As Sound Transit has moved the West Seattle-Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) through the EIS process, several challenges have emerged, with early concerns focused on the Ballard and West Seattle termini. These are nowhere near solved, but a compromise alignment seems within reach.

The middle of the line is another question: serious disruption in Chinatown / ID, deep stations with poor transfers, and some really complicated maneuvering and bridging required in SODO to add a second set of tracks that isn’t strictly necessary. Meanwhile, the only palatable option in CID, a shallow 4th Avenue station, adds $500M to the project budget and has some nasty impacts.

So, since it’s Saturday and we’re waiting for the EIS comment period to close, let us indulge ourselves in an alternative alignment through downtown that avoids some of these problems.

Moving the entire line east, under First Hill, would solve many of the challenges with the current downtown stations, and overall make the system more useful. It would open up a lot service to a lot more territory and greatly reduce the amount of redundant track miles being built. While it would introduce some new challenges, those would be outweighed by the considerable benefits. Here’s how it could work:

The Ballard line would, after stopping at Westlake Station, immediately head under First Hill, with the “Midtown” stop moved to Boren and Madison. We know Sound Transit is averse to too many I-5 crossings, so we’ll just stay east and under Boren, continuing along Rainier Ave N, in either a shallow tunnel or at grade along the median. A stop at Judkins Park would facilitate an easy transfer to the Eastside. The line would continue to Mount Baker and connect with the existing Rainier Valley line. A shuttle train running between Mount Baker and SODO would serve Beacon Hill.

Some advantages to this approach:

  • Service to First Hill, Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon
  • No displacement in Chinatown
  • No need to destroy or relocate Metro’s Ryerson Base
  • No multi-year closure of Stadium Station
  • No new overpasses required in SODO or transmission line replacement
  • Opportunity to fix Mt. Baker
  • Less frequent train gates in SODO as only the West Seattle line is running through it
  • Easy transfers between lines at Judkins Park, which benefits Eastside riders headed to the airport ( the current proposals require exiting to the street level and then going back down to get from Bellevue to SeaTac)

Some downsides:

  • Beacon Hill riders have a 2-seat ride to most destinations
  • Slightly longer commute to the airport from West Seattle
  • A 2-seat ride to south downtown for some riders on the Ballard-Tacoma line
  • Significant construction impacts along Rainier Ave N, between Mt. Baker and the ID

To be clear, Sound Transit has repeatedly said no to a First Hill station. They’ve argued a First Hill station would violate the voters’ intent when they approved ST3. But this move seems minor compared with the potential station eliminations the agency is apparently considering to deal with cost overruns.

(And yes, I’m aware that I’m tempting Betteridge’s Law with the headline. Feel free to tell me why in the comments.)

Update 4/10/22: the original map above incorrectly showed East Link serving stadium station. Sloppy crayon work on my part. The map has been corrected.

129 Replies to “Put First Hill back on the table?”

  1. Why wouldn’t you run a train on the line already built between sodo and Mt Baker

    1. Outside of an intervention by a activist and local billionaire, there won’t be a First Hill station unfortunately. I view this as a “theoretical” discussion rather than a realistic one.

      Given the silly depth that ST now says is required at Westlake, a DSTT2 that had transfers at Capitol Hill (could it cross above DSTT near Pine and Boylston?) instead of Westlake could set the stage for a First Hill station where it crosses under Boren (around Seneca). It could either be a moved Midtown station or a whole new second station.

    2. FunFella: yes, could Frank’s fantasy network hook The Everett-Lynnwood Line 1 with three lines: West Seattle, Beacon Hill, and East Link, so would be no shuttle. In the peaks, two-minute headway Line 1 would meet three six-minute headway lines, or 30 = 10+10+10 trips.

  2. There’s a significant grade between westlake and Boren/Madison. Is this alignment even possible?

    One other downside is the shuttle train under Beacon. If trains could switch tracks at westlake there could be a 5 line run between mt baker and Ballard. Or don’t switch and run this train to northgate.

    I like the alignment because it increases coverage through very dense neighborhood. Why defer a Yesler Terrace station?

    And Yes fix mt baker please!

  3. If ST would give up on DSTT2 and use DSTT for all three lines, an alternative funicular/ incline under or over Jefferson St starting at Pioneer Square with a middle stop at 6th and an end stop next to Harborview would give riders both a “Midtown” (ST3 promise) and a “First Hill” (Sound Moves promise) station without the insane station depths. Almost all of the adjacent properties on a Jefferson are in public ownership so it makes land acquisition just a small issue.

    It’s one of those ideas that seem intuitively obvious to me — which of course means ST won’t take it seriously because I’m not funding local campaigns or paying for lobbyists to walk the halls of City Hall.

    1. Trolley wire on Yesler (Seattle’s historic “Skid Road” down to Yesler’s mill on the waterfront) would give buses the ability to climb that grade smoothly to the same destinations you mention. It might impact streetcar ridership to Yesler Terrace, but so what… Imagine how fast that would be. James is all tangled up with I-5 traffic by comparison. I first heard this suggested at least 20 years ago and it has been suggested on this blog many times.

      1. Metro was planning to move the 3/4 to Yesler. It sat for several years waiting for the wire to be funded. Then a couple years ago Metro said it was canceling the project because people were saying the jail at 5th & James needs a transit stop.

  4. Just a small refinement on your scheme: West Seattle Link won’t carry enough riders to need a train every six minutes as currently proposed by ST. Half of the trains headed to SODO could end at Mt Baker instead.

    Or, West Seattle tracks could squiggle over to Rainier and follow this alignment (with transfers at SODO). It may look circuitous on a map, but as a subway it would not be a significant time penalty to get to Westlake as opposed to a DSTT2 (maybe just a minute or two).

    The bigger assumption that this questions is this: Do all three lines need to serve CID? Sure Sounder and Amtrak are at CID but it would still be served by two Link lines at the existing shallower station anyway. Comparatively, the new Ontario Line soon breaking ground in Toronto skips Union Station.

  5. That actually looks like a multiline subway map in other cities. The two-point transfer at Westlake and Judkins Park creates a pseudo-ring line like in Washington DC and St Petersburg, where three lines form a three-point triangle, without a ring line running all along the triangle as in Moscow or London. I’m not quite sold on pseudo-rings; they seem kind of arbitrary; but it’s interesting that you could create one in Seattle.

    The first objection would be that the western and eastern halves of the ring aren’t equal: most people want to go downtown or transfer downtown, and Broadway is an out-of-the-way consolation that puts Rainier/Tacoma riders at a disadvantage. On the other hand, it still transfers at Westlake, which is the most sought-after station. So it doesn’t eliminate all the horrible downtown station alignments, but it reduces them to one. ST hasn’t considered a cross line at Judkins Park so it’s uncertain whether it would be feasible, but it would surely be easier to retrofit a second elevated platform than it would be underground. And Eastsiders would jump at a shorter trip to the airport and better transfer, while Valleyites and South King County riders would jump at better access to the Eastside.

    The Beacon Hill shuttle sounds lame. Hopefully people won’t have to wait ten minutes for it just to go half a mile. I’d almost consider abandoning the station.

    One solution might be to have 2 1/2 lines in DSTT1, with less-frequent Northgate-Beacon Hill service in addition to Everett-WS and 128th-Redmond. The objection to three lines in DSTT1 was three full lines, but 2 1/2 lines might be an easier sell. And of course, without DSTT2 there might be plenty of money to really upgrade DSTT1 from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes maximum, and then there would be plenty of capacity for three full lines. Of course, SODO is limited to 6-minute frequency as long as the level crossings remain, so you’d have to make sure not to exceed that. Or eliminate the level crossings.

  6. One thing that could be done with the Beacon Hill shuttle is to extend it to West Seattle and Ballard, by having it change direction after stopping at SODO and Mt. Baker stations. It’s the same thing it would do as a shuttle, except it would leave on different tracks than it entered. It would become a Ballard-West Seattle line, just with a weird way of getting there. This would restore a quick ride from WS to the airport, connect WS to First Hill directly, and it would add a second line only in places where there is 1 or 0 lines otherwise.

    For it to work, there would probably need to be a second operator on the train at all times in order to allow it to quickly change direction at SODO and Mt. Baker. This would add a lot of operating cost, but the whole line is relatively short, so that’s not too bad. It does add inefficiency, but I think it’s well worth it for the added destinations to WS, and double frequency to SLU and Ballard.

    1. I think the “Beacon Hill Shuttle” needs more thought.

      1. Maybe Line 1 really should go to at least Mt Baker on the existing line, and the shuttle goes to West Seattle?

      2. Or the shuttle extends to West Seattle, giving West Seattle the option of a better trip to either downtown or Mt Baker, and transfers there?

      3. Build a full “Y” junction at Mt Baker so Beacon Hill shuttle trains become a West Seattle-Mt Baker-Ballard line?

      4. From what has been mentioned here in the past, Rainier Valley trains are limited to once every 6 minutes at best, and Eastside trains are limited to once every 8 minutes due to weight limits on the floating bridge, or some such. So, the existing DSTT winds up with a lot of surplus capacity. Maybe the Mt Baker shuttle becomes a loop service Ballard – Westlake – First Hill – Mt Baker – Stadium – Downtown – Westlake – UW – Northgate? This helps provide additional service on all the downtown proximate lines that would otherwise have limited train throughput due to limits at the extremities.

      1. Or just have the Beacon Hill be a 3rd line, to push more capacity through the dstt.

        Does East Link have that limit? I’ve never heard thst before

  7. The article states a compromise seems within reach for the Ballard and West Seattle termini. Does anyone know what that compromise is for each termini.

    How would a rider on East Link get to SLU on trains paid for and operated by the Eastside subarea? How would someone from Ballard or Queen Anne get to downtown Seattle?

    Based on current and pre-pandemic bus ridership on this proposed route what is the estimated ridership on a Link route, and what is the cost. With those two pieces of information we can calculated dollar per rider mile. Hopefully it is less than buying each likely rider six $60,000 EV’s over the next 60 years.

    1. This is quite a bit better for Eastside riders going to the airport, as they could transfer to a Tacoma bound train at Judkins Park rather than having to go to International District. For SLU, Ballard, etc they could avoid the crowded downtown section of the line by transferring at Judkins Park rather than Westlake, like they would have with DSTT2.

      However, this also has the possibility of adding a host of additional destinations in Capitol Hill and First Hill that people from the East Side want to get to, but previously required a slow bus.

      (It also adds those destinations for everyone else, but somehow it is assumed that people on the East Side want to go somewhere different than anyone else living in the region)

  8. As they said in the 80’s, “Just Say No”. Diverting the new line to a First Hill station is a monumentally bad idea. Don’t do it.

    Just put the station at 5th and Madison, and at most put a ped tunnel under I-5 from the new station up to an exit on first hill somewhere (exact exit location TBD).

    This will never happen.

  9. I like the idea. I agree that it’s probably not going to happen, but I’m used to that. The board decides what they want to do, and staff and consultants set out to show that whatever it is is best. I don’t think anyone at ST sees it as their job to think about the system.

    The thing I like about it is that effective urban transit systems are networks, not just long lines to distant places. This would begin to fill in the urban network. Maybe if you took 8th Ave. for transit, you could come to the surface around the convention center, go at grade under the convention center, and go back underground on the First Hill side.

    The two things that might give this a shot are (1) Seattle residents being able to add more to their subarea investment, and (2) near-universal opinion that deep stations downtown are dumb non-starters.

    I also wonder if two tunnels are needed in the first place. It’s been awhile since I paid attention to this so I might be out of date, but I *think* there’s a 6-minute minimum headway through the Capitol Hill tunnel, and two-minute headways are not unusual for modern transit systems (although few modern subway lines are fifty miles long).

    1. ST has already granted that 2 minute headways are possible with some signaling and safety upgrades in the existing DSTT…. upgrades they do not currently plan to do. 90 second headways are actually possible and not uncommon in urban rail systems , though at some point the system becomes brittle. The minimum headways for East Link and Rainier Valley are 6 minutes, which means 3 minute headways in the DSTT. There’s definitely room for one more line. ST needs to explain why they think there isn’t.

      There is no reason not to make those minimal investments and put West Seattle trains in the existing tunnel. (There’s also no reason to build Link to West Seattle, but that’s another matter.) This approach has the additional gigantic advantage of enabling same-platform transfers.

      Constructing a junction on the north end is possible, though it’s easier southbound than northbound. This was covered extensively in recent blog posts here, most notably:

      If Ballard trains cannot possibly fit in that existing tunnel, and a second tunnel is required, then arguably that second tunnel shouldn’t serve exactly the same places as the first tunnel. This post explores one such possibility.

      1. I just know about DC. Under two minute headway are possible only when lines aren’t interlinked. Only the red line, which isn’t interlinked, has the capability if more than 30 trains per hour. It’s been a long time, pre signal system failure, it was about 37 trains tops.

        On interlinked lines, it was 135 seconds max, but by adjusting between lines, eg 2 trains from one without switching, then one from the other, you could increase throughout.

        By why would Seattle need anywhere near this kind of throughout, given that peak ridership hours don’t justify that kind of frequency outside of New York City, Mexico City, Montreal and Toronto in North America.

    2. ST said 90-second headways are feasible with the DSTT improvements. The list of ST3 candidate projects had one for this and one for the second tunnel. It deselected the improvements when it selected the second tunnel. It said the problem with going below 3 minutes now, or 1.5 minutes with the second tunnel, was not that trains couldn’t physically go through, but that they’d be prone to more bunching and unreliability.

      1. But then of course the Seattle subarea is on the hook for a whole new downtown tunnel, instead of spending their subarea dollars on a better in-city transit network.

      2. The downtown tunnels are defined as systemwide infrastructure, so all subareas will pay for either the new tunnel or upgrades to the existing tunnel It’s based on their proportional number of trains in either tunnel.

  10. I love this idea.

    1. Increasing coverage is great. I’ve always felt the proposed tunnel to be very duplicative of current service.

    2, Riders from the south we’re going to lose their single seat rides to University Station and Pioneer Square stations anyway, and only gain a super deep 5th and Madison station. This line would allow for a single transfer at either Justina Park OR to BRT at Madison for a ride to anywhere in the downtown core they need.

    3. If combined with the Seatle Subway to put the SLU station near Westlake and Republican Eastlink Riders get one sest rides to the downtown stations, and a simple transfer at Judkins Park to either the airport or SLU/Ballard. Conversely transfers going to Bellevue are equally easy

    4. The connector line through Beacon Hill lends itself well to all sorts of interesting possibilities.

    5. Ostensibly the reason for a second tunnel is that they wanted more throughout downtown. Well that had proven to be horrendously expensive, and the stations historically bad. So much money is being spent that this line needs to be good! What ST is proposing to build is not. If they truly need throughout in the future they can spend the money in the future to decrease the interval between trains as has been discussed on this blog already.

    1. Given that this is even more tunneling than DSTT2 (it goes all the way to Judkins Park at a minimum underground), I expect that the tunneling will be just as expensive or even more so. Also, there are more stations in total than on DSTT2, so that’s another cost element, but they are, with the exception of Yesler Terrace in the discussion just below, much shallower and a significant portion of the tunneling can be done cut-and-cover in Minor streets [pun].

  11. Unless I am missing something, this would mean through city traffic from Mt. Baker and points south to Capitol Hill, the UW, and points north along that Link line have an even longer ride. There’s still the deep station to station transfer at Westlake, but now with the added delay of going from First Hill down to Westlake and the tightest double right turn in the system. It might be better for Seattle, but Link isn’t the Seattle subway. It’s a regional system, and one that already heavily favors Seattle. All this new alignment seems to do is make those imbalances and disparities worse.

    Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

    1. Realistically, this line would be passing over the existing line at Westlake, so that First Hill could avoid 300 feet deep stations.

    2. It depends on what gets built, but as drawn, if you are going from points south to points north as far as Northgate or maybe Lynnwood, you could transfer at Judkins Park. It replaces riding the Mt Baker to SoDo segment with the Judkins Park to International District section. It depends on how far north the Line 2 trains from the East Side wind up going.

      1. If you transfer at Judkins Park, you can only connect to the 2 Line trains and not the 1 Line trains, which still negatively impacts overall travel time.

      2. Considering we’re talking about a line that hasn’t been studied or even proposed, I’m not sure that is the case. The existing line through SoDo isn’t that fast. The 2 line should be reasonably quick considering it’s on old freeway lanes.

        The existing ST proposal has these riders transferring to the 1 or 2 lines at extremely deep stations, and that that transfer should be vastly better at Judkins Park. Or, if 4th Avenue is chosen, they have to get out, go up to Jackson, then go back down. Travel times between dots on a map look very different when you start throwing in 100 foot elevation changes.

        I think Line 2 winds up being the more frequent line either way, as line 1 ridership from West Seattle and north of Lynnwood are predicted to be relatively low. Thus, it seems to me if transferring at Judkins Park, they probably don’t have too long a wait for a train.

        This is also why I think you wind up extending the “Beacon Hill shuttle” trains to fill whatever gaps there may be in the 1 and 2 lines though. That would give better access to downtown from the Rainier Valley.

        Or, maybe the Rainier Valley trains alternate between downtown and First Hill, and West Seattle trains alternate between downtown and First Hill? If people demand a one seat ride to everywhere that gets them that, but it does make the network a bit more complicated.

      3. According to ST East Link will be limited to 8 minute frequencies max. Originally, based on ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates the concern was the train would be full by the time it reached Mercer Island, and definitely full when it reached Judkins Park, with few riders getting off there. Today those estimates look to be almost twice what actual ridership will be cross lake. Still not a good location for a transfer station with so few Eastside riders getting off.

        The destinations the vast majority of East Link riders would want to go to (due to work, parking and traffic congestion if the work commuter returns) are downtown, SLU, and UW.

        One of those group of riders may need to transfer. For eastsiders the ideal route of East Link is a one seat ride through downtown to SLU. Let the younger students going to UW transfer.

        I highly doubt the Eastside subarea would contribute to a line that ran along 12th and Capitol Hill, and that is probably the one subarea with the money to contribute.

      4. A one seat ride from the Eastside to SLU has never been on the table, as far as I know. It’s always been to have it continue to Lynnwood, while the Rainier Valley gets a one seat ride to SLU.

        With this proposal, those going to SLU from the Eastside transfer at Judkins Park, which might avoid the 100+ foot deep level transfer they would have to do in the existing ST proposal. It’s might be a 30 second escalator ride insead of a 5 minute wait for an elevator, or so. The proposed DSTT2 stations are * really* deep, and an awful lot of the supposed advantage of a one seat ride to them is going to be consumed by waiting for the unseen 2nd seat: the vertical conveyance to the surface. University Street already requires a pretty extensive amount of time on the stairs. Try it sometime! Do you want to add 100 feet more to that?

  12. Certainly. Notice that Frank has the tunnel turn at University, essentially following the very efficient route of the eastbound 2S to Boren.

    Now the curves at Sixth and University and Boren and University are necessarly fairly tight, but very astutely Frank has chosen a corner (Sixth and University:,-122.3326518,3a,60y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sHKSxCPdHenZoQ0NxF2bWnA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192) WITH A PLAZA in the quadrant it really needs one. Yeah, there’s probably some parking garage underneath it, but hey, parking garages make great places to remove TBM’s. Use cut-and-cover down Sixth (Oh The Humanity!) deepening a bit each block and transition to TBM in that there TBM vault, nee parking garage. The TBM can go essentially straight northeast under University and then curve vertically to rise to Boren. It would still be deep enough to curve under the Sunset Club, which is only a few stories tall.

    However, I’d like to suggest the possibility of using Minor to go south, because you want a shallow station and so, once past the station cut-and-cover again makes sense. It’s easier to c-n-c on a street like Minor than a major arterial like Boren.

    In order to serve both Virginia Mason and Swedish, it would make sense to put the station under Minor between Spring and Madison. Since that block is a bit short for full-length Link trains, it would probably start mid-block between Seneca and Spring. The building in the south quadrant of the University / Minor intersection is much taller than the Sunset Club, but the TBM could curve 45 degrees mid-block between Terry and Boren and diagonal across the parking lot at Seneca and Boren and then, at the corner of the art building at Terry and Seneca and Minor, finish the curve into the station box, much like the west end of Westlake.

    Now, this puts you on Minor when you get to Broadway, but that might be a great place to transition back into TBM action. The block between Jefferson and Broadway is pretty short, but it’s long enough for a TBM removal vault. The street has very little traffic, and it might make a good place from which to mine a station under Broadway for that “future” “Yesler Terrace” station right next to UW Family Medicine.

    Jackson-CID could be another transition point to cut and cover, because south of Dearborn Rainier is wide enough to run at-grade. The TBM vault/station headhouse could be in the parking lot at the southwest corner of Boren and Jackson and the building immediately to the south.

    The cut and cover south of the station would underrun the old streetcar right of way behind the buildings on the west side of Rainier as far as the center of the block between Weller and Lane. Then it would veer straight south through the Goodwill parking lot to the Poplar Place South right of way and follow it to the freeway overcrossing where a station under the west to south offramp loop would connect with East Link, albeit with a climb and a walk over Rainier.

    South of I-90 Rainier there are two choices. The street is wide enough to do a cut-and-cover trench without ruining the community. I would suggest leaving it open to the sky on one side or the other except at streets with left turns and providing pedestrian bridges at every intersection. The tracks would rise from underground where they currently rise to elevated. This would require single tracking and a “shoo-fly” in first the innermost northbound lane of King Boulevard and then the innermost southbound lane.

    The other alternative it to go back into TBM mode just south of I-90 with a TBM vault in the construction parking lot just west of Rainier. Go south under Valentine Place and north under 20th South in order to keep the TBM’s within the street right of way. By the time the tubes get to South Grand Street they should be deep enough to leave the public right of way and start curving a bit east. The northbound tube would portal in the southeast quadrant of 25th and McClellan directly north of the existing portal in land which appears already to be publicly owned. A new track directly adjacent to the existing ones would be built to the station and merge with the existing northbound track just north of the platforms.

    The southbound tube would break into the existing northbound tube — yes, Ross, I admit you can do that if you don’t intend to run trains through the construction zone and you still have to create a vault — and portal in the existing northbound portal. I expect that a vault just west of 25th and south of McClellan would not disturb anyone. Fortunately, the tubes are diverging as they enter the portals. ST has always preferred TBM’ed tubes to be fairly widely separated.

    During the time that the southbound connection is being completed, trains running in both directions would would operate via the new northbound track to the new Judkins Park station where the southbound trains would enter “reverse territory”. To minimize delays, some trains should continue to run bi-directionally in the existing southbound tube via SoDo in a “temporary” line.

    After the connection between the new southbound track and the existing northbound track in the tunnel is completed, all trains would operate via the new routing.

    The shuttle would then use the existing southbound tube both directions and have a non-revenue connection just south of the station. It need not run often enough to need both tracks to go the mile and a half between SoDo and Mt. Baker. The existing northbound platform at Beacon Hill would be closed.

    A Joy, the turn at Sixth and University wouldn’t be any tighter than the one at Third and Pine, and I’ve suggested a way to smooth the University to Boren curve above. I think it might be worthwhile to investigate this.

    And, as an addendum to this, if a vault under 25th and McClellan also encompassed the existing southbound track (the to-be-shuttle), a cross-over from the southbound to the northbound could allow trains serving the shuttle platform to switch to normal right-hand running on two tracks. If the shuttle platform connection to the “main line” were operated correctly, and some provision for headways more frequent than six minutes were made on King Boulevard, a few peak hour trains could continue past SoDo into the existing tunnel.

    Something to think about.

    Otherwise, southend riders could transfer pretty easily at Judkins Park, albeit to equally infrequent trains.

  13. Downtown is the biggest destination than First Hill (the reason first hill keeps getting shafted), so se Seattle is going to want that direct connection to downtown over first hill. I would just end the new line in MT Baker, with a tie in only for non-rev service. Rainier and East Link both still get a great transfer to first hill, but se seattle and South king keep the 1 seat ride to downtown.

    1. First Hill is downtown, as is SLU.New lines through downtown should either use the existing line, or cover a different part of downtown. That is just Building Metros 101.

      Which lines connect to which part of downtown is not always obvious, and there are trade-offs (Building Metros 102). The split you mentioned is reasonable, as is Frank’s.

      1. Yeah, it’s hard to imagine that somehow Chicago has the loop, with its 5 frequent lines (and an occasional 6th when the red line gets put upstairs for tunnel maintenance), with 1910s signal and dispatching technology, but somehow Seattle can’t have three combined lines in a very well designed modern tunnel with fewer level junctions.

        Chicago the only place I can think of offhand that has had to have semi-parallel lines (red line under the loop), and Chicago has a density of activity in its core that is … considerably more active than Seattle. No insult intended to Seattle, but a dozen commuter rail lines stretching to three states and 7 busy metro lines is just in a different league.

        Everyone else (London, Berlin, etc) has a system that is vastly less centered on a single downtown point. If a second line is needed, then it goes to a different area so different destinations are served.

        It seems unconscionable that places like Belltown and First Hill wind up with no service while a second subway on 5th gets to serve those very few stations.

      2. “Chicago has the loop, with its 5 frequent lines”

        They aren’t that frequent. Stacking five lines together limits their frequency. The Red and Blue lines could run every 2-5 minutes each because they have their own tracks, but the elevated lines can’t.

  14. Thought this group might like to see a short video on the new Elizabeth Line in London. Lots of detail, and some very cool construction scenes. The primary focus is on the delay on the Bond Street station, and reapportioning staffing during COVID.

  15. I wish, with all this brainstorming, that someone would come up with an idea that would make transit north fromTacoma after TDLE better than the current status quo, rather than substantially worse.

    1. To be clear, my usual Seattle destinations are West Seattle, Downtown and UW. I don’t think I’m an anomaly. This expensive train does worse than nothing for me.

      1. Most of us want all-day Sounder South, but that requires either a third-track on the BNSF right-of-way where it doesn’t already exist, or double-tracking the UP between Black River and Tacoma Junctions. There isn’t room to double BNSF through northern Auburn and the UP is not friendly, so either may take a while.

      2. UP/Interurban south RoW should be used for an electrified high speed line to Tacoma and eventually points south (please?)

      3. @Dalton: The existing BNSF corridor is good enough for HSR. Focus on electrifying it, and getting headways up there first.

      4. Problem with the existing corridor is BNSF are jerks, it has dozens of at grade crossings, and it would be difficult to build bypasses for the stations in Kent/Auburn/Sumner/Puyallup. A fully separated, passenger only corridor would be better, probably cheaper, and there’s plenty of room without even touching the UP tracks.

      5. ST could buy the UP line and lease it back for all train service other than commuter rail and Stampede Pass traffic. Double track it and build a tolled truck roadway to connect the two ports to transshipment and warehouse locations in Kent. Then you could put all the commuter rail traffic you want on the BN line, including reverse direction trains to serve Boeing locations.

      6. You would still have to grade separate the BNSF line, and why bother with all that? Kent and Auburn have barely any downtown to speak of and what exists can relocate to the new station, and you can job back over to serve Sumner and Puyallup with commuter rail. Intercity HSR and local service should be able to co-exist on a dual track line since they’ll be going roughly the same speed through built up areas, but you still need bypasses at all the stations to let the HS trains skip them.

    2. OK, here goes. In the short term, you just interline. That gives the South End an easy transfer to SLU, Uptown, Interbay and Ballard.

      In the run build this, assuming frequency on the line is increased. Riders might have to transfer for some locations, but they would have better frequency, and those locations would be more popular. I would also send this second line to the UW via Belltown, SLU and Eastlake.

      1. But it’s still a slow boat through the valley, which is a substantial downgrade from the 594. Unless I’m misunderstanding your interline plan.

      2. Ah, you mean better than the bus. That’s harder, and goes to the stupidity of Tacoma Link. I was merely coming up with a plan where things aren’t worse for south end riders when they build WSBL (the ST3 plan).

  16. “We know Sound Transit is averse to too many I-5 crossings, so we’ll just stay east and under Boren, continuing along Rainier Ave N, in either a shallow tunnel or at grade along the median.”

    At grade along the median? Haven’t we learned from our mistakes and shafted the less-enfranchised neighborhoods enough already along MLK?

    1. How was the MLK neighborhood negatively affected by at-grade?

      For the Link rider?
      Are there specific neighborhood issues?

      1. First, there are serious equity issues when at-grade segments just happen to be in poorer communities of color, while wealthier and Whiter communities tend to get their light-rail either elevated, buried, or otherwise separated (ie freeway median on Mercer Island).

        Second, at-grade light-rail is simply less reliable and less safe wherever it happens to be due to the inevitable blockage and collisions at crossings.

        Finally, at-grade on Rainier is dumb given the existing and notorious traffic safety issues with that corridor.

      2. Yes, people are killed when an at-grade train hits them, cars are smashed, and the line is interrupted for hours. This has happened several times already. Telling people not to cross the tracks when a train is coming doesn’t help, especially when they’re drunk or they get tired of waiting minutes for the light to change. The existence of the level crossings forces the train to slow down the speed of the adjacent car lanes instead of running our billion-dollar train at full speed, and limits the frequency. And the train sometimes slows down or stops for traffic lights. All that prevents Link from reaching its potential.

      3. Jim: How? more pedestrian deaths? more crashes? The neighborhood is better off with Link than without Link. But a more costly grade separated would have been better for the area. The crashes make Link less reliable for downstream riders.

      4. Trains run at-grade in many cities. Deaths are not intrinsic but a result of bad design, notably the city refusing to put in crossing gates.

      5. “How? more pedestrian deaths? more crashes? “

        That’s the jist of my question, has MLKing Way seen fewer pedestrian/auto fatalities since Link has acted as a traffic calming device (i.e. it actually goes the speed limit) and whether after Link did the overall rate go down, and how many deaths are attributable to Link?

        Look at how Rainier Avenue is struggling with all the accidents.

        I’m still trying to find statistics on both streets, in order to make a valid comparison.

        I myself would selfishly prefer a straight shot fast way to the airport, since I have no reason to visit the Rainier Valley, but that’s not what an urban rail transit system is supposed to do. It is supposed to serve the local communities.

        I don’t know what one can do with people who ignore flashing lights and gates. It seems to be a cultural thing. (e.g. the PNW Stroll)

  17. So, light rail on MLKing Way is good for the neighborhood, but…

    I remember going to the very first scoping meetings, and some residents made an argument that they felt light rail was being ‘shoved down their street’.

    I also remember the surpriseed look on the face of then councilmember Martha Choe, and her stating that they wanted it to serve the neighborhood rather than the original plan of going down the Duwamish to the other original corridor in Tukwila on SR-99.

    The other issue that came up at that meeting from the residents was around the choice of tunnel, at-grade, or elevated.
    The split seemed to be even between at-grade and tunnel, with no one wanting elevated.
    One resident speaking on favor of at-grade thought that underground would provide hiding places “for the drug man”.

    The other interesting thing about traffic on MLKing Way back then was that about 40% of the traffic was commuters using it as a high speed bypass to the traffic congestion on I-5. I asked an ST staff member (he went by JJ, I don’t know what his real name was, though) after he spoke about the property takes that were needed. I said “If half the traffic isn’t even local, why expand the footprint of the roadway to add the train ROW?”, to which he answered “That’s what SDOT wants.” (Essentially, “Thou Shalt Not Inconvenience The SOV Driver”)

    What I’ve been looking for is whether having Link at-grade in the valley has lowered the pedestrian/auto accident rate, since it effectively acts as a flow meter for the cars.

    Topography and cost was the driving force for at-grade in the valley from what I gathered.

    I still think SDOT should invest in changing the intersections to be grade separated for cross streets (probably about $50million per intersection based on various road projects I’ve seen over the years)

    1. Because MLK has driveways, it is really messy to change the road vertical profile. Any fix pretty much would seem to involve the tracks.

      There has been visioning that suggested moving all traffic to one side of MLK. Then turn the other into a bicycle and pedestrian trail. But that would move traffic back to Rainier and make both streets seem worse than today. Even then there would still be pedestrian crossings.

      About the only way I could see it is for new tracks to be trenched under one side of MLK. Cover it with a linear park and bicycle trail. Then move the trains. Then dig up the old center tracks and put the needed lanes where the tracks were.

      At least MLK would be easier to cross because it would be 30 feet narrower.

      The other way to upgrade things would be for MLK to “go fully tram” by adding Graham plus 2-3 more infill stations. The Line could end at SeaTac or Renton, and through trains going to Tacoma would use a new alignment like the Duwamish bypass.

      1. “Demoting” the RV line to an airport-only stub with more stations and running the deep south and Pierce trains via some sort of direct express line isn’t Steven’s idea only. It has been mooted and ignored on tje Blog (because not from the “in-crowd”) for several years.

      2. Didn’t mean to suggest it was his idea; just wanted to link to an article with a good map to see if I understood your idea.

    2. Don’t change the whole road. Just rethink the intersections.

      Take one lane approaching intersections and treat them like ‘off ramps’ to meet the grade of the cross streets.

    3. Remember the context — ST had just failed to negotiate a contract to build the promised line from SeaTac to Northgate. Several ST directors lost their jobs and staff had to go back to the drawing board to find something they could afford. There was also a strong interest in running the trains through the Rainier Valley. This was not an effort to find the best solution, it was a way to squeak out a contract they could afford that would try to deliver something like what was promised to voters within the approved budget. This was not an effort to screw the Rainier Valley, it was a way to serve that community and in fact it was the further out communities worrying they would face longer and less reliable travel times to reach Seattle from Federal Way and Tacoma.

  18. Based on Tom Terrific’s post I don’t think this alignment would be much cheaper than DSTT2 (and neither will include cut and cover tunneling down 5th or 6th).

    Ross could probably cite current bus ridership on this proposed route, but I doubt it would have a lot is work commuters.

    Eastsiders (and their employers) are not going to be thrilled to spend $5.5 billion to run East Link across the bridge span to have it truncate at Judkins Park if you want to get to SLU. 12th and Jackson and Judkins Park are not high priority destinations for eastsiders.

    And. I think it would be incredibly frustrating for riders coming from Ballard to have to transfer at Westlake one or two stops from their downtown destination.

    The other factor to consider is I doubt the four other subareas would contribute to tunneling along this route because I don’t see how it benefits them. Although I don’t think DSTT2 is really a shared regional facility because there is adequate capacity for lines 1 and 2 in DSTT1, I don’t think any case could be made that this route provides a shared regional benefit.

    1. East Link itself is completely unchanged from what it would do previously. The only thing that would change is giving Eastside riders better options other than downtown. Please look at the map again.

      1. The only thing that would change for Eastside riders going downtown. Rainier Valley is a different matter.

        The people from the Eastside would have to share train space with those from the Rainier Valley, so that part would change.

  19. The post and subsequent comments seem to overlook the original reason why the First Hill station wasn’t built. Soil conditions in that specific part of first hill made construction of any station and tunnel unfeasible. The signification grade involved is probably a deal breaker as well. Construction and station planning is not nearly as simple as drawing lines on a map and say “Yay its so simple.”

    1. I’ve never bought that. ST needed to get to the U District within a too-small budget.

  20. Also building a transfer station at Judkins Park would be an absolute nightmare and would have an insane cost. Going either over or under I-90 with pretty much no available right of way or space is likely to prevent this idea from getting to any sort of formal study stage. This new proposal creates as many problems as it solves.

    1. That’s just not right. There’s plenty of room within the west to south off-ramp loop for a headhouse. Put a center platform directly beneath it and have the headphones be the fare-paid area. The platform and station box would extend well beyond the headhouse.

      Or, if elevated it would be in the same place above the freeway.

      If at-grade it would be in the middle of Rainier with a stair down from the new pedestrian cross-walk.

      None of these is hard.

      1. Agree. Judkins is probably the easiest to do at-grade or elevated (apparently there are some water pipes that make it tricky to run underground nearby). Mt Baker will also be straightforward, aside from the need to tie-into the existing alignment.

  21. I’ve seen a couple of comments about Frank’s line maybe not being cheaper. We don’t, and likely won’t ever, know because it hasn’t and won’t ever be studied. ST’s myopia is astonishing, but no less real for that.

    Frankly I would pay more for Frank’s line. The current routing ST is proposing is complicated, bad, and inconvenient. It’s not worth the money.

    Frank’s line is elegant, solves a number of problems, and is good! It’s worth the money.

    For ST4 I would then really push for a Georgetown bypass that would link up with WEST SEATTLE link at SODO for express runs at rush hour for commuters coming from the south to Seattle.

    Talk about a network with options!

  22. I don’t like this idea, for three reasons.

    1) First Hill is not much of a destination. It could be, with rezoning, but we all know how likely that is.

    2) Part of the purpose of this second line is to get more people downtown than can be carried by the the existing line. If the existing line is all we need to carry people downtown (including transfers from a new line serving Ballard and West Seattle), do we really need a second tunnel at all?

    3) Beacon Hill gets the short end of the stick. It’s pretty rough to have a one-seat train ride to Downtown just taken away like that.

    1. Well ST already plans to take away the current one seat Link ride from SE Seattle to Third Ave, Capitol Hill and UW with ST3. In its place the riders not only have to wait for a second train, but now find that they also would have to spend another extra 3-5 minutes underground making multiple level changes with thousands of their fellow riders crowding into escalators and elevators. I’ve found it curious that no one has called out ST on their equity BS because of this.

      1. I’ll add that even Westlake and CID destinations would also take 3-5 minutes longer to reach for SE Seattle residents if ST3 happens as planned.

        It amazes me that more Chinatown businesses are more concerned about construction impacts that can be financially compensated than the fact that it will put their SE Seattle and South King customers permanently 5-7 minutes further away without any compensation.

    2. 1) Isn’t First Hill the 3rd biggest destination in Seattle, aside from downtown itself and UW/U-District?

      2) I agree, but by pulling the Tacoma/South King riders out of the existing tunnel, some downtown capacity has been created.

      3) Seems like an easy improvement would be to run Beacon Hill as a spur, rather than a shuttle, to maintain that 1-seat ride.

    3. @Christopher,
      First Hill is worthy of a station (or two) for the following reasons:

      1. First Hill is the 3rd densest residential neighborhood in Seattle (behind Capitol Hill and Belltown).

      2. It has *three* hospitals and many independent healthcare providers.
      Harborview, the only level 1 trauma center in the state (and also serving Idaho, Montana & Alaska) is there. Virginia Mason, Swedish, & Harborview have, combined, one seventh of the inpatient beds in Washington.

      3. Yesler Terrace is there; when redevelopment finishes, there will be 1400 housing units there. The 30-acre site will be the densest residential area in the city. Most of the residents will be low-income, making public transportation particularly important.

      4. It is within walking distance of Seattle University, which has 7,500 students.

      5. It has permissive zoning, at least compared with the rest of the city. I don’t know the exact rules, but there are already several high-rise buildings there.

      In short, it is a destination, and it’s as AJ said, the biggest one aside from downtown and U-district.

      1. It also was promised a station in Sound Moves — so there is already voter endorsement of a First Hill Link station.

  23. “Less frequent train gates in SODO as only the West Seattle line is running through it”

    With the Lander Street overpass built, is that still important?

  24. Does anyone toy with the idea of simply moving the major transfer station from CID to Stadium? Everything there is on the surface or above ground. It seems to me to be a much less disruptive effort to lay out new platforms and connecting tracks as opposed to the costly mega mole concepts for CID.

    I can’t say exactly what is best for each line. However, it seems that the major roadblocks to ST3 are money and opposition in the CID. I don’t see ST studying a new line like Frank’s in the post but I could see a possibility that reorienting the transfer hub may be worthy of consideration.

    1. Transferring to what? Sounder, Amtrak, and East Link aren’t there, so the only transfer is between West Seattle and SE Seattle, and for those lines Stadium would simply be an alternative to transferring at SoDo, another surface station, not an alternative to ID.

      1. I was thinking about new track connections to East Link or Line 2 as well as shifting Sounder platforms southward a little bit. For example, if Line 2 is used for DSTT2 it might be able to fly over the current tracks with platforms east-west near Stadium Station and then loop back above 4th Ave and entering a portal near the firehouse so that Midtown wouldn’t have to be so deep.

        I’m not sure how it all would work but I do know that the current CID platforms are fairly unsuitable and make connecting between CID and SE Seattle harder than it is today. Shifting platforms southward could give more flexibility to accommodate grade changes and CID disruption.

      2. Eh, I think the goal for Sounder/Amtrak would be to move those further north, not south. ~25% of Sounder riders reach their end destination by foot, moving the Sounder station south would put even more peak burden on the Link trains proving ‘last-mile’ service for Sounder.

        What’s wrong with the current CID Platforms? the ID station could be improve with a 3rd center platform (Spanish solution), but otherwise it’s an excellent station given its very shallow depth, and the junction between Line 1 and Line 2 is very clean.

  25. Agree AJ. There currently is only one line so a transfer is irrelevant. Then with East Link there will be two lines using the same line north through Seattle. There probably won’t be a third line, and even if there is ridership will be low, and WSBLE should not dictate transfer stations.

    The Mercer Island intercept proves that a transfer station should ideally be located where riders want to go, or at least some of them, as their ultimate destination. It should be a hub, both commercial and retail. It is nice if at least some of the riders get off at the transfer station because that is their destination.

    For East Link those destination stations are from Pioneer Square to Westlake, and ideally SLU (or at least a one seat ride). I doubt that many riders will have the CID as their ultimate destination, almost none Judkins Park, and of course a transfer station south of CID makes no sense. Who on the eastside is going to take East Link to Ballard, West Seattle, South Seattle, Capitol Hill, or north of the UW, even though the East Link trains may continue onto those destinations? Nice benefit for N. King Co., but at the same time East Link will want priority on transfer stations and its destination (one seat to SLU if possible) in exchange for the use of its trains if there is a third line.

    East Link ridership to the UW will likely be from areas close to or south of I-90. Otherwise a one seat bus across 520 makes more sense. Those are the eastside riders who should transfer, and I guess CID is ok for that, if a transfer is necessary in the future. Right now it is not, and it won’t be after East Link.

    Ideally there are no transfers for most of the riders on a major line like East Link. Otherwise the planning was flawed. Peak commuters hate transfers. It is why Mercer Island will run the 630 directly to First Hill, peak buses will continue to run from Lake City after Northgate Link, and the 554 will continue to Bellevue Way (which also has to do with the fact East Link runs along 112th).

    For most, East Link to Seattle will begin with a drive to a park and ride (probably that serves East Link), and maybe even a feeder bus although I doubt it, then East Link. No way those riders will then transfer again in Seattle to get to their destination (and Ballard riders won’t want to transfer at Westlake just to get downtown, which might be one stop). Force a transfer — especially onto a line that runs up 12th and along Capitol Hill — to get to SLU and those workers will WFH, switch to eastside offices, or demand employers run dedicated shuttles like pre-pandemic. Are we really going to spend $12 to $20 billion on DSTT2 and WSBLE to build a low ridership line that will be offset by the loss of eastside riders on East Link because of terrible (or any) transfers?

    The good news in some ways is ST and the N. King Co. subarea do not have the money for any of WSBLE, certainly underground, and Ballard and West Seattle and ST are not close on compromise stations and lines (underground), and the “third party funding” for the preferred alternative which is politically acceptable will be staggering. So really all we are talking about down the road is interlining, and any transfer due to East Link and I don’t see any.

    East Link will be one seat from the eastside to Northgate, as planned (because eastsiders won’t want to go south of CID, even to the airport, because the trip is too long and they can take a bus, Uber, or drive down 405 in the HOV lane). Get off where you want. I wish there was a SLU station, but there isn’t. First Hill will be accessed by one seat buses from the eastside. So will Bellevue Way. Mode is not the be all and end all of transit decisions: transfers and time are.

    I still think many on this blog don’t take into consideration the contribution toward a second tunnel from the four other subareas in ST 3 (assuming three have the money). The line and transfer stations have to benefit them if it is to be a “shared regional facility”, or pretend to be. That contribution was sold by ST based on a lie and inflated ridership estimates: DSTT2 was necessary to meet future ridership on Lines 1 and 2. If DSTT2 is not downtown that lie becomes pretty transparent, and there is virtually no benefit to the other subareas, and no “shared regional benefit”. Which there never was, which is why I think the subareas will balk at contribution to DSTT2 and its ghastly cost in its preferred design that will require a massive SB5528 levy.

    1. It is a “shared regional benefit” as there is no limitation on who gets to use what tunnel to go where.

      In the ST proposal, to get to SLU, the Eastside riders would have to spend several minutes trying to get on an elevator to get from the existing tunnel to the new tunnel.

      This proposal replaces that with what should be no more complicated or time consuming than getting to the train at CID. If they prefer to do the 100 foot elevator wait, they can still do that if they want to at Westlake.

    2. When we provide a robust transit network with short headways and waits, many more riders will make multiple transfers. Many do today. With almost complete grade separation, Link will be like a pneumatic tube. Some bus trunk lines can be similar: routes 255, 271, 542, 545, E Line. So, we need to lobby ST for shorter headway and waits. It appears some Metro planners and Thompson are too transfer adverse; in East Link, routes 256 and 630 should not be, as they duplicate Link; with Northgate Link, the one-way routes oriented to First Hill do not really make sense either, as they duplicate Link that connects with a robust First Hill network of the streetcar and routes 2, 3, 4, 12, 27, 60, with the G Line to come. Those one-way routes are very weak and a drag on the network. Reliable frequent service make transfers worthwhile; together, they allow good transit connections between many disparate places. Note that the city of Mercer Island forced longer transfer walks than optimal for specious reasons.

  26. At the Ballard Sunday Market yesterday, I dropped by to talk to two ST employees who wanted people to fill out DEIS. Besides noting my Copernicus/Gaileo-esque support for Ballard to UW, I noted the Seattle Subway push to move the stop to 20th (and how 14th isn’t really that close, and the hospital is now a longer walk). The ST folks noted that once something is rejected (e.g., the 20th Ave. stop or say, a First Hill stop), it takes awhile to ramp up studying it again. While a First Hill stop may be a good idea, it goes against the inertia of what has been accepted. Unless First Hill supporters have the media savvy presence of the Gondola folks (Seattle Subway could really learn from those guys), it doesn’t have much of a chance.

  27. This problem with the First Hill proposal os what killed it years ago. The Cedar River watershed pipeline that gives Seattle 75% of its water runs under I-90 and Rainier, north then up the block between Hiawatha and Davis Pl S at an angle where it head directly North on 18th Ave. S to the reservoirs on Capitol Hill. This is a very old fragile steel pipe. A section of it between Davis and Hiawatha is exposed if there is enough foot traffic over it. Both sides are have high density housing adjacent. This section of pipe would need to be replaced between I-90/Rainier and 18th S and Dearborn. Add this cost and impact to this proposal and it is DOA.

    1. I can see how that might be a very big deal with the Forward Thrust plan to swing out past 24th, but how did it effect the First Hill Station plan. That station would have been around Boren. That’s way to the West of 18th.

      Now I can see how it might make a tunneled line parallel or under Rainier south of Jackson as here proposed by Frank and supporters problematical.

    2. Just run at-grade on Rainier at that point, there’s plenty of ROW. Have the station under the freeway for an easy transfer to the existing station; it could skew a bit north of the station to still allow left turns off the existing I90 eastbound ramp. Since there is no westbound access for drivers coming north on Rainier Ave, the station can fully close the median from I90 all the way north to Bush with zero impact to drivers; I’d probably prevent left turns at Bush & maybe Charles, and then have the line either elevated or underground by the time it gets to Dearborn.

      If the line is underground through First Hill, have a portal immediately south of Dearborn.

      1. this article from Lizz Giordano has it.

        All future lines are to be elevated or tunneled. IMO it’s kind of stupid to be stuck with a system with overhead wire that is suited for running at grade, for it to now no longer be an option.

        Maybe they could make an exception if the at-grade route didn’t cross any pedestrians or streets, but where is that possible?

      2. It really means no level crossings. The I-5 alignments in Shoreline and South King County are on the ground in some places but there are already underpasses/overpasses so other traffic doesn’t cross them.

        ST2 Link was 100% grade separated for a while, so they were already avoiding MLK/SODO-type alignments in the early 2010s. But then Bellevue wanted a tunnel in front of City Hall, and asked ST to economize elsewhere to pay for half of it. (The city paid the other half.) So ST lowered parts of Bel-Red and southern Redmond to the surface and added a street crossing or two, and it convinced North King to pay for Intl Dist-Judkins Park, which East King was previously funding.

        ST3 Link was drawn up 100% grade-separated, and as far as I know it still is.

        So the policy may be a formality, and may make it harder to add at-grade segments later, but ST has already been avoiding at-grade segments for over ten years.

        The article says at-grade segments aren’t completely banned; they’re just a last resort.

      3. I’m glad to hear that at-grade median remains “a last resort”, at least officially.

        So far as ST’s pledge I think it means “elevated, sub-terranean or within a fenced right-of-way with no auto traffic crossing it.”

      4. My point was that the train could run at-grade under I90, with an at-grade station directly connecting to the elevated Judkins Park station, without needing any level crossing aside from the left-hand turn from the eastbound off-ramp (which is the kind of level crossing that should be easy to regulate safely with a light signal and crossing gate)

      5. AJ, sure, but if ST (or Seattle) would countenance gates, they’d already be on Martin Luther King Boulevard and saving lives.

  28. It defies belief that ST’s engineers couldn’t figure out how to go over or under this.

    Too this line comes at it from the other direction and only crosses I-5 once so maybe that makes a difference.

  29. Yes, this. As Mike put it above, this is what most cities do. This would be a very valuable second line, with very valuable new stations, unlike what ST proposed.

    Unfortunately, this won’t happen with ST3. But it fits in nicely for the future. For now, just interline, with a branch to Ballard. This would be better for riders, cheaper, and have the same planned throughput. If we need additional capacity in the future, this is the type of line to add. It could connect to either the east or south end, if we add frequency to either line. I could also see it coming from the UW, via Eastlake. Then it could serve SLU and Belltown before swinging east to First Hill.

    1. I agree. The sensible thing is to interline now, and do something like Frank’s line later.

      The problem is that ST has the vote that says they have to build something, and I can almost guarantee you that they will – even if it’s bad.

      The mayor could possibly turn it around, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested, and doesn’t even have a permanent SDOT director.

    2. Frank is suggesting a Mt Baker-Judkins station-Westlake-First Hill-SLU line, which probably should then go Westlake* to Fremont/Aurora and connect with Ballard-UW? Not sure we’d ever built another rail line parallel to Cap Hill-UW, even after Ballard-UW is built out.

      *the neighborhood, not the station

  30. If your stack of chips is on “Interline with a branch to Ballard” the dealer is going to toss you yet another seven on top of your eight and seven.

    Do you really think that noone at ST has spent the last ten years trying to find the magic hole-in-the-tunnel-wall that will let northbound trains “Slip the surly bonds of Earth” and go somewhere besides Capitol Hill?

    Of course they have. Everyone wants to be the hero who gets the “Blavatsky Plan Saves The SoundTransit $7 Billion!” headline.

    1. There is no engineering reason for the second tunnel. It was an arbitrary decision made without considering cost. I’m sure there are many engineers who would love to study interlining, but until ST funds a study, it won’t happen. Interlining would definitely be better for users. The vast majority of people who have considered interlining believe it would be cheaper, and less disruptive. These people have not studied the issue in depth – no one has – but does include someone I would consider an expert on transit systems (he makes videos about transit issues and systems). The issues we face are not rare. It is only the arbitrary decision made by ST – back when they promised “world class transfers” that is stopping them from looking into interlining.

      1. It’s also worth considering that the picture of what was proposed in 2016 and the reality of what is needed to build the tunnel are very different things. I don’t think ST3 passes in 2016 with a proposed tunnel with stations 100+ feet below the existing tunnel. “We’re going to build 4 more Beacon Hill stations, only in the busiest part of the system.” ????

        When TriMet went to voters for the bond to build the Westside MAX extension in 1990, the line had been under study since 1979. Citizen Advisory Board meetings on routing the line had been going on since 1988, They had a really good picture about where the landslides were, and the expenses and risks involved in the surface alignment and how to deal with them while building the tunnel.

        Not being able to perform all the necessary studies before going to the voters with a real solid idea of what lies underground seems to be an unfortunate result of how ST is incorporated.

        So far, anything other than using the existing tunnel for all the trains seems like it’s going to be disappointing for a lot of people.

      2. Running three lines through the tunnel from CID to Northgate is great. I’m all for it. But if you think that the engineers at ST and at the consultants’ offices haven’t scoured the diagrams of the existing tunnel for some way to break out northbound, you don’t understand human behavior very well.

        Splitting at the north end of Third is in Forward Thrust! It’s hardly a new idea. The people who planned the bus tunnel thought it would be buses from then on, but some folks said “You really should put tracks in, just in case.”

        But they made no provision for a connection northbound, and it’s not clear why. It would have been relatively easy to make the three blocks between the Pine-Third curve and University Street three lane, to provide a “left turn pocket” for westside buses to continue north. It would have had to be cut-and-covered to get that many lanes within the street width, and that may have doomed the idea. But it sure would make today’s problem easier.

        Or they may just have concluded that buses in that quadrant had little “through” ridership, so why spend the money on a third portal.

  31. I think there are two important points from recent posts that bear some repeating, for those who apparently missed or forgot these details:

    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.

    – from Diagramming station depths by Frank Chiachiere

    And then there is this bit about the International District station:

    Sound Transit estimates that 43% of the daily 34,200 riders will arrive via transfers. That means every minute shaved off transfer times will collectively save these 14,700 riders transferring at this station ten days, every day.

    – from ST3 Transfers Must be Excellent by Seattle Subway.

    In short, a new tunnel through downtown at the proposed depth is going to be pretty awful to access. Even without the Judkins Park transfer, people are going to want to transfer lines, and the various proposals make these transfers really bad for a very large number of people.

    Franks’ lines on the map above may not be the best solution to all this. However, spending multiple billions of dollars on a line that winds up being difficult to use winds up being a waste of money. At least with Frank’s lines, these 37,000 transfers have much less time consuming experience. It’s a good start at coming up with something better than, at absolute best “shallow” option, are stations deeper than Capitol Hill.

    1. Yep. Everything comes back to good transfers and less deep stations.

      If those weren’t an issue, Frank’s concept is attractive to me. It could help with these but it’s not clear at a sketching stage.

      There are two ways to work the transfer challenge:

      1. Reposition tracks to be as close as possible with preferably cross platform transfers.

      2. Interline lines to avoid transfers. This may mean that riders are waiting 12 minutes or even 20 minutes for a train line but at least the extra long transfer walk and wait (as long as 5 to 15 minutes for everyone seeking the trip pair) would go away.

      It’s why I continue to beat the drums on:

      1. Reconfiguring SODO for same direction cross platform transfers.
      2. Encouraging using only DSTT for all rounds, even if Ballard is a stub route.
      3. Revisiting the Westlake transfer to see if it can be less of a hassle — including rethinking the platforms and maybe shifting the transfer to University St or Capitol Hill to make transfers easier.
      4. Exploring automated technology that could allow for shorter and more frequent trains, reducing the wait after a transfer walk.

      As far as deep stations go, it needs to be mentioned that the current ST concept makes trips from SE Seattle and South King more difficult even without transferring. All those merchants in the CID would push their SE Seattle customers further away as getting from the new platforms to the businesses will take more walking and more vertical challenges (as much as five minutes more than today), for example. The depth poses a challenge to anyone from NW or SE Seattle to almost any station on the line.

      And finally, I think the transfer and deep station discussion should have happened before the realignment step. I feel like the realignment discussion would have gone very differently if ST had been more forthcoming earlier. They wasted several years by avoiding the issue until 2022.

    1. Thanks for posting this!

      I’m just glad if SE Redmond goes away as a station name. I have no opinion on the replacement name except to say that shorter is a bit better.

  32. While we’re enjoying ourselves here dreaming of adding service to new places, ST is busy cooking up ways to make the existing alternatives even less useful. I was dismayed, though not surprised, to see the following:

    The Urbanist reports that ST is predictably, now looking at consolidating stations in West Seattle, giving up on service to SLU (!), and moving the West Woodland (aka “Ballard”) station – get this – even further east!

    It’s as if the thought of trying to reduce costs a different, and yet obvious way — by reducing headways in the tunnel we already have instead of building a new one, while simultaneously fixing the deep-station transfer problem — has never occurred to them. Why is better utilizing this prior investment never even considered or mentioned as a remote possibility, while we are so eager to cut service to the neighborhoods this project supposedly serves? Is it so out of the realm of possibility? It is currently proposed to operate at <50% of its potential capacity with trains every 3 minutes at minimum for the rest of time, even though ST has granted 90 second headways are possible with signaling and safety upgrades.

    Dexter and Denny is the new, single, great "SLU" station? A couple more blocks and we can put it directly under the monorail station to maximize redundancy. Just think how good the monorail transfers would be!

    So much for trying to get Denny Triangle on board. And subway service to First Hill (promised in 1996!) doesn't look too likely for a train that doesn't actually serve actual SLU, or actual Ballard.

    If removing stations is consistent with the will of the voters, can we just remove all of them, and start this project over, with a new team of planners? Sorry ST, my faith is this team is shattered. This process is heading in the wrong direction down the wrong track, and DEIS comments that list 1000 different problems with these plans while suggesting 50 different solutions is not going to fix it. They'll thank everyone for their comments, make a bunch of little tweaks to a bad plan, and we'll all tax ourselves for the next generation to build a system that makes a mess out of our city for years, only to tax our time with cumbersome transfers forever. That's our current future, absent either real leadership or some kind of civic intervention.

    The project needs a reset, a new team, and a new set of planning assumptions.

    1. At this point, I’m for voting on building Ballard to UW, and let the Gondola folks have some version of Metro 8 subway to catch Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union.

    2. “ The project needs a reset, a new team, and a new set of planning assumptions”

      Yes it seems to be going from bad to worse.

      The lack of strong leadership at the city of Seattle starting with Durkan, and ending with Harrell, who is more interested in other things has hurt.

      Likewise the lame duck/interim leadership at ST and SDOT doesn’t help.

      The time for some strong leadership with vision to make a real difference is now, if it hasn’t passed already.

      If only the efforts of Seattle Subway, The Urbanist, STB, et al, can make a difference….

    3. I’ve been thinking the same thing. You know, it’d save even more money to just not build anything at all…

      As this plan goes on it just looks more and more unsalvageable. I really think they need to go back to the drawing board entirely on this stuff, it’s ridiculous.

  33. I decided to start doing my own “deep dive” of the ridership and travel time estimates disclosed in the DEIS. As I get interesting tidbits, I’ll pass them along.

    This set of attachment discloses a lot of the assumptions in the model.


    I direct you to page 175 here. In it, is shows that all “escalator link” assumptions in the existing DSTT are 1.2 minutes. This is of course a huge error as there are no down escalators at current DSTT stations to the platforms! The number should be different for entering or leaving the platform.

    I am still looking for where the future year assumptions are. ST is now showing that delays of travel times can be as long as 5 minutes but it’s unclear if that is plugged into the forecasting. In other words, the forecasts may be built on the erroneous assumption that transferring will be easy and uniform no matter how deep the station is. Of course, people won’t want to ride Link for short trips when it takes a few minutes more than promised in the forecasting model. They’ll use Metro or walk instead.

    If someone could find the reference to escalator link times in the Build alternatives, it would be very useful.


    In the same document it reports overcrowding of trains under the 2042 No Build condition (page 289) and for Build (page 292). While it shows overcrowding on the No Build, it needs to be mentioned that interlining West Seattle, Tacoma and East lines into one tunnel are not analyzed as an alternative. It’s an all or nothing approach. The No Build has trains no frequent than every 3 minutes.

    So digging into the No Build table further, it appears that the seated capacity is 300 seats per train (75 x 4 cars). It appears that the total numbers are 892 in one place and 865 in another on an average train. However, if there are trains every 2 minutes rather than every 3, that’s 1.5 trains for every 1 in the table (meaning that the average train should be at 2/3), that would be 595 and 575 average load per train. That would still leave 295 or 275 standing passengers per train or less than 75 average standing passengers per train car. Oddly, the report on page 263 suggests that there should be no more than 150 standing passengers per train (or 37 per car, meaning 112 total rides per car) is maximum capacity or L.O.S. E, which flies directly in the face of ST always claiming that it’s more like 150 or even 200 per car. If the table on page 263 is replaced with true car capacity of somewhere between 150 and 200 per train car, two minute trains through the DSTT should be able to carry the demand although it would be crowded and even more frequent would be less of a problem.

    I’m seeing lots of other gems in the reports. For example, in this report, on Tables 2-10 and 2-11 (page 44), West Seattle Link only adds 2 percent higher transit mode share on the West Seattle Bridge between Build and No Build with that coming only from HOVs while on Tables 2-15 and 2-16 (pages 48-49), the Ballard Bridge has a huge surge of transit mode shares between Build and No Build. The effect is SLU is pretty minor in Tables 2-15 and 2-16.

    1. I see now that I mistakenly was looking at bus capacity. Rail capacity is in Table N.1B-11.

      It appears that going from trains every three minutes to every two minutes would double the available square feet for a standing passenger. The higher frequency of three lines would put the average at about 4 sq feet per person or L.O.S. D , which seems crowded but is acceptable.

      Without an triple interlined DSTT only alternative being studied, we just don’t know whether or not it would be too crowded. Still, it appears from the No Build alternative data in the DEIS that it would work.

  34. I’m with TT as far as it’s fantasy to think ST is going to consider breaking into the existing tunnel or creating some new entirely different alignment. Technically possible or not it’s just not going to be considered. Yesterday on the news it was reported that ST had nixed SkyTrain (gondola to W Seattle) and was planning to eliminate 3 stations from the WSBLE to save ~$3B in cost. That’s the reality of how ST operates. They will build whatever useless scrap of the originally proposed line the budget will allow. Worst case this drags on forever with nothing getting built. Best case there is another vote and the whole thing gets axed.

    1. Bernie, I think ST’s recent announcement that it is abandoning the gondola to West Seattle — as one wag on STB put it the fastest review ST has ever done — and the recent announcement ST is looking at $3 billion in cuts to WSBLE tells us where this is going.

      1. ST is not interested in substantive alternative designs to the DEIS, whether a gondola or alternative line along Capitol Hill. The preferred design may not be in the best interests of transit riders, but it is what is politically possible with the powerful stakeholders involved, and interests of the four other subareas who are supposed to pay 1/2 of DSTT2. It is a common agency practice in DEIS’s or projects like this: the agency “scopes” the project first among the powerful stakeholders to define the DEIS alternatives, before any public comment is allowed, and those alternatives are fixed in stone.

      2. $3 billion is the floor right now for a SB5528 levy if Seattle/N. King Co. want those three other stations. My guess is this figure will rise to closer to $7–$10 billion based on the designs in the DEIS and Rogoff’s January 2021 budget deficit announcements, the pandemic, and likely future ridership and general fund revenue drop in the N. King Co. subarea post pandemic, $10 billion assuming three other subareas don’t have $275 million each for their 1/2 of DSTT based on the original price estimate of $2.2 billion, let alone $550 million each for the actual cost of around $4.4 billion if tunneling is begun pretty soon and does not run into problems.

      Basically, what we have known all along, and some on the eastside predicted in 2016.

      3. I have always thought ST is setting N. King Co. and Seattle up to be the bad guy to kill WSBLE when the true cost of a SB5528 levy to complete WSBLE becomes known because it just isn’t affordable. Yes, I understand many on this blog have proposed many, many alternatives, (so many there is no clarity), including interlining, but most if not all of those alternatives will not be acceptable to Ballard, West Seattle, and downtown business interests.

      WSBLE is unaffordable. The question is who is really going to give that bad news to the residents of Seattle, Ballard, and West Seattle? Is $3 billion for a SB5528 too high. Shit yes. And it is going higher. So who will finally come out and say the cost is too high now that Seattle and N. King Co. and those residents know they have skin in the game. Big skin.

    2. The gondola idea has floated around for years. It took until April 2022 for ST to respond.

      In a rational world, alternative technologies would have been extensively discussed before the vote or before the start of WSB planning or before realignment. The fact that ST had to be forced into a corner for years to react — as opposed to a proactive assessment that should have occurred between 2015 and 2018 — speaks volumes about the entitled hard-headedness that pervades ST culture.

      It’s unfortunate and revealing that short automated frequent trains have yet to be evaluated for WSBLE.

      1. Al, in ST’s defense, the agency was established to build a rail system between the primary “Regional Centers” of the central Puget Sound counties. Express bus between minor regional centers was a second, minor responsibility.

        So it’s not a surprise that they ignore “alternative technologies”,

    3. Thanks, Bernie. I think that there’s an economic case to be made for serving SLU broadly defined to include Lower Queen Anne and maybe Smiyh Cove. But going on to Ballard isn’t worth the money and West Seattle is worse.

      Several folks have suggested moving the Ballard line to become a Metro Eight by connecting at CHS. Ican’t see a neighborhood trunk avoid the inner CBD, but it seems fine for a stub, because buses would continue to go downtown.

      With smallish tram cars, it might be possible to break out of the hill at the freeway and cross SLU, Seattle Center and LQA elevated with fairly frequent side-platform stations. To improve the esthetics, have them powered by third-rail but carry pans for interoperability on Link and Seattle Streetcar trackage. Some kind of step down to the streetcar could deliver cars to to MF ‘s for major repairs. Park them at night west of the BNSF Interbay Yard in the truck storage. This assumes the CCC is completed to get the cars down to Dearborn.

      It seems like suitably modified SkyTrain cars would do just fine, and having an east-west spine through SLU ensures that it all is served.

      This would occur after a No Build decision on WSBLE.

    4. “Yesterday on the news it was reported that ST had nixed SkyTrain (gondola to W Seattle) and was planning to eliminate 3 stations from the WSBLE to save ~$3B in cost.”

      ST said no to a gondola in West Seattle according to a posting here around that time. That’s not exactly news: it reaffirms what ST has said consistently since the 1990s. It chose light rail because it can do street-running as well as elevated and underground so it’s the most flexible, and ST would rather stick to one mode and have all railcars interchangeable and able to run on all lines. And SkyTrain is not a gondola.

      As for deferring/deleting three stations, it’s now April 19th and I don’t see anything about that in the Seattle Times. I can’t see ST making a definitive policy decision in the middle of an EIS feedback period. The EIS is supposed to provide the information to make those decisions. Eliminating three stations now would invalidate the alternatives under review and hundreds of people’s comments, which would be for alternatives that no longer exist.

      There was talk about eliminating one station, Avalon, but it was just a concept for consideration, not a definite decision. I don’t know what the other two stations would be.

    5. Anybody had a chance to review ST’s “SkyLink feasibility report”?
      A staff person took their 2014 model issue paper and added a few more references to newer gondola project but essentially kept their prior conclusions:
      – they can’t build a gondola as it cannot be turned into a regional line – though SkyLink only proposed a WS feeder
      – gondolas can only handle 2000 riders/h and they need 2500 riders for WS – though several of their new references show that existing gondolas transport 4000 riders/h, some even 6000.
      ST announced they are trying to save $1.8b, a gondola would save more than $2b – they rather skip Avalon.

  35. Impact: WSBLE as now designed using any of the presented options will increase almost every rider’s travel time to most destinations because of the extremely deep and poorly located stations. That will lead to reductions in overall transit usage or the oprration by Metro of redundant paeallel routes.

    This is a gross violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, not to mention really, really dumb.

    Remediation: Do not build WSBLE as proposed in any of the alternatives. Instead accelerate the C and D line improvements and embark on a genuine analysis of the west-of-highway-99-corridor’s transit needs, with no technology bias.

    Ask that Non-North King Board Members recuse themselves from any votes on the planning, choices of technology, routings and station placement and design produced from this research.

    In turn, agree that no other Sub-Area will contribute to any future project in the North King Sub-Area, except improvements to the existing DSTT which will primarily serve their needs.

    In the meantime, bank the funds from ST3 taxes in anticipation of future projects.

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