Too little internet content is about unironic appreciation for people doing the right thing. So good for Dan Strauss, trying to put the light rail station where the people are in his district:
“Placing the station to the east undermines our city’s work to create a densely connected community,” Strauss said. “This is infrastructure that will last 100 years, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.”
Moreover, Seattle’s preferred alternative presentation contains a lot of good advice for Sound Transit, particularly in the all-important tunnel north of Chinatown. Seattle Subway has written previously about the best choices for future riders. Though I don’t agree with 100% of either document, I invite you to compare results.
Elsewhere in old friend Lizz Giordano’s report for Publicola, there’s less exciting news. Lisa Herbold is extensively quoted about “impacts” without much apparent regard for future riders. Maybe Sound Transit should just build the Gray Line and no one would be impacted at all. Most notably in her district, Seattle requests a Delridge station by the steel plant to keep it away from neighborhoods, and thus from potential riders.
I don’t like this framework for thinking about the project, but at least there’s a recommended decision that can move us forward! That’s more that can be said about the City’s Chinatown advice:
The city doesn’t plan to pick a preferred alternative in the CID, and is asking Sound Transit to refrain from doing so as well. Instead, the city will recommend that Sound Transit extend the study period for another six to nine months to further engage with the community. Seattle leaders also want to see more details about potential displacement in the area, along with mitigation strategies to help the neighborhood deal with construction as well as long-term changes.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, said Betty Lau, a leader in the CID and member of the Chong Wa Benevolent Association who is pushing for a Fourth Avenue station.
She’s optimistic about this pause.
“I think with the extra time and talking with more community members, they’ll get a better idea of how these things really impact the people who live there, who do business, who depend on the tourism and on the regional draw of the three neighborhoods—Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon,” Lau said. “They also have more time to work on environmental studies.
Just one more public meeting will solve this!
It is already extremely clear that organizations representing Chinatown don’t want the Fifth Avenue Station. This is well understood. Nine months of further comment gathering is not going to change this assessment. If Seattle and Sound Transit prefer to add schedule and budget risk on Fourth Avenue to be responsive to that desire and solve other problems, then so be it. If they instead choose to build a deep station and make the experience of using one of the two most important stations in the system atrocious, that’s a choice they can make as well. Or, they could do the thing that gets the thing built, and might be good for the Chinatown of 2040, but not the one of 2030. Reasonable people can disagree. But make a choice! Nine more months of public comment is pure delay and cost inflation, which does no one any good.
67 Replies to “Seattle’s position on WSBLE”
“The city doesn’t plan to pick a preferred alternative in the CID, and is asking Sound Transit to refrain from doing so as well. Instead, the city will recommend that Sound Transit extend the study period for another six to nine months to further engage with the community.”
To me, this just says what many who post here keep repeating to do next: Add and study new alternatives.
Without belaboring the various other ones discussed frequently here (but never get much traction at Seattle Subway or other forums), here are the two major ones:
1. Don’t build DSTT2 through Downtown. Instead build a line to SLU and Ballard as either a separate line ending Near Westlake, a branch line (if the tracks could be added), or some other alternative configuration like a cross platform transfer just north of the former Convention Place site. Any of these would leave major construction completely out of the ID-Chinatown area. The billions saved could be spent on doing better things with Link (like funding over a mile of grade separations in Rainier Valley in conjunction with the Graham infill station or two Ballard stations or a First Hill incline) or it could cover the cost overruns that arose because of ST’s sloppy costing work in 2015-16. This was actually the plan until ST rolled out DSTT2 in 2016 within the package with no detailed studies and no public forums!
2. Build a short automated train line that connects West Seattle and Ballard. The shorter but higher frequency trains would need shorter station platforms and that save billions and help get stations less deep. That what Toronto chose to do with the Ontario Line under similar circumstances!
In addition to these there have been many, many other logical solution presented here like alternating RV and WS trains so the new DSTT2 can skip the ID-C (even a nonstop train from Westlake to SODO with a same direction cross platform transfer at SODO), building the transfer station at University Street and running the tunnel under Fourth and other creative ideas.
I applaud Seattle for wanting more time. However I agree with Martin that it’s a waste unless bold new alternatives are now actually put in the table. What concerns me about Seattle’s current approach here is that it doesn’t suggest anything new. It instead seems to be a way to merely kick the decision of which bad alternative to choose down the road for political reasons.
I like Al’s option 1.
The other benefit of waiting is to get a better understanding of future ridership levels. ST began with inflated ridership estimates on every line pre-pandemic, but still wants to design as though estimates will come true which is driving DSTT2. Whenever someone questions future ridership assumptions ST or some transit advocates start claiming millions will be moving to this region, or folks will suddenly give up their cars for transit, or return to commuting in force, when those assumptions are also highly questionable.
I sometimes wish ST had a certain dollar per rider mile figure it had to reach before building new light rail because I think that would force ST to be honest about its assumptions, especially post pandemic, and wait until is was more certain about those assumptions (which may be exactly what ST does not want because the actual future ridership and costs don’t support most of ST 3, and much of ST 2).
“I sometimes wish ST had a certain dollar per rider mile figure it had to reach before building new light rail because I think that would force ST to be honest about its assumptions, especially post pandemic, and wait until is was more certain about those assumptions (which may be exactly what ST does not want because the actual future ridership and costs don’t support most of ST 3, and much of ST 2).”
There is sort of this measure already! No major project is getting built without FTA funding. How well the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) application clears FTA is very important. It will determine whether or not the project goes forward.
If the West Seattle part of WSBLE goes for a stand-alone funding request, it may not make the cut. The current costs are apparently estimated between $2.8B and $3.4B and the average weekday ridership is at 26,800 total (doubling the 13,400 of three stations added together in ST presentations). Most of these are transferring from existing buses so the level changes may add travel time and transfer difficulty for most riders.
That’s over $100K per average weekday rider.
Keep in mind that FTA will independently assess the accuracy of these cost , local revenue and ridership forecasts so they are subject to change. The best thing that ST has going for it are that there are not many other major transit expansions in the works except for the Los Angeles region so there is seemingly less to compete with. There are a few isolated projects elsewhere but nothing like 20 years ago.
Notably, I have yet to see a Board member ask for a memo outlining the project’s competitiveness. This just illustrates the avoidance of oversight by the System Expansion Committee in particular and the Board in general. Plus, it’s not like they are dumb about this; all of the current major ST2 projects under construction have FFGA’s or they wouldn’t be getting built!
I’ll add that I am halfway expecting the FFGA program to be axed substantially — especially if Republicans get hold of power again. Unlike in the past when Salt Lake Metro, suburban Dallas, Charlotte and similar more Republican places wanted FTA funds, there is a waning bipartisan energy for the program. Instead, rehab needs, popularity of cheaper BRT treatments and higher speed rail (all able to garner more bipartisan support) are likely going to take money from this program. Add to that the decline in fare revenue (free fares could further significantly reduce a project’s competitiveness).
The Federal match driving ST3 projects seems likely in serious peril.
I vote for #2.
If they made me transit king, I would dump the second tunnel, build Ballard to UW, have our gondola friends dream come true with a gondola from Cap Hill to lower queen Anne (with an SLU stop), and let West Seattle fight it out over a stub line to SoDo or BRT.
I think we all have new alignment fantasies.
Mine.m: I have suggested running aerial over Mercer between Seattle Center and I-5, then going into tunnels that connect to Capitol Hill Station at the mezzanine level, then cross over the existing tunnel where there seems to be depth to do that, circling back with new stations near Madison/ Broadway and near Harborview, exiting the ground at the Fourth/ Washington (firehouse site) and running aerial above 4th Ave S (IDC station right above Sounder platforms) before merging back near Holgate. It sounds longer than DSTT2, but the shift to more aerial sections as well as the added bonus of serving First Hill and Harborview would save money and would probably attract more riders. Plus, the crowded section between Westlake and Capitol Hill would be eased, the Ballard/UW connection would be just a station away, First Hill would get the station promised in 1996, and the CID would not have tunnel disruption. If ST3 could pay for the segment north of Harborview or First Hill, the rest could be shifted to a later referendum.
It always struck me as redundant to have the SLU segment redundant to the SLU tram and the monorail north of Westlake.
In the real world, these things seem impossible. For sure billions are already being spent by Downtown developers jockeying for windfall profits at the new stations. If I had my druthers, the cost overruns on DSTT2 would be paid by downtown transit impact fees assessed to developers planning these huge windfalls with development rather than ask Seattleites to fork over more in ESZ taxes. If there was a way to tax SLU buildings extra, I’d be fore that too.
I would vote for that, mdnative. I would follow it up with a major investment in bus infrastructure and service.
Just chop it to a stub between Westlake and Smith Cove. Ross is clearly right about both Ballard and West Seattle: buses are better.
SLU does need rail access so either create a really good shallow stub station at Westlake, build The Dogbone or explore the i-5 Vault as a northbound connection.
The whole grandiose DSTT2 folly arose because of fears that the existing tunnel would be overwhelmed by commuter demand. We can now see clearly that will not occur. Amazon despises the city, its downtown retail is getting crushed by her, and office work is declining, so the second tunnel through the traditional CBD is not needed!
I wasn’t all that impressed with quality of the food in the International District. I will never go again after this pathetic race baiting by Ms. Lau and I’d recommend everyone else not do so either. She and her Tong want an ID frozen in amber. Give it to them.
I should have prefixed my last paragraph with “Having eaten many times in the real ‘Chinatown’ in San Francisco, I wasn’t…”
Like many, I’m not thrilled with the West Seattle plans, but feel like replacing that line would be difficult. Likewise, even the Ballard line — arguably the one major project in ST3 that has merit — is not turning out to be as good as it could be. Replacing that with buses and a major improvement in bus infrastructure makes sense at an abstract level, but at this point is unrealistic. But getting rid of the new downtown tunnel is, however, for reasons that have been mentioned.
So, after eight consistent years [rightly] calling for more frequent buses to and from West Seattle with an improvement to the SR99 ramp instead of rail and lecturing us all [correctly] that an infrequent rump LRT line to The Alaska Junction only will force too many people to transfer and result in fewer riders, you now fold when ballooning costs for rail have given you a winning hand?
And that’s not to mention the years you’ve spent dissing Ballard-Downtown because it isn’t Ballard-UW and bemoaning the station placements along the way. Suddenly all those those deficits are OK? Because Dan Strauss orates “Put the station at 20th.” to an empty hall and “politics”?
I gather you’re sticking with the “solution” of merging into and diverging from the existing tunnel. It would be great were it to happen, but it’s not going to happen along Third Avenue or Pine Street. Their respective east and south sides have too many new buildings along them constructed since DSTT1 was dug, with foundations that likely descend deep enough to be impediments to leaving the street ROW.
So you’d best hope that The Vault works northbound.
Ross, read this. I recant. I think that this may be a useful compromise that allows multi-lining three lines, including SLU/LQA/Ballard.
OK, here it is: THE solution Ross has been looking for to connect northbound; it is an amalgam of many people’s ideas. I will try to give proper attribution and there may be some with two peoples’ names.
1) Dig a single-tube, single-track northbound tunnel under Fifth Avenue. I believe Al proposed this as an efficient way to serve a Ballard-only stub for non-revenue moves. This tunnel would be directly under the middle of Fifth Avenue so there would be no need to make it any deeper than the profile of DSTT1. It would not encounter any tie-backs or foundations.
2) Do not build full “stations” [i.e. “entrances and mezzanines”] on it, ever. Do build new platforms parallel to those in DSTT1 at Pioneer Square and University-Seneca and perpendicular at Westlake. These platforms could be mined from the tunnel.
3) Provide platforms at PSS and USS on both sides of the track. The pair at Pioneer Square would be essentially at the same level as the mezzanine at the existing station. They probably can’t be exactly at the same level because the passage along James would have to pass above or below the BNSF tunnel under Fourth Avenue. The ones at University-Seneca would likely be a bit lower to avoid making a hump. However, they might be placed higher, with a hump, to make the elevators shorter. Whatever their elevation, I’d place them a half-block south of the USS platforms.
The new east side platforms would each have a bank of direct-to-platform elevators at a convenient location as close to the middle of the platform as possible, in a perpendicular passageway to the east. This would allow the “headhouse” to be located in the first floor of an existing building that has no underground parking or in a new narrow building replacing a smallish one.
Fourth Avenue access would be by elevator in a similar way and — depending on the level of the passageway — possibly by stairs from the sidewalk.
There would be no mezzanine in either station. Fare collection would be in the headhouses or the entrances to the platforms from the passageways.
4) These platforms would be “mined from the tube” as would the passageways. But four platforms and two passageways are massively less dirt to mine than two entire new stations. They would be a small fraction of the cost and disruption of full stations. Glenn has suggested something like this.
5) I discussed this possibility as a “behind the wall” platform several months ago and Al suggested it a couple of days ago, probably independently. But I dismissed it as structurally unsound to breach the station box walls, especially at that depth. So why do I now say “poke a hole in the station box wall” when yesterday I said “You can’t!”?
That’s because I’m not saying that! Both existing stations have east side entrances which extend outward like elephant ears from the station box and alreadypenetrate its walls. I would connect the passageways from the new platforms to those vestibules, in which the walls are bearing much less weight. They could be demised. Yes, this might lead to a corkscrew path between the new and old platforms, but those exist in subways all over the world.
These lateral passageways and the elevator accesses to them would open up east-west movement in downtown Seattle to physically limited people.
5) The new northbound platform at Westlake of necessity must be at least a level deeper than the existing platforms. I would place this platform between Pike and the ROW of Westlake, once again on both sides of the track. This would allow direct escalator and stair access to both existing platforms and provide a large space for transfers.
6) Immediately north of the platforms, a bit south of Olive Way) the tube would curve into the Westlake Avenue ROW and continue as the northbound track of whatever is the chosen route through SLU and Lower Quedn Anne.
7) The southbound track from Denny Way would diverge at Stewart, stop at a platform on the south side of the track placed between Fifth and mid-block between Third and Fourth. After leaving the platform the tunnel would curve into Third and merge with the existing southbound track at its curve from Pine to Third. That platform would be connected underground to the rest of the station. The angle at Third and Stewart is about 105 degrees, not perpendicular, so the curve would not need to be as sharp as the Pine to Third curve.
8) “But what about IDS?”, you ask. Well here’s the frosting on the cake. NO NEW IDS!!! Just north of Washington, dig a TBM vault in the west half of Fifth South. Launch the TBM there, or remove it there later, whichever is best. Then connect to the northbound track right at the curve where it deviates west and dives under the BNSF tunnel. I realize that there are buildings along Fifth from mid-block Washington to Main on south to Jackson, but the parking lot along Washington is still there because the tracks curve west under it. That is the place to make the connection.
This would mean NO construction between Jackson and Lander except a bridge at Holgate and closure of Lower Royal Brougham Way. West Seattle would have to be merged with Line 1 at Lander, which would also get a bridge. There is no need for a second track in the busway. West Seattle will never run more frequently than every ten minutes, and the RV limits trains on Line 1 to six minute headways.
Much cheaper than a two-way tunnel with full stations
No construction at IDS
Less disruption in the financial core because a greater percentage of station construction could be mined
Avoids construction of the Jackson to Massachussetts section of the tunnel. Another significant savings
No elevated on the busway. More savings.
Keeps the busway for Burien and Renton services
MUCH BETTER TRANSFERS. Most are “in-direction”
Might become overcrowded someday, especially at IDS.
No escalator or direct stair access for NB passengers at Fourth and Fifth in New tunnel.
“My street life is so precious I must mine stations rather than do cut and cover” is a mistake only made by NYC. Seattle isn’t Manhattan; if we can’t even be bothered to close segments of 5th Ave for 6 months here and then, then don’t bother with an underground WSBLE at all.
“Replacing that with buses and a major improvement in bus infrastructure makes sense at an abstract level, but at this point is unrealistic. ” Is it? Especially with improvements to the C&D already within ST’s mandate, substantially deferring the Interbay & Ballard segments (regardless of what they do in LQA & SLU) and funding >$100M bus improvements as ‘mitigation’ seems like an easy political lift.
AJ, you missed the point. If all you’re doing is providing platforms, which are essentially “porches” along the trackway, why remove one or two hundred feet of overburden just to put it back later.
Yes, the elevator bank shafts have to be dug, and maybe it makes sense to remove the platform spoils through them. If that’s more efficient than using the tube for removal, fine.
The point is that by using the existing entrances on Third with elevator-only access from Fourth and Fifth hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of overburden can stay in place.
A big side benefit is the lateral mobility between Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
I find it sad and somewhat cavalier that you didn’t address the basic idea at all.
Tom, I think you have opened a new category of alternatives for DSTT2 that have yet to be explored: Putting the two directions of DSTT2 under different streets.
Would it be so bad to have northbound under Fifth and southbound under Fourth to get cut and cover stations, for example?
Add this to the growing list of what-if unstudied alternatives like shorter, more frequent automated trains and new ways to use and access the current DSTT.
Al, thanks, but I was just trying to figure a way to diverge to SLU northbound, with the goal of using the existing tunnel to its greatest potential. Since the ridership is always likely to be dominated by trips to and from the north “main line”, moving the northbound afternoon peak Ballard/LQA passengers to another tunnel will help with possible crowding in DSTT1, but that’s just a fortunate side-effect.
Digging two new tunnels, one in each street in order to keep them shallow is indeed an attractive proposal, if one assumes overcrowding both ways in DSTT1. But I really don’t think that there will ever be that many commuters to downtown Seattle originating in South King County. Some certainly will come from the east side, “free parking in Bellevue” notwithstanding, but the significant majority will come from North King and Snohomish. I believe that DSTT1 is probably adequate for half a century so the southbound side can run in it.
In any case, Fourth is out of consideration for any subway. The BNSF tunnel already has it all the way north to Marion where it curves to the west. Yes, the street rises through there, but not far enough to put a subway above it.
Tom, because mining station vaults is not best practice. The only countries that don’t cut & cover stations are those with highest costs. A station is decidedly not just a track with a porch, unless you are building subway stations only up to sewage pipe standards, which is what the Boring Company does.
https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/02/25/cut-and-cover-is-underrated/ “while the TBM is capable of building tunnels easily, it cannot build stations. “
AJ, well, that’s what I’m proposing: just have platforms with direct elevator connection on the east side and passageways to the existing stations on the west side.
Of course the TBM’s can’t excavate the platform caverns. And I really don’t know how to get out of the rings once a TBM has passed through a station site. I expect that the shield would have to stop when the cutting head had entered the space to be a station and start excavating around the cutter, “ahead” of the ring ring erector.
That may not be possible, which is why I included the option to excavate the elevator shafts and then move outward from there.
Of course “mining” is more expensive than straightforward top-down excavation. But the University Street matching platform would be really deep and why dig out all that dirt just to put it back again?
“But the University Street matching platform would be really deep and why dig out all that dirt just to put it back again?” Because it’s cheaper than mining, even at that depth.
Chinatown did not become what it is today by a bunch of people of Chinese descent thinking it would be a great marketing gimmick to all live together in one small square area of the City. Rather, that was the only place Chinese immigrants were allowed to live in Seattle. They were brought in as a construction labor force. Just like all the longhouses got burned down after Seattle declared that the natives were not welcome to stay, Chinatown was also burned down (and it fell over and sank into the swamp) and its residents were forced to flee.
So they built it a second time, as Japantown. It burned down, fell over and sank into the swamp, and the residents were forced to flee once they were no longer deemed a useful labor force.
So they built it a third time. And that is the Chinatown you see today. The strongest Chinatown in the Pacific Northwest, outside of Lynnwood. It is not just a historical metaphor that the railroads were built on the backs of Chinese immigrants.
Seattle Subway had the right idea: Avoid Chinatown altogether, and find a path of less resistance into downtown, perhaps through First Hill.
As for restaurants, if you find any that are safe to eat at right now, of any cuisine, I’d love to hear about it. The places where I feel safe eating are pretty much limited to Vatsana’s at Westwood, and a place on Capitol Hill that went out of business a couple months after the health department set the restaurant industry on course for decimation by allowing staff to be unmasked. 90% of the restaurants out there should be avoided like the plague right now, literally.
According to the linked article Seattle’s desired “mitigation” —. district by district — is to put WSBLE underground, which is hardly surprising.
At this point ST’s job is to honestly and accurately estimate the cost of an underground alignment — district by district — and to honestly and accurately estimate future tax revenue in N. King Co. so the ultimate customer (taxpayer) can decide whether they want to pay the extra for tunnels and underground stations in a SB5528 levy.
What ST has to FINALLY stop doing us pretending every alternative, including 100% underground, is affordable with ST tax revenue alone, as though a “realignment” that extends project completion concurrently with taxes raises additional revenue in a high inflation environment.
Engineers can pretty much build anything if the city and residents are willing to pay.
Agreed. Sound Transit needs to stop digging a deeper hole for for itself…. we need a more sober and responsible vision going forward, one that’s centered on the actual folks who ride transit….
I’m a big believer in the old transit saying, “Trains are White, Buses are Black”. From the very start of ST, there was this vision of white collar commuters reading the Seattle Times on sleek trains that ran underneath the city. This was the sales pitch from day one and it’s not realistic about the real population who rides transit. Currently some members of the Sound Transit Board have their undies in a bunch because lower income riders are avoiding paying the fare. Are we sure the fare avoidance is the real reason Dave Upthegrove is so upset? Remember the sales pitch…. sleek underground trains full of White upperclass people heading downtown. I think Dave Upthegrove and Christine Frizzell might be mad at the Great Unwashed even riding Sound Transit. Where are those tech workers, bankers and Captains of Industry riding, as promised?
I’ll always hate Sound Transit because at the same time all the big train projects started, Pierce Transit was cutting service. Remember the saying… Trains are White, Buses are Black… now with a recession starting up, things once again look pretty bleak for local transit outfits….. Sound Transit will be totally tone deaf to the actual transit needs of the community and continue a 12-15 year odyssey of over-planning and digging up what’s left the CID to build a train that really isn’t needed.
Ride the L in the Chicago and tell me that the “trains are white.” Ditto the subway in New York.
That’s a very East Coast thing to say, Tacomee. King County as a whole is now 20.1 percent Asian, 7.2 percent black and 5.6 percent mixed race. It’s also 10.3 percent Hispanic/ Latino.
Curiously, Seattle is slightly “whiter” than King County taken as a whole.
I realize that things are different in Pierce County, but King County is where most of the rail investment is going.
1) All of the current tunnel plans are bad for riders.
2) All of the current tunnel plans are bad for the community (specifically CID).
3) A new tunnel isn’t needed.
4) Sharing the tunnel would be better for riders and the community.
5) We need the engineers to study sharing the tunnel.
I’ll make the argument for each of these points as a comment below this.
The new tunnel is bad for riders.
None of the proposed stations at CID are as close to the surface as existing stations*. The Midtown Station is going to be very deep underground. Even if it moves closer to the surface, it isn’t as good as having two stations (University Street and Pioneer Square) instead of the one. This means that the vast majority of riders who are coming to or going from downtown would rather be in the old tunnel than the new one. This will be a clear degradation for riders from the south. Since those riders will likely outnumber those from West Seattle, this is an overall degradation for the system.
Transfers between stations vary from bad (roughly two minutes of walking) to terrible (six minutes). Unless the trains on the different lines are timed (which seems unlikely) you run the risk of missing your train while you make the transfer. In contrast, if the various lines shared the same tunnel, then same direction transfers would be trivial (get off the train and wait for a different train at the same platform). You can’t possibly miss the train, which should be along shortly.
There will be a lot of same direction transfers. Right now, a significant number of riders take the train from Rainier Valley to the UW or places north. This will require a transfer. Denny or South Lake Union to the East Side is a natural business-based transfer (e. g. Amazon to Amazon) but it will require a transfer. While not a huge numbers of riders, many have expressed excitement over being able to take the train from the north end to the airport. This will require a transfer. Same direction transfers will be a very important part of our system as it expands, and yet the new tunnel make them much worse.
Not only are same direction transfers much worse, but reverse direction transfers are worse as well. Reverse direction transfers were never going to be ideal. We don’t have center platforms in any of the downtown stations. This means riders have to go up and over on a trip from say, the UW to South Lake Union. But the new stations will make this worse.
Interlining also allows more flexibility when it comes to pairing lines. The current plan is to pair Ballard with the south end as well as pairing West Seattle and the East Side with the north end. If we automate operations or turn back some of the trains, we could have better combinations. I think it makes the most sense to pair the East Side with Ballard. This creates an East-West subway, and links the businesses on either side of the lake. This would mean the south end would be once again linked with the north end. All of this might be necessary in the future for budget reasons, as it may be too costly to run trains up to Everett every five minutes in the middle of the day.
Changing the pairing is simple if we interline all the trains downtown. From a rider standpoint, it is easy to understand. You really don’t care where the train came from, you only care about where it is going, and how to catch it. If you are downtown and headed to Ballard, nothing changes if your train originated from Redmond or Tacoma. In contrast, if we build a second tunnel and then decide to change the pairing, we would need to physically alter the tracks, and riders would have to switch to using different stations.
* Starting on page 24 of this document, you can see cross sections of the Westlake Station as well as the expected time to transfer. Likewise, on page 23 of this document you can see the same thing for the CID station. Notice that all of the proposals for all of the new stations are considerably deeper than their counterpart, making the trip to the surface or a transfer more time consuming.
Here are a couple other station diagrams for Westlake and CID.
All of the current tunnel plans are bad for the community (specifically CID).
Much has been written about this subject (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattles-chinatown-seeks-to-push-a-future-light-rail-station-farther-away/) so I won’t rehash it. But I just want to point out that every station is disruptive in one way or another. This is clear when you look at the documents I referenced in my last comment (page 19 of this one specifically). Every new station involves business displacement. Many involve surface transit disruption, and lengthy detours for pedestrians.
This community has suffered disproportionately during the pandemic (and its aftermath). The only way to avoid additional pain is to use the existing station and interline the trains.
“Reverse direction transfers were never going to be ideal. We don’t have center platforms in any of the downtown stations.”
Or reliable escalators or elevators. Every single new station has had problems with these. So if the DSTT escalator replacement is finished in twenty years, will it be reliable then?
Good point. ST needs to get its sh*t together on this immediately. I’ve been hearing about the issues at the new stations from several friends and just over the weekend my spouse took the 512 and then Link to Beacon Hill and in the process texted me a picture of yet another escalator out of service at the Northgate Station. Just ridiculous.
As of July 5th, per the vertical conveyance alerts page on ST’s website, the following units were out of service:
Roosevelt Station – Elevator #2, repair date TBD
U-District Station – Elevator #2, repair date 7/8
UW Station – Elevator #1, repair date TBD
Northgate Station – Escalator #3, repair date TBD
Roosevelt Station – Escalator #7, repair date tentative 7/5
UW Station – Escalator #13, repair date TBD
As Al S commented elsewhere, the conveyances at these three new stations have been in daily use operation for less than a year.
It sounds like an east coast setup, as if they were dealing with a mafia contractor.
A new tunnel isn’t needed.
This is perhaps the crux of the argument, and a point that is often ignored (or just assumed to be false). The new tunnel doesn’t add anything significant in terms of stations. The number of riders who prefer using the new (very deep) station at Midtown will be greatly outnumbered by those who wish they were in the other tunnel. Nor is the new station worth transferring to, since it isn’t that far from the other stations and the transfers are really bad.
The only reasonable argument is that the new tunnel is needed for capacity. This simply isn’t the case, given the information Sound Transit itself has provided. Years ago, Martin asked Sound Transit about capacity, and wrote this: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/. With a relatively small investment, the trains are capable of running every 90 seconds. That is a lot of trains, and as it turns out, more than ST plans on running in the two tunnels combined.
Here is the current plan, with maximum headways:
Everett — West Seattle: 6 Minutes
Everett — Redmond: 6 Minutes
Ballard — Tacoma: 6 Minutes
This means trains towards Everett combine to run every three minutes, as the north end trains interline at CID. With all trains interlining, this same level of throughput can be achieved by simply running each combination every 2 minutes. As currently planned, the new tunnel doesn’t actually add additional throughput anywhere within the system.
I think this is easiest to understand with an imaginary schedule. With trains interlining between CID and Westlake, the rush hour schedule (e. g. 8:00 AM southbound at Westlake) would look something like this:
8:00: Everett to West Seattle
8:02: Everett to Redmond
8:04: Ballard to Tacoma
8:06: Everett to West Seattle
Ballard to Tacoma could be in a different tunnel or the same one — it doesn’t really change anything in terms of capacity. With a larger gap, the 8:06 train might be crowded. That can be rectified simply by running that train only to Lynnwood (since it is highly unlikely we will need or can afford trains running to Everett every 3 minutes). This becomes:
8:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:02: Everett to Redmond
8:04: Ballard to Tacoma
8:06: Lynnwood to West Seattle
It is quite likely this is all the capacity we will ever need (and then some). Again, it is all that ST assumes we will ever need. In the unlikely event that this isn’t enough, we can increase capacity without a new tunnel. It is worth noting that trains to both Redmond and Tacoma are limited to running every six minutes. Since Ballard is paired with Tacoma, it has the same limitation. Thus the only combination that can be run more often is Everett to West Seattle. Since the maximum headway is 90 seconds, the best we can do with one tunnel is running the trains every 90 seconds, leading to a schedule that would look like this:
[This “schedule” is for illustrative purposes only. Obviously a real schedule would not list arrival times in seconds.]
8:00:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:01:30: Ballard to Tacoma
8:03:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:04:30: Everett to Redmond
8:06:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
Instead of 30 trains per hour through downtown (as planned), there would be 40. Service from Lynnwood would increase from 20 trains an hour to 30. West Seattle would see a doubling of train service. All of this would be possible without a new tunnel.
At that point, a new tunnel wouldn’t add much. The pattern would be like this:
8:00:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:01:30: Everett to West Seattle
8:03:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:04:30: Lynnwood to Redmond
8:06:00: Lynnwood to West Seattle
8:00:00: Ballard to Tacoma:
8:06:00: Ballard to Tacoma:
The new tunnel only adds one additional train every six minutes through downtown (going from 40 to 50 trains). For trips within downtown, this added capacity comes with stations that are likely to be unpopular. Riders trying to get from CID to Westlake will ignore the new tunnel, since the trains come less often, and the stations are much deeper. Thus within downtown itself, the new tunnel doesn’t add much in terms of capacity. That is also the case with most of the system. The only additional capacity is from the north end to West Seattle. West Seattle goes from 20 trains an hour to 30. The north end goes from 30 trains an hour to 40.
It is unlikely that we would need that much capacity in the first place. Furthermore, the capacity it adds is very limited. We aren’t doubling capacity anywhere, simply because of the limitations caused by running on the surface. We aren’t increasing capacity at all the south, east or northwest. To increase the number of trains to Ballard, South Lake Union, Denny, Rainier Valley, SeaTac, Bellevue or Redmond, we need to do major work. We either have to bury the tracks or elevate them.
If that actually happens, that is the time to build a new tunnel downtown. Such a tunnel should be designed to actually provide additional benefit beyond just capacity. If, in the future, we need a new downtown tunnel, it should add new stations in new parts of downtown (e. g. First Hill) while providing better transfers.
It is also worth noting that buses can provide additional capacity, while also improving the rider experience. There are plenty of people who would prefer to use their old express buses (or new routes). I’m generally opposed to such routes, as I feel like we should spend our money using the trains. But if the trains are full, then it makes way more sense to run express buses than it does to build an extremely expensive tunnel with poor stations.
“To increase the number of trains to Ballard, South Lake Union, Denny, Rainier Valley, SeaTac, Bellevue or Redmond, we need to do major work.” I’d exclude Bellevue from that list; trains can easily turn around at the OMF (or to Kirkland, as a spur or maybe interlined with Kirkland Link, if that exists), as there is full grade separation on East Link between ID and Wilburton stations. So the existing tunnel could get to 40 TPH and send 20 TPH to Bellevue, of which only 10 TPH could go all the way to Redmond.
So a plausible capacity growth plan could be:
1. Current state 10 TPH through downtown
2. Open East Link and OMF-E (~2025), 20 TPH
3. Open West Seattle and OMF-S (~2035), 30 TPH
4. Open Kirkland Link and OMF-N (~2045), 40 TPH (or, just open OMF-N)
Which underscores an important point: long term, even more additional capacity doesn’t even need to be in a tunnel. Of the 3 lines (WS, RV, East King), East Link is the most likely to merit more than 10 TPH as it is the lone line to connect the 3 major urban centers (UW, Seattle CBD, Bellevue CBD). So let’s say 30 TPH is serving downtown just fine, but peak rush hour into Seattle really overloads East Link; a ‘downtown relief’ line could simply junction at Judkins Park and run elevated through First Hil, alleviating crowing on the main line. For the ‘additional benefit beyond capacity’ Ross highlights, the line could then run onwards to Ballard or up Aurora, or curl around to serve the Metro 8 corridor, etc. (SS’s purple, pink, and orange lines, respectively)
It’s also worth mentioning that even though six minutes is mentioned in ST3 that the 3 Line’s exclusive service won’t create enough riders in either the West Seattle or north of Mariner segments to justify any more than 10 minutes. The 14k boardings for The three West Seattle segments (28k total) was what Central Link was serving in 2013-14 with mostly two and maybe some three car trains with only and either at eight or ten minutes (I can’t remember). North of Mariner where it’s just the 3 Line, the stations combined don’t even reach 12k daily boardings (24k total).
By my count, 24 trains at peak hours appears to be all that’s needed (10 for Line 1 to Tacoma, 8 for Line 2 to Redmond and 6 for West Seattle). Combined that’s a train every 2:30 minute:seconds rather than 3:00 minute:seconds.
Plus, the non-peak 10- minute service combined would be a train every 3:20 minute:seconds. Compare that to ST3 at 3:00 minute:seconds at peak or 5:00 minute:seconds at other times.
A comparison to Muni Metro with its five lines (admittedly two car trains) shows that manual operation capacity is observed at 24 trains an hour and it can go to 40 with a good ATC system.
The DEIS documents a capacity deficiency for the “No build” of peak 3:00 minute: seconds between Pioneer Square and International District – Chinatown stations. However this assumes no third line in the tunnel adding capacity. Just adding trains in the DSTT works !
Excellent comment RossB.
I just wish more folks had questioned the need for a second downtown tunnel back in 2016.
“Excellent comment RossB.
I just wish more folks had questioned the need for a second downtown tunnel back in 2016.”
I do too Tisgwm.
In 2016 I had just come to ST. Our former mayor had signed off on the SEPA permits ST needed to run East Link through Mercer Island and told no one so they vested. So my original role was to host a community meeting to explain how LUPA works, and how Mercer Island’s leverage for mitigation had been badly damaged, but it still had to litigate to obtain any leverage or mitigation. After all, if you are an Island in the middle of a lake East Link must go through you should have excellent leverage under SEPA.
Unfortunately our best defense against LUPA was our mayor was an imbecile and ST had taken advantage of him with false assumptions, a defense the mayor did not want to make. So we lost the vesting argument.
I voted no on ST 3 but mostly for local issues. At that time the big concern was capacity on East Link based on ST’s crazy ridership claims, especially cross lake. We didn’t know if four car trains could run at 50 mph across the bridge span unless a new “hinge” was found for the deck/span joint, and the post tensioning arose. The other issue was the loss of SOV access from Island Crest Way which forces all cars from the south end to drive through the town center to access I-90 westbound.
Even then we could not understand how East Link, running four car trains every 8 minutes, could meet capacity on Mercer Island, which is the last station going west, if thousands were bused to MI in the peak am. Our station platforms are very narrow, 35′ below grade, between four lanes of I-90 running in each direction and needed a noise variance. It would be a zoo based on ST’s ridership predictions, which were driving Metro’s demand for the optimal bus intercept configuration, 20 articulated buses per peak hour that would be SRO.
There were eastside groups that questioned WSBLE and ST 3 in 201 (which virtually has no benefit for the eastside). In particular ETA raised questions about: 1. ST’s ridership estimates ETA had inflated and was using to demand the four other subareas contribute 50% toward DSTT2 to meet our capacity needs (even though we couldn’t figure out how East Link would meet capacity just to Seattle); and the cost estimate of $2.2 billion which ETA estimated in 2016 was around half the actual cost.
Vic Bishop actually attended the 2016 community meeting I hosted and explained all of this. But ST used its budget and a compliant media to denigrate ETA or any on the eastside who questioned the assumptions in ST 3, naive transit advocates claimed ETA was just a car centric shill for Freeman, and most of us were naive and didn’t believe a public agency could be so incompetent and at the same time so dishonest. What did we know about transit or light rail on the eastside? So we believed ST. After all, how could WSBLE affect us, and certainly ST would not really build the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line when we all drive on huge freeways.
Anyway, then East Link got extended, and extended again, and people on the eastside began to forget about all the problems. Then the pandemic hit and changed the working world. I am sure ST was praying in 2016 all the population gain estimates the PSRC was making would come true, everyone would move to TOD, and ST and gang would do everything in their power to disadvantage driving. The pandemic exposed those dreams in real time.
Today, I think the real issue is not WSBLE or capital budgets because I think ST 3 has very little money in the bank, including the future, and the pandemic has skewed the allocation of ST tax revenue. The real issue is the operations budget, which again Bishop raised in 2016 about East Link, because farebox recovery is just riders X fare paid. ST made up the 40% farebox recovery rate to lower general tax increases, and inflated ridership estimates, and the pandemic was just the nail in the coffin. Of course ST 2 and 3 included operations in their levies, except like capital projects were “optimistically” calculated.
Most transit agencies when faced with inadequate operations revenue skimp on capital maintenance and replacement. Right now Link is a fairly young system, but it will age (and so far all indications are the construction was low grade) and the assumed levy funding for replacement will have been spent on daily operations and maintenance. That time is coming much sooner because of the pandemic, and loss of the 100% fare paying peak commuter.
You are right about capacity, Ross, though running two “lines” to West Seattle seems serious overkill. The problem there is that we are told that both East Link (by the bridge) and South Link (by the at-grade section through the RV) are limited to six minute minimum headways, so the trains have to go somewhere.
However, it remains unproven that a northbound divergence can be accomplished. Until a solid, well-engineered plan can be presented, ST will reject full inter-lining as too risky.
So, we are back to “Does WSBLE make sense at all?” Without it trains can go 1/3 to Bellevue, 1/3 to Federal Way and 1/3 to the Forest Street loop (SoDo), giving 3-3-4 headways on North Link.
That’s probably enough.
I don’t think WSBLE is affordable, at least as designed underground, so before we consider ST 4 N. King Co. needs to consider ST 3.5 (probably a city specific SB5528 levy).
This article doesn’t mention additional light rail — let alone tunnels — in the four other subareas. I think that is wise. I can’t think of additional light rail beyond ST 3 in those four subareas that makes any kind of sense, and much of ST 3 makes little transit or economic sense (but Seattle Subway has never been keen on dollar per rider mile metrics). .
ST 4 would require voter approval region wide. The proposals for N. king Co. would result in way too much revenue for the four other subareas, especially East KC where the swing voter lives. The legislature should allow specific subareas to float their own levies so the levy revenue better matches any need for that subarea. Otherwise I don’t think a ST 4 levy will pass, so we really don’t need to worry about building for future expansion.
I agree with the concept that light rail should be built for future expansion, but ST 3 is so flawed I am not very excited about fugue expansion and don’t see ST 4 ever passing. Certainly not post pandemic. Tacomee is correct that the intended rider for light rail (white collar and white) has left transit.
Finally we have to consider the changes to transportation in the next 30 years. Will light rail with its fixed route and massive capacity and cost and poor first/last mile access make sense in a world of driverless technology and more WFH? Personally I think a lot of SS and ST and PSRC are based on assumptions of huge regional population gains and further densification and transit use, and post pandemic I have my doubts those assumptions are correct.
“make sense in a world of driverless technology and more WFH? ”
Not all of us want to live in car dependency or have the means to afford such a fancy vehicle, so I’m going to say that logic is flawed from the start in debating the merits of continuing the longer term ST projects. I’ll say that driverless technology is not going to become as prolific as some people are saying because I see the tech as not going anywhere for a long time due to the complexities of implementing such a system. It works great in a driverless metro sense like Vancouver ot Copenhagen but those are on fixed guide guideways and don’t have the complexity a driverless car has which has an infinite amount of variables to interact with and Tesla has shown that the tech is still far off from being reliable or safe. As for WFH, I’m less worried about that because people still need to use transit to get places thar aren’t work and not all transit trips are work or school related. People meeting up with friends for dinner or hanging out, medical appointments, shopping trips, going to events, going to government offices, etc etc etc.
As for ST4 I see it happening and is needed because there will always be a need for expansion even if it slows down in frequency of building extensions. Paris in its old age is still building out its metro system even if the extensions are small one or two stops added to the line.
We don’t need improved transit because we’ll have …
Driverless Fusion powered Flying Cars!
In … ten,.. twenty,… thirty? years!
ST 4 would not have new projects until ST 3 is completed, which is now supposedly 2044, so yes, we are talking transportation 30 years from now. I think driverless technology will definitely be here, which would make buses and micro transit more effective than Link.
The real question is whether regional population growth, densification, and work commuting will increase or decline over the next 30 years, because those are the assumptions Link is based upon.
ST3’s early projects are underway before ST2 is complete, so there could certainly be some ST4 projects tackle before ST3 is complete
With all the screw-ups, 2044 may end up being when East Link Opens. Oh wait, that’s 5 years past the best used by date for the sinking bridge. Can we just have buses NOW that shadow the route? If it’s a fail then… maybe drilling more holes in a cement barge to fix the problems isn’t a good idea.
Sometimes I think SS and ST look for solutions to micro problems using macro solutions. Here’s something both organizations need to think about… maybe, just maybe, the fallowing is true.
The best transit is no transit.
Nobody but a few train geeks, (and maybe I am one) really wants to ride commuter rail anywhere. Most of us would rather not drive to work either. Zoom meetings and such kind of suck sometimes, but so does flying to Cleveland for a meeting. WFH is the future….industry bean counters are already looking to abandon office space, airfare and hotel costs, transit passes… anything to cut the bottom line. Who can blame them? And WFH is popular with workers. Change happens, transit needs to wake up and smell the coffee.
And I think spending billions in transit to solve a housing problem that would cost millions to fix is silly. Right now low paid airport workers commute from Tacoma to SeaTac for work– yes, I know several. Why? Bad housing policy. These folks should be able to live in nice place that’s next to @$%#^&* airport! Subways have a long and racist history in America.
Instead of paying transit billions to haul around service industry workers, (the real transit riders) why not invest in neighborhood housing plans so the folks working at the Queen Anne Safeway could simply walk to work? It would be way cheaper. Maybe politically impossible, I know. The whole idea of “less transit” makes people’s heads spin around, but my gut feeling is it’s the path forward.
I’d vote for Sound Housing levy #1. Let’s wind down the ST3 projects and cancel as many as possible and use the money to build “transit reduced” housing in the ST footprint. I’m pretty sure it would pass the voters by a large margin.
Not all jobs can be done at home. If this were true we would have traffic jams all day on I5.
And, what about non-work trips
Uh, there’s no such thing as a nice place next to an airport. That’s why they took most of S Seatac Park (a neighborhood that was bought out/destroyed) and put a jail there. @tacomee, suppose what you suggest is affordable and could be done. Then you’ve got a bunch of people that can go nowhere but work… sort of like living on the plantation.
The best transit is one used by everyone regardless of social class. Along with not everyone wants to live in the same neighborhood as their workplace. A separation from work and home is sometimes necessary to balance your well being.
Hello Al S.
Not to start some endless internet fight, but the looking at the census numbers for King Country actually do point towards East Coast style transit-oriented racist development…..
JULY 5, 2022 AT 1:40 PM
That’s a very East Coast thing to say, Tacomee. King County as a whole is now 20.1 percent Asian, 7.2 percent black and 5.6 percent mixed race. It’s also 10.3 percent Hispanic/ Latino.
As Sound Transit does more and more projects and Seattle housing becomes more and more dense and expensive, the hinterlands (Pierce County and South King County) will get more diverse and Seattle will get more White. Here’s how Sound Transit places a starring role in gentrification.
Step one… plan a subway in in the most Asian part of town and chase out all the current residents and small businesses with 10 years of construction.
Step two… as soon as the new shiny Subway stop is in, redevelop the ‘hood for rich White folks. Call it TOD, but honestly, it’s gentrification. Happened all over the East Coast. I’d rather skip it here in the NW.
Many of the Asian folks who get chased out of the CID are likely to land down south in P.C or K.C somewhere, in ‘hood with worse transit. Many of them will be looking at a long bus ride to commute. Once again the old saying… Trains are White, Buses are Black.
I think you need to clarify your terms, Tacomee. Black is not Asian. If you meant a generic “people of color” then say that.
East Link will give Bellevue way more Link rail stations per capita than Seattle will have in 2024. Bellevue is 37.5 percent Asian. So are you saying that East Link is intended to gentrify Bellevue and price out Asian familier for white ones? That would be quite a reach to say that.
Please take your racist tropes to mynorthwest.
Agreed. The amount of race baiting in these responses is reprehensible, and not all of it from the same person either.
In all fairness, it was a white woman journalist who wrote “Transit white people like” over a decade ago, pointing out how the ridership of Central Link and Metro bus route 7 were so demographically different.
Suffice it to say that ST has shown with data that fare enforcement fines fall most heavily on riders of color, and the people who get shot by transit police (a very small sample, thankfully) have all been riders of color.
ST’s claim that its fare enforcement is unprejudiced because the agents start at the far ends of the car and work to the middle was laughable, in multiple ways. But it is a great strategy to dust off: If you don’t want to get exposed to BA.4 or BA.5 by ST’s unmasked “Safety Officers”, stand in the middle of the car, and then walk toward the “Safety Officer” who is moving slower. Or just avoid the 1 Line like the plague for now, literally.
I actually think that you have some valid points about CID that could also be applied to Youngstown, tacomee. I just would couch them as lifestyle or class driven as opposed to race driven. I would also add that the moving of 1 Line out if the current IDC station also harms the CID community as SE Seattle has a large Asian population.
In short, West Seattle Link is overly served (6 minute trains with a capacity of 6,000 to 8,000 riders per hour for just 13,400 daily boardings while the RV segment approaches crush loads), harmful to less affluent areas in takings (Youngstown and CID), construction impacts (CID) and service (Rainier Valley and South King). All for a one-seat ride for wealthy white collar influential residents of West Seattle Junction in single family homes west of 45th Ave W or north of W Oregon St to be able to walk to light rail and have direct service to Downtown Seattle. Oh, they also expect a tunnel in their neighborhood too!
I’m mainly ambivalent towards the WSBLE. I don’t think it’s outright a bad project as the project has some good merits to its existence. I see the issue being that it doesn’t go far enough and future phasing wasn’t built into the plan at all for future extensions. Like WSBLE could’ve easily had planning for or included building out the line down the Pennsulia to White Center, Burien, and back to Tukwila with a new track meant to head east towards Southcenter and Renton as a future extension. And for the Ballard end, extending north into Crown Hill, Greenwood, Aurora, and Northgate with planning for a line that could extend someday to Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, and Bothell with it ending at UW Bothell. The line isn’t bad, it’s just very underwhelming and lukewarm.
Since those extensions you propose would each require several miles of tunneling they would not have many stations, at least not within Seattle proper. Considering how much resistence there is to up-zoning in Crown Hill and across the Northgate Way corridor, the extension to Lake City would not generate many new riders. Continuing to Woodinville would be ridiculous.
Lake City doesn’t even merit a extension per se, but better bus service to Northgate and/or Roosevelt and then perhaps a proverbial gondola (more likely an elevated shuttle, like the monorail or CTA’s yellow line) to connect to Link at Northgate
Sorry, you only said “Bothell”. Still ridiculous, for the same reason that lines along freeways are so poor: half the walkshed is missing. In this case it would be under water.
There’s a reason ST chose BRT for the 522 corridor.
Those are in ST’s long-range plan, except the Ballard-Northgate gap to Lake City. Stride 3 (522) is a precursor to potential future light rail. It addresses the existing need sooner and prebuilds ridership. Stride 1 (Burien-Bellevue) is in the same position. WSJ-Burien-Renton Link was studied in 2015 and as far as we know it’s still next in line. Tukwila, Renton, and South King have gotten quiet about it, so I don’t know whether they still want to pursue it or not. Stride 1 is more than half of the potential WSJ-Burien-Renton extension. So you could theoretically build the Link line and truncate Stride 1 to Bellevue-Renton. Or extend it further south to Auburn or Puyallup, as I hope that corridor gets better bus service someday.
Stride is not a precursor to Link; Stride is a permanent mode of High Capacity Transit (HCT). ST Express is the precursor mode for HCT. Corridors served by Stride are removed from the Long Range Plan as they are now served by HCT.
By far the most likely outcome of the WSJ to Burien study is a Stride line, with maybe a short Link extension.
The Link concepts ST is contemplating for UW-Kirkland include a 520 crossing, a Sand Point-Kirkland lake crossing, or going around the north end of the lake. The latter would be synonomous with Lake City/Bothell Link and then bending down to Kirkland. At grade-separated speed it might not be as time-consuming as it may appear, or at least it wasn’t immediately laughed out of the room. Originally it would have started from Northgate, but it may end up starting from Shoreline South, Roosevelt, or UDistrict (on a track east of Lines 1/2).
I don’t think any of these are likely, and I don’t know if they’d still be prioritized in ST4, or if East King would by then prefer something else instead. But ST was considering them in the mid 2010s while it was simultaneously pursuing Stride 3. So in 522’s case I don’t think it’s definitely either-or, but one and maybe later converting to the other. That’s also the look for Bellevue-Renton. ST passed on light rail because it said the ridership isn’t there yet, but it may be some decades in the future.
In every ST# round ST updates the plan. ST2’s plan had more extensive post-ST3 things than ST3 has. But in every round it can add anything it wants, including things it previously deleted. It just can’t build anything without first adding it to the plan, but it can add it to the plan in order to build it. So things that may appear gone now aren’t necessarily gone forever; it depends on how a future board feels.
It would seem logical to extend the Issaquah-South Kirkland line to downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake, and call that “serving Kirkland” and not bother with a Kirkland-Seattle line. But who knows what ST will do, or what a future board or East King will want in 20-30 years.
The assumption indeed was Link to Crown Hill, which is why Link was to run elevated through Interbay/Ballard to then transition to a cheap, Rainier Valley esqu at-grade extension through Crown Hill. But with WSBLE 1. stupid expensive, and 2. stupidly never running at-grade, we should abandon serving WSBLE with Link technology. If the line is never to run at-grade (in dedicated ROW), there’s little value in using LRT technology.
Looking at building said line a driverless metro might be the answer at this point. Similar to Copenhagen Metro or Milan M4 and M5. Smaller stations with potential for some expansion for longer trains built in and a few more stations to add to the line.
I see the issue being that it doesn’t go far enough and future phasing wasn’t built into the plan at all for future extensions.
I see the opposite. If neither line is good at this point, they won’t get better as they go further away from the center. That’s the way mass transit works. It builds from the center out. The two key elements to transit ridership are density and proximity.
WSBLE is not short. West Seattle Link is roughly as long as U-District to downtown. Ballard Link is roughly the length of Northgate to downtown. Ridership roughly doubled as the trains got the UW (and that was without U-District Station). As Link got to Northgate, the numbers shot up again (although they are still not at pre-pandemic levels). This is despite the lack of urban stop spacing (imagine if there was a First Hill station).
Further extensions wouldn’t add much, but would cost a bundle. The Junction at West Seattle is a moderate destination, while the stations between there and downtown are minor. The buses do a pretty good job connecting to the Junction — an extension wouldn’t make that connection much better. Nor would it connect big destinations along the way. The big destination for most riders is downtown, and express buses to downtown (e. g. Burien to downtown) would be faster than riding a train. There just aren’t a good combination of stops along the peninsula to make up for that.
Ballard is a little more complicated. An extension would give more people a direct connection to Ballard, Uptown as well as a couple of stops on the fringes of downtown. But there is no bigger destination than Ballard to the north of it. The buses can do a pretty good job of serving Ballard (at least along the likely corridor of an extension). This is why the station location is so important. If the train goes to 14th, then if there is an extension, it misses the biggest destination north of Uptown. The same is true for the buses, which would be forced to go east (to serve the station) instead of west (where many of the people want to go).
An extension would also be really expensive. The train will be elevated or underground — both are expensive. It would definitely add value, as more people would have a connection to the destinations along the way. But the farther north you go, the less it makes sense to use the line. For example, you mentioned Northgate. The new train line would be far less popular than the current one. Both would get you to downtown, but the existing one would get you there faster (with better downtown stations). The existing trains serve much bigger destinations (UW, Capitol Hill) versus Ballard, Uptown and South Lake Union. For South Lake Union, riders could always backtrack. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be riders (of course there would) but there would be way less in the section between Ballard and Northgate than the section between Ballard and downtown.
Then there is the transfer between the two trains. If the train ended at Northgate, then you could possibly go elevated (over I-5, somewhere close to the pedestrian bridge). But that would eliminate the possibility of going further east. Thus it is more likely that the train would go underground. This means the transfer would be from an underground station to an elevated one. It would be used by those headed to Ballard, but it is quite possible that riders would transfer downtown for trips to Uptown or South Lake Union.
The same dynamic applies for Lake City. Eventually those riders will be able to take a bus to 130th, and transfer to the train. A train running to Northgate would be better, but mainly as a way to get to Northgate and Ballard (as opposed to getting to the UW, Capitol Hill or downtown). This would be great, but I doubt it would be worth the money.
All of this is a long way of saying that while such a project would add value, it wouldn’t be worth it. The most popular destination in the state is downtown Seattle, followed by UW and downtown Bellevue. This wouldn’t make trips to any of those much faster. In contrast, a Ballard-UW line would make trips to the UW much faster for a wide swath of the north end. In many cases it would mean a two-seat ride (first bus, then train) but the time savings over the 44 would be dramatic. I just don’t see that with an extension of Ballard Link.
A lot of sour suburban commentators here. It’s a bad look.
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