Sound transit has a blog post up that pairs well with our recent discussions of transfers and deep stations:

As people have begun to study the recently published Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), some have wondered about the depths of the stations and what the rider experience would be like to access the platforms and transfer between lines.

There are several factors in the Downtown segment that influence the depths of the tunnel stations.

In addition to physical considerations like existing terrain, soil properties, and existing underground infrastructure or building foundations, geometric design constraints imposed by the depths of adjacent stations also may determine how deep underground a station must be built.

Click through for a visual comparison of the station depths. You can see that a “shallow” station on 4th in the CD would be deeper than Capitol Hill, for example. Or that a deep station in the CID would require an even deeper Midtown one.

Regarding Midtown, one interesting idea that’s stuck with me is, given the steepness of the hill, a street-level entrance on 2nd & Madison, with a long pedestrian tunnel, could connect directly to a 5th & Madison station that would otherwise be only accessible by elevator.

92 Replies to “Diagramming station depths”

  1. My major beef with the diagrams is that they only got released in 2022 for the DEIS! Look, ST had diagrams for West Seattle and Ballard much earlier in the process. They waited until the DEIS to show the public how deep stations Downtown and in South Lake Union would be positioned. All of this was post-realignment.

    In short, the issue of depths should have been presented in 2019 instead of 2022. Heck, they had a pretty good idea about depths even in 2015 but never showed the public.

    So any anger is in my mind about holding back the information for so long. ST knew and didn’t disclose their public.

    1. ST should have put the transfers first and studied them before the vote. Likewise, U-District station should have been designed with a transfer interface to the 45th line, which was already under consideration. International District station (the first one) should have been redesigned with a center platform for cross-platform transfers, and an easy transfer to a second platform for the third line.

      When Toronto built its initial Yonge subway it included a transfer stub to a planned perpendicular Queen Street line. Decades later it didn’t end up being used because the cross line was built further north at Bloor Street, but it was still worthwhile and probably didn’t add much to the cost.

      We voted for ST3 in 2016. ST left the transfers unspecified and said just trust them. Now in 2022 we get the transfer designs and they’re worse than anything we’ve ever had. Did ST have an inkling of this in 2016? In 2017 or 2018 or 2019?

      1. When Toronto built its initial Yonge subway it included a transfer stub to a planned perpendicular Queen Street line. Decades later it didn’t end up being used because the cross line was built further north at Bloor Street, but it was still worthwhile and probably didn’t add much to the cost.

        I believe the plan is to finally build the Queen Street Line. I think it was called the “Relief Line” ( and now is being called the “Ontario Line” ( It is supposed to operate in 2030.

    2. I agree. I’m now planning to vote against every subsequent Sound Transit vote where anything will be designed in-house, because I’ve been fooled often enough already; their planning department simply is not trustworthy.

      1. The ST planning department isn’t planning. They’re taking direction from the ST board who, depending on location, are either intentionally skewing the options considered to benefit political backers, or listening to nimby groups to minimize impacts to the squeaky wheels. The results from the foremer are technically dubious alignments to create stations for Amazon, gates foundation, climate pledge, and expedia. The latter, creates highway adjacent stations. Also the region as a whole suffers from a woeful lack of master planning and interagency and department coordination. Each City department, KCM, and WSDOT are their own feifs, understaffed, with constrained budgets. ST is righty averse to work at street level in Seattle because the planning, permitting, and construction can be held hostage to bureaucratic ineptitude or outright extortion.

      2. Thank you. As someone who works in the transportation industry in the Puget Sound region, I can verify that this is 100% correct. The planners are at the mercy and whim of the ST board. These decisions are politically driven by a regional body filled with elected officials. In the end, each board member is most concerned about making their constituents happy, not about building a great user-oriented system.

        Within those constraints there are things ST (and other agency) planners can do to improve certain aspects, but mostly it’s just trimming around the edges.

        The thing is, this is the way the model had to be – voters across the region were never going to fund an agency of Seattle-centric planners and engineers to build a Montreal-style subway system (i.e. one that first and foremost serves the core in an efficient way and ventures into some some suburbs smartly). Nope, it had to be sold as a project that would equally benefit everyone across the urban part of the region (i.e. the ST District boundary). The board representation from these areas don’t care about or even understand transit. Even if well-intentioned (which they often aren’t), these are not the right people to the be the “deciders” for all of the most critical decisions ST faces.

        But they needed their money. As the failed Monorail Project demonstrated, Seattle alone does not have the revenue to make all the necessary capital investments for a largely grade-separated system. The regional model is the only one that penciled out, but it leaves us with a structure where the big decisions are more based on political calculus than solid transit planning principles.

      3. In my experience working with Board members when I was on ST’s staff, the politicians are just as much focused on overall system performance as agency staff, but board member are more aware of political constraints while I was consistently surprised how genuinely oblivious my coworkers were of anything going on outside their department, political or otherwise.

        The real disconnect between board members and the STB commentariat is different definitions of a “good” system. While some of the more ‘conservative’ politicians certainly cared about the cost effectiveness of project attributes, I never hear a member say something along the lines of, “I don’t care where the line is, what matters is maximizing ridership.” They wanted lines to be useful – connect the region, create economic & social opportunity, and be a sustainable alternative to driving – and none of them considered total ridership a useful metric. The goals have been to 1. connect the region’s urban centers to each other, and 2. connect useful things that were ‘on the way’ between the urban centers. Aside from the highly productive Redmond Link, only at the end of ST3 are there HCT lines that extend beyond Bellevue & Tacoma, away from Seattle.

        Seattle politicians have never made an argument that because their city is more urban it is more deserving of High Capacity Transit .. the arguments around 130th and Graham street were all about how those communities were more deserving on equity grounds and had little to do with total ridership or productivity. And Seattle’s big attempt (WSBLE) to ‘focus on the core’ over ‘venturing into the suburbs’ is currently on this blog its generally viewed as a colossal failure in scope and approach.

      4. “The results from the foremer are technically dubious alignments to create stations for Amazon, gates foundation, climate pledge, and expedia.”

        Thousands of people work and live in those buildings and the surrounding ones. That’s one of the purposes of high-capacity transit, to move a lot of people to/from places they concentrate in highrises and stadiums. Without it, people are reluctant to give up car commuting, and that creates an even bigger problem of a half-dozen packed highway lanes and buildings taking up space with parking infrastructure. If Amazon, Gates, Expedia, and the sports teams weren’t there, other companies would take their place and you’d still need the same high-capacity transit. Other countries don’t question the need for subway stations in new highrise districts: they are planned together. The need doesn’t suddenly change because the sign on the building is Amazon or another company or a collection of smaller companies.

      5. “The planners are at the mercy and whim of the ST board. These decisions are politically driven by a regional body filled with elected officials.”

        You say that as if it’s a bad thing. How else can it be in a democracy? Do you want the army pursuing its own agenda rather than taking direction from the president?

        The problem is the board’s priorities. They could adopt a policy of transit best practices like Vancouver and Germany’s transit regions pursue. ST is also dependent on state and city governments having the right priorities: the state determines tax authority and regulations, and the cities grant or withhold permits suitable zoning. And ST depends on local transit agencies for feeders.

        So you have to look at who people elect to positions that get nonminated to the ST board, and structural factors that allow parochialism. By structural factors I mean giving suburbs autonomy from the cities they orbit. This allows suburbs to pursue exclusionary policies and put a high income floor on living in their jurisdictions, and keep their cities car-dependent. This benefits a small fraction of the population at the expense of the rest, as each suburb has a beggar-thy-neighbor attitude, and they all add up.

        In contrast, you could have a regional transit authority with a mandate and leadership to pursue transit best practices appropriate for the central (dense) and peripheral (undense) areas. Then it will put subway lines in the highest-volume corridors, and trams and BRT in medium-level corridors, and buses to feed them and serve every other travel direction. And they will be frequent enough to get people out of their cars to some substantial extent. The authority also needs adequate financial resources and administrative authority to actually build it and operate it at that level. That’s what Vancouver and German transit regions have, and why their transit networks are so comprehensive, useful, and integrated compared to ours.

        Sometimes the transit authority is also the highway authority. That can be good if it leads to a better overall transportation system. It can be bad if it pursues an SOV-priority policy and neglects transit.

        As an aside, I’ve read that Australian cities tend to annex their suburban growth areas, so the metropolitan area is under the city’s authority. Toronto did something similar when it consolidated the city and three suburbs into one.

        Seattle used to do this before the 1950s, when it annexed Ballard, Rainier Beach, and Broadview. There was even a proposal in the early 1900s to annex Mercer Island and turn it into a park. This changed in the 1950s when annexing went out of fashion and suburbs incorporated to keep out growth. That’s what Australian cities don’t have as I understand it. Vancouver and German regions also pursue a more sensible growth policy, although I don’t know the details of suburban power there.

        One thing in Vancouver I’m impressed with is Surrey’s (Whalley’s) development in the 1990s, and Metrotown and the Skytrain highrise clusters before that. In the early 90s I went a few times to a church in Cloverdale, a then-rural area south of Whalley. At the time Skytrain went only to Scott Road just east of the Fraser River (akin to UW station in north Seattle). So people from Vancouver took the Skytrain to Scott Road, and carpools took them from there to church. Or when I went up, I found an hourly bus from Scott Road to Cloverdale and walked the last mile. Whalley (downtown Surrey) was either still a small town or construction had just started.

        In 1998 I met new friends in Vancouver and started going up once a month to the West End. By that time the Skytrain had been extended to Whalley and King George. Whalley had become a dense walkable downtown, with offices and apartments. That’s the right kind of growth: satellite cities that are real cities, with a large enough and diverse enough base of businesses and apartments that people can meet most of their needs on foot, and don’t need to be millionaires to live there. No nimby blockages close to city centers (i.e., no Surrey Downs or Clyde Hills). And no train segments in areas that refuse to grow (i.e., no Des Moines).

        Preferably, zoning would taper down from the central cities (Seattle), and Des Moines would get whatever level is appropriate for its distance from the cities, and not be able to remain mostly single-family and one-story strip malls next to Link stations.

      6. Mike – my point is ideally the ST District Boundaries would be smaller and more urban, so as not to be as the whim of suburban/rural places like Stellacoom. Or have two boundaries – one for commuter-oriented inter-city transit and one for the denser urban core transit. Then give board members votes accordingly – Stellacoom and Sammamish don’t get to weigh in on West Seattle to Ballard and those jurisdictions don’t pay on intracity lines, but they do weigh in on the Sounder extension to Dupont and help fund those. So you have a smaller “subway district” that perhaps just includes the more urban parts of King County and a “commuter rail” district that includes the current boundaries. Yes you’d have to re-think sub-area equity and all that. But you’d likely end up with a small committed core of decisionmakers that are more informed and operating in good faith when it comes to key decisions around the “subway” lines, ultimately leading to better decisions.

      7. This is meant to reply to a string about the ST board and boundaries.

        This aspect was discussed when the enabling legislation was enacted in Olympia. Chair Fisher wanted Tacoma included; Seattle affirmative votes were thought to be needed to improve Tacoma transit. Note the decision for a new government and not use of the existing ones. It was discussed again after the April 1995 measure failed. The enabling legislation required that the RTA had to include at least part of a second county. The district did not change.

        The proposal changed some for 1996. The most important change was to vote in a General Election in a presidential year with high turnout.

        The three-county board makeup has tended to favor spine worship ever since.

        The Forward Thrust measures were one-county and made much better transit sense.

      8. @Chris — I agree with most of what you wrote, but I want to take issue with this:

        As the failed Monorail Project demonstrated, Seattle alone does not have the revenue to make all the necessary capital investments for a largely grade-separated system.

        That isn’t really true. Given the opportunity, Seattle would have passed a very urban system. After all, due to the way things are set up, Seattle is building all of the ST projects in Seattle, with the exception of a second tunnel (that most of us believe isn’t necessary). The only thing standing in the way of a real Seattle Subway is the authority by the state to actually fund it (well that, and the fact that we are actively trying to waste our money on something stupid). The monorail failed because it was put together by neophytes who were wedded to a particular mode, and couldn’t manage to figure out the finances either. It had no support from the city or any other elected body. A system run by the city of Seattle could easily have been successful, if given the chance.

        I don’t think that makes the most sense though. There is no Seattle transit agency. The biggest transit agency by ridership in the state is King County Metro. That will likely be the case in the future, even as ST spends billions building out Link. Metro should plan and operate the subway system.

        That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a transit system going across county borders. To a certain extent, we already have one — WSDOT. We think of WSDOT as the state organization that builds the roads, but they also run the ferries. The Washington State Ferry system only operates car ferries, but they carry more car passengers and people on foot than drivers. More people ride the ferries than take Community Transit and Pierce Transit combined. WSDOT should also run the passenger ferries, as well as Sounder, and express buses between counties. But the budget (other than the ferries) should be much smaller, because the need for service across counties is smaller.

        That doesn’t mean that a system built from the inside out (the traditional way to build subways) wouldn’t eventually extend to the suburbs. But at worst you would have something like Vancouver. It is nuts that SkyTrain will extend to Surrey before it follows Broadway, let alone gets to UBC. But at least most of the urban system is built out before they build that one section out of order. We run the risk of never completing the urban core, while extending to places much farther and smaller than Surrey.

        But that gets me to AJ’s point. A system run by the county could still be a mess. That is definitely true. West Seattle Link is a fundamentally bad idea, and it could easily be proposed by Metro. I just doubt that it would be.

        The current setup puts the politicians first and foremost with the system. I don’t have anything against any of these politicians, but they all have more important jobs, and none of them know much about transit. It is possible that they could defer to planners, but they don’t. They are focused on currying favor from groups that also know little about transit. So far as I know, there is only once within the history of Sound Transit where transit consultants were hired. But they weren’t hired by ST, they were hired by the city of Kirkland. Sound Transit rejected their findings, and went a different direction.

        In contrast, Metro Transit is focused on transit. That’s the nature of the job. They would instantly see the value of ideas we’ve considered, but ST has never bothered to study. Things like a new bus tunnel, a Metro 8 subway, Ballard to UW subway are instantly understood by Metro officials, because it is the world they live in. That isn’t true for the majority of the board, and even some of the Seattle officials can’t quite grasp the full value.

        A regional board is also going to have a regional focus, which is to say, a bias towards distance. Traditional* subway stop spacing is rejected, forever reducing the value of the line. The fundamental mission of ST is to complete “The Spine”, which is bad enough, but it also skews the way people look at mass transit. Not only are longer routes favored, but there is also a bias towards regional coverage. West Seattle Link just looks much better on a map (especially a map showing Everett and Tacoma) than a Metro 8 subway (even if the latter carried more riders, and saved them a lot more time). It is almost a freeway approach to mass transit; given the makeup of the board, that shouldn’t be surprising.

        * By “traditional metro” I mean a typical mass transit system in Europe and Asia. These have lots of stops and lots of lines in the urban core, with a few extensions to the inner suburbs. When they extend farther outward, they do so relatively cheaply, taking advantage of cheap land or existing railway. They often run (relatively cheap) regional rail as well (the equivalent of Sounder, but with trains running every hour or so in the middle of the day). They also run plenty of buses that tie into the system, so that those in the more distant suburbs (or more distant cities) can get into the city. But they don’t build anything like what we are building in Seattle — a very expensive system that does a poor job of covering the urban core while running alongside the freeway for miles and miles. It is a uniquely American system that has never come close to the success of a more traditional metro. The only parts that are even moderately successful are parts that a traditional metro would have as well.

      9. “As the failed Monorail Project demonstrated, Seattle alone does not have the revenue to make all the necessary capital investments for a largely grade-separated system.”

        It showed nothing of the kind. The monorail failed for monorail-specific reasons.

        A. The legislature only gave it around $1B tax authority and specified the sources. The legislature could have chosen any amount and any sources, but that’s what it constrained the monorail to.

        B. The biggest funding source was MVET (an annual fee on car licenses). Initiative 695 gutted MVET, so the monorail’s primary funding source evaporated. The initiative was later ruled unconstitutional, but the legislature was so afraid of anti-tax activists that it enacted the initiatives provisions itself. The legislature didn’t give the monorail another funding source to replace it.

        C. The monorail authority really didn’t know what it was doing. It was pie-in-the-sky amateurs with no transit experience. It chose monorail technology because it looked cool and different, and oh, the view!

        D. It didn’t have enough operating budget to accept transfers. This goes back to legislative limitations which were not imposed on ST. So I, then an ardent monorail supporter, was afraid I might have to take the bus under the monorail track or pay double fare for a two-seat ride, so I could never use the monorail.

        E. Light-rail technology is off-the-shelf from many vendors and interchangeable. Only a few vendors offer monorail technology, and all are proprietary and incompatible, so you get vendor lock-in. Only two vendors bidded on Seattle’s monorail, and one of them withdrew, so there was only one choice, take it or leave it.

        F. The maximum speed was 35 mph so it wasn’t very fast. Link can go 55 mph in grade-separated segments.

        G. Some segments were single-track, so frequency was limited to 20 minutes. I’m not sure if that had been there from the beginning, or if the tracking was reduced as the financial situation worsened. But really, a rapid-transit system must run at least every 10 minutes to be fully effective.

        H. The ballot initiative specified the exact streets and stations it would run along, so there was no flexibility when later engineering suggested that might not be the best choice. ST explicitly made ST2 and 3 more vague to avoid that mistake.

        I. A coalition of Second Avenue businesses didn’t want the monorail going past their third-floor windows, and didn’t want to lose street parking. They spearheaded four or five initiatives to repeal it. Most of them failed but the last one succeeded.

        J. The last initiative succeeded because by then the monorail’s financial situation was in meltdown. It had deferred the northern or southern half (I forget which). That, plus the monorail being slow and infrequent and not accepting transfers, finally doomed it.

    3. “ST knew and didn’t disclose” … Is there any evidence for this whatsoever? All of ST’s planning documents and diagrams are available to a public records request.

  2. The pattern of forcing early choices without information is not exclusive to WSBLE. Check out this video of the recent Everett Link advisory group meeting here:

    In watching the meeting, you will witness ST representatives pushing members to exclude options based on no design and no data. They want the members to toss alternatives that don’t literally “feel right”. That’s right. ST wasn’t to make a decision that costs billions and will affect people for at least a century based on how PR staff (not even a rail designer) is forcing a handful of well-meaning but uninformed people literally “feel” about an alternative at a Zoom meeting?

    This is a structurally flawed approach, ST. System expansion should not be done like medical treatment from the 1300’s. People need to be outraged!

    1. Rather than eliminate alternatives without information, I think that the discussion should instead ask:
      1. Do you see any “fatal flaws” to any station alternative?
      2. What would make each station alternative better?
      3. What should be the two most important functions of this station?

    2. I went through the video and I don’t see anything wrong with it. They’re asking the citizens’ advisory panel which alternatives best serve the community and whether they can narrow it down to the top two or three. It’s not the final say; there’s also ST’s technical report, and the electeds’ advisory panel will also weigh in. The panel members aren’t choosing options for no reason, they’re saying, “This one is closer to retail. This one gives access for the apartments on Casino Road. This one is easier for me as a disabled person to get to. This one has more worthwhile TOD opportunities. This one fits into Everett’s downtown busway plan. All the Paine Field locations will require employer shuttles, which they already have.” This is the kind of input you want and ST always does with Link projects.

      In a few cases somebody said they don’t think they have enough information to reject one, so they asked for it to be included for further study. In one case they recommended keeping all four alternatives because any of them might turn out to be potentially good. In one case somebody advocated for an I-5 alignment which is not one of ST’s current alternatives, and said one station wasn’t good with the current alignments but it might be good if the I-5 alignment reemerges. So the moderator noted there was interest in the I-5 alignment, and in reconsidering that station if the I-5 alignment reemerges later.

      All this seems normal so I don’t see what there is to object to.

  3. The stations as proposed are simply unusable, so the project as proposed [e.g. “WSBLE”] should be abandoned. Three lines in the existing tunnel with some improved turnback facilities at Northgate if needed can’t be that hard to engineer.

    However, something has to be done to serve SLU, so a new shallow alignment for a stub cut and cover tunnel which uses the wide right-of-way of Westlake Avenue to around Mercer or Roy and then turns west should be developed for an independent line to SLU, Lower Queen Anne, Interbay and Ballard. Crossing Aurora under Mercer or Roy well north of the DBT portal means it can be shallow.

    Since the east-west portion would necessarily be TBM’d because of the jogs in Roy it might make the most sense to go west under Roy and east under Mercer. The TBM’s need about sixty feet of separation, and that clearly can’t fit under Roy.

    With shallow depths and simple stations, it’s possible to envision (and afford) four of them between the bluff at Elliott and “New Westlake”: Second West, Fourth North, Mercer and Westlake and Denny and Westlake. With modest mezzanines and simple side platforms along Mercer and Roy these could be supremely accessible stations in very dense neighborhoods. IOW real “urban rail”.

    Yes, moving the station west to Second does mean that folks transferring from Upper Queen Anne would have to walk a couple of blocks, but most of them are headed to downtown, LQA or Belltown anyway, so they’d just stay on the bus.

    The curve (or actually “curves”) near Lake Union simply does/do not have to be “high speed”. None of this line has to be “high speed”. It’s only six miles from Westlake Center to Nathan’s station site in downtown Ballard! At thirty miles an hour average speed and seven one minute intermediate stops that’s only nineteen minutes from downtown Ballard to Westlake.

    But to get even this less expensive rail, Ballard must give up it’s heavy “industrial” zoning along and to the north of the extremely valuable waterfront east of 15th Avenue so an additional station can be sited in “Southwest Woodland”. “Light industrial” can occupy most of the first floors of buildings built there in the future. But leaving urban wastelands like this in the middle of a growing city is enormously wasteful:,-122.3722341,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sR0lGrB18uKTB-FMMlAFp8g!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    There are almost not “jobs” in view here, as is clearly shown by the complete lack of cars parked anywhere.

  4. It looks like a major revolt is brewing between STB, Seattle Subway, and several commentators over the station depths and long transfers. This is at least the third article on it. Maybe the only thing left to do is to turn against the WSBLE in the DEIS comments and to Seattle politicians until/unless ST steps back and rethinks the line, considers other station alternatives, or resurrects the idea of retrofitting DSTT1. Voters approved ST3 with a second tunnel, but we didn’t necessarily expect it to have such unprecedented deep expensive stations and long transfers.

    There’s a precedent for it. In January 2016 the first ST3 proposal was trying to fit into a 15-year budget like ST1 and 2 were, so it had West Seattle Link and a Ballard streetcar. STB, Seattle Subway, and many commentators revolted and said they wouldn’t vote for ST3 if it didn’t have Ballard light rail. Because Ballard-Fremont is Seattle’s fourth-largest urban center even if it isn’t officially called that, and the largest urban centers need light rail so the most people can get to/from them quickly. ST could have downgraded West Seattle to BRT, but of course it wouldn’t because Dow and other VIPs live there and it considers itself privlieged like the Eastside. So the other alternative was to add Ballard light rail, which is what ST did. Transit fans are ST’s biggest and most reliable non-government supporters, so when we turn against something ST takes notice, since it jeapordizes the rest of ST’s public support.

    It’s ironic that we pushed so hard for ST3 and Ballard, and now some of us are turning in another direction. But that’s the situation we’re in. A subway network needs excellent train-to-train transfers, like New York where you just walk across the platform to transfer from an express to local train, or St Pete’s Tekhnologicheskii Institute to continue going south/southwest, or BART MacArthur on Sundays when SF trains don’t go to Fremont or Richmond, or London Kennington evenings when one branch of the Northern Line doesn’t go all the way to Morden. And Ballard’s 14th Station threatens to devastate the potential walkshed, which was one of the main reasons for building Link in the first place. And West Seattle, who needs West Seattle Link anyway?

    So maybe ST should get an unprecedented number of bad reviews in the DEIS and suggestions to slow down the process and consider more alternatives, in order to make the network useful for passengers like a light rail line should be. And if it can’t and has to cancel WSBLE, maybe that’s not the end of the world. Because we’ll still have ST2 Link, and that is making and will make Ballard’s situation better than it was in 2015, even if it doesn’t serve it directly.

    1. It looks like a major revolt is brewing between STB, Seattle Subway, and several commentators over the station depths and long transfers. This is at least the third article on it.

      Yeah, maybe. I think there is a growing consensus that ST3 is not going to be that good, unless they make major changes. This is dramatically different than previous plans. It is easy to argue that UW Station is in a terrible location. It is much harder to argue that it is so bad that we should just start over. Yet that is the case here. West Seattle Link adds little. The transfers are terrible. The downtown stations (for those on the new line) are also terrible. The Denny Station is way too deep, and too close to the Westlake Station; the South Lake Union Station is way too deep, and too close to the Aurora/downtown interchange. The Ballard Station has moved from barely acceptable to terrible. The Uptown Station looks good, but the monorail can serve that. That leaves the Dravus Street station — are we spending billions so that Magnolia riders can transfer to get downtown, but get better service to the UW? Like any investment in transit, this adds value, but there are so many flaws — in critical areas — that it turns an already dubious project into a very poor one.

      Maybe the only thing left to do is to turn against the WSBLE in the DEIS comments and to Seattle politicians until/unless ST steps back and rethinks the line, considers other station alternatives, or resurrects the idea of retrofitting DSTT1.

      I voted against ST3 because I figured eventually they would come up with a better package. I saw this coming. OK, not exactly this, but I did believe that Sound Transit would have a very tough time making this work out really well, given the fundamental issues confronting them. At various stages, they seemed to be convinced that building a grade separated WSBLE was simply too expensive. Then, at some point, they changed their mind — even though there was no great explanation why. Now, of course it is more expensive than ever, and as happened before, cost cutting results in worse transfers, or longer walks to where people are headed. It is really the opposite of rail to the UW. You really can’t screw that up. On the other hand, even the best agency would have a tough time with WSBLE, because the fundamentals are so weak. In West Seattle, you are pushing riders out of an express to downtown, while giving them nothing in return. You have a second downtown tunnel, with no added coverage (who does that?!). You take a sudden turn to the west at Denny, instead of taking a straight path (increasing costs without increasing coverage). In both West Seattle and much of the Ballard line, you have poor bus integration (there is no grid enhancement, like in Vancouver). The South Lake Union Station, since it is next to Aurora, is clearly designed for bus integration but the main destination of the bus is the same as the train (downtown). The fundamentals are very weak, making the details very important. Yet ST has clearly failed in that regard.

      This isn’t shocking. ST stations vary from poor to acceptable. It is easy to find flaws even with the best of stations (e. g. the U-District Station lacking an entrance from the other side of 45th). Sound Transit has never been a “quality over quantity” type of agency — quite the opposite.

      Voters approved ST3 with a second tunnel, but we didn’t necessarily expect it to have such unprecedented deep expensive stations and long transfers.

      Right, but my guess is the vast majority of voters had no idea there was even a second tunnel. Most voters aren’t looking at the project at that level of detail. It wouldn’t surprise me if most have no idea where they had planned on putting the Ballard Station, let alone where they want to have it now. The vote was not really on the merits of this proposal, but transit in general. You could have an advisory vote, titled “Should we support transit?” in the region, and probably get the same supporters. The devil is in the details, and most people don’t like messing with the devil. (Maybe ST3 needs an exorcist.)

      I would definitely support a do-over, but I doubt the board would. There are way too many people who still like the basic plan (e. g. West Seattle rail enthusiasts) and way too many that pay no attention to the details. You would basically just have a repeat of the ST3 vote, with the Seattle Times opposing the rail plans, and the Seattle Stranger supporting it. I think the best chance of improving things at this point is interlining, for the reasons Al mentioned here: It is still the same basic plan, just a lot cheaper, and a lot better for the riders.

      1. As a transit supporter, it’s hard to vote no on a measure like ST3, even if I don’t like the details. The fear is that instead of coming back with something better, ST comes back with something worse, or, possibly just decides the region doesn’t want more transit, and we get nothing at all.

      2. As a transit supporter, it’s hard to vote no on a measure like ST3, even if I don’t like the details. The fear is that instead of coming back with something better, ST comes back with something worse, or, possibly just decides the region doesn’t want more transit, and we get nothing at all.

        Fair enough, and that proves my point. ST can propose something terrible, and people will support it, because they assume they will come back with a worse proposal, or nothing at all. I disagree, and believe that the most likely outcome would be that Sound Transit would come back with something smaller, but better. More than anything though, I believe that building something that is a terrible value is worse, long term, than waiting. If you build something that is a bad value, it reduces the chance that a high value project be built. I think transit in the Bay Area has been set back fifty years because of BART. If they had built a more traditional metro (with multiple lines, and a lot more stations in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley) I think there would be several important additions by now (and in the mean time, everyone in the region would have more useful transit). They probably would have improved Caltrain by now as well, since regional rail would actually be able to hook into a good metro system in the city (like most cities around the world). High value projects lead to other projects; poor value projects are the opposite.

        I also don’t buy the idea that “this is our last chance”. Twice the voters rejected Sound Transit proposals, and they came back with something else. The Puget Sound area is growing, and like most cities around the world, becoming more urban, not less. Thus the long term trend would be to build more urban transit (i. e. more effective transit) not less. A “Metro 8 Subway” would have been seemed silly twenty years ago; now, when you look at the census data, it looks quite sensible (especially if it curves to serve First Hill).

        Of course rejecting every transit project because it isn’t perfect would be stupid. Everyone has their breaking point — the point at which you go from accepting all of the flaws to saying it is just too bad. I know my comments might make it seem otherwise, but I’m generally quite tolerant of system flaws. The problem I have with ST3 is that the good projects are just not that good, and the bad projects are terrible. Ballard Link is the only worthy project, but I could see some potential problems with it, and sad to say, I’ve been largely proven right. As Mike put it, if we have to lose WSBLE, maybe that’s not the end of the world, because we’ll still have ST2 Link (something I enthusiastically supported — and continue to support, warts and all).

        Interestingly enough, Reece Martin had a video recently about this very topic:

      3. People are still fearful of Forward Thrust, where a subway couldn’t get a supermajority, and they didn’t have another chance until twenty-five years later.

      4. @Mike — Good point. I could definitely see that with ST1 as well. If they did decide to abandon the rail plans (as some officials wanted) it is quite possible that it would have taken years before they actually built rail to the UW. I get that.

        But I just don’t see that with ST3. By then we had rail to the UW — the key section. We had rail to SeaTac, and were actively building rail to Lynnwood, Federal Way, Bellevue and Redmond. It is quite possible that people didn’t quite understand all that (I don’t blame anyone in Everett for not understanding that Lynnwood Link is a much bigger deal than Everett Link for them). But in Seattle, for example, the idea that this was a once in a generation opportunity just seems ridiculous. The only thing that would stop a rail line from being built is if it is a bad idea (so I guess in that sense Dow was right — this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to build West Seattle Link — because West Seattle Link is stupid).

        I’m reminded of the TransLink vote in 2015. I think voters were nuts to reject that proposal. It became a referendum on the agency, and operations (we aren’t the only ones with failing escalators) rather than the proposal. But as it turns out, it will work out better for Surrey. Instead of a surface light rail plan, they get an extension of SkyTrain, which actually makes more sense. Buses can handle the load within Surrey, while the SkyTrain connects them to the rest of the city across the Fraser River. It does mean a delay for the much needed line to UBC, but it will eventually get built. Again, I think voters should have approved that proposal — but I wish voters here would take a less fatalistic approach than those in greater Vancouver.

        More than anything, I wish they would look at the merits of the proposal, instead of simply voting based on whether they think transit is a good idea or not.

  5. The ST3 proponents note they are advancing what the board and voters approved. There is precedent for major change to a voter-approved measure. Sound Move, 1996, had several major components cancelled or deferred by a two-thirds vote of the board. They included: NE 85th Street center access ramp; those funds were used for a new KTC, Totem Lake Transit Center, NE 128th Street overcrossing and freeway station, and NE 85th Street pedestrian infrastructure; Link stations at BAR, South Graham Street, First Hill (Madison Street), and NE 45th Street were cancelled or deferred; North Sounder became one-way and peak-only rather than two-way; I-90 did not get a two-way busway on the reversible roadway.

    Is the current crisis equal to that of 1999-2001? Both include an underestimation of tunnel cost. I bet the proponents do not think the crisis is equal.

    Seattle Subway has helped find a legislative pathway to more Seattle funding. But that is only the first step.

    1. The ballot measures only require that designated urban centers, not every intermediate station. So BAR, Graham, and 145th/I-5 weren’t essential. The requirement for Lynnwood Link was that it serve Northgate and downtown Lynnwood. The requirement for ST1 was that it serve 45th and the airport. So deferring 45th was a material deviation, but First Hill and Graham were not.

      “Is the current crisis equal to that of 1999-2001?”

      It’s the biggest one since then at least. I don’t know how to compare them.

      1. I think it is the most controversial period since 1999-2001. As you mentioned, the only thing that comes close is in 2016, when the were initially pushing for surface rail to Ballard. That is different in that just an initial idea. I remember someone from the board even writing that, and the soon pivoted to other plans. This, on the other hand, is much later in the process. This is what voters approved, and while there are options, all of them are terrible.

        There are similarities with 1999-2001 in that this will cost a lot more than expected, and the plans call for poor stations. The main reason that the Mount Baker Station is awful is because they wanted to save money.

        There is a big difference in the response by the board, and the public. At the time, we had no rail in the city, and much of Seattle had no interest in it. When the estimates were too high, lots of people thought we simply couldn’t afford it. Public officials called for scrapping the plan, and just putting the money into bus improvements. I don’t see any of that now, and one big reason is that we’ve actually built a pretty good rail system. Arguing against WSBLE is a more nuanced argument, as you have to accept that Seattle rail projects are good, but this one isn’t. We really can build decent quality rail in this city; it is just that there are no plans for it with ST3.

      2. There is another similarity, in that the rhetoric around the projects is quite fatalistic. Around the turn of the century, the belief was that if we didn’t get rail, we might never get rail. With ST3, a lot of the proponents talked about a “once in a generation” opportunity for expansion. The implication was that if we don’t expand now, we will never expand. I don’t think ST2 had that kind of hyperbole.

      3. I still think it is ‘once a generation’ insofar as the massive North King budget is only politically possible when it is yoked to Tacoma and Everett completing the Spine.

        The difference between today and Sound Move is that if ST called a mulligan on the initial Link segment, the agency was at risk of being dissolved, whereas today not only would ST continue to operate the ST2 network (plus Stride), I haven’t seen anything to suggest OMF-S, TDLE, and at least some of Everett Link won’t continue as-planned. So the board could call a mulligan on the keystone project without putting the agency’s existence at risk. The size of the rest of ST3 allows the agency’s planning & engineering staff to remain fully staffed while the politicians sort out the next steps for North King, while the financial structure of the ST allows for North King to continue to ‘bank’ revenue even if WSBLE itself is deferred.

      4. I still think it is ‘once a generation’ insofar as the massive North King budget is only politically possible when it is yoked to Tacoma and Everett completing the Spine.

        I disagree. We have clearly seen that the Seattle region is way more likely to approve a transit measure than places much further away. It is also quite possible to build things in smaller pieces, as we’ve done numerous times in the past. Under the old rules, as Seattle grows faster than the surrounding areas, it gives Seattle a bigger budget. Even then, that clearly isn’t the only way this can be funded.

        It may have been a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to build what they proposed, but only because what they proposed was stupid. A smaller proposal would have jettisoned West Seattle Link, and given them better bus service instead. It is quite possible that Ballard to UW Link would have replaced Ballard/Interbay Link (again, a much better value). Eventually there might have been a second line to Ballard — or maybe not. Maybe Ballard/Interbay gets better bus service along with West Seattle and we build the Metro 8 subway (with a station at First Hill) instead. This would have served South Lake Union much better, and connected various parts of the Central Area to the rail network. It is easy to imagine a much better system, if we had taken an iterative approach.

        There are a fair number of people on this blog who now believe we should scrap WSBLE. I would be all for that, if I thought it was possible. I don’t think it is. I think we are stuck with this pig, and our best chance is to put some very nice lipstick on it. Share the downtown tunnel; raise the new underground stations and lower the Delridge stations so they are closer to the surface; move the West Seattle Junction and Ballard stations as far west as possible; move the Dravus station closer to Dravus (straddling Dravus with entrances on both sides would be ideal). Do all that and you’ve got a pretty good looking pig.

      5. Oh I can’t speak for others but I can’t see scrapping all of WSBLE. I only see scrapping DSTT2 between Downtown and CID/SODO. This second tunnel segment appears to take about 35-40 percent of the entire WSBLE proposal by the time the CID and Westlake connections are included.

        However, if that means scrapping all the DEIS I could support that. I don’t see that delaying anything if the current DEIS work is reassembled to focus on West Seattle only — with a sincere addition of an automated alternative. The central and SLU/ Ballard segments could then go back to the drawing board.

        I think the SLU segment at least to Smith Cove as essential.

        I also see the need to study automated trains that can be shorter and more frequent with hopefully steeper grades and maybe slightly smaller bores.

      6. ” Under the old rules, as Seattle grows faster than the surrounding areas, it gives Seattle a bigger budget.” I’m not sure that’s true. Seattle is by far the fastest growing subarea, but the rest of the region overall is growing faster than Seattle. Over time Seattle is going to claim a smaller share of the capital budget as the overall region grows faster than Seattle, but claim a higher share of the operating budget as ridership skews towards Seattle.

        Going alone to build a Ballard-SLU spur would occupy SDOT’s capital delivery capabilities, and Seattle’s finances, for a over a decade.
        But if your point is ST3 isn’t a ‘once a generation’ chance to improve transit in general, I agree. A more bus centric approach is certainly within Seattle’s capabilities, and SDOT may be able to tackle a Ballard-UW size project ‘once a generation’ as the city grows more wealthy and dense, like how SFMTA slowly works through phases of its light metro project.

        Perhaps we are being a bit too loose with ‘once a generation’ vs ‘once a decade’ vs ‘once a lifetime’ ? ST sized levies seem to come once a decade, as to Seattle’s big SDOT levies, so I suppose both of those are more frequent than ‘once a generation.’

      7. Seattle is by far the fastest growing subarea, but the rest of the region overall is growing faster than Seattle.

        What matters is what proportion of the overall population is contained within Seattle. That has been growing.

        This is a good set of charts showing the numbers: From 2010 to 2020, the Puget Sound region added 600,000 people. About 125,000 of those were in Seattle. So about 20% of the growth was in Seattle. Yet Seattle is not 20% of the region. Therefore, Seattle itself is growing faster than the region.

        To be fair, it isn’t huge. We went from about 16% to about 17% (of the four county area). But we are still a growing proportion of the region. It is likely that will continue, if not accelerate, with future zoning changes.

  6. Has there been any explanation of why these are so deep besides the nonsense about the 99 tunnel (which is obviously nonsense, none of the slopes between Madison and SLU exceed 2%). The only other explanation is they want to do mined stations to not disturb all of 15 retailers and they need to go that deep for the soil conditions.

  7. I’ve said if before, but I still think ST should reconsider whether WSBLE really requires new downtown stations to begin with and think outside the box for ways to run the new trains through the existing tunnel, stopping at existing stations.

    For instance, could a rail junction be built between University St. Station and Westlake station? Could the Ballard line surface around 1st and Virginia and run in the exclusive lanes down 1st originally planned for the streetcar?

    Besides saving boatloads of money, having both lines serve the same platforms also means these long transfer penalties go away – you just get off one vehicle and on another at the exact same stop.

    1. I think there is a strong consensus on this blog that we should study the idea of sharing the tunnel (and the stations) with all three lines. What the engineers come up with as a result is anyone’s guess. Mine is that they come up with a fairly simple branch east of Westlake (with one line going towards the Denny Station and eventually Ballard, and the existing line heading towards Capitol Hill). This isn’t really “outside the box” thinking, but what most agencies would do around the world. You either build a second downtown tunnel that actually adds value, or you push all the trains into the same tunnel. If anything, it is the current plans that are unusual (planners from Europe and Asia would wonder what the heck we are doing).

      1. I agree and I’ve never bought the excuse that the current DSTT cannot support the frequency of a Ballard/West Seattle line. I’d like to see a detailed report as to why this isn’t possible.

        It’s my understanding that the tunnel between UW and Capitol Hill is limited enough due to ventilation that the DSTT would never get close to max capacity. The floating bridge and MLK are also limited capacity. The DSTT probably has more potential capacity than any other segment in the entire system.

        Not to mention Everett and Tacoma will never need trains every 6 minutes. Some of those long distance trains can and should make shorter, in-city runs.

  8. It’s an interesting ST post, to be sure. Two items we need to follow up on with them regarding the basis of the premise that Elevators can’t be direct to the platform:

    1) Do they have to use the street ROW at the depths they have planned?
    2) Center platforms are generally preferable, but maybe not in this case if they mean a forced addition of a mezzanine and it’s implied time and vertical conveyances implications. Essentially – if side platforms mean direct-to-platform elevators, perhaps side platforms are the best plan for a station like 5th and Madison.

    1. 3) What are the actual estimates of rail-to-rail transfers by line and direction? Is transfer station switching by a future rider possible? ST has not reported these forecasts anywhere I can find.

      4) Can those forecasted transfer loads be handled by the proposed elevators, escalators and stairs including those in the existing parts of stations? What needs to be added to guarantee that the entire transfer effort has working escalators and elevators 95 percent of the time for the entire transfer (meaning either a 98 percent performance from each escalator/elevator and/or more redundancy in the number of escalators/ elevators)?

      Many of us also want ST to revisit the declaration that DSTT2 is actually needed on top of these.

    2. The 4th Avenue alternative platforms must be deeper because the tracks must pass under the DSTT just north of there. The only way I see this getting much less deep (say at the elevation of the existing retained cut station) is to find a way to go above the DSTT and that would require a pretty major rethinking of the alternative.

      1. Al, I think it might be possible, depending how much the tunnel underruns the BNSF tunnel. If the tracks went straight north under Fourth, hard by the retaining wall next to the tracks leading into the BNSF tunnel and at essentially the same elevation, the lower clearance of LRV’s with flattened pans might clear if Fourth were raised a couple of feet.

        It would be VERY close engineering and supporting the street would be tricky, but if it worked it would put the tunnel at least fifty feet higher at Yesler.

        Of course, three lines in the existing tunnel is better, but they may simply refuse to consider it.

      2. There’s some design docs from 2018(?) discussing going over the DSTT, where the big problem they identified was the cost of replacing the viaduct. If that’s not possible and going under is too deep the obvious answer is a 5th Ave station. I know there’s community pushback but it’s all of like, 4 businesses on that stretch, surely it would be easier to pay them off than to deep bore a tunnel.

        Also, the current DSTT passes within 5 feet of the BNSF tunnel, but all the DSTT2 plans have it avoiding over tunnels by dozens or hundreds of feet, was this technology lost in the last 30 years?

      3. Dalton, an overpass tunnel would not — could not — be dug with a TBM. It must be cut-and-cover which means it would have a continuous trench vault in the form of a rectangular box throughout its length, at least until well past the DSTT overcrossing. The station box at University-Seneca is fifteen feet above the BNSF tunnel because of its enormous weight. It’s true that the box holding just tracks would not be nearly as heavy as a station, but it’s still a pretty big load to put on the existing tunnel, since it will, ipso facto be shallower at the right hand edge of a new tunnel. The tubes are ascending from the midline of the BNSF underpass. Now it won’t be much higher, but somewhat, for sure.

        It would be very nice to see a cross section at Washington Street of the roadway surface, the BNSF tunnel and the DSTT diagonaling under it.

      4. Tom, of course, but if we’re going to cut and cover anywhere a pretty marginal section of 4th is the place to do it right? Does anyone know how long the cut and cover sections of the Broadway line will be closed for? the multiple years ST predicted seems excessive.

        At the end of the day the root cause of all this is ST’s focus on not inconveniencing a single driver, and things will never get better until they’re willing to do that.

      5. Dalton, certainly Fourth between Jackson and Yesler is a very good place to cut and cover, especially since the viaduct will have to be replaced to do the station under it so dig the trench to the north at the same time. One detour, two tunnel sections.

        P.S. The reason I say that a shallow tunnel can’t be dug with a TBM is all the utilities at that shallow a depth. Yeah, the TBM can just chew them up, but that’s not a good idea….. Since the street has to be opened up to reroute them, might as well dig the track box below them too. The tracks can then be much closer together, which would be important because DSTT is rising from west to east — at least a bit — as it passes under Fourth.

      6. Absolutely Tom, of course we’d also be far better off with a bored tunnel at a normal bore depth, which I don’t think is out of the question at all. The current design passes far under the DSTT (25 ft IIRC?) and never exceeds a 4% grade. Get a bit closer and bump that up to 4.5% or 5% and see where we’re at. A cut and cover station between Madison and Spring would affect all of 2 businesses as well.

      7. Dalton, I’m sure what you propose would work, BUT, it still leaves you with an unattractively deep station, even Fourth “Shallow”. By going above DSTT at Washington, you could have Fourth “Really Shallow” — essentially the same depth as the existing station, only on the other side of the Union Station headhouse.

        Now maybe you could have that “rail level” station and then dive the TBM’s to swoop under DSTT by thirty feet, but it seems pretty clear that ST doesn’t want to get any closer than that.

      8. Yep, absolutely agree Tom, extra shallow 4th is clearly the best solution, just wanted to emphasize that there was a huge gap between best and whatever the hell we have now.

        I’m getting way out of my lane here but I’ve seen videos of bridge replacements done overnight or on weekends, shouldn’t it be possible to do viaduct replacement in a couple weeks and finish the work underneath?

      9. That’s a good question. I’m sure that “a couple of weeks” is out of the question. Just cleaning up the detritus underneath Fourth Avenue is a pretty big task. I guess it would depend what sort of supports were going to be used. Pile driven steel could be quick, but then you have corrosion problems forever. Please do remember that the “ground” is all random fill from the early 1900’s, much of it from the “Denny Regrade”.

  9. Some of the diagrams list how long it takes to make a transfer, which I think is really useful in comparing the various options (they range from bad, to very bad). It would be helpful if they had the same estimate for time to the surface. This could include the existing stations for reference.

    Of course all of these are estimates — some people walk faster than others, or walk up the escalators, etc. But it would at least give us a ballpark figure (especially if they list the existing travel times).

    1. It also appears that it assumes all working escalators and no waiting to ride an escalator. It’s not the average transfer time but is instead the minimum transfer time as far as I can tell.

  10. Maybe ST should look at elevated through downtown if they think absolutely have to do a 2nd line because of the language in the approved ballot measure.

    I don’t see it could be worse than these really deep stations in a tunnel.

    1. If the trains weren’t so long they could just run on Third Avenue and have stop signs for the crossing traffic. How bad would that really be? Sadly, though, the trains are way too long.

    2. Elevated all the way up fifth to Westlake with a stop at fifth and Madison. Incorporate the existing monorail station into a new light rail station. Swing up Westlake with stations at Denny and Mercer. The. West on mercer.

      Tear down the monorail. It’s been a good ride but there would be a train.

      Also tear out the streetcar tracks on Westlake. Again, it’s been a good ride but now there is a train. Oh, and there’s no need for the CCC to connect to something not there anymore m, so save the money and cancel that project too.

      1. I’d do 5th-Westlake-Thomas, but definitely both Thomas and Mercer should be considered. I don’t understand why elevated isn’t on the table given the cost issues of tunneling.

        If you take the Mercer route, I’d say keep the monorail; it would serve a slightly different part of QA, and a Belltown infill station would sstill be very valuable. Also, an elevated route may be better on a Fremont routing, rather than Interbay, in which case the Monorail remains a super important ‘spur’ line.

        SDOT could cancel the SLUT and transfer the streetcars elsewhere, but it wouldn’t tear out the streetcar tracks; there would be no reason to repave the street, and it would remain a frequent bus corridor with or without the streetcar.

      2. I’m not a fan of the CCC, but what is not there anymore to connect to? MOHAI is there. Fred Hutch is expanding. The SLU towers, Pike Place, Jackson Street, and the hospital district are there. The only thing I can think of that isn’t is Macy’s.

    3. I don’t see how elevated solves the problem. At best you improve the time it takes you to get to surface. But transfers would still be terrible (from a station above ground to a station below ground). Without good transfers, this extension loses much of its value.

      No one transfers to get to Denny, from any direction. It just isn’t worth bothering with, for such a short distance. Riders walk, take the bus or streetcar. The South Lake Union station is mainly an Aurora bus intercept, and yet again, no one would bother. They just stay on the bus and make the transfer later. The Seattle Center station sounds reasonable, as it is a ways away, and the speed begins to make up for the hassle. Except guess what? We already have an elevated line to the Seattle Center, since 1962.

      That leaves you with two sets of riders. You have the people from Magnolia and Ballard, most of whom arrive by bus. The former because they will be forced to transfer; the latter because they are headed to the Seattle Center (a lot of Ballard riders will just stick with the 40 if they are headed to downtown or South Lake Union). Then you have the people from the south who will lose their one-seat connection to the UW, but get these new elevated stations (a bad trade).

      Overall, it just isn’t good. Without good transfers, this new extension simply doesn’t work.

      1. “I don’t see how elevated solves the problem.”

        Of course it doesn’t!

        It would be cheaper, and it is easier for people to get to elevated stations than super deep tunnel stations. That is about it.

        Also, I only threw it out there in the context of ST ignoring the interlining proposal that seems to be the best option we’ve discussed here that ST hasn’t studied, and ST insisting on building a second line because of the vote.

        So which would be better? A terrible transfer to a deep tunnel, or a bad transfer to an elevated line?

        I think for those people who don’t have to transfer an elevated line would be better.

        p.s Agreed that the intercept on Aurora is stupid. Don’t put a station there. Rather, plan ahead for another line from the north sometime in the future.
        p.p.s. I also said they should get rid of the monorail if elevated so that a light rail station could be built in place of the westlake monorail station, and therefore a light rail station at Seattle Center would have to be built.

      2. Fair enough.

        I guess my point is that we really shouldn’t muddle the argument. There is only one decent proposal for downtown, and that is interlining. That’s it. Every other proposal sucks. Every single one. We can argue whether one sucks more than the other, or which one sucks worse for more riders, but they all suck. It sucks so bad that it makes the ridership estimates ridiculous. Without good transfers AND decent stations, it simply doesn’t work.

        This is different than just about everything we’ve built — the details matter a lot more. The UW station can make up for its poor location by being a really fast way to get from Capitol Hill or downtown to the UW (and by having the U-District station nearby). That isn’t the case with the Denny or South Lake Union Station. Riders not already on the that train will simply ignore it. For that matter, you can say the same thing about the Seattle Center Station, when you consider the monorail. Oh, and lest you feel jealous of the riders on the existing line, remember that most of those riders wish the train went to Capitol Hill and the UW, like in the old days.

        This isn’t the only example. A reverse direction transfer at CID is bad, but very few would make that transfer, even if it was good. That is definitely not the case with same direction transfers involving three lines to the south, and two to the north.

        The Mount Baker Station is awful. But at the end of the day, you are likely losing five hundred, maybe a thousand riders. You are making things a bit worse for a couple thousand riders a day. While this is bad, it is nothing like the loss of ridership and loss of time that everything but interlining would involve.

        There really is no reasonable substitute for interlining. Or at least, none that ST (or anyone else) has proposed.

  11. Reading this weekend’s comments the following points struck me:

    1. WSBLE is a N. King Co. subarea problem. There is no point in moaning about the Board being dominated by “suburban” districts. Or that the East King Co. subarea has subsidized N. King Co. to the tune of about $2 billion so far by paying 100% of the cross lake express buses until East Link opens, all of East Link across the bridge span, extending our ST 3 projects to meet the debt limit even though we have the money for them, and part of DSTT2. Plus East Link trains will increase frequency through the Seattle core to around 3 minutes while East Link is limited to 8 minute frequencies.

    2. WSBLE is just a money issue. ST underestimated the cost because the real cost was staggering, and it wanted to sell ST 3. I highly doubt three of the other subareas will have any money to contribute to DSTT2, let alone half of $4.2 billion based on the current very deep DB tunnel, and neither does N. King Co., which most STB commentators now finally accept.

    3. The U.S. is de-urbanizing. LA has lost residents five years in a row. Vancouver just lost 1.5% of its population. King Co. lost almost 1% in one year, and the census will report on Seattle in May. Link is a crazy design to connect “urban centers” like Everett, Tacoma and Redmond that are not urban centers, through 90 miles and huge areas of very low density with a slow urban light rail system. Link, and WSBLE, are based on very large population gains, and urbanization.

    4. Transit ridership will likely decline 40% from pre-pandemic levels, and ST’s ridership estimates were highly inflated to begin with. The actual cost per rider mile is exorbitant, and the farebox recovery will not cover future operations, especially after Federal Way Link and East Link open when ridership will be around 50% of estimates, and up to 30% of non-commuter riders don’t pay a fare because there is no fare enforcement system. Our road system was over-subscribed during peak times, but has plenty of capacity today.

    5. It is pointless to blame the Board for considering the interests of drivers. Pre-pandemic 90% of all trips were by car, and that percentage will go up post pandemic with the decline of the commuter. Transit riders pay very little towards the capital and operation costs of transit. Of course any politician is going to give serious consideration to the 90% of voters not riding transit who are paying the bills, especially in their car centric districts that are suppose to pay 1/2 of DSTT2 as some kind of transit welfare for N. King Co. when we all know DSTT2 is not necessary for their capacity, and is not a “shared regional facility”.

    6. Transit does not create anything. It serves. People decide where they want to go, and live, and transit follows those decisions. Sometimes like along 3rd Ave. transit destroys. Ideally you have an urban area with the population and jobs density to support the huge capital and operational costs of subways. That means safe streets, lots of work commuters, vibrant retail and restaurants, which translates into lots of transit riders. That is not downtown Seattle right now, and it is very possible downtown Seattle will never return to that. But to suggest we close down downtown Seattle to build a cut and cover tunnel or WSBLE that will serve very few riders has it backwards: without retail and commercial vibrancy returning to Seattle WSBLE, Link, and any kind of discretionary transit is a waste of money. We are not spending $130 billion because some hate cars or roads or SFH.

    7. East Link all said and done will cost around $5.5 billion. Issaquah has 35,000 residents, Sammamish 80,000, plus North Bend. Even at $4.5 billion (which I am sure is way low) and a subarea that can afford such a silly line this is a greater population shed than West Seattle or Ballard, and still the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line is a very bad investment, but probably still better than WSBLE at closer to $20 billion.

    8. ST is being very coy with the actual costs of WSBLE as preferred, and the future capital tax revenue which was inflated in ST 3, pre-pandemic. My guess is there is very little at all in the N. King Co. revenue stream for WSBLE, or the Board would not have authorized Graham St. or 130th stations. That means NO tunneling through downtown, and very little or no tunneling to West Seattle or Ballard, which raises the issue of ROW costs.

    9. If ST tells Ballard or West Seattle they will drink the bitter ale of surface or elevated lines or stations, or the International District, they will punt on WSBLE and either decide it isn’t worth it, or move the line to the equivalent of 112th in Bellevue (and I am not sure that isn’t the goal of the Board in this DEIS). Light rail just isn’t that important when it comes to a neighborhood’s character once you take all the ideological transit and class warfare crap out of it. If the goal is to serve those who cannot afford a car either buy them six EV’s over the next 50 years with the money, or use buses. Without the peak commuter, traffic congestion, inflated parking costs in downtown Seattle, or a vibrant commercial and retail hub in downtown Seattle, spending $20 billion to serve two residential neighborhoods which will fight upzoning sounds to me like spending other people’s money.

    10. Speaking of other people’s money, a SB5528 “third party funding source” levy would end up in an endless territorial political fight in Seattle, need to be about $10 billion, and decimate any other transit funding in that subarea for decades. So yes, if you care about transit, WSBLE means transit advocates have skin in the game. Pass a SB 5528 levy for $10 billion to complete WSBLE and we can pretty much shut down this blog because there will be no money for any future transit projects in Seattle for decades.

    11. Refurbishing DSTT1 to handle extra capacity is the only option with the true future funding, and maybe East King Co. and N. King Co. can cover those costs even though it doesn’t benefit the eastside which wants nothing to do with Seattle. The only option I can see that is affordable, and West Seattle and Ballard will, accept are buses that truncate at Link, for a 90 minute ride to Tacoma or Everett when traffic congestion on I-5 means the trip by car (or bus) would be 45 minutes.

    12. Based on the lack of money, the fact West Seattle and Ballard will not compromise the character of their neighborhoods for surface lines or stations (and WSBLE is suppose to serve them) the only options — which I still don’t think are worth it based on likely future population levels, de-urbanization, and decline of downtown Seattle, and likely transit ridership especially to and from West Seattle and Ballard — are to increase capacity in DSTT1 that likely will not be needed, and continue to run buses from West Seattle and Ballard, which makes sense considering both neighborhoods down the line will demand new bridges with no loss of car capacity, unless by that time an entire new paradigm of transportation is here based on shared driverless EV’s.

    1. Oddly enough, South King pays for the 100 series buses, some of which also make brief stops in peripheral Seattle on their way downtown to connect with local routes. It’s what transit systems do.

      Everyone on the blog agrees those problems are significant and at least to some degree, self inflicted. But our motivation is to make the system better,

      1. Does anyone really think I have an agenda, or that I can destroy ST 3 projects in N. King Co.? Mostly what I have done over the last couple of years is point out the funding was not there for WSBLE, and the project cost estimates used in the levies, especially ST 3, were underestimated to sell ST 2 and 3, while estimated ridership was inflated, something some on the eastside had been saying since 2016 but I didn’t understand or believe at the time. Or that East Link would have a very small impact in my subarea.

        I believe transit serves a need, not that it is a good in itself, and cost per rider mile is the key metric. Mode follows both ridership and funding, it does not create either. For example, I would not recommend subways for Leavenworth, although much of the spine goes through areas with the same density as Leavenworth.

        Every step of the way Tom Terrific claimed I was making it up, or had some agenda, (people I live among and pay the bills but who are underrepresented on this blog but tend to get their way).

        Then shock and surprise Rogoff announced an $11.5 billion deficit (which is about right for WSBLE), he was fired, the Board adopted a “realignment” that extends project completion concurrently with revenue when increasing ROW and construction costs are a prime issue so there is no new net revenue but claimed problem solved. Then the three-year pandemic occurred changing travel, work, revenue, and transit patterns, which of course goes to operations revenue, and capital tax revenue allocated per subarea.

        And Metro decided in the eastside transit restructure — with Bellevue’s help — that East Link which runs along 112th won’t have much of an impact on the eastside.

        Then the Board released a DEIS that clearly is not affordable, with very deep tunnels and stations that are clearly poor transit policy, based on “third party funding” without specifying the amount or who will come up with that funding, but is politically acceptable to the stakeholders, because that was the choice the Board faced: propose a design that would piss off the stakeholders and power brokers when even it was not affordable, or promise the moon if just someone else comes up with the funding because ST blew the ST 3 revenue.

        Then Tom Terrific began posting one fantastical alternative to DSTT2’s design after another, or claiming every other proposed alternative was not feasible despite not being an engineer, and not understanding the alternatives in the DEIS are those that are politically palatable to the stakeholders and power brokers.

        Now pretty much everyone on this blog except TT understands DSTT2 is not necessary for capacity, it is not affordable, and so using DSTT1 is the only possible course of action, but there are issues with what West Seattle and Ballard will accept when it comes to station location, design (above ground or below ground), and cost, and like Bellevue neither will accept TT’s earlier demand they “drink the bitter ale” of a shitty transit design that harms the character of the neighborhood that Tom cannot afford to live in.

        And that doesn’t even raise farebox recovery which is ridership times fare.

        If anything or anyone has destroyed the agenda of ST 3 and WSBLE it is naive transit advocates who never asked the hard questions about funding and politics because they wanted to believe that transit somehow means as much to the other 95% as it does to them, and it will change housing patterns, drivers will flee their cars, we will suddenly all speak French, global warming will be solved, and wealth will be distributed fairly if only Harrell and the Chamber agree to a years long cut and cover tunnel down 4th or 5th WHEN THE CUT AND COVER TUNNEL IS NO LESS AFFORDABLE THAN A DEEP BORE TUNNEL, it is not necessary for capacity, and would never fly with the stakeholders and power brokers who are dealing with a downtown that is in an existential crisis, and it ain’t transit.

      2. Daniel represents a suburban perspective that a lot of ST constituents share. I’ve heard many of the same viewpoints from average people in Bellevue over the years. They’re a voting and political reality we have to engage with if we’re going to accomplish anything.It’s good to have at least one person with that perspective on STB so that we can see their arguments and test our ideas on the blog before we encounter them in politicians and people we meet on random occasions. And I hope that David has gained at least some knowledge of the factors that make transit effective, how much some people want a walkable dense transit-rich environment, and the benefits transit can have to society.

        The main thing I wish Daniel would do would be to make his posts shorter. But I also have difficulty keeping posts short.

      3. “If anything or anyone has destroyed the agenda of ST 3 and WSBLE it is naive transit advocates who never asked the hard questions about funding and politics because they wanted to believe that transit somehow means as much to the other 95% as it does to them”

        If anything or anyone is keeping the Puget Sound region from moving away from become merely “Wet LA”, it is the naive highway widening advocates who never ask the hard questions about funding and politics because they want to believe that they actually pay for widening the roads they drive on.

        The rest of us get our portion of the gas tax funneled to a select set of roads, along with non-automotive sources of funding(local REET, etc) for the benefit of a select few.

        What I want is to have all forms of transportation go through the same public scrutiny that seems to be only reserved for transit.

        I only want to see the Roads Only Initiative so I can evaluate it and cast my vote accordingly….
        or is that only reserved for transit?

      4. Fair enough Mike. Here is my effort at being concise.

        1. With subarea equity N. King Co. gets to keep the revenue raised in that subarea.

        2. There isn’t the revenue in N. King Co. for WSBLE. Not even close post pandemic.

        3. If 90% of trips are by car, 95% today, and those folks have most of the money, they will call the shots on transportation funding. Any transit Geek should know that fundamental truth.

        4. Mode is oversold when it comes to transit. Very little bang for the buck, and the bucks are limited.

        5. No need to practice on me to get ready to engage the suburban Eastside on transit. Mention transit and they will look at you like you are from Mars. Mention East Link and they will think you mean something in Crossroads.

      5. . I have said over and over that three lines in the tunnel is the right answer, because indeed everything I have thought might be an answer has run up against very difficult engineering problems. There is no easy way to split going northbound, regardless what Ross believes.

        I’ve said 3 lines with a stub for SLU-LQA-Interbay Ballard. That is clearly affordable within the ORIGINAL estimate for ST3, without any value engineering, and it would be a good line. But you NEVER acknowledge ANY proposal to reduce the scope of the problem — from me or from anyone else.

      6. Tom:
        I think if you have Ballard as a separate line, it needs to continue to Capitol Hill, so there’s two transfer points. They were already talking of the most overcrowded part of the line being Capitol Hill to Westlake. If that’s the case, then this puts the second tunnel where it’s actually needed.

        Or maybe build the north end of the Metro 8 Subway? Seeing how the monorail and streetcar already go north from Westlake to SLU?

      7. 1. Is a fact about subequity.

        2. I disagree with lots of your characterizations about WSBLE, and about what you think the board thought before ST3 and during the realignment debate.

        3. Is an example of how many suburbanites think. But some of those drivers think that we should have a better transit system like Europe, Boston, or Chicago. Some of them wish they had more mobility choices so that they didn’t have to drive or spend so much money on a car. Some are elderly or disabled and wish they could drive less but they live in a residential area with limited transit options. Some of that contributed to the high ST3 yes vote. And if the kind of transit network they want exists someday, the percentage of driving would be substantially lower.

        4. Is a generalization. Sometimes mode doesn’t matter, sometimes it does.

        5. Again, that’s only some Eastsiders, not all of them.

        Thanks for the conciseness.

        “what good is Tremens for “testing our ideas” when he never responds to ANY of them?”

        I don’t know what Tremens is.

        Re testing our ideas, it’s hard to explain, but it’s not just convincing Daniel or having him acknowledge them. It’s discussing them with everybody in the context of a suburbanist skeptic. There are all kinds of multiwaytesting of ideas and seeing which ones are solid or not. Different people may have different interpretations of the results. But I see it as worthwhile, even if I don’t think everything Daniel says is productive. (Some has a blind spot or is like a broken record.)

        Whatever the flaws of the current state of the commentariat, it’s better than a hermetically-sealed echo chamber. There are too many of those in our society now, and they don’t lead to solutions.

      8. There is no easy way to split going northbound, regardless what Ross believes.

        I never said that splitting would be easy. My point is that it is highly likely it is easier than building a second line. We know, for a fact, that a second line is difficult. So difficult that every option proposed by Sound Transit is terrible AND expensive.

        If you think splitting is as difficult as building the same line, please, show me the study. You can’t, because there isn’t one. That is my point — and the point that so many people keep raising. We should study the idea of splitting. It is possible that you are right, Tom, and when they study it, we’ll find out that it cost billions, and would mean shutting down major arterials (and the Westlake Station) for years. Or, like similar projects around the world, we find that it isn’t simple, but turns out to be far less expensive and disruptive than anything ST is currently considering.

      9. @Mike Orr:

        Delirium Tremens, also known as the “Drunk Shakes”, are a form of seizure most often associated with acute alcohol withdrawal. IMO using it to refer to a poster on these forums is a form of ad hominem attack and harassment that violates the blog’s Code of Conduct. However, it is my opinion that quite a bit of harassment is permitted when it is performed by posters whose views and opinions reflect those of the writers here, so the fact that the moniker hasn’t been regulated into oblivion is sadly unsurprising.

    2. 3. You are ignoring the long term trends. For the last twenty years, there has been a return to the city. Cities that have become more suburban have basically fallen apart (e. g. Detroit). Cities that have thrived have become more urban (e. g. San Fransisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, etc.). The move away from the cities is the result of the pandemic, and its effects are waning. If people were moving away from Seattle permanently, houses and rent would be a lot cheaper. Given the sky high prices, we are actually due for a bubble collapse, but so far, it hasn’t happened (there hasn’t even been a “correction”).

      Speaking of which, if you are familiar with the stock market, you know that there are times when stock prices go down, sometimes for years (a so called “bull market”). The Dow Jones right now is lower than it was at the beginning of the year. Does that mean that it will always be lower? Of course not. Just about everyone expects that twenty years from now, the Dow will be higher (just like other indexes). When it comes to stocks, you don’t want to focus too much on the short term trends. The same is true if you are looking at Seattle. Short term trends (driven by the pandemic) aren’t that important. Over the last 20 years, Seattle is definitely becoming more urban, and twenty years from now it will likely have a lot more people.

      There are really only two models — either a city thrives and becomes more urban, or a city falls apart, and becomes more suburban. It is highly likely Seattle is the former, not the latter.

      1. You are ignoring the long term trends. For the last twenty years, there has been a return to the city.
        That’s not quite true. It was true from sometime in the 1990’s through the early 2010s. Since then, suburbs have been handily outpacing urban areas.

        Seattle, notably, was the outlier, with the city growing faster than the suburbs until more recently. What made Seattle exceptional was a huge and fast growing employer in the city that made living closer to downtown relatively more desirable. That employer is no longer growing in Seattle, though maybe Bellevue is close enough for some commuters.

        WFH, generally, raises the value of living where there is more space and reduces the value of living close to the office. It’s premature to say how much we’ll shift to hybrid working, but it won’t be zero. It doesn’t have to be Detroit, but there’s surely a rebalancing toward living in the suburbs and commuting less frequently in Seattle’s future.

      2. “Cities that have become more suburban have basically fallen apart (e. g. Detroit). Cities that have thrived have become more urban (e. g. San Fransisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, etc.).”

        Good point! It’s the gutting of cities that ruined them. Detroit (although I’ve never been there) seems to have more freeways than similarly-sized cities. Whites famously fled outside the municipal boundaries to escape school integration, and then refused to support their central city so much that it’s starved for resources. In many other cities there is no downtown anymore: the legacy center is no denser than the suburbs, so why would people live or work in it particularly?

        Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, and Manhattan mostly resisted freeways through them, and that’s seen as a major factor in their economic success, vibrancy, and popularity with residents. London and many other European cities also don’t have freeways through them; instead there are 6-8 lane boulevards to the periphery and then the freeway starts.

        San Francisco’s I-280 is only in the southeastern quarter. Vancouver has just a tiny corner edge. I think Manhattan has a small corner. Toronto has that unfortunate waterfront expressway. But nothing through the middle or a “+” shape.

      3. Dan, I think you are underemphasizing price signals and overemphasizing reveal preferences. Even in sprawling sunbelt cities, there continues to be a clear rent premium for urban offices and residences; when I lived in OKC in the late 2010s, the smattering of downtown apartments where almost double the rent of a new but suburban apartment block.

        Only in the rustbelt are there cities where there is a clear rent premium for the suburbs where there is a near total collapse of urban neighborhoods (Detroit, etc.), but most healthy Midwestern cities (Des Moines, Indy, Columbus, etc.) have a robust rental premium for urban living despite (or perhaps because of?) most housing construction occurring on the edge.

        In Chicago, the downtown and north side continue to be the most desirable, most expensive, and most productive neighborhoods … but the south side of Chicago is depopulating as communities flee failing neighborhoods, causing the overall city population to decline. St Louis has a simillar trend, where healthy urban neighborhoods are the most expensive in the region but the overall city is struggling due to failing neighborhoods within the same municipality.

  12. I think it’s worth recalling that the second tunnel was a late addition to the ST3 plan. In the context of the 15-year plan that everybody was kicking around in 2014 or 2015, it was seen as something that would be needed in ST4 or ST5. It was only when ST3 became the massive ‘build all the things’ 25+ year program that a second tunnel started to make sense.

    So yes, the second tunnel will be unnecessary for a long time. Ballard and West Seattle trains could run through the existing tunnel. Eventually, ridership will grow (unless we collectively get too accustomed to WFH) that it’ll be more necessary. But there are decades ahead when one tunnel will be perfectly adequate.

    If your prior is that we’ll eventually need the second tunnel, then there must be some cost savings to building it along with the other WSBLE elements rather than build a temporary set of interfaces to the Ballard and West Seattle spurs that would be unnecessary later. We don’t know the financials on those, though somebody in 2015 at Sound Transit surely had a viewpoint what it would take.

    None of the above is to imply I think the discussion of delaying the tunnel is realistic. The political compromises of 2016 will not be pulled apart lest they endanger the entire plan. Not least because they got written into a plan that was approved by the voters. We’re just going to muddle through and build it when the tax revenues allow.

    1. What was Seattle going to build under the 15-year plans being kicked around before they decided to go big?

    2. West Seattle Link and a Ballard streetcar. There wasn’t enough money for both West Seattle and Ballard Link, and West Seattle had political priority. The Ballard streetcar would have been an extension of the SLU streetcar on Westlake Ave and Leary Way.

    3. Dan, I wouldn’t necessarily consider running WS and Ballard Link through the existing tunnel as a ‘temporary’ solution if a clear need for a 2nd tunnel emerges later this solution. For example, a “2nd tunnel” built in the 2050s could be an elevated Aurora-Boren line that then junctions with East Link at Judkins Park, pulling some (or all) of the East Link trains out of the existing tunnel (or simply boost frequency between Seattle & Bellevue, if that’s the primary source of congestion in the future), or a Monorail/PeopleMover line that focuses solely on urban circulation (to pull intra-downtown trips out of the tunnel) without enhancing interregional capacity. With autonomous buses (very plausible the longer the time frame is), simply bringing back downtown’s express bus throughput to 2019 levels, with bus lanes on 2nd, 4th, and 5th/6th, would create significant regional capacity in a cost-effective manner to alleviate Link congestion where needed.

      So I don’t think it’s necessarily true that building a 2nd tunnel, rather than simply branching or stubbing Ballard Link, is the most cost effective solution long term.

    1. A planet where tunneling the entire Ballard extension is cheaper than doing it elevated, apparently.

    2. One of the suggested improvements (#5) is to ditch the entrance on the west side of 14th for the tunnel option. At this point I think they are just trolling STB commentators by slooowly moving the 14th option further east.

  13. “A planet where tunneling the entire Ballard extension is cheaper than doing it elevated, apparently”.

    Funny, but at its heart revealing. Tunneling is not less expensive than some kind of surface/elevated line, no matter what the ROW costs are, and those mainly come down to the size and scale of the station.

    When ST claims tunneling (under water) is cheaper than a surface or elevated line (despite the number of bridges in this area and paucity of tunnels) what it really means is this is what the stakeholders will accept.

    But we always knew that by looking at the line from downtown to Northgate. Ballard and West Seattle have visions of underground light rail stations with non-descript entrances like the University St. station. People want to ride a subway, not look at it, although ST always thought station design was about them, very arrogant, vey crass, and very stupid. Classic nouveau riche.

    1. Yeah if suddenly tunneling is cheaper then elevated your reaction should be “Oh man how did we mess up our elevated planning?” and not “Sweet now I can afford a tunnel”. There seems to be absolutely no grappling with how expensive this is or why, even compared to ST’s past projects, and besides stupid stuff like the tunneling all the other cost control measures are just reducing scope rather than doing anything to tackle why costs are so high. It would be a real bummer if they combined the two Interbay stations, obviously the armory area has huge TOD potential but Dravus isn’t bad either and already has a number of existing apartments.

      1. I agree – there’s little about the topography that suggest tunneling should be cost equivalent with elevated. It simply doesn’t jive with the actual incurred cost of construction throughout the world.

    2. If tunneling is just as inexpensive as aerial, why are we not proposing a West Seattle Bridge and Ballard Bridge replacement under the water?

      ST has a recent history of cost estimation deception. Even in this latest presentation, they remain ambiguous, suggesting their own cost estimation was not flawed (inadequate property needs and engineering requirements) and instead blaming inflation.

      So I for one have lost confidence at any of these latest cost estimation numbers.

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