Feasibility of construction and financial feasibility of future expansions beyond ST3 requires that Sound Transit consider how we’re going to implement and connect those expansions now.

Seattle Subway has 5 fundamental pillars of rider experience: speed, reliability, accessibility, expandability, and safety. 

Ensuring expandability, and the financial and operational feasibility of future expansion, is fundamental to making sure ST3 is a good transit investment, and Sound Transit seems to have forgotten that. We need your help to remind the Sound Transit Board at their meetings on July 7th, July 14th, and July 28th. Sign up to testify or send an email today with links below.

ST3 can be a fantastic expansion of our regional system, but it will not be the end of light rail expansion for our region. As the Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Board wrote in 2018, ST3 must be built for the future. Light rail lines must be designed so that future expansion can happen without high cost reconstruction of the lines we’re planning today, or future service disruptions during construction. When ST3 is complete, 13 of 30 Seattle’s “urban villages” and “urban centers” will be connected, but completing our vision map would connect 27 of 30 urban villages and centers in Seattle. There are four areas where Sound Transit needs to explicitly future-proof the system as part of ST3 so future expansion remains financially and operationally feasible, saving money and reducing operational impacts long term:

  • South Lake Union
    Either the South Lake Union or Denny Triangle Station must be designed with future expansion to the North (Aurora Ave N Corridor to Snohomish) and along Denny (King County Metro Route 8) in mind, requiring expansion points in South Lake Union and stations designed for future passenger volumes.
  • SoDo
    The new SoDo station must be built with future expansion to the south (Georgetown, South Park, Sea-Tac, Renton, South King County) in mind, requiring stub tracks south of the turnoff towards West Seattle and stations designed for future passenger volumes.
  • West Seattle
    The West Seattle Line must be built with future expansion to the South (White Center/Burien) in mind, requiring stub tracks south of the West Seattle Junction Station and stations designed for future passenger volumes.
  • Ballard
    Ballard Station must be built with expansion to both the north (Crown Hill/Greenwood/Lake City) and east (Ballard to UW) in mind, requiring expansion points north and east from the future Ballard Station and stations designed for future passenger volumes.

Of these, only Ballard to UW, and West Seattle to White Center and Burien are on Sound Transit’s current Long Range Plan. That is unacceptable. For a small additional investment in expansion points during ST3 construction, we ensure future expansions are financially feasible. Designing ST3 stations with enough redundancy and passenger capacity to be completely sure future expansions are operationally feasible without reconstruction is just as important. Future transit riders deserve it.

Tell the Sound Transit Board the path forward is clear: they need to plan for future expansions from South Lake Union, Sodo, West Seattle, and Ballard as part of ST3 so we don’t forgo future expansions to more destinations throughout the region. 

Sign up to testify; or click here to send an email today, just add your name at the bottom.

This form will be open between 8:00 a.m. and 10:25 a.m. Thursday, July 7, 2022:
Sign up to comment at July 7 ST System Expansion Committee

This form will be open between 8:00 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. Thursday, July 14, 2022:
Sign up to comment at July 14 ST System Expansion Committee

This form will be open between 8:00 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2022:
Sign up to comment at July 28 ST Board of Directors Meeting

72 Replies to “Call to action: don’t let the Sound Transit board make expansion beyond ST3 impossible”

  1. It’s disappointing to see Seattle Subway keep pitching bad ideas.

    East Ballard already has very dense zoning, is rapidly under redevelopment, and the comprehensive plan updated underway will expand the urban village further and upzone further along with other possible changes nearby. The Seattle Subway plan makes Link expandability more costly than it would ever need to be by diverting north-south in the western portion of Ballard and makes connections to bus service for the largest number of bus riders worse. A high bridge (with a drawbridge that never opens in reality if we can’t tell the Coast Guard to go packing) will do just fine. On top of all of this, it misses an opportunity to tame 15th Avenue so that it becomes a street rather than remaining as a stroad.

    Seattle Subway already wants the Market-45th Street Link line to service West Ballard. That’s the better tool to serve the neighborhood, preferably with elevated rail.

    Let’s not waste money on an alignment that costs astronomically more, increases risk, doesn’t serve measurably more riders, and condemns future expandability to extreme costs.

    1. This article isn’t about Ballard. It’s about ensuring Seattle can still expand more beyond ST3. What’s bad about that idea?

      Answer: nothing.

      Ensuring we can build a future ST4 = a smart decision.

    2. @Joe — It is about Ballard. That was one of the four bullet-point items. JT mentions expansion as well — just in a different way. Run a high drawbridge on 15th, then eventually run a line from the center of Ballard to the UW (with a stop at 15th). I’m not saying that is the best approach, but it is a reasonable one.

      The problem is the lack of a realistic vision from Seattle Subway. JT’s vision is realistic, even if it isn’t exactly what I would do. In contrast, Seattle Subway’s vision is ridiculous. No city our size has built that much grade separated rail. When you consider how expensive it has been to build the tiny pieces we have (even skipping First Hill twice) it is ridiculous to think we will build a brand new secondary express line to SeaTac (with even fewer stops than the first line). We aren’t going to build an underground line from West Seattle to Burien, and we sure as hell aren’t going to destroy a bunch of homes so that we can run it above ground (which as we’ve seen doesn’t necessarily save much money anyway).

      There are only a tiny handful of realistic expansion lines. There may only be two: A Ballard to UW line, and a so-called Metro 8 line (with a stop on First Hill). It is not clear at all what should be done to enable either one of those lines. The obvious connection point with a Metro 8 line is Capitol Hill Station, which is not being altered with ST3. Ballard is a lot more complicated. I would love to see a station in the center of Ballard (roughly 20th) with a station facing east-west (or at an angle, northwest-southeast). Such a station should definitely have the ability to be shared by a future Ballard to UW line (saving money on that project).

      But arguing for the ability to expand (in a vague manner) just increases the likelihood that we will build something poor. Every single West Seattle proposal is worse than what voters approved. A big reason for this is that they wanted the stations facing north-south, so that the line could be expanded towards Burien. The biggest flaw with ST3 — and Sound Transit Link in general — is the focus on distance over coverage. In our zeal to get to places like Ash Way we skipped over First Hill, have no connection to Madison or 23rd, and only have two stations in the U-District. I know there were particular issues with all of these decisions, but the focus on distance over traditional urban stop spacing in our most urban areas is a fundamental mistake that Seattle Subway ignores. This won’t be solved by hoping that we add to what is already one of the most expensive (and least effective) systems on a per-capita basis. In fact, it is the opposite.

      ST3 biggest mistake was its size, both in Seattle and the region as a whole. We don’t need a line from Issaquah to Kirkland. We don’t need to extend Link further north than Lynnwood, or further south than Federal Way. We don’t even need a line to West Seattle (especially since it will either be worse than the buses for the vast majority of riders). We definitely don’t need a second downtown tunnel that doesn’t add any coverage downtown. Scrap the tunnel, and eventually we might get a station on First Hill, in the unlikely event that we actually need added capacity or can afford any expansion, no matter worthy.

      This means dropping this ridiculous idea: https://www.seattlesubway.org/regional-map/ and proposing sensible, realistic ideas in both the short and long term.

      1. Ross, you wrote yesterday in reply to my suggestion to dump West Seattle that you didn’t think it was possible, presumably for political reasons. It was a suggestion I made while praising your years’ long advocacy of “more buses; no train for West Seattle”.

        Now you turn around to make the same proposal above: “We don’t even need a line to West Seattle.”

        You need to ask yourself if you simply have an obsession to oppose everyone else’s ideas. You can never win a political issue without allies.

      2. Sorry for the confusion. In this case I’m writing about projects from an abstract level. Project A is worth the money, project B isn’t. Yesterday I was focused on what was politically possible. It is about picking battles.

        I still don’t think it is possible to kill West Seattle rail and replace it with improved bus service (even though that would be much better for riders). There are people in West Seattle that really want the new rail line. They may be misguided, but fighting them (and that project) would be very difficult.

        In contrast, no one really wants the new tunnel. Mainly because it doesn’t really add anything. The only new station is at Madison. If this was an infill station on the main line, and if it wasn’t so damn deep, then there would be plenty of people looking forward to the new station. But that simply isn’t the case. Transferring to that line will be too time consuming to bother with and the overwhelming majority of those that find themselves in the new tunnel will wish they were on the old one.

        With West Seattle, it is an issue of value. It doesn’t add enough to warrant the cost. With the new tunnel, it doesn’t add anything. It will be worse for most riders than if the tunnel was shared. As a result, there is far less support for the new tunnel. People just assume that it is needed, when it isn’t.

        I think we have to pick our battles. Right now, for me anyway, that is fighting against the new tunnel. There is no project — even the ridiculous Issaquah to Kirkland line — that is as bad a value as that. That’s the battle I’m fighting now, along several smaller ones (moving the Ballard station west, etc.). To be clear, if the tide turns and I think there is any chance that we can scrap most of ST3, I’ll be strongly in favor of that. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening.

      3. By the way Tom, at least for now, you might consider aligning yourself with Smarter Transit/CETA. As of right now, these are their four main goals:

        · No extensions of light rail beyond what they have currently started.
        · Our Federal and State officials hold ST and the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) accountable for accurately documenting the actual cost and benefits of these projects.
        · A Board that is directly elected by the people who are paying the taxes.
        · Sound Transit terminates the Sounder North diesel passenger trains between King Street Station and Everett.

        I support every one of those items. I am guessing you support at least three of these (an elected board is bound to be controversial). You might consider supporting this group for that reason (https://smartertransit.org/). I support them, but doubt they will be successful. I think it will be very difficult convincing the powers that be that we should abandon West Seattle rail, let alone all of the rail extensions that haven’t been started (I assume that the extension to Redmond has been started, and that infill stations don’t count as extensions).

        By the way, I think Smarter Transit is the exact opposite of Seattle Subway. Both are mode fetishists. Seattle Subway thinks we should build the largest rail system in North America, while Smarter Transit thinks we shouldn’t have added rail in the first place. I’ve worked with members of both groups, as sometimes they propose things that make a lot of sense. For example, it was Seattle Subway that actually proposed a second bus tunnel. Smarter Transit of course, opposed ST3. We may have opposed it for different reasons, but politics makes strange bedfellows. At this point, given the huge amount of poorly designed rail in ST3, I find myself aligned by those that favor just shifting all the money into bus service and bus infrastructure.

        Unfortunately, Seattle Subway is gaining power, while Smarter Transit/CETA seems to be largely irrelevant. Folks get excited about unrealistic dreams I guess.

      4. Ross, thanks. I don’t agree with SmarterTransit for just the reason you point out. I think that rail is necessary in Puget Sound, just not the system that has come about. Everybody is in an uproar because of the car-train conflicts in the Rainier Valley and wants “no more at-grade Link”, presumably “anywhere ever!” so the region is saddled with slow trains with expensive overhead power distribution when it’s locked into building BART del Norte.

        There is a place for more rail in Seattle in close proximity to downtown where hills and old narrow streets make BRT harder to implement, but north of Smith Cove and west of Fourth and Spokane there are more than adequate stroads for BRT to use.

        It will always have been a mistake that Federal Way and Lynnwood Link did not follow SR99 with more frequent stations south of Angle Lake and North of Northwest Hospital, but what’s done is done, so the system is doomed to be “commuter rail” in the tails of The Spine when it could have led to a “string of pearls” in the ‘burbs like SkyTrain.

        I hope that sometime after 2035, after Lynnwood to Federal Way and Redmond is complete and the RV has been grade-separated that the system adds third rail power distribution so the trains can be faster at least.

      5. “Seattle Subway is gaining power, while Smarter Transit/CETA seems to be largely irrelevant.”

        Seattle Subway is gaining power among two Seattle politicians. And some of it may just be that we’re hearing about it rather than an actual increase. Seattle Subway’s power in the suburbs is undetectable as far as I can see.

        Did Seattle Subway influence the decision to take another look at the I-5 and 99 alignments in Everett? That seems to be driven by intra-subarea factors; i.e., keeping Everett Station close to schedule. Which means the Snohomish boardmembers, Everett, and Snohomish County are actually weighing the tradeoff between Everett and Paine Field in a limited budget situation as they should. And they may be starting to lean the right direction. If Paine Field were compact and more jobsites were within walking distance of one station, that would weigh in its favor. Airplane construction and test flights need a lot of space, but the sprawling office layouts, too-wide highways, and empty dead space around them are just excessive, and is why the jobsites are so far from any station location. That means Paine Field has a weaker case for Link, and a stronger case for buses that could serve more stops in the district, to make up for the excessive space between everything.

      6. Seattle Subway is referenced more and more by both the Seattle Times and The Stranger. I don’t think you can say that about Smarter Transit. As to whether either influences politicians, or these projects, that is hard to say.

        Seattle Subway has a vision, and while it is unrealistic, it is compelling. Smarter Transit doesn’t really have a vision. They want more buses, but haven’t really described what that would mean. There is no map showing bus frequency, or improved speed. They spend way too much time writing about BRT, a mode that doesn’t have a great brand here (or anywhere). Swift is popular, but since Swift has big stop spacing, many of the new lines just don’t work for people. Simply saying “more BRT” and “less rail” does not sound that appealing (especially to people who associate the latter with speed). Smarter Transit is largely an anti-Sound Transit organization, and that can only get you so far.

      7. Which means the Snohomish boardmembers, Everett, and Snohomish County are actually weighing the tradeoff between Everett and Paine Field in a limited budget situation as they should. And they may be starting to lean the right direction.

        How so? I would say the “right direction” is to end at Lynnwood, build the (very cheap) bidirectional HOV ramps at Ash Way and change the HOV-2 lanes to HOV-3. Then put the remaining money into bus service, and maybe some additional paint (much of which the county is doing anyway, as part of the Swift expansion). This is all quite reasonable. I am quite confident that an independent consultant would recommend this(or something similar). Is this happening? No. Are they even planning on hiring an independent consultant? No.

        They aren’t leaning in the right direction and really have no idea which direction that is.

      8. The problem for Seattle Subway is they don’t have the money for any of their designs, and no funding source. Their only avenue is a SB5528 levy, and WSBLE will consume any levy capacity for decades just to complete it.

        But if you are drawing transit cartoons why not include fantastical designs like SS does because ink is cheap. Who wants to read about marginal improvements in bus service that are affordable and do make a difference and allocate transit to actual users with an eye toward dollar per rider mile metrics? How boring is that if all of this is just fantasy?

        Part of the appeal of SS is to Urbanists, who really think transit or light rail will change how people live and work and think. It is the same with mild upzones of the SFH neighborhoods, although no one can explain how you get transit to these remote upzoned SFH zones, and IMO are partly driven by resentment towards the “privileged” because they bought before prices exploded. Maybe if someone could show me affordable and workable bus service to the Sammamish Plateau I might believe.

        The pandemic killed both SS and the urbanists’ dreams for the rest of us, and it was a dream before the pandemic. 90% of regional trips before the pandemic were by car, and that figure has likely increased post pandemic.
        These two groups just never consider money in any of their goals because it is usually “other people’s money”. If anything, the spine is anti-urbanism, but the lack of traffic congestion and peak work commuting is what will really hurt transit and urbanism in the future. The reality is the 90% who drive don’t want to live in TOD.

        Smarter Transit will win out because it will be what is affordable, although admittedly having a blog about marginal improvements to buses for poor people during a decline in transit ridership is not very exciting.

      9. “the spine is anti-urbanism, but the lack of traffic congestion and peak work commuting is what will really hurt transit and urbanism in the future.”

        The appeal of urbanism is being able to live where you can walk to a lot of destinations, have enough density for frequent transit in all four directions, and can live car-lite. And for some people, not having the maintenance burden of a detached house and yard, contributing to the environmental solution rather than the problem, and saving the money you would have otherwise spent on a larger house and yard.

        None of this is directly related to whether your commute is long or short, or how common work from home is.

        “The reality is the 90% who drive don’t want to live in TOD.”

        Your fallacy is assuming everybody who drives wants to drive, and everybody is living in the density they want. But there’s a pent-up demand for transit and walkable neighborhoods. People who want to live in those kinds of places can’t because there aren’t enough of them, and they get outbid by wealthier people who have more choice where to live. The solution is to expand these areas, whether up, out, or planting new ones. And King County is 150,000 units short of the housing it needs for the current population, so that people can live more where they want to and prices stop rising so quickly. Those units have to go somewhere, and since the county’s population is already 2.25 million, it should be denser on average than the existing housing, because that’s what’s appropriate for a county that size. It’s the size of two NYC boroughs.

      10. Seattle Subway for all it’s critiques for it’s vision map. Is at least trying to untangle a lot of the political and bureaucratic red tape related to building transit in WA state. They’ve gotten far (even if not always successful) in getting the WA Legislature to at least propose and debate changing the laws about building rail in the state which is very good for everyone in the state in my opinion.
        As for Smarter Transit, their goals are admirable in what they want to do, like building better bike routes and walkability for many parts of the Seattle metro. But I’d say their goals are still very car centric, like advocating for more carpooling and ride share seems like it should be a lower priority in comparison to other issues. And on some level throwing out the baby with the bath water in relation to Link and saying well everything would be better served by buses. Like buses are great and are effective transit but so is light rail and I’d say Smarter Transit would be better served by advocating for a multimodal approach to transit in the Seattle Metro.
        – Bus frequency should be good all around day and night
        – Bike infrastructure should be a priority even if it means road dieting
        -Build a vision for a proper tram network
        – Building out the arteries for a good Metro system
        – Improving commuter rail and Amtrak service
        It’s a lot and I’d say you can’t do everything at once but it’d be better way of investing time and energy than on advocating for BRT in my opinion.

      11. “And they may be starting to lean the right direction.”

        “I would say the “right direction” is to end at Lynnwood”

        I mean within the minimum political givens. Snohomish has insisted on Everett Station since before Sound Transit was created and has never wavered on it. It’s the minimum thing Snohomish wants, and what it wants to spend its subarea equity money on. Given that, the 99 alignment seems like the best of the three alternatives, since it has the possibility of villages all along the line. So it’s a good thing that ST is reconsidering it. It could always fall back on truncating Link at 128th, which it has already defined as a first phase.

      12. “Seattle Subway for all it’s critiques for it’s vision map. Is at least trying to untangle a lot of the political and bureaucratic red tape related to building transit in WA state.”

        Seattle Subway’s visions have consistently added to ST’s plan rather than contradicting parts of it. ST’s plan is the biggest political consensus we have, Contradicting it is an uphill battle, and we may end up with neither one. RossB would truncate Link at Lynnwood or 128th, and replace West Seattle with multi-line BRT, but there’s not enough political consensus for those at this point. We can only build what the cities, counties, state, and public agree on. ST’s plan is the closest we’ve gotten to that. The second-closest is so far behind it’s only visible with binoculars.

        There are some things that could happen. If ST flat-out can’t afford the current ST3 within a timeframe acceptable to it, it might fall back to truncating Everett at 128th, and replacing WSBLE with the C and D improvements. But there’s no sign yet it’s ready to do those. So these contradictory alternatives, while it’s good to have them outlined in case there’s a political opening, and transit fans like to consider ideals even if they’re fantasy, they don’t seem like likely next steps to pursue or expect.

      13. “As for Smarter Transit, their goals are admirable in what they want to do, like building better bike routes and walkability for many parts of the Seattle metro. But I’d say their goals are still very car centric, like advocating for more carpooling and ride share seems like it should be a lower priority in comparison to other issues.”

        What is Smarter Transit? Who’s behind it? It sounds like the vision of Kemper Freeman and the anti-transit former Metro director who spoke at the Eastside Transportation forum, or John Niles who was always against rail and was on STB in the early days of Link. No trains, and buses aren’t that important either. The only problem that needs to be solved is peak-hour congestion. For that, carpools and autonomous cars would be the best solution. Off-peak, people can drive or take taxis. When the establishment proposes rail, they say BRT. When the establishment proposes BRT, they say it costs too much. (To be fair, Niles may be more pro-BRT.) Is that what Smarter Transit is?

      14. @Tom terrific:

        “I hope that sometime after 2035, after Lynnwood to Federal Way and Redmond is complete and the RV has been grade-separated that the system adds third rail power distribution so the trains can be faster at least.”

        Aren’t you aware that almost all the truly fast rail systems use Overhead Wire? Upgrading sections to say 100 mph WOULDN’T involve a shift in electrification.

      15. It’s not the overhead wire that limits Link to 55 mph. It’s ST’s minimum specs for trains and track alignment. It’s like how cars and roads have different requirements if their maximum speed is 30 mph, 85 mph, or 130 mph. Light rail trains spec’d for 65 mph or maybe even 85 mph have higher-quality parts, more vendor guarantees, looser track curves, and more gentle elevation.

        ST in the 1990s chose light rail because it was compatible with street-running. “It can do it all: surface, elevated, underground.” At the time ST envisioned a much more surface-based network, from Intl Dist all the way to SeaTac, and presumably to Tacoma. That’s what previous American light rails had done (MAX, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento), and was considered the limit of what American taxpayers would tolerate. The Westlake-UDistrict tunnel was a given because of the hills and ship canal and the existing DSTT, as University Way and Broadway were considered must-serve. (An early victory by urbanists.) But the rest of it would be surface as much as feasible. The Beacon Hill alignment would have gone around the northeast side of the hill to avoid a tunnel. That changed when Paul Allen demanded Stadium Station and the city wanted a station for SODO workers. But Beacon Hill was a short tunnel, and the original proposal didn’t have a Beacon Hill Station. But after Rainier Valley and SODO, as each segment went through design one by one, the public response was “we want grade separation and we’re willing to pay for it”. That led to Tukwila’s elevation, Roosevelt’s underground station, and everything in ST2 and 3 being grade-separated. (Bellevue-Redmond later came down to the surface because Bellevue bagged for a tunnel in front of City Hall. The I-5 segments in Kent and Shoreline are at-grade but have no level crossings because they’re in the freeway ROW, so they’re grade-separated in this sense. All of ST3 is grade-separated at this point as far as I know.)

        So ST choose 55 mph because it was thinking about the vast surface segments that would be lower anyway, and it apparently didn’t notice its impact on travel time to Tacoma. And then in ST3, Tacoma/Pierce said they didn’t care if it took longer to get to downtown Seattle vs ST Express, they just wanted a line to the airport and Tacoma to attract employers and workers to Tacoma. Everett’s and Lynnwood’s travel time will be in the midrange of ST Express, about the same as Sounder, so they got lucky there, because it’s fully grade-separated and a shorter distance.

      16. What is Smarter Transit? Who’s behind it?

        Maggie Fimia and John Niles are the main people. At least I assume that Niles is still part of the organization. Fimia authors the articles for the most part.

        They are generally very skeptical about rail, believing it should be used only when you have a lot of density. Then you should use heavy rail, with big stations. I disagree. The light rail we have is not ideal, but mostly because it is low boarding, not high. It evolved this way in part because we had buses running to the same platforms. We probably should have built our rail line from scratch (with a brand new tunnel) but that would have been more expensive. The other flaw is that the trains aren’t automated. With all of those flaws, we still have trains capable of carrying over 800 people with a single driver. There are trade-offs, but clearly this is an advantage.

        Anyway, I am happy that the organization isn’t focused on that. They aren’t trying to stop construction, or reverse what has been done (other than getting rid of North Sounder, and most folks here agree with that). They are arguing that we simply finish what we started, and then shift to putting money into buses. I’m not sure I would go that far, as I think Ballard Link has some merit. But given the choice of putting the money into bus projects or building what they planned, I would definitely focus on buses. There are a ton of things that can be done to make the buses faster, along with simply running them more often.

        It is highly unlikely that I agree with any political organization completely. It is also quite possible that I find myself agreeing with an organization at one point, but then disagreeing with them at another time. In the case of Smarter Transit, I agree with every single point they are focused on now, which is why it is easy to support them (now).

      17. I’d never heard of Smarter Transit until you mentioned it, except that Niles may have mentioned it years ago in a comment. So if I haven’t heard about it, I assume few others have, which suggests its marketing isn’t very successful.

      18. From what I remember Smarter Transit/CETA was known somewhat during 2016 election season for their opposition to the ST3 plan. I went to a debate on the ST3 plan between CETA/Smarter Transit and Sound Transit/City of Seattle before the election and honestly CETA/Smarter Transit didn’t do a great job selling their POV from what I remember of it. It came off as NIMBY in nature. Like one of them mentioning that they used to live in NYC and used the subways to get everywhere and thought it was good which means one of them had a good understanding of what good transit is to a degree. But then turning around and saying we shouldn’t fund this project with the familiar NIMBY points I’ve seen come up when debating transit like it’s too expensiv,e, it’s a boondoggle, it’s an outdated technology, taxes are too high, and it’s ride to nowhere among many other reasons. A bit of a confused messages in trying to parse out the logic that they have behind their POV in my opinion.
        In the time between then and now, maybe they’ve grown as an organization in terms of debating their perspective on the topic.

      19. I remember their anti-ST3 campaign as well. So many of their arguments seemed pointless. They often focused on the technology. They criticized light rail as being the worst of both worlds. They exaggerated the benefits of BRT. They have always been highly critical of Sound Transit, and it was the worst time to focus on that. ST had just finished the most important segment they had ever built (UW to downtown). This was under (the revised) budget and ahead of (the revised) schedule. Sure, compared to the original plan it was late, over budget and missing a station. But it appeared that they had fixed all of those problems. Light rail may have its flaws, but obviously it was working out great for a lot of people, as anyone with any sense would predict. As many people have noted (including myself) you really can’t screw up UW to downtown, no matter what you do. Thus the idea that light rail is the wrong technology for the area, or that ST can’t implement it well was absurd. Of course light rail can work here — in the right places.

        On a transit blog, it is easy to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of technology, or the challenges of implementing them. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t care. They want to know whether it will make things better — will it be worth it. Is it the right thing to do.

        That is why they should have based their argument on process. This was the fundamental flaw with ST3, and the fundamental flaw with ST in general. If you have the opportunity to spend huge sums of money on transit, the responsible thing to do is to hire public transportation experts to do an analysis, and come up with proposals for improving transit. Don’t lock yourself into a particular mode, or capital spending versus operations. Hire a transit firm — or better yet a few firms to get differences of opinions. Look at things from a various range of metrics — increase in ridership, time saved per rider, etc. Then present all of these options to the public, and try to come to some sort of consensus.

        That isn’t what the board did. They did the opposite. They arbitrarily chose to build a rail line from Tacoma to Everett, as if the value of a subway line that long is self-evident. In fact, it is the opposite. It is highly unusual. It will extend longer than the New York Subway, the Chicago El, The Paris Subway, the London Underground or Overground. [At that point I would have those subway systems overlaid onto a future map of ST3]. The choices were arbitrary outside the city, and inside it as well. Why West Seattle? The average speed of those buses far exceeds buses that carry a lot more riders. Maybe it is because the head of council — and the county — lives there. [Then I would go into a spiel about how most of the people in West Seattle would not be better off — they would be asked to make a transfer right when the bus was about to quickly get them to downtown.]

        But the main flaw is the process. We can argue all day about what makes the most sense for the money. Express buses running every ten minutes from Everett to Seattle with a stop at Lynnwood, or empty trains running every twenty minutes. Run buses twice as often, with new routes that connect people in a more straightforward manner or a subway line to Fife. But what makes the most sense is to hire experts — real experts — to look at these options, and come up with cost/benefit proposals.

        That wasn’t the argument then, and it definitely hurt their cause. As for what is happening now, I don’t see this as a huge shift — only that things have changed around them. If you don’t like like rail — if you think it is a terrible value for Seattle — then there are going to be ups and downs. It is hard to argue against UW Link and Northgate Link. It is very easy to argue against most of the rail in ST3. Thus the idea of finishing what we started and adding no more rail — fundamentally no different than what they’ve always argued — is a lot stronger.

        The same is true when you are focused on the board. Saying the board is irresponsible right after they finish the most important section that will ever be built in this state — again, ahead of the revised schedule and under the revised budget — is a very tough argument to make. Saying it now — as prices escalate and plans deteriorate dramatically — is much easier.

        It isn’t that Smarter Transit changed, it is that the world changed around them.

      20. Ross, it is the worst of both worlds the way ST uses it. We have relatively slow, narrow trains with expensive overhead power distribution running on elevated structures. Yes, it “evolved” to be that, but it doesn’t change the reality. If you want to use light rail technology, put it on the ground wherever you can! And not just in freeway rights of way.

  2. Yes!! We need to make sure Sound Transit doesn’t shoot itself (and the City of Seattle) in the foot by preventing expansion beyond ST3…. We need to plan NOW to make the build in the infrastructure while it’s still relatively cheap and non disruptive to prepare for future expansion of light rail to other neighborhoods.

  3. I see nothing listed about the ‘burbs in here. I live in the ‘burbs. BUT… I support this in concept. Yes, I would love to see the expansions noted above, as well as expansions in Tacoma, and, perhaps, spurs over to Auburn from Federal Way or Kent from Des Moines, or looping from Tukwila up to Bellevue via Renton. Expansion is CRITICAL for our region’s future, and critical to creating a transportation network that is climate neutral.

      1. Probably worth adding that the Tacoma Dome station needs to be built to allow expansion west (Tacoma Mall) or south (Pacific Ave), as well as allowing it to directly connect to the streetcar someday

      2. Oh yes, the Pierce boardmembers’ position is that Tacoma Mall is the ultimate terminus.

    1. You see nothing about the burbs? This is all about the burbs. Seattle Subway scrapped its unrealistic plans for a Seattle bases subway system with an even more unrealistic plan for a region wide subway system years ago. Just look at the bullet items. Ballard is the only one focused on the city. Here are the other three (emphasis mine):

      Either the South Lake Union or Denny Triangle Station must be designed with future expansion to the North (Aurora Ave N Corridor to Snohomish) …

      The new SoDo station must be built with future expansion to the south (Georgetown, South Park, Sea-Tac, Renton, South King County) …

      The West Seattle Line must be built with future expansion to the South (White Center/Burien) in mind …

      Not only does Seattle Subway think we are L. A. (a much bigger, and more densely populated city) but thinks we have even more money to build a system. They oppose realistic compromises, even though much of what L. A. is building is actually on the surface (heresy!). It is ridiculous, and perpetuates a misconceived notion of what a subway really should look like for this, or any other region. Its sad, because there are some smart people that are part of that organization, and they mean well, but the fixation of unrealistic goals hurts their cause. Transit isn’t better when we focus on things that will never happen (like two lines to Woodinville, and four lines to Tukwila).

    2. For Kent the Sounder train needs expansion, and there needs to be some kind of rapid shuttle from Kent Station to the light rail up the hill. The Rapid Ride (I?) line will help on East Hill, but for light rail to work for Kent, it’s gonna need to make that connection.

      1. Currently funded in ST3 is an expansion of train length to 8-car trains and then later 10-car trains, plus capital and O&M for addition trips – the most likely outcome is boosting peak frequency from 20-minutes to 15-minutes, aka adding one additional roundtrip per house.

    3. A handful of authors and regular commentators live in the Eastside, and two or three in Snohomish County and at least one in Pierce County. I’m not sure about South King County. There’s also somebody with ties to Eastern/Central Washington who occasionally writes articles about transit in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Wenatchee.

  4. The general future proofing advocacy is too abstract to mean anything to a Board member. Seattle Subway needs to be more specific in recommending design requirements here!

    To me, that includes doing these four specific things:

    1. Installing tail tracks that can ultimately be attached to a future extension. If Convention Place had had tail tracks, the entire SLU/ Ballard project would be so much cheaper and obvious, for example. Tail tracks in the U-District would have meant serious consideration of a Ballard-UW branch, for example.

    2. Installing subway station vault walls that can be structurally breached. Even where it’s not feasible for rail at the platform level, it needs to be possible at the mezzanine level in several locations at most subway stations for possible future transfers or even other new underground pedestrian connections. Building mezzanines that can’t be breached is incredibly foolish!

    3. Installing center platforms as a default to facilitate transfers. Connectivity means transfers, and large surges of train riders would need to be anticipated. Having same level transfers avoids forcing riders to use elevators, stairs or escalators instead — which would begin to queue up with heavy transfer activity.

    4. Where side platforms happen, they should be build so that they can become center platforms at a future date. Designing the current ID-C or Westlake platforms to have allowed for adding new outside tracks and platform loading would have more easily resolved the problems of doing that that have come to light in the WSBLE DEIS.

    Certainly there are other considerations like communication and electrical systems. However, these three elements seem to me to be what’s needed to consider at this point.

    Future proofing is a noble idea. It just needs specific design requirements to be strategic and implementable

    1. Absolutely. Agreed fully.

      Seattle Subway definitely tries to bring up this type of thing to Sound Transit engineering audiences. As a stand-in for these details here we mentioned tail/stub tracks (e.g. elevated tail tracks in SoDo) and the expansion point in SLU, and capacity to handle future passenger volumes at all stations. We are actively working on incorporating as much detail as possible. We’re currently working with City Council on their admittedly-toothless resolution to create this wish list.

  5. Seemingly coincidentally, the City Council Transportation Committee met today to discuss amendments to the City’s recommendations to ST for WSBLE.

    Some notable live-tweets from Ryan Packer: https://twitter.com/typewriteralley/status/1544372796062461952

    “15th Ave NW is a barrier we must solve for, no matter where the station area is”, Strauss says getting into Ballard issues. Calvin Chow of central staff mentions Broadway and Montlake Blvd as other streets where Sound Transit has mitigated heavy volume streets.


    Strauss’s surprise amendment 2 is asking for more options on the table that include a Ballard Station tunnel alignment west of 15th Ave NW, since the high level bridge can’t move forward.


    That amendment passed. Now we have another surprise amendment from Sawant adding requests for future-proofing so that future lines can be added. Sawant is noting this proposal comes from Seattle Subway. Pedersen says he’s struggling with some of the details.


    Pedersen says there’s “wide-ranging support” for adding future proofing language, but is going with Sawant’s plan to hold off on adopting any language around this today. That’s about it for discussion.

    While I appreciate that Seattle Subway was able to get some sway with the Council for some common-sense recommendations, I’m not sure there’s really any amount of advocacy that can get Sound Transit to consider doing any work that isn’t in direct service of an existing “voter-approved” project, because there are enough busybody cranks out there who would consider it unacceptably wasteful to spend now in service of unapproved future expansion.

    I’m curious when we’re going to start seeing a real push for a SB5528 ESZ initiative in Seattle. 2024 is shaping up to be a banner year for new Link openings.

    1. You’re witnessing the beginning of the push for an ESZ in real time. But we can’t get what we don’t study.

      1. I don’t remember from all the ESZ discussion earlier this year, but could an SB5528 ESZ be used to fund studies? Or does the project have to have a defined scope before being funded?

        My wishlist for a Seattle ESZ that just funds projects would be:

        1. Closing the affordability gap for WSBLE (finishing Smith Cove-Ballard in 2037)
        2. Grade-separating the Rainier Valley segment
        3. Providing third-party funding for extra station features like future-proofing for LRP extensions and redundant vertical circulation.

        The April 2022 Annual Program Review (https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/FinalRecords/2022/Report%20-%20Annual%20Program%20Review%20-%20April%202022.pdf) updated the estimate for WSBLE at a whopping $14B (likely reflecting the latest “preferred alignment” with tunnels on both ends, and updates to costs of the CID station); well over $1B per mile and insane for a light rail line, regardless of environment.

        The Board (mainly Gonzalez and Harrell) have a choice ahead of them: build DSTT2, and be known as the agency that built the most expensive and least useful light rail tunnel ever, or redefine WSBLE to scrap DSTT2, splitting WSBLE into WSLE and BLE, and “just” doing signal and access upgrades for DSTT1. They could even throw in some future-proofing for a potential DSTT2 sometime down the line. However, as many have noted, WSLE probably isn’t competitive for federal grants on its own, so that complicates funding for that end.

      2. Seattle Subway: Please don’t go running to the voters for an ESZ without exhausting reasonable alternatives first!

        SS is right that more things should be thoroughly studied before asking for funding. The current core problem is directly traceable to this: The middle of DSTT2 from Westlake to ID-C station was that this most difficult and costly segment never had solid alternatives studied. Even now, the alternatives are almost similar, merely shifting stations a block one way or the other. These are simply not broad enough.

        Another looming ESZ support problem is the current vertical conveyances performance. ST has a continuing PR black eye with these that cannot be ignored. The very people that ride are the ones that have growing frustration with ST because of this. Having all these new North Seattle Link riders suffer in year one with failing escalators creates real skepticism about expanding the system. It’s much easier to sell a hopeful vision than it is to system that has operational failures that riders experience regularly. The inability to keep vertical conveyances regularly working is going to result in more No votes on any ESZ proposal within Seattle.

    2. ST listens primarily to cities. If Seattle requests something, there’s a good likelihood it will happen. Harrell and Juarez are on the board that makes the decision. The ST3 mandate is to serve Ballard, so 20th is in scope with that. Future-proofing is the prudent thing to do.

    3. Ballard can still have a bridge lower than 178 feet; it just has to open. The I-5 project between Portland and Vancouver has the same mandate, and will almost certainly have to spend a half billion for a opening span that gets used five times a decade.

      1. Then the original 70′ bridge ST was planning would be OK because it opened. But a couple months ago the Coast Guard told ST a bridge lower than 200 feet would not be allowed.

      2. They completely ruled out an opening bridge? Are you CERTAIN of that, because that would be a gross assumption of power. There are already FOUR opening bridges on the route (five include the rail bridge), so channel width and curvature constraints are already in place for the passage. Since this bridge would be directly adjacent to the 15th NW bridge — whose channel is angled (https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ballard,+Seattle,+WA/@47.65987,-122.3758466,189m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x549015d57a5da881:0xd07680ac0ad3f49c!8m2!3d47.6792172!4d-122.3860312) — the most the CG should be able to impose on Seattle/ST is that a 14th NW bridge have perhaps a 20 foot longer opening span.

        What MyBallard says is

        This determination would require FIXED bridges along the Ship Canal to have a vertical height clearance of at least 205 feet; bridges like the one that will have to be built to connect the future Ballard Link Station to Interbay Station. [extra emphasis added]

        It was ST who axed the opening bridge, not the Coast Guard.

  6. https://click.email.seattletimes.com/?qs=4c1dbe91c3bc8bcfd0664ef370131e42efb28636f00b4277b2069903182a7ffafdf3f3fa74ee06c0789d18043948f7eae78efef3edb7191e

    The Times has the cost for WSBLE at $13 billion. I don’t know where they get that estimate or which design in the DEIS they are cost estimating, or what the cost contingency is, but $13 billion is a lot of money, and likely low. Rogoff had it at $12 billion several years ago when DSTT2 was still estimated to cost $2.2 billion.

    I was surprised to read SS state they (or someone) is working on a SB5528 levy “in real time”, although I don’t know what alternative they are working off of, or what the proponents of a SB5528 levy are assuming for design, cost, cost contingency, subarea contribution to DSTT2. , N. King Co. ST future revenue estimates less the cost for 130th and Graham St. stations, but why get caught up in minor details. I always wondered if SS would object to ST hijacking a SB5528 levy simply to finish ST 3 in N. King Co. because if it passed that is likely the end of transit levies in Seattle for decades. I always thought SS was somewhat skeptical of WSBLE.

    My back of envelope guess for the SB5528 levy is $7 to $10 billion depending on design and a few other assumptions.

    I don’t know what that works out to in dollars per rider mike but based on an earlier article that is around $360,000 per likely rider. I think it is risky to ask Seattle voters to approve such a massive levy for a gold plated WSBLE when some (Black) neighborhoods got the tin version and most neighborhoods receive no benefit.

    I always thought the rubber meets the road with SB5528. I would love to know SS’s estimated cost for the levy and whether it simply funds ST 3 and WSBLE.

    1. Just to be clear Daniel, those figures are “per rider on any one day” [presumably a “work” day], so the actual cost PER RIDE has to be divided by 260*??? how ever long the system lasts, assuming weekends are “free and nice to have”.

      If the system lasts 50 years it would be $360,000/260*50 = $27.69 per actual ride. That’s not a trivial amount by any measure but at least some of it will be recouped by the region in lower bus capital expenditures and operating costs, lower delivery costs to retail stores since they can be more clustered, lower costs for roadway maintenance and avoided costs for new roadways in the hinterland which will be less-developed. How much those offsets would garner is speculation.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but “most neighborhoods” [by which you really mean “neighborhoods not in Ballard, Magnolia, Lower Queen Anne and West Seattle”] in general already “have Link”, at least in the sense that folks in Ballard, Magnolia and West Seattle will “have Link”. That is, they are today able to take a bus or bike to or get dropped off at a Link station.

      That’s not true of Georgetown, or the strip along Aurora, but they both have PDQ bus service already.

      All this said, I do think that WSBLE is a bad investment, at least outside South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne, places which are certainly “plenty urban” to support grade separated transit.

    2. Since DT isn’t showing his math, I’ll attempt to try to figure it out.

      Certain parts of MAX needed new rail after 40 years. Expensive stuff like the tunnels and bridges routinely last 100 years in railroad service, and are still operating. So let’s say the average capital cost life is in the 50 year range (which we know is low because the most expensive stuff lasts the longest).

      So, $10,000,000 divided by 50 years = $200,000,000 per year.

      Daniel’s figure is $360,000 per rider.

      So Daniel’s assumption works out to 308,333 passengers per year.

      Current ridership is on the 25,000,000 range.

      I see nothing that indicates ridership would be 1.2% of what the current line has.

      $10 billion / 25 million current ridership / 12 years currently in service = $33,333 per passenger, for comparison of how preposterous this number is.

    3. “So Daniel’s assumption works out to 308,333 passengers per year. Current ridership is on the 25,000,000 range.”

      That’s just because work-from-home hasn’t reached maximum yet. :)

  7. If the goal is to give an alternative to traffic, the route from South Bellevue to Tukwila is essential for LRT, for that stretch is clogged most days of the week and for many hours of the day. Ballard to UW has been clogged for at least 40 years. Taking a line from Ash Way or Lynnwood to at least UW Bothell/Cascadia CC would be prudent, as this stretch is often congested. An alternative to at-grade through Rainier Valley seems wise as well, such as a direct downtown to airport route or continuing the West Seattle line south to Burien and Tukwila. Those would be my priorities for ST-4.

    1. The goal isn’t to provide an alternative to freeway traffic. The goal is to provide people with an alternative to driving. The average speed from South Bellevue to Tukwila is very fast most of the day. In contrast, the average speed from Ballard to the UW is slow most of the day. The former can be fixed with extra freeway lanes. The latter can’t. What is true of Ballard to UW is true throughout the city. It takes a very long time to get from the Central Area to downtown. Even with bus lanes it would be time consuming (lots of traffic lights). The main reason people focus on freeways is because we expect them to be fast — we ignore the fact that they really are fast most of the time.

      You can’t make every trip fast, so it makes sense to focus on the trips most people take. It also makes sense to look at value added. In both cases what makes sense (in just about every case throughout the world) is to build subways in the urban core, and either express buses or commuter rail outside it. Commuter rail (or regional rail) is really only a good value if you have the tracks already, or it is easy to add them (that’s why Europe has so much). In America, it makes more sense to leverage the existing freeway infrastructure to serve the suburbs. Fortunately, we are in the process of doing that (although more could always be done).

  8. Seattle Subway is a joke; always has been. They have pie in the sky visions of connecting Seattle (the City) with a NY/DC style system. This is completely irrelevant to Sound Transit projects. Sad that STB will post this crap just to have content. -OUT

    1. Agreed. And such unrealistic visions what would otherwise be reasonable suggestions. Basically the conversations goes like this:

      Seattle Subway: “Hey ST, make sure you allow for future expansion!”

      ST: “Uh, OK, where?”

      Seattle Subway: “Everywhere!”

      ST: “Can you be more specific?”

      Seattle Subway: “Yeah, look at this map”

      ST: (Holding back a stifled laugh): “Yeah, OK, sure. We’ll look into that.”

      Even the bullet items are unrealistic. Only one out of the four could ever happen, and that is from Ballard. By all means we should look into connecting the two lines (eventually), whether it is an in-service connection, or merely used to get the trains to the new line. But every other proposal is just not going to happen.

      1. Embedded in the Seattle Subway vision is doing it with the current Link technology. Solving every connection problem with a technology that is too slow for the suburbs, too limited to climb hills and too “heavy” to be built at a lower cost actually shows a lack of vision. Is Siemens secretly behind Seattle Subway?

        Never mind that while North Seattle gets plastered with new Subway lines in their map, SE Seattle doesn’t get anything other than an already promised infill station at Graham and MLK trains stay dangerously in a surface median. Their vision is geared for North Seattle even down to the visual distortion of North Seattle to be about twice as big as the areas south of Downtown — yet they don’t propose companion upzoning the entire district to plaster everywhere south of 145th for 85 foot residential buildings needed to support the vision of so many subways.

        The North Seattle bias is on parade even this week as they chose to exclusively focus on Ballard station but won’t talk specifics about the IDC situation, DSTT2 and the related and more costly WSBLE problems.

  9. “Future proofing”? Really? Again? Because this region is famous for “future proofing”. That is our history.

    I know many of you weren’t here at the time, but our last round of “future proofing” was known locally as the “ramps to nowhere.” And they were everywhere and for all to see.

    We had ramps to nowhere in the Arboretum. We had ramps to nowhere at the west end of I-90. And we had ramps (more like stubs) to nowhere near the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. They were everywhere.

    Yep. The goal at one time was to have a limited access highway/freeway within one half to one mile of every residence in the city. Name your neighborhood, there would be a highway/freeway nearby. So what they did build, they future proofed.

    How did that turn out? Not so good. Pretty much all of future proofing got torn out in favor of modern designs.

    So, ya, I’m a bit skeptical when people want to beat up ST over “future proofing”. Because I’ve seen it before, and was it not a good story.

    ST needs to spend its current tax dollars wisely and efficiently. That does not include spending limited revenue protecting against a future that none of us know, nor fully understand.

    1. Is future proofing when someone promotes a light rail to low density Sand Point because they don’t want their third crossing to Kirkland idea to die?

      1. No, that’s just a troll. Future-proofing is small inexpensive features like a trail track for Northgate-Lynnwood or a transfer stub for a proposed line. ST built tail tracks on the north and south segments for future extensions, but it didn’t build a transfer stub into U-District station for the proposed 45th line. On an auto bridge it can mean making it capable of future light rail, as was done in the I-90 renovation in the 1980s and in the 520 renovation in the 2000s.

        A short line to Sand Point would require miles of new track, far more than small inexpensive tail track. As a standalone UW-Sand Point entity it wouldn’t be considered. As part of a Ballard-Sand Point line it would be useful even without a lake crossing to Kirkland. Because it would make Children’s and Magnuson Park more easily accessible from the rest of Seattle and the region. The Sand Point neighborhood could also be upzoned for a larger village.

      2. A modest sized house in the sandpoint neighborhood is like 2 million now. That means NIMBYS with power and strong monetary motivation to keep housing low and slow. Upzoning should happen, but it won’t, except for in very limited, largely impotent ways.

      3. Running rail to Sand Point makes little sense to me. I agree those neighborhoods will fight upzoning, in part because few will use it even though property owners might profit from higher density. However, 2300 multi-family units have been added around U Village so getting some kind of light rail to that area makes sense (and Seattle should do a better job of matching zoning with light rail although it is hard to predict where builders will want to build), although again I don’t know how many will use transit based on the high-end development in those new units.

        Light rail advocates need to stop designing routes into low density SFH zones with the goal of upzoning those zones. No agency has that kind of money. Any upzone will be very mild at best, and the demographic does not use transit, certainly with the added transfer from a feeder bus. Light rail only makes sense where there is both population density, and that population density takes transit, ideally already (buses). You can tell whether light rail serves actual transit riders by ridership levels and farebox recovery. Not surprisingly East Link will have low levels of both because existing transit does, and light rail does not offer that great an improvement.

        This is the issue with The Spring Dist. along East Link. Even with the massive upzone and future population density those folks won’t probably take transit, so ridership on East Link will be weak in a transit market that is weakening.

        The reality is West Seattle is not much different. According to Martin’s research of the DEIS ST expects a total of 400 West Seattleites to switch from cars to light rail with WSBLE, with worse first/last mile access. Dow and West Seattleites don’t plan to change their zoning for light rail; they don’t even want it above ground to disturb the SFH’s. Neither does the CID. West Seattle is blessed with a fabulous car bridge that ties directly into I-5 and I-90 when traffic congestion looks to be low in the near future. Like Issaquah, light rail (underground) is mostly a matter of prestige for them, especially the car drivers.

        The more expensive a neighborhood the less likely it will upzone, and the less likely anyone in that zone will take transit. It is the same in NY: wealthy New Yorkers living in tall, dense skyscrapers don’t take public transit despite the population density. With the steep decline in work commuting transit, light rail and ST need to focus on those who will or must take transit.

        Will lots of Ballardites take Link despite the remoteness of the community? I suppose it depends on where today. Smith Cove? Denny? Downtown Seattle? A very long trip to the airport, or endless trip to Tacoma or Redmond? I don’t see Ballardites who drive today to any of these destinations (if they do) switching to Link, certainly with a transfer from a feeder bus which will be required from the SFH zones (or multi-family the same distance away). Especially the decline in work commuting to downtown Seattle changes this dynamic. Upzoning does not reduce the distance to light rail, just like few will take light rail from the 2300 new multi-family units around U Village. How would they get to Link?

        If the bus ridership does not already exist in an area to support light rail then that area is not ready for light rail. Upzoning won’t change that, and with WFH and other factors TOD is not going to attract a lot of folks unless it is subsidized affordable housing, which again means poorer areas with already high transit ridership. Unless of course the region adds millions of new residents who all want to live in dense TOD and take transit.

        The reality is population levels are probably much fixed for the future, and so is transit ridership although it may continue to decline, so ST needs to stop inventing ridership estimates that exceed current transit ridership levels which leads to unwise and unprofitable light rail routes, which is the definition of WSBLE.

      4. Sand Point is only talked about as a Link destination because some people have a very expensive fantasy of connecting Sand Point to Kirkland by rail. (No wonder this region can’t afford to solve homelessness). Without rail to Sand Point, their third crossing dream dies.

        Also, some commenters here are being inconsistent in their station placement logic. They say a station can’t be placed at 14th and Market because there’s no guarantee the neighborhood will upzone. Then, those very same commenter turn around and say Sand Point needs a station because maybe someday the neighborhood will upzone.

      5. The Sand Point station area is already multifamily.

        The logic against 14th is it’s a long walk to the middle of the village at 22nd. The point of the station is to serve the Ballard core. Cities and developers have a lousy track record on making new buildings as pedestrian intensive and attractive as pre-WWII village centers, or of having as wide a variety of destinations. That’s why new development around an old core underperforms so often, as we see on 15th in Ballard and Roosevelt in the U-District. Pedestrians, tourists, shoppers, and workers flock to Ballard Ave and University Way; they don’t flock to 15th or Roosevelt (around 45th or 42nd).

        A Sand Point station would be right in the village. That’s the point of it, to be within easy walking distance of the existing housing, nonprofits, and a large multiuse park. An upzone would presumably expand the housing without moving the center.

        It’s not that Sand Point is must-serve or a priority for ST3 or ST4. It’s just that as a multiuse village, a comprehensive network serving all villages would have a station there. Especially since it’s relatively hard to get to otherwise. Without the Kirkland crossing though, Sand Point is lower priority than Ballard, Lake City, or Greenwood, because it’s smaller.

      6. Mike, there isn’t a need for light rail at Sand Point. There won’t even be a need for it in 50 years. It’s an area that deserves good bus service, and that’s it. Remember, you said Crossroads in Bellevue, which is the densest neighborhood on the entire Eastside, can make do with good bus service. So, why does a low density neighborhood, which mostly a park, require light rail, but good bus service is sufficient for a very dense Eastside neighborhood? You said Crossroads residents will be able to hop on a bus to get to their nearest Link station. So … Sand Point residents can just hop on a bus to get to a Children’s Hospital or U Village Link station, right?

        Sam. Kirkland’s leading Sand Point expert.

      7. My concern about Crossroads is about the overall car orientation in eastern Bellevue. I originally thought Link would be routed through Crossroads as the previous transit was; I didn’t realize how much growth was planned for the Bel-Red corridor. Parallel lines make more sense in a city than in a car-dominant suburb, and I have little hope that Bellevue will ever become as urban-minded as Seattle neighborhoods outside the downtown/Bel-Red corridor. Seattle is really considering expanding its urban villages, adding more of them, or upzoning single-family areas to fourplexes, to accommodate 250,000 more people in the comprehensive plan update. And Seattle is more than 50% renters, who often value having a short walk to frequent transit and being car-lite more than single-family homeowners do. So I think Seattle has a reasonable chance of expanding its neighborhoods in the right direction, that I don’t see in Bellevue or the rest the Eastside yet. So because of Seattle’s existing street grid and density and willingness to grow, I’m more positive on multiple lines/parallel lines there and have a lower threshold for accepting them, than I do for Bellevue.

      8. I’d say at most we can hope for is possibly tram line(s) in the long term from downtown Bellevue along NE8th to Crossroads and Bellevue College.

    2. Building additional ramp stubs is a trivial cost when an interchange is being built anew, it’s always more expensive to add later. Connecting 90 to Fourth south and the stadiums would’ve been a nightmare without the ramp stubs that were intended for the Connecticut Street Expressway.

      I agree that most of Seattle Subway’s plans are unrealistic, but adding a bell mouth where the WSBLE line turns in SLU for a potential interlined Metro 8 route is a reasonable “ramp to nowhere” investment. Adding provisions for a pointless Aurora line that will never happen is not.

      1. We don’t know whether an Aurora line will be worthwhile in the future. It depends on future density, crowding on the main north-south line, attitudes toward taking transit, and attitudes about climate change. St Petersburg has 2 parallel lines north of the main east-west street, and 4 south of it. And more if you include lines at the very east and west that are across rivers and islands (I’m not sure if they should be counted). So two lines going north is a reasonable long-term thing to foresee. And we need to start building it twenty years before the main north-south corridor reaches capacity because of the construction lag time. Otherwise we’ll be in the position of the DC Metro where the center is at capacity but no relief line is opening soon, so essentially more people can’t take the Metro because it won’t fit them.

      2. Yeah it seems rather plausible that an Aurora line (at least to Fremont and perhaps a transfer/junction with a Ballard-UW line) would be a better future project than Metro 8, so we can’t just handwave that no true scotsman would use one ramp to nowhere verse another.

    3. The ramps to nowhere were still sound policy even if they weren’t ever used. The point is to make a bet on a use that may, or may not, arise, rather than only plan for uses with 99% certainty.

  10. “stations designed for future passenger volumes.” Yuck. So Seattle Subway wants overbuilt stations, rather than good service? Please re-read my favorite transit article of all time: https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/05/10/frequent-service-not-escalator-access-is-what-attracts-transit-users/

    Also, I suppose this means Seattle Subway would oppose building WSBLE with 2-car trains (operating at double the planned frequency of 4-car trains) because … Vancouver isn’t good enough for them?

  11. All this future proofing discussion reminds me of this fact: ST has a planned branch for Link somewhere south of Bellevue’s East Main Station to connect to Factoria, Eastgate and Issaquah.

    Where is the branch going to happen?

    When ST3 passed, shouldn’t ST have put in for a change order to put in a switch for the eventual branching as East Link construction was beginning, or would it be better to wait until after a final alignment is chosen years from now?

    How will East Main transfers work since it’s a side platform Station?

    Should this be a stand-alone automated line instead? Given its low 7100 average weekday boardings for these three stations (14200 for all riders), I don’t see this segment running at a high frequency. Automation would work in conjunction with single track segments. If large sections were built with one track, maybe it could connect at South Bellevue instead.

    This is a good example of the need as well as the difficulty of putting in branches. It sounds great in theory but it is often difficult in practice. Luckily, any branching won’t be in a tunnel so it will be easier to construct.

    1. The representative project is a branch south of East Main station. It’s rather unclear where this would occur, if the branch should instead be south of Wilburton as per the initial ST3 proposals, or if Issaquah Link evolves into an I90 Stride project, so I think ST made the right choice to not do an East Link change order.

      And yes, it’s very plausible that Kirkland-Issaquah Link will use a different technology. A standalone line with high frequency would made good sense (for much of the same reason as WSBLE as a standalone line), and would likely follow the Eastrail corridor from Factoria to Kirkland rather than try to interline in the Bellevue tunnel.

      1. “… so I think ST made the right choice to not do an East Link change order.“

        This is an important point about this whole future proofing discussion. Here we have a conceptually funded and adopted new branch in ST3 — but I think most would consider building its proposed branching switch location premature. If we can’t agree how future proofing is done here, how can future proofing be done anywhere?

      2. Actually, the one change order I would have suggested was to redesign East Main as a center platform station. Making the transferring riders have to go as far as Wilburton for a center platform was pretty stupid considering most People in this line will transfer to go in and out of Seattle. Plus, riders must cross the tracks in both directions at once — and southbound trains will pop out of the tunnel with only a few seconds notice to those crossing the tracks. The side lay forms are very problematic at a transfer station.

      3. Whoa, that is a long way from the center of Bellevue. Really; you think that will happen?

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