the north side of the street. That would mean no diagonal can be accommodated over those three blocks. Instead, two streetcar-radius turns in a “zig-zag” to make the deviation would be required, radically slowing the trains for all time.

        So the inexpensive way of getting to Capitol Hill is off the table. A new station with a well-engineered split to the northeast would require digging brand new tubes between CHS and the new station on Olive and (somehow) connecting them up to the station box at CHS. Since the station at CHS is now surrounded by development, that’s pretty hard to envision.

        Somewhere in between you could pretty reasonably construct a vault for the tracks to branch, but it’s pretty built up on the hill above the freeway. It would take a good portion of a block to make such a connection. Also, the resultant curve of a line from Olive would be considerably tighter than the existing one from The Paramount. It would have to gain more elevation as well.

        These sorts of niggling “constructability” issues that will occur to “The Professional Engineers” in the first five minutes have to be passed with flying colors before anyone can get them actually to “look at” any alternatives.

        If they are so obvious to me, a non-professional, they’ll definitely be obvious to them.

      5. If [the “constructability” issues] are so obvious to me, a non-professional, they’ll definitely be obvious to them.

        Wow, you have it completely backwards. Your assessment is full of assumptions — based on very little data — made by someone who is not a professional in the field. This makes it even more likely that the assumptions you are making are wrong.

        This is the way it works in every field. I own a small gizmo, that is acting up. Knowing a thing or two about gizmos, I assume that it is destined for the scrap heap. My wife says “don’t freak out, talk to your cousin, the gizmo expert”. I do, and he comes up with a clever fix. I’m thrilled and impressed, but for him, it is just another day at the (gizmo) office.

        The point is, we simply ask them to study it. They will come back with alternatives, because that is their job. If you look at some of the proposals here, many are extremely disruptive (e. g. closing Jackson for years). Many involve wiping out homes, and small businesses. A lot of them would be bad for riders — worse than what they experience now. But they are all reasonable proposals put together by professionals who know what they are doing. They all have price tags associated with them, along with the list of other trade-offs. It is quite possible that every alternative that they come up with in this case will be terrible, but if that is the case, we look at other ways to solve the problem.

        Like any armchair expert, it is easy for you to guess what these proposals will look like, and yet there is no evidence that you’ve been right so far. If you told me that the I. D. station, West Seattle Stations or Ballard stations would have all of the issues the engineers raised, it would have been very interesting and impressive. Imagine if back in the day (before ST3 mind you) you wrote that “15th will be really hard — the port will hate it. They will lean towards a station at 14th”. Yet you didn’t make that, or any other prediction. You didn’t even predict the issue with the Junction Station fitting east-west — something that someone here might have been able to predict simply by measuring the streets. Your nay-saying is limited to things we should study, not things that we know will be studied, suggesting that you aren’t Nostradamus after all.

        I wouldn’t care, except that it discourages progress on this very important issue. When you write that we shouldn’t study interlining the trains with a split between Westlake and Capitol Hill (because you know exactly what they will say) it is not only arrogant, it is counterproductive. It hurts everyone. It discourages an alternative that is quite possibly the best one. This idea should be studied. Please don’t discourage that, simply because you believe you know exactly what they will find.

      6. Actually I DID suggest moving the highway to 14th about two years ago, but you just dismissed everything I wrote then as you try to do now.

        Fine, you’re the resident bully. You even bully your sidekick Mike regularly.

        Have your fun.

      7. Just to repeat what went down here:

        1) I suggested we ask ST to study interlining the trains, as it would dramatically improve the rider experience, and likely dramatically reduce the cost, as well as disruption to the community.

        2) You said we should NOT ask ST to study this option, as you are convinced without a shadow of a doubt that it can’t be done without shutting down the station for years. This, despite no evidence to support your case, and the fact that you are not a transit planner. (Side Note: I’ve since talked to a real transportation planner, and they think it is quite likely that interlining makes the most sense, and would not be that disruptive.)

        3) I disagreed with you, emphasizing that I feel like the issue needs to be studied, as the worst case scenario is that they come back with a proposal as bad as you fear.

        4) You call me a bully.

        Look, dude, you have some good ideas. Many of your comments are reasonable. But you have a habit of sliding into “expert mode”, and assuming we are all idiots in suggesting things that actual experts think are quite reasonable. It is fine to speculate in terms of engineering (we all do). It is another thing to dismiss ideas that are done the world over, and most planners would assume is the best option. To dismiss asking ST to study an interlining proposal is more than just an irritating comment — it could lead to Seattle forever having a much worse transit system.

        Oh, and I would never dismiss a study of a train on 15th, with the cars on 14th. Whether we could pull it off is another matter. I think it would be very difficult politically (for reasons I’ve mentioned) but that is just a guess. It could turn out to be an excellent way out of this mess, and the best option for the money.

    8. Just a note on the station vault walls: The current alternatives bust through them at a Westlake and CID Stations. It’s a proposed smaller opening for pedestrian flows rather than vehicles but those walls still have to get disturbed. So if ST says “we can’t disturb the walls of the station vault” they aren’t being truthful.

      1. Yes, the walls of stations as (relatively) shallow as the DSTT1’s can be punctured. The tubes cannot be punctured, but concrete walls can be punctured. If you use a TBM you can even have it chew through the walls, as they did at all the stations north of Westlake and at the TBM vault by the Paramount. That does make a big mess, so the station would be out of service for a few days to a couple of weeks while the mess is cleaned up. Also, you have to remove the TBM and that means taking the lid off the station, too. Not a good idea at Westlake where that lid has been hyper-sealed from water intrusion.

        If you’re cutting-and-covering because of curves or the shallow depth, you need to support the wall on the inside and remove it top-down from the outside. That is by far the cleanest and safest means of breaking down a station box wall.

    9. And now option 6. This is basically just an implementation of option 3, but it would have a user impact, so I think it deserves its own category. Like a lot of these ideas we assume that connecting to the lines in a southbound direction is relatively easy. Basically splitting off to the north or west is OK, but splitting on the other direction would be costly and disruptive. We could accomplish everything with a level crossing, but folks don’t want that, for safety reasons. (I hope I have all of that right — since much of this idea is based on it.)

      Alright, here is option 6. Start by building a new Westlake Station. Then run new lines to both Capitol Hill and University Street Station (USS). This could include going all the way to the stations, or it could involve merging with the other lines, something we assume is fine, based on the previous paragraph. In other words, build a level crossing before and after the existing Westlake Station, connected to the new Westlake Station. But you would never use both lines at the same time. As soon as the new station is done, the old station platform is put out of commission. (We might want to reuse some of the entrances, but that’s the basic idea.) The split (northwest of Westlake) would be on brand new tracks, and not involve the old tracks.

      This wouldn’t be cheap, but would likely be a lot cheaper than what has been proposed. It would also be a lot better for users.

      There is another bonus. Since this would be a brand new station, it would have a center platform. Overall this means that every same direction transfer would be easy, as would the most common reverse direction transfer (e. g. UW to Seattle Center).

      One possibility is to use the “6th Avenue” station location that Sound Transit has already proposed. This involves the McGraw Square block (the quadrilateral formed by 5th, 6th, Stewart and Olive). That moves the Westlake Station a block to the north, but I think that is OK. In some ways it is better, as there is better spacing between it and USS. You would then move the Denny Station to the other side of Denny, using the Terry alternative (which I prefer in general). At that point, I would turn and follow the preferred route (avoiding the station north of Mercer).

      While this offers user advantages over option 3, it would probably only make sense if option 3 is difficult (i. e. expensive and disruptive). This would be an alternative that might avoid the disruption, while providing a little extra.

      1. As disruptive and expensive as that option 6 sounds, it’s probably less disruptive and expensive on balance than DSTT2 would be.

        If you were designing this system from scratch, I think you would split north of Westlake into one branch that goes to First Hill and then Capitol Hill. and another to Denny Triangle, SLU, Uptown. First Hill ship has sailed, but the split could still be done; it’s just more inconvenient now than if we had laid any type of groundwork for this possibility before, which is something we just don’t tend to do.

        Back in the 1990’s when they were first planning all this stuff I repeatedly asked why they weren’t planning for future expansion, in writing and in these public meetings, and you can imagine what the answers were. (They weren’t, “Oh, hey, great suggestion! Let’s do that.”)

        My sense is that ST will have a general allergy to this list of things:
        – Any kind of change at all
        – Any change in the number of stations or the endpoints served (within the range of options they are considering)
        – Any different type of vehicle or mode (even though BRT is functionally if not politically preferable for West Seattle.)
        – Anything that has significant rider impacts on the existing line for more than a brief period of time (you can’t expect no closures, ever.)
        – Anything that impacts the headways or reliability of Line 1 and Line 2 in the DSTT particularly between UW and Westlake. I do wonder what their planning assumption is here. Aren’t they currently assuming 3 minute headways are the minimum forever, with 6 minutes in Rainier Valley, 6 on I-90?

        The issues with these options can be categorized as construction impacts vs. operational impacts (and many other impacts too, for sure.) My point is, the construction and operational impacts involve some tradeoffs. The full split is surely harder to construct than the southbound-only split and southbound-only merge which are sufficient to connect Ballard to the system. Adding on the costs and construction impact of a northbound split yields additional operational flexibility.

        In the big picture, any of these options seem better than a full DSTT2. The deep underground transfers at either end are reason enough to try and get those West Seattle and Ballard trains into DSTT1. I think that argument is pretty easy to make after looking at all these diagrams of the new subterranean world.

        I remember regularly having to traverse a block-long deep tunnel by myself as a 12-year old in Chicago going through some rough neighborhoods carrying an antique violin disguised in an ugly case. People do not prefer these deep underground transfers. We should not impose them on ourselves or future visitors.

      2. Here is another possible option (7?).

        Move the Westlake platforms closer to I-5 (build new platforms there). Leave the Westlake mezzanine alone but add a new station entrance around 6th or 7th and Pine and connect the current station to the platforms shifted towards I5. The track looks straight, but I’m not sure if the slope is allowable for a platform per ADA.

        So if this can be done, what would that offer? Once moved, the old Westlake platforms could then be closed and the new ones opened almost seamlessly. That vacated area seems to provide enough room to add switches to the outsides so that a Ballard track could be installed where the current platforms are (and the tracks would seem to have enough distance to get under the new Westlake platforms. In a worst case setting, the existing tracks may need to be moved inward a bit requiring some track closures. In the best case setting, there would only need to be weekend closures to drop in a new switch into the existing track.

        The next challenge is how to handle reverse direction rail transfers by riders. Probably the easiest solution is to have them at Symphony Station and add more escalators and elevators to that station. It might be possible to add a “Westlake North” platform somehow but no matter what there would still be two escalator riders so it’s not really much better than using Symphony Station.

        I’m just curious if this would solve the third Ballard branch line concept.

    10. It turns out that the goofy option (number 4) is not unprecedented. Check out this part of Singapore’s subway system: It is almost exactly what I suggested. Again, it is not ideal (I think a simple split would be) but if push comes to shove (e. g. it was hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper) it seems like something we could live with, given the precedent. The Singapore subway carries over 3 million riders a day, so if it works for Singapore, it could work for us.

      Paris also has an asymmetrical routing. Here is a map: Look at line 10 (shown on the map as a sort of burnt orange) starting on the left side, about 3/4 of the way down. Notice that the line splits. This means that to get from Michel Ange Molitor to Javel–André Citroën is a one-seat ride, but to get back requires a transfer. Not exactly the same (unlike Singapore) but similar.

      Thanks to Reece Martin for the info. If you haven’t watched his videos, I very much recommend them (and I’m generally not a fan of videos, preferring more text than talking). He is a good speaker, and the content is outstanding. His recommendations are full of nuance; something often missing in discussions and debates these days.

      1. I think it’s unfortunate that more operational concepts were not evaluated in 2015-16. This is but one of several possible configurations.

        Another is a stand-alone Ballard Line. Another is a small one-way loop using Pine, Olive, 3rd and 6th.

        Another is exploring transfers at Symphony or Capitol Hill stations (even with a second station near Westlake like Farragut in DC) to see if the walk transfer effort would be easier.

        I did look at the justification for DSTT2 in the purpose and need chapter. It summarily attributed the need to earlier studies of the Ballard and West Seattle corridors. However, I can’t find the justification in earlier studies. Further, the analysis appears based on behavior assumptions that date as far back as 2000 and don’t add the extra transfer walking times that have now been revealed.

        Finally, I can’t find anywhere in the DEIS that provides transfer estimates between each of the light rail lines by direction. It’s impossible to assess elevator and escalator needs without these data. I hope that some of the advisory group members demand this more specific information.

  24. A summary is very helpful, and that’s a great foundation for it.

    To clarify: Are 2 and 4 the same here in terms of infrastructure, different only in the origin-destination pairs for the routes? You need the track that merges in from Ballard upstream from Westlake, and the track that splits off to the north, downstream from Westlake, to serve the existing Westlake platforms. Once you have those, all the options are open, except through-routing from the south…. I think.

    To get trains from the south to serve Westlake Station and then Ballard requires a northbound split somewhere after Westlake, which is hard, but surely not impossible.

    Getting West Seattle trains in the DSTT seems like a cinch compared to Ballard, but it’s a great starting point because even the biggest fans of that project don’t want a forced transfer at SODO for years on end. It requires a bit of track work and reduced headways in the tunnel. The debate on this will be a warmup for Ballard.

    The emergent insight from the discussion above is that a northbound split (the harder one) is not actually required to connect Ballard to the system, only to allow through-routing from the south.

    1. To clarify: Are 2 and 4 the same here in terms of infrastructure, different only in the origin-destination pairs for the routes?

      Quite possibly, yes.

      To get trains from the south to serve Westlake Station and then Ballard requires a northbound split somewhere after Westlake, which is hard, but surely not impossible.

      Don’t tell Tom that :)

      Seriously though, I think he believes it is possible, just that it would require shutting down Westlake Station and/or a major street for years. I don’t agree.

      Getting West Seattle trains in the DSTT seems like a cinch compared to Ballard, but it’s a great starting point because even the biggest fans of that project don’t want a forced transfer at SODO for years on end.

      I agree, and it gives us another angle on this: West Seattle gets meaningful rail service much sooner. Only a handful will take the little stub from stub from West Seattle to the new SoDo Station. This means a three seat ride for most of West Seattle to anywhere downtown (!) and a four seat ride to Bellevue (!!). It looks like Metro will essentially ignore it, and continue to run buses from West Seattle to downtown. West Seattle has to wait for the entire project to complete (2040?) before they get anything useful out of ST3.

      In contrast, if they interline in SoDo, they get everything they are supposed to get as soon as they finish that part of the project. It still isn’t great, but at least it is what they asked for.

      It is interesting to think of various people who would benefit from re-using the existing tunnel:

      1) People who want to save money, so they can build other things (like the spine) sooner, or just based on the principle of the thing.

      2) Those in I. D. who don’t want the disruption.

      3) West Seattle riders who want their rail sooner.

      4) Folks who don’t want their transit trip to get a lot worse. This includes folks from the southern end of our current system (soon all the way down to Federal Way) who much prefer the old tunnel, or are headed to Capitol Hill, the UW, or places north. It also includes people headed to the airport from the north end. It is common in ST literature to advertise how quickly you can get to the airport from the north end. Now those folks will not only have to transfer, but they will have a bad transfer. At worse with a shared tunnel, the riders get off the train, wait a few minutes, and get back on.

      5) People who want to take advantage of this new line, by avoiding a hellish transfer. There are a ton of people in this category: Business people who go back and forth between Bellevue and South Lake Union. Commuters from West Seattle or the East Side headed to South Lake Union. Ballard, Magnolia or Uptown commuters to the East Side. Aurora riders headed to the East Side.

      Consider that last group. The whole point of the “South Lake Union” station is to make it easy for folks who use the Aurora buses to get onto the train. But that particular train will only go to downtown and then the south end. People headed downtown will simply stay on the bus. There aren’t that many destinations to the south. For folks who are heading to the East Side (thousands of commuters every day) this new, very expensive station is useless. Why bother. You might as well stay on the bus, and transfer at University Street Station.

      That’s a lot of people, from a lot of different angles.

      1. That was a very fair assessment. Thank you.

        Of course I don’t think it’s impossible to break into Pine to the north. I just doubt that it would fly politically.

        I don’t even think it’s entirely impossible to break into a bored tube! I just know for a stone fact that it’s both really hard and very delicate at the same time.

  25. I wonder if it is possible to go above the SR 99 tunnel, instead of below it. This probably isn’t possible at Harrison, but maybe John. If memory serves, at that point the tunnel is fairly deep already, having gone steeply downhill (I’ve only been in the tunnel once, so I don’t remember it well). I’m thinking this, more or less:

    Move the Denny station a bit east, to Fairview, straddling Denny. The station would mostly be south of Denny, closer to Virginia. The station would be relatively deep, but because it is on the Cascade neighborhood plateau, it would not be much higher than South Lake Union. Immediately after the station, the train turns west, and goes under John. As it gets to Denny Park, it transitions from deep bore tunnel to cut and cover (you can close John between 9th and Dexter while building this). It then runs cut and cover west, until it again finds a place to go into a bored tunnel, and work its way to the next station. At worst you could dig a whole in the eastern part of the Seattle Center (e. g. the Space Needle parking lot) but closing off John between any pair of streets should be fine. There are parking lots on both sides of John between Taylor and Fifth, and closing that section of John wouldn’t cause a problem.

    After it is all done, you have a much better station. It would be right below the surface, with no mezzanine. Either it has a center platform, or entrances on both sides, clearly marking the direction of the train (New York style). SDOT has plans to turn Thomas into a pedestrian street — this could be moved to John, making a center platform with center entrances trivial. The main thing is that it would be close to the surface, a short walk (or escalator/elevator ride) down. No matter what, it would be a much better station, as it would be moved away from the Aurora tunnel interchange, and towards the huge buildings on the other side of Denny, closer to more people. But the big benefit is being closer to the surface, making transfers much easier, as well as access from the neighborhood.

    This would probably cost more, but you end up with a station that is a lot more useful.

    1. Certainly, rethinking the DSTT2 should be topic A, B and C! That said, I see a number of individual station design refinements and location adjustments that seem to be needed.

      The SLU/Aurora Station has had only two alternatives studied — Harrison at 120 feet deep or Mercer at 85 feet. Diagrams are here:

      Like you, I think that these are both so deep that shallower options are needed. My sense is that the 85 depth is the minimum depth for missing building foundations with a bored tunnel and the other 35 are to get deeper under the 99 tunnel.

      This goes back to the problem with the core ST approach, winnow alternatives first and then do the DEIS. The result are only two deep and expensive alternatives based on incomplete info back in 2018-2020. Plus, there was almost no information about station depths when the number of alternatives were whittled down.

      Between leaders of Seattle Center, Gates Foundation campus and other SLU destinations, station siting is very complex. However, these places have only a secondary interest in bringing station platforms closer to the surface.

      I think the appropriate response is to seek the addition of at least one if not 3 or 4 new alternatives. These probably need to be based on cut-and-cover rather than bored construction — or any new sites will still be 85 feet deep.

      Of course, if an automated driverless train for Ballard-Downtown is introduced as a new vehicle technology alternative, that can seem to somewhat affect station designs. However, as long as the train line is to be mostly bored under building foundations, the technology probably won’t change the elevation much.

      In sum, a “non-bored segment” alternative for everything between Elliott and south of Denny seems needed. Perhaps even a bored alternative that goes even further north (Roy? Valley? Aloha?) should also be added as that would reduce the overlapping of walksheds.

  26. You eliminate all the cost, complexity and disruption by connecting Ballard to Link via Northgate… just sayin’ ;-) And a future extension could be around the north end of Lk WA to Bothell, then Totem Lake and either DT Kirkland (or alternately Bothell out 522). Why beat your head against the wall when there’s an easy out?

    1. Because the point is to connect Ballard to downtown, not just Link. Would Ballard-Northgate-Downtown Link even be faster than than the 40 or D, assuming the train stops 4~5 times between Ballard & Northgate? It will get some good ridership north of Ballard (i.e. closer to Link), but ridership from Ballard itself may be pretty anemic.

      That would be like building Link from South Park to TIBS and say that’s in lieu of South Park to SoDo transit.

    2. I wouldn’t call it “easy”. Getting from Northgate to Ballard. It appears to need about 5 miles of double tracks in a tunnel or through a residential area taking lots of homes. The only benefit is not disturbing the tunnel.

      It’s a shorter effort to build to either UW or Downtown with a stand alone automated line, and even with a 5 minute transfer it would still be faster to anywhere.

      If there is a third line through DSTT, I would instead look to jogging to Aurora or Lake City.

      1. Surface running 15th/Holman/Northgate Way. Every Link extension should “cannibalize bus routes”. That’s why there’s a restructure. You’re also looking at far less costly real estate for everything from stations to construction staging areas. Besides not disrupting Central Link (which I think is a non-starter) you also avoid going over/under the ship canal which is going to be $$$.

      2. I think Bernie raises a good point about the need to question the hub and spoke system of Link in which Seattle is the hub. The Seattle Times has an article that questions what I think are some of the fundamental assumptions of Link.

        This analysis applies to most urban centers in the U.S., but especially to Seattle because of its downtown conditions that I fear have become permanent. I know for a fact the sublease market for downtown Seattle office space is huge as major and minor tenants wait for their leases to expire, if for no other reason they know they will not need the same amount of space, or are moving to the eastside. We are moving out of downtown Seattle in June after 32 years, and our firm will realize rent overhead at about 30% to 40% of what we are paying now, without any loss of productivity due to so much of the legal system moving on line.

        The current development planned for downtown Bellevue is staggering (and for those who believe brand new construction creates affordable housing I guess the eastside’s housing affordability issues are over):

        1. “New filing reveals early details of Wig Properties’ huge Bellevue mixed-use proposal: “The six-tower proposal will have 1.9 million square feet of office, over 1,300 residences, plus hotels rooms and retail space.”

        2. “New name, plan for Tishman Speyer’s 1M-square-foot Bellevue project”.

        3. “New name, updated design for Goldman Sachs-backed Bellevue project”.

        4. “Wallace Properties advances 2-tower Bellevue office project.”

        5. “Partnership buys Bellevue tower project; spring construction date set.”

        6. “16-story Bellevue office proposal hits milestone in approval process.”

        (This article is from the PSBJ March 22 edition if you want details and photos of the massive projects. Friends send me the emails they get from the PSBJ).

        It isn’t that I am clairvoyant. Pre-pandemic I always thought the only place the cost of light rail made sense is in the downtown Seattle core, because the cost of light rail only makes sense when you need grade separated transit due to traffic congestion, and need to move massive numbers of people to places all at the same time without adequate parking.

        That has changed. It is what I can the de-urbanization of America, and in fact traffic congestion is very mild these days in most places, even during peak hours. In many ways this is a good thing, and something urbanists have called for to combat carbon emissions, except work commuters are moving back to their home cities, or just their home, and taking that tax revenue with them.

        Without the work commuter to a central urban center the cost of light rail does not make sense. The problem with the work commuter is commuting to an urban center on transit (or driving) was something they hated doing, but had to, and so why would they return, certainly M-F five days/week if they don’t have to. The truth is riding transit to work is not fun. It is absurd we are spending $130 billion to run rail from nowhere to nowhere with a ridership post pandemic that can never cover operational costs without large operational levies that have little hope of passing.

        The WSBLE DEIS needs to be paused not to study alternative designs that might be affordable with a SB5528 levy and IF ST’s unbelievable revenue and ridership estimates are even close to honest this time, it needs to be paused because pretty much all light rail should be paused, although politically that is unlikely with subarea equity. At least until ridership and work patterns post pandemic are known. Does anyone really think all — or any — of the new tenants and employees in the projects I list above will take transit?

        The one question few ask is how will we afford to operate light rail in the future, a question transit advocates hate to consider, because it is other people’s money. We could have 50% of estimated ridership with around 60% to 70% of those riders paying full fare (or any fare). That is just not sustainable.

        Light rail makes sense in very urban areas with high ridership that pay their fare. That is why ST and transit advocates get so worked up about TOD, or upzoning or disadvantaging every other form of transportation: To manufacture the ridership that is not there, even though we can’t afford to run feeder transit to the urban areas we have now.

        WSBLE is just so exorbitant, the last breath of a gilded age of urbanism and transit and realignments at a time when so many have learned about the dishonesty of ST, that the false assumptions are obvious. But my guess is those flaws — at least operational costs — will apply to the rest of light rail, except maybe the one line that made sense: Northgate to downtown, at least pre-pandemic.

        I think ST knows that if WSBLE is paused it is dead because the assumptions will continue to erode. I just don’t know if ST and the Board want WSBLE to be dead or not.

      3. There is zero surface running on WSBLE. I don’t expect it to magically reappear in a Ballard-Northgate project. Truncations to the Spine make sense because it’s a frequent trunk. Will Northgate-Ballard have high frequency? If it’s mostly surface running, probably not.

        Daniel, Sound Transit’s system isn’t a hub and spoke! The PSRC’s growth plan is multi-nodal, and accordingly the transit agencies are organizing high capacity service around several hubs, of which downtown Bellevue is emerging as the 2nd biggest node. There’s a reason Link is called a “spine,” not a spoke. It’s not a really long spoke for Seattle bound riders but a HCT corridor that serves many regional destination, of which Seattle simply happens to be the largest.

        Daniel’s “deurbanization” jargon is spot on, but it isn’t new (Seattle is more like Chicago or NYC and less like LA or Houston) and it certainly doesn’t imply less traffic congestion:

      4. Westlake to Northgate is 15 minutes. The Ballard Link estimates were 11-12 minutes for the grade-separated alternatives, You can maybe add a minute for the SLU detour, So there’s no universe where a Ballard-Northgate Link transferring to downtown would meet the needs or expectations of Seattle’s fourth-largest urban village.

        As to whether the network should focus on downtown, not completely, but it is the center of Seattle’s travel geography and transfers to practically everywhere. Seattle’s travel patterns are generally an X centered on downtown, and if you’re going from Shoreline to Tukwila or further you have to pass through downtown, because there’s a sound and lake on either side..

      5. A route to Northgate could be elevated. Which might be cheaper than at grade since you don’t have as much excavation and the level of street improvements is far less. Where do Ballardites go? My guess is shopping at Northgate is more prevalent than shopping DT. The big driver of ridership for DT would be the employment density and that’s pretty much the peak only riders. The big issue is cost. What was proposed isn’t remotely affordable. I highly doubt ST will even consider punching into the existing tunnel because of both engineering risk and the huge disruption to the entire system. If Northgate is something Ballard can have now (i.e. ~10 years) and grade separated to DT is 20 to never (costs continue to escalate faster than revenue) then few people around now will ever benefit by holding out for what was promised but not deliverable.

        I’d also point out that going north would serve way more of Ballard and than simply getting to Market and calling it done.

        Another option would be to follow the water and go Ballard to UW. That would have to be elevated. It’s of course great if you wanted to get to UW Health Sciences but not so great if you have to transfer at Montlake. And I don’t think it has near the ridership demand along the route or the potential for bus transfers compared to the Northgate option.

  27. The point is to connect Ballard to everywhere (and everywhere to Ballard), not just DT. One of the reasons DT has become a “destination” is because for decades the transit system was designed as a start where no matter where you wanted to go you had to go DT to get there. The “spine” is a game changer.

    I just put into Google Maps Ballard HS to Westlake via transit and it lists options that are 30-45 minutes. Northgate to Westlake is 15 minutes via Link so yes I think it would be faster, more frequent and much more reliable to go out of direction to Northgate and use link than a “direct” bus to DT.

    Because the cost would be so much less it should be possible to bring on line 10 years to forever sooner. Would slightly higher ridership of a direct route involving bridges, tunnels and major disruption of the system ever net out a increase in system wide ridership?

    1. Eh. This feels very simillar to Cuomo’s LaGuaria train, where was the goal was to connect the destination (Airport) to the ‘spine’ (Jamaica) along the path of least resistance, and the fact that the connection was in the ‘wrong’ direction wasn’t seen as an issue.

      I don’t see a Ballard-Northgate line as a major contribution to overall system ridership. For NW Seattle, the improved connection to Northgate will mostly cannibalize bus routes that would otherwise be sending riders to 145th or 130th, and for many riders it simply offers a 3-seat bus-Link spur -Link spine trip rather than a 2-seat bus-Link spine trip. The ‘cheap’ route simply doesn’t serve anything of regional interest until it gets to Ballard itself. It would be wonderful for Crown Hill and very useful for Ballard-Snohomish trip pairs, but it’s not particularly useful for anyone in UW or further south.

  28. Peter Rogoff announced at the Board meeting on Thursday that Sound Transit is studying the SkyLink gondola proposal for West Seattle and will report on it on April 7th.

    1. Well how ’bout that – Martin got a quote in the King5 article!

      I never thought it would get any traction with staff & the powers that be, but hey maybe it will get a fair shake if leadership thinks that switching to a gondola is an easier political lift than changing Seattle’s fire code to allow for at-grade Link stations within SDOT ROW.

      1. Wouldn’t it make sense that they at least study it? But I’m not holding my breath…
        SkyLink had asked for an independent study (like Kirkland did for their gondola between STRide station and their downtown transit center), but I have not seen any indication that ST is doing that.
        What’s the fire code issue? Why were they able to do this in Columbia City / Othello / Rainier Beach, AJ?

      2. The reason ST staff gave for the inability to place the Junction station fully within SDOT ROW (and therefore avoid taking an apartment building) was Seattle Fire Code. No idea how MLK is different (is MLK wider or simply the code has change?)

        What was the result of the Kirkland study?

      3. The study confirmed that a gondola could be built along 85th Ave NE and connect the new STRide station and the new TOD development East of it incl. a new Google facility with the downtown transit center. It also confirmed that a midstation could be built on 6th St which houses another Google facility, mall/office park. The three station line could be built for about $81m and provide high-frequency connections between those areas.
        This is all part of

      4. A frequent bus on 85th (albeit with the fancy new interchange now a sunk cost) still seems like the best outcome, particularly as 85th east of 405 begins to develop midrise density to support ridership on the next few bus stops immediately east of 405.

      5. All depends on anticipated ridership, how it would fit in with other bus lines, what frequency is acceptable, whether you need separate ROW due to congestion, and who would pay for it. There is an opportunity for a public/private partnership as Google wouldn’t have to run their own shuttle service. Annual operation would cost $4.7m. How many buses can you run for that?

    2. Two comments.

      1. It is very easy to “study it” but prove it to be ineffective. The typical gondola speeds are very slow.

      2. It’s just too bad that there isn’t talk about a high-frequency automated line. The trains could run so frequently and the station vaults could be smaller. If ST is going to open the alternatives to other technologies, this proven and appropriate technology needs to be studied.

      1. 1. For a short connection like Kirkland, even a slow but high-frequency gondola is faster than waiting for the bus or a bus stuck in traffic or at a red light. By the time your bus arrives, a gondola might have dropped you off at your destination. Depending on headways, this even applies to some trains, but not high frequency automated trains. Think of a gondola as a cheap way to get into automation with a slightly reduced capacity.
        2. Yes, an automated train would allow for smaller and therefore easier to fit and cheaper stations all along the WSB line! Such cost saving would probably more than offset the slight advantage of having the same technology throughout the network.

      2. At the distances in Kirkland, autonomous vehicles will work just fine. I imagine Google will run driverless Waymo vans between its buildings to connect the various campuses.

        Station vault size isn’t as important for the WS Line as it is in the downtown tunnel because it’s (nearly) all above ground. Smaller station footprints helps a bit, but then the line is potentially permanently a stub. If there is going to be a forced transfer in SoDo (or the ID), a gondola may be better because it is dramatically cheaper to cross the river & deal with the grade changes.

      3. Oh I think there are several places that gondolas could make sense, Martin. South Bellevue to Factoria, Northgate to NW Hospital, Pioneer Square to Harborview, SLU to North Capitol Hill, 130th to Lake City or Skyway to Rainier Beach.

        With the new Link lines, they could be used to connect areas that were skipped by ST3 like Admiral, High Point, Downtown Kirkland, Fremont, Wallingford, Phinney Ridge or Upper Queen Anne among others.

        In fact, how ST studies gondolas could establish their viability for decades in our region. If ST does study it, it needs to be done with oversight to make sure that it’s not a mere fluff piece intended to make the gondola concept go away.

    1. I actually don’t mind rebuilding the 4th Ave viaduct because it needs rebuilt asap*; even though the 5th Ave shallow station is physically closer to the existing station, the 4th Ave option may have better rider circulation because it’s a single station platform rather than the stacked platforms at 5th, plus is slightly shallower. Given the wider ROW, if SDOT allows for ST to fully close 4th while the viaduct is rebuilt, it could be the cheapest option, plus it may better facilitate interlining through SoDo?

      The 4th Ave option also creates a much better transfer environment between existing Link & Sounder/Amtrak, which seems useful, particularly when the raison d’être of a 2nd downtown tunnel is the peak crush loads of riders trying to catch Sounder. The combined ID station needs to be able to handle the transfer load from 10-car Sounder trains running at 15 minute frequencies, with Pierce & South King riders seeking to transfer to UW & Eastside in addition to moving within downtown. The 4th-Shallow option facilitates all transfers without a rider ever needing a cross a street (and only Sounder-Bellevue riders needing to rise to the surface).

      1. It would be great if Sounder riders wouldn’t have to come up to the top of the viaduct but enter the mezzanine directly.
        But a 4th Ave station still requires diving under the existing tunnel meaning it would require a deep midtown station.
        Anyways, I think a single tunnel is still the best solution.

  29. I’m surprised ST is studying the gondola to West Seattle. It tells me that they are finding themselves in an even deeper hole than they thought, or maybe they know how deep it is, but haven’t shared it.

    In any event it’s encouraging that they are thinking outside the box even this much, and gives me hope that they can think outside the box on the route through the city and up to Ballard as well.

    1. I agree; if ST is seriously considering a pivot to a gondola to ensure WS Link stays on time and on budget, then that really opens the book on what Ballard Link could become.

    2. I started drilling through the assertion about the single tunnel being too limiting.

      The DEIS asserts in the Purpose and Needs chapter that this is established per a prior study that I cannot find. Further, in the transportation analysis of the No Build the afternoon is listed as deficient (Level of Service F) but I see no numbers or ratios to explain that. (Curiously, they don’t talk about vertical devices being overcrowded in the report.)

      The No Build assumes trains at 3 minutes combined for both 1 and 2 lines.

      For full DSTT analysis, there needs to be a new Build Alternative added that assumes no DSTT2 and instead assumes tighter frequency and perhaps more capacity per train car (eliminating 4 to 6 of the 8 driver cabs per train).

    3. “I’m surprised ST is studying the gondola to West Seattle. It tells me that they are finding themselves in an even deeper hole than they thought, or maybe they know how deep it is, but haven’t shared it.”

      Agreed. I think the chances ST would ever build a gondola from WS to downtown Seattle are less than zero, in part because it is such terrible transportation policy, but also so outside ST’s wheelhouse. I can almost feel the confusion at ST over this announcement. You don’t go right past automated rail to gondolas, although neither is part of the DEIS.

      What this public announcement tells me is ST and the Board are signaling there isn’t the money for DSTT2 (the three other subareas simply don’t have their contribution even at $2.2 billion and you can’t get blood out of turnip), and there isn’t the money for a stub from West Seattle, which under the realignment goes first. Maybe Dow is hoping a gondola over the water sounds sexy enough to soothe his neighborhood that is not getting light rail. West Seattle really depends on its bridge.

      This showdown was always coming. Ballard and West Seattle were not going to sacrifice the character of their prime areas for surface stations and lines (just like Bellevue and 112th), certainly not if Capitol Hill and Roosevelt and the UW got tunnels and underground stations, and certainly not post pandemic. Neither was downtown Seattle. Their neighborhood character comes before light rail. But it was the massive cost increase for DSTT2 and the fact the three other subareas didn’t even have the funding for their projects let alone DSTT2 that was the determining factor.

      There is an excellent alternative mode, one that is fast (especially for West Seattle) and direct to wherever you want to go: buses. Run one seat buses to either where the riders want to go (say West Seattle to Bellevue or Ballard to UW) or to a light rail station, and figure out a way to connect DSTT1 to SLU and use some of the money (if there is any) on bridge replacement.

      It won’t be long before buses are much smaller and driverless, and that will be the game changer. Every transit ride will be one seat.

      Buses are not sexy, but I think we are already finding out they are often better and faster than light rail, especially in a post pandemic world, and infinitely more affordable (if they are safe). East Link will not have the transformative effect on the eastside that rerouting the 554 will, although the 554 is simply following where the riders want to go because that is what transit should do. The idea that light rail as a mode will determine where people live and where they want to go has always been the great failing of light rail.

      To compare buses to a gondola as a serious form of transit for West Seattle is something even ST knows is ludicrous, considering buses go everywhere while a gondola goes to one place, its great Achilles heel. Talk about the mother of all transfers: West Seattle to the Int’l Dist. to catch Link, when most won’t take a bus to light rail. Why ST would suddenly throw out a Gondola rom West Seattle is the real question, knowing they would never build it.

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