[UPDATE: Several factual corrections, courtesy of Sound Transit. – MHD]

Sound Transit’s System Expansion Committee met on February 9th to review the results of studies on details of the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE). The full ST board will meet February 22nd to consider this, and March 23rd to choose a preferred alignment (routing) for project, if it’s ready to do so. This article explains the study findings without much opinionating. Future articles are in preparation that will make specific recommendations.

ST has released a 3.5 hour webcast of the meeting, and a 124-page slide deck of the study results. Meeting timestamps: 0:00:00 roll call, 0:04:30 intro reports, 0:16:30 public testimony, 1:14:00 Everett Link studies, 1:43:00 WSBLE studies.

Last year the board selected a preferred alignment in West Seattle, but asked staff to study Chinatown/International District station (CID) and a few other details a bit more. The studies ST ordered last year concern how to avoid negative impacts in the CID, opportunities to mix and match South Lake Union stations from the two routes studied in the DEIS, refinements to the Smith Cove / Interbay stations, and how to reduce cost and improve access in Ballard.

The report presents a lot of alternatives. These address some of the issues identified last year. They may also add construction time, risk, and another $900 million to the already much higher cost than originally planned and promised to voters. Skipping some stations may eliminate those cost increases.


The report first presented ways to reduce the impact of the 4th Ave Shallow option which was studied in the DEIS. This would avoid impact to existing buildings, but would add $700 million in costs, raising the cost of the Pike St to Holgate St segment to $3.1 billion, and the Midtown station would still be 200 ft deep.

Next they presented a “Shallower” station on 4th Ave which would reduce transfer time and allow for a not-quite-as-deep (145 ft) Midtown station. It may also allow better connection to Sounder, and potentially a lid over the Sounder track and additional public space. The construction footprint would move to different areas over the course of 9 years.

Then staff presented various ways to move the CID station out of Chinatown, either to the north or south or both. Bypassing the CID along 6th Avenue, the tunnel would then avoid going under or over the existing transit tunnel.

The North Station would replace the proposed Midtown Station. The proposed station would be at the King County Administration building 4th Avenue and would have a pedestrian tunnel under James Street to the current Pioneer Square station for transfers. This may add three or more minutes to Link-to-Link transfers, or twelve minutes to Link-to-Sounder transfers. Riders from SeaTac or Rainier Valley would have to travel further north and then backtrack to reach the CID, Sounder, or the Eastside, adding another 3.5 minutes. Sound Transit also said that Madison RapidRide could be modified to serve this station.

A South Station, in combination with a not-quite-as-deep Midtown Station, would be close to the existing Stadium station: south of the Uwajimaya parking lot and north of I-90 on 6th Ave. It would provide access to the stadiums, but it would be a 5-6 minutes’ walk to Sounder or the CID. Riders from SeaTac would need to travel to Westlake before transferring to Line 2 to the Eastside or vice versa.

The South Station may also be combined with the North Station instead of Midtown. This would essentially shift both the Midtown and the CID stations further south.

Staff provided some travel time comparisons for the various alternatives for an able-bodied person. This also shows that some station alternatives would increase the number of transfers.

Union Station Activation

Sound Transit also presented some ideas on how to modernize the CID station, and integrate Union Station and make it more accessible to the public. This would provide extra space for retail and community events, and improve integration between the Sounder and Link station and the CID.

At the end of the meeting Mayor Harrell called the CID a Seattle “gem”. The presentation showed how central Union Station is to South Seattle.

Downtown and South Lake Union

For the Midtown Station and Denny Station, Sound Transit presented various ways to reduce cost and schedule risk, by using street space instead of private property for entrances.

At Westlake there would be one new entrance that served all three lines. None would servie the platform directly.

For South Lake Union, they looked at a station on Terry rather than Westlake, in combination with a station on Harrison. While it avoids some building impact, the Terry Station would be next to the H5 Data Center, which connects many cross country fiber lines adding cost and risk.

For Seattle Center they tried to either connect a Harrison Station with either one on Mercer St, or push Republican Station further west to reduce impact to various Seattle Center event spaces. Though doable, cost may increase by up to $60 million.

Interbay-Smith Cove and Ballard

Staff presented the options which were recently shared with the public at two Open Houses.

In the public comments at the beginning of the meeting, several people testified that a 14th Avenue Station would be too far from the core of Ballard. More than one person said nobody in Ballard has spoken up for a 14th Avenue Station.

For the 15th Ave Station staff presented a smaller entrance option on the southwest corner but voiced capacity concerns. They did not mention that an option to add another entrance on the northewest corner may mitigate such. Neither did they mention that during the Open House a station on NW 56th St between 20th Ave and 22nd had been proposed.

West Seattle

As the Board had already selected a preferred alignment last year, staff had only looked at a few refinements.

By taking over the Jefferson Square building, they could provide access on the West side of the 41st St Station towards the Junction. Though walking distance would not change much, it would reduce one street crossing.

By moving the Delridge Station further south and then following Yancy instead of Andover St, bus access could be improved and displacement of Transitional Resources properties reduced.

By eliminating the Avalon Station, staff hopes to reduce cost and complexity. By redirecting buses from 35th Ave to the station on 41st, they hope this will not have any impact on ridership, though they acknowledged it will make it more difficult for many Avalon residents to reach either station.

They presented some refinements to the SODO station connecting the mezzanine to the Lander Street overpass and further reducing property acquisitions but it still does not provide for cross platform transfer. Most riders will require two escalator riders to transfer.

The presentation ended with cost comparison tables for the various portions of the project which may increase the cost by up to $1.5 billion.

STB authors are busily writing articles on specific recommendations for WSBLE ahead of the preferred alignment decision, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime I’m sure the comments section will have lots of opinions.

135 Replies to “Sound Transit reviews WSBLE study results”

  1. Eliminating the Avalon station is so stupid, it would be a half hour walk in between the other two stations otherwise, and many houses would be left underserved. Nobody cares about cost anyways after the stations actually open.

    1. It’s not just the distance, it’s also quite a climb.
      I don’t think the main reason is cost, but the fact that the Avalon construction would impact many houses and construction impact would be huge as it would at least partially block access to the West Seattle bridge for a while. West Seattle just suffered through that experience recently. Skipping Avalon would help but reduce ridership though Sound Transit claims there won’t be any difference.
      The question is whether West Seattle needs a light rail stub and whether the impact is worth it. Though the latest refinements help reduce the impact to Transitional Resources, it would increase impact to Longfellow Creek and not address the impact to the Pigeon Point herony , many other businesses such as the Alki Beach Academy daycare and many marine businesses. Unfortunately Sound Transit has not studied improving bus services or building a SkyLink gondola.

      1. > I don’t think the main reason is cost, but the fact that the Avalon construction would impact many houses and construction impact would be huge as it would at least partially block access to the West Seattle bridge for a while.

        The medium tunnel alternative already impacts the fewest residential houses. While I understand trying to avoid construction impacts — one might as well build the light rail in farm fields far from anything if that is the only goal.

        Taking the money saved from eliminating a station to tunnel more is an extravagant waste. If they really have extra money why not add some station entrances back in or if it needs to be spent in West Seattle then extend it further down to Morgan Junction.

        > The question is whether West Seattle needs a light rail stub and whether the impact is worth it.

        I agree West Seattle’s light rail stub plan was poorly thought out, it’ll probably increase total transit travel times for most bus stops rather than decreasing it, the original BRT plan made much more sense.

      2. Ridership modeling is tricky. When ST was discussing the addition of the NE 130th Street station to Lynnwood Link, they claimed enough precision to measure the impact of the added minutes from station dwell on riders to/from the north. Yet, when discussing WSBLE, the added minutes to access deep station on the DSTT2 does not move the ridership needle, nor does the elimination of the Avalon Station serving Route 21. Note most Link riders will come from riders transfers from/to bus routes. If a station is deleted, that has to add significant minutes of in-vehicle or walking time. If ST does provide an Avalon station, I hope ST infrastructure provides a grade-separated crossing of 35th Avenue SW for riders. See past awkward transfers at the airport and Mt. Baker.

      3. eddiew: You say “tricky”, but that sounds more “deceitful” to me. At best it seems like a potentially honest mistake in not including the effects of those changes, perhaps due to different staffers computing the estimates than in past projects; at worst it’s an intentional omission to make the project seem better than it actually is.

      4. “eddiew: You say “tricky”, but that sounds more “deceitful” to me. At best it seems like a potentially honest mistake in not including the effects of those changes, perhaps due to different staffers computing the estimates than in past projects; at worst it’s an intentional omission to make the project seem better than it actually is.”

        I’m SCHOCKED there are intentional omissions by ST.

        I did see this nugget in Martin’s article:

        “The report first presented ways to reduce the impact of the 4th Ave Shallow option which was studied in the DEIS. This would avoid impact to existing buildings, but would add $700 million in costs, raising the cost of the downtown segment to $3.1 billion, and the Midtown station would still be 200 ft deep.”

        This means ST is still estimating the cost for DSTT 2 — despite the significant increases in depth — at around the original $2.2 billion estimate ($3.1 billion less $700 million) in ST 3 in 2016 (despite the five-year extension in the realignment). Most folks who know about tunnels (like the ETA in 2016) predicted DSTT2 will/would cost $4.2 billion before the realignment.

        A few years ago when ST was predicting all of WSBLE would cost $6 billion I estimated back of envelope the cost to be closer to $20 billion with cost contingencies. ST is now estimating $14 billion, plus a few billion for 4th and other goodies, and when the true cost of DSTT 2 is added in we are getting pretty close to $20 billion, without cost contingency.

        In a subarea with $600 million/year in subarea revenue less the costs for 130th and Graham St. stations.

      5. Daniel, you need to accept that costs to tunnel using TBM’s in known geology are quite accurately predictable. The geology of First Hill is very well known from the travails of the TBM’s that dug the first transit tunnel and Bertha, not to mention the five sub-basements of the large towers arrayed on it. So if ST still says it will cost less than 3 billion to dig the tunnel, the probability that they are right and you are wrong approaches 1.

      6. “Daniel, you need to accept that costs to tunnel using TBM’s in known geology are quite accurately predictable. The geology of First Hill is very well known from the travails of the TBM’s that dug the first transit tunnel and Bertha, not to mention the five sub-basements of the large towers arrayed on it. So if ST still says it will cost less than 3 billion to dig the tunnel, the probability that they are right and you are wrong approaches 1.”

        Wow. So TT is now a believer.

        You said the same thing a couple of years ago when ST said WSBLE would cost $6 billion all said and done. And I am sure you were shocked ST 1 was overbudget by 84% when “the geology” was very well known. And no doubt you were surprised by the soil issues for Federal Way Link because the “geology” was very well known. And of course, for the I-90 bridge, because, well, the concrete was very well known. After all, ST had over a decade to study it. And let’s not forget the significant cost overruns on the 130th station. Or a realignment that closed what ST claimed was a $6 billion deficit by extending taxes concurrently with project completion in a high inflationary market.

        “Sound Transit started out in scandal. The agency faced a crisis of financial mismanagement and poor planning, and federal officials ordered an audit in 2000 and pulled promised funding. After a series of executives resigned in 2001, Joni Earl took the helm and is widely credited with saving the agency. Largely, this was by being more realistic and being more honest with the public — reportedly she used the slogan “Optimism is not our friend.” Largely due to her efforts, by 2003 Sound Transit received a clean financial audit, and was re-rewarded the funding lost two years earlier. Despite this, the earlier crisis required Earl to drop about one-third of the originally promised light rail line.”


        After all, why even have cost contingencies on these projects because the “geology” is very well known” or above ground? Like it was with Bertha. Bertha never tunneled under skyscrapers along 5th or under First Hill. What makes you think this geology is “very well known”? Because of the tunnel under 3rd?

        ST itself has gone from $6 billion to $14 billion. Then add in $700 million for the shallow option on 4th (not sure if the shallower option would cost more or less), and hundreds of millions more in alternatives as identified in Martin’s very good article and ST is getting close to $16 billion, and you are one of the few who thinks the original $2.2 billion cost estimate for DSTT2 is remotely accurate (which is why I am keen on knowing whether my subarea’s contribution is 12.5% of $2.2 billion or whatever DSTT2 costs), when before you have posted alternatives to DSTT2 because it is not affordable? Why discuss alternatives if DSTT2 is affordable and will cost $2.2 billion?

        I don’t know much about the cost of tunneling under 5th Ave. Those who do it for a living, and have to bid the project, will make sure there are plenty of caveats in any bid, because they have skin in the game, and they don’t know, but will find out 200 feet below grade. In 2016 some on the eastside including ETA, which includes a number of retired WSDOT engineers, laughed at the $2.2 billion estimate, and at that time like you today I believed ST.

        Even if DSTT2 did “only” cost $3.1 billion with the shallow tunnel at 4th you still have an estimated cost for WSBLE without contingency of around $16 billion in a subarea that realizes $600 million/year in ST revenue through 2046 with the realignment when the 130th and Graham St. stations look like they could end up costing $200 million each. The numbers don’t match even if you believe ST.

        In some ways I am done with WSBLE. If ST can afford it build whatever ST and the subarea wants. I will never ride through DSTT2 and I doubt any eastsider will. Black, brown and south enders will. I just want ST to confirm that my subarea’s contribution is 12.5% of $2.2 billion, not $3.1 billion, or $4.2 billion. WSBLE is not my problem.

        The problem is I am probably correct on the numbers. I am not educated in these huge projects, but if any agency has lied about project costs in every levy in order to lower the general tax rates (including the 40% farebox recovery rate) to sell the levy I am going to bet they are still lying for the mother of all projects, WSBLE. Going from a $6 billion deficit and $6 billion cost to a $12 billion cost and no deficit in less than 12 months, and now $14 billion, makes me thinks the odds are less than 1.

        I am sure DSTT2 can be built, just not at $2.2 billion, $3.1 billion, maybe not even $4.2 billion which is why these public projects come with 30% cost contingencies. I sure hope you and ST and N. King Co. are correct, and my subarea’s contribution has a hard cap of $275 million because SnoCo, S. King and Pierce have the perfect defense: they don’t have the money, even the $275 million, for their contribution. What do they care, except S. King, S. Seattle, and Pierce get the crummy tunnel after their ride on a non-grade separated surface line where Black and brown folks live. Like Nathan noted, not a very good look for an area that preaches equity.

      7. “except S. King, S. Seattle, and Pierce get the crummy tunnel after their ride on a non-grade separated surface line where Black and brown folks live”

        [Rolls eyes.] Pierce has known since the 1990s L:ink would go through Rainier Valley and Federal Way. They knew it in the ST2 vote, and they knew it in the ST3 vote. They knew it would go through a tunnel downtown. Pierce is the reason Link is going to Tacoma in the first place. All it has to do is tell ST it doesn’t want the extension after all if it doesn’t want it. Pierce County itself is not lily-white, and its income level is only moderately higher than South King County.

      8. @TT,

        You are correct, ST has a pretty good idea of the costs involved.

        But the expensive thing about tunnels is really in the underground stations, cross passages, and all the systems that need to be stuffed into them. The geology itself is a relatively minor risk.


        I once had a college professor that said that, “the skill of an engineer is inversely proportional to the amount of paper he uses”.

        Think about it.

      9. Lazarus, I once had a law professor who told the class that insurance rules the world, because if insurers won’t insure a project it won’t get built, which is why insurers are so heavily involved in the publishing of guidelines. I don’t know about the skill of an engineer compared to the amount of paper they use, but take a look at the length of the contracts and insurance agreements on a project like DSTT2.


        “IMUA is the national trade association representing 365 insurance companies that write 90% of the inland marine insurance in the U.S. One of the many services IMUA offers its member companies is the publishing of guidelines for use by underwriters, loss control and claims specialists and insurance buyers. The topics covered in IMUA papers are intended to provide an overall awareness of the exposures and hazards associated with a specific industry or risk.”

        “The engineering, design and construction of tunnels is perhaps one of the most complex challenges within the realm of civil engineering. The diversity of the earth’s geology requires that each and every tunneling project be approached and analyzed based on its own set of characteristics. This reality serves to emphasize the complexity of underwriting the risks associated with both the construction and operation of underground tunnels.”

        A lot of study goes into tunnel failures. https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/70990


        You tell IMUA you plan to dig a tunnel and stations 200′ under a major avenue in Seattle with office towers on both sides of the street and the first word they will mention is “geology”. The second word is “premium”. If you tell IMUA the geology is known, there is no risk, they won’t insure someone as reckless as that, or the premium will be unaffordable. Insurance premiums don’t determine what can be built, but what gets built.

        In the end, it was the construction company and its insurers that ate the extra cost from Bertha, not the state, although the state supreme court’s decision seemed like a hometown decision to me. You can bet that whatever flaw was in the insurance and construction contract for that project that placed the cost on the construction company and its insurer will be fixed in the contract for DSTT2.

      10. @DT,

        I think you just made my point for me, but let me try again just for the sake of increased clarity:

        I find that the longer the blog post the less likely it is to say something meaningful. And the less likely I am to actually read it.

        As per those nice, long, DBT construction and insurance contracts. I’m sure the lawyers love them as there is more to argue about, and they get paid regardless,

        But the lesson the contractors and insurance companies takeaway from the DBT probably won’t be that they need a longer contract with more words it. The lesson they takeaway from the DBT is that they probably need to hire a better lawyer next time.

      11. “But the lesson the contractors and insurance companies takeaway from the DBT probably won’t be that they need a longer contract with more words it. The lesson they takeaway from the DBT is that they probably need to hire a better lawyer next time.”

        Maybe, but the ultimate take away will be that they need to hire a better engineer. You only need the very best lawyers if you have bad engineers. They do this by charging bad engineers higher premiums. Bad engineers drive lawyers mad, because no contract can be long enough.

        By bad I don’t mean so much bad at the engineering, which is never good, but bad at identifying risks so the construction contracts and insurance premiums reflect that.

        Like I said, just about anything can be built: the pro game is knowing how much it will cost, which comes down to risk.

        I have worked with a lot of engineers as experts over the years, and the worst ones think they are always right (which is an occupational hazard with engineers), despite the s%$t hitting the fan, and so can’t see risk when risk is the name of the game. Engineers are masters at blaming everyone else, especially for the unknown, when we thought they were supposed to know the unknown, or at least tell us what was unknown.

        If there is one rule when insuring risk, which often means engineering, you want a smart but humble engineer, one who tells you you will fully find out what is in the underground soil when you get there so bid high, and you are not surprised when there is a pipe in the way.

        I am not saying DSTT2 can’t be designed and built in any of the configurations, and leave up to others on this blog whether the configuration is good transit. I am saying either the engineers or ST policy staff misrepresented the cost of DSTT2, and won’t admit that, even when they now admit the original construction price that was $6 billion is now $14 billion.

        Even a very bad lawyer would wonder WTF, especially if the most difficult engineering part of all, DSTT2, is still the same price it was in 2016. We will find out when ST puts WSBLE and DSTT2 out to bid who was right about the cost of DSTT2.

      12. This is not straightforward, the “eliminate Avalon” option also includes the modifications to the Delridge station which result in the guideway impeding on the Longfellow Creek greenspace, which results in more red tape, plus $50 million in added cost to acquire West Seattle Health Club and the self-storage facility on the north side of Yancy St. In my view, the board should NOT adopt the Delridge Access modification. The issues with Nucor can be solved for a much lower price by giving them a freight entrance on Spokane St.

        The actual net savings on eliminating Avalon as currently presented is only $30 million because ST studied it in conjunction with those expensive Delridge modifications. I’ve requested that ST study eliminate Avalon separately from the Delridge modifications to realize the $80M cost savings. Additionally, I’ve asked them to move the tunnel portal to the NE side of Avalon/Yancy in order to protect all of Transitional Resources’ properties as well as about 100 residential units on 32nd Ave that are either displace or severely impacted by the guideway leading to the Avalon Station. The modified versions as presented still destroy one of the TR buildings on the north side of Avalon.

        And yes, the big concern with the Avalon Station is both the construction and permanent impacts with West Seattle Bridge access. If they are going to go with it, I think they will need an entrance on the north side of Fauntleroy/West Seattle bridge ramp which is currently not proposed and would add even more cost and disruption. There’s no way that that station does not cause major car/pedestrian conflicts unless there are serious road diets proposed for all of the roads leading to the West Seattle bridge which seems unlikely. With the money saved they can also afford the Jefferson Square acquisition which is a much, much better TOD parcel than anything in Avalon.

      13. >>The medium tunnel alternative already impacts the fewest residential houses. While I understand trying to avoid construction impacts — one might as well build the light rail in farm fields far from anything if that is the only goal.

        When ST3 was originally conceived, it should have been obvious that it would not be possible to climb an elevated guideway up the hill to the Junction. If they wanted both an Avalon and Junction station, they should have budgeted for two underground stations. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it is costly and inappropriate to bulldoze wide swaths of residential properties within established neighborhoods. The opposition is completely justified and I think we’ve only seen just the beginning of it if they don’t eliminate Avalon and go with a longer tunnel. There are several players in the Avalon area who are considering legal challenges to the EIS and they have a number of holes they can poke in the EIS given the problems with the WS extension that have been mentioned repeatedly in these comments.

        >>I agree West Seattle’s light rail stub plan was poorly thought out, it’ll probably increase total transit travel times for most bus stops rather than decreasing it, the original BRT plan made much more sense.

        It probably won’t do much to reduce travel times, but service will greatly improve. The 30-minute service of the C-line in late evenings is a major annoyance to me, I’ll gladly take 15-minute light rail service over the current offering. The restructure will also mean frequent bus service for more of West Seattle.

        A future extension with 3 additional stations at Morgan Junction, Westwood Village, and White Center will be when the real benefits are seen. It takes forever to take the C or 120 to downtown from the southern part of West Seattle.

      14. > When ST3 was originally conceived, it should have been obvious that it would not be possible to climb an elevated guideway up the hill to the Junction.
        I don’t know quite understand you are talking about here? It is definitely technically feasible and possible as Sound Transit has researched.

        > It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it is costly and inappropriate to bulldoze wide swaths of residential properties within established neighborhoods
        If that is the attitude, then don’t bother building transit at all. It is the tunneled approach that is much more costly — they are literally funding tunneling more by removing an entire station. Also the largest majority of the residential property takings is because of the inability to take away car lanes for the stations.

        > A future extension with 3 additional stations at Morgan Junction, Westwood Village, and White Center will be when the real benefits are seen. It takes forever to take the C or 120 to downtown from the southern part of West Seattle.
        If you build Alaskan Junction tunneled rather than elevated there is practically zero chance they will ever extend the light rail tunneled down to Morgan Junction etc.

      15. Daniel provided a wikipedia link on ST. The text explained that Earl improved delivery after a fiscal crisis. The text uses a short hand of the portion of Sound Move Link provided. But note that the initial segment were the easier and least important segments of Link. The reset of Sound Move included the deletion of the NE 45th Street, First Hill, and South Graham Street stations. The ST Board debated north v. south first in 1999. They voted against a north first proposal from Sims and Schell. In 2001, with Earl on board, they opted for south first. But that meant decades of pressure on the transit capacity of downtown Seattle. Not all Link segments are alike. Those that connect dense walkable urban centers are the most important. NE 45th Street was served in fall 2021 and required ST2 in 2008.

      16. @DT,

        “Maybe, but the ultimate take away will be that they need to hire a better engineer.”

        Ya! That is it. They will hire more and better engineers after the Bertha fiasco. Because that is always what happens in situations like this. LOL.

        Na, the lawyers are there to protect their clients interests. But those pesky state lawyers representing WSDOT absolutely cleaned the clock of the lawyers representing the insurance company and the contractors. Not even a contest.

        Na, you can bet that the contractors will hire better lawyers next time. Lawyers that can write appropriate legal protections into a contract, and enforce those contracts latter.

        And sometimes, often in fact, corporate management interferes with good engineering. Aka, not all engineering failures start with engineers.

      17. I’m with Lazarus on this one. Rarely can you blame the engineers. I certainly wouldn’t blame the engineers for the lack of a First Hill station. All they did was point out that there could be problems there, and the board decided to skip it. The blame lies with the board. First Hill was essential (everything north of Northgate is not). Same goes with Bertha. The engineers* said the soil was very challenging — there were big risks. They decided to go ahead anyway. It turns out, the problems were actually caused by the contractors (who left in rebar). The same sort of thing happened with East Link. The engineering was solid — the implementation was not.

        The point is, the engineers only look at what the board has them look at. They only look at things in great detail once they are asked. In the case of ST3, they made very rough estimates, and then put it to a vote. They are only now looking at things in great detail, and finding there are issues. Cost is a big one, but things like “world class transfers” are apparently impossible. I wouldn’t blame the engineers for that one — I doubt very seriously that any engineering firm said “yeah, no problem, we can put in a station right next to the other one, so that transfers will be trivial”. They were never asked to look at things in that kind of detail. There was no incentive from the board to ask them, either. I know that sounds cynical, but the board really wanted ST3 to pass — the fewer potential pitfalls the better.

        * I’m using “engineers” in a broad sense. In the case of soil analysis it is done by geologists who work with the engineers.

      18. Lazarus, I read the state supreme court’s decision finding for the state, and thought it was a bit of a hometown ruling. However, the ultimate take away for the insurer and lawyers and hopefully engineers is to bid high, with at least a 30% contingency (which is standard), because you never know, especially tunneling, or tunneling under 5th Ave. At worst it costs less than bid and everyone is happy.

        ST can estimate the costs for WSBLE and DSTT2 for political reasons all it wants. A DEIS is usually manipulated to greenlight the project and is very optimistic about costs.

        At some point the project goes out to bid. Not many general contractors can do such a project, ST has learned contractors can cause some real problems which tends to narrow the list of possible generals, and this time around the generals and insurers will bid on the assumption any dispute that goes before the courts will go against them despite the language in the contract, so price that in.

        Which is why from the beginning when ST was claiming all of WSBLE would cost $6 billion, I said at first closer to $12 billion, and by the time ST got to $12 billion I was at $20 billion in a high inflationary market and design demands by the stakeholders, and now it looks like ST has inched up from $14 billion to $16 billion with ironically the only project still at its 2016 cost estimate DSTT2. With 30% cost contingency ST is close to $20 billion even if everything goes perfectly.

        I just don’t see how a subarea with $600 million/year revenue has $20 billion for WSBLE and stations at 130th and Graham St. Luckily it is not my problem. If I were the attorney for the general or insurer, however, I would advise them to include every contingency and every problem in the bid as though the courts held against them which is only fair to the general, insurer and WSBLE.

        At some point the folks who have to build WSBLE have to tell the ST Board honestly what it will cost to build, with contingency. Then the voters in N. King Co. can decide whether they want to fund it. Which is exactly why we will get a stub from WS to Sodo, and a promise to complete WSBLE another day.

      19. I am sure you were shocked ST 1 was overbudget by 84% when “the geology” was very well known.Liar. What geology was well known in ST1. The only geology of importance was that in Beacon Hill and that on the hillside above I-5. Yes, the Beacon Hill tunnels and station were underestimated, but there were no towers on the hill with detailed geological studies other than PacMed Center which is a half mile north. So not comparable at all.

        But the big cost increase came from Tukwila refusing to allow Link to run along Pacific Highway South which meant that the “spiral on stilts” had to be designed and built. That was a huge cost escalation compared to building in a street median.

        Oh, excuse me, you weren’t under oath, were you Counselor? So not a “lie”, just representing your client aggressively, figuring nobody would remember that long ago and challenge your made up assertion, right?

      20. It sure seems like The Seattle Times is out for Seattle, or at least the council. Over the weekend it was a double hit by Westneat and Talton about how Seattle is dying. Yesterday it was a huge front-page headline about how ST will finally ask drug users to exit the trains and buses.

        Today Westneat has an article, “In Seattle, the cops keep leaving, while the backup never comes” — which to be fair is true and a real ticking time bomb for Seattle — about the steep loss of Seattle police officers and inability of Diaz to recruit replacements, which won’t be cheap if possible.

        “The Seattle City Council and the police chief still haven’t figured out the officer shortage, columnist Danny Westneat writes. After repeated break-ins and thefts, a frustrated bike-shop owner says he plans to move his business out of Seattle.”

        Last night I think King or Komo had a big piece about how 2022 was the highest for violent crime in Seattle (highlighting a shooting on University Ave.), how small businesses, many owned by minorities, are getting put out of business, and how the council is not demanding Diaz needs to step up his game (which makes me think Diaz is not long for his job, and assumed Harrell kept him because he couldn’t get any qualified applicants with the current council, especially after Best).

        Meanwhile eastside Nextdoors are hysterical about what a dystopian place (to borrow a term from another poster on this blog) Seattle has become. Like Blade Runner.

        Meanwhile folks on this blog debate DSTT2 or DSTT1, and who gets to use which.

        This constant drumbeat, at least on the eastside, is creating a perception I don’t think can be fixed that Seattle is too dangerous to visit, and to dangerous and dead to open a business in, or stay in business in. I suppose the good news is Seattle voters are approving I-135 that will allow another “agency” to issue over $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing (God forbid for bridges). With the state housing bills let’s hope those are duplexes and four plexes in Blue Ridge and Laurelhurst.

        What I sense from even pretty progressive/liberal (Nathan thinks there is an important distinction) Seattle citizens and columnists is a certain strain of Seattle progressives are intent on driving Seattle over the cliff but don’t seem to care. I mean, in the last election progressives ran a candidate for City Attorney who promised to not prosecute misdemeanors, and a sizable percentage of Seattleites voted for her. Almost like they are anarchists, which basically is what the The Urbanist and Transit Riders Union are.

        I think this fall’s council elections are existential for Seattle (no shit, Sherlock) but maybe even more important will be the budget, which will require some large and painful cuts unless the council raises taxes $300 million, except the only area I see that being possible is raising property taxes, and with 50% of Seattleites being renters those tax increases, along with levies like I-135 and maybe another Move Seattle in 2024, and maybe a SB5528 to complete WSBLE, are going to raise rents significantly, and I don’t care how many new units are built.

        Ugh feels my posts reveal a contempt for Seattle, a city I lived in and/or worked in for 63 years. Maybe, but that contempt is driven by an unbelievable frustration watching folks drive Seattle over a cliff when so many before them worked very hard to make Seattle a rising superstar from a basket case in the 1970’s to 2000’s.

        I don’t think which tunnel which group gets to use is the main issue for Seattle if east King Co. won’t even go into Seattle.

      21. @RossB,

        Bertha didn’t fail because of the soil conditions, or the pipe. She failed because she was underdimensioned and sand got past her seals. Basically you can’t just scale things up linearly and expect necessary tolerances to be maintained.

        Was that an engineering failure? Maybe. Or maybe not.

        Management is perfectly within their discretion to accept an underdimensioned TBM in exchange for lower cost or better schedule performance, but they had better have a good way of doing so.

        Bertha was a single use TBM. It was going to be cut up for scrap after it’s single, 1.8 mile trip. If management wanted to accept relaxed tolerances in exchange for cost or schedule, then so be it. But they had better have an operational plan for doing so.

        One such approach might be to keep seal pressures up while pumping more fluid through the gaps. Think of the poor high school kid whose car is burning oil. The local mechanic might rightly suggest a rebuild, but the kid might also rightly suggest just adding an extra quart of oil every 500 miles until after graduation, at which point he can afford a better car. Both approaches are correct.

        And the poor kid had better add oil when it is needed. Otherwise the car will completely fail, just like Bertha.

        So was Bertha’s failure an engineering failure? A management failure? Or an operator failure?

        We will probably never know, because all the evidence just sort of “disappeared”. Sort of a bad look in court.

      22. Thanks Lazarus, I didn’t realize the history. Quite the controversy. Just to copy a couple paragraphs from Wikipedia:

        n June 2015, Seattle Tunnel Partners sued to force insurers to payout on the $85 million insurance policy to cover repairs needed after Bertha’s cutting teeth were damaged in a collision with a steel pipe in December 2013. In August 2015, a consortium of eight insurers filed a lawsuit against STP in order to avoid a $143 million payout to cover the cost of repairs to the boring machine. The insurers claimed that the tunnel-boring machine’s capabilities were inadequate for the project and should be excluded.[46]

        It is unclear what triggered the damage to Bertha’s main bearing. Problems with the seal system appear to date back to the machine’s initial testing in Japan, when the seal assembly was damaged and required repairs.[47] However, Hitachi Zosen general manager Soichi Takaura later stated that “there was nothing wrong with the seals in the original machine”, noting that Bertha appeared to function properly before striking the well casing. WSDOT disputed this, and stated that the well casing was not responsible.[48]

        So, basically no one is quite sure what caused the problem. Still, I think it is fair to say that the bigger problem is the design, not the engineering. Even with everything that went wrong, the thing still managed to finish the job. The problem is, now that it is done, it just isn’t that good. It isn’t used by that many cars, making the project suspect, even if it was underbudget and on time.

        Which is not to say that there aren’t occasional big boondoggles, like the Big Dig. But I think the biggest problem, by far, are projects that are just not a good idea. For example, the new I-5 bridge over the Columbia (connecting Vancouver Washington with Portland). The smaller the better, in my opinion. The reduces cost as well as risk. It is quite likely they do end up with a project that is much bigger than needed, with way more general purpose lanes than it should have. Then it will cost more than expected. People will focus on the extra cost, instead of the stated cost, or the fact that we will get very little out of the extremely expensive project.

      23. @RossB,

        It had nothing to do with damage to the cutter teeth. In fact, the TBM design was such that the cutter teeth could be replaced when needed. Replacing teeth just wasn’t that big a deal. It actually happened multiple times while the TBM was under way.

        Replacing the seals and the main bearings? Big fricking deal. That is where the problem was.

        What caused the problem? We might never know for sure. All the logs, all the pertinent correspondence, and all the physical evidence just “disappeared”. Why? Who knows. But such things don’t play well in court.,

      24. Lazarus, yes, the stations are the big costs, for sure, which is why efforts to make them shallower, reducing the total volume of soil to be removed, should be Paramount, even if that means siting them in street rights of way.

        Yes, the street has to be closed until the excavation gets deep enough to cover the excavation machinery, but from that time on traffic can use decking to pass. Yes, excavation is noisy and dusty, but it’s just as noisy and dusty off-street as in-street.

        The BEST way to mitigate the noise and dust is to interline in DSTT1 with a junction vault just North of USSS if the width between the tubes there is sufficient for a diversion, or a “stub” for SLU, LQA and Ballard.

        Or even surface through downtown Seattle with multi-segment “trams” to and from Ballard.

  2. For the underground alignments the stations can potentially use street space — why wasn’t the same investigated for the elevated alignments that would greatly bring down the cost? For example a ballard elevated station in 15th avenue, if the underground can take away lanes why not the same there? Or the Fauntleroy station also above the street rather than over an apartment complex.

    > The presentation ended with cost comparison tables for the various portions of the project which may increase the cost by up to $1.5 billion.

    Sound Transit seriously needs to look into actual cheaper alternatives and accept more construction impact for them. It is seriously going to run out of money well before reach either Alaskan Junction and Ballard at this rate.

    1. During the Ballard/Interbay Community Advisory Group meetings, SDOT appeared staunchly opposed to any center-lane pylons. I’d love to see “cheap” aerial guideways center-running Faulteroy, Elliot Ave/15thAve, but we’re not gonna get it.

      What I haven’t seen in these comparisons is how increased property values along the proposed aerial routes that are adjacent to ROW is contributing to increased costs for those alternatives.

      Since the original, representative alignment from 2016 assumed significant mileage of at-grade ROW trackage, the switch to off-grade has come with significant consequences. Then, since advocates convinced ST that aerial crossing of the Ship Canal should be a fixed bridge, and the Coast Guard said a new fixed bridge would have to be taller than Aurora, the way to Ballard is via tunnel.

      The big story here is the placement of new stations around the CID. The 4th Ave Shallower option is beautiful in theory, but costing an extra $700M is a steep price. The CID-North station is the “affordable” option that would be enticing to a budget-conscious Board (but it’s not certain that this Board is very conscious of the budget). There are plenty of folks who find the old KC Admin building worthy of tear-down, and it would be an excellent location for some public TOD, but having only one station between SODO and Westlake where DSTT1 has four (Stadium, CID, PSQ, and Univ), and kicking all south KC riders into it, seems wildly lacking.

      1. The 700 million is for the shallow option, I don’t think there are concerted estimates for the shallower option?

        Regarding Ballard I think they need to switch back to the drawbridge approach, sound transit is quickly running out of money and construction hasn’t even started

      2. Regarding Elliott and 15th Avenue West, yes, SDOT seems stuck on the NIMBY concerns over moving traffic and freight. Yet pedestrian advocates would probably want to see those arterials tamed with better access management: driveway consolidation and channelized left turns. ST placing an elevated Link alignment there would be a great opportunity. We want Link to have a very positive impact on Seattle; we need not play rear guard defense on the status quo. ST and SDOT seemed to have shifted away from the initial elevated alignment; it may have been more direct and less costly.

    2. The problem with an elevated station at 15th and Market is that the platform(s) would be eye-level with the third floor of the big apartment buildings on the northeast and northwest corners. Peepers would have a field day.

  3. Thanks Martin for a thorough review. There was a long piece on King 5 TV last night about the disruption to businesses along Mercer with a lot of “equity” angles. Sounds like Harrell is on the side of the neighborhoods like CID and WS. I am glad he was in attendance. The different additional costs without ST really specifying where offsetting costs for different routings would be found (other than cutting stations) sounds like the new price tag is around a few nickels short of $16 billion.

  4. How walkable is a 4th Avenue shallow CID station? I’ve been leaning against it because it’s a longer walk from the CID and half the walkshed is swallowed by the gaping hole over the railroad tracks. But Seattle Subway is supporting it, and others in public testimony whom I respect supported it. So is it not so bad after all?

    1. It’s just on the other side of Union Station, and provides the shortest reasonable connection between the existing CID station and a new CID station. It’s probably a shorter horizontal walk than the vertical “walk” need to get to the 5th Avenue options, and doesn’t tear up the CID (too badly).

      The connections to King Street and the southeastern corner of PSQ are pretty good. Overall, it’s a good station, but stupid expensive.

      1. It’s expensive because of the costs to rebuild the Fourth Avenue South viaduct and the connecting Seattle Way and Second South Extension structures. The station itself would be relatively inexpensive, especially if they chose the “shallower” option of over-running DSTT1. I think they don’t like that because it would require raising the street profile a few feet at the over-crossing.

        It would produce a spectacularly efficient transfer path to and from Line 1, though.

        But at the end of the day, the right solution is “No Build” for both West Seattle and DSTT2. Either an interlined “Line 1” to Ballard using a new vault in Third Avenue north of University-Seneca Street or an SLU-LQA-Ballard “stub” with a single-track “non-revenue” connection at Third and Pine and a crossover within USSS using the breakdown lane space can serve the north end of the project area. That option would require better reversing at Northgate for Line 1 trains.

        Nothing can be done by some sort of tourniquet at CID that would stop the effusion of lost
        ridership that would “flow” from 200-foot deep stations at Midtown and “New Westlake”. Either say “suck it up” to the NIMBY’s in the ID and build a shallow station in the Fifth Avenue South street right-of-way directly adjacent to the existing platforms with a similarly shallow Midtown in the Fifth Avenue ROW and “New Westlake” in the Sixth ROW barely deeper than the existing platforms at Westlake or DO NOT BUILD A NEW TUNNEL.

        The Clueless Consultants and the arrogant “Downtown Seattle Association” are together foisting a calamity of enormous proportions on the City and transit riders forever!

        Even running on the surface on Third or a Third-Fourth couplet would be better than this “deep tunnel” catastrophe.

    2. I view the CID station as the one to get right and spend the extra money on. The mere number of transfers here is greater than most of total activity that other new ST3 stations will have.

      I still worry that transferring will still suck. There still isn’t talk of digging a pedestrian tunnel underneath the existing tracks nor is there talk about adding escalators to the existing platform. There is still no mention of how many riders will be expected to transfer.

      To pay for efficient transfer design here, I think losing a station in West Seattle and Interbay is worth it.

      I see it as the literal heart pumping the entire system. It’s much better to lose a toe or finger than to have a bad heart.

    3. “No-Build” means no WSBLE, not no second tunnel. Using that terminology for DSTT2 will create confusion. “No-build” has a specific meaning in EISes; a null alternative that shows the impacts of not implementing the project.

      ST will have to define what the null alternative is. In other cases it has meant continued incremental upgrades to the fallback. Since the purpose of the project is to reduce travel time to Ballard/SLU and West Seattle and to avoid future bus overcrowding, the alternative might be assuming investments in the C and 40. This gets tricky because those aren’t Sound Transit routes, and ST can’t say “Metro might do this” when ST doesn’t have authority over Metro. On the other hand, this is the situation we’d be in if ST3 hadn’t passed, and that’s a good analog to “No Build”.

      1. The TT option sounds good.

        The FTA once had TSM alternatives. No longer. But in one, SDOT could provide great exclusivity for lines C and H; improve flow on lines D and E; ST could buy more service. There is a huge stream of revenue to spend. Very frequent Link service in the DSTT could be provided; how about two minute headway IDS and north from three six-minute lines: East, South, and SODO. SDOT could provide transit priority on 1st Avenue.

      2. “No-Build” means no WSBLE,…”

        This is yet another reason why the two projects should NOT have been combined into a single EIS process.

        I’m in agreement with Tom Terrific’s comments above. ST’s insistence on building a second transit tunnel and ignoring the arguments for interlining just demonstrates the level of arrogance that continues at this agency.

      3. This is the structural problem with having one DEIS instead of two.

        Had it just been a WSLE DEIS, the West Seattle’s trains could have been a third line in the DSTT. The certification could happen quickly and construction could have begun soon.

        However the project benefit would have been less effective and maybe even been deemed as too unproductive for New Starts funding.

        With a separate DEIS for Ballard, ST could take their time to get the rest of the project better finessed.

        The combined DEIS may however come back to bite ST big time. It makes the risk of lawsuits to delay the project and the risk of funding shortfalls delays greater. Of course, if delays happen, ST won’t blame itself for doing one DEIS instead of two — but will blame others instead.

      4. > Had it just been a WSLE DEIS
        It would have failed because the west seattle by itself always had really low ridership. Especially as a stub line to just SODO district most transit times just increased changing a one-trip bus line to a 3 trip bus to light rail to bus line.

        > ST will have to define what the null alternative is. In other cases it has meant continued incremental upgrades to the fallback.
        There are actually kinda ‘backup’ plans though I guess not the originally voted on. For example the st3 candidate projects http://soundtransit3.org/candidate-projects

        C-01a: They could build it at-grade 2-car trains instead on 1st avenue
        and maybe combine it with C-01d: going up Westlake to fulfill the promise for a station in SLU/denny way

      5. @Al S.
        “However the project benefit would have been less effective and maybe even been deemed as too unproductive for New Starts funding.”

        I do suspect that this was the principal driver in the agency’s decision to consolidate the process, i.e., the needed “assistance” with FTA scoring.

      6. Well, that is exactly what I’m saying. Do not build West Seattle. Do not build a new tunnel. Do not build Ballard Link as designed. “No Build!”.

        Now that would leave North King with enough money to ransom a mid-level king (Denmark’s? Sweden’s? Maybe, though technically they’re queens, but not Charles. He can pay his own ransom, no? Jes’ sayin’).

        Begin again for SLU, LQA and Ballard, only emphasize street rights of way and a much shallower design. Divert just north of USSS if it’s possible or just make “BLE” an independent “stub” with new platforms just North of Westlake or Jonathan’s super-fast transfers “dogbone” idea. Whatever works is fine, but forget the West Seattle folly. It will make transit worse for almost all riders and cost an unconscionable “bundle” because of the topographic barriers.

        A three-station spur built on the surface over flat ground to serve a cul-de-sac part of town and turn the far north trains would be a defensible use of public funds. But not this fustercluck of up, down and around physical barriers.

      7. The frustrating thing is that you could do a “no build” option that provides most of the benefits of the WSBLE at a fraction of the cost. A bus ramp from the Spokane Street Viaduct to the SODO Busway and a couple hundred thousand gallons of red paint for the 40 and the D Line. Throw in some funds for enhanced bus shelters at all the stops (might be cheaper than just one underground station) and call it a day.

      8. A dedicated transit bridge over the Ship Canal that could be converted to light rail would do wonders for the D. Especially if it could be raised above the mess at Emerson.

      9. 24/7 bus and commercial freight lanes from 15th & Market to Mercer would be super cheap (relative to all-new grade-separated railway), but the advantage of grade-separated light rail is its speed. The D is still speed-limited to 30 mph despite veritable freeway widths of 15th Ave W and Elliott. Link will hit 55 mph and make the run in ~1/3 the time.

        There have been creative proposals to revamp the existing Ballard Bridge as a light-rail and bike/ped bridge, and to construct a new car/freight bridge at 14th Ave NW. Assuming the City could build a new bascule bridge there (it seems that water access/rights issues are going to be a massive headache for any new bridges over the Ship Canal), that seems like the best compromise between road capacity and multi-modal dreamers.

        I think a really clever SDOT could put forward a new transpo levy in November 2024 that offered the following:

        1. Work with ST to split the cost of rebuilding the Ballard Bridge to incorporate Link
        2. Work with ST to split the cost of rebuilding the 4th Ave Viaduct and address associated impacts of the Shallower CID station
        3. Put crossing gates along RV that allow the train to go >35 mph
        4. Work with ST to split the cost of reconstruction of sections of the Seattle Streetcar to finish the “Cultural Connector” as the old C3 is being rebranded
        5. Work with ST to complete the improvements to the C & D as promised in ST3
        6. Get working on better cost estimates for refurb/replace of worsening bridges in the City.
        7. Fund SDOT’s other priorities to be revealed in the upcoming Vision Zero review and comprehensive Transportation Plan

      10. @Glen,

        When Ballard Link gets to Ballard it will replace RR-D.

        There simply is no reason to run it south of the northernmost Link station. RR-D will be slower, lower capacity, less reliable, and more expensive to operate. Metro would be foolish to continue to operate it as is.

      11. Laz, a reason to keep running the D Line even after Ballard Link is the same reason the A Line still runs between TIBS and Angle Lake.

      12. TT, there are 1200 feet between Westlake Station and the edge of the Paramount, I think there is a good chance you could build a branch and turn under the existing tunnel north before I-5 but otherwise the dogbone or just a stub would be fine.
        What are your other surface alternative?
        What about a Westlake/Fremont route? I feel the Interbay route was originally chosen because it allowed for a bridge, but now that the Coast Guard is forcing a tunnel route, the Fremont route might actually perform better.
        Automated trains make stub operation much easier, too. If we do a Westlake route, we could even add a Mercer/LQA stub.
        Once we’re in Fremont, the line could also more easily be extended east towards UW.

      13. Martin, there is a solid slab of foundations on the south side of Pine Street east of Sixth. Remember that the tunnel rises roughly one floor (to the Mezzanine level of Westlake Center) by the time it gets to Ninth. You simply can’t go under the buildings on the south side.

        IF Metro hadn’t cheaped out on the Pine Street cut and cover tunnel and made it three lanes all the way to Ninth, it would be possible to clone the eastbound track in the “breakdown lane” and dig the burrowing junction you envision in the right lane which has the tracks now.

        Alas, about fifteen feet east of the Westlake platforms the tunnel constricts about four to five feet on each side. There’s still plenty of “wander room” for the buses going up and down the ramp; there in no danger of scraping. But there isn’t enough room to add the third track.

        Remember that the side walls of a cut and cover tunnel are load bearing. They hold up he ceiling decking that is the roadway above. So you can’t just remove one wall and widen the tunnel. The whole shimongle has to be disassembled with the temporary decking put back while the side-wall is demolished and moved outward. Not a happy prospect, especially since Pine is pretty narrow, which is probably why the constriction was constructed.

        I really wanted that tunnel to be wide enough for what you’re proposing. I even proposed it but then had to retract it when I really looked at the tunnel configuration.

        I have really looked at the tunnel, both in “real life” and in the old diagrams. The only real “hope” for a northbound diversion is if that vault can fit between USSS and the south wall of Westlake Center at the Third and Pine curve. And of course, if the city agrees to tear up Third for five years and ST agrees to have the compression rings removed from the northbound tube.

        Those are big “ifs”.

        So Jonathan may still win the day, if for no other reason than a dogbone could have a station at Minor and Stewart which would be a huge addition. With no “WSLE” and no tunnel south of Pine, it could probably even be afforded. BLE would look quite serpentine with it added, but there’s a LOT of potential there.

  5. For risk of sounding too negative, it’s clear that ST just wants to get into details about station placement — yet ignore the big elephants in the room: The project is wildly expensive, reduces mobility and increases transit travel time for man current transit trips, creates horrible transfers, doesn’t take advantage of driverless technology, and doesn’t look at value added. The project from the outset was designed to appease stakeholders that don’t ride transit but want to make sure it doesn’t mess up their livelihoods.

    In other words, it’s as if the approach is treating it like a necessary public nuisance rather than a public benefit.

    I’m actually surprised that after five years of feedback with very similar complaints — deep stations, missing key destinations in Ballard, taking out hundreds of homes — the revisions on the table are still remarkably close to the initial ideas from 2017. We wasted 5-6 years of tinkering — except for solving the engineering challenges that should have been readily apparent before the 2016 vote but were not brought to light because it would have resulted in more “no” votes..

    I guess it’s the normal ST process — do what we damn want to and wear out those that don’t like it with repeated rounds of meetings to appease and then ignore the critics.

    1. Yeah, Sound Transit trying to talk stuff to death without ever coming to that “come to Jesus” moment of what’s this going to cost?….and how do we pay for it?

      In a 3.5 hour presentation, which is pretty unbelievable really, the idea of not building it…… never came up.

      1. Unfortunately, using the DSTT for all three lines is no a “no build”. Neither is running trains every 2 minutes instead of every three. With three (in the no build), the forecasts are that the trains will be overcrowded.

      2. The trains will be more crowded with two tunnels because the stations in the new tunnel will render it unusable for many trips.

        The only trains that will be using the new tunnel will be Ballard to Tacoma, at 8-10 minute headways as per today. The best they can operate is every 6 minutes, unless the city of Seattle eliminates the policy of not delaying cars in the Rainier Valley.

        This leaves in the old tunnel:

        • the Eastside line, which apparently is limited to 8 minute headways

        • the West Seattle to Everett line, with almost no ridership at the ends and thus probably not operating very often.

        Passengers wanting to get to UW to Northgate from the Tacoma Dome line will all have to transfer at SoDo, since that’s the only place with any reasonable walking distance. A fair number will also transfer here because the old tunnel offers less distance to the surface.

        So, that crowds out the West Seattle trains since they are the only option there.

        Ballard to UW is now faster on Link than the 44, even with the transfer. So now at Westlake whatever remaining space is on the trains to UW is going to need to absorb Ballard, bus and previously boarded Rainier Valley passengers.

      3. Ballard to UW is now faster on Link than the 44, even with the transfer.

        I doubt it. As of this writing, it is a 15 minute bus ride on the 44. But as traffic builds, that number gets bigger. But it is also possible than in the 20 years or so that it takes to build Ballard Link that the 44 becomes faster. It is highly likely it will be RapidRide by then, when means it would be off board payment (if the entire system isn’t all off-board by then). It will never be 100% BAT lanes, let alone bus lanes, but continued spot improvements seems likely.

        Meanwhile, taking Link for those trips means low travel times, but a lot of time spent going back and forth between stations. First you have to get to the Ballard Station, which may be up in the air or deep underground. Then you have to transfer, which will be time consuming. Then you have to come out of the tunnel. The UW station is extremely deep, and while the U-District station is not nearly as deep, it still isn’t close to the surface. Even if you are standing right next to the station entrance (and very few will be) the bus is probably a better option.

        I agree with your main point though. Everything south of Ballard will funnel through Westlake (as it often does today). Instead of taking the monorail and then Link to head north, folks will take Ballard Link, then the main line. The pinch point remains Westlake to First Hill, as everyone north of downtown (SLU, Uptown, even Interbay) merges with downtown, the south end and East Side.

      4. To be fair, whenever I’ve gone from Ballard to UW during the week (even not at rush hour), it’s been way longer than 15 minutes. I don’t know what the current schedule says (I haven’t taken the 44 in a long time) but just the Aurora-UW segment was taking 20-25 minutes, to the point that I could almost walk faster than ride (I literally timed this once; there was a 44 scheduled to arrive at the Aurora & 46th stop or whatever about a minute after I got there, it was a nice day so I decided to walk. The bus and I kept trading the first place all through Wallingford and the U District and the bus finally overtook me at the bus stop at 45th and the Ave, so it won the race… but I won a nice day of brisk walking, thus called it a draw).

        Anyway, long-winded anecdote aside, I can imagine that Ballard to UW might be faster on Link than the 44 for some time; but I would personally also find having to go downtown then back up very frustrating out of principle, so unless it were a lot faster, I might stick with the 44 even then. There’s value in both not having to transfer, and in traveling in the right direction/not deviating from the direct route, in case something happens and you do have to travel using another mode for part of the way.

      5. That has occurred for decades. In the 80s and 90s I remember several times walking from the U-District to Wallingford in 20 minutes and never seeing a 44 (then 43) that was supposed to run every 15 minutes.

      6. Right, I’m not surprised that it’s not a new phenomenon. I’ve seen it through the 2000s and 2010s, myself. Thank you for corroborating it – it gives further weight to why people might want to go Link-Link instead of the 44, despite the downsides of the round-about route.

      7. I’ve long thought that ST could have designed a better transfer at Capitol Hill rather than Westlake, and then circled back for a First Hill station in the way back to the ID. That would have saved several minutes on a Link- Link path from Ballard. It would have also provided a long-promised First Hill station.

        With Seattle Center and SLU stops, transfers to Third Ave buses and the monorail and streetcar would still be easily possible. Granted there would not be direct service to Westlake, but the area’s function as a retail hub has certainly declined since 2016.

        The vertical alignment could be accommodated with aerial segments in SLU and near Yesler, with the tunnel portals next to the I-5 freeway.

        However, such ideas are so far out of the box that they’ll never be studied.

      8. The time I was quoted for the 44 was not based on the schedule, but on Google Maps. In other words, Google says it will take 15 minutes. The estimation is based on what thousands upon thousands of users did at similar times, as well as current traffic (which is also based on cell phone use). It’s pretty darn accurate. But again, that was at 8:00 AM. It changes over time. As of right now, it is saying 22 minutes, while it says 19 minutes in reverse (go figure). Anyway, 20 minutes is a rough estimate.

        But this is now. The fact that you haven’t taken it in a long time and remember it being horrible is quite telling, and common. It is better than it used to be, and not as good as it will be in the future. That’s my point. Bit by bit, over time, they are adding BAT lanes. This is without off board payment, which would make a huge difference (given the many stops). With enough work, the 15 minute time should seem normal, and not exceptional.

        Meanwhile, going around will never be very fast. The distance is just too far. The stations are too far from the surface, and the transfer will likely take a while. Even wait time adds up. It makes sense to run the 44 every ten minutes in the middle of the day. I think it is only a matter of time before that happens. I don’t see the Ballard Line (coming from Rainier Valley) doing better, ever. Maybe it will, but ST has been very reluctant to increase frequency, while Seattle has taken every chance they can get to increase frequency on the buses (that never leave the city). Thus the frequency of the bus will match that of Ballard Link. Even though the Westlake to UW line will be frequent (every five minutes) it still won’t be constant. That is still additional wait time.

        So, I figure a couple extra minutes of additional wait time, plus an extra five minutes of additional walk time to take the train. It takes ten minutes to ride the train from Westlake to the U-District. That’s already 17 minutes, and we haven’t accounted for the time to get from Ballard to Westlake. I don’t know how long that is supposed to take, but it is longer from Ballard to Westlake than from the U-District to Westlake. There are also more stops. So at least 10 minutes, probably more like 12 if you are lucky. That is pretty close to 30 minutes, while the other bus should be in the 15 to 20 minute range. By the time the train finally gets to Ballard, the bus should be considerably faster than going around.

        Of course that is from a particular point to a particular point. Trips really aren’t like that. They are spread out. The single, solitary Ballard Station will likely be at 15th at best, 14th at worst. In contrast, the 44 has various stops along Market. I don’t see anyone hopping on the 44, then catching Link to Westlake, then transferring to Link again to go to the U-District. Nor do I see someone walking a long distance to catch the train, when the bus is headed your direction. Likewise, the 44 serves a much broader part of the U-District. It is only if you are very close to the Ballard Station, and headed to somewhere very close to the UW Station (not the U-District Station) that taking the train twice even becomes competitive. Not many are taking that trip.

      9. The 44 is one of the better routes, and comes more often than a 30-minute route would. The 20-minute phenomenon is inexplicable, yet it persisted for decades even after I moved out of the U-District in 2003, and is widely enough known by people who both bus and walk between the Ave or Roosevelt and Wallingford or Stone Way that they expect it. It’s not just traffic congestion because it happens even when cars aren’t backed up much. Maybe it has improved since the pandemic; I’ve only ridden it a few times since then.

      10. Al, downtown office employment with far-flung commuting isn’t coming back. A significant number of lower class office towers are going to become hotels or condos or sit empty.

        The ridership estimates are ready for the recycle bin.

        And, as Ross constantly reminds us accurately, KCM can run a LOT of express buses for eight billion dollars.

      11. You guys must be looking at a different spot on the 44. Looking at Google maps right now the recommended transit option is 40 to Link and 44 minutes. Taking the one seat ride on the 44 says 54 minutes.

        Now imagine what happens at Westlake when the surface route on the 40 is replaced by Link. No matter what goes on with the 44 and Ballard, there will be an awful lot of people whose former trip is now faster on Link and they’ll transfer at Westlake.

        Ballard to the eastside? If the transfer at CID is awful, then they’ll want to transfer at Westlake too.

        Bottom line is they’ll create a tangled mess at Westlake where everyone wants to transfer, and all the trains to the Eastside will be horribly crowded through downtown because the West Seattle trains don’t really go anywhere.

        Adding the second tunnel makes the crowding worse.because the only trains that go anywhere can only be accessed before they go through downtown.

        Northbound you get the same problem: Rainier Valley to UW? Chances are the CID transfer is awful, so your best best is Westlake, so everyone will likely ride all the way through to Westlake. Some will get off, but there won’t be much empty space for those hoping to get to SLU. Or, transfer to an Everett train at SoDo, in which case they occupy a train gaining riders at each station. If the lines were combined, they might instead decide to transfer at one of the other stations, and get an Eastside train that is gaining some riders but probably losing more as it moves through downtown.

        Anyway, I just imagine the creation of several awful stations leading to more congestion in the existing tunnel and at the two places where transfers aren’t really awful.

  6. Honestly at this time would be better off with a consolation Streetcar up 1st Ave from Jackson to Climate Pledge Arena than this current boondoggle. Or go with a separate SkyTrain option from Westlake to Seattle Center and Interbay.

  7. I’m so glad ST is considering repurposing Union Station. It’s a perfect solution for transferring customers between the new and old CID stations. I actually had the same idea before they made it public. And I thought ST would be too rigid and value their precious historical building too much for any modifications.

    But I’m glad ST is open to opening their space to the public. Besides, how much longer can an agency that big stay in a building that small?

    If they go through with it, I hope they truly reimagine the space and make it an incredible experience for customers.

    1. Pre-COVID, as ST ramped up staffing post ST3 vote, most of ST staff was in the office buildings nearby. But Union Station was 3 full floors of office space (there’s a full basement of office space), plus a secure garage for Operations vehicles; owning Union Station outright has allowed ST to save million of dollars of rent over the years. Even if the HQ left the ID, it would be super useful as office space for the WSBLE project team.

      I was always perplexed by neighborhood advocates who thought Union Station wasn’t “active” because it wasn’t open to the public. It is an office building, just like the (much taller) Seattle Municipal Tower.

  8. In light of the indefinite closure of Link downtown, how much value would there be in having a second tunnel just so that we’re still able to have some form of rail when there’s inevitable maintenance failures? As the original tunnel ages, it seems inevitable that more of these problems will occur, especially given that the county seems to have done everything they could to skimp before handing things over to ST.

    1. Not too much value if you’re talking about having a second tunnel just as backup. It just costs too much not to use it as a second line.

      1. Yeah, I guess I wasn’t thinking of it as primarily a backup, but it certainly must have some value as a backup, and it seems like we should account for system resiliency in addition to general rider experience. ST has been kind of closed-lipped about when we can expect Link to return to service downtown, so I’m wondering if this will stretch into days or even past a week. On top of the disruptions to Link itself, Metro must be providing the shuttle bus service and they’re already short on buses and operators, so I would assume this will ripple into cancellations on bus routes (there’s already a big uptick in peak hour cancellations today according to Pantograph).

      2. What “backup” does it provide? In the absence of a reversing capability at the existing Westlake station, trains to and from the north could not connect to the “backup!”. Ditto Line 2 trains to and from Bellevue. They can’t reverse at CID (the center track isn’t set-up correctly for that) so they couldn’t transfer passengers to and from Line 3. Only the West Seattle line could run in “stub mode” to transfer passengers to Line 3.

        It is almost completely useless as any kind of alternative to a closed DSTT1.

      3. I was wrong about my comment. ST seems able to reverse reliably at Westlake, apparently using the scissors crossover up by Ninth Avenue that was the “throat” for the reversing stubs, pre U-Link.

        How well it would perform with shorter headways is certainly a question. It’s a very long two-way section between the scissors and the Westlake platforms.

    2. There is some potential value, but not a lot as I see it. Partly it is because the transfers aren’t great. For example, let’s say I’m headed to the south end of downtown from the UW. There is a blockage between Westlake and University Street. If the trains are serving (and then reversing) at Westlake, I can transfer to the other train. But I might as well head to the surface at Westlake, and take a bus. It would be useful if I was planning on continuing on to West Seattle, but I don’t see that many doing that. East Side to the UW is also not an ideal pairing (many will just take the bus). Uptown to the South End seems reasonable, but for that there is the monorail.

      If the train was blocked between SoDo and CID then I could it being handy, as folks from the south would transfer at SoDo (one of the easiest transfers). But most of the riders will be north of there. Overall, I don’t see it adding a lot of value in terms of redundancy.

      1. OK, this confirms what I was able to glean from the slide deck. I had this brief hope that despite all of the other problems with the proposed tunnel, it would at least give us resiliency, but it doesn’t really seem to do that even. Seems like the only benefit might be that it wouldn’t have decades of decay…

      2. “Link shows no interest in running the trains more often, and even with growth in both the UW and downtown Bellevue, I don’t see the 270 running like the RapidRide E (every 7.5 minutes).”

        And it shouldn’t be especially difficult to add capacity to the 270 if needed. There should soon be some unemployed double deckers kicking about that seems like they could prove useful for that if needed.

      3. I don’t think that you can use the double deckers because of the Pacific Ave overpasses. They won’t fit. And I think they need to be 40 footers because of the sharp turns somewhere along the route – either through Medina (which may not be an issue after the route change) or somewhere in East Bellevue – BC campus, maybe?

    3. In New York when there’s maintenance on one subway track, the trains are diverted to an express or local track or a different Manhattan tunnel.

      1. Yep! NYC knows how to do it!

        But not Sound Transit. From the track diagrams that I’ve seen, ST plans to build each track adjacent to one heading in the opposite direction — as opposed to having two southbound tracks in SIDO on the west and two northbound tracks on the east. They are planning southbound- northbound- southbound- northbound instead.

      2. The New York subway has many junctions so they are able to do that.

        Chicago is able to do that as well as there are many junctions.

        This second tunnel really can’t be that useful as a redundant backup because there will be no track connection at the north end of the existing tunnel to the new tunnel. It’s not like Chicago where red line trains can be diverted to the loop instead of the tunnel, or even Portland where track junctions and sidings allow for trains to use either north-south or east-west line in downtown if the other has to be closed. You can’t even have the Eastside line in the new tunnel because the new tunnel will only be connected to the old line at SoDo.

      3. Not quite – in NYC many lines are 4-tracked, which allows for them to run limited service on either express or local, but NYC doesn’t move trains between the lines. Passengers can be directly to a nearby service (Skylar’s point) that perhaps share a branch with the disrupted service, but that’s different than diverting trains.

      4. “NYC doesn’t move trains between the lines”

        Yes it does. The last time I was in New York my route was diverted to a different tunnel and I had to figure out which station would be closest to my destination. I most commonly take the Eighth Avenue trains (A/C/E) so it was probably one of those. I sometimes go to Astoria (N/W) so it might possibly have been one of those, but unlikely.

        At other times there was weekend maintenance every weekend. Once I arrived at JFK and the express track was closed, so the A ran local and took an hour to get to Manhattan. And then I had to go back to the airport the next day to deal with a lost luggage issue.

        Conversely, at other times a local track was closed, so the A/C/E were all express weekend evening/night. I don’t remember about daytime.

        Another time I was going to a club on a Saturday night, and the train terminated somewhere in lower Manhattan and there was a bus the rest of the way.

  9. Typical contemporary transit planning… all interests except transit rider’s interest is being looked out for, while costs and timelines explode. Always those concerned about short term construction impact win, NIMBYs and avoiding all impacts to a couple small businesses (especially when they can play up being part of a “vulnerable” group). Stations get placed out of the way in inconvenient locations with poor time consuming transfers, very deep underground with few entries, routes built based on the path of least resistance away from population and destinations. This is no way to build public infrastructure lasting centuries that carries hundreds of thousands of people.

    1. That’s the perennial problem: ST doesn’t look at the purpose for this rail network and how it could more effectively fulfill that purpose. The purpose of Link is to move passengers, so you need to look at what would make passengers satisfied. Instead ST looks at everything except that.

  10. The current planned arrangement for East Link to go to UW, while Tacoma goes to SLU and Ballard makes no sense. It should have been a no brainer that SLU and Bellevue/Redmond be connected by one train seat.

    Similarly UW Tacoma and UW Seattle should be on one line.

    1. Redoing the junction with East Link immediately south of the ID station would be far more difficult and disruptive than changing the junction around SoDo for the RV branch.

      I don’t see why is is obvious that Amazonians should have a 1-seat ride between office campuses, but it’s not important for a direct connection between Snohomish county & the 2nd largest urban job center in the state (Bellevue/Redmond) and a direct connection between east King and the largest university in the state. I’m guessing SLU and Redmond on your mental map say “here be tech workers” ?

      1. It is about geography. A Ballard to Redmond line is an east-west line. A SeaTac to Lynnwood line is north-south. West Seattle to Lynnwood is also north-south.

        It is also important to consider the buses. The main destination north of downtown Seattle is the UW. If you are at various East Side Link locations, you will have an express bus that will get you to the UW considerably sooner than Link. Likewise, if you are in Snohomish County heading to downtown Bellevue, then the Stride Express bus is much faster than taking Link. In contrast, the options for getting to South Lake Union or Uptown are non-existent. Even if they ran a bus it would be considerably slower. From the East Side, a train towards Ballard complements the bus alternatives nicely, and is thus a lot more valuable than a train heading north.

        It is tempting to think the same thing is true for those from the south, but it isn’t. There are alternatives to get to the UW from Rainier Valley, but they aren’t particularly fast (they don’t travel in HOV-3 lanes, using their own ramps, like the express buses from the East Side). For almost all riders, the train remains the best option, by far. So they simply lose their train ride to the UW, and replace it with a far less attractive ride to SLU, Uptown and Ballard.

        It is just not a good pairing from a geographic standpoint, let alone common usage standpoint (i. e. connecting Bellevue business centers to Seattle business centers). All that being said, the biggest problem is the transfer. If the transfers were trivial, it wouldn’t matter. If they interline, that would be the case. You get off the train, wait, and get back on another train. Unfortunately, the current plans are the opposite. So not only will be forcing way more transfers than we should, but those transfers will be really bad.

      2. Yes, it’s nice synergy for the two major tech hubs in the region to share a single line, and be you know, linked. Many are the same companies. And I agree with RossB too that geographical axis is nice. It doesn’t make sense to break a spine in two, especially in a city such as ours which operate on a NS and EW axis. Many of the staff and ancillary staff at UW Montlake Hospital and Northwest Hospital come from the South End of the city. These are the people riding the Link to go to work, not your average Eastsider. Why force transfers on the people who most benefit (and are already benefiting) from public rapid transit and instead offer one-seat service to UW for people like Daniel Thompson who can barely hide his contempt for the city proper and would most likely drive in anyway? How is this equitable?

      3. “ All that being said, the biggest problem is the transfer. ”

        One thousand times yes!

        In 2016, ST had early sketches showing the NB CID station as a cross platform transfer. It didn’t explain how deep many stations needed to be. The voters saw a map with lines headed to the sane dot. It all seemed easy!

        Then the reality of the design hit starting in 2018 but everyone was so obsessed (and still are) about the last stations in West Seattle and Ballard that few spoke up about things in the middle. The station depths and diagrams showing them were not shown to the public. (Note that as recent as last week, the display boards did not show vertical profiles except for a few crammed into the bottom corner out of view. The Westlake escalators diagram showed no vertical diagram and how riders would transfer, making the presentation board incomplete and useless.)

        ST doesn’t want to talk about bad transfers. The DEIS does not disclose the number of rail-rail transfers at the stations (and how many escalators and elevators need to be working to move the thousands of transferring riders). ST quit making diagrams showing transfers. It looks a bit like a cover-up, frankly. Shame on ST for hiding this!

      4. A common misperception by some on this blog is that whichever tunnel the East Link trains use — the good one or the crummy one — is because of the evil, wealthy eastsiders.

        First, let’s dispel some myths:

        1. Eastsiders are not taking transit to Seattle, and I don’t think they will return. Bellevue certainly does not want them to return, and every day The Seattle Times or Nextdoor has some article telling eastsiders how dangerous Seattle is, and transit in Seattle. They certainly are not going to SLU anymore because Amazon has gone to WFH (and is laying off workers). The odds an eastsider is or would take transit to Ballard, which is like getting to Pluto, are about the same as someone in Ballard taking transit to the Sammamish Plateau.

        2. East Link was supposed to be operating in DSTT1 for the last two years.

        3. “Tech hubs” on the eastside don’t travel between each other. Amazon is almost all WFH, and Amazon has told its workers they can work in the Bellevue or Seattle office if they do go in. Amazon and Microsoft don’t host each other’s workers, East Link does not serve Bellevue Way where Amazon’s towers will be, Google pulled out of the project on 85th, and Microsoft just took a $1.2 billion charge to exit its non-campus leases. There is a thing called the internet.

        When ST announced East Link would be delayed until 2025 no one on the eastside cared, although those riding Link from the CID to Lynnwood did. We really don’t care where our trains go after they cross the bridge because we won’t be on them.

        So who does care? Why will East Link trains use DSTT1 and not DSTT2?

        1. If you want the official version from Dow, it is because it is too far for a driver to drive from Tacoma to Lynnwood, so unfortunately residents of West Seattle will have to have a one seat ride through DSTT1 with their wealthy cousins from the eastside.

        2. Really it has to do with who wants the extra frequency and eastside clientele from East Link trains (that will have very few eastsiders on them, but hope springs eternal, even on this blog).

        A. North Seattle (the folks with the tunnels and underground stations) want the increased frequency from the CID to Lynnwood, through Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, Northgate and then up north with all those TOD’s. If necessary, they would also prefer to ride with eastsiders. I mean, how much congestion will there be on a line between West Seattle and Ballard that has maybe one stop in the downtown core with very few commuting to SLU? I suppose N. King Co. could just buy some more trains to increase frequency on Line 1, but it is broke (hence the design for DSTT2).

        B. The DSA is desperate for the eastside commuter to return, and although the stops are not that close at least DSTT1 services most of the office towers. Someday Seattle may be perceived as safe, the stations secured, and eastsiders will want to spend two hours/day on public transit to commute to downtown Seattle. I don’t think those commuters are coming back, but the DSA is correct that if they don’t Downtown and Seattle in general are screwed. Not too many eastside office workers work in the King Co. Admin. building where the one stop for DSTT2 will be, with a handy underground tunnel to 3rd and James, like that will be perceived as safe.

        C. The new waterfront park district. Seattle spent a fortune on the park and tunnel, and the hope is it is the attraction that lures non-workers back to the city, especially people with money to spend. Dropping them off on 5th and James is not exactly convenient.

        D. The CID. The CID does not want a second tunnel and 10 years of disruption because they have been waiting 10 years for eastsiders with money in their pocket using DSTT1 from the eastside. They don’t want the folks in DSTT2, just like Dow doesn’t want to ride with them. What they really want is more public parking.

        East Link trains are going where the powerful in Seattle want them to go, and where they want eastsiders to go, even though few eastsiders will be on them. I know it makes some like Ugh feel better to think evil eastsiders will make him transfer in Sodo on his transit journey north after the ride through the non-grade separated RV unless he basically wants a one stop ride through downtown, but Eastsiders don’t plan on riding through either tunnel.

        It isn’t our fault I am afraid. Eastsiders don’t like commuting long distances to work, and think Seattle is dangerous. Bellevue does little to dispel that perception. I am sorry the design for DSTT2 is so bad, am not surprised the poor and brown folks coming from the south get the crummy tunnel, but predicted from the beginning N. King did not have the money for this project, even with a DSTT2 with one stop in the downtown core, especially after Ballard and West Seattle demanded very expensive tunnels and underground stations because who gives a shit about transit riders coming from south of Sodo? Ugh is correct about that.

      5. “If you are at various East Side Link locations, you will have an express bus that will get you to the UW considerably sooner than Link.” Only true for the 520 corridor, which will have UW-Redmond bus service either way. Not true for the I90 corridor, where transfers at S Bellevue or MI stations will be the primary way to access UW, (& the rest of Seattle).

        For 405 corridor, transferring at Bellevue TC, will the 270 compete with Link?

      6. “For 405 corridor, transferring at Bellevue TC, will the 270 compete with Link?”

        Let’s see. The 271 eastbound from 15th & 43rd to Bellevue TC is 24 minutes at noon, 29 minutes at 5pm. The 566 is 27 minutes at 5pm. Link from U-District to Westlake is 8 minutes. Westlake-Bellevue is around 20 minutes I think. That adds up to 28 minutes for UDistrict-Bellevue. So it”s a wash.

        But traffic congestion will continue to worsen as the population grows, so Link will have an increasing advantage. That has apparently already happened for Westlake-Federal Way and Westlake-Tacoma Dome, where we thought Link would be significantly slower than ST Express. But when I recalculated the times a couple months ago, Link had caught up at Federal Way peak hours, and at Tacoma Dome full time. Or rather, the buses had slowed down that much. Tacoma and Pierce always said traffic congestion would eventually make buses slower and Link more competitive, but we assumed that was a decade or two away. but it appears to have already happened when we weren’t looking.

      7. Mike, let’s make it a little tougher choice. Let’s say you’re standing in between the BTC and Downtown Bellevue Station. East Link to Seattle is operating. So is the route 270. You want to go to Kane Hall next to Red Square on the UW campus. Which do you take?

      8. The fact that it’s even close means you shouldn’t be sending the train to Red Square at all. You should instead be sending it to SLU and Ballard.

        Let all those in Rainier Valley, Kent, Auburn and Tacoma have that privilege of being able to easily access IW, because they don’t have that pretty decent alternative that eastsiders already enjoy. The sure as F don’t deserve 2 decent ways to get to UW.

      9. The 270 wins by more than it seems.

        First off, the 271’s schedules are padded, and when there’s no traffic, bus after bus will arrive at Bellevue Transit Center a good 5 minutes early. Second, the completion of the Montlake lid will make the Bellevue->U-district bus much more resilient against traffic congestion. There will be a direct HOV 3+ ramp to Montlake Blvd, and the days of waiting in long lines behind a bunch of SOV’s will be over.

        And of course, if the point of origin is somewhere closer to Bellevue Square than Bellevue Transit Center, the 270 beats Link by even more. Not only do you have a faster travel time, you also have a shorter walk time. The 270 will also serve more stops in the U-district, shortening walk times there two, on top of the overhead of exiting a deep station. The only advantage Link has that the 270 doesn’t is improved frequency, but that won’t be enough to make it worth it unless the wait time for the 270 is very long.

      10. Yes, for Bellevue Square and NW part of downtown, the 270 is clearly faster; that’s the point of the 270, to connect the UW with Bellevue west of the Bellevue TC. But the question here is – as full busloads of riders transfer at the TC, do we want the hundreds heading to UW to transfer to the 270 or to Link? Ross’s point was that “various East Side Link locations” already have great direct connections to the UW, but that’s only true for some of Kirkland, Redmond and Bellevue service by the 3~4 routes that will continue to run on SR520; for the rest of the East side, should UW-bound riders be funneling onto SR520 bus routes or onto Link? I don’t think the SR520 bus routes are useful for the eastside not directly served by those routes, as the eastside bus network is built around routes converging to Link (or the Eastgate TC); there are no SR520-oriented transfer nodes.

      11. This comment probably deserves a “thanks, captain obvious,” but people will decide to ride East Link vs 270 on more than just travel time or frequency. Presumably, the 270 will have several bus stops along Pacific St and 15th Ave. So if a Bellevue’s rider’s ultimate destination is closer to a route 270 bus stop, for example near 15th and Campus Parkway, they may opt for the 270. If their destination is closer to a Link station, they may choose light rail. So, yes, riders will consider travel time, frequency, mode preference, overall reliability, etc., when deciding which mode to take, but another thing they’ll consider is which gets closest to their destination.

      12. Yeah, what asdf2 said is correct.

        Traffic congestion will continue to worsen as the population grows

        But not for the bus. Quite the opposite. We are on the verge of dramatically improving the bus connection between the UW and downtown Bellevue. The 270 will take a faster, more direct route to the freeway. The work on 520 will extend the HOV-3 lanes all the way to the exit ramps. Bus lanes will run from there to the edge of the bridge, which means even when the bridge is up, the bus will be able to get to the front of the line. The HOV-3 lanes will extend beyond Montlake, which means that cars that use the HOV-3 lanes won’t have to leave those lanes until well after the Montlake exit. This will push the merge related congestion well outside of the path that the bus takes. Thus the bus will be in congestion-free lanes from Bellevue Way to the Montlake Bridge.

        Even now, as I write this (at 8:45 AM — still within rush-hour) Google says it takes 20 minutes to get from the Bellevue Transit Center to the UW. Same with going the other direction. This is without the improvements that will be here fairly soon. In contrast, UW to Downtown Bellevue will take 30 minutes — a full 10 minutes longer. That doesn’t even count the advantage of surface transit. The Bellevue Station is easy to access, but the UW Station is not. Riders spend several minutes getting back to the surface, whereas bus riders are right there. Likewise, the bus serves more stops in the U-District.

        In terms of frequency, it seems reasonable to assume that both will settle into a ten-minute midday pattern. Link shows no interest in running the trains more often, and even with growth in both the UW and downtown Bellevue, I don’t see the 270 running like the RapidRide E (every 7.5 minutes).

        That doesn’t mean it works for all East Side trips. It would be silly to go to downtown Bellevue from Issaquah if you are headed to the UW. But rides from the I-90 corridor are only a small subset of trips from the East Side. It seems likely they will be well outnumbered by trips from Rainier Valley and places to the south. Running trains east-west (Redmond to Ballard) and north south (Federal Way to Lynnwood) is the best pattern. The only reason they want to move away from that is because they made the system ridiculously long (and failed to automate the trains).

      13. If Cam’s point is all eastsiders going to the UW should take the bus so East Link travels through DSTT2 and riders from south of Sodo use DSTT1 I can sympathize, but that is not going to happen, and it has nothing to do with UW students from the east or south.

        The fundamental flaw for WSBLE is few riders will take it, and even fewer will take it to WS or Ballard unless they live there. The number of Ballard residents who will take WSBLE to WS will be tiny, and same the other way around.

        It is frustrating that ST is proposing a tunnel through downtown that basically misses downtown due to cost: no CID, and basically none of the office districts, too far from the waterfront park. It is even more frustrating ST and N. King Co. seem intent on spending so much on tunnels and underground stations in Ballard and WS despite very few non-residents wanting to go there so the second tunnel has a design no one wants to take because it doesn’t go anywhere people want to go because that is where N. King and ST want to skimp, because screw everyone else, especially from the south.

        What that means is nearly everyone will need to take DSTT1 to any of the destinations, from CID to the office district to Capitol Hill, to UW, Roosevelt, Northgate, and on to Lynnwood.

        The irony is interlining will be a reality, except those from the south will have to transfer, ironically at Sodo before the increased frequency from East Link trains.

        One group will have to transfer to DSTT1, but both east and south riders will need to take DSTT1 because neither is going to Ballard or WS.

        The old argument that Link needed to access SLU is no longer valid for eastsiders because they WFH, or employers in SLU now have offices in Bellevue and allow eastside employees to go to those offices. So selling the eastside on Link to SLU is yesterday’s news. We have no plans on taking transit into Seattle.

        So if everyone one way or the other is on DSTT1 that is the place East Link trains will go to increase frequency (from CID and north). Otherwise there could be capacity issues on DSTT1 for riders north of CID, although riders from the south would already be on the train that would access DSTT1 if they had their way, which would mean capacity issues for northern Seattleites. It isn’t as if ST (or N. King) cared about East Link which was built on the cheap while U. Dist. to Northgate is 60 blocks underground through a marginal rental neighborhood. They just want the East Link trains so they don’t have to wait.

        If this really were about ridership I would agree that so few eastsiders will take East Link across the lake make them transfer to DSTT1. But the realities are: 1. it is the trains, not the riders, that are why East Link will go directly through DSTT1, and you can’t tell eastsiders to get off East Link to transfer to WSBLE and DSTT2 while their trains go somewhere else; and 2. the East King Co. subarea might be the only subarea with its contribution to DSTT2, which is why we won’t have to take it.

        WSBLE is a terrible design. It is the epitome of gold-plated transit. It will have an awful dollar per rider/mile ratio. It connects two residential neighborhoods no one who doesn’t live there wants to go and passes through undense “urban/industrial” areas to get there. It screws riders from the south who already get screwed on Link through the RV.

        But so far it looks like it will be the “equity” riders from the south who will end up having to transfer to DSTT1 after the long slog from wherever they are coming from through the RV, to get to anywhere they are actually going, which is pretty consistent with Seattle equity in the past, which basically is divided north and south.

      14. I have worked miles from my home with both bus and urban rail available (both requiring transfers to local bus). Which I would chose is a function of frequency, reliability, amount of walking or stairs involved and perhaps most powerfully rider experience. The ultimate is to be on smooth rail with a comfortable seat.

        If transfers are involved, I find most will want to do that near the beginning or end of the trip instead of the middle.

        The Downtown Bellevue to UW journey will have the luxury of choice. That means that some will pick their preferred mode and others may vary modes from one day to the next — with little things like possibly having to stand, to endure nasty weather, climb stairs due to broken escalators or a feeling of being safe as significant deciding factors.

  11. Martin, the goal of the realignment of the West Seattle Junction station (as I can best determine) is to move it one block west to 42nd Ave. This would make it better situated to serve the denser California Ave and improve bus transfers.

    1. Casey, if you look at slide 113 the tunnel and station are still on 41st Ave, but one entrance is on the southwest side towards 42nd Ave and the other entrance is on the northeast side of the station. The original plan only called for a southeast and a northeast entrance. Yes, it will make it slightly easier to reach California and the buses.

      1. Sorry, I meant to say “entrance” and not “station” being realigned. Yes, slide
        113 implies a new entrance at the SE corner of 42nd (and Alaska). That compares with the original entrance at the SE corner of 41st. That represents a significant one block move while moving it up a slope along Alaska. Furthermore, this change enables the re-development of the Jefferson center to better utilize the space which may include more street front businesses. All in all this represents a significant positive change.

      2. Casey, slide 113 shows 41st in the center, 42nd on top and 40th on the bottom. Yes, the entrance is towards 42nd but the station is still on 41st, just that the entrance moved from SE side of 41st to the SW side of 41st. Yes, it makes it slightly closer to California and it means Jefferson gets demolished, meaning Sound Transit is paying top dollars to replace an aging building.

      3. Martin, I believe the intention is to have the entrance on 42nd. See the “star” on slide 114. By taking full control of that block ST will be able to provide better access including a possible second tier of escalators to climb the slope to 42nd. See the rectangle outlined with a dotted line on slide 113 at the corner of 42nd.

      4. Casey, I think the star on slide 114 shows the goal and Sound Transit believes they met that goal with an entrance half way on the block.
        I believe the dotted line on slide 113 only marks land acquisition. Once they rebuild Jefferson Sq for TOD, they may include another escalator, but I don’t see any type of commitment for that on the slides.

    2. I have a non-standard view of California Ave. I see it as the “edge” of the density and not in the middle. SF houses start just a block and a half west of it, and the area east of it is higher density (existing or planned) all the way to 35th.

      The other benefit mentioned is that the entrance would be closer to California so that buses can just stay on California. A station entrance even near 42nd and a low demand to ride across West Seattle on a single bus will likely mean that buses will turn off California anyway.

      To me, the better balanced “central” location is somewhere between Fauntleroy and 40th.

      I kind of wish that the proposal was simply to reroute traffic off of a diagonal Fauntleroy between Alaska and Oregon, and drop the station right under this block. Then forego the Avalon station. The entrances can be at two corners of Alaska and Fauntleroy and one at Oregon and 37th. As a diagonal segment, surrounding grid streets could handle the rerouted traffic for several years of construction.

      Regardless, SDOT should look to reassigning some local street functions too (like Oregon St) so that Alaska Street becomes an urban street for pedestrians, buses and very local traffic access only. I only have to point to the Mt Baker station area to illustrate how ST, Metro and SDOT don’t do collaborative street planning; it’s a mess!

      I don’t obsess about West Seattle station placement because there is very little reason to use the station unless someone lives in West Seattle. The bigger question to me is whether what is already a low benefit travel time project becomes even less cost-effective with station and tunnel positioning. I still see no discussion about cost effectiveness or even travel time benefits to transferring bus riders with the design changes in West Seattle. Without comparative performance discussions, the outcome becomes all about screaming and lobbying followed by legal action and mitigation payments. Oh just another day in Seattle’s dysfunctional, silo-driven, backroom decision making.

      1. Al, I agree, it’s mindboggling to see that Sound Transit plans to spend almost $4 billion to serve 27,000 riders while for most of them the ride will take longer.
        A Fauntleroy station would also make it far easier to extend the line further north. Once a 41st tunnel is built, such extension gets a lot more expensive.

      2. I believe it was Martin’s research of the bowels of the DEIS that showed ST itself admitted WSBLE would move around 660 WS car drivers to Link. Another STB article calculated — using ST’s project cost estimates at the time — the cost per Link rider from WS over 30 years would be $180,000/rider, which of course is way low based on updated project cost estimates.

        All of East Link and Redmond Link, even with the bridge cost overruns, cost around $5.5 billion. WSBLE is not in my subarea. I think the subarea will have to vote to contribute extra to complete WSBLE (“third party funding”) and I think that vote will be interesting, as a bystander, kind of like I-135.

        With bonds the risk is councils load up future councils with long term debt when like a credit card the bonded funds are not well spent and are long gone but the debt payments go one for decades. With levies the risk is the levies exhaust property tax capacity for decades for other future levies. I hope Seattleites know what they are doing.

        The other risk is as property values and tax revenues decline from commercial office buildings those lost revenues have to be made up from other properties, mostly housing units.

        This is from the uber progressive Sightline about the sources of the cost of rent:

        “Property taxes: $312/month (14.2 percent)

        “Most Seattleites probably wouldn’t guess that property tax eats up so much of a typical rent check. State law caps Seattle’s property tax revenue increases to 1 percent annually, but recent voter-approved levies and state school funding legislation superseded that cap and boosted Seattle’s current rate to $9.56 per $1000 of assessed value. For an assumed building value of $30.4 million, the annual tax bill is $291,000 per year. Landlords usually pass those tax costs on to tenants, especially in a hot rental market like Seattle’s. In any case, property taxes are a cost that any proposed homebuilding project’s expected rent income must cover for it to get the green light from investors.”


        Other rent cost factors in the Sightline article are:

        Marketing consultants: $12/month (0.6 percent)

        Parking subsidy: $43/month (2.0 percent)

        Permitting and water/sewer/electrical connection fees: $43/month (2.0 percent)

        Developer fee: $43/month (2.0 percent)

        Construction loan interest and fees: $52/month (2.4 percent)

        Design, engineering, and legal consultants: $57/month (2.6 percent)

        Sales, B&O, and real estate taxes: $102/month (4.6 percent)

        Property managers: $129/month (5.9 percent)

        Private equity investors: $249/month (11.3 percent)

        Land purchase: $301/month (13.7 percent)

        Construction: $858/month (39.0 percent)

        Here is Sightline’s suggestion for reducing these costs:

        “How much fat could be trimmed to lower the rent?

        “The total building development cost of $26.4 million averages to $352,000 per apartment. Scrolling through the above list reveals that when it comes to cutting costs deeply, there’s no obvious fix. Many of the cost factors are relatively small and wouldn’t help much, even in the unlikely event that they could be entirely eliminated. And there’s no easy way to abate the biggest factors—land, property tax, and construction.”

        I recommend anyone interested in the costs of rent read the article and the author’s suggestion for reducing rent prices. Based on Seattle’s proclivity for passing levies, and the reallocation of property taxes from commrcial office buildings to other properties in Seattle as office tower valuations are lowered I have to think the amount of residential rent devoted to property taxes will go up significantly in the near future, along with rents no matter how many new units are constructed.

      3. “Landlords usually pass those tax costs on to tenants, especially in a hot rental market like Seattle’s”

        Did you just say “hot rental market like Seattle’s”? So if the market weren’t hot, landlords wouldn’t be able to pass the costs? That’s the same as saying when the vacancy rate is low, rents can go up, and when it’s high, they can’t. Furthermore, landlords will raise rents if they can even if taxes don’t go up, so they can maximize profit or because investors demand it. That makes it hard to see much relationship between taxes and rents.

      4. Mike, that is like saying there is no connection between construction costs and rents. What the Sightline article — a very progressive organization — is trying to do is explain the base costs for the builder, developer and/or management company, which are going to get passed onto the renter. It would be like building a house not understanding these base costs.

        Seattle is a hot rental market, and still is. The AMI is high. Supply is limited, especially in desirable areas of the city when about half is not so desirable, because many people moved here fairly quickly before builders could catch up. Right now, renters are unable to get mortgage rates that allow them to buy a house so that adds to the demand for rentals. Seattle has a very high — I think the highest in the U.S. — rate of renters who live alone which also increases rents per person.

        Yes, landlords will rent for whatever the market will bear, which will determine new development. If one of the base costs goes up so will rent. Property owners don’t rent units for less than the cost to them.

        I think what Sightline was trying to say is what I was trying to say: I don’t think renters understand levies and property taxes flow through to them, including county levies for things like parks and housing. The other thing I am trying to say is the property levy does not go down. The levy is the amount the city of Seattle needs to cover services and must collect each year, with a 1% cap on annual increases.

        So if the value of commercial office towers — and the property taxes they pay which basically subsidizes apartment rents by lowering their share of the property levy — goes down other property values and property taxes have to go up to equal the levy.

        If Seattleites and agencies like ST continue to pass levies, and some property taxes paid by commercial office buildings are shifted to residential properties because the values of those buildings are lowered, and the city elects the 1% annual increase in the levy (which the legislature may increase to 3%/year) house owners and renters are going to see higher property taxes, one through their property taxes, and the other through their rents. Your post just reaffirms my belief a lot of renters don’t understand that.

        My back of envelope guess is rents will go up 5% ($100/mo. on a $2000/mo. unit) next year plus 1% for the annual increase based on increased property taxes alone, mostly from shifting property values and tax from commercial office towers to residential properties. Seattle is just a very expensive place to own rental properties, and that is reflected in rents, especially in the “hot” neighborhoods. Just don’t be surprised if your rent goes up around 10% next year, and I would tell a house owner the same thing, which is only around 3% more than current inflation, so maybe I am low.

      5. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t currently live within Seattle city limits. My property tax rate for 2023 is up about 18% over 2022 rates (and my property valuation went up by a similar magnitude, but overall smaller, percentage). I cannot say how much of the increase is due to new levies etc. (I don’t remember what starts this year) but I imagine most of it so far is due to the valuation increase.

      6. “that is like saying there is no connection between construction costs and rents”

        That’s right.

        What higher taxes and construction costs do is change the profit margin. If that gets too low, landlords won’t break even, and they might exit the market and reduce the supply of rental units. Conversely if profits get high, landlords make a windfall.

        “I don’t think renters understand levies and property taxes flow through to them”

        They understand that theoretically it should. What they don’t believe is that the 5-15% rent increases almost every year since 2003 are all because of legitimate tax and maintenance increasaes; they think it’s just a money grab. So if they’ve gotten such huge windfalls year after year, they can take some of the rising taxes out of that.

        “The AMI is high”

        That’s partly because lower-income people are being displaced to the suburbs, so they don’t count in Seattle’s AMI. That’s an accounting sham; what matters is the AMI of the entire metropolitan area.

      7. Mike:

        “They understand that theoretically it should. What they don’t believe is that the 5-15% rent increases almost every year since 2003 are all because of legitimate tax and maintenance increasaes; they think it’s just a money grab.”

        I can’t speak for others, but my property tax just jumped by 18% this year, as I said. The past couple of years it was basically flat, but 3 years ago it was also about 15-18% jump over the previous, and another 10% the year before that. I can’t speak for what happened farther back – my memory does not go that far, sorry :)

        Renters may not believe that property taxes go up that fast, but that doesn’t make it not true, unfortunately.

        You may not believe me, either – I am not providing any evidence for this, after all. But I encourage you (and all other renters) to browse around the King County Parcel Viewer and look at the tax rates for your own buildings, if you would like to see how property taxes changed over the last 3 years (which is what the parcel viewer shows). Then you may draw the appropriate conclusions for the properties you are interested in, instead of speculating what the owners can or cannot do.

      8. Rent is completely tied to construction costs. Land, labor and materials are cheaper in a down market, higher in an up market…. this isn’t rocket science.

        Down market, up market…. the profits on residential real estate are real thin on new buildings. The real money is made on property that’s 20-30 years old.

        Because the profit margins are so thin on all properties with newer financing…. new construction, major remodel with a big refi or new ownership with big refi…. and tax increase goes straight to the renter.

      9. “Rent is completely tied to construction costs. Land, labor and materials are cheaper in a down market,”

        The main factor here is land value. That’s what’s been rising the most, and is different in different locations. It’s why an identical apartment building costs more in Seattle than in Renton or Lakewood. Land, labor, and materials tend to go down in recessions, and rents tend to be flat or declining then, but it’s not a 1:1 relationship.

        There are several things happening:

        A. Prices are rising because vacancy rates are below 5% so more people are competing for the same units. Home buyers also face a tight inventory so are squeezing the rental market.

        B. Some locations are more desirable or convenient than others. These claim higher prices. Less-desirable areas may have less construction (e.g., Rainier Beach) until more-desirable areas are more saturated. Seattle generally has the best transit access and walkability. Bellevue and the central Eastside are the darlings of affluent people who want a luxury lifestyle.

        C. The south end (everything from Yesler Way to Lakewood) is the industrial side of town, traditionally the less-desirable area. So rents are lower there, and that’s were lower-income people have been displaced to. (They’ve also been displaced to Snohomish County to some extent.)

        D. BUT, as finding affordable housing becomes ever-harder, more people are going to the less-desirable south end and pushing prices up, often faster than in Seattle. So prices are tending toward equalizing between Seattle and the outer areas.

  12. Put that Seattle Center station outside Seattle Center and outside Mercer. It would be incredibly disruptive to block Mercer for years on end. We already have the Monorail in Seattle Center. It works very well and is popular, clean, and no meth heads.

    Several neighborhoods immediately next to Link stations have become more rundown, trashed and graffiti tattered in recent months. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise for West Seattle, Ballard, LQA and SLU that ST3 is gonna be vaporware for 2 more decades.

    1. Could the Harrison Street slide west to 5th Avenue North to serve the Center, routes 3 and 4, and the Gates Foundation?

      1. Yeah I think a station there would be perfect, helping serve both the biomedical area of SLU as well as eastern corner of Seattle Center. Another station further west into 3rd Ave W and Republican could help serve Climate Pledge Arena as well as the dense residential area of LQA and the offices/businesses along Western and Elliott in LQA/Belltown border. A station there also allows Link access to the Queen Anne waterfront (Sculpture Park, Centennial Park and the Elliott Bay trail).

        There’s no reason to have a station in Seattle Center when we have the monorail, which will be there for a long long time and runs very well.

  13. Well Daniel’s prediction way above that Amazon will remain fully work from home proved to be short lived.

    1. SLU’er, my prediction was Amazon would go to two days/week in office work because that is what Amazon stated. Now Amazon is wanting 3 days/week, but laying off workers with little stock incentives to hire new employees because the stock is down 50%, so let’s see.

      The other “prediction” is not a prediction: Amazon has told eastside workers they can work in Bellevue or SLU. So even if Amazon went to five days/week in office it won’t increase ridership across the lake from the eastside to SLU. It may increase ridership on the 554 when East Link opens, but not on East Link, and Amazon has 1100 parking stalls at its new Bellevue towers. A bigger question pre-pandemic is how many employees Amazon plans to move from Seattle to Bellevue.

      I understand Seattleites and transit advocates are praying all those work commuters are forced to return to downtown Seattle even if it makes their lives worse, but I don’t see it, and so 2023 is the time to plan for that as leases continue to roll off. Like Newsom in CA is doing. At most eastside workers will be “forced” to return to in office work part time on the eastside, in buildings will massive amounts of parking and very little traffic congestion.

      The Stanford Study early on predicted 60% would return to in office work, 40% in some cities like Seattle. Seattle’s occupancy rate is around 44%, although vacancy rates (office space with no lease) is still only around 13% but growing. So Amazon hopes to go to 60%, but my guess is there will be blowback if it means taking public transit to work. Microsoft provides free shuttles. My guess is Amazon will have to provide shuttles, or free onsite parking.

      In the end I agree with those on this blog that transit levels of service will depend on non-peak riders, and their willingness to pay a fare, which should determine coverage and frequency. Returning employees to offices part time does not necessarily translate to more transit riders. 2023 is the year when budgets will have to be balanced without Covid stimulus, and we will learn what can be afforded and what has to be cut.

  14. “3 days will become 4 days. The market has changed.”

    The market has changed. I assume you mean the softening tech job market means employers can force workers to commute to in office work, at least a few days/week, although personally I don’t think that is all good, at least the layoffs.

    Tech layoffs were once unheard of. DocuSign announced today it would lay off 10% of its Seattle workforce. Even Amazon, Google and Microsoft are laying off workers. The CEO of IBM stated AI will replace 50% of tech jobs. I think these changes really call into question future population growth estimates in this area, which is the driving force for much of our bad transit, like WSBLE, TDLE, and Everett Link. What young urban tech graduate is going to move to Seattle now with all the layoffs?

    I just don’t get why transit advocates are so keen on making employees commute long distances on bad transit when that time is not compensated. I thought transit advocates were on the side of labor, not management. I think the budget deficits in 2023 will make whether Amazon goes to 2, 3 or 4 days/week irrelevant. Jaffe is just freaking out because all of us who own Amazon are wanting to know WTF he is doing, and why our stock is down 50%. I sold my Amazon because I think they have a huge anti-trust bullseye on their back with the new FTC chair. Meanwhile Microsoft looks like it is betting its future on AI.

    When it comes to transit ridership this is the new normal. When it comes to farebox recovery this is the new normal. So plan on that, not crazy ideas like WSBLE or that the work commuter on transit is coming back and will subsidize transit.

    Figure out how many transit trips there are today, what the farebox recovery is for those trips, increasing costs for transit agencies, declining tax revenue in Seattle, and that is the new normal, along with likely cuts in general revenue subsidies for Metro and ST tax revenue for ST, especially N. King Co.

    Don’t blame the worker or take it out on him or her. Celebrate the fact WFH gave them some independence, eliminated two hours/day in uncompensated time commuting to and from an office in a city that is dying, allowed them to spend that time with their family, and figure out how transit riders can support the transit they need or want themselves, whether it is cuts, increases in fares, better fare enforcement, more efficient operations, or transit levies. Is that such a crazy idea? That transit riders pay for the levels of service they want by people who actually want to ride transit?

    1. “I just don’t get why transit advocates are so keen on making employees commute long distances on bad transit when that time is not compensated.”

      Mostly already rich folks are the ones with the luxury of WFH. They are already being very well compensated.

      I don’t know about anybody else, but my goal would be great transit for shorter trips.

      That means:
      1) Spend what you need to and put the experts in charge so we get great transit.

      2) Removing nearly all zoning so people who want to live closer to their jobs can live closer to their jobs without teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

    2. The entire point of this entire web site is to advocate against any of that. What web site are looking at?

    3. Tech layoffs were once unheard of.

      Wait, what??? Don’t you remember the dot-com bust? I guess you have no friends in software. To put it bluntly, it was brutal. Everyone expected a lot of those companies to come crashing down, but we didn’t expect it to take the rest of the industry with it. Companies like IBM — that didn’t much related to dot-com ventures — laid off a bunch of people. So did local companies like Attachmate/WRQ (emulation software). I’m pretty sure Microsoft laid off a bunch of people as well.

      It is simply cyclical. Software has booms and busts, just like Seattle. I would tell anyone in software the same thing every time things look good: enjoy the good times, put money in the bank, and be ready for the bad times. They will come, eventually.

      1. Ah yes, I do remember the dot.com bust. We had been in The Smith Tower since 1990, in the tower since 1995, which was the desired hub for dot.com startups with lots of cash. One wanted our tower floor, and Smith Tower management was willing to locate us to the 18th floor (non-tower) with a sweetheart lease and basically all the window spaces along the west and south. The companies that had never made a dime spent lavishly decorating their offices, which of course made us jealous. Before we could sign the new lease and deal the bust came. The good news is we were able to renew our lease at a very favorable rate, and even got some very nice office furniture for free the dot.coms had left behind.

        We actually invested in several (not much, around $5000 each) and so did some family members. Vialight and Brickyard were two. We had no idea what they did, but no one wanted someone else to suddenly be worth $10 million but not them so you had to invest. We all lost all our investments. But the companies would never file for bankruptcy so for years we had to disclose the investments on our tax returns.

        Things were slow for a while after the bust but picked up in Seattle until 2008. But the dot.com period and through around 2010 did not see nearly the population gain that Seattle saw from 2010–2020, mainly from Amazon, or the real wealth/AMI increase. The dot.coms were flashes in the pan.

        My point is not that Seattle and regional tech will see some significant population declines. My point is post pandemic the very optimistic estimated future population growth that is driving a lot of our crazy planning, including WSBLE, TDLE, Issaquah and Everett Link (and just Link in general), is unlikely, and rather than 1 million new residents by 2044 the number will be maybe 100,000 to 200,000, the historical norm. Or even less. CA has lost 500,000 residents over the last two years.

        I also worry the legislature is making the same zoning mistakes made in the beginning, and that is zoning the entire three county region for housing and development, which you really can’t put back in the bottle. If you want urbanism there is only one place, downtown Seattle, and you need the walls of the swimming pool to condense retail and population there or near there, not Sammamish, and of course some policies to make downtown Seattle vibrant again.

        Many think it is too late. The water has dispersed over 6500 sq miles and we just will never have the regional population to create any kind of real density or urbanism in the three-county area, even if we have built a spine connecting nowhere to nowhere. I like nowhere, I just wouldn’t spend over $100 billion to run light rail to nowhere when we already have freeways that handle buses and cars, and I don’t consider a TOD in Shoreline along I-5 “urbanism”. I don’t even consider downtown Bellevue real urbanism, and my guess is the rest of the planned development in Bellevue will be put on hold for a while, another dot.com that seemed too optimistic as well.

      2. I believe that Amazon laid off 15% of its full-time employees during the DotCom bust (at least – all in one big swoop). Of course, the company was a lot smaller then, so the relative effect on the rest of the economy was not as high. And I believe that that happened prior to being profitable (at all).

      3. My point is post pandemic the very optimistic estimated future population growth that is driving a lot of our crazy planning, including WSBLE, TDLE, Issaquah and Everett Link (and just Link in general), is unlikely

        I think that is fair. I also think a lot of the predictions were way off, and have been for a while. For example, they expected suburban growth to increase substantially, while Seattle grew slowly. It was the opposite. Likewise, they expected Everett to grow really fast, and it has lagged Seattle considerably.

        Even with the predictions, a lot of what is planned is a bad idea. If Tacoma grows like crazy, for example, that still doesn’t mean Tacoma Dome Link is a good idea. It means that Tacoma itself needs better transit, and maybe the region as a whole needs better regional transit service (e. g. 15 minute all-day express service between downtown Tacoma and downtown Seattle; peak hour bi-directional express between downtown Seattle, downtown Tacoma and Olympia, etc.). Likewise, West Seattle Link will still be a bad idea if West Seattle grows, as most of the new potential riders will be forced to make a transfer, just like most of the existing riders. It is just like skipping First Hill. Yes, the area has grown considerably, but that just confirms the bad decision in skipping it. Growth rarely changes the fundamentals (like good stop spacing, avoiding freeways, quality over quantity, etc.)

      4. “The water has dispersed over 6500 sq miles and we just will never have the regional population to create any kind of real density or urbanism in the three-county area, even if we have built a spine connecting nowhere to nowhere.”

        I was just in Atlanta. It sprawls over a vast area, with no apparent attempt to contain it. There’s also no major waterways to limit its direction and extension.

        They’re building housing like crazy close in to downtown there. It reminds me of Lake Union of 10 years ago, only spread theough every single space within a few miles of downtown.

        I see no reason why this wouldn’t continue to happen in Seattle, considering it has even more reason for denser development patterns.

      5. “I also worry the legislature is making the same zoning mistakes made in the beginning, and that is zoning the entire three county region for housing and development, which you really can’t put back in the bottle.”

        Seattle did put it back in the bottle in the 1950s and 70s. Residential-area zoning was more permissive before that. Corner stores were allowed in more areas, and two-story “storefront below, owner above” houses, and small 4-8 unit apartment buildings with courtyards, and small dingbat apartments with an open carport on the ground floor, and duplexes, and SRO hotels (microapartments for the low-income). You see these in Seattle residential neighborhoods outside villages where they’ve been grandfathered in, but they’re illegal to build there now. You never get all lots built to the full zoning limit, so there were still lots of single-family houses in these missing-middle zones. The 1950s and 1970s zoning changes made these areas single-family only, so existing middle buildings were grandfathered and existing single-family houses could never be converted. The state could reverse any blanket upzone by simply repealing it, allowing cities to revert to their more restrictive zoning if it’s still on the books.

        You also see this in Woodinville, where zoning was tightened in the 90s or 00s after some non-single-family development had been built, so it remains as grandfathered uses.

        The urban upzoning bill does not upzone the entire three-county suburban area. It’s limited to areas near frequent transit stops. So you don’t have to worry about tons of townhouses and small apartment buildings scattered around Newcastle or northern Kent or Sammamish. Nether homeowners, developers, nor prospective residents are flocking to those. Instead, they’re flocking to areas closer to existing villages or retail districts. Even if there’s a blanket upzone, they’d still do that. Any massive townhouse or small-apartment development in the outskirts would probably be built as a “new urbanist” cluster with integrated retail and at least minimal concessions to walkability (e.g., trails, and pedestrian cut-throughs between blocks), because that’s what’s popular now.

  15. [Al wrote:]

    1. It’s not clear why [West Seattle and Ballard] have to be lumped together in the DEIS. Several have theorized that West Seattle ridership may not be high enough to justify spending that amount of money via a New Starts grant. Despite already spending tens of millions, I am not aware of a public disclosure about the project’s FTA competitiveness from ST.
    2. The demand implies that ST’s proposal to run 6 minute service (3000 seats per hour in just one direction and 6000-8000 total capacity in one direction) is not really justified unless the trains are automated there too. With this demand, they really only need 4 trains per hour or maybe 6 — but not 10. With 10 trains from RV, 8 from the east and 6 from West Seattle, a three track DSTT with 24 tph seems attainable and that’s key to making an automated line to Ballard more useful.
    3. The City has proposed pretty modest TOD opportunities around these WS stations. Unlike the RV or the areas near the Northgate Link stations, the station areas aren’t allowed to have a sea change of density happen. So those forecasts can’t grow that much over time.

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