Sound Transit and the city invited the public last Wednesday (Oct 25th) to the Alki Masonic Center to review their plans for station access along the West Seattle Link Extension (WSLE).

Sound Transit had been planning the extensions for West Seattle (WSLE) and Ballard (BLE) together but has now separated them. Ballard planning has been extended to consider new station alternatives downtown and in South Lake Union. For West Seattle they are now preparing the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS, scheduled for mid 2024) for a stub to SODO. They published the Wednesday’s station details and now solicit feedback at:

The original representative alignment promised up to 37,000 daily riders for $ 1.7 billion with stations close to the Delridge Community Center, Avalon Way, and the Alaska Junction connecting to SODO and the Stadium station. The current preferred alignment eliminates the Stadium station connection, pushes the Delridge station further north in the corner between the West Seattle Bridge approach and the Nucor Steel plant, and moves the Junction station further away from California Avenue into a tunnel station along 41st Ave SW. All of these reduce the stations’ walksheds. Sound Transit also admitted that a lot of housing and businesses would be lost. To reduce the impact the Board decided to favor tunneling to the Junction station. The Board also asked Sound Transit staff to consider further alternatives to reduce construction impact and cost. As a local advocacy group pointed out, none of those alternatives would spare the city from losing housing, acres of trees, the grey heron colony along Pigeon Point, or businesses such as Alki Beach Academy, one of the largest childcare centers in Seattle. Eventually each station will provide some transit-oriented development though.

In last year’s draft EIS, Sound Transit also revised their rider estimates from up to 37,000 down to 27,000, but they don’t expect to reach that goal until the line is extended to go downtown directly. That’s about as many riders rode the bus downtown before the pandemic. Depending on some of the remaining alternatives, cost may approach $4 billion.

Wednesday’s meeting was well staffed by Sound Transit and some from the city – almost as many staffers as attendees. They started soliciting feedback on station access and designs for plazas and such. You can still provide feedback on their website, where you can also find the material they presented.

SODO station design has not changed much. Sound Transit still plans to build a new line/guideway at grade level and parallel to the existing Rainier Valley line, though it will stop at the station for now. Direct service towards Northgate is not planned until a new downtown tunnel design is approved and built. Until then, coming from West Seattle most riders will need to go up an escalator to the mezzanine on the south side or the overpass at the north side, switch to the other line, and go down another escalator before they can wait to board a train coming from Rainier Valley. If Sound Transit would instead merge the West Seattle line into the Rainier line right before the SODO station, trains from West Seattle could continue to Northgate immediately, and a SODO station with a single center platform would make transfers between the lines much easier. Either way local pedestrians can enter the mezzanine from the new Lander overpass on the North side. Cyclists and pedestrians can also access the station via the North/South multi-use path or directly from the East. A bus loop is planned on the East side.

For the Delridge station, after moving it a few blocks north from the original location, Sound Transit now seems to favor moving it back half a block again. That way the line can continue to the Avalon station along Yancy St. instead of the currently preferred alignment along Andover St. While the Yancy alignment would make bus access a bit easier and spare more of Transitional Resources’ mental health facilities, it would increase the impact on the beaver and salmon spawning habitat at Longfellow Creek. I listened to people suggesting various alternatives, but the response by Sound Transit was that they had looked at all possible options and they are now focused on building what they presented even though there are still many challenges such as difficult terrain and soil conditions such as the Pigeon Point slope. One good news is that they reduced the height of the station size a bit, now the Delridge Station is “only” 50 feet above ground, even less if you approach from a bridge from Delridge Way.

Avalon station would be barely underground next to one of the busiest roads in Seattle (Fauntleroy Way), its northern portion in a retained cut similar to the current CID station. Most riders would need to cross multiple wide roads to reach the station. It’s not clear whether the station gets built or dropped. Staff have suggested dropping it to reduce cost and construction impact. If it gets dropped, bus lines along 35th Ave SW would need to get diverted to the Junction station. Pedestrian access would suffer – though the Delridge and Junction stations are not far, the change of elevation is considerable for people living along Avalon.

For the Alaska Junction station Sound Transit is focusing on a tunnel station along 41st Ave SW under the SW Alaska St. This would eliminate the Jefferson Square / Safeway shopping mall and apartments above. Construction will certainly cause some disruption. The entrances will be closer to 40th and 42nd Ave. That means some underground walking will be required, but a bit less climbing if you want to reach the shops along California Ave or Fauntleroy. Choosing a tunnel alignment will make it far costlier to extend the line further south – a consideration which was not discussed at the Board meeting when this alignment was selected even though Sound Transit’s long-rage plan already contemplates such extension.

So now that the ridership estimate has dropped, cost has doubled, and the environmental impact has become apparent, some local activists have questioned the value of the WSLE. They advocate instead for Sound Transit to make incremental changes to RapidRide C and D as they had also committed to in the ST3 ballot measure as an early deliverable. (ST has since postponed these to the end of ST3 due to the budget gap. It’s unclear what this means, since the C and D will be gone by then. Would the money follow to an intra-West Seattle line?) Sound Transit’s DEIS already pointed out that most riders will arrive at any of the stations via bus and their ride would take longer due to the transfer. Similar to the East Link Starter Line, Sound Transit does not expect very many riders taking the stub to SODO until it is continued through downtown, so why spend $4 billion on it now?!? If we continue to use buses to reach West Seattle, we will not need a second downtown tunnel. Would we be better off accelerating the connection from Westlake to SLU and Ballard instead? I do hope that the Board will consider this option before they approve the construction of the West Seattle Link extension.

129 Replies to “West Seattle Station Planning”

  1. Thanks for the link to the survey Martin. I filled it out for Junction Station. Glad to see the city plans to go all out. It will be great to get rid of the archaic Jefferson Square with its huge parking lot and replace it with high density 7-story TOD and potentially make some of the streets around the station pedestrian only. Contrary to what DT claims, not all of West Seattle is suburban NIMBYs. Many of us want urbanism and a car-free lifestyle.

  2. Can you see the images for Avalon and Alaska Junction stations? Martin can but I just get an extra blank line between the paragraphs. They showed up in the editing screen but not in the preview, and we were hoping it would be cleared up in the real article.

    1. I can’t see the images in Martin’s article, I see the extra blank line as well. I saw all the images for Alaska Junction station when I took the survey.

      1. I updated URLs and resized the pictures, hope you can see them now, otherwise they are on the Sound Transit website I mentioned

  3. What a titanic waste of resources. There is now officially predicted to be no net gain in ridership, most trips will take longer and add at least one transfer, and the busway — a critical facility for the 509 corridor — will be covered by a track with one train every ten minutes in each direction. If West Seattleites are lucky, and ST finds change in the couch to run them them that often, that is.

    Maybe it would be wiser for ST just to get a nice new shredder at Office Depot and start feeding Benjamins into it. The net damage to the community would at least be limited to the taxes composted.

    1. You are so right. It is the biggest waste of money and will take years and billions. Get electric buses. Some small and run them every ten minutes. No displacement of homes, businesses, green space etc. it could start as soon as buses could be purchased not years from now when we are all dead

  4. Now, to the technicalities. There is not now, nor will there ever be in the absence of a “Duwamish Bypass” line, a need for a parallel track between SoDo and CID. There will never — NEVER!— be trains coming from Beacon Hill and the Rainier ﹰValley more often than a train every six minutes in any realistic scenario. SDOT needs car capacity on King Blvd and the crossing arterials more than it needs more suburban Link trains, so the line is going to be limited to its current priority.

    It should get four-quadrant gates in order to minimize car-train crashes, though.

    The practical truth is that the trackway south of Mt. Baker can never be elevated because there’s no place to put the supports without taking a track out of service permanently. For however long it would take to build the overhead structure, Link would be single tracked for the entire distance from the curve at Boeing Access Road and King Blvd and just south of Mt. Baker TC. That is simply never going to happen, and neither is tunneling through the RV.

    So, there is plenty of capacity for West Seattle trains at roughly half the frequency on the existing tracks.

    Yes, both Lander and Holgate would require overpasses, but the cost of a
    Holgate overpass would be half the cost of a second station at Lander and a mile and a half of redundant trackage. There is already assumed to be a new overpass at Lander.

    There is also plenty of capacity in the existing tunnel for East Link, Rainier Valley and West Seattle trains, should this folly be built. East Link is going to be limited to eight minute headways (really, 7-1/2 minute) and may not need more than every ten, so it could me matched with West Seattle trains, leaving five minute gaps for as many RV trains as can ever practically be run.

    Also, Lower Royal Brougham Way should be closed to non-transit traffic between Fourth South and the entrance to the Greyhound Station to ensure fewer car-train collisions there.

  5. It’s rather stunning how much these designs cost given the ridership. It’s as if ST wants to build something as expensive as possible regardless of how much more difficult it will be to use.

    I also specifically note that ST is not disclosing the number of escalators nor the vertical distances required to use that stations. It’s as if the design is intended to be as opulent and palatial as possible rather than be as rider-friendly as possible.

    The SODO station continues to require two escalators for this high volume same direction transfer station. ST tries to make same-direction transfers suck as much as possible at SODO even as they list that transfer as an important design principle! It’s surreal and contradictory!!!

    The cost of boring the relatively short end station at Alaska Junction combined with entrances that require a huge purchase of those buildings (note that the one-story B of A branch building untouched) is a particularly costly choice. It speaks loudly to me about the silliness of having a station entrance south of Alaska (less than 50 feet wide with slower traffic), but not any station access across 320th in Federal Way (over 90 feet wide with high speed traffic).

    The only logic I see for these things are the backroom dealmaking going on to create maximum profit for certain real estate investors thanks to their elected official buddies. It’s pork favoritism masked by the suggestion that transit riders get benefit from the project — even though the several costly design choices actually make using Link less convenient for future riders.

    Sadly, there is not a choice to save money and instead spend the money at a shallow 4th/ Jackson instead for DSTT2.

    For those that want to argue that Link projects are unreasonably expensive, I present the quintessential example: this Link extension.

  6. “ Wednesday’s meeting was well staffed by Sound Transit and some from the city – almost as many staffers as attendees.”

    My experience at these ST meetings is that ST does not want any feedback. The staff there is on full defensive mode, and the staff there are almost always people with no technical skills and cannot explain (or defend) design choices. They are instead talking heads — often so stupid that they can’t even understand basic transit station data or vocabulary (like what a cross-platform transfer is or how deep at platform will be)

    At every public meeting I’ve attended on this project, I end up talking with multiple staff who openly admit they know nothing technical — not even basic transit station terminology or design requirements. They interact with the public by saying “how do you feel” like an ineffectual therapist who approaches members of the public as mentally ill and need listening to eventually be forced into submission as opposed to exploring valid observations that instead deserve technical responses and design changes. I’ve wondered if most of them have ever ridden any urban rail transit besides those that are local given how uninformed they are even compared to a seasoned rail rider.

    1. I’m convinced that ST only holds their public meetings to serve two purposes: legal requirements and defending their own PR. It seems to me that technical suggestions can only come from inside the house, so to speak – so suggestions from STB are only considered if mid-level managers at ST or HNTB are reading (which isn’t unprecedented).

  7. The only way this investment makes any sense is if it eventually extends to White Center and Burien. But that kind of coverage is neither planned nor funded at this time.

    Interlining the WS line at Sodo isn’t really feasible because it would require decreasing headways/frequency on East Link or the Rainier Valley, or both. Those are non-starters given the scale of the transit markets in those corridors, especially as both prepare for extensions to Redmond downtown and Federal Way. That’s why the eventual interlining plan is waiting on the spine segmentation & second downtown tunnel.

    A fine mess either way.

    1. You are flat wrong, ae. East Link is limited by the load bearing and vibrational dynamics of the Lake Washington Bridge, and Centrak Link by the ever diminishing capacity on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
      SDOT is struggling to keep ten minute headway trains running reliably at this time. Absent 500 million for five overpasses, trains will probably never run every six minutes again.

      There is plenty of room for six West Seattle trains per hour in each direction in the existing tunnel. And if Southwest King County booms all of a sudden and the Bypass becomes necessary, surface tracks up Rainier to Jackson with a revived CCC project can divert some trains from the Rainier Valley to SLU or Belltown / Lower Queen Anne.

      It might take five years to build those trackways, but if the boom happens there clear signals in time to address the capacity demands. We have a “Light Rail” technology-based system. Let’s use that flexibility where possible.

      1. Wow, Tom. You seem pretty sure of yourself. I wish you were right, but I fear you’re not. The East Link operating plan for the 2 Line assumes 8-min headways. Same for the MLK line once the #2 opens. That’s 4-minute combined headways between Lynnwood and IDS. Tell me where a train from WS fits in there. There ain’t room. Unless ST can safely and reliably get down to 2-min frequency, but we’ve seen no evidence the system is designed to accommodate that kind of performance. (Sources: The ST2 Plan & appendices, and all the environmental documents for the ST2 Projects and their accompanying federal funding documents.)

      2. “Unless ST can safely and reliably get down to 2-min frequency, but we’ve seen no evidence the system is designed to accommodate that kind of performance.”

        That’s exactly the issue. ST says it can’t go beyond 3-minute frequency without trains bunching and becoming unreliable. It does use 1.5 minute frequency after ballgames, but it doesn’t want to do that routinely every day. But we just have ST’s word for this, and ST has a candidate project to improve DSTT1 for 1.5 minute reliable frequency. But it’s refusing to, and building an expensive second tunnel instead. So we have to take ST’s word that this is a problem, and it’s a problem that ST itself is causing by not making the most efficient use of its infrastructure and dollars.

      3. The Green Line operates one- and two-car trains using articulated light rail vehicles (LRVs), at scheduled headways of 5 to 10 min on the four branches (see Table 1), which, when combined, produce central subway headways of 1 to 2 min for much of the day.

        That’s a quotation from a 1988 study of MBTA Green Line operations. The four lines ran at five or six minute headways, which result in average headways in the tunnel trunk between 73 and 96 seconds depending on the time of day.

        Grant that this was a long time ago, and MBTA may have lengthened current headways. But the did operate, for years, sub-two minute headways in the tunnel core all day long.

        Surely Skycastle Transit can manage two minute headways for short periods during the peaks. Other times it would be running 3-3-4 headways with each line running 6 TPH or ten minute “policy” headways.

        They really aren’t trying very hard to get the best use out of their extravagant infrastructure.

      4. Look, ST can add automation to the trains and just use it within the tunnel north of CID to improve reliability and throughput. It can add platform doors that close a few seconds before the train doors do in order to thwart door holders. It can put “pens” — clear “rooms” with doors to the platform that close when a train comes to a stop — at the bottom of the stairs and escalators to double-down on stopping the train chasers if necessary [and certainly as a “last resort”]. It can put a permanent center platform at Pioneer Square with proper egress for pedestrians and disabled riders but no “normal use” ingress.

        These sorts of low-cost improvements — which while irritating to train-chasers would vastly improve transfers and train reliability — would cost 1 / 20th — perhaps 1 / 50th! — of what DSTT2 would.

        And if Central Puget Sound does become LA North because of climate change, a new tunnel that serves First Hill as well as Downtown Seattle and has great transfers to the existing system can be designed and built by people who know what they’re doing in the 2050’s.

        But of course, the “need” for six TPH to and from West Seattle in the absence of a massive upzone there is completely absent, so it’s all a pointless argument.

      5. “never run every six minutes again because there are more and more and more and more pedestrians, scooter users, and cars in the fadt-growing neighborhood.

      6. @another engineer

        There was a separate candidate project to increase the tunnel frequency. Currently it’s “capped” at 3 minutes due to ventilation and signaling but it could be easily upgraded to 2 minute frequency.


        > This project would study, identify, and evaluate capital and operating options in the Transit Tunnel (International District/Chinatown Station to Northgate Station) to potentially improve the frequency of trains to less than three minutes. This could include funding projects such as improved train operations, upgraded train control signal technology, ventilation, and access/egress improvements.

        The problem isn’t with the original dstt but north of Westlake in the northgate tunnels.

        Secondly Sound Transit doesn’t even need it down to 1.5 or 2 minute frequency. Even with 8 minute trains on both east link and SeaTac line that’s only 15 trains per hour. Just increasing the capacity to 2.5 minute headway (24 tph) would allow for 9 tph or 6.6 minute headways. They aren’t even planning to run trains that often

        > Unless ST can safely and reliably get down to 2-min frequency, but we’ve seen no evidence the system is designed to accommodate that kind of performance.

        It’s really not that hard… 30tph isn’t asking for the world here. Going up to 40 yes is really hard but sound transits is easily reach 30tph. Or at least 25 tph from 20tph.

      8. @WL — I agree with all of your points. It is worth noting that original issue really wasn’t about downtown crowding, but crowding on trains headed towards Lynnwood. The concern was that trains headed to Ballard would reduce the number of trains that could go north. One way to solve that problem is to increase frequency downtown. As you suggest, run trains every two minutes downtown, and it really doesn’t matter that every third train is headed to Ballard — you still have 20 trains headed to Lynnwood (in a 2-4-2-4 pattern during peak). That is more trains per hour than they are planning.

        Another alternative is to simply end the Ballard line at Westlake (heading towards First Hill) and interline the train from West Seattle. This would mean that all three trains would head north towards Lynnwood. This would provide just as much capacity as they are planning now. This would dramatically reduce costs, while holding open the possibility of extending to First Hill eventually.

        A true “capacity line” would consist of a second line from downtown to the U-District (likely via Eastlake and South Lake Union). This would reduce crowding, while providing additional coverage to high density areas. This is overkill, but then all of this is basically overkill. They are spending billions building a second downtown line in the name of capacity, while continuing to buy low-capacity trains (and running them infrequently).

        The fundamental problem with the new downtown tunnel is that it doesn’t add coverage. Many riders will be worse off. It is really one of the most poorly thought out projects in the history of transit (especially when you consider the cost versus benefit). The fact that it competes with other ST3 projects (West Seattle Link, Issaquah Link) in that regard just shows how bad the major projects of ST3 were.

      9. “Currently it’s “capped” at 3 minutes due to ventilation and signaling”

        “The problem isn’t with the original dstt but north of Westlake in the northgate tunnels.”

        The problem is in the DSTT. Martin H Duke interviewed ST about the supposed limitation of the Westlake-Northgate tunnel for 1.5 minute service and the spokesman said there was no limitation: when ST eliminated the Montlake ventilation shaft it split the fire zone into two to compensate. I looked in the archive for the article back to December 2015 but I couldn’t find it or I missed it.

        In 2016 we were told that the DSTT’s 3-minute limitation was due to signaling. But in the March 2023 board meeting when public testimony asked ST to reconsider upgrading DSTT1 instead of building DSTT2 with awful transfers, the board asked the staff representative what the DSTT1 bottleneck had been in 2016, and he said platform overcrowding. So it could be signaling, or it could be platform space, or both.

        But I wonder if the rep in 2023 really knew, because they hadn’t thought about it for seven years, and it may have been different people then. He was given no time to check the old notes or research it; it was just an immediate answer off the top of his head. We asked ST to at least review the 2016 assumptions as it has done after other time lapses, but the board said no, it wouldn’t reconsider something the 2016 board had rejected.

        That on top of the fact that the board never gave much of a reason for DSTT2 — it just suddenly wanted it in early 2016 — and it never gave evidence that DSTT1 would be overcrowded, it just asserted it, leaves me and others frustrated. The 2016 board apparently made a decision on a whim, and now the 2023 board won’t review its assumptions to confirm they’re still valid.

      10. @Mike

        To clarify I thought it was also signaling due to how long the tunnel is between Westlake and uw. Apparently they wanted to break up into smaller blocks/ whatever improvement for closer trains.

        For the original tunnel, don’t understand how dstt1 could have a 3 minute capacity limit with signaling. The stations are already so close.

      11. A train every 3 minutes is still 20 trains per hour.

        Eastside is a train every 8 minutes.
        Rainier Valley is every 8 minutes under the current plan

        That’s only 15 trains per hour.

        I can see a reason to run West Seattle more than the remaining 5 trains per hour. If it gets that busy it needs more destinations anyway, such as West Seattle – Bellevue – Kirkland or some such.

      12. @glenn

        Sure but what we are saying is that it’s only a very slight increase in the tunnel capacity needed to handle it.

        > West Seattle – Bellevue – Kirkland or some such.

        That isn’t possible, the trains from east link can only go to northgate. One can’t go say Ballard to east side nor west Seattle to east side. West Seattle trains can choose* whether to go to Ballard or north gate though.

        * depending on how exactly they build the sodo section

      13. Interesting thread. There is longer term set of considerations that still underscores the point that WS can’t fit in the current tunnel along with East Link and the RV line.

        I agree with all the speculation about how headways might be decreased to add more trains. However, the reason ST might want to do that simply is NOT to add WS trains to the line. Population and employment growth in and around the 1 and 2 lines will drive decision-making on this. The East side cannot live forever with 8-minute service. Nor can 4-minute service sustain the North end very long. These lines need to be able to flex upward in capacity to handle projected growth.

        People seem to like complaining about the decision to pursue a second tunnel, so it’s important to keep a focus on why. And it’s basically this: one tunnel with 2-minute headways and 4-car trains cannot handle the region’s growth by itself. As ST adds more stations to these lines, and the surrounding communities take more density to manage growth, and the region constrained by four-car trains, increasing frequency becomes the primary strategy for addressing increased demand. And at some point that hits a hard ceiling.

      14. another engineer, BOTH of the problems with three lines in the tunnel you mentioned are mooted by infrastructure limitations. No matter how much capacity the East Side might “need” in the future, it will never have trains more often than once every eight minutes, because ST has said that it wants only one train at a time on the floating bridge segment. Running them at eight minute headways is necessary to guarantee that they can reliably meet their schedules but not “meet” on the bridge.

        And, second, if four-minute headways cannot “sustain the North end for very long”, then running all three lines through the tunnel is exactly what’s called for. Even if Central Link can get back to six-minute headways reliably that’s only 10 trains per hour. Eight minute headways across the lake (call it 7.5 to be generous) means eight per direction per hour. That’s eighteen. Adding the six from West Seattle pushes the train frequency to twenty-four, or two-and-a-half minute headways.

        Yes, that’s getting hot and heavy but the truth is, nothing about that particular capcity problem would be helped by a second tunnel, because trains to and from the north can’t use it unless it turns away from Ballard to parallel North Link for a distance. A line on Aurora could meet that need.

        Even if the ST plan of running the RV trains through the new tunnel is adopted, West Seattle as currently envisioned won’t need more than six trains per hour in the most optimistic scenario. A Link train carries on the order of five hundred people fairly comfortably, eight hundred in a crush. That means that 4800 people could be accommodated with six TPH, and 6400 if it did go up to 7.5 minute headways to match East Link.

        So you still have to come up with another four to eight trains somewhere, then having them be the RV trains makes sense to me. Adding a couple of RapidRide routes between West Seattle and other popular destinations bypassing downtown — SLU and First/Capitol Hill come easily to mind — is a lot cheaper than building a second tunnel on the off chance that West Seattle might grow to need much more frequent trains.

      15. Thanks for responding, Tom. Another engineer dogmatically believes in the need for DSTT2 even though all the factual evidence says otherwise. Even the WSBLE Draft EIS demonstrated a slight capacity problem in the No Build condition only because they only assumed a peak 20 trains per hour (3.0 minute spacing). And many systems around the world operate with at least 2.5 minute train spacing if not less. Sure it costs money to more optimize train throughput with automated positioning technology — but it’s significant cheaper and faster than boring a deep tunnel way below Downtown.

        One big argument for DSTT2 was to offer a single transfer between SLU and Ballard and Sounder. With the preferred elimination of a station at Jackson St, that now will require two transfers. It would be really amazing if trains ran every 2.5 minutes in the DSTT and an automated Westlake-Ballard automated train also ran every 2.5 minutes with that double transfer — as opposed to another engineer’s dream of less frequent double transfers for this trip pair.

        Dare I mention that it could open years if not a decade earlier?

      16. Population and employment growth in and around the 1 and 2 lines will drive decision-making on this. The East side cannot live forever with 8-minute service. Nor can 4-minute service sustain the North end very long. … increasing frequency becomes the primary strategy for addressing increased demand. And at some point that hits a hard ceiling.

        And at some point we hit other hard ceilings as well. Rainier Valley is limited to trains every six minutes. Run the trains every six minutes, and you are running every two minutes between Seattle and Lynnwood. That isn’t enough? Come on.

        So maybe the weakness is Rainier Valley itself? Maybe we should start burying the line now, so we can run the trains more often. While we are at it, let’s build two lines from West Seattle, since obviously there will be skyscrapers there at any moment.

        All jokes about skyscrapers aside, to even reach capacity on many of our lines requires a major investment in other parts of the infrastructure. The weak-link (as it were) is not necessarily downtown.

        This is first big mistake with this approach. They just assume they know where the bottlenecks will be, when the truth is, they don’t. No one does. The greater Seattle area just went through a huge boom, and it was nowhere close to what many predicted. Seattle grew like crazy. Most of the suburbs (and surrounding cities) did not. This is despite the outdated zoning here (just wait until we follow Spokane’s lead and introduce better regulations). Seattle will boom, but all over (not centered around the handful of stations). Link will continue to be important, but the buses will continue to be more important.

        As far as the East Side goes, downtown Bellevue already has skyscrapers. Yes, I realize they could add more, but it is largely built out, with growth expectations (that fed into the original estimates) way behind schedule (e. g. Spring District). I’m not saying that East Link will be a disappointment, but ridership will be driven by all-day demand, not everyone trying to go across the lake one direction during rush-hour. This is actually very good news. This is what you want. But it means that six-minute trains (which downtown Seattle should be able to handle easily) is aspirational, not something to be feared. The idea that trains will be going across the bridge every six minutes while leaving people at the station is silly. Even if it came to that, there are a bunch of much cheaper options (like better train sets, express bus service from Redmond, etc.).

        The second big mistake was the downtown tunnel. Many cities — faced with real capacity problems, instead of theoretical ones — build secondary lines. Toronto literally called theirs a “relief line” until recently. But in every known case, they increased coverage downtown. It is crazy to do otherwise, and yet that is exactly what we are doing. But it is even worse than that. They are adding stations that are close to the other stations, but worse. The transfers are terrible; there won’t be additional coverage; costs are extremely high. It is really difficult to fail so badly in all three aspects, but ST managed to do so.

      17. “That isn’t possible, the trains from east link can only go to northgate.”
        – WL

        Under the current structure, sure.

        TriMet shoehorned an entire new wye junction into 200 feet just north of Gateway. It’s part of a $200 million project, which is less than ST spends on a single station.

        So, such a junction shouldn’t be an impossibility.

        Such a junction would help a lot with other things too, such as no more reverse moves at CID, and allowing Rainier Valley and Eastside trains to operate as a single line when the tunnel is closed.

        “This is first big mistake with this approach. They just assume they know where the bottlenecks will be, when the truth is, they don’t. ”
        – Ross

        They do at least have estimates. Actually, I remember running across that somewhere, and it was rather striking. The highest ridership section estimated was UW to Westlake, which is specifically NOT addressed by the proposed DSTT2.

    2. I tend to agree with Tom on this one. There are plenty of light rail systems around the world with three frequent lines, and we know that Link can handle two minute trains because they do that after sporting events today.

      The reason that DSTT was deemed overcrowded was because of train loads between University Street and IDS. Note that the models are not good at reflecting forecasted loads on trains versus Third Ave buses anyway, and Metro buses can and probably will handle any excess crowding.

      None of the EIS data look at whether or not the crowding still exists if Metro buses are added into the analysis. It only looks at Link. I’m hard pressed to imagine that someone will ride one stop or maybe two stops on Link Downtown even without overcrowding, and that’s what looks to be happening in the ST forecasts.

      Add to that the change in flattening peak usage since 2020. It appears to me that Link will have no crowding trouble with 10 minute frequencies (6 a hour each) for West Seattle and Redmond, with 6-10 for Rainier Valley (totaling 18-22 trains an hour in each direction). That’s not substantively different than the ST3 promise of 20 trains an hour. 25 or 30 trains an hour also seem possible.

      1. “we know that Link can handle two minute trains because they do that after sporting events today.”

        1.5 minute trains. I’ve seen them all going northbound at Roosevelt and Capitol Hill. The “next train” warning comes while the previous train is still at the station. The trains do strange things like turn around at Roosevelt and go on the wrong track, and several northbound trains come before one southbound one does.

      2. “The forecasts for all Link project EIS docs are based on an assumed local transit network provided by the local transit agencies, KCM, CT and PT.”

        What does that have to do with whether Link is overcrowded downtown? We assume Metro et all will still exist and they’ll go through with their long-range plans to some extent. Link will (or won’t be) overcrowded in spite of this.

      3. @ another engineer:

        ST has never detailed the cause of this capacity problem. Not on the EIS. Not in the Statement of Purpose and Need. Nowhere. I’ve looked. I’ve reviewed all the technical appendices for the EIS. It’s just not there in print.

        So we don’t know whether short Downtown trips are or are not on Link. We don’t know how many people that get on at Univerdity Street get off at Pioneer Swyare or CID.

        Generally, it’s a minor detail. However in this case it’s literally creating a $4B expense to taxpayers — more than the entire West Seattle Link!

        Finally, automation is advancing every year. A huge benefit coming from automation is being able to safely run trains closer together. A 3 minute limit in 2014 is simply no longer relevant. REM in Montreal is literally planned as three branches to the southwest, running at a planned combined frequency of 2 minutes. You can’t deny that it’s not possible here because it’s being done!

      4. I have always thought of the automation angle as going full blown driverless. This is not necessarily the case, though. In fact, we see that most automated vehicles today have a safety driver in place. How would this come in to play here? I could imagine the trains going in to an “optimized auto pilot mode” through the downtown – SoDo section. The idea is that such a system can keep the trains more evenly spread out than human operators, which should cut down on the train bunching issue. Once the trains leave this segment, the conventional operations approach takes over. Seems like this should be possible? Bonus: it avoids the issue of replacing the jobs with AI.

      5. I agree Brandon. Automated is a broad term and not just one thing.

        There is one complication — unloading passengers from crowded trains at stations. Crowded trains take longer to unload and load because riders must push themselves in or out. That alone begs for drivers on board. However, automation can at least make sure that the next train arrives right away rather than gets delayed 30 seconds while signal blocks do their thing and drivers respond.

      6. “That alone begs for drivers on board. ” What? Some of the higher ridership lines in the world are automated. There may need to be active human monitoring of dwell time at SoDo station during peak flow of people transferring, but the train itself absolutely can be automated, same as it is across the world

      7. True enough, AJ. Maybe not specifically drivers but some form of human monitoring and door control will likely be needed for crowded trains.

  8. I’m afraid I’ve taken the express train from “general transit enthusiast” to “total curmudgeon” on the issue of West Seattle Link.

    This project is so dumb I don’t know where to begin. It wouldn’t make sense to build even if it were free and could be built overnight – but of course it costs billions we won’t be able to spend on something actually useful, and will cause truly massive construction impacts and permanent displacements. The carbon impact will never be paid off. A generation of kids will grow up in West Seattle passing through a construction site every time they go anywhere. The layout of West Seattle makes it impossible for any single line to directly serve the majority of the population. Breaking the connection from UW to Rainier Valley and the airport is a step backward. Turning a one-seat ride into a three-seat ride is two steps backward.

    This project is the only justification (and a very weak one, at that) for the second tunnel downtown, which itself is the justification for selling off surplus county properties downtown at a premium, while breaking our International District / Chinatown hub around which the entire system was designed from the start. It all makes sense to County Executive Dow Constantine of West Seattle, but it doesn’t make for a good transit system.

    As a boondoggle (thanks eddiew), whose “value” is laughably nonexistent with a forced transfer in SODO, this project ought to be gracefully deprioritized, like Issaquah – “South Kirkland” (which is not a place btw), in the hopes that wiser Generation Alpha minds currently in kindergarten will eventually prevail.

    I wish these folks the best:

    1. I agree with your general assessment of West Seattle Link, but take issue with this statement:

      This project is the only justification (and a very weak one, at that) for the second tunnel downtown.

      As I mentioned up above ( the new tunnel has more to do with Ballard Link than West Seattle Link. Basically, the folks from Lynnwood don’t want trains from the south (going through downtown) headed anywhere but up north. Thus West Seattle Link is fine, simply because the trains come from the south. It doesn’t limit frequency/capacity up north at all. If anything, it increases it (although you can accomplish the same thing with a stub train starting at SoDo).

      It is quite reasonable to be concerned about Ballard Link and capacity (to the north end), but the reaction was poorly though out. If this is a major concern for Ballard Link, then maybe we should have gone with Ballard-UW or the Metro 8 proposals (neither of which would have this issue). Or we could have seen this as an opportunity, and run Ballard Link to First Hill (as many have proposed). Or we could have simply focused on improving capacity of the system as a whole (with better train sets, and better headways).

      None of that happened. Instead they simply tacked on a very poorly designed second tunnel in the name of capacity, and now (like so much of ST3) the plans for that second tunnel have gotten considerably worse.

  9. Eloquent and properly scornful, Jonathan. A Blue Ribbon for you!

    Thank you.

    If the placeholders at Skycastle Transit can’t take a step back and consider what it means that a bunch of rabidly “pro-transit nerds” think this is a Boondoggle For The Record Books®, they’re flirting with criminal negligence.

  10. Even if I accept STs long term goal of not interlining, I’m confused as to why they wouldn’t have the SODO station arranged with northbound lines and southbound lines sharing center platforms (for example, Line 1 S- Platform- Line 3 S – Line 3 N – Platform – Line 1 N) so as to allow cross platform transfers between lines headed in the same direction. This would go some way towards alleviating the inconvenience to Line 1 riders from getting routed to the new (worse) DSTT and make for an excellent transfer for those going to/coming from Cap Hill or the UW (major destinations).

    Am I misunderstanding the plans, or is there some technical reasons for not pursuing this configuration given how helpful it would be given their planned eventual routing? My example arrangement would require forking line 1 to new tracks and merging line 3 with the existing tracks south of SODO station, but there are certainly other options to accomplish something similar. The Puget sound region is full of far more complicated freeway interchanges.

    1. That is what Al has been advocating forever, and you’re both right if one assumes unlimited trains north of SoDo. But the RV won’t ever send trains down a shared track more often than every six minutes, if it even gets back to that level, which is doubtful. West Seattle, if built would contribute another six per hour, period, end of story.

      There is plenty of room on the two tracks for both services. If necessary an additional overpass at Holgate might be necessary, but that could be a three-lane bridge with a center breakdown. Pretty cheap.

      1. I’m certainly not as breast of things as most people here, so I’m not surprised that others have advocated for something similar. Your point about capacity makes sense to me, so I’m not sold on the need for a second pair of tracks. However, I guess my question is even working under ST’s (likely flawed) assumption that a second pair of tracks is needed, why haven’t they gone with Al’s station configuration?

      2. @Alex

        It would require crossing the tracks at grade as well to switch their lines. Also the new tunnel would probably still be on one side. It’s not too complicated, European metros and train stations do it but I’m not sure sound transit has ever seriously considered it

      3. Actually, WL, they COULD do it as a “flying junction” kind of thing. They’d basically add a third track on the west side of the curved structure at Forest and the Busway which would come down in the existing northbound bus lane. The southbound West Seattle trains would be at the extreme west, then the southbound RV trains. There would be a center platform just north of Lander.

        Then the existing northbound track would be adjusted to line up with the existing southbound track just north of the apex of the curve. Northbound RV trains would use the existing northbound track, perhaps altered a bit to allow for a center platform for the northbound pair of tracks.

        Finally, the existing northbound track from RV down the hill to Lander would be demised from that transition mentioned above and the northbound track from West Seattle would take its place.

        In-direction transfers would be lickety-split, as you advocate. Folks making reversing transfers would still need to change elevation twice or cross two tracks.

        At the north end they’d do the same thing, but if DSTT2 is build, its portal would rise up in between the West Seattle tracks somewhere south of Stadium.

        This would work but getting staging it for minimal disruption would be tricky.

      4. “Northbound RV trains would use the existing southbound track”

        Darn, didn’t catch this.

      5. @WL
        The way I imagined it, it wouldn’t require any at grade track crossings:
        -Line 1 N would take the current Forest St. overpass but then angle slightly east after reaching grade level to pull into the station just east of the current tracks.
        – Line 3 N and S would merge with the current tracks just north of Forest St. overpass south of the station.
        – Line 1 S would need a new westward extension of the Forest St. overpass going from the west side of Sodo Busway to the current overpass. It would also need its own tunnel entrance on the west side of the Sodo Busway which passes under the current (what will be Line 3 N and S) tracks.

        – If running new tracks to the east of the current tracks (where the SODO trail is now) brings them too close to the buildings, the 4 tracks can shift westward north of SODO station, with Line 1 N merging with its current tracks, Line 3 N merging with the current Line 1 S tracks, and Line 3 S and line 1 S running on newly laid tracks on the SODO Busway.

        I guess this does add complexity from a new single lane over pass for Line 1 S, and a tunnel for Line 1 S which crosses under the existing tracks, but these seem rather minor given how much it would ease transfers. I could be wrong on that point

      6. One other option is to not build the Lander overpass. The original plans had West Seattle tracks over Lander and the 1 Line tracks remaining on the surface. If the two new aerial tracks were built to be southbound and northbound trains used the two existing surface tracks (with a slight track shift to create a center platform near the current platforms), the transfers would work great too!

        ST does not look st things from the standpoint of a rider as their primary focus. That’s kind of the overarching problem. Instead ST is deep in a real estate political game and light rail construction is the cash cow for another purpose.

        If I had my preferences, no alternative should be in the EIS without a committee of riders okaying it first. Riders are the cattle to ST and the station designs are 3D mazes like stockyards; developers are the ruling class with ST.

      7. Guys, there’s no need for four tracks!!!!!!!! Jeebus, if we’re advocating for three lines in the tunnel, two lines can share the tracks alongside the SoDo busway. What a monumental waste of money for twelve total trains per hour.

        It might indeed be operationally more flexible to have two northbound platform tracks at Lander as Glenn has suggested, so that if Line 1 and Line 3 trains arrive at the same time, whoever is scheduled second can sit at a platform waiting for clearance, instead of cooling its heels to the south waiting for access to the platform. I can get that, though it might mean taking a lane from the busway permanently.

        I’m not enthusiastic about that; the busway is still useful for SR509 services and some southeast ones as well. But maybe if the colorful buildings behind Austin Mac Company were torn down the SoDo bikeway could be moved far enough east to accommodate another track on the east side of the platform. The northbound West Seattle track could drop down to grade just north of the Horton Street wye for the MF, taking the bikeway between Forest and Lander and then NOT merge with the northbound trackway as it crosses Lander, but rather wiggle a bit to the east in order to accommodate the platform. The merge turnout would be north of the station.

        I like it. Thanks Glenn!

        As I’ve said several time, running both lines on one track would probably behoove ST to pay for overpassing both Lander and Holgate, both for the security of the trains and for traffic.

        Also, if this happens, it would behoove ST to swap the southbound track and southbound platform which would allow one direction of reversing transfers to be cross-platform. Both doors could be opened on northbound RV trains at SoDo, allowing a cross-platform reversing transfer to southbound West Seattle trains as well as the cross-platform in-direction transfer.

        However, the northbound West Seattle to southbound Rainier Valley reverse transfer would require crossing the northbound RV track, either with stairs up to the Lander overpass or a pedestrian crossing of the track itself.

        However, if all trains would be continuing through the existing tunnel, there’s no need to worry about “in-direction” transfers, only the reversing ones.

        But if ST goes ahead with the folly of DSTT2, then cross-platform in-direction transfers here would be very valuable, though of course they wouldn’t give access to East Link trains.

      8. “instead of cooling its heels”

        I didn’t know trains had heels. Are trains’ heels like bees’ knees or cats’ pajamas?

      9. IF a billion dollar second SoDo station is to be built, it should definitely go on FIRST Avenue. Adding to the usefulness of the overall system.

        Given that the current preferred plan is to bypass a major destination along the original plans sent to voters, the International District, such a shift would seem to be fair game, within scope, at this point.

        1. Would it be able to get underground and tie into a “north of CID” transfer situation?
        2. What to do about the temporary stub line situation? That’s a tough question, but one worth looking in to. I could imagine a temporary, at grade, no frills single tracked station stop near the current Stadium station. We’re not running more than two car trains out to WS at this time, right?

        Whatever, it would be stupid to have two sets of tracks and two full stations alongside each other in SoDo. This must be avoided!

      10. “though it might mean taking a lane from the busway permanently.

        I’m not enthusiastic about that; the busway is still useful for SR509 services and some southeast ones as well.”

        Does the busway get enough traffic to need two lanes the whole way?

        Because Eugene’s Emerald Express has extensive “single tracking” of its busway, with the single “lane” (actually built more like a railroad with paving only at the tire lines) serving both directions.

        For two blocks it seems like this should be fine,for the amount of time it takes to go this distance.

        The three track station with two northbound tracks on a single northbound platform is the arrangement TriMet has at Gateway. Back when they were running a full compliment of rush hour trains this arrangement was helpful for them to get 3 lines mixed onto a single line with 2-3 minute headways.

        Of course, Gatewat also has about 10 bus routes, so people have a lot more transfer options with a need to get off the train there, so there was a reason to not have it cool it’s heels without a platform: people can transfer to other stuff without having to wait for a train not invoking them.

        SoDo doesn’t have that.

      11. Yes, trains’ heels are like bees’ knees, but definitely NOT like cats’ pajamas. Pajamas are clothing worn OVER the knees and heels. It’s a categorical difference.

        Glenn, yes, it might be doable to have a short single track section, especially since it would be just north of the northbound platform for the buses. If a southbound is in sight, let it clear the narrows. Otherwise, go when you’re loaded. There’s probably not even a need for a traffic control.

        I just don’t want the whole busway gobbled up for six trains per hour per direction headed to West Seattle. That’s the current plan.

    2. Yep Alex. I’ve been asking for same direction cross platforms at SODO for six years. Anyone who has crossed from one train platform to the other understands the myriad of benefits.

      The core technical reason to not do it is ST’s refusal to rethink the track viaduct from Lander curving to the switches at the OMF.

      The core political reason to not do it is because it wasn’t proposed by a corporate executive or vocal environmental activist.

      Of course these kinds of platforms are common all over the world. It doesn’t require escalators. It enables a matched 16 door to 16 door 25 foot max transfer. There wouldn’t be queues of transferring riders at escalators and there wouldn’t be a huge hassle if an escalator among the two required goes out of service. It would allow for trains to bypass one another if one goes out of service.

      Like you suggested, the 1 Line can go on the outside and the West Seattle tracks can run inside. Or ST could just relocate the two existing tracks for a center platform.

      It is surreal that ST refuses to do anything more than give it a token glance. The last explanation I got was that it couldn’t “fit” in the existing right of way while it’s literally only surrounded by one story warehouse type of buildings — even though they are buying more land and displacing hundreds of residences elsewhere in this project.

      I cannot explain their logic except they simply don’t want to consider it. It’s like dealing with a stubborn four-year old.

      1. Thanks for the explainer. Yeah they are a common feature in transit systems, don’t even have to go very far: BART manages timed cross platform transfers beautifully. The explanation given to you is baffling, it’s not even clear to me why such a configuration would necessarily require more right away, and, regardless, as you say it’s in a part of town where land would not be particularly disruptive to acquire. It strikes me canned response to provide a plausible reason for being dismissive.

    3. Curiously, by splitting the EIS, ST has seemingly legally created a new alternative: building WSLE but not building DSTT2 and BLE.

      I don’t think this aspect has been fully fathomed at ST. As staff consultants work on the EIS update, it may dawn on them that they have done this. Or perhaps FTA will point this out. Or once republished, a plaintiff can sue ST that their EIS build alternatives (turning DSTT2 into an “supporting project”) are unaffordable and that a WSLE-only alternative must be studied too.

      Because ST cannot demonstrate that they can fully pay for BLE, WSLE and DSTT2, a partial build/ no-build scenario looks to me like it will be required. I can’t imagine a court validating an EIS that only contains unfunded supporting projects (DSTT2 and BLE) in its study.

      Regardless, it looks to me that ST will have to put this alternative on the table. This is where it could get interesting.

      Simply put, as long as there is a proposal for a West Seattle stub combined with a multi-level transfer at SODO, ridership on WSLE will be horrible. In an effort to increase forecasted ridership to a better cost-benefit, ST could then be forced to do the low-cost step to increase the ridership: run the West Seattle branch trains through the DSTT.

      If that happens, the third line in the DSTT will be tested for its effect on ridership FINALLY.

      It needs to be noted that the original no-build for the EIS never tested having three lines in the DSTT. It only tested somewhere between 16-20 tph. Just increasing the DSTT to 24-25 tph (if not up to 30 tph) would bring the forecasted ridership out of the documented “crowding problem”.

      I hope that the EIS split has created this new branch in the ST process that will result in a three line DSTT— with the DSTT2 portion of the project eventually being abandoned.

      1. It’s explicitly fathomed. That’s the whole point of splitting the EIS – the WS Link is being evaluated, designed, and operationalized without needing a DSST2 and/or BLE.

        The DSST2 is needed (per ST staff & consultants) to handle the BLE throughput. I doubt the ridership models will show that dramatic of a ridership difference simply by eliminating the forced transfer in SoDO.

      2. “It’s explicitly fathomed. That’s the whole point of splitting the EIS – the WS Link is being evaluated, designed, and operationalized without needing a DSST2 and/or BLE.”

        That seems to be fathomed in terms of the operational alternative — but I don’t think it’s fully fathomed in terms of the revealed impacts and the EIS organization and content. ST will seemingly have to produce new ridership forecasts and a full evaluation from a NEW alternative : WSLE only. That’s not in the prior Draft EIS.

      3. “unaffordable and that a WSLE-only alternative must be studied too.”

        The equivalent to this is the mandatory “No-Build” alternative in the BLE EIS. You can’t have an alternative spanning multiple EISes. The issue of whether to build WSLE or BLE or both is outside the EISes: it’s a board decision after the EISes are finished. The EISes just say what the environmental impacts of various alternatives would be.

        The purpose of splitting the EIS was so that the West Seattle stub could proceed while Ballard is studied further. That’s key to delivering the stub as close to the promised 2030/2032(?) as possible.

        It “raises” the possibility of canceling Ballard, but that possibility was there all along, and would have been even with a combined EIS. The combined EIS had a “No Build” alternative too. And after the EIS, ST can mix and match segments of any of the alternatives to create an alignment for construction. What it can’t do is add segments that haven’t been disclosed in the EIS, without adding them to the EIS.

        “No Build” also assumes that other projects will continue around it. E.g., ST’s contribution to RapidRide C and D, whatever Metro Connects and WSDOT and levies do, whatever WSDOT does on the West Seattle Bridge for transit, how ridership and housing change over time, etc. So the net result is not “the current level of transit”, but what all these assumed factors do by the target date (2040 or maybe now 2050).

      4. “The equivalent to this is the mandatory “No-Build” alternative in the BLE EIS.”

        Yep. This is true. Perhaps this is where a Ballard/Westlake shuttle + 3 line DSTT gets studied. I still expect ST to put the new BLE EIS on the slow track since it’s unaffordable. Maybe there is to create a broader consensus for the Ballard/ Westlake shuttle + 3 line DSTT.

        It still certainly seems to me that the EIS split is more consequential than first fathomed though. The Board sees it as a way to fast-track West Seattle but it may also reveal unintended things with a new alternative that could shake the project viability at its core.

      5. It is worth noting that without Ballard Link, there is no reason for a second tunnel. There is little need for the West Seattle line to operate as a stub, either. Just run all the trains into the tunnel, and then up north. At 7.5 minutes (from the south) you might be pushing things a bit (2.5 minutes from SoDo to UW, Northgate or wherever one of the trains turns back). But it isn’t as challenging as dealing with Ballard Link.

        Thus folks outside Seattle wouldn’t mind. Inside the city, there would be plenty of opposition. Cancelling what is arguably the only good major project within ST3 (while keeping others) seems crazy, although it wouldn’t surprise me if that happens.

      6. Actually Ross, the draft WSBLE document declares the DSTT as overcrowded in the full No Build condition.

        This is why a WS-only build is particularly interesting. Unless WS trains are added into the DSTT, the WS-only build alternative will create worse overcrowding in the DSTT than even the full no-build. Any riders that move from RapidRide C or H to Link will make overcrowding worse. Any WS build without either more trains in the DSTT or an unfunded DSTT2 will be negative.

        Then the question shifts to mitigation. Will ST propose a mitigation like adding trains into the DSTT or not? If they don’t, the WS no-build alternative becomes the environmentally superior alternative.

        Outside of sticking their head in the sand and suppressing analysis, ST has created a new major hurdle for WSLE by splitting the EIS.

      7. “the WS no-build alternative becomes the environmentally superior alternative.” Right – Dow won’t allow it, but the technical analysis probably says the region is better off with some immediate bus investment and then early investments in ultimately building the WS Link as promised in the levy, for example early property takings, easements with the Port, etc. Getting the EIS and 70% design completed creates real value, even if construction is deferred until DSST2 is sorted.

        Related, ” without Ballard Link, there is no reason for a second tunnel,” I’ll disagree here. Longer term, the Link crossing of the Duwamish has real value if SDOT decides to dismantle the high bridge at end of life. That’s not in 2035, but the bridge might be gone by 2050. Additionally or separately, the ST3 BLE project could end in no-build but a WS stub would still be a starting point for a second line through Seattle’s urban core, which could be DSST2-ish or something different (SoDo to First Hill elevated? SoDo to LQA via 1st Ave? Etc.).

        It’s a very charitable view, but I think worth considering if the political leadership is insistent on WS Link being built first.

      8. I actually worry that ST will move WSLE to end at CID-N. That would bypass the overcrowded segment problem as well as get Dow his new county buildings project kick-started faster. There is enough funding to pull that off from WSBLE, and the ridership would be higher than just a West Seattle to SODO shuttle.

        That would leave SLU, Seattle Center and Ballard hung out to dry for a few monde decades. That would be a shame because BLE is more justifiable and needed.

        Still, I could see this being pursued as a way to get the project underway at the 11th hour. Us Rainier Valley riders would have course get screwed sooner in the process.

      9. ” without Ballard Link, there is no reason for a second tunnel,” I’ll disagree here. Longer term, the Link crossing of the Duwamish has real value if SDOT decides to dismantle the high bridge at end of life. …

        OK, but what does that have to do with the second tunnel? If we build West Seattle Link, but not Ballard Link, then we just interline all three. The reason folks came up with the idea of a second tunnel is because they didn’t want to reduce the number of trains going north (towards the UW) from downtown. It is Ballard Link (not West Seattle Link) that is driving the second tunnel.

      10. Right – the theoretical 3rd line doesn’t need to go to Ballard. It can still go somewhere other than UW, i.e. not interlining in the existing tunnel. My point was simply that the region retains the flexibility to build a 2nd Link route through Seattle urban core or chose to interline. The WS Link project can move forward either way. Maybe the WS stub does end up being interlined, but that decision doesn’t need to be made now as the stub is intended to run through the DSTT1.

        It’s the Rainier line that will be moved to a new alignment … which is why Al’s fear is unlikely. The CID-North boondoggle is a part of the Rainier line to Ballard, not the WS stub … but if Dow wants WS stub and CID-North done in his lifetime, maybe he’ll pivot to a WS-Ballard standalone line?? It would be ironic if we get the WS-Ballard automated line with smaller trains and higher frequency simply to facilitate Dow’s real estate plans.

  11. Love to see a $4B jobs project that knocks down hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses to make transit worse. I dismissed criticisms of the project based on environmental impacts, but on review of the ridership projections (bad), impacts on the built environment (bad), and cost explosion (ridiculous), this project is already a certified boondoggle.

    The correct project is to turn RR-C/H into our first proper BRTs in existing ROW for (what I assume would be at most) 1/5th the cost.

    WSLE (and BLE) need to go all the way back to the drawing board, because it seems that the criteria (primarily cost estimation, but also construction impacts and land use assumptions) used to vet alternatives in 2017-2018 are practically invalid in 2023-2024.

    1. Question: Are they really going to allocate the lane space for fully dedicated bus lanes on both approaches to the bridge, and add a set of flyover ramps on the SoDo side to tie in to SoDo station or dedicated bus lanes in to downtown? I have my doubts. It’s going to get watered down and still take as long to implement as light rail. I just don’t feel it is worth it to waste time on “proper BRT” as a rail alternative, though it is still good to pursue proper BRT where it makes sense on it’s own merit and where there is a will and a way to take space and priority from cars, as opposed to it being a cheaper and (supposedly) quicker build than rail. Stride and upgrading the E, perhaps also the A, to proper BRT would be good examples of this.

      1. @WL — Agreed.

        If you are talking about true BRT, you would need a tunnel. That starts costing as much as the downtown tunnel (although becomes quite a bit cheaper outside of downtown). If you are talking about a watered down system for West Seattle, there a number of really good options, such as:

        1) Get rid of the weave in West Seattle, by either adding ramps (and lanes) to the Alaska Way Viaduct, or making the cloverleaf turn wider. My guess is this would cost a couple hundred million (based on similar work done in the area).

        2) Add ramp meters for the West Seattle Bridge (eastbound). It is possible that just doing this (and adding some paint) will end all congestion for the West Seattle Bridge (which means you wouldn’t need the first idea).

        3) Improve the right-of-way downtown with paint. I’m not familiar with the entire corridor, so I don’t know where the bottlenecks are. BAT lanes are often sufficient, but sometimes you need bus lanes. Often that means running in the middle of the street. That might result in making right turns from the left lane. There are a lot of relatively inexpensive things you can do if you already have a major corridor, and the political will to add some paint (and we do).

        Even the most expensive ideas (including a bus tunnel) are nowhere near as expensive as what they are building. Sound Transit never seriously considered the idea, but my guess is you could come up with something that is quite effective without spending that much.

  12. At least it is no longer a duplicate SoDo station *and* a duplicate stadium station. Still, the duplicate SoDo station at grade, right alongside the existing one, without any expanded walk shed, is pretty stupid. Especially with the likelihood of a tedious transfer situation at (not a) CID station. Spend the $$$ on making the track connection work instead, perhaps a third track if really needed.

    1. The key would be to make sure the SoDo station has 3 tracks, with the northbound platform serving the two northbound tracks.

      This allows a Rainier Valley and a West Seattle train to arrive at the same time, then give one priority to enter the two track section.

      It also allows reverse moves to get cars from West Seattle into the shop complex.

      1. A reverse move from Forest Street to West Seattle is already handled by the pocket track just 2/3 of a mile to the north. Besides, even if the station is at grade (a new development), just south of Lander it’s going up in the air. It has to get over the West Seattle Freeway at Spokane. Shades of the supports opposite South Center.

        Gonna be an exciting ride to West Seattle if they build it!

        Anyway, that reverse move probably won’t be necessary. The MF is supposed to have direct stub access via the Horton Street ROW. It’s been in the plan forever.

        It’s true that the Horton Street ROW has been semi-privatized both east and west of Sixth South, but ST can take it back without ruining its usefulness to the adjacent buildings. The thing will be up on stilts; the only problem might be big trucks getting hung up on them.

      2. Actually, it doesn’t necessarily have to get “over” the West Seattle Freeway. It’s just that ST has shown no stomach for a grade crossing of Lower Spokane Street in any of the “alternatives” it has shown. Even more significantly, there is an active track which crosses the busway from the main stub along its west side just south of Horton Street and leads to the spur just west of the Maintenance Facility. The spur fans out north of Lander to several businesses, reaching all the way to South Massachussetts Street. I doubt that ST would allow revenue Link tracks to cross an active railroad spur with level diamonds no matter how infrequently it was used.

        Freight rail cars are big heavy things and it would be catastrophic for an LR train to crash into one.

  13. What’s the point? St is not fit to run a transit system. Another day a, more chaos on the 1 line. Look I get they can’t control power outages but the system is so fragile and their operations are so non resilient that it falls apart at the drop of a hat. Will the st board ever demand accountability from the bureacracy?? Time for a tax revolt.

  14. The real problem is that, with large projects, we vote to build something and, once that vote passes, the decision to build it is final, and cannot be changed. There exists no mechanism to reassess whether the project still passes cost/benefit muster after those years between when the decision to build it was made and when construction actually starts. This is very different from private-sector construction where developers decide to build something and then back out due to higher interest rates, higher construction costs, or a drop in expected rent. This happens all the time.

    Part of the reason why no such mechanism exists for public projects is that there is no way to conduct an honest assessment over the costs and benefits. Instead, everybody votes based on general attitudes towards transit or where they fit in the general left/right political spectrum, so whether a project has majority support has little to do with whether it’s a good project or a bad project and everything to do with whether the political left or right happens to be more energized to vote the particular year the measure happens to be on the ballot, even though such energy is ultimately related to other stuff on the ballet (e.g. the presidential or governor’s race), which has nothing to do with local transit.

    When you think of it this way, allowing voters the opportunity to reassess would do nothing to separate the good projects from the bad, it would simply mean that to be able to build anything (good or bad), the pro-transit side would have to get luckier and find multiple election cycles in a row where the political left is more energized than the political right, rather than just one. Politicians are no better – for the most part, they are either pro transit or anti-transit; people that are pro-transit will support building anything transit-related, good value or not, people who are anti-transit will oppose building anything transit-related, good value or not. Again, there is no party with the right motivation to do an honest assessment of costs and benefits the way you would with a private development project with real investors’ money on the line. And it’s quite frustrating.

    1. [P]eople that are pro-transit will support building anything transit-related, good value or not

      This entire thread is a loud refutation of that statement. The people on the blog here are a bunch of very “pro-transit” nerds and we hate West Seattle Link Extension by and large. There are a couple of “ST can do no wrong” fanbois, but most of us think it’s a huge waste of money as well as fundamentally poor transit.

      1. I think asdf2 is speaking about voters in general. I agree with the assessment. I really don’t think the vote would have been different if Sound Transit had a different package. Folks like me didn’t like the specifics (of ST3) but the vast majority of people didn’t care. They either opposed it (because … taxes) or supported it (transit is good).

        That is the great irony. ST3 is being treated as if voters specifically wanted this, when they really had no choice. It was either this, or nothing. I would have loved having a bunch of choices on the ballot, and being able to choose between them.

        Or simply allow the board to build what they feel like building. Most of what the city builds are built in that manner. There was no public vote for the bus tunnel, which has arguably been the best transit project ever built in the area.

        So yeah, the fact that the folks on the board feel stuck with this project is definitely a weakness within the process.

      2. I was referring to voters in general, not the people on this blog. Of course, my generalization does not apply to 100% of voters, but it does apply to most of them. For what it’s worth ST3 did pass with 54% while ST2 got 58%, so that 4% drop most likely represents the voters who thought ST2 was worth it and ST3 wasn’t. It’s not a lot.

        Totally agree with RossB that big projects like this should give the voters more options besides build or not build. And also that the routes and station locations should be firmer before the vote so people know what they’re voting on. Any community concerns about construction impacts on businesses should be waged before the vote, when the options are being drawn up, not after it. Ideally, we’d have 2 of 3 options to choose from on the ballot, plus the no build option, and settle it with ranked choice (yes, ranked choice voting can work for ballot measures, not just candidates).

        Of course, to be able to do all of the above, Sound Transit probably needs to be able to spend more money on preliminary engineering work before the vote than is currently legal or possible, and the public has to be willing to tolerate money being lost on such work for alternatives which are not selected. To some, it would smell like corruption, and you’d have to have some way to make sure that board members are actually planning potential future expansions in good faith, not merely spending money to line the pockets of consultants. It would not be easy, but it certainly seems better than the status quo.

    2. I think the larger problem is that transit projects oddly have a bad pattern of trying to hide or not detail the plan too much before the actual vote. It is semi good in order to keep options open but it also means one doesn’t really know what one is voting on.

      In contrast for freeway projects it’s relatively straightforward to know what is being built and the tradeoffs. Sure some minor stuff is changed as well but generally one will get one’s lanes if passed and the tradeoff is whatever lane expansion being demolished.

      I find it a pretty bad pattern that US transit agencies keep trying to hide what the impact will be until after the plan is submitted and then reroute into weird situations once it’s politically not palatable.

      1. I think the larger problem is that transit projects oddly have a bad pattern of trying to hide or not detail the plan too much before the actual vote. It is semi good in order to keep options open but it also means one doesn’t really know what one is voting on.

        That can be a problem, but in this case, I don’t see that as issue. I can’t think of any project that has fundamentally changed. I’m not saying aspects of it haven’t gotten worse, but the bad projects are still bad, and the good projects are still good. The most you can say is that Ballard Link was borderline good and now has passed over the line to being not worth it. But it was never a great project — it was always borderline.

        In contrast, U-Link was so fundamentally strong that they eliminated what would likely be our most popular station, and yet is was still worth building. Same goes for Northgate Link. So many errors, and yet the fundamentals are still strong enough to make it worthwhile.

        Sure, specifics matter. But only with borderline projects. In this case, it was pretty clear from the beginning that West Seattle was a bad project. Likewise, so was the new downtown tunnel. Even if they got everything right, and it was much better than expected, they are fundamentally bad projects.

        I think the biggest problem is the initial process taken by the board. They basically just come up with ideas, and then ask the engineers to see how much they will cost. There are inherit assumptions in such a process — for example, that we should build rail to West Seattle. The process is completely backwards. I would hire a consulting group, and have them come up with a host of capital projects. Then grade them on cost-effectiveness. It is quite possible that we build very little additional rail, now that the most important rail section (UW to downtown) is done. There is no way that West Seattle Link somehow bubbles up to the top, or that building a second tunnel downtown — with no additional coverage! — is there either. Yet somehow those made it to the list, and here we are.

      2. U link had its own problems. It was never fleshed out how it’d connect to the existing rail at u district. Or alternatively if it didn’t how was it going to to connect to some OMF

      3. Part of the hiding may come from legal constraints that they can’t spend the money to plan anything with any kind of detail until after it has been voter approved.

        Maybe a lawyer on this blog can comment on whether what I’m saying is true or totally off base.

      4. I remember reading some analysis by Alon on Pedestrian Observations which explained that in Europe invests more long term in transit as well as urban planning. They have a transit department which does long term strategic planning for a transit network, develops a roadmap, picks a line/extension for construction and performs planning for it. Once that happens, the plan gets funding approval while in the States we don’t have inhouse planning staff and the public has to approve the project well before the details are even thought out.

      5. I observe that ST referenda are specifically structurally problematic. Unlike other big metro areas where transit operates, we have multiple transit operators with each one set up to pursue their own votes — and when successful thinks that any taxpayer money is exclusively theirs. Then, ST has to get the state legislature to go along with merely having a vote. That sets up a structural dynamic where ST gets both locked into little flexibility and a perspective that taxpayer money is now theirs to unilaterally manipulate without healthy oversight of a project’s value.

        Then ST doesn’t do itself any favors by interpreting “representative projects” (literal ST3 language) as “promised” in some decisions only to later adopt completely different preferences on how to spend the money even without comprehensive analysis (the saga of Midtown and new ID/C station platforms is this example). Another more subtle inflexibility bias is the decision to have three West Seattle stations with just one Ballard station — even though that single Ballard station is forecast to get way more average weekday boardings than all three West Seattle stations added together!

        Other parts of the country handle referenda differently. For example, Transporation project referenda revenue in California goes to an independent multi-agency board rather than the operator directly (with a few exceptions) — even if that agency has another arm that operates transit like LA Metro or VTA in San Jose. Some states have a state transit operator like Rhode Island, Maryland or New Jersey. Even places like RTA in Illinois or MBTA in Massachusetts or SEPTA in Philadelphia have each come up with transit systems where most rail and bus operations are under one umbrella (they all have their issues but at least there is no silo problem like we have).

        Finally, most states take more into account objective analysis before designing projects, where here we seem to be okay building “what feels right at the time” and generally ignore what the objective analysis says. That turns our transit dollars into poker chips used in a real estate investment political game (developer A wants to sell his property while developer B doesn’t want construction disruption, for example) rather than a sincere, direct investment intended to better benefit transit riders and promote more overall transit use.

      6. “ST has to get the state legislature to go along with merely having a vote.”

        What ST asks the legislature for is to raise the ceiling on tax rates. ST can hold as many votes as it wants under the ceiling. So it could probably have a small vote to do planning and prepare a more engineered proposal. The reason ST went to the legislature in ST2 and ST3 was because it didn’t want to wait until the previous round was finished and the bonds were paid off before starting the next round, and so that later in the next round it could use the combined tax streams of ST1+2 or ST1+2+3 to finish the next round earlier.

        I’m not sure exactly what the state allows before a construction vote, but I suspect ST’s reluctance to do more planning and EISes before the construction vote is self-inflicted rather than a legislative mandate. If the voters expressly approve money for EISes for projects that may or may not be approved for construction later, then the EISes and their taxes are voter approved. ST could market it as being well-informed on what we’re voting to construct.

    3. “This is very different from private-sector construction where developers decide to build something and then back out due to higher interest rates, higher construction costs, or a drop in expected rent. This happens all the time.”

      Supposedly the Federal Transit Administration grants are administered based on cost/benefit analysis. Reality may not necessarily work that way.

  15. Can anyone sum up there opinions & solution for West Seattle link in 3 sentences or less? This would help clarify the issue for someone who isn’t familiar with West Seattle ….which is most of Seattle.

    1. I’d love that summary as well, as someone who does live in West Seattle, and wants the best transit

    2. Hard to stay nuanced in 3 sentences or less, but here’s my shot:

      The West Seattle Link Extension was always an inefficient project, but major cost increases and changes from the original project approved in 2016 have made it a near-total waste of money. Potentially-affordable alternatives, including running in elevated track down the middle of existing roads (like the Monorail) are not under under consideration; considering them again would require restarting the entire planning process which would delay the project many more years. At this point, the “no-build” alternative should be seriously considered, and the Sound Transit Board should instead re-commit to funding enhancements to West Seattle’s RapidRide Lines until residential and commercial density in West Seattle grows enough to really need the high-density transit offered by Link.

      In simple numbers:
      In 2014, ST estimated WSLE would cost $1.43-1.53B ($1.86-1.99B in 2023$, adjusted for inflation), serving 32,000 — 37,000 daily riders in 2040.

      Today, ST estimates WSLE will cost $2.31 (“voter approved”) to $4.00B (“preferred alignment”) in 2023$, serving 25,000 — 27,000 daily riders in 2042.

      WSLE will not be significantly faster than current buses; WSLE will not allow more people to switch Link for most trips than current buses. WSLE, as currently designed, is a $4,000,000,000 vanity project for West Seattle-based politicians, and little more.

      1. I’ll add to the above:

        The transit service gets worse for most people with this plan. Unless you live or work next to one of the two useful stations, you will have to transfer just to get out of West Seattle.

        Unless they continue running the C downtown, but in that case, there’s no point in Link.

    3. 3 Sentences (WS resident here) – We need to support expanding Link here in The City where people are not afraid of high density, can live a carfree lifestyle and do not shun public transportation. West Seattle has a history of streetcars in its origin. Link is the just the modern version bringing WS back to its intended form.

    4. The original representative alignment would have minimal benefit for West Seattle riders, but it’s what we voted for in a regional compromise. The current preferred alignment would degrade pedestrian/bus access, cost billions more, and knock down a substantial number of houses and recent mixed-use developments. Ballard’s CID/N and deep downtown stations would require West Seattle transferees to walk up to 10 minutes on 9 flights of escalators to reach SLU, Ballard, West Seattle, SeaTac airport, Federal Way, or Tacoma.

      Sentence 1: “Limited benefit” means that most people on California, 35th, or Delridge avenues would have to take a bus and transfer to Link. In contrast, multi-line BRT fanning from the bridge could follow the current C, H, 21, and 55 route paths, and perhaps also the 56 and 125. The distance between Delridge Station and downtown is short enough that multi-line BRT is feasible.

      Sentence 2: “Degrade pedestrian/bus access” means the stations would be further from the center of pedestrian concentrations. If Avalon/Delridge are consolidated into one station, that could add travel time for bus riders transferring from 35th or Delridge. The grandiose SODO2 station would cost a lot and may have poor transfers.

      Sentence 3: The representative alignment assumed DSTT2 would be like DSTT1 and closer to it. Subsequent renderings in 2023 and the CID/N-S concept created in March 2023 would lead to the awful long transfers described. Most multi-line metros have better train-to-train transfers on their core routes. These ultra-long transfers are akin to minor/secondary transfers in New York (“S” 42nd Street shuttle), St Petersburg (Gostiny Dvor-Nesvsky Prospekt), London (I forget where) — not the only way to the biggest primary destinations. New York’s “L” line transfers may be shorter than this, and the L is not the only line to Brooklyn.

    5. 1: ST picked the costliest 55 mph technology, routed it only to the hippest upscale urban village in West Seattle (while avoiding lower income areas), and promised the locals that the expensive end station will be underground (even though ST3 was approved with a cheaper aerial station assumption).
      2: ST ignored ridership and bus transfer difficulty and designed what they think will be prettiest to look at from drivers’ cars (like being hidden from view), while kicking lower income RV and South King residents out of the DSTT so more upscale Alaska Junction riders can use it instead if they decide to ride.
      3: The solution is to analyze other technologies that may be more appropriate as well as much cheaper, like rubber tired trains on the West Seattle bridge or aerial automated trains that can have stations with much smaller footprints or perhaps a cable loop system (like Oakland Airport BART) to connect a West Seattle Transit Center bus transfer hub (every West Seattle bus would cross at one central place) to Link at SODO.

      1. Al, it’s difficult to get a train on and off the West Seattle Bridge, whether rubber tired or steel. Another mode of course is possible such as cable loop, urban gondola, or monorail style elevated systems. A West Seattle Transit Center could be located by the Steel Plant. But is it worth the transfer hassle? Why not just run the buses to SODO along the busway? Just connect the busway to the West Seattle Bridge.

      2. I would not be averse to a SODO transit hub designed like the Bellevue TC as a West Seattle strategy. The SODO busway was originally designed as an extension of the DSTT as a bus tunnel so it needs to be re-conceived anyway. Of course, the biggest risk is that ST would probably design a very inconvenient bus routing and very inconvenient bus rider transfer there — but that seems to be endemic for ST no matter what they build. As long ST’s “stakeholders” are more real estate interests rather than riders, the riders will always be second class citizens to ST.

      3. “I would not be averse to a SODO transit hub designed like the Bellevue TC as a West Seattle strategy.”

        Bellevue has an entire downtown around it so you can do errands while you wait, and it doubles as both a transfer point and a major destination. SODO is in the middle of nowhere, with concrete and industry around it. It’s not a great place to wait. I might not object to a transit hub if it solves an otherwise-difficult problem, but it’s almost like putting a transit hub at South Bellevue P&R or Issaquah TC.

    6. 1. Causes: Bad connections, forced transfers, and at great expense (4 billion same as entire east link)
      2. Problem: longer travel times for practically all transit trips
      3. Solution: Through run west Seattle link or cancel and continue with one seat BRT

      1. To be honest, my biggest gripe with the current bus system to west Seattle is the slow slog to go those few blocks between Alaskan Way and 3rd Ave., plus the potential for buses to get stuck in traffic at the freeway off ramp anytime there’s a baseball or football game going on.

        West Seattle light rail, once DSTT2 is built, does, in fact, solve both of these problems, while also drastically speeding up travel between West Seattle and the U district, but it does so in a way that comes with enormous financial cost and makes transit for Rainier Valley residents worse.

        The cheap solutions, such as bus lanes on the ramp from SR-99 to Alaskan Way and transit signal priority on Columbia between Alaskan Way and 3rd should be considered instead.

  16. Maybe we should have an article about how transit trips would work after west Seattle link is implemented. I don’t think many really realize how bad the bus / link transfers are nor how many trips are changed from a 1/2 seat to 3/4 seats and the total travel time increases in many cases

  17. We need a solid proposal, not a jillion similar ideas with each person’s particular obsession.

    Here are some simple points I think most everyone can agree on, in roughly descending order of radical change.

    1) West Seattle Link is fundamentally flawed transit. It has some clear environmental impacts and raises concerns about construction disruption without improving most transit trips to and from West Seattle. It is very expensive for a project of its length because of the topographical challenges along the route..

    Most trips using the system will initially require two transfers, and three if the ultimate destination is not near a Link Station. Once the stub is extended, things will improve, because the transfer at SoDo will no longer be required for trips to the north. But many trips now accommodated on a single bus will be forced into a pair of transfers.

    If West Seattle were primed for a large burst of high-density growth around the new stations, it might be worth the multi-billion dollar investment required, but it isn’t. There is a lot of local resistence to growth in the immediate area of the stations.

    The best course is to suspend further work on the project until some change in planning and zoning occurs and the neighborhood shows signs of change.

    2) If a decision to go ahead with the project is made notwithstanding statement #1, the SoDo station should be re-designed such that trains to and from West Seattle merge with those to and from the Rainier Valley.
    That merge would preferably occur north of the station which would have two northbound tracks to accommodate trains from West Seattle and the Rainier Valley if they arrive at close to the same moment. There are a number of good ideas for ways to implement this.

    3) Since such a station as that described in statement #2 does not provide for straightforward scissors terminal reversal as would be required for a “Stub” operation, run West Seattle trains north to Lynnwood from the opening of the West Seattle Link Extension. This would surely provide extra capacity north of SoDo during the critical period around 2030.

    4) A second tunnel through downtown Seattle directly adjacent to the existing one is of limited value and eliminates future options to serve First Hill. Foregoing a connection to the south for a Ballard Westlake line provides an opportunity to do so should the need arise. We generally agree that if a Ballard-SLU-Downtown Seattle line is built it should go no further south than Westlake Center and that the station there should be designed with an extension to First Hill in mind, not a parallel “DSTT2”. It is also the general consensus that such a line should use smaller automated trains. There have been several sound suggestions for siting a small Maintenance Facility somewhere in InterBase and connecting the line to the existing tunnel with a single bi-directional “service” connection.

    5) The political environment of pro-transit governments is fading. There will be little or no aid from Washington D.C. This must be considered when budget-humiliating cost escalation seems to be the reality of Link construction

    I have no illusions that these words will be adopted by this argumentative, “I know best” group, but something like this should be wordsmithed by a committee that Ross doesn’t dominate. It needs to be brief and refrain from technical “solutionism” which most of us fall into immediately — obviously I include myself in that.

    1. I generally agree with you points, Tom.

      I will observe that Sounder South ridership is down 70% still and yet ST keeps voting funds to build more parking spaces for Sounder South in the past several months. The Board doesn’t care about changing course — even if it would merely be suspending a project for a year or two.

      1. We need to submit it to The Urbanisf, The Stranger, The Times and The West Seattle paper.

      2. Even though South Sounder has plenty of capacity and only takes 20 minutes between Tukwila and King Street Station, routes 102, 143, 157, and 162 continue, when not suspended.

    2. So you want a joint statement by STB and other organizations to (1) cancel West Seattle Link, (2) or if not, to have it merge into the Rainier-SODO track going north, (3) and a scissors track at University Street (the public would understand “crossover track” or “X” easier than “scissors”), and (4) redirect Ballard-DSTT2 to Ballard-Westlake with a future option to First Hill, with possibly automated trains.

      That’s a lot to get multiple organizations to agree on, especially in a short timeframe. I guess #2 (merging) is implied by our “single-tunnel solution”, so it’s the same thing, just different wording. The scissors concept still seems to be one person’s idea saying it’s urgent rather than something generally agreed on as urgent, so I’d say that would be the hardest to get a joint statement on.

      But we’re not really in a position to gin up a joint statement. I don’t have contacts in those other organizations, and I’m not sure I want to get into a big multi-organization negotiation into what we all agree on urgently proclaiming right now. We barely even have an editorial board anymore, and I would only invoke it for rare narrow issues I feel very strongly about.

      I don’t understand what you think Ross would object to or how he’d wordsmith it badly.

      I’ve said repeatedly that I favor automation, a single-tunnel solution, a CID Jackson station at 5th or 4th, a Ballard-Westlake line with an option to extend to First Hill, and/or West Seattle multi-line BRT. A few other STB authors have promoted some of the same things in articles. So that’s a starting point.

      STB has gotten isolated the past couple years as we’ve struggled to restore author resources, and the editors with contacts in the other organizations have become inactive. We need to counteract that and start getting more involved with the other organizations and working together. That’s something everyone can contribute to.

      1. Ross is a fine, clear writer. But he has a didactic, somewhat impatient quality that I think shouldn’t be in what is essentially a political statement. I sound didactic too, so I can’t throw stones. Ross obviously should be a part of the writing team, just not dominate it. I think that of all of us, AJ and Glenn have the clearest style and transmit the most information with fewer words. That’s what something like this needs to be effective. I don’t know, though, if AJ agrees really with the general program.

        In fact, it would be good to hear from everyone if they agree that publicly saying essentially that the Emperor has no clothes is a good idea. Would it damage support for transit? I don’t know the answer to that, but it is a potential danger.

        If most people do agree on the general solution, I think the product needs to be brief, bullet-pointed and avoid explicit technologies, sites or alternatives. Just focus on showing how both West Seattle and the larger North King County subarea can benefit from not having the expensive Link connection built and what that might mean for the future.

        Like, I wouldn’t mention the addition of cross-over tracks in University Station even though they’d be a HUGE improvement during work events. It’s too “down in the weeds”. But including a center platform at Pioneer Square for better transfers between South and East riders seems worthwhile to mention in passing [people wouldn’t have to up over and down like they do now at CID].

        And so far as getting other groups’ agreement, let the product do that. Put down a battle flag around which people can rally. It’s a strategy as old as humanity.

    3. To your points:

      1) Agreed. West Seattle Link is fundamentally bad, for so many reasons.

      2/3) These go together. There is a rough consensus on this blog that if we are to have West Seattle Link, the trains should be interlined and all sent north, towards the UW. Which lines turn back (and where) is an interesting issue, but beside the point. Headways through the core of our system (downtown to UW) would be 1/3 that of every other line. For example, if trains are coming every 7.5 minutes from West Seattle, Tacoma and Redmond, trains will run every 2.5 minutes from downtown to the UW.

      4) Agreed. If we build a second tunnel, it should add coverage downtown. Again, there is a rough consensus on this blog for this approach. The Ballard Line should end at Westlake, but aim towards First Hill. Doing so would save a considerable amount of money in the short run, while providing better coverage in the long run. The line could also be entirely independent, which means that the trains could be automated and smaller. With smaller, more frequent trains, the stations could be smaller as well. This would save a considerable amount of money, and provide more flexibility with the stations (they could be closer to the surface, and in better locations).

      5) It is very difficult to predict how the political winds will blow, and I think it is largely irrelevant to the discussion. If we spend money poorly, it is less likely we will have money to spend on more important things in the future. This has always been the case, regardless of who is in charge (locally or nationally).

      There has been previous editorials published on this blog supporting these ideas, but I don’t think any of them quite capture the current consensus. For example:

      Both of these make the case that we should send all the lines through the existing tunnel (including the Ballard line). So this is a bit different than the current consensus, although many of the same arguments apply. — Somewhat closer to the consensus, as it has Ballard as an independent line. This is a basically a variation on main idea (Ballard is an independent line) while not specifically mentioning where West Seattle Link trains would go. Theoretically they could end in a stub. — Slightly different, in that only two lines interline and go to the UW. But this is a great look at what a Ballard-First Hill line would look like.

      1. To be clear, those are commentaries, not editorials. Real newspapers make a strict distinction between the two. Editorials are signed “By the editorial board” and are the site’s official opinion. We only issue those on rare occasions like election endorsements or an especially urgent action item. Most STB articles are commentaries, the opinions of the author. We select authors who generally share our views and goals, but that doesn’t mean all the editors agree with every article. Sometimes it’s one person’s contrary view, or a brand-new issue that others haven’t formed a view on yet, or an experiment to try applying a new idea and see if it’s good or not.

      2. Fair enough. I was going to use the word “article” but that would be worse, as articles are generally assumed to be neutral. For example, this: Words like “essay” or “post” are too generic, and would apply to both. Since this is a blog, and it doesn’t really have an editorial staff (except for the rare instances you mention) I think of every opinion piece as being an editorial, in the same way that newspapers have guest editorials. I’ll call it a commentary in the future (or maybe opinion piece).

      3. STB is intrinsically an advocacy blog, so “article” and “commentary” are the same. “Commentary” is a technical term not always understood outside the publishing industry. I used to work at a magazine and I took radio classes in high school, so I’ve been closer to that industry. In newspapers like the Times, editorials are the unsigned article in the special position on the Editorial/Opinion/Op-Ed page. Commentaries are the other articles on the page. Everything off that page may or may not be a commentary depending on how broadly you define it, but we don’t have an “off that page”.

      4. To your point, Mike, about the blog being a place of commentary, I certainly agree. But I think that it’s time to raise up a “Seattle Transit Blog” point of view, perhaps with a “Page 0” that consists of principles and goals like what we’re discussing and has an article only rarely so that it gets read for a while.

        Things there might gain traction because we DO know what we’re talking about, and we’re largely speaking “middle-of-the-roaders” with a skeptical eye on the balance sheet.

        Then the technical solution discussions which generate so many arguments over details can continue on the normal page uninterrupted. That’s fine for a hobby, but the region is going off the deep end spending money like a drunken sailor and not getting much rum or nookie for the bucks invested. It needs to be told “STOP” by some folks who don’t have an axe to grind other than a desire for getting the best possible transit for the money invested.

      5. Tom, Martin is writing an article inspired by your concerns from a West Seattle perspective. And Martin, Ross, and I have been discussing whether we need to have an article more explicit and concise on our downtown recommendations (and by extension the rest of BLE and WSLE), since they’re now scattered among multiple articles mixed with other things and several months old. So things along those lines will probably be coming, probably in multiple articles focusing on different things.

        “would be good to hear from everyone if they agree that publicly saying essentially that the Emperor has no clothes is a good idea. Would it damage support for transit?”

        We need to point out if the powers that be are building something counterproductive, and that there are much better ways, and it would be a major benefit to switch to them. Because something counterproductive will be… counterproductive and won’t meet people’s non-car mobility needs.

        My hesitation in repeatedly harping on the same thing in article after article, or taking all your recommendations literally, is how likely are they to make a difference. ST is really set in their positions, and it would take a lot to get the board to change its mind. It took years of petitions and shouting and a city councilmember calling every day just to get 130th Station added. And that’s just one station. Still, sometimes things are more possible than I think.

        As for drunken sailor spending or West Seattle, those are secondary issues for me. West Seattle Link only affects West Seattle and the budget. Bad train-to-train transfers downtown affects everybody, because that means half the destinations or more are hard to get to, and that hinders everybody’s transit mobility and the region’s potential. So that’s what I see as most important.

      6. “Just focus on showing how both West Seattle and the larger North King County subarea can benefit from not having the expensive Link connection built and what that might mean for the future.”

        That’s an interesting idea, and one we may need to explore in articles further. I’ve been thinking about it myself for years, and I’ve been saying it in comments and open thread, but perhaps not as explicit or concise as it deserves.

        Since 1980 I’ve wanted a downtown-UDistrict-Northgate subway, and since maybe the 90s a 45th subway. But everybody told me there wasn’t enough public support for that, people only wanted major taxes for highways. Then ST1 happened, and ST2 was approved, and then everybody told me the public would support an Everett-Redmond-Tacoma spine but nothing else. I’d worked in Ballard four years and lived there one year, so I saw it has a half-hour overhead to get to a regional transfer point (downtown, UDistrict), and that’s no what similar villages in San Francisco or Vancovuer or Chicago or Europe have. But everybody said the public wouldn’t pay taxes for that. Then Seattle Subway convinced me that enough other people thought like me to make a 45th line and other Seattle lines a reality. Then Mayor McGinn put his thumb on the scale for a Ballard-downtown line before a Ballard-UW line. That would still connect Seattle’s largest urban center that was furthest from an ST2 Link station, so I went along with that and championed ST3.

        Then ST managed to make the worst possible decisions in the Ballard/downtown alignment, far worse than we imagined possible. That led me to doubt whether Ballard/downtown would reach its expected mobility goals, so what’s the point of building it? I never thought West Seattle Link was needed or beneficial in the first place, so if that’s cancelled it didn’t matter.

        Canceling them would lose my vision of great transit access for Ballard, but we could make the bus network at least partway toward that with with red paint and more frequency. So before I wouldn’t have considered canceling Link and restarting from scratch with a bus alternative, but when I see how bad and overbudget the BLE/WSLE Link plan has become, now it sometimes feels like that might be the best option.

        So we should illustrate what that would look like, and what its benefits for passengers would be, and what we’d lose in not having westside rail. We don’t necessarily need to make a 100% recommendation between Link and non-Link, but we should make the possibilities clear, so that the public and politicians can see them, and then people could try to persuade their politicians as they see fit, rather than not realizing what’s possible.

      7. Sound Transit has been here before.

        In spring 1995, they got a negative vote and reset their proposal to win approval in November 1996. The largest factor may have been the larger turnout in a Presidential Election.

        Sound Move, 1996, was approved, but had to be reset. This seems the precedent for ST3. In 1999, the staff and board realized there was insufficient fiscal capacity in the NKC subarea to construct Link between NE 45th Street and the south Seattle city limits. (The tunnel cost estimates are a parallel issue in ST3). Executive Sims and Mayor Schell proposed that the NKC funds be focused on Link north of Mt. Baker and BRT provided to SE Seattle and South King County; the Greg Nickels and the suburban members rejected this sensible proposal. So, after two years of stewing, in 2001, the board voted to build Link south-first; it was spine adherence. Several aspects of Sound Move were changed by a two-thirds vote of the ST Board. Sound Move called for a two-way all-day busway on I-90; the politics of that failed; it called for a center access ramp at NE 85th Street; those funds were redirected to a new KTC, the TLTC, the NE 128th Street overcrossing, and NE 85th Street sidewalks. The First Hill Link station was dropped; the NE 45th Street delayed; the South Graham Street station deferred.

        The fiscal and transit practicality issues of ST3 seem to be of similar magnitude. ST could adjust. They have deferred many ST3 projects. (It is quite odd to delay the flow enhancements for lines C and D; those funds should have been spent quickly).

        The voters want better transit. ST may have to back up and replan, as they did before. They have three huge streams of revenue. The ST3 plans were made with little information; now they have more; some of the plans are no longer attractive.

      8. “It is quite odd to delay the flow enhancements for lines C and D; those funds should have been spent quickly)”

        What does it even mean to have lines C and D at the end, when they’ll be gone by then. Will the money follow them to the restructured routes?

      9. Mike, thank you for the earnest recap of your growth and pragmatism about transit issues. It is interesting to read and a sound primer for others to make the journey.

        And thank you for understanding — and you, too, eddie — the importance of putting some practical, cost-effective alternatives before people so they have something to consider other than the bloated construction orgy ST proposes. The alternatives should come after the initial presentation, I think, because as soon as concrete alternatives are presented, the arguments will begin. The important thing is to get people to grasp that the region really can afford to pause, take a breath, and re-think the “full spine” nonsense.

        It’s that battle flag around which people can rally. It really does work!

      10. “… something counterproductive will be… counterproductive and won’t meet people’s non-car mobility needs.”

        At first I wondered if the better word choice was “unproductive”. Then I realized how many trips are made worse (and will take much longer) by the ridiculous transfer efforts require to use what ST Board is currently preferring. I also note that every $100M spent on a low-ridership hard-to-reach deep station location is $100M lost on spending something more beneficial to riders.

        So “counterproductive” is indeed the correct word.

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