In his recent article, Martin Pagel outlined why a single downtown tunnel is a win-win. I’ll emphasize mainly that transfers are crucial in a world where the suburb-to-downtown commute is no longer as common as it was. And transfers are a million times better when one only has to switch platforms in a tunnel than having to get out of a station, walk some distance, and get into another station.

But most importantly, using a single tunnel for the planned lines in ST3 is not a transit-nerd fantasy but completely feasible. Previous discussions on why a second downtown tunnel is needed have focused on capacity. According to Martin H. Duke’s 2015 interview with Marie Olson, Sound Transit’s Link Transportation Manager for Operations, the capacity of the existing tunnel should allow for 40 four-car trains per hour, or a headway of 90 seconds. Split between the three lines this results in 4.5 minute headways per line – significantly more capacity than needed for ST3 (planned 8-minute peak headways per line)! This particular interview points out that ventilation is not an issue either. Some work may still be required: ST3 project C-07: Transit Tunnel improvements enabling increases in system frequency estimates that approximately $20m will be needed to enable higher than 3-minute headways in the tunnel. That is negligible compared to the billions needed for a second tunnel.

It’s important to realize that this path — upgrades rather than completely new construction — is the path San Francisco took with the 2009 MUNI signaling upgrade. That’s an important regional precedent that cannot be dismissed as happening in vastly different conditions. MUNI achieved a 50% effective capacity increase for $104m, easily 20 times less than the cost of a new 3.5-mile tunnel. They went from 30 trains per hour to 45 trains per hour with a design capacity of 60 trains per hour. Yes, that is a system supporting 1-minute headways (!) for light rail trains. Not to mention that MUNI trains share the road with regular traffic for much of their route (like the First Hill and SLU streetcars) and arrive at the tunnel at irregular intervals, making their problem vastly more difficult than ours.

Sound Transit needs to make it their #1 alternative to leverage the existing downtown tunnel. Not just for better transfers and avoiding disruption in the CID, but because the time savings of constructing a very complicated downtown megaproject will allow for new lines and extensions to open sooner, and will help pay for any cost overruns. And if we are lucky, there may be funds available to enhance other projects.

170 Replies to “A single downtown tunnel is completely possible and provides the best outcomes”

  1. Great piece! Succinct and compelling. This is the “no DSTT2 argument” in a nutshell.

    Now, how do we get the ST Board to actually listen?

      1. To me, the second SF tunnel (“Central Subway”) resembles a Ballard stub line with an extension to Midtown and First Hill with a huge cost-saving element of running on the surface through their new employment/ arena districts of Mission Bay and Dogpatch.

      2. It’s perpendicular, but serves the same Caltrain-downtown trips that the old route used to. The T and N used to come out of the Market Street tunnel and make a big U around Embarcadero to get to 4th and King, where the new tracks start (the N still does this). Now the T just uses the new tunnel to get to downtown a bit faster.

    1. That second MUNI tunnel is perpendicular to the first – a different route altogether – so it’s not a direct comparison to our situation.

      Part of the big problem they have that we don’t have is that their trains arrive at the tunnel off-schedule due to sharing the road with cars. That means that even though they have the ability to push 45 trains per hour, it’s still difficult to manage. We will not have this problem, given that Link has dedicated lanes and extremely effective signal priority even when running at grade. Link is built to light metro standards and light metros routinely push 45 trains per hour per segment.

      1. If San Francisco MUNI (which I have ridden many times) is now running 1 minute headways on lines with street running, that is a super compelling case that 2 minute headways here should be NO PROBLEM. What’s a bigger problem is trying to imagine a valid excuse ST can invoke.

        On the automotive side they are striving to see how many milliseconds they can shave off automatic moose detection for driver assist while here in Seattle, for all our tech industry prowess, we seem to have trouble envisioning how to merge 3 trains in 6 minutes in a dedicated right of way.

    2. > SF Muni is not a good example to use, unless you’re trying to show how undesirable interlining so many lines is.

      SF Muni has 5 lines in the tunnel. Seattle Link would only have 3 lines. And honestly at headways of 6 and 8 minutes only at peak time (and 10~15 off peak) it can definitely handle it for a max headway of 2.5 minutes.

      > They also just opened a second tunnel under downtown.

      Actually I find SF Muni new tunnel a perfect example compared to the West Seattle extension.

      > City officials and planners predicted that the subway would alleviate demand on those buses as Muni riders opted to travel underground. However, the 30 and 45 buses saw just 700 fewer combined riders on weekdays in January, compared to December, according to agency data

      That is probably what would happen with the West Seattle Link as well if the C bus continued on to downtown.

      Also honestly is no one worried about the problem of too low frequency? With such long extensions up to Everett and Tacoma, Sound Transit might end up cutting off peak frequency.

      1. I can’t read the article because it’s paywalled. My first question is, why is ridership tepid? San Francisco’s Chinatown is so dense that buses at 5pm were waiting two minutes at every stop for people to load and unload into packed buses — like the 71/72/73X was at Campus Parkway only worse. It must be because of the heavy loss of downtown commuters. That corridor is still so dense that I expect ridership will pick up over a few years.

      2. Mike, the station is not in “Chinatown”; it’s four blocks north of Lombard in North Beach, not far from the Coit Tower. Besides, Chinatown is dead. D-E-A-D. More than half the storefronts are permanently shuttered, there’s hardly anybody walking around. Many restaurants are closed. It is very sad.

      3. Not Lombard, Broadway which pretty much divides North Beach from Chinatown. The station is a few blocks south of Lombard.

      4. The Chinatown station on MUNI is on Stockton, the main commercial street of Chinatown (as opposed to Grant, which is tourist oriented) and at the cross street of Washington, three blocks south of Broadway, south of North Beach, and nowhere near COIT Tower. It is smack in the middle of Chinatown.

        It is not, however, a convenient short hop from transfeers at the Powell Street station under Market–you have to go out of the main MUNI station, up to concourse level, then down a lengthy corridor to another MUNI fare gate and then down to a deep tunnel with a set of escalators seemingly longer than a bad rock concert. But even if this transfer was better, the problem is service, as it almost always is. The T-Third routinely gets held up in traffic on its surface alignments, and there’s a severe operator shortage, so that headways are poor.

      5. I was thinking of the 8 and 30. The Central Subway was partly to relieve those routes, which got insanely overcrowded. Stockton Street is the center of Chinatown and Kearney Street is within its periphery.

      6. As for D-E-A-D, I don’t think downtown San Francisco’s or Seattle’s plight will last more than five years. We can’t make 30-year or 100-year decisions based on that.

  2. While it is very early to speculate whether cost savings from leveraging the existing tunnel can help fund additional project work, I will list a few back of the napkin estimates here:

    Again, these are really rough estimates with a very high degree of potential error. Per The Urbanist, “Sound Transit has pegged the downtown segment cost at $3.1 billion under the refined 4th Avenue shallow plus Midtown scenario”. Assuming this cost is born by each of the 5 subareas roughly equally, that is $600m available to each. That could help with some big ticket items:

    All these assume tunnel construction costs running at ~$300-400m/mile. They would also require an additional vote even if no new funding needs to be authorized.

    • North King: extension of Link from Ballard downtown to Fremont as the first step of Ballard-UW Link via a bored tunnel again

    • East King: extension of Link from South Kirkland P&R to downtown Kirkland via a 1.5-mile bored tunnel

    • South King: significant Sounder improvements (working towards all-day service or acquiring BEMUs), Boeing Access Road station, airport access improvements

    • Pierce: expedite Tacoma Link extensions + significant Sounder improvements

    • Snohomish: perhaps link on Hwy 99 with a connector to PAE

    1. Anton, while I agree with the concept of returning subarea contributions for DSTT2 to the subareas I think your numbers are a little off.

      ST still estimates DSTT2 will cost $2.2 billion. ST 3 requires N. King Co. to pay half, and the other subareas half, or 12.5% each. That means on paper cancelling DSTT2 will return $275 million to each subarea, and $1.1 billion to N. King Co.

      If you review the 2021 subarea report I don’t think two subareas — SnoCo or S. King — have their contribution for DSTT2 anyway. I also wonder about Pierce Co. which has $1.2 billion in banked subarea loans after all these years, but TDLE is estimated to cost $3.2 billion, so figure $4 billion at best. Cancelling S. Sounder upgrades saves $1 billion although I don’t know if that all goes to Pierce. Today S. Sounder has around an 11% farebox recovery. That can’t go on forever. I am not sure who will pay for the suspension bridge for FWLE.

      So other than East King Co. the other subareas will need their contribution from DSTT2 just to complete their ST 3 projects.

      For East King Co. the problem is they are even more antagonistic toward transit, and the disruption from tunnels or light rail, and so prefer it “someplace else” (although bad transit, the beauty of Issaquah Link is it mostly goes through nowhere). I don’t think Kirkland would agree to a tunnel to downtown Kirkland for Link, because they didn’t before. What is the benefit to Kirkland? It isn’t as if downtown Kirkland is hurting right now without Link.

      1. Thanks for pointing out how the subareas contribute at varying degrees. That would definitely change what is possible (and all this assumes no cost overruns that would eat up the surplus).

        Regarding the estimated DSTT2 cost, I took the $3.1b figure from here:

        Regarding Kirkland – they opposed an at-grade alignment on Eastrail, but I am not aware that they opposed a bored (not cut and cover) tunnel specifically. The disruption from such construction is minimal – can be confined to only the station site in downtown Kirkland and at the Park and Ride (which would be disrupted anyways as the current line would terminate there).

        Downtown Kirkland is a walkable community, with high residential and commercial density. Downtown Issaquah today (barring the old town) doesn’t have either and the built form is mostly centered around moving by car. I understand the zoning will allow for changes, but you could ask yourself, how much more dense and walkable would Kirkland be by the time Issaquah becomes walkable? I think not having Link reach downtown Kirkland is a tremendous missed opportunity on a regional level.

      2. “I don’t think Kirkland would agree to a tunnel to downtown Kirkland for Link, because they didn’t before.”

        There never was a tunnel proposal in Kirkland in that corridor. The closest was a pre-concept of a Sand Point-Kirkland underground lake crossing.

        The alternatives proposed in ST3 were light rail or BRT along the Cross-Kirkland Connector rail-trail. ST wanted light rail; The City of Kirkland wanted BRT; an activist group “Save Our Trail” wanted nothing. ST declined to get in the middle of that dispute and truncated the Issaquah line at South Kirkland P&R.

        A tunnel would avoid the impacts to the CKC, so it would be a win-win in that regard. However, it hasn’t been studied or cost-estimated, and would probably be expensive, and disproportional to the modest ridership Kirkland can generate. I’d suggest an express bus on 108th instead.

        Both asdf2 and I have walked the CKC and think it should remain a woodsy bike/walking north-south corridor. Suburbs need those too.

      3. Nobody at Sound Transit has ever suggested a tunnel to downtown Kirkland. The only ST proposal was a rail line that stayed on the BNSF corridor, with downtown “served” by a rail station at the trail crossing on 6th St. Nobody at the city opposed a tunnel because there was never a proposal to take a position on.

      4. So you are going to build a 1.5 mile deep bore tunnel to downtown Kirkland for the subarea’s $275 million contribution to DSTT2?

        DSTT2 is losing stations left and right because the stakeholders next to the stations object to the long construction times and disruption (even for deep bore tunnels like midtown) but Kirkland is going to agree to the same? Why? What benefit does downtown Kirkland get from Link? I just think transit advocates don’t ask that question when the answer is precisely why stakeholders don’t want DSTT2. No benefit to them. Kirkland residents living downtown don’t take a lot of transit. Eastsiders don’t take a lot of transit.

        Look, I have always thought Issaquah Link was bad transit (especially to “South” Kirkland, the “south” always cracks me up), but there was nowhere else to spend all that ST 3 revenue on Link on the eastside based on uniform tax rates to complete WSBLE, or places that wanted Link. I wish East Link accessed Bellevue Way, but I don’t think Bellevue wanted it, tunnel or not, and I think Al is right ST didn’t comprehend the amount of ST tax revenue the eastside would realize from ST 3 when going frugal on East Link.

        Issaquah is the heart of car country on a great interstate with a demographic that loves cars. It has a great commercial center (actually several) but is not walkable and is a long ways away. I agree with you on that. But I think just for politics Issaquah won’t give up the “imprimatur” it will receive light rail, but probably never will because the eastside has become ored on Link, and like most eastside cities will locate stations away from the heart and maybe closer to the Highlands. Transit is pretty dead on the eastside.

        If the discussion was academic I would likely agree the eastside will be able to afford a tunnel from S. Kirkland to downtown Kirkland, and that makes more sense than Issaquah Link (I would much rather take Link to downtown Kirkland than to Issaquah), but I don’t think Kirkland wants it for exactly the same reasons Seattle stakeholders don’t want DSTT2.

        Kirkland had plenty of opportunity during ST 3 to request the obvious: continuing the tunnel from S. Kirkland to downtown Kirkland, but never did, and didn’t want Link in downtown Kirkland. There didn’t need to be a “formal proposal” for Kirkland to think about it, considering Issaquah Link terminates at the very odd S. Kirkland. Kirkland thought about it and passed.

        We agree DSTT2 should be scrapped (if nothing else N. King Co. can’t afford it no matter what the route is). We agree the subarea contributions should be returned to the subareas for their projects because DSTT2 never was a “shared regional facility”. I think three subareas probably don’t have enough revenue to complete their ST 3 projects even with their (pretty small relatively) contribution of $275 million but anything helps.

        I think the eastside will have enough ST 2 and 3 revenue to do just about anything it wants including Issaquah Link and a tunnel to downtown Kirkland but the cities don’t want Link. I think that is frustrating to urbanists and transit advocates — that the one subarea that can afford tunnels and Link doesn’t really want them — but neither do the stakeholders in downtown Seattle. For the same reasons.

        And if there is anywhere that Link and tunnels makes sense it is downtown Seattle. There just isn’t the money, the riders are no longer there, and the stakeholders don’t want the disruption when the downtown core is on life support. Otherwise if the region is going to build a second tunnel it would be somewhere downtown. Not from Issaquah to S. Kirkland or to downtown Kirkland.

      5. Kirkland had plenty of opportunity during ST 3 to request the obvious: continuing the tunnel from S. Kirkland to downtown Kirkland, but never did, and didn’t want Link in downtown Kirkland.”.

        No, they didn’t. Link to anywhere in Kirkland is a ridiculous oversized solution relative to travel demand, and adding tunnels just multiplies that. Even the rail-boggled board wouldn’t have gone for a tunnel.

        When ST studied Link in Kirkland, it was always to downtown (as represented by 6th St) or to somewhere in Totem Lake. South Kirkland was a last-minute political move – the Board/staff got in a snit about City of Kirkland wanting BRT that could feasibly have gone into downtown and done much else, so they told Kirkland to go pound sand, and then CM Balducci talked them into spending the last of the subarea money on South Kirkland in the final revision of the plan.

      6. Daniel, so you are saying that disruption is the main reason Kirkland would oppose a downtown station? Downtown Kirkland has a lot of developable lots and construction will hit them regardless. The way to avoid additional disruption is to build the station for what would become building foundations the way it is done for some stations of the Broadway Subway in Vancouver, BC. When you have developable lots, this is possible. The CID just doesn’t have developable lots in the right places hence why here is opposition there.

      7. “Daniel, so you are saying that disruption is the main reason Kirkland would oppose a downtown station? Downtown Kirkland has a lot of developable lots and construction will hit them regardless. The way to avoid additional disruption is to build the station for what would become building foundations the way it is done for some stations of the Broadway Subway in Vancouver, BC. When you have developable lots, this is possible. The CID just doesn’t have developable lots in the right places hence why here is opposition there.”

        Anton, disruption is one factor, just like DSTT2 in downtown Seattle. The other is Kirkland does not need Link, or see its benefits. Downtown Kirkland is pretty developed, way more than the CID. Those underdeveloped lots in Kirkland will get developed whether Link goes downtown or not. The property owners and developers can afford the foundations, and huge amounts of underground parking the city requires.

        The opposition to a station in the CID is not about whether the CID has developable lots because the zoning potential and the existing construction is one of the most dramatic in the city. The CID is planned to go to 14 or even more stories, when it will no longer be the CID. The CID does not want the 6-10 years of traffic disruption, and does not see any benefit to the CID from DSTT2 when completed.

        So whether DSTT2 or a tunnel under Bellevue Way or to downtown Kirkland, the objection is two-fold (assuming the funding is there): years of disruption, and no benefit from Link to the neighborhood or downtown core.

        The second is the key, and most overlooked by transit advocates or The Urbanist or The Stranger: no one can explain TO THE BUSINESSES AND PROPERTY OWNERS along Link the benefits to them. Or I think to Harrell.

        I think transit advocates think there is some inherent benefit in transit or Link. There isn’t. The reason there is no station in the CID or midtown or will be in Kirkland is because no one can explain the benefit to the stakeholders. It is why so much of East Link goes where the folks are not. No wanted it near them. So Bellevue chose S. Bellevue, East Main along 405, Wilburton, The Spring Dist., Overlake, etc. Issaquah Link is the same: it goes where the folks are not.

        ST can mitigate the impacts from Link construction, but it has to be able to explain to neighborhoods or cities or stakeholders how they will truly benefit ($$$$) from Link after the years of construction. Right now ST can’t do that, so like the UW stakeholders demand the mitigation cash but put the stations along the perimeter.

        ST has to be able to explain the benefit of Link before it can get to disruption or mitigation. I think this problem will be very acute in WS and Ballard, because I think both communities think that magically underground stations will appear years from now, even though few WS residents will take it.

        We have only begun the objections to WSBLE. We haven’t got to SLU, Queen Anne (very litigious), or the rest of the route. It is going to be one fight after another, especially now that stakeholders have seen the CID of all groups defeat ST. I think at every fight Harrell will side with the stakeholders because he doesn’t see any benefit in WSBLE.

        If Kirkland wanted a tunnel to downtown Kirkland they would have said so. Kirkland knows the subarea can afford an extension to downtown. Kirkland just does not want it so why spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Link a city does not want?

      8. “What benefit does downtown Kirkland get from Link? I just think transit advocates don’t ask that question when the answer is precisely why stakeholders don’t want DSTT2. No benefit to them. Kirkland residents living downtown don’t take a lot of transit. Eastsiders don’t take a lot of transit.”

        We as transit advocates need to take a larger view of what the region and cities need, and not just take people-in-denial at face value. Downtown Kirkland is one of the Kirkland-Bellevue-Redmond triangle the Eastside is centered around. It has 92,000 residents and non-resident workers and visitors. That level requires reasonably fast transit from downtown Kirkland to Bellevue and Redmond,. as well as to Seattle and Bothell. I’m not saying an underground Link line is appropriate: I’m making a general statement on what kind of transit connectivity Kirkland should have. The current 231, 250, and 255 are not adequate, Stride 2 only partly solves it, and I’m doubtfull RapidRide K will fully address it either. The 231 and 250 are too slow and infrequent. The 255 mainly needs more frequency (although the speed on 108th isn’t wonderful, nor the detour into the P&R). Stride 2 is important for general north-south connectivity, but its distance from downtown Kirkland and Kirkland’s size argue for something more. Extending the Issaquah line to downtown Kirkland or a Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake BRT line are appropriate levels of service. Even if we can’t do it short-term, we should do it long-term. Unless we’re going to evacuate Kirkland and turn it back to farms.

        “Kirkland residents living downtown don’t take a lot of transit”

        This is not just for Kirkland residents living downtown: it’s for everyone who goes to downtown Kirkland for any reason.

        “Eastsiders don’t take a lot of transit.”

        That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. A large part of why they don’t take transit is the transit is so skeletal. Similar areas in suburban Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto have a larger transit mode share because transit is more frequent and useful and the network is more complete. You may think Eastsiders are different and uniquely adverse to transit, but that’s not what examples in the US and around the world show. You and your friends and people on Nextdoor may never take transit except for token trips even if it’s robust, but a significant number of the 300K-ish Eastside residents and additional people who go to the Eastside would.

      9. The benefits of transit to the East Side?

        For starters there are studies like what you can find here:

        But more importantly, current ridership on the buses to Kirkland is not great because the service is not great. The buses are infrequent, indirect and unreliable. It takes 18 minutes from downtown Bellevue to downtown Kirkland, which is much slower than driving, while on Link it would take under 10 minutes which would be faster than driving.

        If you look at the ridership of the B Line compared to other East Side buses you can see how slightly improved service (frequent all day every day) can make a huge dent. And the B Line is incredibly slow and often unreliable (subject to traffic delay). Link will be a game changer on the East Side.

      10. “continuing the tunnel from S. Kirkland to downtown Kirkland”

        That’s not a tunnel; it’s a line that’s partly elevated, and partly at-grade in the Eastrail and I-90 rights-of-way.

      11. “no one can explain TO THE BUSINESSES AND PROPERTY OWNERS along Link the benefits to them.”

        Because they’re a tiny fraction of the population. The issue is not just one neighborhood’s businesses and property owners, but everyone throughout the line or network.

      12. “The current 231, 250, and 255 are not adequate, Stride 2 only partly solves it, and I’m doubtfull RapidRide K will fully address it either. The 231 and 250 are too slow and infrequent.”

        I mean 250 and 255. I was thinking of the 250 as on 116th and another Kirkland-Bellevue route on Lake Washington Blvd (231), but they’re both the same route (250).

      13. “I think transit advocates think there is some inherent benefit in transit or Link.”

        The benefit is express-level service with stops every 1-2 miles and at all urban villages, running at least every 15 minutes until 10pm every day. That can be anything from a bus with transit-priority lanes to grade-separated rail. That’s what all cities the size of Kirkland should have. Link is just one realization of it. Light rail is more appropriate in Seattle, or in the Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond corridor, than to Kirkland.

      14. The business owners are people too, people with their own personal opinions and political views as well. The notion that decision makers should treat the business owners’ opinions as some kind of objective truth or baseline metric is a fallacy. Especially when many of them are in fact in favor of light rail. “The Business Owners” are a diverse group of individuals, not a homogeneous bloc. Their opinions matter! It’s just that they shouldn’t be the only voice in the room that carries weight.

      15. I don’t see any justification for light rail on the eastside until there sufficient demand but there are other low hanging projects to consider:
        Kirkland did a study to build a gondola from the 85th STRide station to their transit center. That would connect both the station and the TOD they plan around it with their downtown and the buses running through the rest of Kirkland. That might be a good first step, but Sound Transit has refused to even entertain Kirkland’s request, it just ridiculed it.
        Another gondola opportunity would be to connect high ridership locations such as Bellevue College/Eastgate and T-Mobile/Totem Lake Mall to the Link line at either South Bellevue station or Bellevue transit center.

      16. >> DSTT2 is losing stations left and right because the stakeholders next to the stations object to the long construction times and disruption (even for deep bore tunnels like midtown) but Kirkland is going to agree to the same? Why? What benefit does downtown Kirkland get from Link? I just think transit advocates don’t ask that question when the answer is precisely why stakeholders don’t want DSTT2.

        The issue isn’t that people don’t like transit, but that transit service has diminishing returns. People in the International District have stated they already have good transit, so the new station has a more marginal impact. In contrast, in Kirkland, Link provides something new.

      17. “DSTT2 is losing stations left and right because the stakeholders next to the stations object to the long construction times and disruption”

        I haven’t heard any stakeholder objections to Midtown or Westlake2 stations. Americans always dislike construction disruption wherever it is, but I haven’t heard of any formal business objections to DSTT2 over those stations or the alignment there. They knew in 2016 that this was the plan, so they’ve had eight years to object. The only new revelation is the unprecedented depth of the stations and long transfers. But that still didn’t get downtown businesses to try to delete those stations or kill DSTT2. Deleting Midtown station came from ST itself, as a way to reduce costs, or to compensate for extra CID-related costs, or because the North of CID alternative is maybe too close to Midtown.

    2. Pierce, East King, Snohomish: More frequent ST Express feeders to Link. The ST2 planning scenarios had three potential levels. From memory, the lowest was the same as today but truncated, while the highest was significantly more frequent (implying 15 minutes in 30-minute corridors). ST3 seems to assume the current level. But we could have; e.g., 15-minute express buses from Puyallup, Lakewood, Auburn, Edmonds, etc.

    3. Anton,
      Nice piece. Re CKC, Kirkland favored its ST3 use by electric bus. It was ST staff and board that was fearful of trail opponents. The CKC ROW is wide enough for both trail and transit, but it would have to be regraded. A tunnel would be different. I like it. The ST3 plan to build Link only to the park-and-ride is silly; Link should serve pedestrian centers.

      1. “The CKC ROW is wide enough for both trail and transit, but it would have to be regraded.”

        Meaning cutting down trees on the sides. The problem is not just that two tracks and a trail can physically fit, it’s that it would lose the remote woodsy dirt-and-gravel atmosphere. The segment in northern Bellevue illustrates it: two train tracks and an asphalt trail. That would look like a street next to a track, with only concrete and a chain-link fence around it, no bushes or critters or dirt or gravel. That’s what all the other streets look like, whereas the trail is supposed to be different and an oasis.

    4. DSTT2 is an infinitely better idea than UW -> Ballard, two communities only separated by 2.2 miles and whose transit issues can be wholly ascribed to a single freeway on-ramp. For all its expense, DSTT2 at least adds something to mass transit in the region as a whole.

      1. A Joy, what does DSTT2 add what the current tunnel cannot provide?
        DSTT2 will make rider/transfer experience much worse.

      2. Ideally I would argue for a widening of DSTT1 (there is no need to keep it under 3rd, as the existing tunnel already goes underneath several skyscrapers at a shallow level just fine) and keep the spine intact. But DSTT2 adds capacity, something we will absolutely need in the future. Sure the deep tunnel stations and siting are far from ideal. But compared to UW -> Ballard it is a no brainer. It may be comparing bad to worse, but such choices are far from uncommon.

      3. The original DSTT was built under exactly zero skyscrapers, unless you count the Bon Marche building as a skyscraper (it’s not). Some of the entrances are built into some skyscrapers bases, but those escalators quickly pivot into the ROW.

        It’s possible for new construction to be built above the original DSTT, as demonstrated by the buildings due north of the current CID station.

        But it is extremely impractical for the DSTT to attempt to expand the station boxes sideways beneath existing structures. The potential liability inherent in demolishing foundation piles of occupied buildings would be incredible.

      4. University Street Station is absolutely under a skyscraper, as it pivots west underneath of one until it reaches the base of Benaroya Hall. There are also several it runs under as it makes the turn between University and Westlake, as that turn is nowhere near sharp enough to avoid it. In fact I remember articles in the P-I discussing the foundational infill it ran through when they were building it.

      5. Open Street Map has the turn from 3rd to Pine mapped out (I misremembered the turn – the Bon Marche is north).

        The turn is very tight, and only underlies a few <10-story buildings which I presume have relatively shallow foundations.

        Like I said, punching a station entrance through a building is not the same as opening up a station box beneath one. It's simply not feasible to build a shallow station through structural foundations without taking on incredibly risky liability for the health of the structure. It's why both of the DSTT2 designs ended up so ridiculously deep.

        I'd too prefer to see a widened, interlined DSTT, especially if it allowed for a branch to continue north on 3rd through Belltown, west of Seattle Center, up to Ballard. But it's simply not going to happen.

      6. The building at 3rd and Seneca had the infill underneath its foundation tunnelled through. And that is most definitely a skyscraper. And the map you provide does not accurately reflect how much of University Street Station is underneath Benaroya Hall, to the west of 3rd. It is napkin math at best.

      7. Benaroya Hall is hardly a “skyscraper”; it’s about three-and-a-half stories tall. More importantly, it was built after the tunnel. It’s pretty easy to build a forty foot high pancake shaped performance hall over a station box that’s already there. Well, maybe not “easy”, but much more so than widening a station box at its load-bearing base.

      8. I agree Benaroya Hall is not a skyscraper and was built after the DSTT. I am referring to the building with the 3rd and Seneca entrance, which is a skyscraper and was built before the DSTT.

      9. A Joy clearly hasn’t tried getting across North Seattle by any mode recently. A crosstown route connecting Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford and the UW would begin to knit our long radial suburban spines into more of an urban system within Seattle. I proposed in a comment on these pages years ago that such a route should continue to U Village and Sand Point, crossing there to Kirkland to connect with the Issaquah-Kirkland route. That would provide fast transit access between a lot of places it’s hard to get between with a car – which is exactly one of the things rail transit should do.

      10. I take the 44 relatively frequently, and beaten it walking due to traffic congestion. It is almost completely caused by the 45th/I-5 on ramps, and clears up immediately afterwards.

      11. I am referring to the building with the 3rd and Seneca entrance, which is a skyscraper and was built before the DSTT.

        Are you talking about this building: This is a very attractive building — the nicest one built in the last fifty years, in my opinion. I believe it was essentially built with the bus tunnel. They got rights to build higher by incorporating access to the bus tunnel. Construction of the building began in 1986 and finished in 1988. Construction of the bus tunnel started in 1986 and the first ceremonial bus ran in early 1989. It would be much harder to build the tunnel after the building.

      12. But DSTT2 adds capacity, something we will absolutely need in the future.

        Right, but this proposal has exactly the same amount of capacity. It is simple math. To increase capacity you have to run the trains more often. Here is a quick rundown of the limitations, assuming Ballard Link is tied with Tacoma Dome Link:

        * Ballard Link and Tacoma Dome Link — Limited to six minute headways on Rainier Valley.
        * Existing tunnel through downtown — Limited to three minute headways. With three minute headways, it means you can only run East Link and West Seattle Link every six minutes.

        Unless other work is done, that means each line from the south is limited to running every six minutes. The same thing can be achieved with this proposal. We simply run all the trains through the same tunnel, every two minutes. Interestingly enough, this actually increases capacity in the north end (where we will likely have the most crowding). So basically, this proposal has the same capacity as the two tunnels in some areas, but *more* capacity in others.

        Furthermore, if the Ballard line is independent (as suggested here: then the Ballard Line could easily have more capacity as well.

        So we get extra capacity in some areas, the same capacity in others, and save a bunch of money. That is the idea.

      13. Yes, the construction of the old Washington Mutual Tower, now simply called 1201 3rd, was coordinated with the plans for the bus tunnel. My spouse, who is a Seattle native, remembers watching the implosion of the old Savoy Hotel, which was located on that site. (I personally was still living in NY then, though one of my brothers was living here and gave me the history.) Honestly, I have no idea as to what commenter A Joy is talking about.

        Fwiw, I think the WAMU tower is one of the nicest highrise buildings ever built in Seattle, both architecturally and aesthetically.

      14. “Right, but this proposal has exactly the same amount of capacity. It is simple math. To increase capacity you have to run the trains more often.”

        I can’t believe we are going to have this semantics argument. More tracks mean more capacity. It is a simple issue of physics. You can try to obfuscate that with train and driver costs, or argue about cost per rider mile. You can bring up peculiarities of our specific system which will have to be fixed in the future regardless of any other choices made. But it doesn’t change that in the end you get more capacity with parallel pairs tracks than you do with one.

      15. I can’t believe we are going to have this semantics argument. More tracks mean more capacity. It is a simple issue of physics.

        I am not trying to obfuscate anything. Here, I’ll make it simple:

        Imagine two cities. Each city has the same size trains running through it. The first city has a single set of tracks. The trains can run every minute. The other city has two sets of tracks. Each set can only run every ten minutes.

        Which city can more capacity? According to your logic, it is the second city, because it has more tracks. But this simply isn’t true. The first city can run way more trains. Let me put this in very simple terms:

        Capacity is the combination of headways, tracks and the number of riders per train.

        Thus you can increase capacity by either increasing the headways, or increasing the number of tracks. In our case, increasing headways is much, much cheaper. Improve the tunnel and run the trains more often.

        But again, some of our limitations require more than that. Want to run the trains from Rainier Valley more often? Adding a new downtown tunnel won’t help. Nor will increasing the headways in the downtown tunnel. To increase capacity in Rainier Valley (and everywhere along that line) you need to bury or elevate the lines.

      16. “I am not trying to obfuscate anything. Here, I’ll make it simple:

        Imagine two cities….

        …Capacity is the combination of headways, tracks and the number of riders per train.”

        It’s simple. Here, let me create a forced artificial example to prove how simple it is.

        “Want to run the trains from Rainier Valley more often? Adding a new downtown tunnel won’t help.”

        Bringing up the very peculiarities I was referring to does not help your claim to not be obfuscating anything.

        This is why I have asked you not to respond to my posts, and offered to do the same in kind. When it all boils down, I feel like you are not arguing in good faith. You seem to say one thing and do another, while claiming you are not. It is neither rewarding nor educational as a result.

      17. I should add that this is another classic example of how people conflate freeways with mass transit systems. Imagine you don’t care about anything else, and want to increase the car capacity of a freeway lane where the speed limit is 70 MPH. What do you do? You add lanes. There is no alternative. You can’t increase the speed limit. You can’t expect the cars to run closer to each other. The only thing to do is add lanes.

        This mindset is so common, it may explain the desire for a new tunnel. Someone probably mentioned capacity, and the first thought was “more tracks”, instead of “better headways”. It would not surprise me if someone suggested “better headways” at a meeting, and a representative responded by saying “Better what? What’s that?”. Or they brushed it off as being too difficult, even though the standard approach across the globe is to improve headways or run trains with higher capacity long before building another line*. But again, there is no car/freeway analogy. This is all mass transit specific.

        The amount of ignorance surrounding these subjects is astounding. Don’t get me wrong — I was no different. But I don’t serve on the board.

        If you don’t know the basics, then digging into the details — like knowing that trains are limited to six minute headways in Rainier Valley — and then doing the math is asking too much. Instead you just assume that adding a track will help, the same way that adding racing tires on a Pinto will help you go faster. Sorry, but that is not the weak link (no pun intended).

        * Once again we simply have to look at our nearest neighbor. The Canada Line has struggled with crowding. Will they build a new Canada Line, next to the old one? Of course not. To quote from this article:

        Q: Could you describe the plans to expand the capacity of the Canada Line?

        TransLink: The Canada Line is built to allow expansion. We can add more frequent trains to increase capacity from about 6,000/hr today to 9,000. There is further potential to increase capacity by another 25% with slightly longer trains with some (planned for) modifications of the stations.

        In other words: We will improve the headways and increase the capacity of the trains to increase overall capacity. In the case of Link, we can increase the capacity of our trains without extending the platforms.

      18. Bringing up the very peculiarities I was referring to does not help your claim to not be obfuscating anything.

        These peculiarities, as you call them, are the heart of the issue! It is not
        obfuscation to mention headways when discussing capacity. It is essential. It is like talking about flour when baking bread.

        Let me ask you a simple question:

        I wrote that capacity is the combination of headways, tracks and the number of riders per train. Do you agree, or not? If not, please explain why, because everything I wrote is based on this.

      19. I do not agree one bit. Capacity is an objective potential independent of easily and/or inevitably changed variables. Factors like the number of drivers and trains or the RV mess should not be considered when determining capacity.

        And I live in Seatac, taking Link frequently. I am intimately familiar with the issues in the RV. But that will have to be addressed regardless of tunnels and other lines. It is inevitable that something will be done about it. Why bring it up then? It’s like complaining about a speed bump the city knows will have to be removed. It will be a non-issue in the future, so why even bother to plan around it?

        I don’t even understand why you’d bring up the number of riders per train. That’s usage, not capacity. The flow rate a pipe is capable of does not change just because only one person is using a faucet at that moment.

      20. It does seem like the definition of the word capacity is being played around with a little bit. Capacity is capacity. The capacity of one quart is one quart. Saying if we double its size, we double its capacity, is semantics.

      21. @ A Joy and @ Ross

        I think it’s a bit getting off topic on definitions of capacity.

        Either way the question is if the new tunnel’s capacity is actually useful for xyz specific route. I mean one can widen a freeway to say 10 lanes, but if the oncoming lanes are only 2 lanes it didn’t actually do anything. You have to address each ‘bottleneck’ and for transit it is more than just number of lanes.

        1) the new tunnel will not increase frequency/capacity for trains heading to or coming from RV (rainier valley) since that is capped at 6 min or 10 TPH.
        2) the new tunnel could indirectly increase frequency for trains heading to or coming from northgate if the trains from RV head to Ballard. You could run trains from Everett to Northgate from 6~8 tph to around to 13 tph*
        3) lack of density / tod means it is highly unlikely they’d ever run trains that frequently and there are other bottlenecks like the lack of ridership for these far flung long routes. We could end up like bart where they run trains pretty infrequently most of the time since they need to run such long suburban routes.

        > It is inevitable that something will be done about it. Why bring it up then?

        Here’s a concrete example, look at Caltrain’s hourly schedule off peak. People think the low frequency is because it’s not electrified — that’s not actually true. One could run diesel trains much more frequently as well. The problem is lack of zoning and housing near the stations. Or look at the SF’s giant billion dollar transit station, they say eventually it will be used. Will it actually be used? They refuse to build a cheaper downtown extension to reach it and only look at 6 billion dollar tunnel alternatives.

      22. Ross, I agree with everything you say about capacity. However you’re misusing the word “headways”. To increase capacity one decreases headways which results in increased frequency.

        I understand that putting “decrease headways” in a string of “increase [other things]” would look weird. But you definitely do not want to “increase headways”.

        And A Joy, Nathan is right. The curve at Pine, a photo of which graces Martin’s article just preceding this one is quite tight and under-runs only the corner of the six story building that hosts Macdonald’s. That’s hardly a “skyscraper”. Well, maybe in December and January when the “sky” does get lower here in the Northwest. It’s easier to scrape.

        Twelve Eleven Third Avenue IS a skyscraper as Nathan others have pointed out. And it was built in conjunction with the bus tunnel so it’s no example of building a station box underneath an existing building.

        Four tracking DSTT1 is not going to happen. All those four-track subways in New York were built as wide cut-and-cover trenches , not bored.

      23. Me: I wrote that capacity is the combination of headways, tracks and the number of riders per train. Do you agree, or not?

        A Joy: I do not agree one bit.

        OK, I think the problem is terminology. I should not have written “number of riders per train”, but rather “capacity of each train”. I also think the first “capacity” is too vague. What matters is passenger capacity. So with that in mind, I will amend the previous statement:

        Passenger capacity is the combination of headways, tracks and the capacity of each train.

        To avoid further confusion, I will explain each term:

        Passenger Capacity: The number of people that can be moved past a particular point by a particular time. For example, 16,000 people per hour per direction.

        Headway: Lowest possible time difference between trains. For example, 3 minute headways versus 2 minute headways. The lower the headways, the higher the potential frequency. For example, 3 minute headways would mean a maximum of 20 trains per hour, while 2 minute headways would mean a maximum of 30 trains per hour.

        Tracks: Independent tracks going the same direction.

        Hopefully that all makes sense. Back to the earlier statement: You can increase passenger capacity by increasing any of the other variables. You can increase passenger capacity by increasing the train capacity. You can increase passenger capacity with better headways (i. e. more trains running along the track per hour). You can increase passenger capacity by building additional tracks.

        Hopefully, at this point, we are on the same page. If not — if there is something you disagree with, or something I wrote that doesn’t make sense to you, please explain. I would appreciate you not belittling my attempts at explaining this, because so far, it hasn’t helped. I am honestly trying to explain some somewhat complicated issues, but we first need to get an understanding of the terms and ideas before we get there.

        At that point — once we agree on these terms and ideas — we can dig into the particulars or *our* system. Because *our* system has limitations in various places that are relevant to the discussion.

      24. Ross, I agree with everything you say about capacity. However you’re misusing the word “headways”. To increase capacity one decreases headways which results in increased frequency.

        I know what the term means, I just wrote it wrong. I meant to write “improve headways” (as I did in other comments). I have corrected it.

        Note: I generally don’t write “increase” or “decrease” headways because it can be confusing. “improve headways” is intuitive — it means things are better. When talking about buses I usually just mention “frequency”, simply because there is not much stopping us from physically running more buses. In contrast, writing that we should simply “increase frequency on the trains through the tunnel” would be incorrect. We simply can’t do it (according to Sound Transit). To increase the frequency, we should reduce the minimum headways.

      25. Ross, I do agree with your definition of passenger capacity, and the variables that can increase it. I still think that you are missing the point though.

        Headways will decrease. Trains will eventually be 4 cars all direction all day. The RV mess will be fixed. These are variables that can and will be addressed. The one variable that is not guaranteed to be addressed is more track. All other limitations of *our* system are temporary. They will not last. Some of them cannot last. That is why they are irrelevant to the discussion. To continue to bring them up is sheer sophistry.

      26. 2) the new tunnel could indirectly increase frequency for trains heading to or coming from northgate if the trains from RV head to Ballard. You could run trains from Everett to Northgate from 6~8 tph to around to 13 tph*

        I’m not sure why you want to increase the number of trains from Everett to Northgate. I’m guessing that is a typo.

        In any event, sending the trains from RV to Ballard (in a new tunnel) would not change the number of trains from Northgate to downtown. They would still be headed through the old tunnel, which is limited to 3 minute headways. This is an important point. To increase the number of trains from Northgate to downtown, we need to improve headways on the existing tunnel.

        Once you do that, things get a bit complicated. For example, if we go with the “branch” idea, then this limits the number of trains that can go from downtown to Northgate (because you have some trains in the same tunnel going from Northgate to Ballard). If, on the other hand, you go with the “Ballard Stub” idea (a line from Ballard to Westlake, headed towards future stations on First Hill) then you don’t have that limitation. All three lines go through downtown and on up to Northgate. If, as suggested, you send the RV line to Ballard, then it means trains from West Seattle and Redmond go through the tunnel and head to Northgate. These could run every 4 minutes (each) increasing the number of trains from downtown to Northgate (to every 2 minutes).

        But again, the first step is to improve the headways in the existing tunnel, so that they can handle trains every two minutes.

        I suppose we could send trains from Northgate to the new tunnel, but that assumes that the new tunnel has better headways. I have never read anyone suggest that. Doing so seems like an especially bad idea, given every proposal for the new tunnel shows that it has inferior stations. Let’s face it, the new tunnel sucks. It is why people are only running one line through it, and folks are now arguing over which line gets stuck with it.

  3. I think it’s worth mentioning that SF Muni operates only one-car or two-car trains in the tunnel (half or one quarter of the train capacity compared to Link) yet still can move 150+ riders on a weekday primarily in one direction.

    It’s also worth mentioning that SF Muni Metro doesn’t have open gangway trains which would also add capacity. That’s in part due to the adjustable door heights and steps in every train car, unique to the system.

    I also think that it’s worth mentioning the SF built its second Downtown light rail T-Line tunnel to be perpendicular to the existing one — similar to a proposed Ballard stub line with an extension to First Hill.

    People will say that SF Muni Metro is a bad example. However it is a reliable workhorse for the city.

  4. Is there a realistic way to branch off the tunnel just east of the Westlake station to head north? I would think that the foundations of Grand Hyatt, Tower 801, and Paramount Theatre would be impediments to the necessary horizontal branch off the eastbound bore prior to diving under and heading north.

    1. Any branching seems possible, but would need to be studied. Many have theorized about possible issues, but no one has actually done the work (since it is expensive, and requires skills and access to a lot of different data that isn’t readily available).

      Running all the trains up to Northgate is probably easier and less disruptive to the existing line. You would have the same basic line from Ballard to Westlake — it would just end there. As some have proposed, the line could be automated, with smaller trains, and thus smaller stations. This would likely lead to cheaper, but better stations. It would also mean running the trains more often all the way to Northgate (not just to Westlake). Theoretically, they could be issues with the new tunnel that don’t exist in the old bus tunnel. Most likely though, a project like that would likely be easier and cheaper than branching, and much easier and cheaper than what they have planned. But again, that is just an educated guess — no one has actually done the real engineering.

      1. Ah, so you’d have a shorter Westlake-Ballard line and then three separate lines from Northgate to Angle Lake, West Seattle, and the east side (interlined from Northgate to CID). I guess you’d need to build a maintenance facility somewhere in Interbay for that short line. One real benefit would be to avoid almost all disruption to the existing line during construction, whereas underground branching (if even feasible) would likely be very disruptive. Intriguing.

      2. This is clearly your first visit (at least recently) to The Blog; we’ve been waving this “Interlining” banner for several months now with ever-increasing fervor. Welcome and BRING SOME FRIENDS!!! We need a massive outcry in the next few weeks to stop ST from adopting the “two-stations” plan and continuing with the ruinous tunnel project.

        And yes, a smallish MF is included west of the BNSF tracks just north of the Magnolia Bridge.

      3. @Dave

        Some studies (or more just proposals) were done in the past:

        Corridor B: 15th Avenue Elevated is most like the current proposal (or to be more accurate this is what was converted into the current representative project). Where the stub line ends to the West of the current Westlake station (near 1st/2nd avenue).

        One large change is that the current routing goes up to mercer street to reach south lake union and originally it was also 2 car trains instead of 4.

        There is also the other cheaper alternative listed in the candidate projects,

        One could just build both c-01a and c-01d for a fraction of the cost. Though it is at-grade through 1st avenue and only 2 train cars, though it could probably be built within this decade and Seattle could fund it by itself without breaching sub area equity.

      4. WL, please don’t conflate the “consultants” who produce these “studies” slanted to maintain their own employment for the next twenty years with proposals from this — yes, egotistical as Hell — group of concerned transit advocates. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!!!!!!!!

      5. And, “No”, you can’t “just build C-01a and C-01d for a fraction of the cost” because they both have tunneled undercrossings of the Ship Canal. No, when C-01a was published, ST thought it could get away with a mid-level drawbridge which would open a few times a week. The CG said “No Way! We see the potential for rehabbing Putin’s yacht, but only at Renton, so you have to have a 140 foot bridge!”

      6. @Tom Terrific

        > And, “No”, you can’t “just build C-01a and C-01d for a fraction of the cost” because they both have tunneled undercrossings of the Ship Canal.

        C-01a and C-01d both use 2-car trains not 4-car trains and are at-grade for a vast portion of it. The only tunneled portion is at fremont while the Ballard would use a moveable bridge.

        > No, when C-01a was published, ST thought it could get away with a mid-level drawbridge which would open a few times a week. The CG said “No Way! We see the potential for rehabbing Putin’s yacht, but only at Renton, so you have to have a 140 foot bridge!”

        That’s not what the Coast Guard said. What they said was they demanded an even higher bridge if it was fixed span. If it is a drawbridge then they don’t care about the height of it. A mid level drawbridge is acceptable to the Coast Guard.

        From their email pdf to sound transit:
        > 136 feet is an example. The fixed portion of any moveable bridge is negotiable

      7. WL, C-01d would be elevated throughout except for its tunnel should it be built, not at grade. Westlake is only four lanes wide and it is a major truck route; the City isn’t going to give up a pair of lanes. It was a pipe dream for Kubly to think otherwise.

        If it were single track from “downtown” Fremont west to Third NW, you might be able to run it alongside the BGT, but otherwise that section would have to be elevated as well and there is no room for the supports along Leary. It would probably have to go along 34th and Canal Street using the parking for the supports to Third NW. From there to downtown Ballard there’s plenty of room.

        If you have elevated on both sides of the Ship Canal and the CG says you can build an opening bridge, then obviously there wouldn’t be a tunnel in that branch.

        I think it’s a very good idea to go through Fremont because such a route would get a lot more walk-up ridership than buzzing down 15th NW. But, it would miss Lower Queen Anne. The surface alternative C-01a looks like it gets to Elliott via Harrison on the surface, like that is going to happen. There’s hardly enough room for two cars to meet on Harrison, much less if you take two lanes for the train.

        I think C-01a would require a short tunnel from about Republican and Elliott to Second and Cedar or maybe Clay if it can rise that quickly. Would the City go for taking two lanes out of Second? It doesn’t seem likely; it’s the southbound “car” street. Also, Second Avenue is at the bottom of a stonkin’ big hill up to the towers. That would not be popular.

        There is the alternative of just doing C-01d and extending the Monorail to a station somewhere around 1st North and Republican. That would serve the neighborhood pretty well. The southern terminus would have to be put back to two fully free tracks with access from a center platform.

        I doubt, though, that the terminal would be at 24th and Market. It wouldn’t go any farther than the Market Street intersection with Leary. Shilshole would have to become the extension of 24th NW.

      8. @Tom Terrific

        > Westlake is only four lanes wide and it is a major truck route; the City isn’t going to give up a pair of lanes. It was a pipe dream for Kubly to think otherwise.

        Actually the city is about to add 2 bus lanes in each direction on Westlake Avenue for route 40 (Though of course it might be cancelled) all the way to the Fremont bridge. Combined with the existing bus lanes besides the fremont bridge itself it’ll extend all the way to downtown.

        > If it were single track from “downtown” Fremont west to Third NW, you might be able to run it alongside the BGT, but otherwise that section would have to be elevated as well and there is no room for the supports along Leary.

        No it’d be along Leary at-grade to Market Street.

        > I think C-01a would require a short tunnel from about Republican and Elliott to Second and Cedar or maybe Clay if it can rise that quickly. Would the City go for taking two lanes out of Second?

        c-01a goes down 1st avenue not 2nd avenue. Also generally I’d say yes, the city is willing to give transit lanes to rail (aka how the south lake union streetcar got transit lanes on westlake and then the C-line also got them)

      9. @WL per SDOT Director Spotts’ twitter, SDOT is looking into the feasibility of Bus + Freight lanes for Westlake. The question is if they can do it on a project that is partially supported by federal transit dollars. I haven’t seen an update since.

      10. WL, easily invaded red lanes are not the same thing as tracks. If there are going to be bus lanes, they won’t be exclusive, but rather “BAT lanes”. The actual chances of Westlake getting center running exclusive LR tracks like Martin Luther King Blvd is slim to none. There is already high bus priority on the parallel alternative Dexter. The car folks will fight tooth and nail against surface LRT on Westlake and Leary. Both streets are too narrow.

        The only practical way to have rail-in-roadway is Elliott and 15th West. They have six pretty skinny lanes, but in most places could be widened a few feet to maintain traffic flow. And of course, from the Magnolia Bridge to the bridgehead or tunnel portal, the tracks could run on the surface next to the BNSF.

    2. They are, and of course, you’re heading 180 degrees the wrong way and the tunnel would have to get deep enough to swing under the tunnel before NINTH AVENUE, because the Convention Center Addition basement is really deep. No, it can’t be done. Read back four weeks for a discussion of rebuilding the section between USSS and the Pine to Third Curve to have a dive-under for northbound trains there. If MIGHT work but it would be very disruptive.

      Of course, as Daniel would remind you, the disruption would just be to the tweakers and fentaheads so who cares?

    3. Wouldn’t it be much easier to branch off along third where the 1 Line curves between University St. and Westlake, then make a right on Stewart and hook a left somewhere? It would definitely be disruptive though, since we’re talking cut-and-cover, although the advantage compared with 4th Ave. in the CID is you have a more robust grid with multiple wide roads to work with.

      1. Go back about four weeks and you’ll find several articles in which a colloquy on exactly that can be found. It’s pretty unlikely that ST would agree to having a level-junction at the Pine Street curve, though they might agree if some sort of “holding track” could be conjured up between USSS and the curve.

        There is MUCH more detail in the articles to which this comment replies and those just before and after it:

        The short version is “Yes, that exact path has been proposed numerous times, because of the oblique intersections”. Nobody seems to care, and you it’s extremely doubtful that ST will allow a level crossing there without a holding track for the Ballard trains to tuck into so as not to delay the Spine trains while it waits for the other direction Spine trains.

        Providing that holding track is well-beyond tricky. Just read the articles around that time and you’ll find out the problems.

      2. @Tom Terrific

        It’s a bit much to ask someone to search 4 weeks back of comments. Though either way how the actual Ballard connection to the rest of Link does need to be fleshed out in an another post if we want to get people to take the re-use DSTT1 idea seriously.

      3. WL, well it’s either that or repeat the posts, and that’s boring to people who’ve already read the same idea. It would be GREAT is The Blog had an index, but that would require a lot of staff work to maintain.

  5. If I lived in West Seattle, I would be pushing for this!

    The West Seattle stub would go away many years sooner than when DSTT2 would open. Instead, West Seattle riders could ride through Downtown without changing trains by 2032! Even though ST says DSTT2 will open by 2038, further funding realignment is likely forcing opening day at least 5 or 10 more years.

    I actually think this will happen anyway — but it’s not talked about because ST knows that DSTT2 part of WSBLE would die immediately if they admitted it. There are backroom non-transit motivations for the DSTT2 construction project that we are not discussing or even being made aware of.

    1. Yep. It’s a “no-brainer” to run West Seattle to Lynnwood (or Mariner if that extension comes early) and Tacoma to Northgate immediately upon completion of the two projects.

  6. The headways associated with CBTC would likely still require grade separating Stadium / SODO. That being said, it’s still a much better idea than building a second tunnel. Hopefully ST realizes this soon enough.

    1. The overpasses seem likely no matter what build option gets chosen.

      The other big challenge would be how the junction south of SODO station would work. Southbound Federal Way train tracks would be crossing northbound trains from West Seattle. The curve is also on a sloping viaduct end. West Seattle Link tracks would require some minor redesign there. However, since new tracks with connections also to the OMF from West Seattle are planned anyway, it would seem to be pretty easy to design and build.

      1. It’s flat by the time the curve commences. Cut the westbound track (“southbound” at this point) to West Seattle into the southbound RV track right at the beginning of the curve — that is, add a “straight” branch. Yes, there would be a curved diamond for the eastbound (northbound here) track to cross through the southbound RV track, but there are curved diamonds all over the world.

        If ST won’t stand for a level junction there, take the bikeway to run the eastbound (northbound) West Seattle track between the viaduct and the businesses in that block. You’d probably have to take the brightly colored buildings behind “Austin Mac”, but they’re small. The merge turnout would be underneath the Lander overpass.

    2. If by “grade separating” you mean “Build overpasses for the cars and trucks at Holgate and Lander and close Lower Royal Brougham at the tracks”, yes. But if you mean the idiocy of putting the tracks on stilts through an industrial district with two crossing roadways, you are dead wrong. The tracks are there and building a junction for the infrequent West Seattle trains is not a problem.

  7. Three fundamental questions:
    1) What happens to overall system redundancy?
    2) How does not building DSTT2 impact our ability to grow Link in the future?
    3) How do the rail connections work since DSTT1 is shallow and sandwiched between building foundations along 3rd?

    I’d also chime in to say Muni’s use of a single tunnel (until Jan ’23) is a bad example. In theory, it’s a great system with ultra low headways and I love the automated/non-automated controls. But in reality their multi-line tunnel has near-daily issues ranging from capacity, reliability, bunching, maintenance, and not being completely independent system from surface problems. The new Central Subway is a desperately-needed first step in *finally* building a second tunnel to help improve access and city-wide connectivity. The region is also desperate for a new BART tunnel, again, because four fully-automated BART lines use a single tunnel on ~2.0-2.5min headways which limits headways when the lines branch out in East Bay and impacts system reliability.

    1. 1) Our redundancy is largely unchanged either way. There are no plans to have switches, so that you can send a train to the other tunnel and back. These are two independent lines, that happen to run close to each other for a small stretch. We get our redundancy from our buses. If there are problems, we go back to running express buses (on a short or long term basis). Our system has remarkably few areas that could not be replaced by express buses.

      2) It allows us to grow better. We aren’t stuck paying off a redundant tunnel. We build a second tunnel when we need it, and where we need it. For example, we might make the Ballard line independent, ending at Westlake. If we then wanted to extend to First Hill (the most logical place to grow) it becomes relatively trivial. The Ballard line just keeps going that direction.

      3) The West Seattle line would mix in with the main line in SoDo. The East Link line already mixes in with the main line (at CID).

      But in reality their multi-line tunnel has near-daily issues ranging from capacity, reliability, bunching, maintenance, and not being completely independent system from surface problems.

      And yet they aren’t building a second tunnel, right next to the first. The Central Subway runs largely perpendicular, not parallel. It does provide some congestion relief, but it also provides a tremendous amount of extra coverage. This is standard. Cities do this all over the world. It is a two step process:

      1) Put as many trains as you can through the main tunnel. (A lot of cities never get past this step).

      2) Build a second tunnel that provides some relief to the crowding, but also adds extra coverage — some extra value somewhere.

      In our case, we not only skipped the first step, but completely messed up the second step as well. The second tunnel doesn’t add value — it actually makes things worse. The stations are worse than the existing tunnel, yet close enough to not be worth transferring to. In contrast, consider this as a future second tunnel:×1185.png. We’ve reduced congestion in that tunnel, but also added a lot more coverage. This would probably happen at the same time we bury or elevate the lines in Rainier Valley.

      We don’t know where the future congestion point will be. It is quite likely we won’t have one. If we do, it will probably be somewhere between downtown and the UW. A second tunnel doesn’t help this at all. It is also possible that the congestion point is Rainier Valley, since trains are limited to running every six minutes. Again, the second tunnel doesn’t help that at all. It doesn’t make sense to spend billions on a tunnel that isn’t needed nw, may never be needed and makes the rider experience worse.

      1. Muni doesn’t have billions of dollars hanging around or a regional tax base to spread the costs around to. They have always needed to make the most of their limited funding.

  8. Anton, I agree completely, but you’re leaving out the dirty secret of “double training” that Muni uses in the Market Street tunnel. Since the stations are big enough to hold ten car BART trains, what Muni does when things get hot and heavy is move two trains in an “uncoupled pair” from station to station. The front train stops near the “far” end of the station and the rear train stops mid-station. The TV’s show them moving as a pair and have the letters on the diagram, so people know how to place themselves before the trains arrive.

    It’s a neat trick, but it certainly wouldn’t work for DSTT1 which has only a little more platform than train.

    Mike Bjork, BART is only even slightly crowded between 24th and Mission and Downtown Berkeley these days. Nobody is worrying about more trains to Walnut Creek, Pleasanton or Fremont. I very much doubt that the Second Transbay Tube will be built any time before 2050, if then.

    1. The BART problem in Downtown SF is related to not having track switching between Montgomery and 24th/ Mission stations. It’s the same cost.cutting design mistake that ST made by not building in switching between Westlake and CID, leading to the awful “Connect 2020” operation just before the pandemic shutdown started. Things with Covid prevented that issue from getting further discussion.

      It’s yet another possible benefit to opening the existing DSTT between Westlake and Pioneer Square. I’m not advocating for it but I am pointing out that given time and money it’s a design correction that could be useful.

      It’s worth mentioning that Muni Metro for many years coupled/uncoupled J/N trains at Duboce and coupled/ uncoupled two of the KLM trains near West Portal. That let Muni run only three lines with up to four train cars through the main tunnel. Back then, the design problem was reversing trains at the Embarcadero. The tracks just ended there so there were no tail tracks or airings.

      They spent like a billion on the Muni Metro turnback but that meant that Muni had to abandoned the coupling approach because the turn back could hold only two car trains.

    2. Yeah, I remember that coupling thing at West Portal and Duboce and Church. It was terrible, because every line became a victim of delays on its partner line(s). The uncoupled pairs are kind of like it, but they do it dynamically in real time instead of waiting for “the right train”. If a J and N get to Duboce and Church at the same time, they platoon them, probably ditto at West Portal. But it’s mostly outbound that has it, because everybody starts from the same place.

    3. Muni hasn’t been doing double stopping for a while, at least since the subway reopened after being closed for a year at the start of the pandemic.

      1. That’s probably true; I’ve only ridden twice since Covid came and did not see it on those two trips. Downtown San Francisco has been hit as badly as downtown Seattle and Muni has not returned to pre-Covid service levels.

        But just because they don’t do it in today’s much less demanding ridership environment doesn’t mean that they didn’t do it when they needed to. And it worked, albeit with the obvious sorts of problems that a kludge for which the signal system wasn’t designed will surface.

        To my knowledge no trains rammed a leader in the station, but I’m sure there were some close calls. The trailing train has to run through the red light at the station entrance to do this. It becomes “line of sight” railroading.

    4. MUNI was also never able to get 40 TPH reliably, and shifted to 25 to 30 TPH:

      “Before the COVID-19 emergency, we had been running more trains per hour in subway than we can process, roughly 40 trains per hour. Often, however, we’re only able to get 35 of trains through. This makes our service inconsistent and leaves our customers frustrated. To improve reliability and efficiency we need to reduce the number of trains per hour to around 25 to 30 and run higher capacity trains through the subway.”

      1. Sure, but still 25/30 trains is more than enough to resolve the so called “capacity issues” in the downtown tunnel by capping oneself at 20 trains per hour.

        Let’s really talk about the real reason why sound transit cites the capacity issue so much: Because they use it as an excuse for why they need to breach subarea equity to build a new tunnel and also why they must funnel the suburban trains down to West Seattle/Ballard.

        That is why Sound Transit cannot entertain either reusing/interlining the tunnel nor a separate West Seattle-Ballard only tunnel (this would still resolve the “capacity concerns”). But honestly tunneling for 4 car trains and deep mined stations is costing so much I don’t think it’s worth it for the subarea equity money rather than a simpler segment that Seattle can afford.

      2. Re. Sound Transit preferring DSTT2 over an interlining option:

        I think an interlining option is more work for ST. Renovating an old thing often appears more complicated than building a new thing, even if it can save money. But ST has little incentive to save money, while it is their incentive to propose a project they can deliver. Of course, this is just armchair speculation.

      3. Interlining is more risky and would have significantly greater impacts on current riders. Think Connect 2020, but far worse.

      4. It’s a reasonable conclusion, Andrew B. The board and staff at ST think of themselves as builders rather than operators. The structure of the advisory committees and the rider unfriendliness is pretty good I dictators of this mindset. Heck they’ll spend hours in multiple meetings talking to property owners two blocks from a station but they never have a single workshop focused on rider participation and concerns.

        The fact that our leaders get do giddy about building is consistent with this mindset.

      5. We are all speculating about why they decided to go this route, so let me try. I think it is pretty much what people are saying. I think the initial thought was to re-use the tunnel, and then someone said “Wait a second, that might cause the trains to back up, and be delayed”. There was no followup study — just fear. Dow Constantine saw a new tunnel as an out. A new tunnel, just by its very nature, appears to add capacity. It is a freeway mindset. It is exactly what you do if you want more throughput on the freeway: you add more lanes. Think of the new tunnel as the “express lanes” to the existing line, and it all adds up.

        Then, of course, there is the question as to what stations to add. Initially, it appeared that the West Seattle line would be in the new tunnel. Folks wanted to add a new station in First Hill. After all, this would provide real value for the new tunnel (beyond a theoretical increase in throughput). Dow Constantine heard this, and squashed it right away. The whole point of West Seattle Link — hell, the whole point of ST3 in Dow’s opinion — was to connect West Seattle to (the business part of) downtown. It can’t skip that. Otherwise, those riders will have to transfer. So they built the new tunnel the way you would if you were building a new express lane. Almost the exact same set of exits — just fewer.

        Now, of course, Dow is comfortable skipping the CID entirely. I don’t think the fact that West Seattle is no longer running in that tunnel is a coincidence. We shall see if he comes out in favor of this proposal: My guess is he won’t. It is one thing to force Rainier Valley riders into this new tunnel. It is another to do the same thing for West Seattle.

        So basically fear and ignorance. A freeway mindset. There is no science behind it. No study — no comparison. Just a plan that has increasingly looked worse.

  9. Frankly, it’s good to see this view beginning to find traction here. I thought the second tunnel was a bad idea back in 2016. The passenger capacity argument didn’t stand up to much scrutiny then, and that’s only gotten worse as the peaks have flattened. I might then have been willing to listen to arguments about station capacity (especially considering passengers waiting on platform for transfers), or about the difficulty of connecting the existing tunnel to the Ballard line, but no one seemed interested in making those. In the end, I was _grudgingly_ willing to accept a second tunnel if it could be made to serve First Hill and the transfers at each end were world class. In practice, while a decent sized faction here clamored for it, the First Hill option was rejected without serious consideration. Worse, we now seem to be at a point where STs proposed interchanges are from south to north non-existent and horrible. The emperor was in his Jockeys back in 2016, now he’s flat out naked.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have never bought into the capacity argument for the second tunnel that Sound Transit has made and continues to espouse even today. Where’s the documentation, i.e., the technical analysis, to support the need and demonstrating that said need can’t be achieved with upgrades to the existing tunnel? I might have been able to swallow this second tunnel idea if it gave additional coverage (cough, First Hill, cough) and made transfers between the lines easy and quick, but the ST3 proposal did none of that and it’s only gotten worse since then. I thought that commenter Jonathan Dubbman had the right idea regarding Dow’s urban renewal proposal posing as a station siting “solution”, what I have cheekily termed “Constantinople II”, when he suggested taking a shovel and burying that idea in the big pit at James and 4th.

      Like Ross indicated above, well said.

      1. Tlsgwm, you could put a little “edge” on the snark by including an “e” between the second “n” and the second “o”. “Con-stan-tine-ople”…

        Nah. Let people figure it out!

  10. This is so obvious one has to wonder if any of the Councilors has ever ridden a transit vehicle other than to and from ribbon cuttings. Didn’t they do it as college kids? Oh, yeah, most politicians are basically cowards; they stick up a finger to figure out which way the wind is blowing and then deliver a 32 minute paean to northwest winds.

    1. From my experience it depends on the person. Suburban councilors rarely ride from what I’ve seen. Urban ones do sometimes or are frequent riders themselves. But again it depends.
      We have the same problem here in Denver with the RTD board. It’s heavily suburban for an elected board so all the basic transit problems creep in fron this lack of people who are elected and actually ride.

      Our city has many terrible bus stops, snow and ice clearing is a joke, and we’re only finally in the process of ordering new light rail trains that are low floors to retire the first generation high floor trams. RTD has been aimless since like 2019 in terms of what’s next for the agency as they’ve had to put a bunch of projects on hold both from costs and pandemic reasons. And our state government is still burying it’s head in the sand about investing in intercity rail service from Cheyenne to Trinidad along the Front Range Corridor. Alongside still pushing for more highway projects.

      It’s hard to care about US transit projects for this reason when a lot of them end up half baked or unfinished by lousy board members. Like East Colfax BRT here in Denver. Should be honestly a metro line instead of a mediocre BRT that’s only the bare minimum in Denver proper and the Aurora section is awful with no real upgrades to bus shelters, signal priority, etc.

      I dunno how you fix it other than change the governance structure to be less politically charged and separate politicians from the planning like Translink does with their executive board and Mayor’s Council being separate entities that coexist and work alongside each other but Translink’s own board has the final say in terms of planning and less so the Mayor’s other than rubberstamping it.

      The current system is broken with no clear path forward.

      1. >Like East Colfax BRT here in Denver. Should be honestly a metro line instead of a mediocre BRT that’s only the bare minimum in Denver proper

        The BRT project looks decent when I checked it out?

        The first section 1.4 miles (from Denver Station to Broadway) uses the existing side-running bus lanes. The second section has 5.5 miles of center dedicated bus lanes. It is just the last section that is 3.0 miles of mixed running in traffic.

        Honestly it seems better than Seattle’s BRT projects since it is better than the Rapidride being center running and is a route with more potential than the Madison route.

  11. Go back and review the ERP materials from 2015-2016.

    DSTT hourly capacity is 12-16k standing/crush loads. If you add up all the peak hour forecasts for each segment, that capacity is exceeded in 2030. This is obviously pre-pandemic, but that doesn’t change the fact that system throughout is capped with one tunnel.

    2030 just isn’t that far out guys. And even if that changed to 2040, it still would be a very poor strategy for building for the future. What is the future growth path if you become capacity constrained in 2030/2040? A second tunnel? LOL.

    Na, the problem here is the station config at CID. Both Durkan and Rogoff dropped the ball per the CID neighborhood. ST, the city, and the county all need to better engage with the neighborhood and stop treating it like a dumping ground for all our problems. Do that, and better CID station options should be available.

    Bottom line: the second tunnel, with an additional midtown station and a better CID transfer experience, is clearly the better solution for the future. But it will take a better relationship with the neighborhood. And a justifiably higher investment in the neighborhood too. Should be doable.

    But stuffing all future lines into one little tunnel is clearly a non-starter.

    1. > DSTT hourly capacity is 12-16k standing/crush loads

      That is crush load only if capped at 20 trains per hour aka 3 minute frequencies, which is laughably low for a tunnel. It can easily reach 25 trains per hour or 30 trains per hour (2 minute frequencies) which would provide more than enough capacity.

      Additionally worse case, run a couple hundred express bus routes for just rush hour. The amount of money being spent on this second tunnel could literally fund an extension from Ballard to UW and then as well West Seattle down to Burien and have plenty left over for express bus service.

    2. Let’s do the math!

      20 trains
      4 cars
      150-200 passengers in each car
      12-16k in one direction

      Now let’s look at the peak three hour HIGH END forecasts here:

      It says 18,800 and 24,200 for the peak three hours in the afternoon, or 47,000 total For the segments north of the CID.

      Now let’s assume that the peak hour is 40 percent of those three hours. That’s 18,800. Allocating 40 percent is quite generous so that’s also on have high side.

      But let’s assume we can get 2 minute trains or a third more capacity. That takes 12-16K to 18-24K.

      So 2 minutes work!

      Even at 2.5 minutes it can work as it is 15-20K.

      Just for a comparison, let’s look at the SODO to Beacon Hill segment, which can only have 10 trains an hour or carry 6K to 8K. The same high end forecast says 18,800 for three hours or when using the same 40% is 7800 in a single hour — right at the upper limit of 8k.

      So there you have it! The Beacon Hill tunnel is going to be more crowded than a DSTT only alternative at 2.5 minute headways! And note that ST doesn’t give a damn about the future Beacon Hill tunnel capacity.

      All of it actually points to building the Ballard stub, and continuing it as funds permit to First Hill, Judkins Park and Mt Baker one things get too crowded.

      So let’s be clear!
      1. Just three minutes may be enough for 2040.
      2. 2.5 minutes is enough.
      3. Two minutes is more than enough.
      4. At just 2.5 minutes ST will have a similar capacity problem under Beacon Hill as they would in DSTT. At 2 minutes Beacon Hill would be the bigger overcrowding problem than the DSTT.

      In conclusion, the numbers suggest building no DSTT2 but increasing DSTT capacity, and then the very long range future needs a future second tunnel to run at least to Mt Baker anyway. That’s a tidy long range extension to a Ballard Spur line that others here have proposed .
      So Lazarus, you’ve just been burnt by the data!

      1. Oh let’s also be clear that the 47K on the combined line falls a third to 33 K for the lines combined just south of Westlake. This DSTT overcrowding could be merely people switching to Link at University Street from buses. So the overcrowding at three minutes could be addressed by buses in Third Avenue.

      2. Oh yeah… this assumes DSTT2 is actually open by 2040! If these forecasts are believable then ST will need to figure out to have 2.5 or 2 minute trains in the DSTT anyway until DSTT2 opening day!

      3. @Al.S,

        Let me see if I get this right.

        You propose spending all this extra money to connect the new line to the old line, and then when it becomes capacity constrained in just 10 to 15 years, your solution is to run more buses on 3rd Ave?

        Ah, no. Count me out on that one. If we do ST3 at all, we need to do it right, and we need to do it for the future. The future is not just the next 10 years.

        And BTW, 3rd Ave already has too many buses. It is part of the problem with 3rd Ave, and downtown in general. We need to do better than just “more buses”.

      4. No Lazarus, I’m not saying that the solution is buses. Remember that we are supposed to design Link so that not as many buses go Downtown. A city with rail headed in five different direction should be intercepting many of those buses. Today’s bus network will be different.

        Unless of course it takes so long to get deep enough to the rail platform that people won’t ride it one or two stops like — eh — Midtown to CID.

        And I just went through the math that the most optimistic scenario for demand can easily be handled by 2 minute trains.

        And I just went through the math to show how ST would have a capacity problem in the Beacon Hill tunnel before a DSTT with trains every two minutes according to ST’s own forecast model.

      5. Lazarus:
        For a majority of riders, the proposed downtown solution makes things worse than previous bus service. Chasing riders away is not a great method for preventing overcrowding.

        So, it’ll be a choice between occasional replacement buses when needed, or running both light rail that not many people use plus buses that people can actually use to get where they need to go.

      6. @Lazarus

        > Ah, no. Count me out on that one. If we do ST3 at all, we need to do it right, and we need to do it for the future. The future is not just the next 10 years.

        I find this line of thinking dangerous that “for the future” overspend on anything even if it doesn’t make sense. Look at the Hawaiian Rail debacle and the CAHSR.

        > 2030 just isn’t that far out guys. And even if that changed to 2040

        Let’s be actually honest, Sound Transit ridership estimate numbers are commonly inflated and I really doubt the farflung suburban extensions will receive that much ridership. Secondly let’s say peak capacity is a bit higher than the train system can handle. Then upgrade the existing tunnel to accommodate more trains. Should we be spending an extra 5~6 billion dollars to accommodate just a few thousand riders at peak time?

        The sole rationale behind the tunnel cannot be just for peak time capacity. If it was for all-day capacity issues, then sure it makes sense to upgrade since you are getting riders for the entire 8~12 hours. But for 2 hours a day handling a couple thousand riders, why would you spend 5~6 billion extra. Imagine if one proposed spending that much building on park and rides, it would be preposterous.

      7. Lazarus,
        The tense should be correct. Third Avenue HAD too many buses between March 2019 and October 2021 when Route 41 was added atop its 235 trips per peak hour per direction. It does not today. With Northgate Link, the bus volume on 3rd Avenue is fine. The issues now include too few office workers, too many tents, drug use, and homelessness. If the scenario played out where peak bus trips were needed, we might have two-way all-day Seattle frequent service on 3rd and 1st avenues. The peak overlay suburban routes might be assigned to 2nd and 4th avenues.

      8. No Lazarus, the idea is to save money by not building south of Westlake for The Stub. Yes, there would probably be a non-revenue single track connection between the two tunnels using Third and Stewart, but with no station on it, it might be $100-200 million, much less than two tunnels all the way to Massachusetts plus two poorly sited underground stations.

        It’s laughable that you keep arguing that would be more expensive.

    3. the second tunnel, with an additional midtown station and a better CID transfer experience, is clearly the better solution for the future.

      No, it’s not. It is worse for riders. Even the best plan they came up with is worse for riders. Worse transfers, and worse stations.

      The problem with planning for the future is that you don’t know what it will be like. By all means, it is a good idea to make stubs so that you can extend or branch lines later. For example, everyone knew that eventually we would want a line from Ballard to the UW, so it made sense to build a little branch from the main line towards Ballard when they built the line up north.

      It is a completely different thing to build a huge tunnel, with additional stations when we have no idea that is where the bottleneck will be. It is far more likely that the bottleneck will be between downtown and the UW. The new tunnel doesn’t help at all. Similarly, what if the problem is congestion on First Hill? In that case, shouldn’t this line include a station there? Or what about Rainier Valley, where trains are limited to running every six minutes? Should that be a priority?

      The fact is, no one knows where future crowding may be, or where it will be. Trying to guess is a really bad idea. It means you spend money on something you don’t need, and ignore things you eventually do. As of right now, we are spending more on transit per capita than any other city. This won’t go on forever. The new tunnel will put undo financial burden on Sound Transit that could forever hamper our ability to provide a cost effective transit system for the area. That, and making things worse for the foreseeable future.

      1. There’s “a little branch from the main line towards Ballard” somewhere? That’s news to me.

      2. He’s talking about something ST should have built but didn’t, a transfer stub at U-District Station to a future Ballard-UW line. That line was in ST’s long-range plan and it was studying alignment alternatives for it while U-District Station was being designed. I was heavily involved in U-District Station and went to an open house and told an ST rep it should future-proof it with a stub interface for a potential 45th line going west.

        He said ST couldn’t do that because the Ballard-UW line wasn’t voter-approved yet, and it was uncertain whether it would even be on 45th. At the time one of the alternatives was further south along Northgate Way/Pacific Street to UW Station and 520. So it’s possible the stub wouldn’t be used, but it’s also possible it would be. It’s better to include stubs for the most likely transfers when you build a station than to have to retrofit it later, or have a bad transfer to avoid retrofitting it.

      3. Exactly, Mike. With bored tunnels it’s very hard to branch once the rings are in place. The time to do it is when the TBM is boring.

    4. @Lazarus — I think you are ignoring the fact that the plan does not actually allow for more trains through downtown. The new tunnel serves Rainier Valley. This means that Ballard trains are limited to every six minutes. The two other lines go into the old tunnel. Without additional work, we can only run trains through the existing tunnel every three minutes. That means each line runs every six minutes at most. If the tunnel was improved to allow for two minute headways, it would have the exact same maximum throughput — 30 trains an hour going through downtown. The only way to actually increase capacity is if you “stuff more trains in the tunnel”. We would have to eventually do the work we are proposing to do anyway. It is better to do it now, and put off the far more expensive task of building another tunnel until we are sure we actually need to build it. Agencies do this all the time, and they actually end up with better tunnels.

      Now consider where the crowding could occur. If it comes from the south, we are stuck. The only way to increase capacity is with a major new line down Rainier Valley. If we are going to do that, we might as well add a new tunnel then — a much better tunnel. The crowding could come from Ballard. But the Ballard line is tied to the Rainier Valley line. So if we think the crowding is going to come from Ballard, the ST plan doesn’t help. It actually hurts. The best thing to do is make the line completely separate. If the crowding comes from the north, the new tunnel doesn’t help. The tunnel is limited to running every 3 minutes. So again, the best thing to do if we want to increase capacity from the north is to do this work (not build a second tunnel). That leaves East Link and West Seattle Link. Again, to actually increase capacity you would need to do this work. Once you did it, you could then run trains every four minutes from each. This is the only time that a new tunnel would help (and again — only if we spend the money doing the work we are proposing we do now).

      Now consider that both West Seattle and the East Side are connected to downtown via freeways. This makes them especially well suited for express bus service, which would be very popular. Even with a second tunnel, it isn’t clear that folks would want to spend the money to run trains through the existing tunnel, instead of running a handful of express buses. Just to recap, this is what is required to run the trains more often:

      North End: Increase capacity in existing tunnel (either way).
      South End: Elevate or bury line in Rainier Valley.
      Ballard: Either build as a separate line (which is cheaper) or elevate/bury line in Rainier Valley.
      East Link: New tunnel and increase capacity in existing tunnel.
      West Seattle Link: New tunnel and increase capacity in existing tunnel.

      No matter what, the work we are calling for is essential for any increase in capacity. But more than that, in the case of the north end, it is all that is needed. In the case of Ballard, running a separate line is the cheapest way to increase capacity. Thus in two scenarios, this is better. In two scenarios, the ST approach is better (but only after you do this work). In one scenario, none of this helps. Even from the standpoint of future capacity, the second tunnel is not very good.

      1. “We would have to eventually do the work we are proposing to do anyway.”

        Absolutely – a key point to highlight.

  12. The main thing missing from this post is the question of how to connect the Ballard line to the rest of Link. There’s a couple options, though all of them do have complications.

    1) Spur Option
    Aka something similar to Corridor B: 15th Avenue Elevated from Could probably be minorly rerouted to follow Mercer and then down Westlake similar to the existing proposal to avoid the highway 99 tunnel and reach south lake union. The cost of this is vastly cheaper because it’ll avoid digging deep mined stations and stays to the West of the existing transit tunnel.

    One major complication is where to put the OMF. I guess somewhere in interbay is the best bet.

    *Extra: Possibly after building the Spur, in the far future if the capacity is needed, one could drive another tunnel boring machine going north from CID/sodo and connect up with the Spur creating the second tunnel as currently envisioned. Similar to how the University of Washington (Stadium) station was connected after from the Northgate side. Though depends on whether 2/4 car train stations.

    2) At-grade option
    Aka candidate project C-01A an at-grade two car train following the D line. Possibly C-01E could be added partially to include South Lake Union and Fremont

    Doesn’t have the OMF issues though the connection/transfer is notably worse (though no longer need elevator/escalator hell) being at 1st avenue. Though the possible station at Stewart street is only one block away and pretty similar to the current transfer ideas at 4th avenue to existing CID or the “North of CID” to Pioneer square.

    3) Wye Option A
    Connect between University Street station and Westlake station. Much much cheaper as most stations are similar to the Spur option and doesn’t have OMF issues either as it can connect with the existing tracks to reach the central and other OMF’s. The wye should be relatively simple to construct if just completely at grade though:

    One major problem is how to deal with the Northbound trains to Ballard blocking the south bound trains. Possibly could add a holding track if there’s space.

    4) Wye Option B
    Some have discussed connecting at the convention center instead, I’m not quite sure how feasible it is though and most of the pros and cons are similar to the Wye Option A

    And all of these alternative options call into question whether North King (Seattle) can breach subarea equity for their tunnels as the suburban routes/lines no longer would funnel to Ballard. On the other hand, these options are much cheaper especially the at-grade option that North King could fund it without the others.

    1. I think the simplest solution is to dig the tunnel through south lake union as planned, but just end the line at Westlake. This means a forced transfer to reach the south end of downtown, but if the money saved means a better station location on the Ballard end, it’s still a better deal for Ballard. Better access to the station in Ballard seems more important to me than having the one seat ride extend to everybody inch of downtown.

      For OMF, I see two options. You could build a new OMF in Interbay. Or, you could build street level tracks through downtown for deadheading trains only to connect to SODO OMF (who cares if the trains have to wait for a few stoplights if they are out of service and no passengers are on board?). Of the two options, the first has the advantage of minimizing construction impacts, but the second has the advantage of being able to mix and match fleets between the Ballard line and other lines. This is a tradeoff I don’t have too strong an opinion over.

      At some point in the distant future, the new tunnel that ends at Westlake could be extended to either CID or First Hill, but that would be a decision for another day, if and when it is actually needed.

      1. If it were me, I’d put in enough infrastructure (eg, street level platforms) so that your proposed surface line could be used for in-service trains. This serves Belltown, Pike Place Market and the ferry terminal. Interline this branch and the South Lake Union trains north of Seattle Center.

        Yes, I know that there was that whole Center City Connector thing, but long term I think that is better off as a surface light rail line that can use equipment from Link. That way, the line can be extended over Link lines when desirable.

      2. Going through downtown on the surface means that trains have to fit in a 240 foot block, which with the widths of the cross streets is more like 210. The city can’t give the trains absolute priority because therre are too many pedestrians.

        That means two car only.

    2. Hmm, the City Center Connector will have street-level tracks on First Avenue. And an extension could go to SODO. And ST could help with the funding if non-service Link trains are using it.

      The biggest issue would be coming up to the surface: the portal would have a large surface footprint somewhere.

    3. Every one of those options has been explored here in depth. Do some homework instead of swaggering into the bar with your pistol already pulled.

      1. @Tom Terrific

        > Every one of those options has been explored here in depth.

        I mainly relisting the options at once, I am not claiming they are all mine lol. And more importantly they are generally discussed in the comments not in a top-level article (or at least since like 2013/2016) so I find it’s fine to bring some of these alternatives back up.

      2. Option 1 specifically points connections to a past blog post. Option 4 starts with “Some have discussed”.

        I am sure that Tom had already noticed this, though, and just wanted to share the (admittedly pretty picturesque) Western movie sheriff/gunslinger (of any gender) image of WL :)

      3. WL, yes, you are right about them just being in the comment threads. Thank you for being pleasant when I was unreasonable.

      4. I hope somebody today says something close to this:

        Good afternoon. I am [whoever] representing myself and in part the majority of contributors to The Seattle Transit Blog. I urge you to consider making the Ballard Line a stub north of Westlaake Center only while keeping Lines 1, 2, and 3 in the existing tunnel. Line 1 would turn back at Northgate.

        This would save or at least defer the expenditure of many billions of dollars based on outdated estimates of ridership, avoid the difficulties siting a new station in the Central International District, and maintain existing access to UW and the Airport.

        We have proposals for technical solutions to issues the consultants may raise. Please study this YOURSELVES.

        Thank you.

        I can’t do it because I don’t live within the Service Area so they’d just discount my testimony.

  13. Somewhere in the past couple thousand comments, someone mentioned the need to get totally behind one approach, lest the second-tunnel-skipping-CID disaster be chosen as the plurality default. (I respect Chair Constantine highly, but his latest proposal mostly defeats the point of the second tunnel — to increase capacity — since lots of riders are forced to venture into downtown, and then double back.)

    May I suggest a more modern approach where you *rank* your preferred options? (This suggestion also goes to the ST Board, and I know Executive Constantine is a fan of ranked choice voting.)

    I’m not at all sold on the Ballard stub proposal (or as it has been marketed, getting everyone into a single downtown tunnel). But at this point, I would consider it my second choice.

    My first choice remains Move Forward on 4th, so we can *actually* increase capacity, have okay transfers at the north (Westlake) and south (CID) ends of the transit tunnels, and have horizontal conveyance redundancy when (not if) a train stalls in one of the tunnels.

    As harshly critical as I have been of the no-second-tunnel-for-now proposal, I’m acutely aware that it is still far better than the skip-CID that some elected leaders are lining up behind for non-transit reasons. I hope the STB Editorial Board will be able to come to some agreement and issue a ranked preference list that includes these two options somewhere toward the top, and has skip-CID at the very bottom.

    1. Though a lot of the reasons listed here are not the priorities at STB, it is good to know what our allies on this specific topic are thinking, and hopefully set aside some of our differences for the sake of stopping the worst possible outcome, as recently unveiled by Executive Constantine.

      (Part of me thinks the ridiculous skip-CID proposal is a clever ruse to get factions that have been butting heads to get together and come to agreement in order to stop his worst-case proposal.)

      1. Well, some people actually call the CID home…… and they have stated they have no interest in the CID turning into a “transit hub”. Funny how the only place in Seattle with a big Asian population has been planned to be turned in a “transit hub” by Sound Transit. Why? Institutional racism? Sound Transit didn’t think the CID would fight back when their neighborhood was dug up for 10-15 years? You tell me. I talked to Tacoma friends in the Lincoln District who told me that the CID folks are planning a scorched earth fight on this and absolutely zero trust in anything Sound Transit says. There’s no *grand compromise* here.

        Here’s the trouble with Sound Transit and most of the Sound Transit supporters on this board. It’s all about the future. Let’s spend billions on trains for future! Never mind we don’t know the future…. Never mind that current transit in Greater Seattle sucks and is underfunded….Never mind that our inability to build more housing limits the future need for more transit…. Never mind the region has other unfunded needs….. It’s all about the future! And more trains!

        I see Sound Transit as a vampire that bleeds Metro, Community Transit and Pierce Transit dry. How about some transit for today? Stop at the one tunnel, do a fist class remodel, get better security…. make it into something people want to use. Spend the “second tunnel money” on improvements to current above ground transit. Let’s have an upgraded regional transit system in 10 years. We can always dig more tunnels later on.

      2. “Funny how the only place in Seattle with a big Asian population has been planned to be turned in a “transit hub” by Sound Transit. Why? Institutional racism? Sound Transit didn’t think the CID would fight back when their neighborhood was dug up for 10-15 years?”

        Sound Transit may have taken the neighborhood for granted or not conducted enough outreach, but it’s not racism to plan for a multimodal hub there. It’s where Amtrak and Sounder both stop and where East Link converges with the spine.

      3. The “racism” is really just white privilege. It’s kicking out direct SE Seattle train service to allow for trains to come from West Seattle whit neighborhoods instead. It’s “hey we think the train would be cool so let’s kick you out so a train to my house is what we should do!”

      4. How much outreach do you need? A CID station was in the ballot measure in 2016. That’s obviously one of the two largest transfer points besides Westlake. Many other cities have large transit hubs at such places, and the community and businesses welcome the trains because it improves access and brings more customers and provides a better alternative to driving and congestion. (Note: Congestion is also a negative impact on businesses, and can deter customers from coming. But if they have a good train option — not a mediocre or bad train option — they might take it instead.)

      5. I think a process to negotiate with the CID over a second station on 5th would have two salutary effects: 1. Find out what the figure is to get to yes; and 2. Force ST to admit whether DSTT2 truly is affordable because ST would not want to pay several hundred million dollars in mitigation to the CID and not need a second station on 5th.

        1. Unless Constantine and Harrell really think the mega station will fund or result in “capturing” the value in the city’s and county’s closed and vacant buildings I don’t think a station at the CID is off the table.

        If the choice is 10 years of construction for a second station on 5th for nothing that will certainly unify the CID. If the offer is the same for $25 million that might open a crack but the CID will stay unified (after all the UW got $70 million and no station on campus). If the offer is $100 million in goodies that will definitely open up cracks. If the offer is $100 million and a pledge — backed up with financial penalties — for a five-year construction schedule cracks will form. After the real question is how much over $100 million, because I think $100 million will be figure at which a light will go off, and tell the CID ST is serious.

        Sometimes when negotiating with ordinary folks who don’t negotiate for a living or understand huge figures, who then tend to think of the money as monopoly money and negotiations more like sport than mitigation, it helps to identify the money to something. So for example:

        1. A large public parking structure with a low hourly rate built before construction starts on the station.

        2. Cash for businesses who can show a decline in revenue.

        3. More zoning control for the CID. Wealthy white neighborhoods, or say SLU, don’t need formal zoning control because they have power anyway. The current height limits for the CID will destroy the CID as we know it and no one really wants that. Spread some of the shelters out. Form a CID zoning group with real sway.

        4. Show them preferential car access routes to the CID during construction. I know some on this blog hate cars and think Link will eliminate cars, but the reality is the CID’s objection to 10 years of construction for a DSTT2 station is due to car traffic which will hurt businesses, and ingress and egress. The irony is Link won’t eliminate cars, but car access may eliminate a second station at the CID. There are a lot of different ways to enter and exit the CID so figure those out and make a direct shot to a parking garage that will be finished before construction starts. It is key the garage is built first.

        5. There are a lot of other things. Street maintenance, more police, scholarships, post offices, a police precinct, utilities, libraries, health clinics, things a neighborhood like the CID needs and need upgrading (and need parking).

        We know there is a figure that will lead the CID to say yes. My guess is that figure is less than the $700 million for 4th Ave. S. The mistake ST has made is not coming back to the Board with the number that will get to yes. It may be too high (for a project that will cost $20 billion!), and maybe Harrell and Constantine really think the mega station will start the downtown revitalization (or at least their budgets) but if the CID is critical to DSTT2 the Board needs to know the number that will lead to yes.

        2. I don’t think DSTT2 is affordable, and I don’t think the Board, Harrell, and Constantine think DSTT2 is affordable, or 2-3 subareas have their contribution. That is why none of the politicians will fall on their sword for DSTT2 or station locations, even Harrell over the elimination of a midtown station. If I know that that means these other folks know, or at least suspect, that. Anyone who thinks DSTT2 will cost the same as estimated in 2016, $2.2 billion, while WSBLE has increased 300%, probably cannot understand this very weird DEIS process.

        Forcing ST to agree to negotiate and fund the mitigation for a station at the CID whether that station is built or not, which won’t be cheap, will force the Board and politicians and ST to admit whether DSTT2 is affordable. ST wouldn’t want to spend a few hundred million dollars on mitigation and then have to admit DSTT2 is not affordable.

        The next step is there has to be a station at midtown. For DSTT2 to work it not only has to be as good as DSTT1, but very similar, because capacity was the reason for subarea contribution, and DSTT1 pretty much goes where a train through downtown Seattle should go, and have stations.

        Of course, if a sweet deal is reached with the CID get ready for negotiations with every other neighborhood, except none of those are existential, they tend to be wealthy and white, and the perfect solution to their demands is a LID, because unlike the CID that wants nothing they want something, and can afford it if they truly want it.

      6. I’m White and I don’t live the CID, so this really not my fight. I do know how to listen however. If the residents and business owners of Chinatown say no to having their neighborhood tore up 10 to 15 years…. I’m siding with them.

        How come every big transit project (mostly freeways and now this subway plan) absolutely needs to demolish some non-White neighborhood? Every single time? No means no!

        The good thing is that no matter what the White Privilege Fortress called the Urbanist writes and believes, the Mayor listened and agreed to the CID leaders. I don’t see the ST board slugging it out with CID either.

        Look, the CID isn’t like the rest of the City. Go tear up Downtown…Ballard….the U-District…. Pioneer Square…. because all of these places are quickly gentrifying into the same upper-crust white bread neighborhood.

      7. Maybe I don’t get the details, but it seems to me that ST could build the 5th and Jackson station as originally desired and come up with a cheaper mitigation than the 4th Ave shallow option costing $700M.

        Consider that ST has the Union Station building where it could put merchants and restaurants temporarily with an eye to making it be a full community hub for meeting and services.

        It seems also possible to put a street-level lid on the existing light rail station and make that a vibrant commercial block or a community open space for events.

        These things would empower the community much better than moving every new station elsewhere and spend nothing for the neighborhood! It would be cheaper too!

      8. The CID is already a transit hub, and has been since 1990 (when DSTT1 opened), and even back to the 1800s. The CID activists are essentially trying to prevent it from being a more complete hub: they’re trying to hinder its longstanding mission, and hinder the total transit network from becoming the best it can be. A station at 5th & Jackson (best) or 4th & Jackson (second-best) would benefit a lot of people in the CID and Asian residents, among others. A single-tunnel approach would have the same benefit (minus Ballardites transferring, but that’s still better than the existing D). There are tradeoffs of course and we can talk about how to minimize the impacts, but this move to push it out of the neighborhood sounds like people who have drunk too much 20th-century car-oriented futurama kool-aid. “We don’t need transit. CID residents don’t use transit. CID customers don’t use transit, and wouldn’t use it more if there were rail lines to more neighborhoods. Asian Americans in southeast Seattle and Renton are all perfectly happy with walking several blocks from the station to CID destinations.” All that sounds like myopic and short-term thinking.

    2. I’m ranking a three line DSTT with an automated Ballard stub as number one for me. It does these things:
      – Save the coast and disruption of DSTT2.
      – Compensates for a required transfer to the Ballard stub by reducing the vertical elevation changes at Westlake and high frequency trains .
      – Lets us take full advantage of a frequent automated line including smaller vaults that are less disruptive to build, able to offer a train unwary three minutes until 1 AM and set us up for extensions to First Hill and eventually Mt Baker as the next Seattle rail projects (relieving possible future overcrowding in the Beacon Hill tunnel).

      As far as a transfer station goes, I think it can by either Westlake or Symphony, depending on how to thread the tunnel and place the pedestrian connection.

      After that, I’m all for looking at opening DSTT at the curve to see if there can be a Ballard Branch line as #2.

      My #3 would be a Ballard to West Seattle automated Line with smaller vaults and high frequency trains. I’d retool the current OMF to handle the vehicles. I would split Line 1 to have a Tacoma – Northgate line (south OMF) and an Everett-SODO line (north OMF).

      Finally, I would initiate a plan to eventually allow for open gangway trains. The current vehicles are designed to run as individual streetcars and will never ever be run as single car trains — maybe never even double car or triple car trains. I can see how many of those driver cabs will never be used and riders may need that empty room on a train someday.

  14. Note that the WSBLE approach consisting of Ballard to Westlake stub + West Seattle interlined the current tunnel yields exactly the same geographic coverage as DSTT2 + NoCID plan. Both of them lack a “Midtown” station. All the West Seattle stations and all the Ballard line stations are there. The transfers are different (and way better) with the “shared tunnel” plan.

    NoCID is my name for Dow’s “Pioneer Square” mega station. Not only is it a real stretch to call the jail “Pioneer Square”, the name itself is sort of a “dig”, you might say. NoCID is both “North CID” and “NO CID”, the complete absence of the CID station.

    It’s conceivable that DSTT2 + NoCID might be subject to legal challenge as being incompatible with what voters approved. Additional NEPA steps will be required no matter what; maybe that’s how ST plans to paper over the gap.

    This post is succinct and really well done, but in a way, still too long of an argument. It wouldn’t fit in a 1 minute public comment in which you really get maybe 30-45 seconds to make your point. There are many, many good points and counterarguments in these blog posts. How could we go a step further and condense the argument for no DSTT2 to only a few words?

    Maybe it makes a difference whether it’s an argument being made to the ST Board, vs. the general public who will live with the results. Both arguments are worth making concisely and effectively. Maybe it’s the same argument.

    1. That’s true, Jonathan. A Ballard-Downtown stand-alone line with West Seattle in the DSTT seems more compatible than the removal of transfers at the current CID station.

    2. Both arguments are worth making concisely and effectively.

      Pioneer Square, no CID
      Billions to break up transit hub
      Not what we voted for.

  15. There is a major multi-block development zone flying below the radar here. I suspect there are politics behind the “South CID” station location that relate to the commercial potential of the zone down there where plans have been brewing for quite some time.

    Real estate opportunities, whether on public sites like the county properties, or privately owned development sites like this one, should not be driving this process.

    1. This site has been stewing for awhile. Speculation in other fora is that the project no longer pencils out, and so the developers may be hoping ST takes the land.

      Similar to the empty hole at the former City Hall site. It’s been in development hell for far too long, so if ST takes half of it for a station entrance, then that gives the developers an out from their investors.

      1. I see. Then the vision will be, this will be affordable housing utopia south. Dow can’t propose this one because it’s in private ownership rather than county property. Maybe this site will become the Mayor’s pet project.

        I think the political calculus in their heads has much more to do with development visions than what it’s like for anyone, anywhere, anytime to actually use the system.

        Here’s your experience of Seattle from Sea-Tac airport in 2040 in the “DSTT2 + NoCID” vision after SODO:

        Stop behind the old INS facility
        Stop by the old jail
        Under Westlake
        Under SR 99 next to the gaping maw of the tunnel entrance
        Next to Expedia (this part, with a beautiful view)
        The relative wasteland of Interbay where you can at least easily transfer to a bus to get out of there
        …and, finally, the end of the line under West Woodland (a long walk east of Ballard, at about 13th Ave. E), with many townhomes and a few apartments

    2. I think Nathan’s speculation is the more correct that the decades old hole in the ground across from city hall may be a driving force for the mega station. Better to use the site for a Link station than a hole in the ground, and if the developers — who have had many changes and many ups and downs while the city has been more than patient — could not get something developed over the last decade in a perfect environment for office development I doubt they can get something built post pandemic.

      Of course, that does not mean this location should replace both a CID station and a midtown station. Having worked in this area for decades it really fell into disrepair beginning around 2018 with homeless tents and just a lack of retail or eyes on the street with the courthouse and jail and city hall hemming the area in with third ave. to the west. Just not a great part of downtown.

      When it comes to Jonathan’s point about CID south, I don’t think Link or transit is as big a factor or incentive for commercial development as some think it is. The obvious preference is for the CID due to transfers. The irony with Link is too often it has been built where the people are not to avoid the disruption, with the hope or claims of future development, although zoning is not construction as we are learning.

      Property development of every kind, but most acutely office development or management, is the fastest declining investment on Wall St. The recent problems with First Republic Bank, whose investments are/were heavily in property development in the form of loans, will force regional banks to pull back on any kind of property/development loan whether office or multi-family in order to maintain liquidity.

      I think Constantine made a mistake when he justified the mega station with possible property development, when of course progressive groups like The Urbanist and The Stranger think the DSA and property developers are inherently evil so see a bad tunnel being proposed for private profit at the expense of transit riders. I think the reality is that is the only location right now that will allow the disruption of an underground station (considering it is a hole in the ground), including the CID and midtown.

      I think predicating any Link station downtown on the hope of future commercial development is a mistake because Link is not seen as a huge benefit and future commercial development looks pretty shaky for a long time with WFH and an oversupply. It is the old Ross approach: build it where they are, not where you hope they might be in the future.

      What Constantine should have said is no one else wants a Link station, so the hole in the ground owned by the city is a dead area is it, which requires a bad 100-yard underground tunnel to an even worse part of downtown to transfer. Maybe he were not chair of the ST Board he may have been more honest.

      1. The only hope for Downtown is more residential development. If no one wants to live there, then it seems the all-knowing invisible hand of the market would decrease rents until the apartments are full. I don’t think anyone’s really thinking there’s a need for commercial development – residential is what downtown needs.

        A note: the city sold the block to Bosa Development in 2019, and they briefly rebroke ground in 2022 before quickly pulling out again. I think they had proposed a mixed commercial/residential complex, but there’s been so many changes it’s hard to follow.

        In terms of downtown housing, the “4/C” hotel/residential tower proposal recently restarted its permitting process. With thousands of units opening for lease in Belltown, it’s easy to see why Belltown is pretty busy these days.

        Downtown needs eyes on the street, and they’re not coming in from the outer city or suburbia anymore. Ground-floor retail can’t be sustained by the commuter anymore – it needs a resident customer base. There are something like a dozen blocks of the central business district that have zero residents, and that needs to change for the rougher parts of Downtown to ever get better.

      2. I think before there’s any reuse of existing buildings to put more eyes on the street, building owners are going to have to take a haircut on their rent projections. Once they do that, they’ll start to do those conversions in the few places they’re cost-effective, but they’ll also attract less gentrified offices and call centers back to downtown that have long found a Seattle location unaffordable. Maybe the city needs to provide some sorts of incentives to face facts and move on.

        On top of that, companies used the pandemic to recreate offices into dystopia, with no privacy or individual workspaces. These “modern workplaces” were the vogue pre-pandemic to boost collaboration, but every study showed collaboration decreased by 60% or more. Post-pandemic they’re even worse, because meetings are all on-line, so your hoteling coworkers are either talking loudly with no privacy or trying to get work done with no peace. If companies want people to come back downtown they need to stop their assault on office workers’ dignity and provide functional workspaces again with individual work spaces and enough privacy to meet, talk, or focus as needed.

        I know this is off topic so won’t write more about this, but guessing it would be a good topic for a different post.

  16. I never understood why Sound Transit is so conservative about headway. Before the pandemic, peak hour headway in the tunnel was 6 minutes, or 10 trains per hour. (Currently it’s 8 minutes, 7.5 trains per hour.) In both the 6 minute and 8 minute versions, the tunnel has seemed like a ghost town, with few riders and trains. Maybe I just remember the bus-and-train tunnel of just a few years ago, which if nothing else was certainly busy.

    So they will stick the 2 line in there, doubling the trains per hour, but that’s it–no more trains allowed after that. Why? A cursory look at major metros around the world show plenty of 3-minute, 2-minute, and even less-than-2-minute peak headways. What is the problem with our tunnel? Why can’t we run three times as many trains in there as we did pre-pandemic, with 2 minute headways? I don’t recall any studies at the time, but when buses and trains shared the tunnel, there were times when the roadway was packed with buses, with a train just entering or leaving. I would guess the headway during those times, for buses at least, was less than two minutes.

    I think most of would agree that a packed tunnel during peak hours, with trains arriving and leaving every two minutes, even with a bit of lateness at times, is preferable to the current ghost tunnel situation.

    I have read some comments here about the difficulty of connecting a future Ballard line to the north end of the tunnel. I’m skeptical. I am not an engineer, but surely it would not be too hard to extend the Westlake stub into a Ballard line–it starts out heading right up 3rd Avenue.

    I will also mention the stations are hugely overbuilt, with each one having a ton of extra space down the middle–two bus lanes’ worth of space. I have no idea how to use it wisely. Perhaps some clever person will think of something.

    The capacity calculation is pretty simple: 192 persons per car, times 4 cars per train, times 30 trains per hour equals 23,040 persons per hour through the tunnel. This is right at the high end of ST’s prediction of future needs. And you know, people will adapt. If a train is routinely too full, or late, people will take the next train.

    Dow Constantine could always say travel patterns have changed, work has changed, so we don’t need a second tunnel at this time. This would have the additional benefit of being true.

    1. Christopher: The controversy about capacity is that ST says that they can only allow 20 trains an hour per direction, and many posters point out that more are reasonably possible.

      ST3 has also said that it was planning for 10 trains per hour during several hours for every line (prior DEIS for East Link dine prior to ST3 was 8 for the 1 Line and 2 Line). West Seattle stations are not generating enough riders by themselves to come anywhere close to filling 8 trains an hour.

      So the number if possible trains in the DSTT remains a mystery.

      There are other capacity enhancing things ST could do, like
      – a different vehicle design. A large part of each train space is taken up in unused driver cabs. Other systems have either paired vehicles with half the number of driver cabs per train. A third option, like Citadis, are an open gangway modular design. These have all been proven in many systems operating today. These changes could add 10-20 more capacity merely by switching the vehicle.
      – Install platform doors at busy stations. This reduces having something happening that could reduce throughput like a person or animal on the tracks.

      Anyway, the ST approach is that “needed capacity” is in the Purpose and Need statement of WSBLE — meaning that the DEIS does not require ST to have a DSTT capacity enhancing alternative. It just assumes that there is a problem with the DSTT that can’t be fixed.

  17. The meeting is a disaster. Three-fourths of the speakers are advocating for “North and South” as has become the “handle”. A lot of them are waiving the “racism” flag against “people who are hating on us” [apparently meaning folks like us].

    The fact that everyone who lives in the CID is within walking distance of “The Ruth Fisher Boardroom” has completely skewed the presenters.

    Now that the online commenters have started it’s shifting away from “All North and South All The Time!”

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