New proposals for a second tunnel would increase cost, but none provide a compelling rider experience. Let’s just improve our existing tunnel and use the savings to make up for lost time on other projects.
ST3 promised higher capacity transit through downtown by building a second tunnel with seamless transfers at Westlake and Chinatown/International District (CID), along with an additional Midtown station at 5th & Madison. But after looking into the details, the seamless transfers may not be achievable. The tunnel would be far more complex, time consuming and expensive to build than anticipated. It would also burden the CID, which has already seen a lot of construction-related disruption and loss of properties. Sound Transit abandoned the idea of a station on 5th Avenue South and proposed a shallower 4th Avenue South station. But this station would increase construction time and cost. Because of the additional burden to the neighborhood, there have been two recent guest editorials against it, in The Seattle Times and The Stranger. Sound Transit responded by proposing to combine the Midtown station with a North CID station close to Pioneer Square and/or a South CID station as an alternative. Unfortunately, neither station would provide easy access to the heart of the CID, nor to King Street station with Sounder, Amtrak, the streetcar, and many bus lines along Jackson Street, 2nd Avenue, and Yesler Way. Currently the 1 Line stops at 5 stations downtown (Stadium, CID, Pioneer Square, University Street, Westlake). This new line would now stop at only 2 or 3 stations, forcing a transfer at SODO which neither provides frequent service nor is well designed as a transit station, as Stephen Fesler pointed out. Residents are concerned it would break South Seattle apart when they are already suffering from frequent accidents and disruptions due to the at grade alignment.
While various alignments and station locations have been discussed, It is time to focus on an alternative which Sound Transit considered before they put the 2nd tunnel proposal before voters: to upgrade the existing tunnel to allow interlining of all lines through the existing tunnel. Capacity would increase, likely with better signaling systems and better ventilation. MUNI did this in 2010 and Frankfurt just started. This would avoid any disruption of the CID, be available much sooner, and be much better for riders. There are more stations in the existing tunnel, they are closer to the surface. Same direction transfers would be trivial. Reverse directions would be easy, and even easier if center platforms were added. The carbon footprint would be far lower (WSBLE is currently estimated to generate 3 million tons of carbon), and of course, this would be much cheaper.
ST3 is facing numerous cost overruns outside of downtown. These threaten to degrade and delay projects. Improving the downtown tunnel and running all the trains through it would save money, provide improvements to the neighborhood without burdening them, and be much better for riders. It is time for the Sound Transit board to study this option.
289 Replies to “A win-win for the CID dilemma: Stick with current tunnel”
This plan will never work. It’s just too logical, prudent, and practical for our current crop of movers and shakers.
What next? Scrap the Issaquah line and the Everett and Tacoma extensions in favor of rapid busses? Use the savings to build an automated line on a dense urban route that competes time-wise with driving at noon? Enforce fares?
This solves a uniquely critical problem: train-to-train transfers in the center of the network. Issaquah is East King’s problem; Tacoma Dome is Pierce’s problem; but transferring downtown affects everyone who goes from one sector to another: Eastside to airport and West Seattle, or Southeast Seattle to Capitol Hill and Northeast Seattle. We’ve made suggestions on the Issaquah line and Tacoma Dome extension; if the subareas change their minds or find they can’t afford those projects, they can come back to us for alternatives.
What next? Scrap the Issaquah line and the Everett and Tacoma extensions in favor of rapid busses?
Unless the state is willing to pony up to make Sounder South an S Bahn quality rail line we can stop dissing on the light rail extensions there to Everett and Tacoma existing honestly.
If we are trying to get the votes for improving the existing transit tunnel, telling the suburbs they should settle for hemi-demi-semi-BRT connecting to Link is a surefire way to not get votes on the ST Board. Tacoma and Everett are real cities that should not be judged unworthy by those who already got their lines done. If we break the grand deal on a regional light rail plan by saying “Psych! No we’re just building the King County portion and a little into Snohomish County” we’ll turn Pierce and Snohomish County into enemies on all sorts of legislative issues, not just transportation. So, yeah, can we stick to the specific ask and drop the suburb-bashing?
Zach may be sarcastic; the post is solid.
“Zach may be sarcastic; the post is solid.”
I’m not, I agree with Brett’s points. It only comes off that way because I forgot to add quotation points around the first point.
@Brent. Thank you for saying that. I have friends and family in Snohomish county that support transit. But sometimes that is their perspective of what they are getting. Right or wrong, that is what they see as their reward for their vote.
Yes, of course scrap the Issaquah line. But the money saved can’t “build an automated line on a dense urban route”, because the East King subarea has none of those “dense urban routes”.
And of course, enforce fares. With gates; real gates, not hop-over turnstiles.
This proposal will not meet regional travel demand. One tunnel cannot handle the volume generated by multiple segments extending north, south, east and west. The current tunnel’s capacity it too constrained to handle that load because it is limited to 4- car trains and 2.5- min headways. Period, full stop.
I can see you haven’t been riding Link at the rush hour lately.
I agree with your assertion that the practical minimum headway is currently two-and-a-half minutes. But that simply means that the “investments in signaling, vertical conveyance and air recycling” which were passed over in the ST3 projects list would have to be completed. The trains have level boarding. I expect that two minute headways could be supported. That would give 30 trains per hour, which is more than adequate for base level transit in the region. As Ross frequently reminds us, if we get into a situation that we actually need 40 trains per hour in the peak period, we can just run our 30 tph and add sixty articulated buses per hour for the two peak hours. You can run many years’ worth of two-hundred and forty bus hours per five day week for $6 billion. Many years’ worth.
I can see you haven’t been riding Link at the rush hour lately.
What does pandemic ridership have to do with future peak travel demand?
Brent, it’s still a pandemic for you only and maybe five percent of the public. Everyone else has moved on.
Without a big tidal peak five days a week — and what is going to replace the tech jobs which have disappeared? — there is no need for a new tunnel. If all three lines ran every ten minutes that would five minute headways to Lynnwood or Mariner with the Line 1 trains providing extra capacity between SoDo and Northgate as best fits their reliability.
“Brent, it’s still a pandemic for you only and maybe five percent of the public. Everyone else has moved on.”
That’s not how pandemics work. They are not subject to the whims of the public. Disease does not stop just because it is politically inconvenient. And I just came back from what ended up being a superspreader event (over 20% infection rate) despite over 90% of people being double boosted.
This is all far from over, regardless of what some would like to believe. This is science, not wishful thinking.
Covid is certainly here to stay, but, absent a vicious new novel variant, it is mostly treatable and the folks who are genetically particularly susceptible to it have already died.
The “pandemic” portion is done. If you want to wear a mask on the bus and train, fine. You’re being a good citizen.
But the jobs in the CBD that caused the need for hundreds of buses and trains every couple of minutes aren’t coming back. They’re gone, along with much of Seattle’s future hyper-prosperity. It’s a beautiful place that will attract people, at least, if we can figure out how to reduce the summer wildfires.
But we don’t need a second downtown bus tunnel.
“train tunnel” of course.
And Tom Terrific illustrates the fundamental problem here: it would be complicated to figure out how to do it. It requires multiple steps to really get the capacity to focus on the demand. In general, it would require creativity.
But our system is not capable of acting creatively or over a complicated process. All we can do is have a vote, followed by “tunnel boring machine go brrrrr,” with token changes for squeaky wheels. This is a simplification, but is it far off-base?
What is “it”? Are you advocating for going ahead with Constantinople II, Shelter Station in No Man’s Land and Xanadu South of Pine? Are you “Down with Dow”? If so, please tell us how to pay for it when the Fed’s won’t be shoveling cash our way.
I’ve spent a decent portion of my time the last five years trying to figure out how to make a responsible proposal to Sound Transit for a way to interline Ballard. Martin and I even came up with a possibly “doable” method in the commejts sections about six weeks ago and he has been writing these well thought pieces since. But it seems that everyone pretty much has come to the conclusion that a stub for Ballard makes more sense. It can be a more appropriate technology than 500 foot trains.
So what is the “it” YOU support?
Thanks for the implied shout-out for my “Constantinople II” quip the other day. Perhaps that needs a ©.
Tlsgwm, I’m happy to keep any vintage snark alive, and that was truly top-notch. Please don’t copyright it, though! I promise henceforth always to give you a Tip of Hatlo Hat when I use.
Uh, I… I meant “it” to mean putting the trains all through the same tunnel. J was trying to say you made a good point. But go off, I guess!
“This proposal will not meet regional travel demand”
Even on pre-pandemic, pre-WFH, projections, the 2nd tunnel wasn’t urgent. It wasn’t even in consideration for ST3 until the project list stretched to 25 years. It was an ST4 or ST5 project.
WFH has clearly put future transit demand on a much lower trajectory, postponing when the 2nd tunnel is needed. Maybe there’s a day when the 1st tunnel is maxed out, but it is decades in the future.
(The pandemic is over – however attached some doom-scrollers are to the idea, it’s not material to why so many fewer people are riding transit).
Andrew. thank you for the clarification. I genuinely did not understand what you meant by “it”. I apologize if I bloviated about it too long.
A single tunnel translates to shadow bus routes sooner along every track.
A tunnel 9 floors deep requiring some 10 minutes to access means the shadow bus routes never go away in the first place.
This could not be more timely. The current plan for operations is no more than 6 minute headways on each of the 3 branches (and realistically, it may end up being closer to 7-8 mins) — and there are numerous systems around the world that can support much better than 2 minute headways, so it should be straightforward for Link to have all 3 lines in a single tunnel (pending signaling and ventilation improvements which pale in comparison to the costs of building a new tunnel). This provides a VASTLY better rider experience (same platform transfers for same direction, or a simple up-and-down for opposite direction transfers taking a couple of mins). And it’ll save a ton of money, which could be put to much better use.
The primary drawback is the tunnel will have to be shut down while they build the junction to Ballard, but this is a small, transient price to pay for a vastly better system. I assume there are some engineering challenges in building the junction between the Ballard link and the existing tunnel for northbound trains (southbound is trivial, it can just branch at grade), the northbound trains to Ballard would have to pass over or under the existing tunnel. But this type of complexity is already being considered at Westlake where there will be the new trains passing under the old ones, so this isn’t exactly a novel challenge.
ST should immediately make this their preferred option and move on — frankly, it boggles my mind this wasn’t the case from day 1.
The Ballard line could be a separate tunnel underneath Westlake so that it could be extended later. Escalators could connect to the existing platform or mezzanine. That way the disruption to the existing line could be minimized.
The primary thing we’re proposing is a single tunnel. How Ballard is handled and whether the tunnel is upgraded are secondary issues. This is important, because we don’t want ST to get distracted with those issues that it throws the baby out with the bathwater.”
ST has said the tunnel currently is limited to 3-minute frequency, to avoid unreliability and train bunching. The capital improvements linked in the second paragraph would increase this to 1.5 minute frequency. The list of ST3 candidate projects in December 2015 had both these improvements and a second tunnel. ST chose the second tunnel and deselected the improvements.
For Ballard, the simplest thing is a Ballard-Westlake stub. That would avoid the complication of merging it into the existing tunnel, and it would leave ST4’s options open to do something more. I like the concept of automated trains and an extension southeast to First Hill, but ST is sensitive about that so we can leave the issue to ST4. The important thing is to make sure the southern terminus is flexible, so that it can later either merge or continue south or southeast, keeping all three options open.
For West Seattle, the simplest thing is to continue ST’s plan to reroute a Lynnwood line through the original tunnel to West Seattle. (Or if ST starts thinking about multi-line BRT instead, it can talk to us.)
That leaves southeast Seattle and Tacoma Dome to continue to Northgate or beyond. That may require investments in the turnbacks at Northgate and Stadium to support full-time use, but that would surely cost much less than a second downtown tunnel.
A Ballard dead-end route would probably need a new Link base not proposed in ST3. Automation would be a different car design, so improved capacity, just on the route that needs it least.
Saving the cost of the driver is chump change (possibly never paying for costs needed to automate) and a rounding error within a rounding error, so the automation talk is a distraction to the main question at hand.
I appreciate that you and Ross are explicitly mentioning that Ballard would probably be a dead-end route, and that there is no actual proposal to interline everything through DSTT1.
Automation needs a relatively small control panel that would fit on an existing car design just fine.
Los Angles Metro C Line was originally equipped with light rail cars with the ability to operate automatically, so it’s been done 25 years ago. (The automation equipment was disabled when the cars were moved to a street running line).
Yes, Brent, it would require another OMF as I discussed last month: https://seattletransitblog.com/2023/02/20/the-case-for-automated-light-metro-technology-for-ballard-and-south-lake-union/
As hiring of drivers has been difficult, I do think the driver shortage has become a problem. If you want to run shorter trains at higher frequency and longer hours (or even 24h operation on weekends), then it becomes even more challenging.
Brent, I think you’re seriously over-estimating the costs of automation. According to this article in Bloomberg from 2015, “The rate of return for automation is estimated at 10-15%.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-13/as-the-d-c-metro-returns-to-automatic-train-control-let-s-revisit-the-case-for-driverless-trains
Given the “Great Resignation”, wages for jobs that harm one’s health or involve a lot of public contact are continuing upward fairly rapidly, so the ROI may be higher now. Both those detrimental results are true for transit operators, though the second less so for train operators than bus drivers. There will come a time in the not so distant future when Metro won’t be able to hire enough staff to run its buses and provide train operators for ST.
No they don’t “have to shut the tunnel down while they build an extension to Ballard”, at least not longer than required to clean up the mess from holing through one TBM at Third and Pine and cutting in a trailing point turnout there. Ideally there would also be a left-hand facing point cross-over within the station body at University-Seneca Street Station for non-revenue moves to and from the heavy maintenance facility at Forest Street. That could be cut during the three or four week time required to clean up the mess two blocks north.
Trains would only use the connection to the Westlake tunnel (probably via Stewart because of its oblique intersections with both Third and Stewart) at night when service on The Spine is minimal.
Ballard can be a spur with automated short trains, whose cars would include a “fold-away” standing control box for that operation to Forest, and a smallish “cleaning and parking” Maintenance Facility west of the BNSF tracks and just north of the Magnolia Bridge.
There is no need to “interline” Ballard farther downtown; trains will be coming every two to three minutes on the The Spine tracks, so just make the stub terminal for Ballard-Downtown under Sixth Avenue with a “dual mezzanine” at the level of the existing platforms and passages directly to them over the southbound “Line 4” track. There would be a full-length center platform with escalators up to the split mezzanine from the middle of each half of the platform and elevators in the middle. A rider wanting to go south would over time learn to get into the rear half of the train while one wanting to go north would favor the front half. Then it’s just a single level change to get to the half mezzanine attached to the end of the existing platform of the direction one chooses to go.
This is exactly how DC Metro designs its stations and the transfers are super efficient. In fact, the distances are so short people mostly use the stairs both directions instead of walking all the way to the escalators.
Building “New Westlake” like this means that an extension to First Hill is easy-peasy. Just leave the TBM’s in place at the end of the tunnels when digging is complete. The tubes would extend a little way south of the platforms to accommodate the buried TBM’s, and when there’s money for First Hill, fire them up! THERE’S NO REMOVAL VAULT NEEDED!!!! At least, not until the final First Hill station is reached, and accommodating one up there is a whole lot easier than at Sixth and Pike.
How about that?
It’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where they build 9 floors of escalators surrounding and connecting to Westlake without some disturbance.
They’ll also need to shut down when they splice on the West Seattle branch, so it’s not like there will be 0 shutdowns with the existing plan.
OK, I’ve painted myself into a corner. What do we do with the spoils when the TBM’s restart for First Hill? Hmm. A problem, for sure. There will no longer be conveyor Beth’s running back to the Elliott portals. There will be tracks with trains running on them.
So, solution to the rescue. Bore the tunnels far enough that ST can buy a property to remain undeveloped. That would probably be east of the freeway on Seventh or Eighth about Seneca.
Then when it’s time to resume digging, dig a shaft on the property down to the TBM’s and make a little box. In that shift install some sort of continuous vertical spoils lifter and load the trucks at the surface there. I’m sure that there are such devices for shaft mines.
If the money and decision to bore further never comes, ST is only out the cost for an additional mile of boring, maybe 30 million.
Glenn, certainly that’s true. But I would point out that the split mezzanine design allows the new platform to be one story shallower as well as making the walk for a transfer to the southbound Spine considerably closer.
“belts”, not “Beth’s”. We would not want women running down the tracks.
“oblique intersections both Third and Westlake“
Glenn, I don’t think you understand how elegant the split mezzanine design is. Yes, there has to be a station box which surrounds the existing tracks and goes below them one story for the new north-south tracks and the center platform. But the walls of the existing Pine Street tunnel would not be breached; they’d be the south wall of the north semi-mezzanine and the north wall of the south one. The east wall of the existing station box would have to be penetrated to create two passageways between the existing platforms and the two semi-mezzanines.
I don’t know how much external bracing would be required to make those breaches. They would be at the base of an extremely heavy structure so there’s bound to be some engineering required to transfer the loads.
But ST’s plan for Xanadu South of Pine breaches the existing box at the platform level on both sides, assuming that the dashed box in the diagrams represents a new structure on the north side of the existing station with a similar folded path as that shown from the south side. The same weight-bearing issues pertain to the access to the platform level there, so ST must believe that the weight-transfer issue is solvable.
Unfortunately Xanadu is a lot deeper, and since it’s entirely south of Pine transfers to the southbound side require a pretty long walk. The half-mezzanines eliminate that horizontal component of the transfer walk as well as make the platform significantly shallower.
That’s my point:
Most of the complaints about any different plan being disruptive seems to ignore just how disruptive executing the ST plan is going to be.
Glenn, I did not understand; I apologize. Yes, Xanadu South of Pine is one hell of a construction project.
It’s interesting the “small, transient” disruption to Westlake has gotten little coverage, 1 tunnel or 2 tunnels, despite it likely be far more disruptive than whatever they do in CID
Based on this document: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/0-wsble-drafteis-executivesummary-202201.pdf, there will be plenty of disruption and some displacement. It isn’t easy to find the exact location of the displacement. They lump together various stations and consider it a segment. Oddly enough, Westlake to Seattle Center (inclusive) is considered part of the “Downtown” segment, while SoDo is considered part of the “CID” segment. Thus it is hard to see how many people or businesses will be displaced because of the Westlake work. They do mention that most of the displacement will be in Uptown. In any event, there is what it would mean for the area in terms of road closures:
Full closure of 4th Avenue (Pine Street to Olive Way) (2 years), the Interstate 5 high-occupancy-vehicle express lanes reversible ramp (9 months), Madison Street (1 to 3 years), Pine Street (6 years), Westlake Avenue (7th Avenue to Denny Way) (4 years), Harrison Street (6th Avenue North to Dexter Avenue North) (4 years), and Republican Street (5 years). Partial closure of 5th Avenue (6 years), 4th Avenue (James Street to Columbia Street and Marion Street to Madison Street) (6 years), Madison Street/4th Avenue intersection (4 years), Pike Street (6 years), Westlake Avenue (at intersections at 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue/Blanchard Street) (9 months) and Harrison Street (Dexter Avenue North to 8th Avenue North) (1.5 years).
So yeah, that is very disruptive. But the same thing is true for 4th Avenue Shallow:
Full closure of 4th Avenue South (South Main Street to north side of South Jackson Street) (4 years), the South Jackson Street/4th Avenue South intersection (2 years), and Seattle Boulevard South/4th Avenue South intersection (2 years).
From a surface transit standpoint, the streetcars will be shut down. Buses will have to be re-routed. The second tunnel would cause Stadium Station to be shut down for up to two years. I don’t quite understand why.
There is a lot of disruption everywhere this is being built. I’m not surprised the CID community is complaining about this more than other neighborhoods. They have had a rough few years, and historically have gotten the short end of the stick. Unlike other neighborhoods, they get very little out of the new station. You could say the same thing about Westlake, but Westlake is very different from a residential/cultural standpoint. Neighborhoods in West Seattle see the trade-offs — they get a new station, even if it means temporary pain. The CID already has a station — a new one (regardless of where they put it) won’t be great. Even from a regional transit perspective, the main thing they gain from a new station is a faster ride to Uptown and Ballard. Trips to Rainier Valley can occur on the 7, while riders headed to Beacon Hill can use the 36. That is a degradation in some cases, but most new stations are a degradation. Arguing for less degradation but lots of disruption isn’t too popular.
I think the missing message for the CID is that if WSBLE proceeds as intended, but the CID ends up with the N/S option, they will lose their one-seat connection via the CID station to associated communities along Link.
I am amazed that they can’t plan a way to temporarily deck the 4th Avenue “bridge” without 4 years of complete closure. So many other cut/cover projects manage to get decking above themselves within a few months. Even otherwise-beleaguered projects like LA’s Regional Connector (probably the most similar downtown light rail expansion project on the west coast, including major hills and relative complexity) managed to keep lane impacts minimal with weekend closures of major downtown boulevards.
“I think the missing message for the CID is that if WSBLE proceeds as intended, but the CID ends up with the N/S option, they will lose their one-seat connection via the CID station to associated communities along Link.”
I don’t understand this Nathan. Won’t the CID continue to have direct access to East Link and Line 1 (at least north) from the existing CID station for DSTT1. They will have to transfer at I guess Sodo to go south, but so will all riders on line 1 or East Link.
It is too bad ST or someone has not at least asked for a set of demands from the CID for second station at the CID. My guess is that one demand would be what you propose: some kind of cap over 4th during construction to keep car traffic going. There are other access points to the CID like from
Dearborn and coming down the hill on Jackson. With the figures being discussed for a shallow 4th Ave. station my guess is the demands will be very high but in the ballpark. They want a parking garage which is cheap in the scheme of things, short construction schedule, more zoning control, more respect, cash, the usual things.
Even from a public relations point of view, if I were Constantine or Harrell I would have asked for a set of demands from the CID so the CID was the bad guy, rather than rush out and claim DSTT2 would become a real estate deal in Pioneer Square which I think was a huge mistake on Dow’s part and may jeopardize subarea contributions.
Thanks for the post Ross and summarizing the construction schedules. I think these schedules are the key to understanding the design , objections and route of DSTT2, which otherwise make little sense.
A recent article noted that Harrell’s involvement at the ST Board so far has mainly been to raise and caution about disruption from construction in downtown Seattle. I think he clearly sees this as more important than DSTT2, its route or design, or transit in general, because the stakeholders downtown feel the same.
I don’t think he is a transit nerd to say the least. I mean, he seems willing to eliminate a midtown station to avoid the construction (and the original station was so deep to avoid a cut and cover station) when I think from a DSA/Chamber point of view that should be the most important station, depending on the construction.
I get the feeling that right now if you take Harrell and the downtown stakeholders they would choose no DSTT2 over the construction headaches and disruption. That is what the CID did, even if they will have to transfer to go south on Link. They see their community as more important. It is exactly what Bellevue decided when it moved East Link to 112th. Had the Board waited a year or two and understood the amount of revenue the E KC subarea would have a tunnel under Bellevue Way or one block east was easily affordable. And yet here is the Board repeating that mistake.
Downtown Seattle has had so much construction over the last decade. It was a real pain to drive there, or even walk, and even now with much lighter traffic it is a pain. Something is always closed for some kind of construction. I think Durkan called it the period of maximum disruption, but in a giddy way. Transit advocates and car haters don’t care, and even relish the pain, until they realize it may kill WSBLE or DSTT2 or result in a terrible design FOR THEM FOR DECADES.
Some time ago I wondered about why the DEIS is being done now. It just seems like the worst time. Retail vibrancy is way down in downtown, so is foot traffic, the commuters are gone (permanently or temporarily who knows, a lot depends on how attractive downtown Seattle is as a city), the funding for WSBLE is a real question mark and no doubt influencing some of the design, there are worries the diner and shopper has permanently dispersed to other parts of Seattle (U Village) and the eastside, and everyone downtown is EXHAUSTED from the last decade of construction, whether it is other tunnels, the waterfront, buildings, you name it.
Plus there are concerns about ST’s competency with Federal Way and East Link, along with further delays with TDLE and maybe painful cuts to Sounder N and S.
I said it long ago. If I were on the Board — and I think more like a politician than a transit engineer — I would have waited for Lynnwood, East and Federal Way Link to open before starting a DEIS on WSBLE even if it meant more delays because those projects are delayed, because a lot of us are exhausted with ST too. This was exactly the last argument the ST Board wanted to be having at this time, with the CID growling them down, and without a CID station DSTT2 really doesn’t work.
I would have said give Harrell time to see if he can reverse a decade of terrible council policies. Get East Link trains to the CID to see if it swells their pocketbooks. Let the waterfront park open. Stop screwing up car traffic for ideology or bicyclists. Get folks downtown so the “cars don’t scale” argument is actually true again, and trains are running from Redmond, FW and Lynnwood to downtown.
Maybe the stakeholder demands and exploding cost of WSBLE forced the Board’s hand. Maybe they felt they had to get the DEIS out to make public the a la carte pricing model and who will have to pay for it.
MI went through a very tumultuous period from around 2010 to 2018. Lots of grand progressive ideas to reshape the Island the citizens never asked for. I knew several councilmembers and I would tell them after very contentious council meeting with dozens of angry speakers taking up hours that there is a benefit to “quiet” when on a council. They are got replaced, as did most of the city staff, and now we have a mayor who understands this principle. Citizens don’t go to bed wondering what crazy idea will be sprung on them with three days’ notice before the council meeting, and no one attends council meetings.
The benefit: in 2018 Prop. 1 failed by an astounding (for MI) 58.5%. In 2022 Prop. 1 passed by 66%. Same voters.
The ST Board needs to go quiet for a few years and stop proposing things the citizens and stakeholders are not asking for or ready for. Don’t step on the openings of Lynnwood, East and Federal Way Link, and need to remodel DSTT1. Unfortunately, this Board and ST are too arrogant to think like that but have never found themselves in a situation like today when no one believes ST, they look totally incompetent, the CID kicks their ass in public because the CID was never ASKED, WSBLE as designed is never going to be affordable, and Seattle has a new mayor who ranks transit around number 15 on his list of existential things.
The ST Board and ST need to get off the stage for a while. Folks are not ready — let alone excited — for WSBLE.
“Won’t the CID continue to have direct access to East Link and Line 1 (at least north) from the existing CID station for DSTT1.”
Maybe I should have been more explicit in referring to related communities south of the CID – basically, the entirety of the new District 2 of which they are a part. Your stated opinion is that no one will ride East Link (*who doesn’t already ride cross-lake transit, you often caveat), so I’m not sure why you think that’s relevant to this discourse.
I’ve been pointing out the inequity of building a shitty DSTT2 and forcing South Link into it since its terrible design was revealed.
“It is too bad ST or someone has not at least asked for a set of demands from the CID for second station at the CID.”
They have. Their demand is to minimize construction impacts to zero, and for the City to stop impacting their neighborhood. ST says building 4th Ave Shallower would require major continuous road closures for up to 10 years. There’s been no real study of the impacts of sandwiching the CID between two even larger major construction sites for the same amount of time, yet the CID is rallying behind it. There’s something being hidden from the CID.
“They want a parking garage which is cheap in the scheme of things, short construction schedule, more zoning control, more respect, cash, the usual things.”
Where are you getting any of this? They don’t anything – they just want the city to keep the streets clean.
“if I were Constantine or Harrell I would have asked for a set of demands from the CID so the CID was the bad guy”
Ah, yes. Make one of the the major communities of color in central Seattle “the bad guy”. Straight out of the colonizer’s playbook. Very original.
I think the ST Board is downplaying the impacts of N/S “CID” because those options are cheaper and get “someone else” to pay for the major projects they’ve been kicking down the road. King County gets ST to pay for the (likely extremely expensive) demolition of their downtown campus? Harrell gets to claim he “Saved the CID” from an umpteenth imposition by the City/County/State? Those are the political wins. The transit rider is the loser. Fortunately for Dow, Bruce, the average screwed-over transit rider of tomorrow (16+ years from now) doesn’t know they need to vote today.
Nathan, to read your reply one wouldn’t think you are a white guy living in Ballard. The CID sees you as the enemy, not me. I am just a white customer from the eastside in a car who is there for the food. Now back to the point.
“They have. Their demand is to minimize construction impacts to zero, and for the City to stop impacting their neighborhood. ST says building 4th Ave Shallower would require major continuous road closures for up to 10 years.”
Whenever you get a “demand” that on its face, as you phrase it and I haven’t seen this demand as you phrase it from the CID, that is impossible then the other side really hasn’t asked. When you state, “for the City to stop impacting their neighborhood” you don’t ask what that means. It goes way back, well before DSTT2, to rehab centers, shelters, using the CID as a dumping ground for the homeless during the pandemic, crime, a fourteen-story height limit that would destroy the CID if steel framed buildings were profitable at 14 stories (hence the plan to raise the height limit to 22 stories, or at least the request by developers). It goes to disrespect. How to respect the CID and their neighborhood: give them more control over their zoning, not white councilmembers none of whom live there.
You don’t even consider what the CID might accept for a second CID station. It might be impossible, but no one knows because ST has never asked. All the transit advocates and white folks living in N. Seattle just ASSUMED the CID would take it and shut up when every other stakeholder was consulted, and those other stakeholder concerns are reflected in the designs, like NO midtown station, especially the very demanding in Ballard.
“They want a parking garage which is cheap in the scheme of things, short construction schedule, more zoning control, more respect, cash, the usual things.”
“Where are you getting any of this? They don’t anything – they just want the city to keep the streets clean.”
Really? They just want the city to keep the streets clean? That is a little condescending. Is that all you and Ballard want? Clean streets?
Didn’t you read any of Betty’s comments on this blog, or follow the CID’s requests from SDOT for lower street parking fares. The CID FOREVER has been asking for more parking. Jesus, S. Bellevue gets a 1500 park and ride but the CID that is supposed to be THE major transfer points gets zero. What does that do? Like MI and any city with a park and ride or station it means folks using Link use up the parking for retail.
Right now ST is the bad guy, and Constantine, based on a pretty stupid rationale for a mega station in Pioneer Square, because he got outplayed. There will be no station at CID, and 4th Ave. is too expensive. Not my idea of successful negotiations, had there been any.
“I think the ST Board is downplaying the impacts of N/S “CID” because those options are cheaper and get “someone else” to pay for the major projects they’ve been kicking down the road. King County gets ST to pay for the (likely extremely expensive) demolition of their downtown campus? Harrell gets to claim he “Saved the CID” from an umpteenth imposition by the City/County/State? Those are the political wins. The transit rider is the loser. Fortunately for Dow, Bruce, the average screwed-over transit rider of tomorrow (16+ years from now) doesn’t know they need to vote today.”
I think you miss the entire point of CID North. Dow and Harrell never wanted CID North. This is the only location right now that will accept the construction from DSTT2 because the county and city own many of the vacant buildings and the area is distressed.
King Co. won’t pay for anything. King Co. doesn’t have the money to redevelop the parcels with no workers to fill them. Dow is dreaming that private developers will buy the County’s vacant and very low value buildings that are somehow filled and “capture” $400 million in revenue, because of transit? Dow is smarter than that. There just is no other location that will accept a station. No County general fund tax money is going toward this project, the city is broke, just like Dow lent the $100 million to finish the Convention Center.
Your post just tells me you have absolutely no idea what the CID might consider for a second station, or even thought about it, and assumes they are so stupid they think a second station must have zero impacts, and all they want is clean streets (which of course we all want). They are not that stupid. Neither was the UW, and every other stakeholder (who also want clean streets, which is why the UW refused an on campus station).
Until someone asks the CID the CID won’t organize around a mitigation package and we will never know, and so CID north it is. I don’t care, and neither do 90% of the rest of the citizens because they don’t ride transit, or really around 99% when you really take into account the actual number of riders who will use WSBLE. 1% can’t really be surprised or indignant they have zero political clout.
Sure transit will suck with WSBLE and DSTT2 for the transit rider but it always was going to. You should feel worse for all those low-income folks coming from Pierce, S. King, and S. Seattle who will have to transfer to Line 1 so Ballard and West Seattle can ride on rail rather than buses. The best way to benefit the most transit riders is to scrap WSBLE.
When you write “Those are the political wins” I think maybe you don’t understand SEPA, or that all land use including transit is politics, and the CID used race very effectively against white progressives who have done the same for their benefit, not the brown folks. Is it surprising that Harrell and Constantine are playing to the other 99% of voters who will never ride WSBLE?
If you think Asians in the CID think a second station and DSTT2 and WSBLE is somehow about benefitting them you make a terrible mistake, the same mistake ST made.
So find out what they, not you, think benefits them if you want a second station in the CID, or have any hope of one. Give me the $700 million for the 4th Ave. alternative and I think I could find a mitigation package that the CID would accept for a second station near the CID.
That is the great irony isn’t it for transit advocates who think transit is an inherent good. Even a poor and marginalized and brown community like the CID doesn’t want it, and doesn’t think it will benefit them, just like all the white and powerful stakeholders downtown. If you want to sell a turd you need to include some cash and other goodies. That is the basic definition of SEPA, or politics.
“You don’t even consider what the CID might accept for a second CID station. It might be impossible, but no one knows because ST has never asked. ”
The CID doesn’t want a second CID station if it has any major, direct construction impacts on their neighborhood. The Puget Sound Sage is saying that loud and clear.
All those words you expect us to read, yet you don’t really read anyone else’s.
What has ST offered the CID Nathan? If the choice is DSTT2 station number 2 and six to ten years of construction and no cash or other mitigation or no station that is a pretty easy choice (and it looks like the midtown stakeholders were given the same “choice”), and in any fight like that the CID is going to adopt the no station at all position.
You may be correct: no amount of cash or mitigation will sway the CID to agree to a station for DSTT2 near it. My personal history is there is always something that will change a party’s position. Whether what a party wants the other party is willing to pay is the second part of negotiations.
All I have laid out is what I think are the categories the CID would consider as mitigation. Since the objection to construction is it will depress business and customers due to traffic congestion that is where I would begin: parking, ingress and egress to the CID, zoning control, cash. I think that would be a very interesting CID meeting to discuss that.
Usually the response is something crazy high, especially with amateurs, but then that tells ST there is a number, and it gets the other side thinking about that. If I were representing the CID I would tell them this is a once in a generation opportunity to bargain because ST, Dow, Bruce and the rest are over a barrel, and ST has a big checkbook.
Or go with CID North with no midtown station. You know this fight from WS to Ballard is just beginning. It is just WS and Ballard have not been abused for decades and so are able to move to mitigation immediately without the racial and emotional overlay in the CID. I am sure defeating ST was huge for the community that has rarely won these fights, but someone they trust now has to go in and tell them the initial victory was amateur ball when the real game is the mitigation. Money this community cannot really even understand like $700 million stations on 4th. Think of it like reparations.
I think a deal is there and ST needs to go back and be humble and tell the CID ST lost, but it is a victory without any real money or benefit, like a parking garage, zoning control, cash…. If the victory is ultimately no DSTT2 station that is a pretty hollow victory for a very poor community.
What do you and Daniel think Line 1 is, Nathan? For clarity, the SoDo, Rainier Valley and beyond line is the southern 3/4 to 4/5 of “Line 1”. Redmond to Mariner will be Line 2, and East King weill NOT pay for operations west of Judkins Park, Daniel. West Seattle will be Line 3 if built.
So, NO, CID will NOT have a direct connection to Beacon Hill and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd stations if Xanadu /Constantinople /Shelter Station comes to pass.
Sure, folks will be able to walk from Shelter Station to the International District. It’s not that far, but it’s also not that nice.
I would’ve suggested this if I hadn’t thought that they had ruled this out since it avoids the whole issue of putting in a second tunnel and it’s unlikely that frequencies will get high enough to make interlining 3 lines impractical
Of course, I agree with the strategy to stick with the current tunnel! As a resident of SE Seattle, it’s optimal for me to not have to transfer. That saves me several minutes if I want to go to North Seattle. More importantly, it allows residents of North Seattle including UW and Capitol Hill to have a direct train to Seatac.
The cost savings is systemwide, and the other subarea funds could go to better things. This needs to be part of the messaging. Let’s see what would be persuasive. Here are just some quick ones off the top of my head…
East King: Access to Stride for South Renton Transit Center.
Snohomish: The missing station near Paine Field that couldn’t be funded.
Pierce: Extending Tacoma Dome one more station to UWTacoma/Downtown Tacoma.
South King: Stride stations on 167.
Of course, CID station desparately needs more escalators — specifically ones that go down. The system also needs several more elevators that are fully ADA compliant.
Others may have different ideas. Regardless, it could be very powerful to point out to other subareas that it’s advantageous to them that they get both better connectivity in Downtown Seattle leading to faster regional trips, as well as investments in their subareas to help transit.
Al, I like any of those extensions, but ST3 is already over budget. We may as well use the savings to accelerate the projects we have delayed due to these budget issues, like Ballard. I don’t think the ST3 measure allows Sound Transit to allocate any funds to new projects. Additional access like Renton Transit Center may be a grey area though. If we finish ST3 early, then a follow up measure (like ST4) could be brought in front of voters much earlier.
yes, I read the DSTT2 list provided by RossB several months ago; it is astounding. During the public comment of the recent expansion committee, folks argued for a shift to Terry Avenue from Westlake Avenue North; folks argued to shift the Harrison Street station to the west; folks argued about the Uptown station box, Republican v. Mercer streets. There will be disruption. We want the total to be a net positive.
By using automated trains the station box will be smaller and therefore less property acquisitions, smaller impact, and shorter construction times. But there will be disruption either way.
I might be imagining things, but it seems as though there’s a real fear among ST board members that as soon as they start revisiting decisions they thought they had decided, ST3 will quickly devolve into debate after debate, and nothing will ever get built. So, in order to keep the process moving forward, they feel compelled to stick to past decisions no matter what, even if those decisions were based on incomplete information and would not make since given the more complete information we have today.
The other problem is that Sound Transit doesn’t seem particularly interested in rider experience, so much as a desire to check boxes. For example, the presence of any light rail from anywhere in Everett to anywhere in downtown checks a box. Same with West Seattle. Since rider experience doesn’t matter beyond what’s necessary to get the box checked, decisions all come down to how to get the boxes checked while keeping the impact to the non-rider stakeholders (e.g. those concerned about construction disruptions) as low as possible.
As much as I personally agree with you that the solution of just using the existing tunnel should be obvious, this is something the ST board will never consider, as they have already eliminated it from consideration, even if the assumptions that justified the second tunnel now look completely nonsensical. Maybe if the cost of the second tunnel continues to balloon to the point where ST simply cannot afford it, they will be forced to reconsider it. But, absent that, they will make as many compromises on rider experience as they can to get that second tunnel built, because that is what they have already decided to do, whether it makes sense or not.
Having an article on the one-tunnel alternative in an article makes it harder to dismiss, and easier to get support for. Even if we lose, let’s lose over something we believe in, what would be the best for passengers.
It helps, but I don’t think the ST board really cares what goes on on Seattle Transit Blog. It’s just not enough people to electorally matter.
Maybe if something like this were in the Seattle Times, they might notice. Even then, they would probably just ignore it. The more meetings they hold where a single tunnel is not even considered, the worse they look if they were to suddenly turn around and say “Actually, we can do a single tunnel after all.” So, to avoid (or, more accurately, postpone) embarrassment, the knee jerk reaction is to deny and ignore any information that runs contrary to original assumptions justifying prior decisions. It’s human nature.
This is one step to getting it into the Seattle Times. It allows people to consider and weigh the alternative and maybe come to a conclusion. Maybe one of those will be a Times writer, letter to the editor, or an editorial board person. It has happened before. And the editorial board likes low-cost solutions.
And the editorial board likes low-cost solutions.
Yes, and so do many members of the Sound Transit board.
I was going to say the editorial board also likes suburban-favoring solutions, but I couldn’t figure out whether this proposal was suburban-favoring or not, so I dropped it. What are all the benefits for the suburbs?
Mike, the only benefit for the “suburbs” (which would include West Seattle and Ballard — I think you mean “four other subareas, not suburbs , which for you is a pejorative term) is capacity. That was the reason given by ST in 2016 to support the four other subareas paying half for a “shared regional facility” based on ST’s wildly inflated ridership projections through downtown Seattle. You want to hear something funny? For years eastsiders worried about capacity across the bridge during peak hours with 8 minute frequencies based on ST’s dishonest ridership projections. Now we don’t even care if East Link ever opens.
That is why the route of DSTT2 mimicked the route of DSTT1: that is the most natural route if you only have 4 stations including CID downtown, and DSTT2 was because DSTT1 would not be able to handle the volume of riders going to the DSTT1 stations. It would be nice to have more downtown stations in DSTT1, but if you can only have four that is about where you would place them which is why there is a fight over who has to use DSTT2.
DSTT2 in 2016 had nothing about increasing coverage, like to First Hill or other parts of Seattle, because that would not benefit the four other subareas or support a very unusual violation of subarea equity, especially form poorer subareas to N. King Co. that mostly has tunnels, certainly from the CID north. Subarea equity was not about taking from the poor and giving to the rich, at least not in the ST 3 campaign literature I saw in 2016 (I voted no).
Since DSTT2 was back of napkin design in 2016 everyone assumed it would have the same station locations and design as DSTT1. Very few at that time questioned the capacity and ridership assumptions, cost, or design (since there really was none) of DSTT2 in 2016.
Of course ST was claiming WSBLE would cost $6 billion in 2016.
At this point all the assumptions, cost estimates, benefits, routing, station design, and benefits of DSTT2 we were led to believe were true in ST 3 are not true.
I agree with Jonathan that what is driving DSTT2 today is the $1.1 billion the four other subareas are to contribute that Seattle does not want to lose. If it were clear to Seattle or some on the Board N KC would get the $1.1 billion anyway even if DSTT2 were not built, or three subareas simply don’t have their contribution, DSTT2 would be scrapped. Seattle and Harrell know there are a dozen better ways to spend that money in a very profligate city looking at huge budget deficits.
The fact Harrell and Constantine and Morales are turning DSTT2 into a desperate and fantastical plan to somehow recapture some value from empty county and city buildings proves this, and how desperate they think the situation is in this part of town, or in all of downtown.
This has nothing to do with Issaquah or Everett or Tacoma Link, except their contribution to a false DSTT2 when two subareas (three including S KC) don’t have the funding for their projects because ST lied about their project costs too because ST thought passing ST 3 was existential to ITS existence.
A good question is where are the other Board members.
Balducci is stupid and a sycophant. All she cares about is becoming King Co, exec. She has totally sold out the Eastside.
Constantine just wants to claim success — on paper until he runs for governor, and is willing to steal $1.1 billion from the four other subareas because KC’s budget is stressed and most in those areas won’t vote for him.
Harrell I can understand. He really doesn’t care about transit but is desperate for any money to revitalize downtown when the council will leave him with huge budget deficits.
The one member missing is Keel. He is vice chair and served as Chair for 3 years while Pierce Co. has been hosed at every turn. He isn’t clueless like Balducci. He knows better and represents a poor subarea but has done nothing for them. What a disaster.
I don’t know about SnoCo’s Board rep. SnoCo is so poor, and unlike Pierce doesn’t have $1.2 billion banked in subarea loans (although TDLE is “estimated” to cost $3.2 billion). Someone else (me and the eastside) will have to pay to complete Everett Link, which may result in a better line, but SnoCo politics are so incestuous when it comes to mixing public projects and private development money when that is about the only money making game in town it could be SnoCo doesn’t want to be the subarea to say NO, when some other subarea will have to pay to complete Everett Link to avoid Everett the embarrassment of having Link end at Lynnwood because the subarea is too broke to run it to Everett.
It should have been the Eastside subarea that has the wealth and standing to say no contribution. We didn’t get a contribution for a tunnel through Bellevue when a tunnel under Bellevue Way would have been a more shared regional project than DSTT2. The Eastside Board member could point how much E KC has and will subsidize express buses and Link for N KC, how all of East and Redmond Link cost $5.5 billion because it isn’t gold plated, and the wealthier subareas are not going to steal from the poorer subareas for gold plated WSBLE or real estate scams masquerading as DSTT2.
Instead we have Balducci asking to open a limited section of East Link because she concealed for three years the problems with the plinths and kissing Dow’s and the King Co. Democrats butt to become county exec which is frightening and very sad.
Not for my subarea. We can afford our contribution to DSTT2 (and God forbid Issaquah Link) and hope East Link never opens, but object to the awful and greedy design for DSTT2 on principle, and just the venality of it all which is what we see in Seattle so much these days.
I meant suburbs literally: everything outside Seattle.
Does anyone remember the boring machines on 3rd Avenue between Stewart and Pine?
*of course not*
I’m wondering when the Board will figure out that the 2 years discussing “realignment” was a huge waste of time.
I agree that they are in denial that the project is a bad idea and cannot stomach the embarassment of the years of time and money waste already devoted to WSBLE, partly because that’s the only solution the staff presents — and there is a backroom parade of development interests bending their ear. All we hear is the ID folk, but there is a huge amount of messiness at the other subway stations that also is getting sorted out.
I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time to pursue a particular approach and then reverse yourself. It is sensible, really. Until you have detailed engineering plans, you don’t know what it will look like or cost. In this case, it was only after they looked at what the would be involved with the new tunnel (and the new stations) that the dynamic changed.
When someone criticized Winston Churchill for changing his mind on something, he said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”
I think that was John Maynard Keynes who said that Sam, ending with “what do you do, Sir?”
When you say ST board, you mean Dow and Harold, right?
Seattle is 100% the problem here…. not Tacoma, Everett or the Eastside. It’s 100% Seattle…. It’s the idea that Seattle gets to spend other subarea’s money (and Federal money) to build some lame mega transit-adjacent civic project in downtown Seattle. It’s all Dow and Harold.
Harrell, Bruce Harrell.
Bond, James Bond.
If you use the first name for Constantine, why not use the first name for Harrell? Dow and Bruce would have been easy to understand.
Anyway, the board is made up of members from all over. It people outside the city — even outside the county — are willing to push for sharing the tunnel, it could happen. You can’t blame just Dow and Bruce for the fact that at this point, no one is doing that. Either they are completely ignorant of the issue, or don’t care that it will cost everyone more money.
I might be imagining things, but it seems as though there’s a real fear among ST board members that as soon as they start revisiting decisions they thought they had decided, ST3 will quickly devolve into debate after debate, and nothing will ever get built.
If that was the case, there would be no “CID North”. The whole idea of basically skipping the CID came out of the blue. The board had decided a very long time ago that the new tunnel would have stations at CID, Midtown, and Westlake. The current proposal is to have a station at Pioneer Square and Westlake. That is a radical change, and clearly revisits decisions they made earlier.
Basically, the board looked at the detailed plans, and thought they sucked. So did the transit community. Then the engineers went back again, and found something the transit community could live with (4th Avenue Shallow). But then the real community (meaning the people who live in the area) think that idea sucks. So then they came up with the “CID North” plan, which is nothing more than Pioneer Square (it will have a pedestrian connection to the existing Pioneer Square station, not the CID station). So now we are back to the transit community saying this sucks more than ever. To revisit prior assumptions about the second tunnel is really just par for the course, given the opposition the board is getting from various sides.
The more controversial the action, the more likely an agency is to revisit past assumptions. This particular decision is extremely controversial. Holy cow, look at the vitriol that has been heaped towards Morales. A few months ago, she could do no wrong. She had the support of every transit group, or related organization in the city (The Urbanist, The Stranger, this blog, etc.). Now, it is the opposite. I’m sure she can weather the storm, but that is nuts. Anything that can avoid that kind of mess should be most welcome.
The difference between the decisions is who’s pushing for it. A group of Chinatown activists gets sympathy and a willingness to change the plan, and they give the impression they represent all CID business owners and residents and South Seattle Asians, when that’s probably not remotely true. Also, eliminating DSTT2 has never been well articulated, so many activists and boardmembers probably didn’t realize it was a possibility. Maybe as they consider it they’ll think more positively about it.
It increasingly feels like there is no one competent present at the decision making level of sound transit.
Board members are politicians who care more about their constituents not being inconvenienced by construction than actually delivering a superior rider experience
I feel that sound transit as an agency is actually critically dysfunctional. In that it is actually necessary for the agency to be restructured and for managers who actually have experience to be hired on and take over the planning decisions that our inexperienced (mostly politician) board members don’t have or else ST3 will simply be delayed again and again and again, while the budget goes higher and higher, and board members make costlier or worse ridership outcome decisions to reduce construction impact as much as possible
Frankly I feel that it would be naive of someone who voted for a multi billion dollar urban rail expansion plan to not understand or be accepting of the fact that some impacts/displacement will occur. This isn’t on par with the construction of I-5 obviously but to think that there should be no impacts whatsoever is unrealistic
Full board meeting on 23rd right? I’m really surprised the sub areas are not asking for using the current tunnels. Every other sub area will have suboptimal outcomes going forward with DSTT2.
I think the biggest issue with sharing the tunnel is that neither the general public nor the board is aware of it. It has been discussed here quite a bit, but the rest of the region is simply unaware of the idea.
I had to laugh when this video hit my feed — “ The Worst Transit Project in the US is Cancelled”
And it’s not even a subway!
At least the cost estimates were honest!
In less than a day it’s approaching 100k views!
So who is our local YouTuber to make a splash. Reece Martin couldn’t be persuasive with his video four Days ago (64K views).
It strikes me that creating a third line in the DSTT means that West Seattle residents wouldn’t suffer through the “stub” years. It could be operating as soon as 9 years from today!
Almost. There still needs to be a track connecting the SODO stub to the current SODO track or a second SODO track to Intl Dist. That’s not part of the stub project, but it could mean the that the rest “DSTT2/SODO” project gets reduced to this. Then it may be able to open at the same time as the stub, or soon after.
There does NOT need to be a “second SoDo track to Intl Dist!” The RV is limited to a train every six minutes, and West Seattle will be every ten minutes until The Heat Death of the Universe. You can easily run a train every five minutes on the existing trackway, you just have to build overpasses for Lander and Holgate and close Lower Brougham Way (which never has any cars to speak of) at the train tracks, allowing access from Fourth and Sixth to the stubbed parts.
Yes, there needs to be a connection south of SoDo, but that can be one of these two options:
1) Just cut in a level junction at the crest of the rise south of SoDo to the elevated structure along Forest Street. It would be right at the beginning of the curve. It’s flat there so it would be a plain-vanilla elevated “level junction” with trains coming from West Seattle “inferior” to those headed to or from the Rainier Valley. They’d just wait south of the diamond in the southbound RV track. If there’s anywhere in the system that could live with a level junction, it’s here because of the perpetually limited number of trains that would use it.
2) If that is nonetheless unacceptable to ST then take the block of the SoDo Bikeway between Lander and Forest and use it for the northbound track from West Seattle and cut in a trailing point turnout in the current Lander Street ROW for the merge. There is (just barely) enough room between the rising elevated ramp and four warehouses backing up on the bikeway. Perhaps the temporary buildings behind “Austin Mac” would have to be removed; they stick out farther than the adjacent warehouses, but they can’t be too expensive.
This of course assumes that the car traffic on Lander is on an overpass so the turnout can be sited south of SoDo Station.
The Bikeway doesn’t go any farther south along the busway than Forest, so really nothing would be lost for bikes. It jogs over to Sixth at Forest anyway, and there’s nothing fundamentally different about the Sixth Avenue block between Lander and Forest from those to the south, so what’s the problem with the diversion? Really, none I can see.
Doing this preserves the busway for future use by express buses should the need continue.
Yes, that’s true. But West Seattle is still a huge waste of resources which won’t increase ridership or reduce operating expenses enough to justify the project.
I get that politicians love ribbon cuttings. It would be nice if they had sufficient good sense to make the cuttings mark genuine improvements.
We need to keep our eyes on the ball. Downtown transfers and the cost of a second downtown tunnel with little benefit are a major issue. West Seattle Link is a minor issue. If someone wants to propose a West Seattle alternative different from ST’s, they can do it in a separate article.
Sure, Mike, that’s fine. If the politicians want West Seattle, then interlining can give West Seattle quicker service. But it’s a huge waste of money.
I support using a single tunnel, especially with the subpar options being proposed by ST.
But as a practical, political matter, has any board member brought up the 1 tunnel solution at all? I don’t think so. The only viable candidates at the board meeting on the 23rd are 4th Avenue shallower, and north/south of CID. Arguing in favor anything else is like voting 3rd party for president. It might feel good, but it’s ultimately pointless.
If this was a normal situation, you would be right. It would be like arguing for 20th NW in Ballard, when the fight is between 14th and 15th.
But this case is unusual. The board is between a rock and a hard place. The transit community hates the idea of skipping the CID. The CID community hates the idea of 4th Avenue Shallow. That is a lot of hate, from both sides. Sharing the tunnel is a solution to this fundamental political problem. It is better for the neighborhood, and better for transit riders. It is also cheaper! Right now, the big problem is ignorance. My guess is the board is oblivious to the fact that it is a realistic option. Once they know, there is a very good chance that a significant portion of the board will support it.
I think part of the problem is that the types of meetings where productive discussions actually happen are not the big, formal meetings with an entire board in a room and open to the public. Rather, a productive meeting is just two or three board members getting together informally, off camera, away from the prying eyes of the public and the rest of the board.
This is true about meetings in general, both public sector and private sector. For instance, at work, meetings between myself and one other person are productive. Meetings involving an entire team tend to be a waste of time.
The rub with public sector agencies, however, is that very attributes a meeting needs to have to be public go against the public desire for open meetings and equal access. This was an issue for the state’s redistricting commission. The big, formal meetings were not conducive to productive discussion, so they couldn’t agree on anything without violating open meetings laws and holding more informal talks under the table.
I suspect it’s kind of similar here, in that the only way to have real influence over any board members is to sit down with a few of them one on one, over beer, off camera. But, that of course doesn’t scale, so unless you’re either the head of an organization with hundreds of thousands of members who all vote in lockstep, or donate tens of millions of dollars to Dow’s future gubernatorial campaign, you won’t get an audience, and will be stuck pounding sand.
Unfortunately, this is a problem without a clear, easy solution.
“I think part of the problem is that the types of meetings where productive discussions actually happen are not the big, formal meetings with an entire board in a room and open to the public…the only way to have real influence over any board members is to sit down with a few of them one on one, over beer, off camera.”
Fully agree. This is why lobbyists are a thing.
I agree Andrew. The major stakeholders like the DSA and Amazon and the Chamber, and even WS and Ballard, talk regularly with the mayor and county exec., other county and Board members, and more importantly to their staff, and DSTT2 is one small component in the big picture: how to revitalize downtown Seattle so everyone makes more money including the city and county through taxes, tourism, conventions, etc.
Right now, none of the stakeholders — including Harrell — see how DSTT2 makes them money or revitalizes downtown.
The original designs for DSTT2 with very deep tunnels obviously reflected the stakeholder concerns over disruption from construction, and now there is no midtown station. Two of the planned three downtown stations — CID, midtown — now have no stations because the stakeholders would rather have no DSTT2 station than the construction, and it really isn’t clear what kind of mitigation ST has offered or they would accept. That should tell anyone negotiating of behalf of ST what the main issue is, except ST doesn’t know how to negotiate.
Not surprisingly Harrell’s main concern at Board meetings is disruption to downtown Seattle.
Transit advocates on this blog could reach out to their Board member. Balducci is mine. I don’t think she really understands transit, or really represents the eastside well. What would I tell her? Mainly make sure East Link uses DSTT1 for those who will use it?
I think the Seattle Board members would tell you the problem is no one wants a station for DSTT2 next to their property, the mayor doesn’t see transit as his top priority, and revitalizing downtown Seattle is the existential priority and DSTT2 does not help.
The reality is the stakeholders are correct. WSBLE was always bad transit, and DSTT2 not worth it. At least to them, and they get audiences with the decision makers because they have lots of money and pay lots of taxes. I doubt the DSA reads this blog.
If DSTT2 gets built it is going to suck as transit. So far it has only gotten worse. It could get even worse. Who knows. One station from south of CID to Westlake in Pioneer Sq. is pretty bad.
What we still haven’t gotten to is how bad WSBLE will get when all those stakeholders object to having it next to them. CID north is just the beginning, and the CID has shown every stakeholder ST can be beat and Harrell and Constantine and the Board are not going to fall on their political sword for DSTT2 or WSBLE.
Until ST or the Board or someone can show the stakeholders how WSBLE or DSTT2 benefits them in any way no one is going to want it near them. So like East Link it will get built where no one is.
I think you astutely describe the situation as it is: no one of much consequence sees the short term disruption of Link expansion as worth whatever gains in property value, etc. they may get in the long term. Harrell is concerned with downtown over a horizon of several years. Many people in the CID are fighting against disruption in the short term, because they are at risk of losing their businesses, housing, etc.
The likelihood is that Seattle is going to be just fine in the long term (decades, I mean); but unfortunately few people are thinking for the long term.
The difference in time perspective between transit advocates (who are, at least when it comes to Link, focused on the long view) and the politicians and stakeholders is palpable, and it drives a lot of the disagreement that we see. The short term people are focused on minimizing impacts. Meanwhile, the long term people see in a bigger sense what a mess the whole project is.
We are having different conversations, which is part of what makes it so difficult. If we were really having the same conversation, it might be clear that a lot of people would like a cheaper and less disruptive project, like a Bus Rapid Transit system. Unfortunately, the political and administrative momentum is pushing us towards a solution that doesn’t work well for powerful stakeholders or the average person.
I would certainly put up with a couple minutes more to get through the DSTT if it meant transfer times dropped from 10 or more minutes to 2 or 3 minutes.
But a tunnel dead-ending under Westlake means we’re still planning for a DSTT2, just kicking the can down the road and making it more expensive to build. If you don’t have a plan to connect Ballard Link to the existing DSTT1, then this plan for a single tunnel is not really an alternative to building a DSTT2. And your whole sales job was a bait-and-switch.
But a tunnel dead-ending under Westlake means we’re still planning for a DSTT2, just kicking the can down the road and making it more expensive to build.
First of all, if you went with what has proposed earlier (https://seattletransitblog.com/2023/02/20/the-case-for-automated-light-metro-technology-for-ballard-and-south-lake-union/) then it would not be more expensive. It would be considerably cheaper. Second, and more importantly, it would be better. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a second downtown tunnel. The problem is that a second downtown tunnel without additional coverage is a bad idea. If, instead, the tunnel had stops at First Hill, Yesler Terrace and a few others than it would definitely be better.
It is simply not true that things are always worse and more expensive in the future. You reach a point where costs level off. It is quite likely that portions of the Relief Line (not the Ontario Line) in Toronto are actually much cheaper than originally proposed, simply because they went with smaller train sets, and smaller stations. In this case the big benefit would be that it would be better, if not cheaper.
A tunnel dead-ending at Westlake still gives people the option to exit at Westlake. That is already helps a lot of people, as Westlake is by far the highest-ridership downtown station. Those that want to continue onward can transfer, and will have a 4-car train coming every 3-5 minutes.
In the event that we do decide we want to extend the tunnel, we can decide later how to do it, for example, whether to simply parallel DSTT1 for additional capacity or serve First Hill. But, we can defer that decision until when and if that second tunnel is actually needed, and today, there is no indication that it ever will be.
Very well said, asdf2. The extra capacity was only barely required when the big peaks were happening. With Amazon buying folks out and holding leases on millions of empty square feet of very nice buildings both in Seattle and Bellevue, who is going to fill those trains?
I fully support combining train traffic into a single tunnel. Without convenient downtown transfers or crosstown rail, it will be hard to think of the completed Link program as a system. Four points to add:
1) I’ve never seen a ST analysis that proved the need for a second tunnel. This seems to have been a brainstorm among the elected officials negotiating over a ballot initiative at the last minute. ST should show their analysis, and all of us should look at it critically.
2) The two tunnel approach (current plan) interlines in both cases a very short line (to Ballard or West Seattle) with very long lines (to Everett and Tacoma). The only way the combination adds significant capacity would be if the volumes of the short lines are anywhere close to the volumes of the long lines. Otherwise you’d have two lines both achieving far less than capacity in one direction all the time.
3) The biggest challenge with using the single downtown tunnel is lack of crossover track before and after each station, so if a train is disabled the entire system is affected. To improve capacity and, more important, reliability, it would be worth investing to install cross-overs or bypass tracks in the center lanes than to build a new tunnel.
4) Downtown Seattle is hurting right now, and the last thing it needs is ten years of disruption to build a new tunnel.
I agree on all points. The second point is one that I hadn’t considered, and it is a very good one. Our system will be very long if it gets to Everett and Tacoma. Extremely long. It is very expensive to run trains that far. You simply don’t get that many riders per hour of service. As a result, the trains run less often. Even with systems that are automated, it is rare for trains anywhere in the world to run that far away from the city and run often. In contrast, the sections to West Seattle and Ballard are short. Ballard has the potential for very good ridership per hour of service. West Seattle is highly dependent on transfers. In both cases you could justify more frequent service, but not if it is paired with very long lines.
Basically you could make the case that West Seattle and Ballard line should run every six minutes, while it will be very difficult to run trains to Tacoma or Everett even ten minutes.
Link has been running for twenty-five years and has rarely had a train been disabled in DSTT. The biggest occasion I can think of was outside DSTT near UW. Occasionally the electric-propulsion system goes out, but crossover tracks wouldn’t help with that, since no trains would be able to move anyway.
On Mike’s point, reliability will be a bigger issue if frequencies are increased for multiple lines in the tunnel.
I didn’t mention the escalators and other shortcomings of the existing tunnel that Mike Lindblum points out today. Preservation should always take a higher priority over expansion. I’m not convinced the tunnel would be in this shape if any of the board members actually used the system.
IIRC, the second tunnel was proposed from SDOT Scott Kubly to cover Big Tech/SLU.
My voice is with improving the existing tunel. Wouldn’t it be cheaper, quicker, and easier? It’s already in place. Improving it seems the best way forward.
Voters wanted a Ballard to West Seattle line, that was how it was sold as, but instead they got a broken spine that inconveniences both North End, South End and Eastside riders. The fail is real.
The representative alignment in the ballot measure had a split spine.
This is not true. Google the clips. Watch the archived ST board meetings. Review all the ST3 briefing materials. Read the oversight panel reports. The second tunnel segment in the spine was the centerpiece of the ST3 plan and very well vetted. You’re engaging in pure revisionist history. Either that, or you weren’t here at the time. Or both.
I was at the December 2015 board meeting where staff first proposed splitting the spine, saying an Everett-Tacoma line would be almost 2.5 hours and too long for drivers to go without a break. I expected pushback on that but there wasn’t. Splitting the spine meant there would be no Ballard-West Seattle line, but instead Everett-West Seattle and Tacoma Dome-Ballard. That was the plan throughout 2016 and in the ballot campaign.
Mike, that’s the way I remember it as well. Anyway it’s the right design. Ballard, LQA and SLU will, always have at least three and possibly five or six times the ridership that West Seattle west of SoDo will. The only thing saving Line 3’s ridership will be Downtown to Northgate and maybe Lynnwood. The north end will need many more trains than the “policy headways” to West Seattle, which match very well with the policy headways to Everett as well as the times pan of the run.
The Seattle echo chamber strikes again. Death by delay. Analysis paralysis. Complete abdication of leadership. The sensible thing to do here is implement the original plan, and stop navel gazing.
The original plan was fully vetted. The spine segmentation was thoroughly debated and covered. The reason is a single tunnel doesn’t serve the region’s needs is it doesn’t provide enough capacity long term. It’s just math. A single tunnel limited to 4-car trains and 5-min frequency in the south line doesn’t not have sufficient capacity to meet PSRC growth projections once Tacoma is connected. A north line limited to 4-car trains and 2.5-min frequency won’t meet PSRC growth projects in that part of the system once Everett is connected. Aside from that, the shallow 5th Ave tunnel would provide adjacent transfers in the city’s mobility hub.
“We’ll deal with how to connect Ballard later” is magical thinking. It’s a huge ridership generator, with a 24/7 market driven by both employment and residential. There no way a single tunnel will ever handle that load and serve every other market. To say we should just cram ST3 into one tunnel now is to postpone a second right of way til later, when the cost will be way worse, while engineering fatal flaws into the system we have now. Ludicrous.
The plan also stated that leadership and assertive decision-making would be necessary for the projections to occur on schedule. The STBoard just spent $600k having a consultant repeat that six years later. The previous regime and the politicians have utterly failed on that score. Had they moved briskly through scoping, the west Seattle segment would be in final design and nearing construction. Instead we’ve had endless dithering.
Stop the nonsense. Stick with the plan. Put 5th back on the table, and use a cut n cover approach to mitigate the cost and construction impacts.
I don’t believe the analysis behind the decision to build a second tunnel was ever shared to say nothing of fully vetted. If I’m wrong I’d be interested in seeing it. The second tunnel seemed to come out of nowhere during board negotiations over the ballot measures, and I’m don’t have a lot of faith that board members care what their staff tell them in the first place. ST has always had a “don’t make any changes ever” mentality, no matter how the content changes – because the board’s commitment is to distribute capital spending as planned throughout the region.
“don’t make any changes ever mentality”
That’s laughable. Spring district station? Not in the ST2 plan. 130th station? Not in the ST Plan. UW station? Sound Move had it on 15th NE, on the west side of campus, not the stadium. Beacon hill tunnel? Not in Sound Move. First Hill, anyone? I could go on. The work of delivering this system is a process of continuous adaptation. Don’t make such inane comments if you want to be taken seriously.
Are you thinking taking something to the ERP constitutes full vetting? Does that mean the board or the public vetted this fully as well? Both of your links support my thought that this came out of nowhere and had zero engineering to support it when they were making political deals about the ballot measure.
The representative alignment in the ballot measure was mediocre, and every change since then has been worse. But, the representative alignment didn’t get into the level of detail of how deep the platforms would be and how long the transfer walks would be. Everyone assumed they would be like the existing stations. ST probably didn’t know until it did further engineering studies. The current ST alternatives have passengers going both up and down multiple escalators and elevators to get from one platform to another. That threatens to make the system unusable or barely usable. That’s our primary objection to DSTT2. While CID could go back to the “5th Avenue Shallow” alternative that would be the best, there’s nothing comparable for Midtown or Westlake. ST might say the current proposals are the best that it can do in a second tunnel.
Also, cut-and-cover has more construction disruption than bored tunnels, not less. Cut-and-cover is the #1 objection in the CID and everywhere else, and is why there are no cut-and-cover proposals in ST’s alternatives. I think people should focus on the long-term benefits of a Link line rather than short-term construction disruptions, but everyone else is focusing on construction impacts at the expense of transit.
ST successfully used cut and cover to build several stations and tunnel segments while minimizing construction impacts. Look at the evidence, Mike: they saved the Paramount Theater while keeping downtown open thru multiple holiday shopping seasons. They preserved the Neptune in the U district. They kept Broadway open – and its small businesses – thru five years of construction. It’s not a debatable question whether 5th Ave in the CID could be kept open and functional during construction.
There re two questions being debated here: one is whether a single tunnel is a good idea, and the other is whether ST should cave to political pressure and abandon the CID. The first is a math problem, pure and simple. A single tunnel won’t work. The second, I am expressions strong disagreement with giving up and 5th because I think it’s the best option for transfers and locates the station closest to the neighborhood business and residents.
Another Engineer, ST has caved to the CID. Any future design for DSTT2 has to deal with that reality. DSTT2 does not benefit the CID, and whether businesses are open when cars cannot get to the CID businesses is meaningless. The CID businesses will fail.
For the same reasons a shallow cut and cover station at midtown has been scrapped, but also to save costs.
Second, what ridership estimates are you using to claim DSTT1 cannot handle the volume of riders through Seattle including the increased frequency from East Link trains (or are you assuming East Link won’t be able to run across the bridge at 8 minute frequencies even if empty)? Please don’t tell me you are using ST’s ridership estimates.
Only one small problem Another Engineer: WSBLE is now estimated — by ST — to cost $15 billion, but with cost contingency closer to $20 billion.
Even if the four other subareas have their $1.1 billion contribution to DSTT2 (I am certain 2 don’t but probably three based on the estimated cost of TDLE vs. banked subarea loans depending on Sounder S upgrades) which ST is still estimating to cost $2.2 billion while eliminating stations downtown left and right N KC has around a $10 to $12 billion hole because WSBLE was estimated to cost $6 billion in 2016 (roughly the total cost of East and Redmond Link including bridge disasters) which is what drove the uniform tax rates which is why my subarea has more money than it knows what to do with (even including Issaquah Link).
I am not an engineer. I followed ST 3 pretty closely in 2016 but foolishly didn’t believe ETA’s critique of the cost estimates for DSTT2 and WSBLE. I don’t live in the N KC subarea. But I do know enough to not start digging unless you have the money to finish. You show me the money to actually complete WSBLE within ST’s subarea funding for N KC you can start digging.
Dow is my law school classmate. He knows this. Which is why what he really is shooting for is a WS stub. That is what N KC can support, and makes it look like the rest is affordable well after he is gone when there is zero chance Harrell will place a SB5528 levy on a ballot for WSBLE.
Remember when $15-20B was considered a lot of money?
I think this statement needs some major revisiting…
“The original plan was fully vetted. “
The DSTT2 was never part of a pre-study.
“The spine segmentation was thoroughly debated and covered.”
The diagram and even early CID station layouts had platforms closer to the existing platforms. There was even a level cross platform transfer next to the station on 5th. At the time, the focus was all about West Seattle and Ballard segments and the segment between SODO and Interbay was a big mystery as early decisions were being made.
“The reason is a single tunnel doesn’t serve the region’s needs is it doesn’t provide enough capacity long term. It’s just math. A single tunnel limited to 4-car trains and 5-min frequency in the south line doesn’t not have sufficient capacity to meet PSRC growth projections once Tacoma is connected. A north line limited to 4-car trains and 2.5-min frequency won’t meet PSRC growth projects in that part of the system once Everett is connected.”
This has a few different misstatements so let’s take them one at a time.
– The per train capacity limit on the south line is between SODO and Beacon Hill, not Downtown. The five minute limit is because of MLK and not Downtown.
– The DSTT and North segment south of Northgate is proposed at 3 minutes and not 2.5. Having the extra 30 seconds would allow 4 more trains per hour going from 20 to 24. There is repeated evidence after games that 2 minute train arrivals is already possible. That’s beyond any upgrades to make it easier to run more frequent trains this segment — which could actually be needed anyway.
– There are more riders north of Westlake on the two lines than there is south of Westlake. DSTT2 only makes crowding between Westlake and Capitol Hill worse.
– Everett Link riders do not add a large number of riders to the system. Those going Downtown will simply ride a bus to Lynnwood and catch Link there. In fact, the Link trip from Everett to Lynnwood will take much longer (33 minutes) than the express bus will (22 minutes today).
– The ridership forecast data from the DEIS shows overcrowded trains only between Pioneer Square and CID — but at 3 minute frequencies (“no build”) and using existing vehicles . If the frequency was upped to 2.5 minutes and vehicles were increased in capacity by simply buying new vehicles without driver cabs on one of the two ends (say 5-10% more riders per train) the current tunnel won’t be overcrowded.
– IMPORTANT: By proposing 2 Line transfers at Pioneer Square, the CID North option adds riders to the most crowded segment according to ST’s own projections. It makes this segment even more crowded. This is blunt evidence that ST doesn’t give a crap about overcrowding or this option would not be considered.
– Covid pushed the emerging partial-WFH trend to be much more popular than the base year data that ST is using. Those were driving a huge part of the peak hour crowding that ST has based its projections from.
“Aside from that, the shallow 5th Ave tunnel would provide adjacent transfers in the city’s mobility hub.”
This is is something I agree with. However, the issue isn’t just about the CID. It’s also about the several billions more required to build DSTT2 south of Westlake. CID is the challenge at this time — but the need for more funding will be great. Realignment already kicked the tax sunset can 5 years and that’s before the extra mitigation and property costs to build the line are fully determined.
I don’t mean to rain in your parade. I’m just pointing out the “big lies” that ST espouses get believed as truth by a segment of the public.
2-minute headways are not unusual for modern rail systems (though most of them have more crossovers so they can do service interventions). The north line has limited headways due to design decisions about ventilation between stations, and the south line has headway limits due to at-grade operation. All of these factor limit the combined headway the tunnel is likely to face, especially with downtown demand down and not coming back in the near future.
There is not an endless supply of money and construction inflation is causing every line to go over budget. Putting on blinders and charging ahead is what the cheerleaders in the engineering community want, but it’s not a sensible approach to system development. Do I expect the board to listen to any of this? I don’t – even though it’s not clear any of their stakeholders benefit from the second tunnel.
“The north line has limited headways due to design decisions about ventilation between stations”
No it doesn’t. There’s an STB article about that if my searching skills were better.
“The original plan was fully vetted. ”
Absolute nonsense. And I’ve been here all along and paying close attention.
Back in 2016 I was having a series of conversations via phone calls and emails with my late older brother about the ST3 proposal in order to help me decide on which way to vote on the measure. My brother lived in the NYC metro area (we grew up in the city) his entire life and spent the majority of his career in civil engineering. I can still hear his voice in my head today asking the same questions: “So why does your regional transit agency feel that a second tunnel thru the city’s downtown is needed?”, “Where’s the documentation with the capacity analysis?”, and finally, “Why in the world are they building a rail line over to that residential area across the bridge (West Seattle)?” I dug thru loads of documents at the time and forwarded on everything that I could. At the end of the day, his advice was this: “This is crazy, incomplete and needs further evaluation. If it were me, I’d vote no.”
Tisgwm: why West Seattle Link? Because Dow and Greg live there? SDOT controls the West Seattle bridge. We now have both the southend pathway and the South Lander Street overcrossing.
Robert, is that you? I thought that you’d been dead lo these forty-one years, with New Yorkers pissing on your grave all the while.
I guess that was just a wives’ tale, then? Or did you get a pass from Beelzebub to come back and levy some more mayhem.
We can’t bulldoze the opposition like you did [before you bulldozed their houses]. Not to mention that we can’t afford “The Plan”.
We can probably afford the West Seattle stub and Westlake to Expedia or Westlake all the way to Ballard but no West Seattle. But in no way can we afford, nor do we need, the frou-frou in the middle.
You can’t engineer around that. The Feds are not coming to the rescue.
> The original plan was fully vetted. The spine segmentation was thoroughly debated and covered.
The original plan never made much sense even in the optimistic scenario. They totally ‘forgot’ about the 99 tunnel and even tunneling under the existing transit tunnel itself. I doubt these super deep tunnel stations at Westlake/Midtown was the original idea. Or if it was the original plan then that is even worse honestly for them to propose it.
> A single tunnel limited to 4-car trains and 5-min frequency in the south line doesn’t not have sufficient capacity to meet PSRC growth projections once Tacoma is connected
Rainier Valley is already capped at 6 minute frequency, the other frequency increases can be placed on East Link or West Seattle.
> A north line limited to 4-car trains and 2.5-min frequency won’t meet PSRC growth projects in that part of the system once Everett is connected.
Why wouldn’t it meet growth projections? Even current Sound Transit projections they are planning on running Everett trains only every 10~15 minutes beyond peak time. Honestly I’d be more worried about running too little trains and too little frequency from having such a long route.
>>”The plan also stated that leadership and assertive decision-making would be necessary for the projections to occur on schedule. The STBoard just spent $600k having a consultant repeat that six years later. The previous regime and the politicians have utterly failed on that score. Had they moved briskly through scoping, the west Seattle segment would be in final design and nearing construction. Instead we’ve had endless dithering.”
Assertive decision-making is not the same as “just get it done.” The plan was flawed from the start, but the extent to which it is true was not revealed until COVID and cost increases. Why not be flexible to new information?
“Put 5th back on the table, and use a cut n cover approach to mitigate the cost and construction impacts.”
This is even less likely than using a single tunnel at this point. Going back on the things said to the CID at this point would be politically suicidal.
I realize I’ve said rhis before but ST should not be allowed to spend a single dollar on a second tunnel until thet show they can run the one they already have. In its current state eventually they will get sued for being out of compliance with ADA.
You’re again complaining about Metro’s problems.. Because AGAIN and have been pointed out to you multiple times at this point that KC Metro are the people who caused the problems within the tunnel . They deferred maintenance on the tunnel elevators and escalators for more than a decade. ST actually gave a damm and is bothering to fix the issue unlike Metro ever did when they owned the tunnel. Be mad at Metro for their shoddy stewardship of the tunnel.
No, you can’t blame Metro…. because the tunnel has always belonged to Sound Transit. Metro just used it for awhile. Of course they didn’t do any maintenance…. why would they? The tunnel belonged to Sound Transit. Metro is a bus company, they don’t have the budget to remodel tunnels that don’t belong to them.
If Sound Transit was actually run right, they would have known the tunnel was a mess and needed to fixed up the day they took possession of the damn thing. Tear out all the escalators and replace them… remodel….start over fresh.
If you buy a restaurant, you think the place won’t be beat to Hell and with big maintenance backlog? You’d have budget for that…. because the old owner took as much cash out of the place as they could before they sold it.
Metro owned the tunnel because they built the tunnel and that was who it was origionally built for back in the late 80s when it opened in 1987. It was meant to deal with bus congestion through downtown that was happening at the time along with plans for long term growth in the region.
A premetro setup was built in mind to future growth as they actually laid rail tracks down during initial construction, but didn’t come to fruition till ST came around. Sound Transit itself didnt exist till around late 93. So you can’t really pin Sound Transit on this one, as Sound Transit only took the keys to the tunnel in 2019 when they were getting ready for to transition to adding the 2 Line and WSCC bought Convention Center Station land for their expansion so having the busses being in the tunnel was made impractical. But between the creation of ST and the handover of tunnel operations to ST, Metro had basically cut costs many times throughout the years by deferring maintenance on the tunnel beyond essential or emergency repairs. Some people who have worked for Metro mentioned that was a glaring issue for the agency during the 00s and 10s, as they’ve all mentioned a clear decline in maintenance standards for the tunnel. And the money going to other projects like electric busses when badly needed repairs were being ignored.
So as you can plainly see, Metro owned the tunnel for the longest time, Sound Transit was merely a tenant within the tunnel for a decade and a half before they took full ownership of the station. And in that time Metro got cheap on tunnel maintenance.
At the end of the day l, we can complain about ST issues, but that whole tunnel maintenance fiasco is all Metro’s fault. And ST is actually bothering to fix the problem instead of ignoring it. So no, you can’t blame ST for that whole debacle.
“the tunnel has always belonged to Sound Transit. Metro just used it for awhile.”
King County built the tunnel in the 1980s, before Sound Transit existed. Metro is a county department, so whether “Metro” owned it depends on exactly what responsibilities and resources the county delegated to Metro. Sound Transit started running the 550 in the tunnel in the 1990s, and Link in 2009. ST took on part of the tunnel’s debt in proportion to its vehicles in the tunnel. It arranged to buy the tunnel for ST2, but the handover was a long time coming for some reason. So it was King County’s ownership and responsibility throughout all that. King County chose not to do major maintenance on a tunnel it was going to sell in a few years anyway, because “King County taxpayers” would not get the direct benefit of it; the benefit would go mostly to Sound Transit.
And as the Times article noted, in the 2014 recession Metro gutted everything else to keep the buses running, so that included planning and tunnel maintenance. You’d have to ask which bus runs would have been cut in 2014-2019 to fund a tunnel overhaul, and how many people would have gotten stranded due to lack of bus service. ST has a lot of spare money for capital projects and maintenance; Metro doesn’t. Metro is limited to a state-capped sales-tax rate, fares, and whatever short-term levies can be passed. The last countywide Metro levies failed; which led to Seattle’s Transit Benefit District to get some improvement in bus service.
Zach B: Constantine became Exec in January 2009.
The DSTT was built by Metro; in opened in fall 1990. Metro merged into King County in the mid-1990s. Sound Move was in 1996; then, we knew that LRT would eventually be placed in the DSTT. In 2001, ST decided to build Link south-first, placing great pressure on downtown Seattle to handle more buses. The DSTT was closed for Link retrofit between fall 2005 and fall 2007. King County sold CPS to the WSCC and ended bus service in the DSTT prematurely in March 2019.
If we’re going to build a DSTT2, then it should provide at least as much coverage as DSTT1- and ideally more- and it should provide solid transfers to DSTT1. It’s looking as though both of those conditions will not be met with the developing DSTT2 plans- instead DSTT2 is looking much worse than DSTT1- so we need an engineering assessment of using DSTT1 to provide the service that was planned for DSTT2.
There are four basic reasons to build a second tunnel: capacity, redundancy, coverage, and system expansion.
DSTT1 should be able to handle at least 30 trains per hour, which translates to one train every 6 minutes from each of the southern branches. Going much higher than that would likely require upgrading the branches themselves (e.g. grade separating Rainier Valley), so I don’t see DSTT1 capacity as a major concern over the ST3 time frame.
It would be nice to have a second tunnel for redundancy when DSTT1 needs repairs, upgrades, or there is a blockage in the tunnel, but we can (imperfectly) handle this with buses, so unless DSTT2 provides some other capability, I don’t see this as a deciding factor when we have so many other needs for transit expansion.
DSTT2 provides less coverage than DSTT1. If it featured First Hill or Belltown stations, it might be worthwhile to build even in the absence of a CID station, but as it is, the new tunnel is much less useful than the old one.
This leaves system expansion. The Ballard/SLU Link branch needs effective connections to the rest of the Link system, and it’s not obvious if/how that would work with deferring DSTT2. This is what we need an actual engineering study to figure out.
As it stands now, it’s looking like building DSTT2 with the emerging plans would spend a lot of money to get less than we got with DSTT1 and we’d be locking in those limitations not just for our lifetimes, but we’ll be limiting future generations as well. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but DSTT2 won’t even meet the bar of being good.
I think that as the city of Seattle grows we will want and need a second Downtown tunnel, but I think DSTT1 provides enough capacity for the next couple decades and we can defer DSTT2 until we’re building new Link lines that will necessitate more capacity than DSTT1 can provide.
Redundancy only matters if you can reroute from one line to the other in case of a disruption, and there’s no plan for that. Coverage is at odds with frequency, and only works well if transfers between lines are convenient. And I’m going to hope and expect that any future system expansions will tie the system together outside the downtown. When this system is done it will be harder yet to get across town.
That’s one way of handling redundancy, and when we get a second tunnel, it would be ideal if we could re-route trains between tunnels in the event of one tunnel going down. But I was thinking of people being able to use the other line to get further north or south to get closer to their destination, then transferring to buses that take them the rest of the way.
For example, if DSTT2 was built and you’re downtownish and trying to get to the U-District, but the 1 line goes down, you could use DSTT2 to get to Ballard, then take the 44 to the U-District.
I don’t think that scenarios like this are sufficient reason to build the DSTT2 now (especially with the developing plans), but having a second N/S tunnel would have advantages when one tunnel goes down..
There are very few scenarios where the redundant tunnel actually saves you time though. Consider your example. Yes, you could go to Ballard and take the 44. But you could also just take the 70 (which will eventually be RapidRide). For that matter, if there was a shutdown, they can run buses, in which case they run expresses via the freeway, which would be faster. That is certainly the case with West Seattle and the East Side. I just don’t see many scenarios where it saves you much. Maybe as a fast way to get to SoDo, if they are turning back trains there, but guess what? There is a busway that goes right there.
If our goal is resiliency, then what makes the most sense is for Ballard to be a completely different line, extended through First Hill, with stops at Judkins Park and Mount Baker. That actually provides a major “detour” through downtown, if you will, instead of the old plans, which only detour through a tiny section.
ST is not designing the SODO segment to make platform switching or line switching possible for trains.
Any other system would put 2 northbound tracks on one side and 2 southbound tracks on the other side adjacent to each other. In contrast, ST is preferring a northbound-southbound-northbound-southbound configuration.
The ST design engineers and their paid consultant helpers are really hard-headed and amateurish. They may know how to design a track but they don’t know how to design a resilient operation.
Mo, Al, “most other systems” would look at the possible future ridership for West Seattle and the limitations on headways in the Rainier Valley and say, “Just run them on the existing tracks.”
They probably wouldn’t even overpass Lander and Holgate, though I would recommend it for reliability.
It’s time for a revote on ST3. If we can’t do it right, we shouldn’t do it at all.
We were able to kill the monorail, it is time to kill ST3.
And we should, because stuffing all the lines into the existing tunnel is short sighted (not my first choice of words!).
If there is a ST 3 revote it should be N KC subarea only. Subarea contribution to DSTT2 should be eliminated and Seattle voters should vote on the one issue: WSBLE/DSTT2, and the necessary levy funding (or local LID) for all the different alternatives. Ask Seattle voters what they want to pay for, if anything.
Maybe they want a shallow 4th Ave. station and midtown station but surface stations in Ballard and WS when those communities’ voters understand how much it will cost each one of them to go underground or along 20th. Right now the problem is WSBLE is other people’s money.
If you include the four other subareas in the vote today it is certain a ST 3 revote would fail when ironically their ST 3 projects are decent since we have extended the spine to FW and Lynnwood.
This has nothing to do with the other subareas AS LONG as they use DSTT1 (which all of KC paid for) and have no subarea contribution to a second tunnel. This would focus Seattle voters’ minds.
The rest of ST 3 is not terrible if not great transit based on dollar per rider mile. If we are going to spend the money to run Link to Lynnwood and FW we might as well continue to Everett and Tacoma (probably with a little help from other subareas) since those extensions are not underground.
Sounder S improvements will likely get cut without revoting on ST 3. Same with Sounder N. Redmond Link was good if we were going to Microsoft anyway. 405 Stride like most Eastside transit looks like a good (surface) project dollar per rider mile. Issaquah Link is bad although affordable at $4.5 billion (although twice the length of WSBLE at 1/4 the cost) and hopefully E KC will redirect those funds that were just the result of uniform tax rates to hopefully complete WSBLE and nowhere else to put Link in E KC.
The scorn at the one tunnel or interlining proposal misses a couple critical points:
1. It is still better than the proposals for DSTT2 with a real estate deal masquerading as a mega station and no midtown station. Subareas should not be fighting over who has to use the NEW tunnel.
2. DSTT2 is not affordable just like WSBLE. The reality is one way or the other a vote in N KC will be necessary to raise the additional funding to complete WSBLE so might as well ask voters what parts they want to pay for in the same ballot a la carte, probably by LID.
I know Lazarus was being facetious about a “revote” but I am not because a vote will be necessary anyway in N KC to raise the additional funds to complete WSBLE. So find out what each neighborhood wants to fund (although we can guess at the vote in the CID).
I’m not sure if there is any way to have a revote. If there was, it would be the exact same area, and people would be given the exact same choice as before (yes or no). There would be people like me, saying vote “no” so we can build something better, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the vote went exactly like last time. The debate was largely about whether you support or oppose big transit plans, transit spending in general, or Sound Transit spending not whether the plan itself was worthy. You could put any transit plan on the ballot and have similar levels of support (or opposition) in those communities. There might be a few additional people in opposition, but my guess is it be similar.
Except in this case, a vote no would be to continue ST3 as-is, just like a no vote in 2016 would have meant ST1/2 continued unchanged.
I guess it ultimately comes down to how the proposition put on the ballot is structured.
ST3 got 54% support in 2016, down from 58% for ST2 in 2008, in spite of the Puget Sound region generally shifting to the left over those same 8 years, in spite of the fact that UW and Capitol Hill Link stations had just opened, and overall trust in ST was as high as it was ever going to get.
The only reason for support for sound transit to drop between 2008 and 2016 is that the best lines were already funded from ST2 and ST3 was worse. So, yes, I think there are voters for whom a transit project is not just a straight up left vs. right issue like Democrat vs. Republican. If there were an ST3 revote, a similar drop in support from ST2 to ST3 would be all it would take to make it fail, and I do think it would easily fail. And that’s not even getting into anger over the car tabs leading Pierce and Snohomish County to vote for I-976.
Of course, ST3 should not just be cancelled in its entirety. Link extensions already under construction should continue, and the STRIDE lines should also open as planned. But, one could hypothetically imagine a ballot measure that significantly reduces ST3 taxes in return for shelving the ST3 rail projects that haven’t begun construction yet. The money that Pierce has saved up for a portion of Link to Tacoma can be given to Pierce Transit so that the basic bus service can run more frequently, something that Tacoma sorely needs.
Or course, the ST board has too much pride to actually propose something like this. But, that might be what it would take for the agency to regain trust with the electorate.
Also, for what it’s worth, I voted for ST3 in spite of, not because of DSTT2. I never believed the argument that DSTT2 was necessary, I just felt that if any transit expansions were going to happen, this would be the only shot for a long time, and if that meant funding a few wasteful projects to get some good ones (Link to Redmond and Ballard), so be it.
Knowing what I know now, I likely would have voted differently. Even if ST3 had failed, they would have eventually come back with something smaller that would have still included the best parts of it.
ST cannot cut taxes until the current bond are paid off (as those bonds have covenants that require the taxes to exist), so a “cancel ST3” pitch would be to ask the voters to keep paying the exact same tax rates for ~30 years.
AJ, if ST suspended construction on all ST3 project which have not yet commenced, they couldn’t stop collecting the taxes until all projects already underway were finished, but that certainly wouldn’t be the entire term of the original tax authorization. There wouldn’t be so much principal to pay down.
I was not being facetious. It is time for a revote on ST3.
Our leaders are rudderless on how to proceed, and stuffing all lines into DSLRT1 is a non-starter. Just kill ST3.
We killed the monorail. Let’s kill ST3 too.
The monorail was a Seattle project so a Seattle initiative was able to kill it. There’s no voting district the size of ST except the ST district itself, and the ST board controls votes on that. City and county districts are too small. A statewide initiative might be able to modify ST3, but there are two major issues: a statewide initiative may not be able to override a regional tax vote, and you don’t want people Clark County and Eastern Washington getting involved in Pugetopolis transit because they’d gut all of it and redirect the money to their freeways or a tax cut for them.
When people say revote they usually mean modifying ST3, not just confirming it or canceling it entirely. ST3 includes good things like the three Stride lines and 130th Station: any modification should preserve those.
ST could put up a vote to modify ST3 anytime it likes. It would have to be the entire ST district, not just North King, and the tax rate would have to be the same in all subareas. Because it’s a single tax district, not five.
It’s time for a revote on ST3. If we can’t do it right, we shouldn’t do it at all.
There were never any plans to “do it right”. It is just that things have gotten a little bit worse over time. The Ballard Line was never going to serve the heart of Ballard, but at least it was going to get reasonable close, and be fairly cheap. Now both seem unlikely. Various lines like West Seattle, Issaquah, Tacoma Dome and Everett were flawed from the beginning. Plans are just highlighting how less likely people are to get much benefit from them (and the issues that inevitably come up with new construction).
Finally, building a second tunnel with no additional coverage downtown was never “doing it right”. It was a very poorly conceived idea. It assumed ridiculously low building costs, and ridiculously good stations and transfers. Putting all the lines into the existing tunnel would be a huge improvement. It would save a huge amount of money, and be much better for riders. Whether that means that ST3 would then be worth it or not is a completely different issue.
If we save a lot of money by not building DSTT2, then ST3’s total construction cost goes down and the taxes would be rolled back earlier. Then we can decide in a 2030s ST4 vote whether to pursue the second tunnel after all, do something else instead, or do nothing. I of course would suggest something else instead. It would then have to be balanced with whatever the other subareas want at that time.
Mike, ST is still estimating DSTT2 at $2.2 billion with $1.1 billion from the four other subareas although the cost estimate for WSBLE has risen 300% since 2016. So cancelling DSTT2 is, on paper, a tiny percentage of ST 3 and dwarfed by the cost increase in WSBLE. (although the actual DSTT2 project cost is closer to $4.2 billion)
I think ST 4 is unlikely because the lost peak voter, who is the swing voter at least on the Eastside, will vote no, especially when they learn about the realignment extending taxes five years without their consent or even knowledge. They just are paying zero attention to transit these days. It means nothing to their lives.
Same reason I think a revote on ST 3 would fail. East KC is the swing vote and we are HAPPY East Link has been delayed another 3 years. Redmond Link is done and could have easily been paid for with ST 2 funds. Issaquah Link was just a concept in 2016. Eastsiders won’t vote for that when they understand it If transit advocates on this blog universally think that project is stupid so would ordinary eastsiders when they understand it.
Somewhere, somehow, someplace, someone is going to have to vote for more revenue — billions — if DSTT2 and WSBLE are going to get built in any design. The someone is N KC (Seattle). The somehow will be some kind of levy or LID although I doubt Harrell would allow a SB5528 levy on the ballot and don’t think ST can float a subarea specific levy. ST is hinting at a LID for Bellevue but the mechanism to get that on a ballot I don’t know. Because without a LID the only option is 14th and maybe surface.
My whole point since I joined this blog is N KC cannot afford WSBLE based on its subarea revenue, especially with stations at 130th and Graham St., or a $700 million station on 4th, or even with $400 million captured from worthless vacant buildings , or eliminating any midtown station.
It is interesting to me that transit folks on this blog ignore this. They just don’t think whether something is affordable is relevant, even when revenue is subarea specific and limited by levy. They just always think someone else’s money will magically appear because it is transit.
LID for Ballard not Bellevue.
I think we’ve been pretty consisting in supporting most of the cheaper West Seattle options (not including gondolas) because they happen to be better for the rider experience, and make expansion more feasible. Electeds have preferred to support current neighbor interests over future rider interests, at great expense, as you know.
It took until the second thread in the comments for Martin to say the quiet part out loud of why not all lines can be interlined into DSTT1:
The Ballard line could be a separate tunnel underneath Westlake so that it could be extended later. Escalators could connect to the existing platform or mezzanine. That way the disruption to the existing line could be minimized.
Sans interlining Ballard Link into DSTT1, his proposal is not really a proposal to upgrade the existing tunnel to allow interlining of all lines through the existing tunnel.
The two are independent: you can do one or both.
Is there an actual study of interlining Ballard Link into DSTT1?
Brent, if you want to interline Ballard, then you could stick with the current plan: run the Tacoma trains to Ballard. But you wouldn’t get the higher frequency/longer operating hours automated trains would provide.
It wouldn’t require more trains in DSTT1 but the capacity to UW would be reduced.
Brent: there must be something ST hasn’t made public. Apparently one of the meetings talked of having to increase ventilation capacity, signal system sophistication and add platform space. They must have done some sort of rudimentary study to have that response.
None of those seem that big a deal. Platform capacity could be added with center platforms. Adding ventilation would have to be done to the second tunnel, so it doesn’t seem like surface space is out of the question for DSTT1.
There might be some sort of fatal flaw they didn’t mention.
Can STB do a FOIA request of ST and see what’s they have or haven’t done?
My questions is about engineering feasibility, not passenger capacity. How would the Ballard tracks connect to the Westlake tracks?
STB did a FOIA on the proposal to extend then-route 38 (MLK from RBS to MBTS) to the ID. The cost for the FOIA was not cheap.
If enough individuals and groups with enough money burning holes in their pockets wants to do an FOIA on various (well-defined) aspects of the DSTT2 and related topics, …
No, we want ST to study it.
There’s been a lot of talk here about making the Ballard line a stub line with frequent short automated trains.
What about doing the same for Everett? The ridership on the section of the line north of Lynnwood isn’t particularly good, and really doesn’t seem to justify 4 car trains.
This would be something akin to Chicago Transit Authority’s Skokie Swift line: a separate line sized to fit the ridership. Unlike the Skokie Swift, you could probably run it as far as Northgate over the existing line to an expanded station there.
This gives capacity in the tunnel for Ballard trains as well as running the 1 line as it does now, and not interfering with anyone’s current trip pattern.
Then, don’t build West Seattle Link at all. It’s too disruptive to the existing travel patterns.
Glenn, yes, in https://seattletransitblog.com/2023/03/16/how-id-pivot-st3-post-covid-and-mitigate-the-cid-conundrum/ we discussed Everett alternatives using automated trains.
The only reason I see to build Everett Station Link as a stub line is because ST lacks the foresight to build a split north of Mariner Station. But Everett electeds are determined to have Everett Station connect to Paine Field by rail, prioritizing it over commuters trying to get to Seattle (which is a dwindling ridership).
The Paine Field connection would not only serve Everetters, but all the population north from Marysville to Mt Vernon trying to get to the nearest international airport.
Mode split at Seatac has been low. I don’t see Paine Field will be better. Most people who can afford travelling by air also own a car. They often have luggage. Would they want to take a bus from Mt Vernon to Everett to take Link to Paine Field?!? Airport workers might want to do that, but they most likely live closer to Everett.
Those are points to raise with Everett electeds. I have no dog in this fight. And sorry to veer off your post’s topic.
Martin is exactly correct. Plane travelers, save business types leaving from downtown or students from the U District, do not take the train to the airport.
You’re forgetting the people who are asking their friends and family members to drive them to the airport.
They might be just as likely to say “Forget it! I’ll take you to the Light Rail station, though.”
This is why the whole DSTT2 issue is concerning from a transit user perspective, whatever option is chosen, it needs to be seamless.
I use Link almost all the time now, since I’m not being as big of a nudzh to my loved ones.
I’m proposing the turnback for Everett Link be at Northgate though, as that reduces the train throughput in the DSTT, while also dealing with the operator break needs.
This wouldn’t be that different from the current 512, which also runs Northgate to Everett. I don’t see how this would interfere with anyone traveling north of Northgate, and the Eastside trains would still go through to Lynnwood for those wanting a one seat ride through the north end.
Basically you exchange the slot in the timetable from a 4 car Tacoma Dome train to a 2 car Everett train (or 3 car if it needs it) at Northgate. If designed right, it could just be an across the platform connection.
6% arrival by Link, as of 2018.
Report says primary barrier to transit use to SeaTac is travel time relative to cars, and service frequency/reliability.
(Above in response to Brent’s “The only reason I see to build Everett Station Link as a stub line is because ST lacks the foresight to build a split north of Mariner Station.” comment)
Would a Paine Field Link station even serve Paine itself, or would it simply serve a deserted transit center somewhere near Paine Field requiring a half hourly shuttle bus to get from the train station to the actual terminal?
If the latter (which I suspect it will be), taking the train to the airport starts to become a real chore. We should count ourselves lucky that Link actually serves SeaTac directly vs. an alternative where TIBS is branded as the “airport” stop and everybody has to wait for shuttle buses. In that would, I’m sure Link’s modeshare would be well under 6%.
veering off topic…
asdf2, I share that concern. The currently discussed route for both Boeing and Paine Field offers several station locations. None would serve the Seaway Transit Center at Boeing’s main entrance or Paine Field.
I would rather have Link go straight to Everett and a shuttle bus which serves both directly. If the shuttle gets busy, you can replace it with a APM or gondola stub kind of like they just did for London Luton https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-64919546
The Urbanist has a rundown of the various Everett Link station proposals: https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/03/03/everett-link-extension-station-options/. To your point, it doesn’t look good. The closest station to the terminal is on 94th street, “a full six blocks north of the street that leads to the passenger terminal”. So we are looking at shuttle buses not only to the various (mostly Boeing) job centers in the area, but to the airport terminal as well.
I was never very optimistic about Everett Link, but I’ve become increasingly pessimistic. The best stations are those that are better connected to Lynnwood via the freeway (e. g. downtown Everett). This means that very few will save a significant amount of time. Overall, ridership will be low, as it is for the buses in the area. Spending a huge amount of money to run trains that get ridership similar to mediocre suburban buses is not a good idea.
Regarding your proposal to have a turnback at Northgate:
Sure, it is nice to move same-platform transfers out of downtown, to somewhere with a nice view. That might help reduce at-platform dwell time in the tunnel.
However, this really doesn’t reduce the number of trains passing through the tunnel per hour.
Consider the RapidRide C/D line before and after it was split. Now, twice as many RapidRide C or D buses pass through downtown per hour.
I still contend that it is faster to switch operators somewhere near downtown (with the new one boarding before the station at which the two swap) than to make everyone who is travelling from somewhere south of downtown to somewhere north, or vice versa, all have to get out of the train downtown and get back on another train. The fewer riders who have to transfer downtown, the shorter the dwell time, the higher the train throughput of the tunnel.
I still see East Link to Ballard Link as a better throughline than East Link to Lynnwood Link, as most of the ridership on the latter line will turn over downtown, or just skip downtown on a more direct bus. East to Ballard requires no mid-line operator switch. West Seattle to Everett requires no mid-line operator switch. Only Tacoma to Everett does, and ST can learn how to do it.
In essence, ST is forcing the second tunnel with bad line pairings to maximize downtown transfers, and thereby balloon platform dwell time.
Of course, East to Ballard would still require that engineering plan to connect Ballard to DSTT1, or East connecting to DSTT2 on the south end of downtown. That option should be built into any DSTT2 plan.
I seriously doubt many people are going to drive all the way from Marysville and Mt. Vernon, park in a (presumably paid) lot in Everett, then take the train the last few miles to Paine Field. Perhaps some workers in the Boeing area would, but then they’d likely still face dealing with “last mile” shuttles.
Honestly I wouldn’t expect many people coming from north of the Snohomish River to park in Everett to get the train even to Seatac airport. This would be a very long ride, quite possibly with an annoying transfer situation in downtown Seattle. Airport employees might, but it’s such a long commute that I’m not sure how many Seatac employees live in Marysville and points north.
“Consider the RapidRide C/D line before and after it was split. Now, twice as many RapidRide C or D buses pass through downtown per hour.”
That’s the exact opposite of what I propose though. The C/D split is what ST is proposing now.
On the current line, ridership tapers off north of UW. I propose Northgate as a turnback because it doesn’t look like you really need full line capacity north of there.
The need shrinks to almost nothing north of Lynnwood, so it’s more appropriate to run them as two car trains.
You may be splitting a very few trips, but they are trips currently already split at Northgate. Far, far fewer trips would be split by this than the current DSTT2 plan.
However this [turning back at Northgate] really doesn’t reduce the number of trains passing through the tunnel per hour.
I don’t think anyone said it did. This is just a logical turnback spot. Imagine trains are running every 7.5 minutes from Rainier Valley, West Seattle and Redmond. They all combine downtown to run every 2.5 minute. This 2.5 minute frequency continues past Capitol Hill and the UW (what is really the core of our system). This continues to Northgate. At that point, the train from the Tacoma Dome stops. North of there, the trains run an alternating schedule (2.5, 5, 2.5, 5, etc.). If someone is trying to get from Rainier Valley to Lynnwood, they have their choice of transfer location — any station between Northgate and CID (inclusive). Relatively few people are actually taking that trip*.
Now imagine the trains are running every ten minutes from Rainier Valley, West Seattle and Redmond. This means the trains combine to run every 3 minutes 20 seconds from CID to Northgate. North of there, the trains run an alternating schedule (3′ 20″, 6′ 40″). This means that if you just miss a train, there is the possibility you have to wait 6 minutes and 40 seconds for the next one. Not ideal, but not terrible either, considering where you are (at the fringes of the city). You could make the case that that the turnaround spot should be just a bit farther north (at 145th) but unfortunately, we don’t have a turnback there. It also seems possible to run trains from Lynnwood to the Tacoma Dome. That might be stretching it from a driver perspective (and a ridership perspective). But if they did, Lynnwood would be thrilled.
* With trains from Redmond, West Seattle and the Tacoma Dome all going to Northgate, there wouldn’t be that many transfers along the main line. The trip to the Ballard line is a lot more common. The current plans don’t change that much. The current plans would have some people staying on the train through downtown, but most of the Ballard/Uptown ridership would come from the north, or from the east (Redmond, Bellevue) and southwest (West Seattle). This means that the Westlake transfer is important under the current plan, just as it is important if we send all the trains to Northgate.
Ross: don’t forget I’m also suggesting a No Build option for West Seattle. It’s a hell of a lot of money to make the existing situation worse. So, you get extra capacity for more Line 1 and 2 trains in the tunnel. I just don’t picture this:
as needing 4 car trains every 4-6 minutes. Not only does it consume space in the tunnel better used by Rainier Valley – Northgate trains, operating it with 4 car trains consumes a hell of a lot of unnecessary equipment hours.
“you have to wait 6 minutes and 40 seconds for the next one. Not ideal, but not terrible either, ”
Especially when the current proposed transfer is everyone from Rainier Valley going north of downtown needs to spend some 13 minutes riding 9 floors of escalators, and probably missing at least one connection in the process. Getting off and getting back on at the same platform, for the portion of the Rainier Valley passengers going further than Northgate, is a huge improvement over that.
If you make sure that all the Rainier Valley trains are immediately followed by a train going as far north as possible (weather that be Everett on Line 3 with the current ST concept or Lynnwood on Line 2 with my truncated Everett concept) the transfers become almost nothing.
Glenn, if WS doesn’t get built, then you have two options: either just run two lines: 1 Line to Northgate and 2 Line to Everett every 8min or introduce a 3 Line which turns around at the SODO OMF going to Everett, too. The latter would use the timing Ross suggested.
Evertt electeds are not try to reach Paine Field Airport. They want it to go to Boeing which is where most of the jobs in Snohomish County are.
None of the proposed stations are to be near the airport but they are considering running a shuttle bus between the airport and the nearest station.
I haven’t seen any answers to this question.
Under the original plan to build a 2nd tunnel the current line from points south would have to skip stadium station, before ending up at CID.
With the plan to skip CID and build a station near Pioneer Square for transfers does this mean that the line would still skip Stadium Station?
I haven’t heard anything to the contrary so I think it does.
What this means is that everyone from the south end loses all access to the stadiums, loses access to CID, loses access to University Street Station, and loses access to the potential station at midtown.
It would retain access to Pioneer Square, and for everyone ballgame us southenders would have to transfer at SODO (which should be in the same direction but apparently won’t be!), or the new Pioneer Square Station.
umm… Can they think of anything else to inconvenience us?
Use the ‘development money Dow and Harrell are talking about to build the shallower damn thing at CID, or, even better, interline everything through the existing tunnel. I want Dow and Harrell out of office asap if their plan is what we all end up with.
correct, jas, none of the 2nd tunnel options would serve the Stadium station. With the North CID station ST also introduced a South CID station option. Dow/Bruce endorsed building both of these. I guess you could walk from the South CID station to the stadium under the I-90 onramp, which is worse than the current Stadium station, but more than the 4th Ave or SODO station would provide. If you stick with the current tunnel, the 1 Line would stop both at Stadium and CID.
Adding a second Stadium Station would cost money, but be pretty trivial to do. This whole notion of magically interlining Ballard into DSTT1, or building a stub line with its own base that wasn’t part of ST3 is much more expensive.
“This whole notion of magically interlining Ballard into DSTT1, or building a stub line with its own base that wasn’t part of ST3 is much more expensive.”
Given the wildly higher price tag and rider hostile station layouts for the current scheme, the options should be at least be studied and not flippantly dismissed.
If your own cost of living doubles overnight and your home ends up in a much less convenient layout because of a project, considering another approach is the adult thing to do. Only a brat would pout (“I want a second Oompa Loompa tunnel and I want it now!”) about changing plans.
“umm… Can they think of anything else to inconvenience us?”
Under the current circumstances, you probably don’t want to ask this question too loudly. You might wind up with 9 sets of separate elevators to accompany the 9 sets of escalators at Westlake.
> Under the original plan to build a 2nd tunnel the current line from points south would have to skip stadium station, before ending up at CID.
Under the existing representative plan, yes the 1 line (heading north from Seatac) would skip stadium station and head to CID where you’d need to backtrack.
To be fair under the new proposal of a North of CID (aka Pioneer Square 2) and South of CID (aka Stadium 2 station) you could just get off at near the Salvation Army Sodo Shelter. (In this alternative proposal there is no chinatown nor midtown station)
I think that the “south CID” station siting (which would be build in the “North and South of CID” and the “South of CID” alternative plans) would be close enough to the stadiums to walk. source with map:
All this just to give direction for an FEIS.
Nah. This is one of the shorter threads STB has had on the topic of Link track and station placement.
I meant all the political hand wringing, the full year of delay on the board’s input on the DEIS, the vitriol online, and opinion pieces in the broadsheets.
It’s the Bellevue Tunnel all over again, but Bertha-sized.
Can someone please explain how the 100+ year old NY subway can run trains every minute while the DSTT can’t do the same? Presuming a budget to update the signals.
There is space between downtown stations for one train to be moving two other at the next and precious stations are loading and unloading. It doesn’t take 60 seconds to load/unload.
One each southbound to Tacoma, West Seattle, and Bellevue, each every 6 minutes is 2 minutes between trains, not one, leaving what seems to be more than enough time and space in the single tunnel.
A,B,C same tracks through the middle of Manhattan
1,2,3 same tracks through the middle of Manhattan
4,5,6 same tracks through the middle of Manhattan
All operated with signal systems that didn’t have the sophistication of ATC for most of their 100 year plus history.
It’s surreal when ST says three lines can’t fit — especially when one of those line branches (West Seattle) is projected to carry only about 26K riders a day and won’t need a train every six minutes — and West Seattle is not proposed for significant population increases compared to other parts of Seattle.
It is surreal, absolutely. On the one hand, ST admits in writing, they could just do these cheap and easy things that have been done worldwide for over a century, and we could have 1.5 minute headways in the current tunnel.
At the same time, they claim (explicitly or implicitly) that 2.5 minute headways cannot work (which is true if they simultaneously choose to underinvest in the current tunnel) and thus DSTT2 is needed for capacity.
It’s easy to envision 2 minute headways, which would work just fine for 6 minute service to West Seattle, whether they need it or not, and 6 minute service to places like the Beacon Hill tunnel which probably do need it at peak. A schedule with 6 minute headways is a little easier to grok than three lines at 2.5, and lower headways are better in a system with a lot of transfers. The West Seattle trains that would be merging in would be coming from a short, grade-separated stub line, which should be easy to slot in reliably.
It’s just so easy to imagine this working so much better than what ST is planning for less money, lower impact and a better rider experience through the year 2100 that it seems like a civic tragedy that even the ST Board seems blissfully unaware of what seems so obvious and virtually self-evident to many of us. Are we really about to kneecap our regional transit system in order to bail out a couple of imperiled blocks of downtown in public ownership that will bounce back eventually one way or another? ST Board can sit there and allow people to speak, but they are not prepared to hear any truths that don’t support their own plans.
“At the same time, they claim (explicitly or implicitly) that 2.5 minute headways cannot work (which is true if they simultaneously choose to underinvest in the current tunnel) and thus DSTT2 is needed for capacity.”
That’s not what ST said. It said the DSTT currently can handle only handle 3-minute frequency without unreliability and train bunching, but it could do capital improvements to raise that frequency to 1.5 minutes. It also said the Westlake-Northgate tunnel can handle 1.5 minute frequency, contrary to earlier rumors it couldn’t, because when it eliminated a ventilation shaft it split the fire zone to compensate.
The ST3 candidate project list had a project to build DSTT2 and another to upgrade DSTT1. ST selected the first and deselected the second. It never said upgrading DSTT1 to 2 minutes or 1.5 minutes wouldn’t work: it just wanted the second tunnel because it wanted it.
There is an argument for redundancy, so that if one tunnel breaks you can still have some service in the other one. I supported the second tunnel for that reason and for potential additional lines later. But the downtown transfers are so bad that it hinders half the trip pairs, and that necessitates another alternative.
To be fair, NYC’s subway system has the advantage of a set of separate express tracks, so the lines running express can *pass* the ones running local.
I should still suspect three lines cab be managed through, what, we’re talking three stations in a straight line here? University Street/”Symphony,” Pioneer, and Chinatown? (SoDo and Stadium would be only two lines). Perhaps they have to run slower through downtown for safety considerations, but that would be worth it if the alternative is very poor transfers and backtracking stations in the other tunnel!
Thank you Mike Orr for the clarifications on what ST has said and has not.
Having two tunnels seems to be perceived as more resilient than one, but we now understand they come with onerous transfers. They also mean double (or just 1.5x in this case?) the number of stations that need systems and supervision and maintenance, plus, now, all the connecting corridors and vertical conveyances, with which ST unfortunately has an abysmal record thus far, inherited legacy systems notwithstanding. All of this guarantees that every transfer kind of sucks all the time instead of only when things go wrong.
I sound like some kind of curmudgeon! But really, I just want the systems to work well and be efficient. That is achieved by doing what this post suggests.
Can someone also explain how NYC subway system was built? Periodically, we vote to expand our Sound Transit system. I can’t imagine NYC had a series of ballot measures spanning its 150 year existence to expand their system. Also, looking at a video of how it spread, it seems like they had carte blanche to go wherever they wanted to go.
NYC, like London and Paris, wasn’t a public project. It was a series of private companies that competed against each other for traffic for decades, until they finally realized the network of routes had more value as a unified whole.
Unlike London and Paris, once the MTA was formed in NYC, expansion slowed and then stopped for decades. See the story about expansion to LGA to see that NYC’s public process doesn’t work either.
I highly suggest “The Race Underground” by Doug Most, for a history on the highly competitive private construction of NYC’s elevated-then-underground rail system – especially the work to put it underground at the turn of the century. The book frames the story as a competition between NYC and Boston for the first electrified subway system in the USA, with some fun explanation of London’s use of coal-fueled trains in their Underground in the late 1800’s.
Extremely fast, extremely dangerous, and the kind of work that would be simply impossible to complete in our modern litigious society.
More illuminating, I think, is comparison to NYC’s strained efforts to expand the system after it was integrated into NYCTA/NYMTA, in competition with Robert Moses’ freeways and white flight.
New York is extremely lucky that it got its subway system built 100+ years ago, because building more than a tiny fraction of it in today’s environment would have been impossible. Look at how many billions they had to spend just to extend the 2nd Ave. subway a mile or two northward.
I used to think that we were at least partially lucky that we built our system later than other cities because it let us learn from others what to do, and what not to do. It turns out that didn’t happen at all.
While the engineering for getting all the lines from the south/southeast into DSTT1 is trivial (ignoring capacity issues), I have not seen any engineering plan for getting Ballard Link into the DSTT1 at Westlake.
There hasn’t been any because ST hasn’t considered it. That’s why I think we should give ST a easier option as a fallback, a Ballard-Westlake line. That way it could decide in the 2030s whether/how to extend it further, and we’ll see what actual ridership is then and whether it’s approaching capacity. Covid has certainly altered travel patterns, and while I don’t believe the extreme that nobody will take transit anymore, the long-term reduction is clearly higher than zero, and ST needs to address that with a realistic estimate. It was always iffy whether a single tunnel would reach capacity, with different experts reaching different conclusions. And if it does reach a little overcrowding, there are short-term mitigations like adding a few express buses while we decide on a better long-term solution than untransferable stations.
There is no real need to connect Ballard Link to DSTT1. If we were going to make that connection, we should have done it during the Convention Center expansion and East Link related tunnel closure. But we don’t really need it.
There is a need to get Ballard Link as far as Westlake. I assume we’d need a tail track to turn around.
Ballard Link is better implemented as a separate, driverless system at smaller scale (half length trains at double frequency?) but due to the stub nature of the line, Ballard Link to Westlake would need a distinct maintenance base even if it’s the same LRT vehicles Link uses (which ST would surely prefer.)
Whatever the separate maintenance base costs, it’s got to be way cheaper than DSTT2. And Interbay provides the perfect space to host it – how could anybody object to a Sound Transit train yard next to a BNSF train yard?
The savings can be used to make the Ballard line more useful in Ballard itself, like having a station on 15th Ave., rather than 14th. That seems more important than a one seat ride to the south end of downtown. After all, with three lines to connect to in DSTT1, the wait time for the connection will be almost nothing, probably less than time it would take to descend the escalators. And with many northend riders getting off at Westlake, the capacity on the trains will be there for Ballard riders continuing south.
And asdf2 Wins the Intertubes on March 20, 2023!
I will say that you might want to ask the BNSF train yard how IT feels having a bunch of effete liberal — probably “woke” — passenger cars! parked next to a broad-shouldered, Red State crossin’ freight yard.
Two tunnels is essential, we need the redundancy. How often is line 1 closed due to issues? You need two tunnels. Has anyone lived in a city with more than one tunnel? It means things keep working. Every city has issues with their lines, either people causing disruption, flooding, electrical problems, disabled train.
I don’t like the thinking that’s happening here. Politicians seem to feel the CID has the power here and is letting them say no. The readers here see the Pioneer square interchange as less than optimal so say no. Thus people conclude, let’s have one tunnel. This progression of thinking is wrong. You are going to let people get away with designing something and not having to build it. They will gladly cut the work! We have to hold them to a better design, because people will cancel projects if they’ve already been paid. Then you’ll end up with a single tracked stub line or some nightmare.
There is no plan to enable trains to switch between the two tunnels at Westlake. There ought to be, for the reasons you state.
There can’t be such an interchange. The tunnels will be at 90 degrees at Westlake. True redundancy would require an interchange track in each of the northwest and southeast quadrants of the crossing, and there are deep building foundations blocking both.
Such interchange tracks, if they could be added, would necessarily be quite steep as well, since the trackways in the two tunnel pairs have to be at least thirty feet vertically separated in order to allow for the tunnel curvature, walls and catenary space.
Thank you for explaining why Ballard Link can’t be interlined into DSTT1, and why a Ballard stub line would need its own base.
Brent, I probably was too didactic about the northwest quadrant connection. It’s actually possible to have a single track connection from Ballard-Downtown to the southbound Spine Track at Third and Pine, if Ballard-Downtown isn’t too deep.
It would require a fairly long connection tunnel that went north under Third to Stewart, turned into the Stewart ROW to Westlake and then curved north to merge with the southbound track there. The oblique intersections and the fact that the southbound track is pretty close to the western curb line under Third Avenue would make the curve at Stewart doable, even with the narrow right of way of the street. So in all honesty, it would be possible to have an alternate path for southbound Ballard-Downtown trains if DSTT2 is built (including this connection) and gets blocked someday.
The thing is, though, that ST would never build that connection in a thousand years unless Ballard-Downtown is built as a stub, and the connection is required to move the cars on the stub to Forest Street for heavy maintenance (e.g. remotoring, wheel grinding, electrical system rebuilds, etc). But if Ballard-Downtown is built as a stub at Westlake, ipso facto there’s no DSTT2 to get blocked, at least, not south of Westlake Center. So Ballard-Downtown riders would expect to change at Westlake already.
Of course, that track does nothing to help The Spine get past a blockage in DSTT1. Doing something similar in the southeastern quadrant would be essentially impossible as stated above because east of Westlake DSTT1 is in that long ramp up to Ninth Avenue which was cut-and-covered. So the tunnel walls are load bearing all the way, and hard to break through without collapsing the roadway above. You couldn’t just punch a circular hole with the TBM into the ramp box; the breach would have to be a fairly wide “picture window” hole because the track would have to curve to merge with the eastbound one right next to the wall. At Third and Pine the track would come straight up Third, in line with the southbound track at the end of the curve. A circular hole like Brenda chewed through in the TBM vault next to the Paramount (twice) would be perfectly adequate.
Anyway, there’s no convenient oblique street like Stewart to make the two other curves for such a zig-zag connection tenable either. It just could not happen without under-running those big buildings in the neighborhood and DSTT1’s too shallow to allow that.
And please do remember, that in the increasingly unlikely event that DSTT2 does get built through downtown Seattle and a blockage in DSTT1 occurs west and south of Westlake Center, riders can deboard their Spine train at Westlake and squeeze into a southbound Ballard-Wherever train to go south. Unfortunately if the latest plan is adopted, they won’t be getting off anywhere short of Gubmint Center.
If we are to build another tunnel it should actually reach more destinations then. It’s such as waste to build it just for redundancy. These tunnels cost multi-billion dollars.
> Then you’ll end up with a single tracked stub line or some nightmare.
Honestly a stub line to Ballard might be better. I understand what you are proposing that we move it along no matter what at the fear of losing the project. But I would caution that line of thinking — look at the Hawaiian Aertial Rapid project or the Bay Area HSR. That kind of misguided build it no matter the costs approach really isn’t tenable and leads to the project being cancelled anyways.
With such high costs for the tunnel and deep stations I highly fear the West Seattle link will just end up only at Delridge and Ballard only to Smith Cove and never even cross Salmon Bay. It really isn’t a good plan when Sound Transit is already discussing cancelling stations and the project hasn’t even started.
Agreed on all points. It is worth noting that this only provides a tiny bit of redundancy. Imagine instead that the Ballard line is stand alone, intersects at Westlake and eventually extends past Judkins Park and ends at Mount Baker Station. This would provide a lot more redundancy while also covering a lot more of what really should be considered downtown.
“Two tunnels is essential, we need the redundancy…Has anyone lived in a city with more than one tunnel?”
Two tunnels would be useful at times, but Pittsburgh seems to work decently enough with their surface line as a backup.
Not that you’d really want to do that here, but two parallel tunnels just isn’t that common.
I can get behind using the existing tunnel, but not the existing tracks. The thought of packing the existing infrastructure to 2 minute headways before building something else is ludicrously shortsighted. Light rail takes time to build, and requires thinking about tomorrow’s needs today as a result.
But if one could build a parallel line in the same tunnel footprint, making a Ballard -> WS side line just to the west, we could have our cake and eat it too. Simpler transfers, simpler alignment, keeping the spine a spine, automation… everything we need and even a few lower tier wants all rolled up into one. There would be some construction hurdles, sure. But not compared to the alternatives. Hell, with the right routing through Ballard you could even keep the hope of the backwards minded Ballard -> UW line alive at that point.
Unfortunately, the physical space does not exist beneath 3rd Avenue to go to 4-track operations. 3 tracks, maybe, at most. This has been discussed ad nauseum.
DSTT2, as proposed, is basically what you’ve described, but in ROW a couple blocks away. New tunnel is new tunnel – if new tunnel is needed (a big “if” that needs reconsideration), it needs to provide new coverage and also have seamless transfers.
A Joy, ST’s own ridership forecasts show that 2.5 minute trains would resolve any crowding problem on paper. With 10 trains an hour for RV/ SeaTac/ Tacoma, 8 for the Eastside and 6 for West Seattle it is very doable if one looks at ridership data. 12/ 6/ 6 could work except MLK would be messy.
Switching to more open gangway vehicles for 1 Line would also improve rider capacity if overcrowding happened on it.
Note that the East Link DEIS had only 8 trains an hour for both 1 Line and 2 Line at peak. No one studied 6 minute trains for 2 Line; it was just magically added into ST3 without analysis of need. Heck no one knows how the Lake Washington bridge may be affected if trains run at higher frequencies.
The only overcrowded segment in the No Build was for the Pioneer Square to CID segment. That can be addressed in other ways if it does happen. There are many other transit options between these two stations that riders would gravitate to — like using buses or a streetcar.
Also note that things have pretty much drifted into a new normal post-Covid. The big hit has been to ridership during the very peaks of the day. Sounder in particular is getting about 30 percent of the ridership of 2019. With only a 10 percent shift in peak time transit travel, the overcrowding forecast disappears.
If a person takes the world view of these things, the narrative of DSTT overcrowding presented by ST is laughable. Link is projected to carry only about 100K weekday riders under Downtown Seattle in both tunnels combined in the 2040 Build scenarios. That’s way lower than many other systems carry today, including tunnels for SF Muni Metro and Boston Green Line in the US — both which pushed over 150K weekday riders through in 2019 — on SHORTER trains! Many other segments around the world carry higher volumes with trains of similar capacity.
If there is going to be an overcrowding issue, it’s going to happen first with vertical conveyances. ST won’t present a cogent vertical conveyances long range plan. The DEIS is silent on the overcrowding to get off or on platforms at existing station platforms — and any transfer station is going to have so much more demand for vertical conveyances than exists today. The only overcrowded Link trains I ever saw were because of sporting events, but many times I saw people queued up to use an escalator when they were all working! It’s the issue that those Tesla-driving elected officials and real estate investors never see so it never comes up. However, I suspect if you ask a Link rider what is the most crowded part of their trip, it would probably be using the vertical conveyances.
“A Joy, ST’s own ridership forecasts show that 2.5 minute trains would resolve any crowding problem on paper.”
Today, yes. But again, this is not about today. I remember my own personal underestimation of the demand/ridership for the Westlake -> UW section of Link. I find it curious that I learned my lesson then now that I see those who were right about it forgetting that lesson now.
“Also note that things have pretty much drifted into a new normal post-Covid.”
This is impossible. We are not post-Covid now, so there is no new normal to have been drifted into. What we see today will not be the case in even five years, much less when ST3 is finished.
I have been on many a crushloaded Link train that had nothing to do with a sporting event. Granted not lately, but we are still living in interesting times. And I am not talking about merely overcrowded trains either. Full on panic inducing Tokyo subway levels of flesh pressed against flesh with no room to move or breathe. It has happened here. And with this type of short sightedness, all we do is guarantee it will happen again.
A Joy, a benefit of having frequent three lines in the DSTT and one of those three lines turning back at Northgate is that riders in North Seattle will be to get on a less crowded train for a quarter or a third of the arriving trains.
If however every train begins at Mariner as ST plans, they will all be similarly loaded.
So if you are concerned about the North Seattle being overcrowded you should support a three line scenario through the existing DSTT With one turning back at Northgate.
There are a number of places in downtown not served by this DSTT1. If it gets crowded enough to need a second tunnel, those areas should be served with a second tunnel. If those conditions occur, then transfers between lines should be a small issue, as the frequency will be there to support easy transfers.
The capacity of DSTT is also limited by lines feeding it too. Eg: Rainier Valley at 6 minute headways to not interfere with car traffic.
The Ballard line, for example, makes more sense to continue south into Belltown rather than go to South Lake Union. After it can’t go any further south due to the BNSF tunnel, then perhaps cross the existing tunnel at University, hit Capitol Hill, then extend south. If DSTT1 is over capacity, then that means someone has waved a magic wand and dealt with so maybe continue south to Judkins Park, Mt Baker and then Renton.
Say, half the Ballard trains did that, you’d free up space in the DSTT and add actual service area.
“Switching to more open gangway vehicles for 1 Line would also improve rider capacity if overcrowding happened on it.”
And we asked ST to order open-gangway trains for ST2 but it wouldn’t. Trains without internal cabs or with open gangways would increase capacity 20% essentially for free. MAX has some car ends without cabs and it fits 12 seats in a U-shape there, with room for four more standees in the middle. Multiply that by 6 and you have 72 more seats, or 96 at crushload.
ST said it wouldn’t because it wants all cars identical so that it can swap out any car for any car for maintenance convenience. That seems like missing out on low-hanging fruit for better service and avoiding crowding.
If 2.5 minutes is sufficient today, but nit forever, then why not upgrade the signals to manage 1.25 minutes (75 seconds) between trains.
At worst that might slows the speeds between W, U, PS, and CID to ensure the trains between stations take 75 seconds to reach the next station, but 75 seconds is longer than trains currently dwell at the DSTT stations.
Back when DSTT was a bus tunnel at rush hour there was an almost steady flow of busses, often to the point where some had to wait in line at the end of a tunnel segment to reach a platform.
Trains can and do the same in NYC, London, and Paris during rush hour.
“ST said it wouldn’t because it wants all cars identical so that it can swap out any car for any car for maintenance convenience. That seems like missing out on low-hanging fruit for better service and avoiding crowding.”
Exactly, Mike. This is the bureaucratic answer — spend extra several billions, disrupt streets for years and degrade eventual transit travel times (with lousy transfers) upon completion across the system — because we just don’t want to buy new higher capacity train vehicles which in total would be much cheaper.
WSBLE is not a useful transit project. It’s a construction project that lots of very wealthy people want to get a slice of the public’s money spent to their advantage.
My recollection is that ST found out Siemens cars could only work in the same train with Siemens cars, and Kinkysharyo cars could only work in the same train with Kinkysharyo cars after the first Siemens cars were delivered, and the purchasing decision was a couple years in the past.
I think that issue is worth revisiting to push out the date DSTT2 is needed. It would probably come with the need for a new larger maintenance base, or major retrofit at multiple existing bases, and possibly a higher spare ratio.
“A Joy, a benefit of having frequent three lines in the DSTT and one of those three lines turning back at Northgate is that riders in North Seattle will be to get on a less crowded train for a quarter or a third of the arriving trains.
If however every train begins at Mariner as ST plans, they will all be similarly loaded.”
This was UW to past SoDo (I got off there and waited there for the next train), before there was a Northgate Station. All the current interlining plans would not have helped this specific issue. And indeed, this is the problem with interlining plans in general. They end up playing favorites and as such serving nobody well in the end. North Seattle is no more deserving of frequent service than South Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, or Tacoma. And even if it gets more consistent usage, there are always moments where other locations have shorter term issues. With redundancy via bus being eliminated, there is no “safety valve” either. All the more reason to keep the spine intact.
“North Seattle is no more deserving of frequent service than South Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, or Tacoma.”
Yes it is. North Seattle has two urban centers (U-District and Northgate), higher density, higher ridership, a greater willingness to use transit and fund it than other middle-class areas. And it has less steep hills and barriers than south Seattle, allowing more east-west feeders to access Link, which is part of the reason for the high ridership. And the line has Capitol Hill, which is the first or second highest-volume station on Link, and whose platform is busy all day. It’s the most likely place to need double-frequency for capacity.
I think everywhere else should have good frequency, and Link’s 10 minutes is better than many American light/rapid transit systems that have 15-30 minute frequency on each branch. I wouldn’t object to raising that to 3-6 minutes on the other branches. But the Northgate-Intl Dist area is the one that most needs it.
And like that, regional elitism rears its ugly head. /smh
Having more service in areas with higher ridership and density and that need more capacity is elitism?
“a greater willingness to use transit and fund it than other middle-class areas” is absolutely elitism. Especially in a plan that is a multi-county regional system which hasn’t even reached half the cities of size it is designed to, yes. If such subjective qualitative statements are ever justified, it is only after the system as a whole is completed and running for some time that such a values statement/analysis is even warranted.
Yet here we are.
“Having more service in areas with higher ridership and density and that need more capacity is elitism?”
Mike you are the one who has argued consistently that frequency a priori results in ridership. Now you are arguing frequency follows ridership.
I agree with the latter, and am not surprised that the increased frequency from East Link trains will go to the benefit of N. Seattle (although few eastsiders will be on them). Quite honestly, I have never understood why our trains are going to Lynnwood. If you live on the eastside and want to go Lynnwood (which is very few) there is a freeway called 405. You don’t drive or ride around the lake.
N. Seattle does seem to get much better transit than S. Seattle, and pretty much better than any other subarea. The E. KC subarea has the same ST annual revenue as N. KC and is estimated to have up to 53,000 boardings per day, and way more net income, but we never got tunnels we didn’t have to pay for ourselves. Now WS and Ballard will get tunnels and underground stations and neither has very good density and even ST estimates WSBLE will add very few transit riders. Kirkland, Redmond and the greater Issaquah region are double the population of WS and Ballard. I don’t think Issaquah Link to S. Kirkland will be underground despite the population levels.
And as Al has pointed out from the beginning WSBLE disadvantages EVERY rider from the south who might want to go to the same stations you argue support greater frequency for north Seattle because that is where riders want to go: Capitol Hill, UW, Northgate. Instead they will go to Smith Cove and Ballard.
Maybe the eastside subarea should have a vote or survey to see who gets to use our trains west of the bridge. Since few eastsiders will be on them I think our vote would probably mostly be about equity or fairness. Maybe our trains should turn south when they reach Seattle. To be honest, that would make me feel better about the huge sums the eastside spent on East Link for a pretty bad surface route on the eastside. Despite ridership I just feel N. Seattle is more elite than S. Seattle, S. King and Pierce Co.’s.
It is not elitist to focus on ridership. Consider this situation — which I have to point out is hypothetical (the numbers are all made up):
Let’s say you have a north-side and a south-side. The north side has lots of people. The south side does not. Specifically, the south side has 2,000 people, while the north side has 10,000. In both areas you have a range of incomes, but the south side has a higher *proportion* of low income people (say, 50% versus 20%). But as it turns out, the south side actually has *fewer* overall low income people (1,000 versus 2,000). Now imagine that in both cases, about 10% of people currently ride transit every day. In the south end you have about 200, with 100 being low income. In the north end you have 1,000 riders; 200 are low income. OK, then. Now imagine you double the frequency of both the north and south. As a result, you see a 50% increase in ridership. That means that in the south end, you get an additional 100 riders, 50 of whom are low income. In the north end, you get an additional 500 riders, 100 or whom are low income. Now imagine you can only increase frequency on one part of the line. Clearly it makes sense to focus on the north end.
But wait, there is more. It turns out, ridership increases exponentially (not linearly) with density. So given the same level of service, a higher percentage of people will ride in the north end, simply because the neighborhoods are more densely populated. Oh, and it is also worth noting that at least part of the money to run the entire system comes from fares. The increase in ridership helps pay for running the trains more often, and you get more of it by running in the north end.
That is more or less what this is about. Then there are other, more practical concerns. For example, we simply can not double the frequency of the trains down Rainier Valley. The limit is 6 minutes, and ST doesn’t even want to run the trains that often. So what your are arguing for, A Joy, is simply impossible. As it is, we have argued very often, and very strongly for running the trains more often. Right now they run every ten minutes most of the day. If that is bumped up to every 7.5 minutes, or every 6 minutes I think it would be great. But it is highly unlikely that would happen. If it did — if the trains ran all-day long every 6 minutes — then it would mean running the trains to Northgate every 2 minutes, which would be very good and quite reasonable.
Another way to look at it. It is very expensive to run trains. The longer you run them, the more costly it is to run them. Furthermore, once you get farther out, the less influenced you are by frequency. An increase in frequency will always increase ridership, but just as some neighborhoods see a bigger (percentage) increase, so do some trips. If I’m taking a trip from the UW to downtown, I very much care about the frequency. If I’m taking a trip from Seattle to Portland, it is less of an issue. Suburban to city trips are somewhere in between. So if you increase frequency on the train from Federal Way to Seattle, it won’t result in a huge ridership increase, outside of Rainier Valley. Even then, because there are only a handful of stops, and Link skipped the heart of the valley, you won’t see that many new riders. It may very well be a much better value to increase frequency on the 7. Likewise, if you are concerned about low income people in Kent, then improving local service is highly likely to be a better value.
Oh, and the main reason the trains get a lot of riders to the north end is because of the UW and Capitol Hill. These not only have a lot of people (including a lot of low income people) but they are major destinations. A significant amount of Link’s ridership comes from trips from Rainier Valley to the UW and Capitol Hill. This would continue to be a one-seat ride if all the trains went to Northgate. With the current ST proposal, it wouldn’t. If you are concerned about riders who live in the south end, then I suggest you embrace this idea. By that I mean not only sending all the trains into the same downtown tunnel, but also sending them to Northgate (instead of branching to Ballard). That way they not only have all of the superior downtown stations, but they also have the one-seat ride to Capitol Hill and the UW.
In the real world there is no “side”. Those are artificial delineations designed to segregate. Subarea equity in this region was designed to address and revert this very kind of elitism, and it is galling to see it used to promote that which it was made to destroy.
Maybe Metro needs to return to its subarea equity system to show ST how it is supposed to be done. Then again, Metro turned its back on that form of balance long ago.
At either rate, STB and transit discussions need to be above such pettiness, for the sake of the region as a whole.
In the real world there is no “side”. Those are artificial delineations designed to segregate.
Fair enough. So I really don’t understand what what your argument is. Mike was simply pointing out that the section between UW and downtown deserves the frequency. Maybe the problem is with the word “deserves”. He isn’t suggesting that it has anything to do with what people paid into it, or history, or any of that. It has to do with ridership. His point is fairly simple — it has the highest concentration of riders (both coming and going). I agree. We knew this well before we ran trains in the area. This is the heart of the city, with ridership that has always matched it.
That is not regional elitism — it is simply the truth. Imagine if East Link just ended at Judkins Park, or West Seattle Link just ended at SoDo. Are these areas equal to downtown? Is it regional elitism to suggest that downtown might actually get more riders? Of course not. This is just the way it is. What is true of downtown is also true of the UW and Capitol Hill. These places just get a lot more riders.
Today, yes. But again, this is not about today. I remember my own personal underestimation of the demand/ridership for the Westlake -> UW section of Link. I find it curious that I learned my lesson then now that I see those who were right about it forgetting that lesson now.
I guess I was one of those who was right about ridership there. It was bound to have a ton of riders. You could just look at the data. Whether it was density, trip combinations, or existing transit use — it had everything.
But those us who were right about that haven’t forgotten anything. The same people who did a pretty good job estimating the ridership between the UW and downtown are saying we don’t need a new tunnel. There is no data to support that kind of a ridership increase.
As much as we can fairly accurately predict current ridership, we have no idea what it will be like in forty years. The problem with the second tunnel idea is that it assumes that there will be a future capacity crunch, and that it will be at this particular spot. What if it isn’t? What if the choke point is right where we have the most riders — UW to downtown? If so, then building a second tunnel is useless. In contrast, what we need is to increase capacity from UW to downtown. This particular project (increasing capacity in the tunnel) is exactly what we need, not a second tunnel. Or maybe we need a second tunnel all right, but from downtown to the UW (via Eastlake?).
Or maybe our weak link (no pun intended) is from South Seattle. If so, then we will need to work on Rainier Valley. So should we do that now? No. Because we don’t know if it will ever be a problem.
That is why agencies just wait until there is crowding. Even then, many find that the crowding is not the worst thing — there are still projects that are a better value than building a second line. Boston has, to my knowledge, the most crowded system in North America, if not the world (the Green Line). It is common to have train bunching. Yet they are not building another line, but instead are extending it outward. Muni had a lot of crowding, and then they improved the system to handle more trains. Very few actually build a second line to deal with crowding, and when they do, it adds value in addition to providing extra capacity.
That is the problem with the second tunnel. First, it isn’t clear whether it will ever be needed and second, it adds no other value. Believe me, if the second tunnel had even one station up on First Hill, this would be a very different conversation. Very different.
“I have been on many a crushloaded Link train that had nothing to do with a sporting event. ”
I’ve seen the trains pretty crowded too, and only a few months ago. However, putting the second tunnel at the depth it would need to be to avoid so many obstacles in downtown Seattle, means probably making things worse. If one tunnel winds up 9 floors down, it means a bunch of people are going to want to transfer to the shallow tunnel at rather end rather than climb out of the new one. It would save them some ≈10 minutes of travel time.
So I really think crowding in the existing tunnel winds up worse with the proposed second tunnel.
“Very few actually build a second line to deal with crowding”
Munich is building a semi parallel downtown tunnel for their S-Bahn. The current tunnel serves 800,000 riders a day! Yes, they use longer heavy rail trains, but we’re far from that.
“As much as we can fairly accurately predict current ridership, we have no idea what it will be like in forty years”
We only have to predict fifteen years. In the late 2030s when ST2 and much of ST3 is finished, we can see what the need is then and reevaluate. ST will still have voter approval to pursue a downtown tunnel, or it can have another vote to do something else. Or if it does nothing and things are getting crowded, Metro/SDOT can offer some relief in their own way.
By then RapidRide J will replace the 70, and the 70 has continued to be a popular route, so we can boost frequency to 5-10 minutes. We can reinstate a daytime 41 or a similar route. We can boost the D, 40, 48, 48, 9, and the 60’s successor… whatever it takes to drain off a few people. There’s also the future Pine-12th-Union route.
Years ago, a day before I bought my first Apple computer, (Mac SE) I took my old DOS running clunker into my local computer shop and listened to some dude mansplain to me why PCs can only run so fast and that we’re only a few years away from maxing out desktops.
Whatever you engineering types think this the upper limit of traffic that Seattle’s one tunnel can handle….. I respectfully doubt it. I’m not an engineer, but I bet Seattle doesn’t need a second tunnel for 50 years… or maybe ever.
There’ll be need but not how they’re engineering it. A Waterfront/Belltown to Madison Park subway tunnel via First Hill would make sense. As would a line that’d connect the ferry terminal, Yessler Terrance, and Central District. The problem is just that we’re woefully inexperienced in tunnel building and engineering compared to Asia and Europe who for the most part understand how to do things properly and figure out ideal solutions for tricky spots.
I’m one of those engineering types. Any railway has a limit.
However, I’ve also spent time in São Paulo before they expanded their Metro system beyond the two core lines. At that time they had more riders per mile than any other in the world. They did quite a lot to cram a large number of trains through the system. This included frequency to the point where as one train was leaving the platform another was entering the other end. I don’t know the actual headways but the headways experienced at the platform were nearly 0. Not even SkyTrain does that.
All of this was with automation and signaling technology that would be primitive today.
So, from what I saw there, no more technology development is really needed to maximize the capacity of a line. You wouldn’t want anything more frequent than what São Paulo was doing at that time.
Getting that technology installed and safely operated in the USA is a different matter though.
You’re dealing with engineering geeks here. Zero is not a credible headway. Try again.
Brent; Nearly 0 headway as experienced at the platform is what I wrote. This is because the time between a train closing its doors and departing and the next train arriving and opening its doors was in the 10 second or so range. Probably around 150 feet end of train to end of train.
That may have been an unusual set of circumstances due to a delayed train somewhere or something, but it was what they were doing on that day.
Dare I hope to put a CID center platform back on the table too? No, that’s just crazy talk.
Center platforms at all 4 DSTT1 stations.
With added elevators and escalators connecting them to the mezzanines.
This would passenger throughput and transfers so much better.
Thanks for the reminder about this. That CID center platform is infinitely more cost effective than DSTT2 in saving person hours of delay. That’s partially because DSTT2 has negative savings, but CID center platform also costs peanuts.
In a 3-line (or even in a 2-line) DSTT, a CID center platform would facilitate opposite-direction transfers without having to go up, over and down (while watching the train you were hoping to be on, pull out just before you can get there, frequently.)
I recall it was roughly in kindergarten, playing with blocks and toy cars and whatnot, when I and my peers started getting good at solving problems like this. Too bad none of them became planners at ST.
Well, if you could convince ST to make Ballard the main interline for East Link, it would go into DSTT2, and the reason for the stub track in DSTT1 (to quickly get disabled trains coming from the east) goes away.
And then there’s still the hemming and hawing about the need to get wheelchairs off of the center platform in case of emergency.
Morgan, I don’t think you can dare hope that. If Gubmint Center isn’t built a center platform might be placed at Pioneer Square; that isn’t much of a double back. But ST wants that pocket at CID, so ST shall have that pocket.
The thing is, who’s going to travel between West Seattle and the East Side? THOSE are the trains which will be in DSTT1 according to The Plan. If you were assuming full interlining, then yes, a center platform would be very useful to support East Side-Airport trips.
Does anyone recall a reason why the second ID/C station can’t be built on the surface parking lot north of Lumen Field?
The Jan 24, 2023 memo ruled it out for further study and gave these notations:
West of CID – Lumen Field north parking lot – No
• Limited interest for this station location
• Concern about length of transfer connection between Link lines
• Results in a deep Midtown Station
Direct link to the memo (.pdf file):
“Concern about length of transfer connection between Link lines”
Limited interest… because other options we aren’t going to build look better by comparison.
Concern about length of transfer — dealt with by deleting the station entirely.
Results in a deep Midtown Station — which is also getting cut.
One weird thing about DSTT2 I suddenly realized…this obsession with capacity over all else, even in the absence of evidence that the capacity they’re planning for is needed, is something we normally see with highway projects, justifying wider and wider freeways with fanciful projections about future growth. Even if the cost is something ridiculous. Even if it means years of lane closures and traffic snarls. Even if there the current freeway has no problems beyond minor slowdowns for an hour a day.
To see this line of thinking applies to a transit project is very weird.
Another winning comment. It’s exactly correct, but here’s a little secret: the same people who “consult” and build highways are “consulting” on and hope to build Link…….
Al, you write:
“The basic problem is that most of us want better and faster transit in Seattle — but the money interests and the activist “victims” lobbying the politicians don’t care about improving transit very much. They say they do in the abstract — but I never see a Board member supporting something because it makes transit faster or more productive. Instead it’s all about real estate impacts.”
1. If by “most of us” you mean most of us on this blog I agree. If you mean most of the citizens in the region I am not so sure, in large part because they just don’t care. WSBLE/DSTT2 affect 1/5 subareas. 90%+ of all trips are by car and those drivers favor better car mobility over transit. 99% of the citizens could not tell you what the acronyms WSBLE and DSTT2 even mean, or DEIS, or what is in the DEIS (probably including Balducci). On the eastside East Link was delayed another three years and no one even discussed it or apparently cared. I think maybe THE fundamental problem right now is “us” simply is not paying any attention to transit because it does not affect their lives, and politicians deal with the problems their voters are concerned with now.
2. ““victims” lobbying the politicians” are called stakeholders. Believe me they are not victims. If anyone is a victim it is transit riders because they have so little political clout. If Amazon has 50,000 workers in downtown Seattle, and Nordstrom is the anchor tenant for Westlake that is losing retail, and downtown in the past raised 2/3 of all tax revenue which reduces every Seattleite’s tax burden, and Bellevue is luring law firms and banks and accounting firms and other large employers away, you better listen to them.
Downtown business, taxes, tourism, conventions, retail, hotels, restaurants, employment, property values, are all more important than transit. WAY more important. Bellevue does well with very little transit.
Transit does not lead; it follows. It does not create; it serves. The whole reason DSTT2 is no longer necessary is because the ridership and employment in downtown Seattle no longer demand it, which is a big reason it isn’t affordable anymore. No one downtown including Harrell or the Chamber or DSA is going to put transit at the top of their list of important things. Downtown Seattle is already in a recession, and the rest of the region is entering one with huge declines in tech employment and stock valuations and real estate. Harrell will have to cut $250 million from the operating budget next year. You really think he is concerned about DSTT2? A stupid tunnel or rail to WS (which will never use it) and Ballard is irrelevant.
3. ” but I never see a Board member supporting something because it makes transit faster or more productive. Instead it’s all about real estate impacts.” That is because transit is heavily subsidized, and a lot of the subsidy is from real estate, property taxes, B&O taxes, construction sales taxes, and so on. Property values are simply a function of a vibrant downtown. If transit generated tax revenue rather than consuming huge amounts of it politicians would pay it more attention. You are damn right Constantine and Harrell feel like they are staring into the abyss when they see their county and city buildings empty.
At the other end you have Board members who represent (supposedly) 4 out of 5 subareas in which the vast majority of citizens care very little about transit. Being on the Board of ST is not their day job. I have to imagine they rue the day they accepted the assignment because the agency is so poorly run, and the promises made in 2016 so impossible to deliver. How many emails or messages do you think ST Board members receive from their ordinary voters in their day jobs about transit? One? None?
If there is one thing I don’t understand it is how the Board, Constantine and Harrell, and many on this blog don’t address the elephant in the room: WSBLE and DSTT2 are not affordable by the subarea. Not even close. Not even if you stole the entire eastside’s excess ST tax reserves. (And neither is Everett Link, and probably TDLE even with eliminating the $1 billion in Sounder upgrades, and I have no idea who is going to pick up the tab for the extra costs for FWLE, certainly not S. King Co., but those sums pale in comparison to WSBLE).
WSBLE has gone from $6 billion in 2016 to $15 billion today based on ST’s estimates, not mine, the Board extended completion five years which the consultant stated costs $50 million/month, and with all due respect to Lazarus and TT DSTT2 will not cost $2.2 billion, its 2016 cost estimate. Graham St. and 130th are exploding in cost and were never part of the subarea’s funding plan.
For the life of me I don’t know why the subarea and Board and Constantine and Harrell are having this wrenching public debate (that 1% of the citizens are following) over a project that clearly is not affordable even if it was the greatest transit project in the world. As TT notes, federal money is not going to bail WSBLE out.
My guess is the “politicians” know WSBLE and DSTT2 are not affordable, which is why they cave to every community or stakeholder objecting to the disruption. For the same reason they will promise WS and Ballard whatever they want. Because they know they will be gone when someone actually has to build WSBLE without the money to do it. That is how politics work. Just look at Social Security and Medicare.
The basic problem is that most of us want better and faster transit in Seattle — but the money interests and the activist “victims” lobbying the politiciens don’t care about improving transit very much. They say they do in the abstract — but I never see a Board member supporting something because it makes transit faster or more productive. Instead it’s all about real estate impacts.
What’s needed is a commitment to spend our tax dollars wisely by determining the benefits of each project then determining the impacts to see if they’re worth it.
What’s really telling to me is that the ST3 literature has all these wild claims about aggregate benefits. But as soon as the cash was in hand and specific projects started to be developed those in power quit caring about benefits.
Unfortunately, we don’t have access to detailed studies that ST does. For example, BART published a giant table every month showing the entry and exits for every station pair in the system. That’s the basic data that should be used to discuss any transfer design proposal..
The same lack of rational study is also why ST will not vary the alternatives by vehicle capacity. Not automation. Not open gangways. Not even higher speed light rail design requirements to have faster service at the ends of the spine. Instead we are locked into always buying transits version of a 1998 Mini Cooper for lines opening in 2038 or later!
As long as ideas don’t come with performance justifications they are doomed to only happen for other reasons — like a campaign donor or a noisy few citizens. Every area transit project will be viewed as a nuisance or a tool to accomplish some other goal rather than a benefit to riders.
What’s needed at this point is some entity to force looking at performance measures. FTA was headed in that direction.
I’ll close by mentioning an obvious performance measure problem with WSBLE that doesn’t get discussed: ST had lower ridership forecasts for the project in the DEIS than they had in earlier studies. While we are all aware of the plethora of reasons given to excuse blatantly irresponsible ST3 cost estimates, no one is talking about the implications of decreasing ridership forecasts.
Daniel is, though not in a particularly “helpful” way. He’s mostly crowing about Seattle’s difficulty, but occasionally he offers a morsel of “solution”.
I’ll say something about it: it’s yet another reason to put a big fat stop on the tunnel project. The second tunnel is predicated on a need to meet significant increases in ridership. If the models now say “not gonna happen”, then the need — and indeed to built it is, really, gone.
The second tunnel is predicted on needing additional capacity at four specific stations with no increase in need in no other locations throughout downtown.
Exactly Glenn, that is what makes it so absurd. What if running trains down Rainier Valley every six minutes is inadequate? What if the choke point is between the UW and downtown (where we have the most crowding right now)? This new tunnel doesn’t help. So not only are we building something that in all likelihood won’t be needed, but we are not addressing other capacity issues that are just as likely.
There is another issue I mentioned as well. We are in an unusual position when it comes to redundancy and capacity. We have a lot of it. It is just in the form of buses, that’s all. There is your redundancy. There is your extra capacity.
Imagine the line from the Tacoma Dome goes down, or gets really crowded. Simple: Run buses. The buses would actually be more popular than forcing transfers for a very large portion of the riders. Riders get a one-seat ride to downtown, and the trip is often faster. Same goes for West Seattle and the East Side. Same goes for the north end as well. The fact that we have very good long distance bus-infrastructure (along with a long-distance oriented rail line) changes everything. It means that when push comes to shove, we can run expresses as a way to deal with outages, or as a way to deal with crowding. It isn’t ideal from a cost perspective, but then neither is spending a fortune on a tunnel that offers nothing but the same extra capacity, with a degradation for all riders. Think of the buses as that insurance policy. Chances are, we won’t need them. But if we do, they are there.
Not every city has that. For example, look at Vancouver. Imagine the Canada Line goes down. Or imagine Vancouver keeps growing, and the line just can’t handle the load during rush hour. There is very little they can do. They will put people on buses, but there are no freeways going into the city. The buses will run down surface streets, which lack BAT lanes. A lot of cities lack freeways or HOV lanes into their core. We have them.
Of course they don’t go everywhere. Thus it is possible that areas not potentially well-served by express buses cause the crowding. It turns out, though, we never built that kind of subway system. Capitol Hill is the only station between downtown and the UW. Even the UW can run buses on the express lanes (they did for years). The only potential place for congestion where buses can’t do a really good job is Rainier Valley — the exact place that is limited to six minute headways! It is kind of funny, when you think of it. If they build giant, Hong-Kong style towers next to the five stations in Rainier Valley, then yes, that might clog our light rail line. But the problem isn’t mitigated in the least by this second tunnel. Every other place that might see crowding has the option of fast buses.
Or even maybe people need to go places than 3rd downtown?
Pioneer Square, Belltown, Coleman Dock, Kitsap’s foot ferry terminal, First Hill, etc are not helped at all by putting a second tunnel where the first one already is.
So at what point did you figure out Sound Transit was a huge boondoggle?
I’ve been anti-ST from day one…. even though I support commuter rail from Everett to Tacoma and better bus service everywhere else. Pro-transit? That’s anti-Sound Transit in my book.
Sound Transit is just so powerful…. and politically insulated. It lets pols twist and change the core directive into whatever they currently want. There’s no way to realistically change that.
Sound Transit has done some good things. My first experiences on transit in Seattle were the ST Express buses. The fact that Seattle had them, while other US cities would tell riders to just suck it up and spend two hours riding milk-run buses for 30 miles on local streets, really stood out to me.
Since then, Sound Transit has drastically shifted emphasis from buses to rail. So far, the rail projects have, by and large, been good. Link from the airport to Northgate is a good line, and the extensions planned to open within the next couple of years will also be good.
But, it’s the ST3 rail projects, where I’ve started to feel like they’ve been going off track. Particularly with the second downtown tunnel and Link extensions to Tacoma and Everett that cost billions for little or no benefit over existing ST Express buses. In the meantime, while Sound Transit has been pouring lots of money into rail, they have simultaneously been under-funding their buses, which have historically been their bread and butter. For instance, the passage of ST2 came with immediate frequency boosts in bus service all over Puget Sound, with new service coming online as early as a year or so after the vote. ST3, as far as I can tell, is buying no new bus service whatsoever except for STRIDE, and even those buses won’t start running until about 10 years after the ST3 vote. And, in recent months, with the ST board oddly refusing to even think about a solution that involves only the existing downtown, while they are running over budget and doing tons of value engineering everywhere else, seems very weird, and is making me question whether these people know what they are doing.
“So at what point did you figure out Sound Transit was a huge boondoggle?”
I voted against ST3 because I thought it was a boondoggle. I’ve been saying that for years I here. More specifically:
– I pointed kit that the ST3 projects were those that weren’t good enough for ST2, which meant that their benefit was lower.
– I pointed out that the DSTT cost estimate was way lower than SF and LA Downtown subway lines under construction since about 2011.
– I pointed out that the 10% cost contingency in the budget was too low, and FTA recommends 30%. (I even got push back saying that ST was so good at cost estimating that they didn’t need 30%!)
– I pointed out that the service plan would only work if ST designed cross platform transfers.
– I pointed out that ST3 Link skipped less wealthy areas like Renton, Burien and White Center in favor of more weasel the areas to the point that they were vulnerable to a Title VI lawsuit like LA a few decades ago.
– I pointed out that the projects were chosen like a stroll through a store flush with cash based on what was deemed appealing rather than logic.
– I thought that ST3 needed a line item to study and refurbish existing stations, especially when some of those stations would get much heavier use.
– Selfishly, I thought it did nothing for SE Seattle outsized of getting Graham built and that it severed connections to UW and Capitol Hill for the neighborhood. I resented making my neighbors pay taxes for 25 (now longer) years while Downtown real estate owners and wealthier neighborhoods got the benefit. I even said that the projects should be paid for by localized improvement districts or development fees.
After the vote:
– I pointed out that subway stations were not getting discussed in the initial years of WSBLE. ST did not start revealing issues on station depths until after two to three years passed.
– I pointed out that ST did not tell us how many transfers are expected at each station.
– I pointed out that the committee structure had “stakeholders” and “elected officials” but no review process by anyone concerned with rider experience. There wasn’t a seat at te stakeholder table for even disabled advocates.
– I pointed out that when the extremely deep CID station idea got floated how crazy it was. It was taking rider experience in a worse direction and was a harbinger of something systemically wrong with the process.
– I’ve long been critical of bad station layouts. My developing arthritis has made me realize more each day that down escalators are critical in both directions.
I’ll give credit to many points made by others. In particular I did not see the benefits of automation until I learned more and more about the Ontario Line case study because it was first advocated by conservatives I naturally thought it could be worse for Toronto transit. It’s only recently I saw it as good.
There are many great observations by astute posts from many here. It’s a refreshing relief from the backroom nature of Seattle’s transit politics that has a string of naïveté, lack of enough viable alternatives, mediocrity and uselessness going on for 40 years. Our rosy outlook likes to think that the problems with the monorail or prior failed votes were isolated. It’s been a sad realization that the process is just getting worse and worse with the latest projects underway.
Changing the system is something I can’t do individually. But It’s badly needed.
I agree asdf2 — Sound Transit has definitely done some good things. Up to ST2, it is fine. There aren’t as many stations as there should be, but other than First Hill, the essential pieces are there. It goes a bit farther than it needs to, but the terminal stations are excellent. Freeways stations are generally a bad idea, but they provide a key intercept for buses. In Lynnwood and Federal Way, they not only have stations close to the freeway, but the stations are connected to freeway HOV lanes. In the case of East Link, the last station in Redmond is solid (and a very different dynamic). Mercer Island Station goes from being a throw away station, to the key bus connection for I-90. Mistakes were made, but overall, it is solid.
In contrast, they jumped the shark with ST3. Tacoma Dome Link and Everett Link are not cost effective projects. Issaquah Link is worse. They won’t get nearly enough riders to justify the cost. West Seattle Link is a different, in that at least ridership will be OK. But the vast majority of riders will be worse off. They will be asked to transfer, and get little in return. That is a huge amount of money for very little added value. Ballard Link is the one major project with merit, but it is still very fragile. Unlike UW Link, details are essential. The UW Station is about the worst possible location for a station, and yet it still gets a ton of riders. That won’t be the case with a lot of Ballard Link. Screw it up, and you are left with basically a substitute for the monorail. The extremely expensive and unnecessary tunnel is just the biggest example of the high cost, high risk nature of the project.
Al S., that’s a terrific analysis of the dynamic at play here. ST Board has the ability to make profound changes in these projects and even propose a new vote. But they are all political figures, and despite their involvement with ST they are far from transit experts. They are part of a process that measures its own success by “forward” movement towards a combination of voter-approved and self-imposed goals. They lack both the individual and collective incentive to question prior assumptions and make changes based on new information. They are constrained by the ballot language, the budget, the NEPA/SEPA processes that make it very time-consuming and cumbersome to make certain changes, and by political realities. What little creativity they manage to exhibit is often related to real estate.
This is a political process with give and take, and the ST Board tends to be deferential to the locals when it comes to alignment decisions. The King County Executive is the ST Board chair. If the Seattle Mayor and King County Executive are aligned, whether it be in favor of ST doing something in Seattle, or opposed, that carries a huge weight in Seattle.
Public scrutiny on these decisions will go up over time, but not fast enough. There will be decisions, like two days from now in which they will probably adjust the course of this ocean liner at the direction of Dow and Bruce. There will be more pubic process and more publications. Then there will be decisions and eventually there will be bulldozers, and then there will be riders. At each stage, you will have the right to complain, but that none of it will change the outcome unless there is some kind of political movement that changes the dynamic at the time the key decisions are being made, and that’s pretty tough when the powers that be are in control of the process, the agenda, and much of the public messaging.
There are so many levels of indirection between convincing voters with a logical argument to impacting relevant decisions in WSBLE, with so much of a time lag built in to so many steps of the process that it seems like the only way to get anyone’s attention is to be alarmist and yell from the rooftops that this project is a civic disaster in the making, just as Dow is out there painting rosy visions of an affordable housing utopia for all where the jail stands today. That makes the pro-transit argument sound opposed to all the wonderful things Dow and Bruce envision, which is part of the political masterstroke that is the profoundly stupid “North CID” Pioneer Square mega station plan.
I can’t think of a reason why you can’t fit 3 lines in one tunnel in Seattle, when you can do so everywhere else around the world. Our culture or values may be different from some places but math and the laws of physics are the same here. The real problem is, to the extent the ST Board members think outside own provincial interests, they seem to primarily see ST as a jobs project and a real estate development catalyst, not a transportation project. And, as we’ve said here, they do not take a rider perspective.
I don’t have a prescription to fix the political problems, the structure of the Board or the constraints already imposed by the voters (all of which could change with another vote…) I do have some answers for the decisions ST Board should make. One of them is, if we’re going to build West Seattle Link, stick with the current tunnel, like this post says.
To the extent ST is constrained by the votes we’ve had I wish we could have a new public vote that essentially asked, “Hey, we’ve been hard at work and we’ve got what might be a better plan than what we showed you earlier. Should we pursue this if it works, or should we stick with the current plan no matter what?” That way it would not be the sort of existential question that tends to cloud good judgment.
But Sound Transit isn’t democratic in the least…. ST3 lost in Pierce County and wasn’t all that popular elsewhere…. except for Seattle were it was wildly popular. After the ST3 vote, it was completely apparent that in the end, the other subareas would end up funding shit in Seattle…. like a 2nd tunnel that isn’t needed. But as long as the other subareas are paying for a “shared asset” tunnel, it’s going in. And piss away a pile of Federal money too!!
I’ve worked on a few public housing projects and they worked in a similar way to what Sound Transit does. Funding comes from multiple sources, some sort of mix of Federal, State, local government and private…. it’s complicated and it takes years to figure out who’s paying for what…. in the end, (3-5 years later) construction breaks ground on something like 40 units of low income housing, at cost over $700k each. Never mind that private builders are knocking out similar units for half the money in half the time.
The people who “build” public housing are just a bunch of paper pushing suits who run this Rube Goldberg type system that doubles the price of housing before construction even starts. And the worst thing about this is these people are proud, really proud of what they do, even though they’re the problem, not the solution.
Take every project Sound Transit has done so far, break them apart in smaller pieces with a public vote for funding, a smaller dedicated staff and realistic timelines… we wouldn’t be at this ridiculous fork in the road.
Those processes introduce objective evaluation into the system. When I read someone complain about them, I see it as an assault on logic.
The problem is that they merely describe impacts. They aren’t an early systems planning exercise.
The many ST projects now delayed were not delayed by NEPA/SEPA. In fact, the realignment delays due to bad cost estimating and budgeting now give ST plenty of time to pursue new alternatives and send them through NEPA/SEPA.
So many good points… made over and over here, which seem to just fall on deaf ears when condensed to a one minute speech to the ST Board. In that context it just doesn’t seem to matter how good any argument is if it is not made by 1000 people at once.
Has anyone considered taking the entire multi-year archive of Seattle Transit Blog and submitting it as a public comment to every project to force ST to respond to all the issues?
Hannah Krieg with the dichotomy that ST has built: “Preserve Chinatown or Fuck Over Transit Riders Forever?”
The best vote would be to study both options in the FEIS. It will take extra effort, but it kicks the can down the road, and gives more time for Seattle & King County to come up with whatever extra money is needed.
Ah, no. There’s been way too many “studies” already. If Sound Transit can’t get it together now….. I’m afraid they never will.
They need to write a Final EIS anyways. They’re just voting on the Preferred Alignment. The “preferred alignment” is not the final project. Does no one else realize this? If they make N/S CID the preferred alignment, they’ll have to do all the EIS assessment work anyways. They’re already halfway there on the environmental assessment work for the 4th Avenue alternatives.
The N/S CID options are not fully understood, yet the Puget Sound Sage (which is not the entire CID, by the way) thinks that as long as the construction is outside the boundaries of the CID (no matter if it’s literally just across a street), there won’t be construction impacts to the CID itself. Seems very naive to me.
ST can and should fully study both options for the CID stations.
Maybe Hannah Krieg could get behind Seattle just forking out millions for Asian Businesses to move to S. King and Pierce Counties? It’s happening anyway. Sound Transit could relocate businesses to “South Korean Way” in Tacoma. Tacoma would welcome them with open arms. Then the old CID could become nothing but TOD for college educated White people, like Ms. Krieg. It’s a win-win!
“Maybe Hannah Krieg could get behind Seattle just forking out millions for Asian Businesses to move to S. King and Pierce Counties? It’s happening anyway. Sound Transit could relocate businesses to “South Korean Way” in Tacoma. Tacoma would welcome them with open arms. Then the old CID could become nothing but TOD for college educated White people, like Ms. Krieg. It’s a win-win!”
That is exactly the intent of the recent zoning changes to the CID that raise building heights to 14 stories in areas. The only flaw in the plan is steel framed buildings don’t become economical until around 22 stories. So what are developers proposing? Raising the building heights to 22 or more stories.
The CID is planned to become Belltown. Those Asian businesses just don’t create enough property values or generate enough tax revenue for being so close to the city center.
The whole point of urbanism is to gentrify, and to move poor folks out when the value of their land and neighborhood, which survived so close to the city center because they were brown and distressed, becomes so great you can’t have Blacks living in SFH in The Central Dist. or Asians living in the CID. In this region that means moving south, but even now south is getting more south every year, really into S. King or even Pierce Co.
My question is, “Is transit for the people who live here now?” or is it “Transit is the way we rebuild things for the future?” Because right now the public bus systems we currently use are getting worse and the planned subway we might use in the future is sucking up all of the energy and money.
I side with the here and now. No more tunnels and let’s fix our bus problems ASAP.
Yes, study a single tunnel in the EIS. (That’s not the same as the “No Build” option, which means no WSBLE at all.) If it’s in the EIS, ST can choose to build it, regardless of whether it’s the EIS’s preferred alignment. But if it doesn’t study it, it can’t, and our objections will be completely ignored.
If the Board had any guts and didn’t want more delays, they would simply split the DEIS into two! That would kick the CID transfer issue down the road.
Then they could wrap up the EIS and begin West Seattle Link, and plan it to run into Downtown from opening day.
They could spec the West Seattle project to have automation convertibility even if only local funds have to be used to make that happen.
Looking at the future litigation risks, splitting the EIS would also better protect ST from years of upcoming delays due to inevitable lawsuits.
[ot] [Ed: Krieg’s Stranger article will be in the next open thread, where you can critique it there, ideally more concisely.]
Nathan posts a link to an article in The Stranger and all the replies or critiques to the article are “OT” because someone plans to post an article about the article, but Nathan’s article with the link is not OT.
The replies were deleted because the editors on this blog are readers and believers of The Stranger and did not like the critiques which I thought were dead on.
If nothing else, give some notice that replies will be deleted so they can be copied and reposted. With the very subjective editing on this blog by people with very strong ideological views who also post it has gotten to the point everyone has to write their posts on word or some other source and then copy and paste to this blog because an editor plans to write an article about The Stranger post in another article and wants to save the thunder for their magnus opus, which my guess is will be less inciteful than the replies that were deleted about the article.
I also think anyone who removes a reply or post should identify themselves because more often than not when an ad hominin attack is not involved the post is removed because it conflicts with the editor’s ideology, and there is only one political ideology among the editors on this blog.
We are adults. We don’t need to be told what is OT or not, because an editor plans to write “the authoritative” article on an article we have all read and the editor just learned about from Nathan’s post. If you want to be an editor act like an editor.
Daniel, if you notice, I related my link to the topic at hand. The topic, if you somehow can’t parse it, is a proposal to skip the politics and study use of DSTT1. The title summarizes the problematic binary thinking being dithered about in the papers. The rest of the article is a fairly neutral overview, which, as noted by an “editor”, will be fair game for discussion on a later post.
“give some notice that replies will be deleted so they can be copied and reposted. ”
Reposting deleted content is unacceptable behavior on a forum. You should know better by now.
“Reposting deleted content is unacceptable behavior on a forum. You should know better by now.”
“[ot] [Ed: Krieg’s Stranger article will be in the next open thread, where you can critique it there, ideally more concisely.]”
If a post is posted in the wrong location — even though the thread it should be posted in doesn’t even exist — the polite thing is to ask the poster to move it, which is usually done, or in the case where the correct thread does not yet exist to copy and paste when the new thread does exist.
Nathan confuses posts that are deleted due to ad hominin attacks with posts that the editor thinks are in the wrong thread. Obviously Nathan posted The Stranger article because he agreed with it although it added nothing new and was pretty unsophisticated, without critique, and the replies were deleted because they disagreed with article. Content should not be deleted because an editor disagrees with the several replies, or on the grounds it should be reposted in a thread that does not yet exist.
I marked it “[ot]’ because a lot of it was about whether Krieger’s article’s swear words and inflammatory phrases are immature (of course), whether that invalidates the article’s serious points (no), and a bit about the article’s points that’s partly relevant but too much to get into here. THIS article is a critical one because we’re asking Sound Transit directly to make an important decision, and I don’t want that to get lost.
The open thread will be published tomorrow morning, and will be just a link to the article. I think the article has unique worthwhile content: a side-by-side comparison of the arguments for and against North of CID. That’s something the rest of us should have thought of writing earlier.
[depends on ot thread]