Photo by SolDuc Photography / Flickr

Since Sound Transit released the DEIS for the new West Seattle-Ballard extension, stakeholders have been poring over the findings and submitting their comments. One major group of stakeholders is the Chinatown-International District (CID) neighborhood, which recently came out in full force either against the 5th Avenue alternative or against all options entirely.

Mike Lindblom has a detailed scoop:

Neighborhood advocates insist the station must go a block farther west, under Fourth Avenue South near South King Street, with the highways and sports stadiums. That would lessen the impact on an area that’s been sacrificed for generations to regional construction. 
. . .
But choosing Fourth Avenue possibly creates a traffic nightmare, because builders would demolish and replace the six-lane elevated street. In that scenario, about 15,000 daily car and bus trips, and stadium surge traffic, must be detoured during six years of partial road closures, compared to only 5,000 on Fifth for a 2½-year closure.

Total construction time on Fourth Avenue is estimated at nine to 11 years, a couple of years longer than Fifth.

It’s important to remember that while Sound Transit has not yet identified a preferred alternative for this segment, it finds itself in the usual quagmire of picking and choosing between neighborhood impacts, ridership, and cost. The 5th Avenue option certainly has superior neighborhood and transfer access, but construction would come at a great cost to the CID.

Back in April, Seattle Subway endorsed an even-shallower version of the 4th Avenue shallow option (CID-1a). Their proposal would effectively be at-grade, flush with the BNSF tracks and the 4th Avenue viaduct rebuilt over it. It’s not clear how compatible this super-shallow option would be with the deep Midtown Station profiles that are currently on the table.

While not without its own problems, a 4th Avenue alternative does open creative possibilities for re-doing the entire King Street Station-IDS hub, which is currently a patchwork of office buildings, limited walkways, and pedestrian-unfriendly 4th Avenue. A lid over the BNSF/Sounder tracks and repurposing Union Station are some of the ideas worth considering.

59 Replies to “New ST3 International District Station options face stiff resistance”

  1. Before other station options can be considered, I think the ID interests should go one step backwards and get leaders to question these basic assumptions with an eye to expanding alternatives:

    1. The need for a second tunnel. The only alternative that has no second tunnel is the No Build — that has only three minute trains in the DSTT. The DEIS should have included two three-line DSTT alternatives — one with a Ballard/SLU branch and one with a stand-alone Ballard/SLU line. ST limited the alternatives in 2018 because they complained that we would have to wait longer for construction to begin — only to delay the project several years due to the bad original cost estimates. This is a basic $5B topic that badly needs reevaluation.

    2. The study of shorter automated rail/ trains. If West Seattle were paired as a new automated train line, all the platforms could be shorter and the station vaults smaller and the underground slope limitations reduced. This should have been an alternative in the DEIS.

    Even with these alternatives, I am amazed and saddened that more platform options were also not studied. For example, would shifting the platforms southward by 300 feet open up any opportunities to design the DSTT2 crossing to be above rather than below the existing tunnel?

    1. I agree, especially with your first point. We don’t need a new tunnel, especially since a new tunnel won’t increase capacity unless we do other work in Bellevue and Rainier Valley (so those trains can run more often). Either way, we are limited to running 20 trains an hour, either on two tracks through downtown, or one. The interlining option (with a split north of Westlake) should be studied. Once the study is done, we can then debate the choices.

      Right now we are given the choice of terrible options. Every proposed station is worse than the existing one. This means those who find themselves on that track (i. e. everyone from Beacon Hill to Tacoma) will have a worse experience. Everyone who transfers downtown (e. g. Bellevue to South Lake Union or SeaTac to the U-District) will have a really bad transfer. It isn’t just bad for the neighborhood: Every option is bad for riders.

  2. I agree with the Urbanist that an at-grade 4th Street option is the best option. I would take it one step further and not even replace the 4th street viaduct — turn it into more of a mezzanine / ped plaza that could fully integrate with Union station AND King Street Station. We just built a giant highway on the waterfront, and traffic between SODO and Downtown has other pathways that they can take to get to/through Downtown. Obviously capacity of total number of vehicles movable per day will go down — but that would be a fair tradeoff to provide a less expensive project and a higher-quality pedestrian and transit experience.

    This assumes it’s possible to tunnel from that grade to the midtown but I would guess the main challenge would the DSTT, but the BNSF tunnel already does that so as long as the new tunnel matches the grade and alignment of that tunnel there shouldn’t be significant conflicts.

    1. I would add that nobody should assume that the current car capacity of downtown Seattle will be needed by the time West Seattle Link opens. We will have had three major Link extensions running for many years, and it is not clear whether downtown office SOV commuting will ever recover to pre-pandemic levels.

    2. Tearing up 4th is not just about cars, it’s also about buses. Tons of bus route use 4th between Weller and Jackson. You’ve got all the buses to South Seattle, Renton, Federal Way, Tacoma, etc. Plus all those buses to north Seattle that layover at the Ryerson Bus Base between runs. You could probably concoct a detour consisting of temporary bus lanes on nearby streets if you really wanted to, but there would still be service delays relative to the current state of affairs.

      Honestly, I agree with RossB. The obvious solution is to just find a way to fit everything into the tunnel we have and not build the second tunnel at all. The second tunnel will not contribute to coverage, nor is it necessary for capacity. A deeper station and more cumbersome transfers makes for a worse passenger experience. Just do whatever signal upgrades need to happen in the existing downtown tunnel and be done with it.

      1. It’s a whole lot harder than “signal upgrades”. Uou have to junction to Ballard SOMEwhere.

      2. Yes, but $1 billion for a junction is still cheaper than $5 billion for a new tunnel.

    3. Not exactly, Stephen. The Link tracks at Jackson are at the same elevation as are the BNSF tracks. At the curve into the tubes about a half block north, the tubes dive steeply.
      I understand that the top of the tube is only five feet below the BNSF tracks at the east side of their tunnel.

      A shallow DSTT2 would have to be squeezed against the BNSF retaining wall and be atlesst four or five feet higher at track level to clear the existing tubes, which are obviously shallower east of the BNSF bore.

      Maybe Fourth Avenue could be raised a bit, and the trains would definitely be running with pans pressed down, but it might work. It’s certainly worth spending a couple of milliin investigating what the resl clesrances are.

  3. The downtown business stakeholders would object to turning 4th Ave. into a pedestrian plaza to save money on WSBLE. They would argue that if you need to save money then build surface lines and stations in West Seattle and Ballard, which was the original design, but which they object to now. Not at a key downtown arterial.

    The region really didn’t build a highway along the waterfront; it built a park to connect the city to its waterfront. Otherwise car and truck interests would have replaced the elevated 99 with the same which had much greater capacity.

    The preferred alternative is not affordable but is politically acceptable as long as the CID gets its wish and the line runs west of 5th because East Link is coming. This idea that ST can just dictate design to these kinds of stakeholders is not realistic, which is why the preferred alternative — as unaffordable as it is — is the preferred alternative, and my guess is Harrell is on their side.

    He ran on a law and order, and business, platform, and right now he is having a hard time seeing how transit — or WSBLE decades into the future — helps his goals. Hence the fact we still don’t have a head of SDOT, and may not for a long time, and my guess is the next director won’t be very transit oriented unless downtown Seattle is so hot the congestion and lack of parking make taking transit to downtown necessary.

    I would be very interested to eavesdrop on the first meeting between Harrell and Timm. It is a catch-22, especially when East Link opens: you need secure, safe and clean light rail stations to get folks to ride to Seattle, but you need a secure, safe, clean and vibrant downtown to get them to WANT to go downtown. Timm might wonder why the stations need to be fortresses, and why would anyone ride transit to a downtown that needs fortresses as stations.

    1. There is no preferred alternative in Intl Dist yet. ST sidestepped the issue in the DEIS to decide later. There are four alternatives with equal weight: 5th Avenue shallow, 5th Avenue deep, 4th Avenue shallow, 4th Avenue deep. ST wasn’t ready to favor some stakeholders over others yet, or it didn’t want to say no to a minority community yet.

      A mayor is responsible for the entire operations of the city, not just law and order and business. In the debates Harrell claimed to be a long-time transit activist, if I’m remembering who said what correctly.

      Transportation is a basic need no matter the size or condition of the cities. People have appointments to get to, things to do, people to see. By “fortress” I assume you mean a large underground station. Timm (I know nothing about her background yet) might question that direction, but that would mean questioning a lot of stations, not just Intl Dist. It’s no more fortressy than any other. And I should think you’d like fortresses because you’re so safety-minded.

    2. As much as they want to convince us it is a waterfront park, it is clearly turning out to be a waterfront highway, with some greenspace and “pedestrian friendly” features.

      1. Only if you look at it pessimistically. The bioswales, trails, and plazas aren’t there yet, so it can be hard to gauge how it would look when they’re there. The seven-lane stroad is only south of Columbia Street, while the main part of the waterfront is further north..

      2. I agree with Mike, I think it will be pretty nice. The really wide road is mainly to hold cars for the ferry. Unless we move the car-ferry dock out of downtown, that is something we just have to live with. There are very few cities (if any) that have a downtown this big with so many cars being unloaded right into the middle of it. I think those car ferries should be sent north and south, but that won’t happen for a while (if ever).

      3. Four lanes are state-mandated GP lanes. Two lanes are transit-only lanes. One lane is a ferry queue. So the really wide road is mainly for cars and trucks. Trucks going to the Interbay ports can’t use the 99 tunnel because it doesn’t go that way.

        At Columbia the buses turn right and the transit lanes disappear. At Madison the ferry lane disappears. So the road narrows to four lanes from there past Pike Place Market. Then in Belltown the traffic moves away from the waterfront to Elliott, and the waterfont road narrows to two lanes. That part will be a later phase of the waterfront renovation.

      4. Has anyone driven off the ferry at Coleman dock?

        It’s already a Glorious Concrete Car Sewer.

        We’ll find out what the movers and shakers are really made of when they start building north of the ferry dock.

      5. The Bremerton and Bainbridge ferries dock downtown so that the pedestrian/walk on passengers can walk directly downtown to work (or did) and to shops and restaurants and so don’t need cars. Walking on and going to Winslow is fun too, especially for tourists.

        Hopefully these ferries move more and more to a reservation system. When they did that for the Keystone—Port Townshend run the lines to get on the ferry shortened dramatically.

        I agree having a long line of cars lined up on the road is not ideal, but the solution is a reservation system. I doubt WSF will abandon the terminal and holding area because downtown merchants and residents like the ability of riders and tourists and diners and shoppers to walk on and off. The world doesn’t revolve around transit, certainly today.

      6. How is a reservation system supposed to work if you’re going hiking in the Olympics and don’t know what time you’ll be back?

        Nearly every time I do take a car on the ferry, that’s the reason why, so I hope there’s a good answer.

      7. Most people do know their schedules, whether it is a plane flight, bus trip, dinner or ferry. If you don’t know what time you will be back from a hike you can: 1. Make a later reservation and get a beer if early; or 2. Wait in the ferry line for several hours with the others without a reservation.

        Not 100% of the spots are reserved. There are always drive ons. But we have found on busy summer runs having a reservation and avoiding hours in line is worth building a schedule around. ESPECIALLY if you have kids.

        For Seattle the point is with a 50% reservation system you remove a lot of cars lined up along the street waiting for a ferry, especially during busy times.

        You don’t have to make a reservation if you enjoy spending several hours in a ferry line, or on the Keystone Ferry not getting on at all, but we prefer having a reservation. Same reason I don’t fly standby or like to show up at a very popular restaurant on Saturday night without a reservation.

      8. Making a reservation is only partially successful when WSF can’t staff sailings. I think Friday traffic reports said 3 hour wait to Kingston because they only had one boat in service at evening peak. Drive around! If you have to wait just one boat on a normal schedule it’s a wash time wise and driving is cheaper; even with the toll.

        I’m thinking the only way out of the mess is for WA to nix the marine highway designation and sell the concession back to a private party. The State labor contracts make it impossible to hire enough new staff to ever maintain service and the build in WA mandate makes boats 30-50% more expensive than what BC pays. Ferries are the great sprawl inducer. Make it less subsidized and you’ll see a lot more fast foot ferries and better transit on the west side.

      9. As far as Edmonds goes, Friday’s issue was a mechanical problem. They had to take the bigger Spokane ferry out of service, and were only
        left with the smaller Sealth.
        However the rest of the weekend’s 1 boat service was due to short staffing. Apparently new hires aren’t sticking around. The Extra-Board life just isn’t worth the money.

      10. Bernie;
        The whole reason WSF was made a public entity was because the private sector could not operate it in a cost effective manner.

        Operating conditions in BC are quite different, including the fact that they don’t have to have vessels that meet US Coast Guard, Jones Act, and other requirements.

        A private operator would bring Puget Sound ferries back to the 1950s: unable to attract even fewer employees than they have now due to lower wages, unable to pay for investments in infrastructure because of a need to pay the shareholders, and no real operating cost savings because they have to work within the same expensive federal regulations.

        Economic privatization of public operations assumes a surplus of workers that are willing to work cheaper than the public equivalent. This condition hasn’t been the case in the transportation sector for some 25 years, and has been acute worldwide in the maritime sector for some 10 years. It’s dirty, cold, wet, unpleasant, and all too frequently dangerous work, especially in positions having to deal with the American public. Without a European style system of encouraging high school students to go into non-college educated skilled trades, expect the shortage in this sector to continue to get worse in the USA.

      11. The Bremerton and Bainbridge ferries dock downtown so that the pedestrian/walk on passengers can walk directly downtown to work (or did) and to shops and restaurants and so don’t need cars.

        Yes, exactly, but that can be done without car ferries. Look around the world, and it is rare to find car ferries right to a major downtown area. As I wrote, I’ve done some research, and I think we have the biggest downtown with a car ferry. (It is a difficult thing to research though, so it is possible I missed a city.) Dublin and Helsinki have car ferries right to downtown, but they are both smaller cities than Seattle, with much smaller car ferries. There might be a bigger downtown with a car ferry, but I haven’t found it (and chances are, it has a lot fewer cars being dumped downtown).

        In contrast, there are much bigger downtown areas with passenger ferries. The Staten Island ferry drops commuters and tourists right into Manhattan. Instanbul has one of the biggest passenger ferry systems in the world. There are passenger ferries right into San Fransisco. My point is that at some point, we should replace the downtown car ferries with passenger ferries, and send the car ferries outside of downtown (to West Seattle and Edmonds). The car ferry drivers would help subsidize the additional passenger ferries, which could be run at a regular schedule (e. g. hourly) instead of the haphazard schedule that exists now. It is much easier to run passenger ferries at a regular schedule (they are cheaper to operate).

      12. Why would you move car ferries from downtown if downtown is where most of the drivers are going to? West Seattle or Edmonds don’t want the car traffic, their roads are not set up to handle it, and now all those cars would have to travel to downtown Seattle after getting off the ferry.

        Plus you dramatically increase the costs by having separate passenger and car ferries, which would raise passenger fares pretty substantially because already car fares subsidize passengers.. The idea that Kitsap Co. can provide any kind of decent transit to such a large and undense county is unrealistic. About the only kind of first/last mile access that works for walk on passengers from the westside is park and rides, although today fewer folks are coming to Seattle from the west side which is not a good thing.

        Places like Manhattan or London are exceptions because there are tunnels and bridges to access them, some with trains and some underwater, and both sides have extensive transit systems. Plus both sides of the trip are very dense. This region cannot afford that kind of infrastructure for the west side traveler.

        Plus let’s not forget Kitsap County is some of the most affordable housing.

        If the argument to move car ferries from the docks downtown is because you don’t like cars the problem there is the business interests do because they bring shoppers and workers, and like any transit the goal is to provide mobility at subsidized fares. Bifurcating car and passenger ferries would make passenger ferries cost prohibitive, which is why most private passenger ferries don’t pencil out. If you ride the Bremerton ferry it looks like a fraternity after a party. These are not rich folks.

        If however the goal is to reduce the number of cars lined up on the street waiting to board a ferry a reservation system would help with that, and does on some routes, although I can tell you the very steep fares for cars on the Bainbridge run causes more folks to carpool.

        Probably the only cost effective solution if you want to move ferries out of downtown — an iconic image for Seattle and very popular with tourists and local businesses — then you would have to move the passenger and car ferry to an area outside the city and have passengers take transit once they get off on the west side. I don’t see that happening.

      13. The whole reason WSF was made a public entity was because the private sector could not operate it in a cost effective manner.
        That’s an often repeated urban legend. Black Ball very much wanted to continue ferry operations. Someone posted a link to a much more in depth history but here’s the short history of Black Ball. It’s the State that’s never been able to run the service profitably.

      14. The car ferry and car queuing is essential. The WSP is not just for joyriding but is for work, medical appointments, deliveries and lots of other things that necessitate travel by more than just transit or active modes. It’s not like other places where there are better direct driving options so the ferries can be for foot traffic only.

        A huge failure in Link planning is ignoring ferry connections. Where were the complaints that Link didn’t connect to the ferries in 2016? Why wasn’t the FSSC extended to end at the ferry terminal? Even now, a creative enhancement to Smith Cove Station siting and design could create an amazing convenient ferry connection for all of Kitsap. But no one seems to propose that. Even Midtown Station could have been proposed to be at Alaskan Way and Madison rather than Fifth and Madison (featuring a shallower or maybe even an aerial station), and the hill climb could have been a separate incline ride like Istanbul, Haifa and private estates in Medina have.

        Moving the terminal further from Downtown would reduce its accessibility to people who use active modes or transit on the Seattle side. So, car storage is a systemic requirement.

      15. The problem with a private WSF is the same for a lot of transit: you need a basic grid. Private carriers will only select the most profitable runs like Bainbridge and ignore the others so the state then has to provide ferry service to the least profitable runs without the ability to subsidize those runs with the more profitable runs.

        No doubt ferry design, and requirement they are built in WA because those are good paying jobs, or electrification and environmental regulations, add to the cost. But there is the belief that connecting the east and west sides or Puget Sound is good for both sides and creates a lot of economic activity. Driving around is just not practical, especially when traffic is bad.

        Staff shortages are a reality for a lot businesses today. A lot of WSF’s staffing issue was the vaccine mandate which resulted in a lot of sick call ins. I think ferries have to cover 65% of their cost through fares, which is much higher than Metro or ST, even though the average rider income on most ferries is lower than on Link, certainly during peak hours.

        I just doubt you could find a private vendor willing to operate all the runs, or that the savings would be great or would flow into the pockets of riders or taxpayers. Plus if you were the governor you could be opening up a hornets nest of citizen anger if prices went higher or service declined with a private vendor. If the vendor went bankrupt then what?

      16. Al, a gondola could connect both the Fauntleroy and downtown ferry terminals to Link. In West Seattle it would depend on the route, I still think it would make more sense to build a Duwamish bypass than to the Junction, but either one could be served by a ferry gondola. Funny that you mention Haifa, they just opened an urban gondola line, so does Ankara and Tunis.

  4. A shallow tunnel under 5th Avenue is the best option. I guess I didn’t realize this before, but a shallow tunnel under 4th Avenue will never happen, because car traffic capacity (which our leadership unfortunately perceives as precious) would be cut, albeit temporarily. Possibly even a deep-bore tunnel under 4th would be perceived as too disruptive. Which is for the the best, as 4th is definitely an inferior place to put it.

    As a former resident of the ID, I am not sympathetic to the pleas of ID “advocates”. The neighborhood has been in relative decline for years, but it’s not because of too much construction – COVID aside, it’s because of too little. You can see their misplaced diagnosis of the problem in that they assume that better transit access (yes! it can be better) will have no benefit to the residents of the neighborhood.

    1. How does a second transit tunnel under 5th benefit the CID? Frequency will double with East Link, and that is a very desirable customer. I actually can see an eastsider driving to a park and ride (which will be empty) to take East Link across the bridge to the CID. Next stop Pioneer Square not so much. Of course Harrell has to do his part.

      WSBLE won’t bring a lot of folks to the CID. According to Martin’s research 400 West Seattleites will move from cars to light rail daily. The rest already take the bus which has better first/last mile access in WS.

      The CID has been a dumping ground for junkies and the homeless under Durkan. The pandemic hurt. The real concern is building heights increase and it “gentrifies” and becomes another retail desert like Belltown.

      The reality is most restaurants and retail don’t covet transit riders. Look at 3rd Ave. East Link runs along 112th. I think CID stakeholders know what is best for them. It isn’t years of construction to bring a few transit riders from West Seattle to the CID. It is true the CID can be a little funky but it isn’t dangerous like the rest of downtown, and still has restaurant/retail density although I really miss Sea Garden.

      In any case I think it is moot. How long will it take Timm to read the DEIS for WSBLE and ask what does “third party funding”mean, how much, who pays, and how does ST make them pay. I doubt she plans to spend the next five years trying to sell N. King Co. on a $11.5 billion (Rogoff didn’t make up that figure) SB5528 levy because ST 3 was flat out dishonestly priced followed by an existential operations levy.

      Timm comes from a bus background. Nimble, flexible and cost efficient. She probably thinks like Ross does. She will see WSBLE is stupid transit mode for modes sake planning. WSBLE won’t get built.

      1. And then the other Subareas will be on the hook for JUST AS MANY BILLIONS because ST3 taxes will be collected in North King but not spent. You’ll owe the folks in Seattle.


      2. Tom, I am not suggesting WSBLE is a subarea vs. subarea issue. It is a N. King Co. subarea issue.

        I am not objecting to the $275 million east King Co. will pay towards DSTT2 although WSBLE is wildly more extravagant than East Link, I don’t see how WSBLE benefits E. King Co.,, and I have doubts the three other subareas have their $275 million. I am also not objecting to the billions in subsidies East King Co. has already provided N. King Co. and will continue to provide with East Link trains continuing to Northgate so Seattle has 3 minute frequencies and the Eastside 8 minutes.

        What I am saying is:

        1. Know how much each alternative will REALLY cost. If it is ST doing the estimating I would double the cost estimate. NEVER trust a DEIS.

        2. Figure out the alignment the major stakeholders will accept. The Urbanist article shows how many different interests are involved.

        3. Understand most of the stakeholders — including Harrell — don’t see WSBLE, or transit in general, as one of Seattle’s most critical issues today.

        4. Be honest about how much revenue N. King Co will really have, not just for WSBLE but all projects. You can’t “extend” project completion five years when rising ROW and construction costs are the driving factors and ST taxes remain the same rate and save $6 billion like the “realignment” claims.

        5. If ACTUAL revenue won’t match ACTUAL costs for WSBLE based on the ACCEPTABLE alignment and design SHOW us where the shortfall will come from. If that is a SB5528 levy for billions then pass the 5528 levy first. Seattle and transit advocates have a habit of thinking everything is other people’s money, but this not true with subarea equity. Show me that Seattle neighborhoods that will not benefit from WSBLE will vote to tax themselves billions when the terrible ridership numbers for WSBLE will come during the election.

        6. Finally, and most importantly, N. King Co. needs to ask itself is WSBLE the best use of transit its funds. Other subareas don’t want to steal N. King Co.’s revenue that is subarea specific, but don’t want the most important area for light rail to blow its whole wad, and to probably still have inadequate revenue to complete WSBLE. Or for endless extensions that raise revenue the other subareas don’t need. Otherwise pass a ST 4.

        One of the things that often confuses me on this blog is transit advocates who believe any transit spending no matter how bad is better than not spending that public money. Putting aside those tens of billions of dollars come at the expense of other social needs like housing or healthcare bad transit comes at the expense of good transit.

        Martin’s research of the DEIS shows 400 drivers will switch to WSBLE daily, and each intended rider will cost close to $360,000 over five decades with a total price tag of around $20 billion.

        I just don’t understand how someone like me who rarely rides transit and lives in a subarea that is fairly agnostic about transit (especially as an agent for anything other than transportation)) and built all of East Link for $5.5 billion is more skeptical and concerned about WSBLE than the transit advocates when my subarea has little financial risk from WSBLE.

      3. “One of the things that often confuses me on this blog is transit advocates who believe any transit spending no matter how bad is better than not spending that public money.”

        I’m not sure if you consider me in this category, but my interest is mobility outcomes. How much does a project give people more freedom to access a wider variety of places, at the times they want, with shorter travel time? In other words, how much does it close the gap between transit and driving, or even surpass it sometimes? Does it do it for the largest cross-section of people and destinations?

        The core of Link (Lynnwood/Redmond/FW) is definitely good. My own Link+bus commute was cut in half when Northgate Link opened. While it’s not better for everyone, it’s better for those who can take a 1-seat Link ride instead of a 2-seat bus or Link+bus ride or a slower 1-seat bus ride. It finally gives us a transit trunk we can build around.

        Some of Link is more questionable, like the extensions to Everett and Tacoma. They’re not that much better than transfers at Lynnwood or FW. But if the public/government is willing to build it, it’s more seamless non-car access throughout the region so I don’t see a reason to oppose it.

        WSBLE I originally liked in principle, but its many flaws have dragged it down to the point I wouldn’t be adverse to scrapping it. The flaws I’m referring to are exactly the metrics in my first paragraph: Ballard-14th is a long walk from Ballard’s center; CID-4th is a longer walk to CID destinations and Jackson Street bus transfers and has limited walkshed; the very deep downtown stations hinder transfers; and ST missed the opportunity to lake the existing Intl Dist station center-platform for Eastside-airport transfers among others.

        Conservatives love to talk about how liberals want to spend “other people’s money” as if it’s going to nothing. But it’s going to things that benefit all of us. Not every public expenditure is, but most of it is. Europeans and Canadians have higher taxes but they also have higher-quality services and stability. And they can spend more of their income on discretionary items because they don’t have to spend/save it on basic necessities like Americans do. Most Canadians have private insurance on top of its Medicare system, but their total cost of medical/home/car/other insurance is half of what it would cost here. More public transit means cars aren’t as much of a necessity, even in suburbs similar to American suburbs.

        I focus on transit because it’s something that matters to me, and because the status quo is so neglectful of transit — we’re in last place compared to other industrialized countries. Of course we need a wholistic approach that addresses housing, jobs, food, and the environment as well as transit

        “Putting aside those tens of billions of dollars come at the expense of other social needs like housing or healthcare bad transit comes at the expense of good transit.”

      4. “One of the things that often confuses me on this blog is transit advocates who believe any transit spending no matter how bad is better than not spending that public money.”

        I wouldn’t say that at all. Many posts I see by “transit advocates” are often questioning what local transit agencies do. Many question the utility of serving Paine Field or Issaquah for example.

        Personally, I believe in making decisions based on data — both performance and financial. That means sometimes I am in favor of spending more money and sometimes not. When it comes to ST3, I’ve been quite skeptical and even voted no because I knew enough in 2016 that the cost estimates were seriously flawed and contingencies were only 10 percent. Comparing ST3 projects to other ones that were happening around the country as well as standard FTA contingency guidance of 30 percent proved that, particularly WSBLE. Even now, I don’t see any Board members questioning data or using it to make capital investment decisions unless it’s slight cost differences between nuanced alternatives — and I never see them talk about user travel time or experience unless it’s obviously a problem (like elevators only at CID which will have high volumes of transfers and crowd surges from sporting events — and at the time I stated that the deep station options were a waste of time and money to study for the DEIS).

        There are other blogs that don’t take advocacy skepticism seriously. I find STB refreshing because there isn’t universal acceptance of transit agency’s party lines, and some posters will even change opinions based on reason.

        I don’t the blog’s outcome is as much “pro transit spending” as much as it is “pro good transit spending”.

      5. Part of it is the failure of Forward Thrust paralyzing everything for a generation. I don’t want to throw away the best opportunity we might have. There’s lots that transit fans don’t like about ST1/2/3, but it’s what was able to get the widest support among the public, local politicians, and legislature, enough to pass.

      6. it’s what was able to get the widest support among the public, local politicians, and legislature, enough to pass.
        And that’s why it’s a fail, you have horse designed by committee instead of anything useful. But the biggest issue is that to sell it at the polls the cost estimates are a joke.

        I think you could approach this by voting first on ROW acquisition. The monorail scam wasn’t financed in a responsible manor (no different than ST) but the ROW that was acquired should have remained public and leased back to private business until needed. If studies show the route doesn’t pencil out then you have all the equity in the purchased ROW to pivot to plan B.

      7. “The CID has been a dumping ground for junkies and the homeless under Durkan.”

        There’s the DT we know. Ignoring the stats on the homeless and drug use as well as the fact that Durkan spent tens of millions of dollars a year on sweeps.

      8. And homeless have been in Pioneer Square since the 1980s.

        You have to get the support of the largest number of politicians to get anything to pass. You have to get the support of the legislature to be allowed to raise taxes for a large transit project.

      9. … largest number of public and politicians, I meant. Without the politicians, the cities and counties would be opposed. Without the public, you don’t have the votes. Most members of the public vote on other factors than transit best practices. This article is an example: CID activists wanting the train away from them instead of where it’s best for passengers. They probably vote that way too.

      10. Durkan spent tens of millions of dollars a year on sweeps.
        Reference for that? My take is the opposite; millions spent to encourage camps. Whatever, the result was an increase.

      11. “One of the things that often confuses me on this blog is transit advocates who believe any transit spending no matter how bad is better than not spending that public money.”

        That kind of attitude basically sums up the supporters of the CCC streetcar line. They support it because it’s an additional $200+ million spent on transit that would otherwise not be spent on transit. They ignore the fact that the amount of actual mobility improvement you get for the $200 million is tiny at best. (For cyclists, it’s a big negative; the additional streetcar tracks in downtown would send more people to the hospital).

        When ST3 came up in 2016, I recall, what I really wanted was lots of new ST Express service, and a few targeted Link extensions. The actual plan was much more rail centric than I preferred, but I ultimately decided that a yes vote might result in a few crumbs for bus improvements that appear in 5 years, rather than 40, while a no vote was guaranteed to produce zero bus improvements. So, I voted yes.

        It’s tempting in situations like this to vote no and hope a better plan comes along later. But, quite often, things don’t work out that way; the new plan may end up being worse, or never proposed at all. Had ST3 failed in 2016, the most likely result would have been ST waiting until 2020 to try again, then postponing the vote indefinitely when COVID hit.

        So, had the 2016 vote failed, we would not have a plan that provides more mobility for the money. We would not have a Seattle-only plan that focuses on key urban mobility corridors, rather than a line to Everett. We would simply have nothing. That’s the problem with holding out for a better plan, rather than voting for what’s given to you.

      12. Another confusing thing the comment section once said is “If Seattle provided a free house to every homeless person living a tent, there’d be no more homelessness in Seattle.” The exact opposite would happen. If every person who lived in a tent was given a free house, the number of people living in tents would multiply.

      13. The goal is universal housing availability. You make it so people don’t have to pitch a tent to get housing. Then there won’t be more tents.

      14. One of the things that often confuses me on this blog is transit advocates who believe any transit spending no matter how bad is better than not spending that public money.

        I think that is a fair criticism, although I’m not sure why it confuses you. It is a fairly simple and common approach — any transit improvement is better than nothing. I think it summarizes the opinions of the current editorial staff of this blog. I can’t think of a single transit project that they opposed. Even things as dubious as the streetcar.

        It is a reasonable approach, and one taken by people of various stripes. A lot of people want to spend more money on the police of Seattle, for example. Is there any guarantee these cops will do a better job? Of course not. The same is true for dealing with the homeless. Sweeps won’t work if you don’t deal with the root of the problem (high housing costs). For that matter, neither will a new agency.

        There are people who are the opposite, of course. There are people who will oppose any transit project, no matter how sensible. Move Seattle was probably the most cost effective proposal for public transit ever proposed for Seattle, and yet the Seattle Times opposed it (because taxes, of course).

        Most of us — or at least a lot of us — are more nuanced in our thinking. But within that realm you are bound to have disagreements. No proposal is perfect. Every proposal has something to offer. There is a line at which a project goes from being useful enough to warrant the investment, and the point at which someone thinks it is better to start over. Everyone has a different line, and everyone has a different theory as to what a failed proposal would mean. For me, ST3 just offered too little, and cost too much to be worth it. I felt like starting over would have meant a smaller package that would actually be better. Others felt the flaws were acceptable, given what was going to be added (with Ballard Link being cited the most).

        Now, of course, things are more flawed than ever. The transfers between the two lines look terrible (at best). The new stations will be extremely deep. The Ballard Station may be even worse than proposed (and the proposal was a compromise to save money). Same with the West Seattle proposal as every Junction station is worse than the one the voters approved. The best parts of ST3 were never that good, and have gotten worse. The worst parts remain bad.

      15. Bernie, I am looking for my source on the 2018 numbers, but it made news at the time. It is my understanding that Seattle spent over 25 million on homeless sweeps in 2018 alone. Several sources are available that show Seattle spent 10.2 million on sweeps in 2017.


        Sweep is a loaded term. As noted in the article 37% of the homeless accepted housing, and 64% accepted some form of help as a result of the “sweep”. This was 2017 before Covid when congregate shelters were available. I think any “sweeps” went down during Covid because of the lack of congregate shelter space, although some disagree.

        Right now the region spends well over $100,000/year for each of the 11,751 homeless folks on the streets. One of King Co.’s distressed shelter rooms costs the county $65,000/year, more than a cruise ship. Obviously a great deal of the money raised for the homeless is not reaching them. King Co. spent over $230 million to purchase 9 “distressed” hotels to use as emergency housing. According to some sources like the Puget Sound Business Journal when federal, state and local money is totaled the region spends $1 billion/year on homelessness and subsidized housing. and yet the problem only worsens.

      17. I have enormous distaste for the article you have posted, whether for statistics or no. It argues the solution to homelessness is the restoration of social bonds. And then, it uses every person in Seattle who is interested in restoration of social bonds as an example of what is being done wrong.

        In fact, what he speaks of, the idea that addiction and social disorder have their origin in the lack of connection, is nothing new. In fact, it is at the core of 12-step fellowships, which have been around for almost 100 years.

        But I don’t think he understands. Someone who speaks of “compassion” with such disdain is not someone to be trusted. OF COURSE there are problems with big social service organizations. OF COURSE there are problems with perverse incentives and unintended consequences. Compassion is not the problem. And he has no interest in the answer.

        If we listened to people like Chris Rufo who, as it happens, is a wanton opportunist who wants to destroy public education, we would have no society. We would have a collection of individuals who feel no responsibility, no commonality. He is the worst kind of conservative activist, the kind that wants to burn everything down. He is a bomb thrower and nothing more. I’d caution you on taking anything he writes at face value.

      18. Any comment that continues to promote a long-running line to the effect that “X dollars is being spent on (a stunningly exact) Y homeless people in Seattle” in order to posit an air of wasteful spending ignores much about the dynamic nature of homelessness and how many people living on the edge of homelessness have not been added to the homeless corps.

    2. “what does ‘third party funding’ mean, how much, who pays, and how does ST make them pay.”

      1. “third party funding” means it comes from something other than ST3 taxes.
      2. “How much” depends on which alternative we’re talking about and its engineering cost.
      3. “Who pays” is the entities that volunteer to pay. Most likely that would be the city, a coalition of businesses, or a philanthropist.
      4. They would sign a contract with ST committing to pay.

      ST isn’t going to approve projects for construction that depend on third-party funding without the funding being in place. The alternatives are in the EIS as options in case an opportunity is available. Nobody has stepped up to offer the funding, so it’s unlikely those alternatives will be chosen. In other words, no tunnels in West Seattle or Ballard.

      However, a new wrinkle has developed, in that the cost of the non-tunnel alternatives in Ballard (I think it’s Ballard) have risen to be similar to the tunnel alternatives, and the Coast Guard has forbidden a less than 200′. (ST’s alternatives were 70′ moveable and 130′ fixed.) That may make the new default a tunnel. Since it would then be baseline rather than an extra, third-party funding wouldn’t be required (although it would still be welcome). ST would then have to either extend the completion date to raise enough money for it, or cancel Ballard Link, or truncate it south of the Ship Canal, I would guess.

      The Intl Dist alternatives never mentioned third-party funding; it was only for the extra tunnels in West Seattle and Ballard that weren’t in the representative alignment. The representative alignment at Intl Dist was always underground.

    3. Sometimes tunnels end up being no more expensive than others. Northgate Link was initially going to emerge at I-5 & Ravenna Blvd and then follow the freeway to Northgate. Then Roosevelt asked for an underground station at Roosevelt Way. Subsequent engineering showed that it was actually less expensive to extend the tunnel to 93rd than the original plan, because it would have cost money to weave up and down and around I-5, and the freeway is very old so ST would have to make sure not to touch it so it wouldn’t be liable for repairs. So starting a tunnel is expensive, but if you’re building a tunnel anyway, sometimes it’s economical to extend it further underground.

      To those who say CID should get a more-expensive 4th Avenue or deep tunnel because wealthy white Roosevelt did, it’s actually the opposite of Roosevelt. In Roosevelt the default alignment was along the freeway. The neighborhood wanted it three blocks closer and at the center of the business district. That necessitated reconstructing the 65th block and the 67th (QFC) block. It was the neighborhood that brought on that reconstruction to get the station, because by default the station would have been at I-5 and those blocks wouldn’t have been affected. So a comparable circumstance to the CID would be if the default alignment were 65th & 12th and the neighborhood wanted it pushed away to the freeway, Or if the CID station were at 1st Avenue and the neighborhood wanted it brought to 5th.

      It’s also noticeable that the countries most represented in the CID all have extensive subway networks with stations right at their neighborhood centers for the best pedestrian access, and they consider it a strong advantage rather than a disadvantage. Yet somehow in the CID transit isn’t important, coveted customers drive, and predominantly lower-income workers in one of Seattle’s densest neighborhood don’t take transit to work? That sounds unlikely.

      1. It is interesting that tunnels magically cost less only north of Yesler.

      2. It depends on the specific geography of the immediate area. It could be north of Yesler, south of Yesler, or on the Eastside. The Urbanist article (which I hadn’t seen when I wrote the comment), says that both the Ballard and West Seattle non-tunnel alignments now cost closer to the tunnel alignments.

      3. It is not that the tunneling has gotten cheaper, it is that the elevated lines have gotten more expensive.

    4. I never fully understood why no alternative split the track directions. Here is an example:

      Northbound trains for DSTT2 routed between the existing platform on the sliver between Union Station and the existing southbound Link platform. That probably would need to be sunken to get underneath the DSTT tubes north of there.

      The new southbound Link platforms put underneath 5th Ave that side could just tear out the station wall and turn the existing platform into a double platform. That would require closing 5th but the necessary hole would only need to be just enough to put one track (and the existing platform could be used).

      I know engineers played with the configurations as split stations. I’m not sure why these weren’t explored further.

      Another option would be for DSTT to be for trains in one direction and DSTT2 to be for trains in the other direction. That could mean that there would be no need to cross under the DSTT. The weaving could be south of ID and north of Westlake. Rather than build the new Midtown station, the two new platforms would be placed attached to existing Pioneer Square and Symphony stations. Heck, Symphony Station is so close to Westlake that it could even be closed and used for crossover tracks.

      I’m not saying that ST should do these things. I’m merely saying that more configurations could be studied. After all, the 5th diagonal option appeared in the DEIS without any explanation why.

      Regardless, studying DSTT use and not studying shorter automated trains are also quite reasonable as alternatives. They may create other issues — but that’s why there are alternatives in a DEIS in the first place!

      1. I wondered about doing something like what you desctibed, but at USSS. The tubes wiggle a little entering the station to and from th south, so putting a northbound turnout at the south end of the wiggle would get you enough room to be far enough apart to have a track on the back side of the northbound platform. Since the turnout would already have been made, the track to the North could dive enough to get under the Westlake vault.

        Then I remembered the thousands of tons of station above sitting on that wall that would be removed. Oopsie.

        But that’s not true of IDS because it’s shallow cut-and-cover.

        This is a good idea!

    5. I find it bizarre that the 4th Ave option would be opposed because of an unwillingness to close the viaduct …. yet the viaduct will need to be closed in the same time frame to rebuilt anyways.

  5. I think they should take over the parking garage under Union Station and the access drives, and use that for the row.

  6. Think the 5th Avenue station option won’t affect Transit and other traffic much? Let’s review.

    5th Avenue is an electric trolley corridor for many trolley coaches to enter and leave service. Will this mean it will be necessary to install trolley wires along 6th Avenue? Or Maynard?

    Operationally (after the station opens) this station will be a key to riders from the South End and Tacoma/South King County to transfer trains between the 1-Line (south) and the not-so-new-at-that-point 3-Line (UW/north) and the 2-Line (Bellevue/east). How efficient will those inter-station transfers be, and how will that affect ridership from the South End?

    It sure appears to me that there are constituencies at Sound Transit engaged in dangling the pea in a civic shell game in order to get their preferred option while focusing the voices of concern at more defensible choices while neatly avoiding more problematic controversies. (We already well know that decisions made decades ago now for the at-grade Martin Luther King Blvd segment are having an on-going effect on system performance, ridership and safety in that corridor, and may forever in the lifetime of the service.)

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