What does transit look like from West Seattle currently? Will light rail service improve it? Let’s look at getting from Alki, the Admiral District, Alaska, and Morgan Junctions, the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, or Westwood Village to other places such as downtown, First Hill, UW, Bellevue, Ballard, Columbia City, or the SeaTac airport.

While housing density along Avalon Way and Alaska Junction has increased with many new apartment buildings, West Seattle generally does not provide high housing density. Many parts of West Seattle lack decent transit service. There are urban centers along Admiral Way and Morgan Junction and a few larger buildings along Alki. Outside those areas it is still mostly single-family homes with a few townhouses in between. Former redlined neighborhoods further southeast, such as High Point, Westwood Village and White Center have also seen recent housing growth. Due to demographics these residents tend to rely on public transit far more than affluent apartment dwellers further north. But there is no plan to serve them by light rail.

Currently West Seattle has two high frequency (7 minute) transit corridors (red lines on the map): RapidRide C in the west and RapidRide H along Delridge in the east. Route 21 along 35th Ave SW runs every 15 minutes in between them. They all go to downtown. RapidRide C continues beyond that to South Lake Union. The 21 stops in SODO by the stadium and at CID Station, then continues as route 5 through downtown, Fremont, Greenwood, Bitter Lake, and Shoreline. Frequency on the east-west route 50 has increased recently, but it still only runs every 20 minutes. This line is a crucial east-west connection between Alki, the Admiral District, Alaska Junction, the SODO Link station, the VA hospital, Columbia City and other places in Rainier Valley.

That leaves many other parts of West Seattle with bus service only every half hour, only peak hours or weekdays, only by the occasional ferry shuttle, or not at all. This even includes major streets such as Fauntleroy Way (between Morgan Junction and Avalon Way), Alki Avenue, Beach Drive, and major destinations like South Seattle College (served by 125 every 30 minutes), Greenbridge and West Seattle High School.

West Seattle Link Extension

Sound Transit plans (see their diagram below) to bring light rail to West Seattle – first as an interim stub to SODO (current target 2032) and ultimately (at least 5 years later) with a full build through downtown and beyond.

Once the stub has been finished, all riders will not only have to transfer in West Seattle, they would also need to switch lines in SODO: go up an escalator, walk over to Rainier Valley track and down an escalator and then wait for a train. Fortunately, Sound Transit has promised that downtown bus lines will continue to run downtown during this phase. Once the line is fully built, Metro is expected to truncate the current bus lines at the various Link stations:

Junction: Both RapidRide C and 50 will serve the Junction station. While it currently takes the C 23 minutes to reach University Street station, with Link it may only take 14 minutes. But traversing two escalators and walking half a block underground and waiting for the train (every 10 minutes) may eliminate any advantage. If you currently continue on the C to South Lake Union, you will now have to transfer not only once but twice.

Avalon: The 21 will get truncated at the Avalon station. (Sound Transit is still considering whether to eliminate this station -then the 21 would need to detour to the Junction station.) Though you will need to cross an intersection and go down an escalator and wait for a train, getting to University Street Station may be a few minutes faster. As the 21 (which continues as the 5) serves many more stops than Link does, it may still take longer to reach your destination.

Delridge: RapidRide H and 125 will serve the Delridge station. The bus will need to detour into the station. Riders will need to get up two escalators and wait for the train. While Link may only take 12 minutes to University Station, the bus takes 16 minutes. If you take access and wait time into consideration, your journey will certainly take longer.

Let’s look at various transit scenarios in more detail:

Southwest Corridor (Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, Morgan & Alaska Junction) – Alaska Junction station

If you arrive at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, every 7 minutes RapidRide C takes you downtown (3rd & Seneca) in 30 minutes. Morgan Junction is even shorter. From Alaska Junction it only takes you 22 minutes as most of the ride is on highways. You can even continue to South Lake Union. Or you can transfer downtown on a bus to Ballard or up First Hill. Or take two escalators down to take the light rail to the UW (every 4 minutes), or to Bellevue (every 8 minutes). To Columbia City you can transfer at Alaska Junction to the 50 (every 20 minutes). The quickest way to the airport is to take RapidRide-C south to Westwood Village and ride the 560 (every 30 minutes) in about an hour.

Stub: If the West Seattle light rail stub gets built, riders from the southwest would still take the bus to the new Junction station, then traverse down two escalators and wait for the next train (every 10 minutes) to ride to the SODO station. To get to the Rainier Valley line, riders would get off the West Seattle train, go up an escalator (or elevator), walk over the bridge and down an escalator to the parallel Rainier Valley line, and wait for the next train (every 8 minutes) north. Hopefully the train won’t be full by the time it arrives at the station. That train can take you to either downtown, Capitol Hill or UW. To Ballard or First Hill you would get off at University Station, go up two escalators, and take a bus. To Bellevue you can get off at CID station, go up an escalator, cross over to the south platform and go down an escalator to wait for the Bellevue train (every 8 minutes). To Columbia City or the airport you would wait for the Rainier Valley train at SODO station but go south. Sound Transit admits that travel towards downtown or Bellevue will take longer by light rail due to the transfers. Hopefully Metro will continue to operate RapidRide C towards downtown during this phase. Once downtown you can either continue on another bus or on light rail. If you travel north on the light rail, University Street Station will have twice the frequency and capacity as a transfer at SODO offers.

Full Build: Once the line gets connected to serve downtown directly, RapidRide C may get truncated or diverted to the Admiral District. Then riders will have to transfer to the light rail at Alaska Junction to go downtown or to the UW. They would still need to transfer downtown to a First Hill bus or at CID to a Bellevue train. Ultimately you could transfer at SODO not only to Columbia City and the airport but to Ballard, too. Each transfer would require switching tracks by going up and down escalators. Even if the light rail can travel a few minutes faster than the bus, any transfer from a bus at the Junction will take more time walking and waiting.

North Corridor (Alki, Admiral Junction) – Junction Station

The northern part of West Seattle lacks frequent transit. The highest frequency is provided by the 50 (every 20 minutes), which you can ride to the SODO light rail station or Columbia City. It takes 42 minutes from Alki to Columbia City as it meanders through West Seattle and SODO. Generally, it is faster to transfer to the RapidRide C line at the Alaska Junction or RapidRide H on Delridge Way (see above for details). If you live close to the Seacrest Dock or the ferry shuttle schedule (hourly) works for you, you can take the water taxi (every 20 minutes) to the downtown ferry terminal and from there to any places you can connect to via bus.

Stub: If a light rail stub gets built, riders could transfer from the 50 to Link but due to the transfer in SODO they may as well keep riding RapidRide C or H.

Full Build: Once the Link line gets extended downtown, we can expect that Metro changes the bus routes. Hopefully this would include a more frequent connection from Alki along Admiral Way to the Delridge station, may be even continuing to the South Seattle College. Going up two escalators and waiting for the train (every 10 minutes) will still take longer than riding a bus line to downtown unless you want to continue further on Link.

Southeast Corridor (White Center, Westwood Village) – Delridge station

Similar to the RapidRide C line, RapidRide H takes riders along the Burien, White Center, and Westwood Village corridor along Delridge Way every 7 minutes to downtown. From Westwood Village the ride takes 28 minutes. From downtown you can either hop on a bus to Ballard or up First Hill, or take two escalators down to take the light rail to the UW (every 4 minutes) or to Bellevue (every 8 minutes). To Columbia City you can transfer to the 50 (every 20 minutes). The quickest way to the airport is to take the 560 (every 30 minutes) in half an hour.

Stub: If a light rail stub gets built, riders could transfer from the RapidRide H at the Delridge station or continue to ride downtown. To transfer they would have to travel two escalators up before waiting for a train (every 10 minutes). Unless they ride towards Columbia City they would most likely be better off staying on the bus even if the bus gets slightly slower due to the detour around the new Delridge station.

Full Build: Once the West Seattle light rail line gets extended downtown RapidRide H will get truncated. (Instead, it may serve Alki via Admiral Way, see page 19 of Metro Connects 2050). Riders from Westwood Village would not have a choice but to transfer at Delridge station if they want to go north or east.


West Seattle is far more spread out than Ballard, for example. The two RapidRide lines have encouraged further housing construction around the two dozen stations in West Seattle. Those buses are easier to access (street level vs underground or above ground) and run more frequently than Link does (7 vs 10 minutes). Why even build a stub which requires two transfers? Once the line connects downtown riders will have to transfer to Link. Staying on RapidRide would be faster and easier than riding Link for most trips. Only if you live close to the Junction, Avalon or Delridge Link stations and you want to continue on the train toward Capitol Hill, UW or transfer to Bellevue, you might have a slight advantage. Riding West Seattle Link will mean more transfer complexity and access challenges and also a longer journey for most riders.

146 Replies to “West Seattle Now vs Light Rail”

  1. Very clear and concise, Martin. Thank you.

    Now, can this be sent to each and every ST Board Member with a little cover letter asking them to consider whether it makes sense to spend $4 billion for “the stub” that will make everything more complicated and not attract new ridership?

    Send it Registered Mail, Signature Required.

  2. West Seattle ridership would not match 2016’s expectations, and the same holds true in the Chinatown/ID – Ballard corridor. The agency was blindsided by the turn of events since 2020, so we can’t blame it.

  3. How resilient to traffic is the C-line before or after a Mariners or Seahawks game? Are there bus lanes on the exit ramp from SR-99 to Alaskan Way? Conversely, can the southbound bus get from Alaskan Way to SR-99 without getting stuck in traffic?

    1. There are bus lanes on Columbia getting to/from Alaskan Way. My experience with those is private vehicles use them regularly, and they’re frequently blocked by rideshare and delivery vehicles. I don’t think there are any bus lanes on Alaskan so that WSDOT can give priority to private vehicles getting to the ferry terminals, though even if there were, I imagine they’d be clogged with private vehicles anyways given the lack of enforcement, especially after sportsball and other events.

      I do wonder if there’s a way for Metro to use the 6th Ave ramps to the SR-99 tunnel at least for RR H, and run it in the “opposite” direction on 3rd like the 125. That would at least give the SR-99 tunnel a small bit of purpose to the city by letting the H avoid traffic in Pioneer Square and by the stadiums. Unfortunately, it would be harder for the C given that it lays over in SLU rather than downtown.

      1. I don’t think there are any bus lanes on Alaskan so that WSDOT can give priority to private vehicles getting to the ferry terminals

        I’m pretty sure there are plans to add bus lanes when the dust settles. It is one of the reasons (along with the queuing you mentioned) that the street is so wide there (much to the chagrin of people who wanted it narrower).

        BAT/Bus lane enforcement via cameras is moving slowly through the legislative process. It will be here a lot sooner than we get West Seattle Link. There are still some issues with BAT lanes (cars can legally use the lane for turning right) but if someone is clearly breaking the law, the best solution is camera enforcement.

      2. “I don’t think there are any bus lanes on Alaskan”

        Yes, there are, or were supposed to be. From Jackson Street to Columbia Street where the buses turn east. When I’ve occasionally ridden there the buses move freely and I think I’ve seen favorable paint. The bottleneck is on Columbia Street, and making the turns to and from Columbia.

        WSDOT’s plan south of Columbia Street has four GP lanes (two each direction), two bus lanes, and one ferry-queuing lane — for a total of seven lanes. When pedestrian asked it to narrow the street, it said the four GP lanes and one ferry-queuing lane were non-negotiable, so the only thing it could eliminate were the bus lanes. Activists said no, keep the bus lanes. The road is designed to be convertable to narrower at a future date, when the bus lanes will no longer be used due to ST3 Link, and in case car volumes decrease. But that’s in the long-term future.

        North of Columbia Street, the bus lanes and ferry-queuing lane disappear, reducing the width to four lanes. Then where the boulevard shifts away from the waterfront north of Pike Place Market, the remainder north to Pier 70 will be two lanes I think.

        There was some discussion of local transit along the waterfront. Waterfront Seattle’s plan is a battery bus or minibus in the outer (regular lanes) from CID station to Pier 70, with an optional extension to Seattle Center. Seattle still hasn’t identified funding for it, and it’s outside Metro’s responsibility (as currently visioned). They opposed a vintage or modern streetcar because it would reduce the little space available for bike/ped/bioswale lanes. They opposed a local circulator in the center bus lanes, because there would be no center stations and they couldn’t get to side stops.

    2. I’m not saying that the current bus network is all we need in WS. You could make a lot of improvements for a fraction of $4b and a lot sooner. Yes, adding a bus lane to the exit ramps would help. Reinstating some of the lines which were canceled during covid is another idea. I might write about that in the future.

      1. Spend a billion on bus infrastructure, another billion on improving service for the next forty years and West Seattle would have the best transit in the city, by far. Build Link and it will just muddle along like it does now. The biggest problem in West Seattle — by far — is that fact that the buses are infrequent. West Seattle Link doesn’t fix this problem. If anything, it makes it worse.

        For example, the H runs every fifteen minutes. The 7 runs every 7.5 minutes. Why does the 7 run twice as often? Because more riders use it. If riders on the H are forced to transfer, then ridership goes down, and frequency would stay the same. The only way to increase frequency dramatically in West Seattle is to throw money at the problem. Metro won’t do that, but ST could, given their commitment to West Seattle.

      2. “H runs every fifteen minutes. The 7 runs every 7.5 minutes. Why does the 7 run twice as often? Because more riders use it.”

        It’s more arbitrary than that. Metro has limited resources and many needs, so it has to choose which corridors to underserve. The H may not need 7.5 minutes, but it should have 10 minutes, as every significant corridor should (like the 21). The only reason it doesn’t is that Metro can’t afford it, and the driver shortage.

        Metro has a metrics report every year of underserved corridors. It showed that many corridors have inadequate runs, or have no bus service when they should. It recognizes that latent demand exists: ridership that would appear if service were filled in, and that people are enduring hardships and inefficiency by working around this nonexistent service. Like when the Macintosh computer was released in 1984 and I really wanted one but they were $2500, and only in 1990 did the MacClassic appear for $1050, so then I bought it.

        Metro’s report said that the 36 needed 10-minute service, a decade before it got it. The same is probably true of the H.

        The 10-minute upgrade between 2016-2019 on the 45, 48, 65, and 67 weren’t just because Seattle’s Transit Now had extra money to spend; they were to eliminate the underservice Metro had identified. When they reverted to 15 minutes in 2020, that just brought the underservice back, and it hasn’t been addressed since.

    3. It sucks. Traffic is only part of it.

      First of all, the C stop on Jackson is too far away from T-Mobile Park. It’s a 0.75 mile walk. Even the walk to Lumen Field is long. Plus you have to cross the giant freeway-like Alaskan Way to get to the southbound stop. The alternative, the 21, is unusable as a postgame option due to traffic coming out of the Mariners’ parking garage. I’ve tried it before and given up and walked to the 50 stop at Lander.

      The other problem is frequency. The C runs every 20 minutes in the late evening and 30 minutes on Saturday nights. Sometimes not everyone fits on the bus, so needing to wait an extra 20-30+ minutes is not unheard of after a crowded game. Plus you have to factor in the 15 minute walk to the bus stop. And the C notoriously runs well behind schedule at night.

      I tried taking the C-line + monorail combo to a Kraken game once before giving up on that for the above reasons (mainly late night frequency). Easier to drive and pay $8 for parking downtown near the monorail station.

      1. Those problems are definitely. Unfortunately, having the C stop closer to the stadiums would increase the C’s exposure to game traffic and delay everyone else on the bus.

        West Seattle light rail, will, I think, address your concerns. Unfortunately, for an enormously high price.

      2. If West Seattle isn’t worth it, then Ballard should be scrapped as well. Add bus lanes to the Ballard Bridge and a few speed improvements in LQA and call it a day.

      3. If West Seattle isn’t worth it, then Ballard should be scrapped as well. Add bus lanes to the Ballard Bridge and a few speed improvements in LQA and call it a day.

        Ballard Link is quite different than West Seattle Link. Just a review here:

        West Seattle Link: Three stations, with little around them. They aren’t going to build towers there. The time savings are minimal for many trips. The cost per station is enormous (mainly because there are so few stations, but miles of track). As a result, ridership per dollar will be really bad. Rider time saved per dollar* will be really bad as well. New ridership will be minimal, which means the cost per new rider will be enormous.

        Ballard Link: Six stations, not counting the downtown tunnel. I’m not sure the cost, as I don’t believe they considered an option that doesn’t include the new tunnel (but includes Ballard Link). By my calculations, the existing RapidRide D has the highest ridership per mile of any bus. The time savings are much bigger than West Seattle Link, even when you ignore the impact of the bridge opening (which is huge). Most of the the stations are in areas more urban than any place in West Seattle will every be. The line actually adds to the overall network, with perpendicular (not same-direction) transfers. With Ballard Link you run buses like the 31/32; those in Magnolia get both a one seat ride to a major destinations (the UW) and a faster two-seat ride to downtown. Ballard Link is just a better line, by every metric.

        That being said, it is fragile. The details matter, and so far, ST is failing the details. It isn’t hard to imagine a Ballard Link line that is actually a really outstanding line and a good value (you start by serving the heart of Ballard). In contrast, I can’t imagine West Seattle Link being much better than what they have planned. The price has increased dramatically, and it doesn’t look better than the original plans. You are still only serving three stations, none of which are ever going to be a major destination.

        * The FTA used to measure projects by this metric. Basically you add up all the riders, and how much time they saved over the previous system. Sometimes you have lots of people saving a bit of time (e. g. Second Avenue Subway), other times you have a moderate number of people saving a huge amount of time (e. g. riders from Roosevelt to Capitol Hill). The problem with West Seattle Link is that it won’t save that many people that much time (while costing a bundle).

      4. The other problem is frequency. The C runs every 20 minutes in the late evening and 30 minutes on Saturday nights.

        Which is why it is crazy that they are even considering a train. If you catch a bus that runs every 20 minutes, you sure as well don’t want to transfer miles short of your destination, only to take a train that isn’t especially frequent. The train only runs every fifteen minutes in the evening now, even though it runs through the UW! If West Seattle trains are paired with trains from the East Side, that is likely the best that each individual line will do. But it also wouldn’t shock me if the trains run every twenty minutes, pairing for ten minutes through the UW. That means you are going from a twenty minute train to a twenty minute bus. You can time it, but there are limits to that approach.

        It all goes back to the same thing: West Seattle needs better bus service, and not much else.

      5. “If West Seattle isn’t worth it, then Ballard should be scrapped as well.”

        No, they’re different situations. It’s more urgent to get high-capacity transit to Ballard than to West Seattle. The Ballard area has higher ridership and density, the Link corridor is in the middle in a narrow distict, and the flatness and complete street grid means a higher percent of Ballardites can effectively use Link. Geographically Ballard forms a “Y” branching out from 15th & Leary north to 15th and 24th. 24th is close enough to 15th that you can consider walking between them. Even peripheral ares like 32nd and 8th are pretty close, and could easily be served with a quick short last-mile bus feeder. Link should logically continue north with stations at 65th and 85th; then most of the area would be relatively close to Link. (If you wanted maximum stations and walkability, you could add stations at Leary Way and 75th.)

        That’s completely different from West Seattle. The main street (California) is in the west rather than in the middle. The distance between California and Delridge is further, with steep hills in between. And none of this addresses the vast area north of Alaska Junction, which has no equivalent in Ballard. Ballard has SLU and Uptown along the way, and could have Belltown or Fremont in other alternatives, but West Seattle has no equivalent to those.

        So it’s more urgent to get high-capacity transit to Ballard than to West Seattle, because the village size, the average density, and the complete flat street grid that allows a larger percent of Ballardites to walk to Link, and the villages along the way.

        But ST has taken a mediocre Ballard alignment in 2016 and made it borderline unusable, threatening long transfers downtown and a station at 14th instead of 15th. That raises the question that even if Ballard needs a single high-capacity transit line, this version threatens to be too ineffective to deliver that. So maybe we should just scrap it and fall back to significant bus improvements.

        The single West Seattle line isn’t just watered down to ineffectiveness, it could never have been effective in the first place. To have a single Link line serving as much of West Seattle as Ballard Link serves Ballard, you’d have to imagine a line that crossed Elliott Bay and entered West Seattle at the northern tip (east of Alki). Ideally it should go down 35th, to be halfway between California and Delridge. But it can’t go on 35th north of the Admiral District because there’s a forested cliff there. So it would have to go south on California through the Admiral District and then switch to 35th. Then you’d move the center of Alki east so that it would be on it. You’d move the center of the Junction business district east to 35th to be in the middle. You’d erase the steep hills that make east-west travel in West Seattle difficult. The Link line would go south to Alaska Street as planned. Then ideally it would continue straight south to the city limits. That would parallel the situation in Ballard where a Link extension could go from Market to 85th (and then turn east/northeast).

        But this is impossible to do in West Seattle. Instead you have to realize that what West Seattle really needs is multiple lines following approximately the C, 55, 21, H, and 125. BRT would be appropriate for that. With West Seattle’s lowish density, they’d be pretty fast. Bottlenecks at the bridge entrances and downtown can be fixed. A single West Seattle line going from the bridge to the Junction cannot serve West Seattle any better than the 50 can. It can’t serve the four miles between the Junction and the city limits on three major arterials and one minor one. It won’t serve the two miles north of the Junction like the 50 does.

      6. “The C runs every 20 minutes in the late evening and 30 minutes on Saturday nights.”

        “Which is why it is crazy that they are even considering a train.”

        Again, current frequency is not the same as need! Current frequency is arbitrary decisions, trying to distribute inadequate resources in the least-bad way. The C probably lost 15-minute service until 10pm due to the driver shortage, not because there isn’t enough ridership.

      7. ““If West Seattle isn’t worth it, then Ballard should be scrapped as well.”

        It should be pointed out that the single Ballard Station is forecasted to get more riders than all three West Seattle stations combined!

        If you want to appropriately compare the two, the more appropriate comparison is simply the cost to go from Interbay to Ballard on Link versus West Seattle Link in its entirety. A one station Ballard extension is probably half that cost with more riders.

        It thus is over twice as productive if an investment when viewed this way.

      8. Current frequency is arbitrary decisions, trying to distribute inadequate resources in the least-bad way.

        Fair enough. But my point is this: I get why someone riding the C at night would complain about the frequency. But adding a transfer to the train doesn’t solve that problem. In all likelihood it makes it worse.

        We really have no idea what the frequency of the buses will be in the future. But we have a pretty rough idea of the trains. ST only has one line, and it already covers the highest-ridership section (Northgate to Downtown). In terms of ridership per service hour, that dwarfs everything else. If ever ST is going to run the trains frequently, it is now. But they aren’t. They run them every ten minutes in the middle of the day, and fifteen minutes in the evening.

        When the trains interline, my guess is the individual lines stay much the same, while the core section (north of downtown) gets frequency that is twice as good. So 5 minutes in the middle of the day, and 7.5 minutes after 10:00 PM. But again, I could also see them simply reducing the frequency to every 20 minutes after 10:00 PM, given the nature of the two lines. The 550 runs every half hour after 10:00 PM, and has from before the pandemic.

        If the buses remain infrequent, the transfer just adds to the pain. If the buses become more frequent, then the train is the obvious weak link.

        Imagine a world where the C and H run every 6 minutes for most of the day, and every 10 minutes late at night. Now riders from places like Alki are much better off than if we had West Seattle Link! The transfer is better, and the C is a lot more frequent than the train. Same goes for the 125. Notice that no one (at Metro) has proposed getting rid of it, despite the fact that the H runs every ten minutes during the week. Maybe they should. Or maybe ten minute frequency isn’t often enough to make up for a transfer, even if it is the easiest of all transfers (same bus stop). Run the H every six minutes, and the case for sending the 125 somewhere besides downtown (e. g. Alki) becomes a lot stronger (especially if you run it more often).

        For the vast majority of riders, West Seattle Link will only result in good transit if the feeder buses run often. If they run often, it would be much better to just send them downtown.

      9. West Seattle is supposed to act as a turning point for Everett trains. There’s not that much ridership potential along the selected route.

        So, my guess is they choose to run West Seattle fairly infrequently and instead have the bulk of the trains be Lynnwood-Redmond. Assuming they insist on Rainier Valley in its own dedicated Ballard tunnel, of course.

      10. Mike, your contrast of Ballard and West Seattle is spot on. It’s thorough, clear and specific. Thank you.

      11. Glenn, that’s exactly the plan. There is no fricking way that the zig-zag north of Lynnwood can support service more often than every fifteen minutes, so that’s what Ballard will get.

        Maybe in 2060 if we haven’t been nuked by China there will be sufficient demand to support more frequent service, but waaaayyyy too much of the route is surrounded by the airport, its approach zone or gigantic Boeing structures ever to generate much ridership. Jeebus, ST doesn’t even want to serve the one eensy-teensy pocket of development between Everett City Center and 526. The ends of LR lines are great places for at-grade running with frequent stations. Almost nobody is significantly delayed because few people are farther “away” from the system center. Instead ST is going to follow the freeway with big time engineering required because of the grade and no intermediate stations, basically orphaning South Everett.

        What a bunch of knuckleheads.

  4. Thanks for the summary!

    Too many people think about what the project looks like rather than how people will use it.

    In particular, thanks for mentioning escalators. I will say that there are a segment of people that must instead use elevators.

    I will remind others that the 95% standard of operational escalators means one that every 20 escalators that get used is allowed to be out of service. That means that if a trip requires multiple escalators to make of round trip (say 5 escalators in each direction or 10 total), 50% of the time one escalator won’t be working. Also, there are no down escalators to the DSTT platforms and ST will not openly discuss adding them.

  5. Thsnks sgsin for describing the actual rider effort rather than the mere project! I think it’s worthwhile to also identify the actual travel effort to go from other locations as well in a Full Build scenario.

    These example paths will be much harder on future Link;.

    – SeaTac Airport to UW or Northgate
    – SeaTac to Downtown Bellevue or Redmond
    – UW to Ballard

    It would be tempting to list the path required for sone of the new members of City Council.

    Simply put DSTT2 makes traveling in Link more difficult for lots of riders.

    1. I agree, except UW to Ballard will be pretty much the same (the 44). I would add:

      Rainier Valley or Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt or Northgate. It is quite possible this is more common than trips to the airport (from the north). Relatively short urban trips dominate a metro system. It is essential to get these right, and it looks like ST won’t.

      1. Ross, if the ST3 plan is followed, Uptown and Ballard will go directly with no change of trains to Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley. This is actually a trip pair cluster that a Ballard-Westlake short-line would make worse.

        However, if ST were to build the “New Westlake” platforms shallower because a future extension would curve upward into First Hill rather than plunging downward to a deep “New Pioneer Square”, transfers at Westlake wouldn’t be as bad as they are now planned to be.

    2. When Link reached UW, it allowed route 48 riders to take faster Link. The 48 bogs down peak hours because somebody gets on/off at every single stop. So Rainier Valleyites got the promised faster rapid transit. But the proposed long/deep transfers downtown will take that away, potentially forcing people back to the 48. Even though the Rainier/SeaTac/Beacon demand to the U-District and Capitol Hill and North Seattle is higher than West Seattle ridership. West Seattle will get the one-seat ride in the existing better-located tunnel, and Rainier/SeaTac/Beacon will get the short end of the stick. They’ll also get the short end of the stick going to the Eastside through the long/low transfer. Their workaround will be to take a bus to Judkins Park Station, but that’s a workaround like going back to the 48 is.

      1. Exactly accurate. However, perhaps this provides evidence for the need for bus lanes on Rainier, at least between Mt. Baker and Judkins Park. And, who knows, maybe a gondola directly from a new Mezzanine at Mt. Baker to Judkins Park would make the South to East trip one that stomps on driving. Martin, HERE’s a cheap-because-it’s-short gondola project that might be revolutionary.

        Yes, of course it duplicates the 7 (and 48, too). But it would have perhaps a four minute transit time and with a gondola every 30 seconds, the transfer could reliably take five minutes. It’s only 1.4 miles down Rainier.

        A user could be on East Link before the 1 Line train leaves SoDo if all went well.

      2. However, perhaps this provides evidence for the need for bus lanes on Rainier, at least between Mt. Baker and Judkins Park

        There should be bus lanes on Rainier from Jackson to Rainier Beach. The 7 carries quite a few people per mile. There is a stronger case for building light rail there than West Seattle Link (or Issaquah Link, etc.). Since that won’t happen, we should do the next best thing, and add bus lanes (with off-board payment).

        The gondola idea is reasonable as well. It would be quite the shortcut. It takes 9 minutes to get from Mount Baker to CID. It is another 5 minutes to get from CID to Jackson Park. It is almost exactly a mile, which is about 3 minutes. If you are heading towards Bellevue, you’ve got two transfers instead of 1, so add a minute for the gondola. That is still big enough to take save at least ten minutes, maybe twenty (depending on the timing of the trains). So yeah, it would definitely be worth exploring.

        This would reduce some of the load going downtown and add redundancy. The only big weakness is that neither station is very strong by itself. If it wasn’t for the train, then it would carry few people. I’m not sure if it would attract very many people with the train either. I’m sure there are some, but my guess is there aren’t that many people going from the south end of Link to the East Side (or to Judkins Park). Hundreds, definitely, but I’m not sure about thousands. Again, probably worth exploring (in terms of existing travel patterns).

      3. Tom, a gondola between the Mt Baker mezzanine and the Judkins Park station would be a great idea – even more so if ST makes the downtown transfer bad. A gondola ride would take 5 minutes and could leave every 10 seconds.

      4. Thank you, guys. Your point about the stations being weak ones on their own is a good one, Ross. It certainly would never make sense on its own trip pair….

        But, as you point out, Martin, if ST goes through with the “New Pioneer Square” transfer it would be yet another five to seven minutes more than Ross’s estimate based on transferring at IDS from the time the train arrives at Mt. Baker until the time the rider would be at Judkins Park headed to Bellevue. The rider who opted for the gondola would typically be one train ahead, and occasionally two, departing Judkins. The same would be true in the other direction, of course.

        Folks will be transferring at Pioneer Square from one eight minute train to another eight minute train via an up and down walk of five to seven minutes. The tunnel between the two stations is supposed to go up and over the BNSF tunnel and then down to the mezzanine at the current Pioneer Square station. Will there be elevators at all of the four level changes including the mezzanine to platform change in each station box? For someone needing to use elevators that will be really tedious. It would be two on the gondola I think.

        Put the Mt. Baker gondola station directly above the platforms at the central elevators and add a floor to them. Put the station at Judkins Park directly above the west end of the platforms and have stairs and an elevator to both platforms.

        I think we all know that a tunnel station “South of CID” is not going to happen; so there will be one less station on the 1 Line between Mt. Baker and “New” Pioneer Square. That will shave a minute and a half from the estimate, but the overall East to South or vice versa trip will be quite time-consuming. The gondola would be a cheap, fast way to shorten it.

      5. Let’s not get too much into non-West Seattle gondolas in this article. West Seattle already has so many complicated things to keep in one’s head. This will be a reference article on the West Seattle passenger experience, and in the future ST may have more WSLE/BLE debates, and in those debates regular readers may be sending ST the article URL, and new readers may come to the article looking for information on West Seattle/SODO, and finding the kitchen sink too would just make it more confusing and lose the article’s impact.

  6. There is one additional burden on these transfers that I want to mention: escalator queuing. When 200 people get off the train at SODO, those one or two escalators will queue up. They queue up today at Westlake. And when the escalator goes out of service it’s really awful!

    ST has shown no acknowledgement about escalator deficiencies in the system. I can’t find it in the EIS either.

    And it’s a huge issue if train frequencies ever reach 3 minutes or better in some of our wishes. Then the queues build because another train arrives before the earlier riders have gotten on the escalator.

    ST appears to be ignoring escalator queuing.

    1. The reason London keeps continuously adding to the Underground/OvergroundD/DLR/Crossrail/regional trains, is that otherwise the population increase would overwhelm the system. If an Underground train is delayed for even five minutes, the platform overflows and the queue backs up outside the station and along the street. Seattle will never have that level of crowds, but a miniature of that will happen when an escalator fails during a busy period and there’s no effective alternative. (I.e., not everybody can fit in a few elevator runs.)

  7. Once the Link line gets extended downtown, we can expect that Metro changes the bus routes. Hopefully this would include a more frequent connection from Alki along Admiral Way to the Delridge station, may be even continuing to the South Seattle College.

    Changes in the buses to West Seattle could happen with or without the stations. The big difference with Link is that buses that currently go downtown won’t go downtown. But the buses could be altered to follow a similar pattern, even if it is buses taking them downtown. The options are remarkably similar, simply because the C and H serve all of the stations. What really matters when it comes to the network is how Metro restructures the buses, and how much money they have. It is easy to assume that with Link there will be more-frequent (local) service in West Seattle, but as we’ve seen, that isn’t the case. Metro is willing to take the savings, and spread them throughout the whole network. The biggest influence in recent years on bus headways is the funding (with the efficiency of the bus network a close second).

    For example, consider the 125. It is the only infrequent bus that goes from West Seattle to downtown. It overlaps the Delridge corridor, while running half as often. Half-hour buses in Seattle are not good. Sometimes they are unavoidable (an area needs coverage) but whenever possible they should be altered (or eliminated) so that we have better frequency. In the case of the 125, it could work as a feeder bus. At the same time, it would be nice if we had an all-day 56. This would make getting to Alki a lot faster, and provide service on Admiral Way all day long. Thus something like this seems possible: https://maps.app.goo.gl/tSpkq1K6DYabz84f8.

    If West Seattle Link is added, this is the type of thing that will definitely be built. But even without West Seattle Link, this could be built. The train will run every ten minutes, and once we get out of the current driver shortage, buses like the C and H should run just as often. The bus is just about as fast as the train, and the transfer is easier. Depending on your destination, you could very easily be better off with the bus.

    You might be thinking: But Ross, a bus doesn’t have the capacity of a train. You will overload the H. This is definitely a valid concern. However, the most likely time for this to be a problem is during peak, and for that, there is a simple solution: just run the current 125 and 56 during peak. The combination of express buses to downtown along with buses that are truncated is fairly common. Even Sound Transit has them, with the 510 and 512. In a sense, it is the best of both worlds. During peak, you get that fast express to downtown (better than transferring to Link or a different bus). In the middle of the day, you still have a very good way to get there.

    West Seattle needs much more frequent bus service, more than anything. The problem isn’t speed, it is money (for service). We need to find money to run the buses more often there. One simple way to do that would be for Sound Transit to just shift money from West Seattle Link to buses.

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t make capital improvements as well. But imagine 1 billion dollars spent on improving bus infrastructure for West Seattle buses. That is huge amount of money, especially since West Seattle buses are some of the fastest in our system. That still leaves about 3 billion for running the buses more often. That is a lot of money for bus service, making relatively modest proposals like the one I mentioned quite possible, with lots of money to spare.

    1. “It is easy to assume that with Link there will be more-frequent (local) service in West Seattle, but as we’ve seen, that isn’t the case.”

      Metro hasn’t committed to any particular routing or frequency in future West Seattle Link configurations, so that’s too early to say. It only has the Metro Connects outlines, which are minimum service if it has the funding. (I.e., when it says 15 minutes until 7pm weekdays, that’s a floor. It would run it more frequently and longer if the corridor deserves it and Metro has the resources, like it did in 2016-2019 and still does to a lesser extent now.) Metro’s funding and driver constraints in 15-20 years are unknown at this point, so they have no relationship to Metro’s visions or proposals now.

  8. The C isn’t even remotely meeting its designed frequency. Before the pandemic every bus was standing room only and I was frequently late for work due to full busses passing me by.

    I think the train is less about being faster than the busses than it is about being significantly more reliable and higher capacity. If all the train does is replace the C with a more reliable option at the same speed, it will still be worth it.

    1. What location does the C get overcrowded?

      Because, if it’s crowded south of Alaska Junction, Link won’t help too much to solve that problem.

      C frequency will also be a significant problem coming back the other way, if you have 2 or 3 trains worth of people waiting for a single bus operating at a fraction of the train frequency.

      If you took the $4 billion and just dumped it into a common interest bearing checking account, at 1.5% interest you’d have $60 million per year in interest you could put into better bus service.

      I don’t see the current light rail proposal generating anywhere near $60 million per year in benefits, such as reduced costs over the C.

      1. GREAT analogy, Glenn! Thank you.

        Mike, Martin, put this in the package you send as “supporting documentation”, but bold the paragraph about the bottleneck outbound when a full train arrives at Delridge then Triangle and then Junction. If exactly 1/3 of the full train deboards at each station (optimistic) that’s at least two buses’ ridership. Sure, some will walk from Triangle and Junction, but the majority will be fanning out on feeders. There will be three “outbound” lines at Delridge if Ross’s idea of through-routing the 56 and 125 were realized, so that might just about “fit”, since the areas served by the three lines are mostly thinly developed.

        At Triangle the only bus I’m understand will stop there is the 21, so it’s just about certain that one busload will be waiting.

        At the Junction there are enough routes that it might not be too much of a problem. A lot of people transfer to and from the C there, so the C loads to the south aren’t nearly what they are east of California.

        That said, it is certainly something that needs to be “modeled”.

      2. I was picturing something like Link operating at 8 trains per hour or something, and the C being at 6 per hour or so. The mismatch in frequency means you wind up with more than the West Seattle buses can easily deal with.

      3. Glenn, currently the C/H runs every 7 minutes (8/h) while Link will probably run every 10 minutes (6/h). There is a good chance riders arriving at Delridge station won’t be able to fit on the H as it is mostly a transfer station to the H. Ross’ suggestion with a 125 may help, but I expect most riders to go towards Westwood/White Center/Burien.

      4. “Mike, Martin, put this in the package you send as “supporting documentation”,”

        We’re not sending anything. I think the STB authors and commentators are coalescing toward a more targeted message and strategies — I’ve seen progress in the past month and it’s still ongoing — but our biggest skill is articles, and it will take both the readers and editors together to light the fires under politicians’ butts and get the message more mainstream, and that part will have to be reader-led.

    2. Demand for the C has dropped since the pandemic not only due to work-from-home, but also because the H has taken over some of the ridership at Westwood Village.
      If demand would increase again, we could add an Express bus along Fauntleroy which isn’t even currently served.

      1. It seems like the H should be more direct and faster between downtown and Westwood Village. Is it?

        It doesn’t help that the H has what I call “the worst stop downtown”, 3rd Avenue southbound between Pike and Union. I thought the H would be with the C/D/E between Pine and Pike, but it’s at the old 120 stop instead. That’s where I take the 131/132 southbound to Costco, and it’s the most depressing wait. It’s always derelict; there’s no place to sit; and all the storefronts on the entire block are closed except the tobacco shop. And the 131/132 are notoriously late and unreliable every day, so you’re waiting an unknown amount of time longer.

        The eastbound 10/11/49 stop at Pine & 4th often gets a larger number of druggies and salesmen, but it’s not as depressing, and there are benches and butt rests, and those routes aren’t as unreliable as the 131/132.

        And by “salesmen” I mean people who sell stolen goods.

        When I’m going from the library southbound, I can use the 3rd & Spring station, which is much more normal. I’ve started thinking about taking any north-south bus down to it rather than waiting at 3rd & Union, but I haven’t started to yet.

    3. it will still be worth it

      You’d spend $4 billion to “replace the C with a more reliable option”? Seriously?

      The ONLY “guaranteed” value of West Seattle Link is that the relatively minor group of folks traveling between there and Capitol Hill or U-District and the infinitesimal number traveling farther than that will have a two or three seat ride (depending how close to a Link station they’re destined) from most of West Seattle to their destination, rather than a three or four seater. For folks who can walk to a Link station headed to Capitol Hill or farther, it will be a game changer, admittedly.

      For everyone going downtown along the C and H lines other than those within walking distance of a the Junction or Triangle stations, it will require a transfer that will usually eat up the faster transit time of the train. For folks who are taking a shuttle to the C or H today it will be a bit better once the stub is extended, but not enough better to change behavior.

      That’s not a lot of sizzle for a $4 billion steak.

  9. Ideally, truncating buses in west Seattle would allow the buses to run more frequently than they do today. However, you could boost frequency on the buses for far less money than building west Seattle light rail costs.

    And, of course, Metro’s Northgate precedent says the savings from bus truncations will likely flow out of West Seattle completely and fund routes elsewhere.

    1. “Metro’s Northgate precedent says the savings from bus truncations will likely flow out of West Seattle completely and fund routes elsewhere.”

      That’s unclear. Some councilmembers said Metro should abandon the principle of keeping restructure hours in the subarea, and instead redirect them to southeast Seattle/south King County for “equity”, because no subarea has a right to keep all its historic hours. But that happened at the same time as the pandemic revenue loss, so it’s just as likely the 41’s hours were swallowed by the unplanned resource loss than that they were redirected. There’s no evidence the full council approved and adopted this novel restructure-redistribution model that a couple councilmembers suggested. Nor do I see any increases in South King County that can be attributed to the 41’s hours. There have been a few more runs here and there, but all of them might have happened anyway, or are needed to avoid overcrowding.

      And Metro’s own equity maps have equity-emphasis areas in Lake City, Northgate, Broadview, and other unexpected areas like Crossroads-Overlake, Issaquah, and Snoqualmie. Even if the hasty councilmembers forgot those, they’ll eventually remember them, and are probably starting to do so.

      1. Well if North County gets a bigger cut while South County gets a smaller one, it is basically the same as a redistribution. To really say that hours are not redistributed, each subarea needs to have the same proportion of available service hours as before.

  10. Wow. I guess I didn’t realize what a cluster west seattle planning is turning into. This lays out the mess perfectly. I still say kill the second downtown tunnel now. They can’t run the one they already have…

  11. This seems to be more symptomatic of a cultural problem at Sound Transit. They are so focused on building *something* that they don’t stop to ask whether the thing they are building will actually be better transit. I struggle to see how the WS stub line pencils out from a transit rider’s perspective.

    I have a similar complaint about the Stride S3 line. When taking ST’s 522–> S3 change with Metro’s 372–>72 changes together, the net result for the SR522 corridor is less frequent service, more required transfers, substantially longer walks to reach some bus stops. Which seems like an oversll decrease in transit service for a hefty price tag.

    1. Those dollars need to be spent on ribbon cuttings and, more importantly, on reducing convenience for cars.

    2. There’s a widespread blind spot afflicting ST, politicians, and a lot of the public. You see it in this article vs Mike Lindblom’s Seattle Times article today. This article focuses on the passenger experience. The other article focuses on property displacements and losing views and parking. They just don’t understand the passenger experience. They think West Seattle Link will give a fixed amount of benefit (or no benefit), regardless of the alignment alternatives. Martin’s article documents how the alignment alternatives have a major impact on passengers –even making the transit network usable or not. Not just the official West Seattle alternatives, but the downtown alternatives, and the unofficial suggestions to cancel DSTT2, automate the new lines, and/or replace West Seattle Link with multi-line BRT.

  12. Hypothetical Scenario

    Residents of Seattle are asked to vote on a simple proposal.

    “Should Sound Transit cancel the West Seattle Link Extension and use recovered funds to provide ultra-frequent fare-feee bus service (20 lines, EV buses, 5 min headways) between White Center and Downtown Seattle, Rainier Valley, and other areas, while improving transit in southwest Seattle and adjacent areas of unincorporated King County?”

    1. As an ideal, yes. As a possibility, no. The entire ST district would have to vote on it because it’s a single tax district. Seattle has no authority to override it, and no authority over unincorporated areas. You can’t run an initiative because the only initiatives are city or state, and neither of those matches exactly the ST district. A statewide initiative could possibly override ST in some limited aspects, but you don’t want Eastern Washington and Clark County tax-haters and transit-haters micromanaging ST. The ST subarea corresponding to Seattle is North King, which also includes Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

      The ST board could raise a vote to modify ST3. It could theoretically replace these with non-Link alternatives: West Seattle Link, Ballard/DSTT2 Link, the Everett/Paine extension, the Tacoma Dome extension, and the Issaquah line.

      The next issue would be that ST’s mandate is “regional transit”. That clearly means Stride BRT and capital contributions to RapidRide. ST’s long-range plan has BRT on Aurora and HCT on Madison. HCT means high-capacity transit, like light rail or BRT, something more than RapidRide G. That doesn’t mean ST has committed to these, just that it thinks it might want them someday. So those are starting points. Beyond that, we can imagine Stream limited-stop service in other Seattle corridors, and more RapidRide lines.

      We could implement all the RapidRide lines that have ever been proposed, like the 40, 44, 48, and 62. I don’t remember the other Seattle ones, and I won’t get into the suburban ones since you said Seattle. That would probably leave money left over for a couple dozen other RapidRide lines.

      Then there’s RapidRide operating costs. ST has never gotten into that. There may be a question that this isn’t appropriate for a regional transit agency.

      How many bus lines could $4 billion buy? What were/are the capital and operating budgets for the A-F and H combined? How much does Metro currently spend on all Seattle bus routes, including Seattle’s TBD?

      1. The next issue would be that ST’s mandate is “regional transit”. That clearly means Stride BRT and capital contributions to RapidRide.

        Does it? ST runs a whole fleet of “ST Express” buses. These largely go on the freeway, but clearly there has been a move away from that. Several of the “express” buses run on the street for much of their route, fundamentally no different than Metro buses. Stride 3 is essentially the same thing as a RapidRide route. It might have better right-of-way in some places, and the budget is much higher, but it is still quite similar. If anything, taking over the C and H is more regional than what they had planned.

        I think the bigger legal issue is that it is clearly not what folks voted for. I’m not sure how that process works. The “No Build” option means what for West Seattle? Nothing? If so, then I can understand why West Seattle residents would object. Is the board free to shift the money as they see fit, or would that require a new vote?

        At an abstract level, I could see ST funding West Seattle transit in the same manner as the Seattle Transit Benefit District. They have an agreement with Metro, that any improvement won’t result in Metro simply shifting service out of the city (to compensate). In other words, any funding would be in addition to what Metro (and Seattle) provides, which means it wouldn’t take that much money to provide an extremely high level of service.

        Someone would have to decide where to provide the service, and what capital projects to fund. But again, that is not that different than how ST operates now. ST operates buses, and they can largely go wherever they want (within the budget). I’m sure ST would rather focus on capital projects — something they aren’t particularly good at. There are projects that could help, I’m sure. But ultimately, what West Seattle needs is better bus service, and the money they are proposing would completely transform transit in West Seattle (while West Seattle Link would not).

      2. “ST runs a whole fleet of “ST Express” buses.”

        I didn’t count those because I assumed Seattle wouldn’t want them. ST Express is like Stride but less frequent and without the street improvements. We could extend the 560 to downtown, but I don’t think that’s what we want.

      3. Ross, I think your language “they [ST buses] can go wherever they want” is not accurate.

        The enabling legislation says that the first priority for the Central Puget Sound Transit Authority (“Sound Transit”) is connecting “regional centers” with high capacity rail transit. It can also run buses between regional centers which don’t have the trip volumes to justify rail capital investments OR between centers which are planned to be connected by rail which is not yet open.

        The Legislature was pretty clear that they weren’t giving the agency huge taxing authority to burn the bucks on local POBS transit.

        That’s the reason that when ST has a bus route which parallels a Metro, CT, or PT run, it goes on the freeway, extends to a different Subarea, or provides a longer span of service than the parallel county service.

        ST really can’t fund local bus service between downtown Seattle and West Seattle “long term”. Somebody would sue, and the courts would agree.

        They [ST] can make capital improvements like a second lane in the east to north clover leaf at SR99 and the West Seattle Freeway, but really can’t pay for a lot of buses to use it.

        Yes, that’s somewhat irrational.

      4. PSRC just needs to add Alaska Junction as a Growth Center and then WSLE can get right-sized to “Stride 4” or something.

      5. Nathan, yes, that would certainly clarify West Seattle’s importance. However, there is already planned to be rail to the Junction, so I expect that it would be fine to replace it with a STRide line right now. But what others are proposing is for ST to subsidize more frequent and more widespread Metro-style service. That’s exactly what the Leg wanted to avoid.

      6. “That’s exactly what the Leg wanted to avoid.”

        Both Alaska Junction and Westwood Villages are hub urban villages. If Alaska Junction is justified, then Westwood Village is justified too.

      7. TT, I just went down the rabbit hole of ST’s supposed mandate to serve “regional centers”, and I’m not seeing it in the legislation (RCW Chapters 81.112, 36.120)

        As far as I can tell, ST’s legislative mandate is simply to built high-capacity transit across the region it serves. Its long-range plans often refer to PSRC’s regional centers as justifications for its routes, but it’s not a legal obligation (as far as I can tell, and I’m also not a lawyer).

      8. RCW 81.112.070
        General powers.
        In addition to the powers specifically granted by this chapter an authority shall have all powers necessary to implement a high capacity transportation system and to develop revenues for system support.[emphasis added]

        So, ST can run a STRide or STEX line to Westwood, and it actually does or at least did for a while to and from the south. What it can’t do is pay for Metro to run more POBS buses (or probably even RapidRides which aren’t “high capacity”) to and from the place, at least not long-term. The legislature has provided Transit Benefit Districts with certain limited tax tools by which to subsidize local transit. It specifically made the CPSTA a different beast with far larger taxing powers, but limited it to “high capacity” transit so it didn’t fritter money away “running empty buses”. It has to run empty trains instead.

        [Yes, I understand that Metro would REALLY be “run[ning] the buses to and from the place”, but the STEX or STRide has to be “better” in some way from otherwise similar local service].

      9. Darn. I must have left the backslash out on the close blockquote or put it in the wrong place. Apologies. The second “blockquote” is my writing.

      10. TT, I was referring to your statement:

        The enabling legislation says that the first priority for the Central Puget Sound Transit Authority (“Sound Transit”) is connecting “regional centers” with high capacity rail transit.”

        I understand the focus on high-capacity transit, which is defined in the RCW as “public transportation services within an urbanized region operating principally on exclusive rights-of-way… which taken as a whole, provides a substantially higher level of passenger capacity, speed, and service frequency than traditional public transportation“

        I’m looking for the supposed legal mandate to focus on “regional centers,” which doesn’t seem to be real (at least, not in the RCW).

      11. Nathan, OK. Perhaps the legislation does not explicitly state “among regional centers”, but it was clearly the intent of the Legislature that it link Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue and Redmond. I very much doubt that they intended to replace the 15 and 18 bus lines.

        My point is that ST cannot subsidize “local” bus service, at least not as a business model. Metro RapidRides are not “high capacity transit”; they’re local buses with nice shelters, somewhat wider stop spacing in most places, and some off-board payment. If they’re “BRT” at all, they’re barely FTA “Corridor Based BRT”, also categorized by APTA as “Basic BRT”. RapidRides have none of the fourth “Sometimes” element, “Dedicated/Managed Running Ways”. Even the Third Avenue “Busway” allows cars forced to turn right at the end of a block to impede the flow of buses.

        The bottom line is that the Leg did not intend the CPSTA to fund local bus service, which is what a lot of people are advocating for a “No Build” West Seattle alternative. They can’t do it. ST could replace the part of the C between downtown and Alaska Junction with a STRide “BRT” line and force folks boarding between Burien and Delridge and between White Center and the Alaska Junction to transfer to the BRT. But I do not believe that it can pay to run the C and H because they both have long sections where they are stopping for one or two people at a time.

        In fact, I’m surprised that the folks in Lake City who are in such an uproar about STRide 3 don’t sue to block it for exactly that reason. They’d win because it’s demonstrably not “high capacity transit” either, especially since it won’t be running in dedicated lanes for much of its route. STRide 1 and 2 will be, because they have very widely spaced freeway stations and will be running in HOT lanes their entire distance.

      12. ST defines Stride, Link, and Sounder as high-capacity transit. ST Express and RapidRide are not.

      13. ST defines Stride, Link, and Sounder as high-capacity transit. ST Express and RapidRide are not.

        Which shows how meaningless some of the definitions are. If you are talking capacity, then Sounder is highest, followed by Link. ST Express, RapidRide, Stride (as well as many Metro and Community Transit buses) are roughly the same capacity. Stride will have articulated buses (with more standing space) as well as double-decker buses (with more seats) in the same way that Metro has more of the former, and CT has more of the latter. The only significant difference with Stride (that I know of) is that the fleet will be electric (but not under wire). https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/08/08/sound-transit-to-buy-new-buses-for-stride-brt-but-some-could-be-lemons/

      14. “High-capacity transit (HCT) – a service operating principally on exclusive rights-of-way and providing a substantially higher level of passenger capacity, speed and service frequency than public transit operating on highways and city streets in mixed traffic.”

        Stride differs from ST Express in the service standard, from which follows a different branding and therefore a distinct bus fleet. Stride has higher capacity than STX because of higher frequency, not because a Stride bus is bigger than a regular bus*. What makes Stride HCT and STX not is the ROW exclusivity and frequency, but the lawyers must have decided that HCTWEROWAHF was too long of an abbreviation. Put another way, Stride are lines while STX are routes. Definitions do matter.


        *There is no mention of vehicle size in the definition of high capacity. Sounder has bigger trains, but Link has much higher capacity due to frequency, and in turn Skytrain has higher capacity due to the high frequency, even though a Skytrain 2 or 3 car train is smaller than a 4-car Link train.

      15. Stride has a commitment to higher frequency, street improvements, and limited-stop service. ST Express doesn’t have the first two. Having all three means you can move more passengers per hour, thus high capacity.

      16. Thanks, Mike. That’s exactly what I believed to be true. It’s good to hear it supported by a reliable source like yourself.

        That means that the “more buses more often” plan that folks are advocating can’t be funded by ST. The City has to come up with the funds, or leave the service pretty much like it is.

        So this presents the problem of “How do we talk West Seattle down off the ledge?” That is, they’re gonna be REALLY miffed if they don’t get “their” train. [Even though the service would be much worse with the train for almost all of them].

        I will admit that I was wrong about the C south of Alaska. It’s next stop is Findlay which is a full mile, and after that Morgan is another 6/10. That’s definitely full-scale BRT spacing. The C has two infrequent locals that run underneath it on net 30 minute headways over that stretch, providing tolerable service to folks with limited mobility at the intermediate stops.

        Stops are a bit more frequent between Morgan and the ferry terminal, but then get farther apart on the run over to Westwood. And reliability down there is very good.

        So maybe ST could pick up the C and make it “STRide 4”. To “upgrade” the line ST could absolutely pay for that second lane in the east-to-north cloverleaf at SR99 and end with $3.8 billion in the bank. Woo-hoo!

        But it can’t peanut butter money around the Peninsula for POBS. And I’m not so sure that the H could be STRided so cheaply. It has to pass through that horrid intersection where Delridge meets Lower Spokane, and Delridge isn’t all that free-flowing to do without dedicated lanes. ST would probably have to build bus-only ramps to the West Seattle Freeway which would look like the plans for Link. But, again another $200 million is chump change versus $4 ultra large.

        The truth is that we can’t wave a wand and say “more buses will be better than Link” because “more buses” have to be mostly paid for out of some other pocket.

      17. Stride or ST Express branding reflect the the level of service and finality of the choice. 405 and 522 already have ST Express; Stride indicates an upgrade. Stride is a kind of poor man’s light rail, for areas ST doesn’t think ridership is there yet or it can’t afford rail. ST studied light rail for WSJ-Burien-Renton but said Renton-Bellevue isn’t ready for it yet. Stride is to prebuild the corridor and monitor whether it might be ready for rail in several decades. I assume Bellevue-Lynnwood is the same. 522 has been a Link candidate corridor for long time. It’s now being realized as Stride, probably to fit into the ST3 budget rather than a change of mind, because it’s still a Link candidate corridor possibly in ST4.

        So the hierarchy is Link, Stride, ST Express. Some corridors are expected to go higher eventually, while others are at their ceiling.

        ST Express covers a wide range of services. I initially understood it as all-day expresses, because that’s what the 510/511/512, 522, 535,545, 550, 554, 574, and 594 were. Some corridors have peak-only service like the 566. I don’t know whether ST originally intended that or backed into it. But the reality now is that some corridors are 15 minutes daytime, some 30 minutes daytime, some peak-only, the 535 has no Sunday service, and the 574 has a weird 2am-10pm schedule to coincide with airport shifts. Only the first of these even approaches frequent or high-capacity transit.

        The 560 initially went to Alaska Junction. Then it was truncated at Westwood Village due to low ridership. So both of those are regional enough for ST service. I have a vague thought in my head that the 560 my have gone all the way to the Admiral District, but I don’t remember for sure.

        Whether ST can fund RapidRide operations or serve smaller villages has not definitively been answered. We only have the ad hoc things ST says, and our armchair lawyers’ interpretation of the statutes. So what we really need to do is ask ST to consider it, and they can tell us what their lawyers say. The problem is alternative ideas get sandbagged before that. ST won’t study a Metro 8 line and won’t say why. It said a Midtown 8th & Madison station was in scope, then it said it was out of scope, then it said it was in scope again but it was too late in the EIS process to consider it. (In other words, a restaurant is open from 11-1. At 11am you order a pizza but they say pizzas are prohibited. A 1:30pm they say pizzas are allowed so you order a pizza, but they reply it’s too late in the day to make it and you should have ordered it earlier. Also known as Catch-22.) Other things we ask for like a West Seattle Fauntleroy alignment or West Seattle multi-line BRT, they won’t study and don’t say why. Some of these could be legal and others not, but the reply is identical so we can’t tell, and it’s doubtful the lawyers have even looked at it.

        ““How do we talk West Seattle down off the ledge?” That is, they’re gonna be REALLY miffed if they don’t get “their” train.”

        It’s not really West Seattle; it’s the ST Board. Every city or district wants light rail, and pushes ST for it. ST acknowledges only some of those. Dow Constantine put his thumb on the scale and said West Seattle first. We assume that’s because he lives there and is sympathetic to its suburban-like sense of entitlement, but we don’t really know. Ballard clearly has the most ridership/density justification to be next, but Dow said West Seattle, and ST said West Seattle-SODO stub as an early deliverable (maybe to show deference to that entitlement, we don’t know), so that’s where we are.

        The actual West Seattle public is probably a mixture of a few light rail die-hards, some transit enthusiasts who don’t understand the Link alignment will be counterproductive, some transit enthusiasts who want an alternative (BRT or other), many people who don’t know much about it, and some people who don’t want trains near them or near anybody.

    2. Mike is right. From a legal standpoint, it wouldn’t work. However, Seattle could vote on a non-binding resolution (similar to the viaduct). We would probably be better off with something vague, rather than specific. I would leave out the part about free transit. It would be very weird to have one part of the city having free transit, while everyone else pays. It also opens up a debate that should be larger. Otherwise it could be fairly simple, and just promise to switch the money to bus service and bus infrastructure.

      You would probably want to have a model plan, but since it this would be a non-binding resolution, it would basically just be an example. I’ll get to Mike’s other point below.

      1. Seattle could pay ST to implement non-ST3 projects, like McGinn did to get ST to study his Westlake streetcar concept alongside Ballard-downtown Link. But it couldn’t force ST to cancel Link projects. At most it would just be an advisory vote. (“We’d like you to cancel these projects.”) Actually, maybe there could be some merit in that. But it would have to be honest that this is just expressing an opinion, not changing ST3 in a legally-binding way.

      2. What would the delivery date be for the bus projects?

        How many years for planning, design, implementation, etc.?

        For how many years will the improvements be funded? What happens when the initial funding runs out?

        What is the specific list of “transit improvements” that will be funded?

      3. “What would the delivery date be for the bus projects?”

        Sooner than West Seattle Link or Ballard Link. And bus implementations could be faster than they are. The G was delayed in hiring a project director, and because no American manufacturer of trolley buses with left-side doors could be found. The J and R were/are delayed due to funding limitations. When the public demands studying many alternatives or obstructs the process, it adds to the delay. East Link had both problems; Ballard Link has the first.

        “What is the specific list of “transit improvements” that will be funded?”

        There’s no list yet because this is brand-new and imaginary.

  13. west seattle needs small bus shuttles to get people out of their cars to go to a junction for commerce, restaurants, shopping, movie, a beer, farmer’s market etc.. Also we need to figure out a way to get parents to stop using cars to pick up children from school ie walking, shuttles, carpools. If we can unclog west seattle of cars for “short trips” maybe we could get mass transit to get us off the island from the south end of the island. It sure would be cool to use cars less on the island.

    1. I agree but “island”? I’ve always referred to it as a peninsula.

      Anyway, I agree. What West Seattle needs more than anything is just better bus service. It is really telling when you look at the transit map (https://seattletransitmap.com/app/) and then consider how often the buses run:

      37, 55, 116, 118, 119 — Suspended
      56/57 — Rush hour only
      22 — Worse than hourly
      773 — Hourly (more or less)
      125, 775 — Every half hour
      50, 128 — Every 20 minutes
      21 — Every 15 minutes
      C, H — Every 10 minutes

      This is weekday. It is worse on weekends. The C and H are the only buses that I would consider frequent (and just barely). The 21 is acceptable, while everything else is infrequent or very infrequent. Look at that map again, and mentally erase all of the infrequent buses. You’ve got huge sections of West Seattle with nothing. This is the bulk of West Seattle, and it makes getting around very difficult. If you ran the buses more often, it wouldn’t be.

  14. Sound Move was reset in major ways and the changes were approved by a two-thirds vote of the board. Examples: north Sounder became one-way and peak-only; Link stations at NE 45th Street, First Hill, and South Graham Street were deleted or postponed; a two-way all-day busway on I-90 was not implemented; a center access ramp at NE 85th Street in Kirkland was dropped and a new KTC, and a Totem Lake TC, NE 128th Street overcrossing, and NE 85th Street sidewalks were substituted. ST3 could be changed in a similar radical manner; the political likelihood of the ST board doing that is slight. Instead, they will delay and attempt to do ST3 Link.

    The No Build option needs to be something more robust than the nothing of the EIS theory. It should use the ST3 stream of funds in the North King subarea. Candidate projects have to fit within the enabling legislation. Candidates: shorter headway and waits on lines C, D, E, G, and H; transit flow improvements on the RR lines; transit flow improvements in the DSTT to handle more trains and riders. Could the E Line become a Swiss style double-articulated ETB with great priority through traffic? Could the remaining Link lines be provided shorter headway and waits? South Graham Street station could be added. Could Link still have three lines in the DSTT: east, south, and SODO? West Seattle local bus routes could serve that station.

    1. I’m waiting until things come to a head and ST is forced to make larger changes. That may not be for some years, because it isn’t giving any indication of thinking about that now. That’s why it’s important to have our alternatives articulated in articles, so that if ST ever gets willing to consider other things, we can point them to alternatives that are at least somewhat thought out, and send them URLs or printouts of the articles.

    2. “The No Build option needs to be something more robust than the nothing of the EIS theory. ”

      This is exactly the problem: All the “build” alternatives are too similar. They only vary by minor variations. They all assume the current Link technology. The EIS is fundamentally deficient on its face because the Build alternatives don’t offer the range of choices that it should.

      That was done partly because ST said that they didn’t want broader alternatives in the EIS to “save time” in 2016 and the ST3 vote. Of course, the cost and revenue numbers were so way off that everything has been wildly delayed. (A good case could be made that ST3 was predicated on a series of lies, but that’s water under the bridge.) Add to that the recent Board decisions to choose a significantly altered alternative as “preferred” without study. I think a good case could be made that the EIS process has not been applied correctly.

      I think ST is foolish in avoiding broader technology alternative in the EIS. At some point an opponent will contemplate suing the EIS as too limiting unless the No Build option gets chosen.

      The great irony to me is that switching technologies and changing the system requirements could reduce the costs of WS Link so significantly that it could to make the project doable.

      There are so many other technologies — from a rubber tired train or double articulated bus using the West Seattle bridge to shorter automated trains to a cable system that could be considered — in addition to enhancing the SODO busway and connecting it directly to the West Seattle bridge as well as building connectors to more seamlessly connected Third Ave.

    3. eddie, I don’t think paying for more frequent RapidRide service is allowable “long term”. All the other things you mentioned about making capital improvements or paying to reduce headways within North King are allowable. But the City Council is a roadblock to that rubber-tired train version of the E, attractive as it would be. The Council is not going to extend the full time bus lanes down Aurora, even though a large portion of the drivers on it are from Shoreline or SnoHoCo.

      Given the anti-Seattle attitude of many suburbanites as made clear by a former Frequent Commenter Cardmember, I’m surprised someone doesn’t run for Council on a “Seattle for Seattleites” platform and advocate for lanes on LCW and Aurora.

      1. No, most E Line riders are from Seattle. A continuous BAT lane is within reach. Each Seattle administration has been more transit friendly in the past three decades. With Lynnwood Link, Shoreline riders will shift to Link.

        Yes, the interim of the RTA enabling legislation may last decades.

      2. eddie, I said most of the drivers were from Sno and Shorline, not the riders on the E. There are plenty of them to and from Shoreline, at least now. As you said, many of the Shoreline riders will switch to Link if the east-west service is adequate.

        Tell me who on the current Council has advocated for LCW and or Aurora lanes? The incomers are apparently a bit less pro-transit on average than the folks leaving. Or at least, they make less noise about it.

      3. The city council hasn’t so far but that doesn’t mean it never will. It may take ten or twenty years but the public has been gradually shifting to more pro-transit. The main opposition to transit-priority lanes on Aurora is a few loud business owners who market Aurora as “car-friendly”. Seattle is already planning to turn Aurora into a more complete street, so buses may get some benefit in that.

      4. I agree with eddie and Mike. First of all, it isn’t up to the city council, it is the mayor that does this sort of thing*. I’ve talked to Spotts (the head of SDOT) personally on a couple of occasions. I have no doubt that he would add bus lanes the whole way of Aurora without hesitation if given the chance.

        It is all about the money. You have to have money to study things. While he is definitely pro-bike/bus/pedestrian, he has said that you can’t “just do it”. You have to study the effects on traffic. It is also a good idea to engage the public. Any change is bound to piss off someone. The more people feel they are heard, the better off you are (even if they end up going a different direction). It sucks that it takes so long (and costs more than it would if we “just did it”) but that is life. The big thing we need for the various corridors is money.

        I was told by him that the priority is Rainier Avenue. At the same time, the 40 corridor is also being improved. They did “take a lane” on Aurora, but they gave it to bikes. These are all radical moves compared to the past. If you told me ten years ago that they are thinking of taking lanes on Rainier, Westlake, Leary and Aurora, I would say you are living in a fantasy world. But things changed, and I really don’t see them going back.

        * We have a “strong-mayor” system in this city, but it is easier from a political standpoint to bash the city council, especially since the mayor isn’t up for reelection. The city council is more about budgets, and passing legislation (e. g. legalizing potbelly pigs).

      5. Oh, and in my opinion, the biggest problem in the near future is a conflict with bikes and buses. There is a limited amount of space. If you take a general purpose lane on Aurora, do you give it to bikes or buses? That one stretch of Aurora which they gave to bikes actually had no buses, so it worked out fine. But in general, that is where the conflict lies.

        I think in many cases it is an unnecessary conflict. You are better off running the bikes on residential streets. Take Fremont Avenue, in the north end. This connects to the Interurban Trail (so you can get to Shoreline). It runs in between Aurora and Fremont and is a fairly flat, consistent grade. It is currently a Greenway, and actually has traffic lights along much of the corridor. At every major cross street (105th, 85th and 80th) you have a traffic light for bikes that prevents cars from going straight. It is really missing one key piece: bike lanes. It is really crazy how much work they have done on this corridor (all of which is great) while leaving out bike lanes.

        This wouldn’t be the end of the world, except they are considering bike lanes on adjacent corridors (like Greenwood, and yes Aurora). The city really needs to move towards putting the bike lanes on residential streets (whenever possible) while adding bus and BAT lanes on the arterials.

        I think that is one of the lost opportunities with the Wedgwood bike fiasco. To be fair, bike advocates were absolutely correct. The city shouldn’t pull plans for bike lanes at the last minute. The bike lanes on the main arterial actually made sense, simply because of the geography. But if the community says they want the bikes on the residential streets, call their bluff. Take parking, add bike lanes, close off intersections to cars along various residential streets. The route would not be as straightforward as Fremont (riders would have to weave back and forth) but it would still work, and serve as a model for the rest of the city.

        There are no absolutes when it comes to things like this. There will always be exceptions. But whenever possible, the bike paths should be on residential streets, leaving room for BAT and bus lanes.

      6. The bike corridors work well in Portland.

        Eg: SE Division is a busy commercial street, but the much quieter SE Clinton is the bike corridor. It has frequent obstacles to prevent autos from using it as a bypass freeway. Busy streets such as Caesar Chavez or 26th are crossed with a 4 way stop or traffic light.

      7. Ross, yes, Fremont north of the Park is a great street for bikes. As you note, it has an easy and consistent grade, and it’s only two short blocks from Aurora on 62nd or folks willing to ride a bit farther can go entirely around the Phinney Ridge rise by following Green Lake Way and riding down Stone Way to the water.

        It would need a flasher at a minimum at 65th and forced turns every few blocks, but that’s chump change. My friends live on 12th NE in Maple Leaf, which is an urban greenway and it works very well for pedestrians and, generally, for bikes.

        The biggest problem is that it was before forced turns became the default obstacle. The ones it has are just very small traffic circles, so cars can go straight for many blocks. They just have to do it fairly slowly. Maybe that’s OK.

      8. I like bike corridors in general, but they don’t work for Rainier Ave as Rainier is the only diagonal and flat option. There is no comparable parallel route, the Rainier Greenway has many more turns and hills. But as long as bike ridership and bus frequency isn’t too high, they can share the same red lane. Since they added a red (bus) lane on Rainier, I like riding my bike much more on Rainier, it was quite dangerous before.

      9. > The Council is not going to extend the full time bus lanes down Aurora, even though a large portion of the drivers on it are from Shoreline or SnoHoCo.

        I’m a bit confused here. Most relevant sections of Aurora already have bus lanes. Notably the bridge lacks bus lanes but the width is too narrow that the busses already straddle two lanes there. North of the bridge it’s got bus lanes until N 145th (shoreline).

        Or are you talking about a bus lane separate from the right turn lanes?

  15. i am not in disagreement with what is written here, but it is missing a big element which is that as with all sound transit projects, this is merely a phase. all of these unfavorable comparisons are eliminated once the line continues further south.

    there is no way to build out the entirety of a transportation system at once. i wish we did more and sooner (and without the bs american and seattle style delays). but once the line extends to morgan, westwood, and white center a bunch of these concerns evaporate. and eventually that line can continue further south/southeast into the suburbs.

    we will never have the system we want if we don’t make some of the choices that pan out long term while being challenging in the short term…

    1. It is highly unlikely that the train goes any further south than West Seattle. We have way more pressing needs than West Seattle, let alone an extension of West Seattle Link that would not be cheap (since they have decided to go underground).

    2. So wouldn’t going further south than Alaska St require more tunneling? Tunneling is expensive, and the streets like California Ave and Fauntleroy Way are just too narrow for even an aerial alignment on stilts. The only way I see going further south using Link trains is to tunnel or demolish hundreds of homes. I guess the alignment could shift to 35th Ave but I don’t see that as a viable at grade or aerial option either because the residents will fight it strongly. .

      There are plenty of areas more worthy of a subway tunnel than West Seattle is. A First Hill line or a Metro 8 Line or a Ballard-UW Line are all much denser and more worthy of a subway. It’s why I take issue with even building the one subway station at Alaska Street.

      1. Agree strongly Al. If WSLE is built it should be on the surface from the edge of the plateau through the Triangle and at Alaska Junction. Maybe it needs a trench to get under Fauntleroy, but it should come right back up. The end of LR lines is exactly where one wants to be on the surface, because it improves access and there’s no-one from “beyond” to delay.

    3. If the line were extended to White Center via Morgan, High Point and Westwood it would indeed solve many of the walk-up access problems and provide more destinations within West Seattle for riders originating outside the area. But that would probably be another $4 billion — probably more — in current dollars, since it would have to be tunneled since there’s no wide streets running the proper direction and therefore at a minimum require four additional underground stations.

      The tunneling itself isn’t that big a deal, but the large stations required for four-hundred foot trains are.

      And while it’s probably feasible to go elevated south of White Center using the left turn refuges on 16th SW and Ambaum for the supports, the folks in Burien would be hollering that “Seattle got a tunnel; we deserve one too!” So an elevated line practically speaking wouldn’t be possible until east of the crossing of 509 way down in Burien.

      That’s a bundle of buckos for yet another suburban commuter line.

      1. The obvious answer, if you really need to serve West Seattle, is elevated over the Duwamish and at-grade down Delridge, providing opportunity to go to Burien or the airport. Delridge is the obvious way to spend the money wisely. Tunnelling to a dead-end at the junction, even if it serves the wealthier parts of West Seattle and a Matador, is expensive and provides little to the broader swathe of West Seattle that a Delridge Station could also serve.

        Keep it cheap, keep it low, keep it moving south to hit many more pockets of density and far greater opportunities and interest for TOD.

      2. Marginal Way has a river on one side, and a cliff on the other. Not exactly an ideal walkshed. I guess you could serve the workers at LaFarge and the shipyards, but not what you think of as the enthusiastic transit demographic.

      3. If the line were extended to White Center via Morgan, High Point and Westwood it would indeed solve many of the walk-up access problems and provide more destinations within West Seattle for riders originating outside the area. But that would probably be another $4 billion — probably more — in current dollars, since it would have to be tunneled since there’s no wide streets running the proper direction and therefore at a minimum require four additional underground stations.

        Yes, and that explains the fundamental problem with West Seattle rail in general, and West Seattle Link in particular. The current plan is to add three stations, all of which are fairly close to a freeway that provides a very fast connection to downtown, with little in between. This means you add very little value, while it costs a huge amount of money (simply because of the topography).

        If you extend the line further, you start adding more value. Places like High Point and Westwood are far enough from a freeway (or any type) that the train eliminates slower sections. Not extremely slow (as in other parts of the city) but the train would start competing with buses (and maybe driving in some cases). You’ve also created more combinations along the way. To be fair, West Seattle Link created combinations, but none are actually big trip pairs (and sometimes make more sense on foot or with the bus). In contrast, I’m sure a few hundred people go from Westwood or High Point to the Junction.

        But now you have spent an enormous amount of money, and you still haven’t added that many riders. There are no major attractions there. You’ve basically just added something similar to the Rainier Valley Stations, but you’ve spent way, way more money. Both Rainier Valley and West Seattle would have stations that are cultural centers (Columbia City or Alaska Junction) but not at the level of Capital Hill. You’ve got a few stations that have a decent amount of housing density, but not much else (Othello/High Point). This is all well and good, but it isn’t doesn’t add up to a huge improvement for that many riders. Serving Rainier Valley with rail was quite cheap — running rail deep into West Seattle would not be.

        It just isn’t a great value.

      4. The obvious answer, if you really need to serve West Seattle, is elevated over the Duwamish and at-grade down Delridge, providing opportunity to go to Burien or the airport. …

        Keep it cheap, keep it low, keep it moving south to hit many more pockets of density and far greater opportunities and interest for TOD.

        Yes, that is likely to have the best return for the money. Even then, it would likely be quite expensive for what it gets you. There are several problems with West Seattle rail:

        1) West Seattle is connected to downtown via what is essentially a series of freeways (the West Seattle Bridge and SR 99).

        2) There is very little between West Seattle and downtown.

        3) The destinations on West Seattle are spread out, and few of them are “on the way”. My guess is the three biggest destinations are The Junction, Alki, and South Seattle College (and not necessarily in that order). West Seattle Link would serve only one. A Delridge plan wouldn’t serve any.

        4) There are no particularly large pockets of population density. It isn’t like the U-District or Capitol Hill. This might change with a rail line, it might not. In general, the city is moving more towards a “moderate density everywhere” approach, as opposed to the “pockets of density and large swaths of nothingness” approach we adopted a while ago.

        5) It is fairly expensive just to get to Delridge, even if you keep it low. You’ve still got to go over the Duwamish for starters. If the bridge opened, then that would keep the price down a bit. But you are still probably going above ground all the way until you get close to SoDo. That’s close to three miles of elevated track (and a bridge that opens) just to get there.

        At that point, you still have the same basic problem. You have to add a bunch of stations just to make up for the initial cost of getting to the peninsula. These stations would be much cheaper than tunneled stations, but they would still be elevated (unless we wanted to run on the surface, and if we are willing to do do that, we might as well just have BRT).

        If only there was a fast way to get from West Seattle to downtown, you wouldn’t have this problem. Oh wait, there is! There is an existing bridge, that connects to an existing viaduct. A bus makes no stops between West Seattle and the edge of downtown. None. Neither does a driver (which is part of the problem). It makes way more sense to leverage that extremely expensive bit of infrastructure (that isn’t going anywhere) than it does to build light rail there.

        I’ve said it before, but you’ve got a classic case of where BRT makes sense:

        1) No areas of high density on the peninsula (of any type: employment, entertainment, housing, education, etc.).

        2) Pockets of moderately dense areas, spread out over many miles, and not connected.

        3) Great existing infrastructure connecting the area to downtown that could be leveraged by buses (but not trains).

        4) Building just one rail station is extremely expensive.

        The obvious answer is to invest in bus infrastructure here, not rail.

    4. What if it went further south from the outset? What I have in mind is avoid the expensive portion from Delridge to Alaska Junction, and just run elevated above the street, above the RapidRide H. Might even get all the way to Westwood Village versus the tunnel option? Meanwhile, upgrade the RapidRide C to a Stride BRT line.

      1. Some of us suggested to ST running it on Fauntleroy Way to save money. It wasn’t interested in that either.

      2. ST could “upgrade” RR C to a STRide line between the Junction and South Lake Union, but ST cannot permanently go south of The Junction picking up two or three people at quarter mile stops. That is not “high capacity transit” in anybody’s definition. It’s just about “Corridor Level BRT” (which the C and H already are), but Corridor Level BRT is not “high capacity transit”. The vehicles are too small and the reliability too poor.

      3. The problem is tunneling underground. If they were to move forward with an at-grade approach or even at least elevated then it could be possible to extend it further south.

        With it being build underground it’s practically impossible. It just costs way too much. There lots of other cities that want light rail as well and it’s really hard to justify continual billion dollar underground stations in West Seattle.

  16. Once the line is fully built, Metro is expected to truncate the current bus lines at the various Link stations

    I think that is a safe assumption. But as a mental exercise, imagine they don’t. Imagine they just run both. You then have the following groups of riders:

    1) Those close to the station who prefer walking to the train (instead of the bus). I would imagine this is most of the people within walking distance to the train, but not everyone. Most of the time, the bus is just about as fast — it really depends on your destination.

    2) Riders who transfer from a bus that is headed downtown. Very few would do this, but there would be some. Again, it depends on your destination. If you are going to the UW, it could save you time, although it isn’t clear if it would. The train downtown will run twice as often, while the bus in only a bit slower. It depends a bit on the quality of the transfer in West Seattle.

    3) Riders who have to transfer to get downtown right now anyway (e. g. Alki). This is similar to the first group. I would guess that most would prefer transferring to a train, but not necessarily. What is clear is that not that many people do that now. The 50 connects to both RapidRide lines (and the 21) as well as Link, and carries less than 3,000 a day. It is highly unlikely those people are transferring to get downtown in big numbers. The 128 gets more riders, but again, I would bet a relatively small portion make the transfer at Alaska Junction.

    What are we talking about, maybe 5 to 10 thousand, at best? These are the people that benefit from West Seattle Link. Now consider how much time they save. Not much, really. If you simply doubled the frequency of the all the buses serving West Seattle you would provide far more benefit.

    1. I just realized this post doesn’t reference Metro’s Long Range Plan “Metro Connects”, which was updated in 2021 and has maps showing Metro’s “interim network” and “2050 Network”. Obviously the plan can and will change, but it’s here: https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/about/planning/metro-connects/metro-connects-final.pdf

      Figure 8 (pdf page 24) shows the 2050 plan: no RapidRide C (but a “RadidRide candidate” route running from Alaska Junction to Fauntlroy and southeast to Burien), and RapidRide H being diverted to Alki via Admiral.

      1. Interesting, In the document RapidRide is defined as having half-mile stop spacing. So in some places it may approach “high capacity”. Along California south of Alaska where there are local coverage routes, the C does certainly act like a BRT overlay with a full mile between Alaska and Findlay without a stop and another 6/10 to Morgan. But the parallel H is closer to a quarter mile spacing.

      2. I would take plans like that with a huge grain of salt. At best they are just general outlines. They want to do this sort of thing, but may change their mind. I remember when Metro had a very similar plan, and it was shorter term. It had a fairly clear set of routes for when Link and things like Rapid Ride G were done. Many of the plans were very good in my opinion. But then when it came time to actually make the changes, it looked nothing like that. The restructure was completely different, and in my opinion, much worse. They had essentially ignored what the long term plans were.

        As far as stop spacing goes, there is no standard, nor should there be. The average distance between stations on the Paris Metro is 562 m (1,844 ft). Many are about a quarter mile. Our own subway system has stops about a quarter mile apart downtown. The RapidRide E has stops about a quarter mile apart most of the way, and it is by far the most successful of our RapidRide lines (and I would argue the closest to “true BRT” in our system). RapidRide G will soon be the most “BRT” of any bus line ever built in the state, and the stops will be on average around 350 meters apart. It is all context.

        Just for giggles, consider the G. You start at First Avenue, which means you definitely have a stop on Third Avenue (where all the buses run perpendicular, and you pick up Link). You definitely want another stop this side of the freeway, and 5th & Madison is probably the most densely populated part of Seattle (on a day when folks work at the office). Then you cross the freeway, and are now in the heart of First Hill, again one of the most densely populated parts of Washington. This is the land of very big buildings, and even the smaller building are packed to the gills with people (a lot of whom are coming and going). Then you’ve got Broadway (great in its own right, and a major intersection) followed by Union (ditto), Pike/Pine (ditto) and next thing you know, you are at 23rd, then MLK, where skipping a stop just sounds stupid. I might shift around the stops a bit, but I don’t see any reason why I would delete a stop. Like the Paris Metro, the spacing seems fine.

        If you consider BRT to be a substitute for a subway, then the stop spacing should be similar. It is generally really expensive to build underground stations. Even above ground stations can be expensive. If you can afford it, then the Paris Metro is great. If you can’t, then you have fewer stations.

        It is also worth considering what typical trams (or streetcars) have. A lot of BRT systems more closely resemble a tram/streetcar system then they do a metro/subway. They run on the surface, where stops are not that expensive to add. They generally have short stop spacing. For Toronto “The current average stop spacing on streetcar routes is approximately 250 meters. ”

        My point is, there is nothing magical about half mile, quarter mile, or any other gap when it comes to stop spacing. It is all about context.

  17. It’s sad that the board is likely to choose worse and worse decisions. In 30 years or so if this thing is built, what does Sound Transit even plan on building next? The fact that we likely have no idea is in itself a symptom of completely systemic problem of this region

    It never feels like they had a plan that was even given a modest reality check as to what the details entailed nor any push back. All that they planned for was “get to lynwood, get to Everett, get to Bellevue, get to Tacoma, etc” and every other detail played second fiddle

    It seems like the most coherent plan there has been was that SDOT light rail corridors map but I’m not sure if even that passes any sniff test. It goes down the right path in at least exploring the idea that we should be building rail transit…in Seattle at the very least but is that many miles of rail even realistic for us to build let alone the elephant in the room that is ST3?

    It does highlight one thing though. The fact that those lines on a map by SDOT got so much fanfare underpins just how absent our city leaders/bureaucracy has been in the development of link. That is a failure – that we didn’t give ST the same treatment as King county metro treating it as our cities agency who’s plans we as a city needed to weigh in on because they have the potential to serve us

    So to simply examine this for a moment. U-link should have had more stations in Seattle, this much is obvious. But beyond acknowledging that is there any realistic way to address it? Firstly metro 8 absolutely needs bus lanes and signal priority, rapid ride treatment. But as for light rail…would any remedy make sense? Does SDOT’s metro 8 light rail line (or any of the map for that matter) make sense? Would building a new U-link alignment following likely something similar to the original forward thrust line through central Seattle up to UW station make sense? We all know it would cost money but do any of these plans make sense?

    It’s a sad indictment of how much faith in our leaders I have that I even seem to be asking myself these questions

    1. ST3 includes part of what was previously expected to be in ST4, so it doesn’t feel like it has to make a decision for twenty years. The primary goal will be finished: Everett, Redmond, and Tacoma. The subareas’ interests may diverge after that, with North King wanting much more than the others. That may make it difficult to put together a subarea-balanced package, since all subareas must have the same tax rate and duration (because it’s a single tax district). So the other subareas may just say no to big projects.

      Getting into what projects the next ST4 might contain or should contain is too much for this article; we can discuss it in an open thread.

      A West Seattle extension is related to this article so I’ll summarize its status. In the mid 2010s ST studied a Junction-Burien-Renton extension. The Junction-Burien part was going to be around $4 or $5 billion because of tunneling under the hills. The entire line would have had a downtown-Renton travel time of 40 minutes, similar to the 101. That’s amazing when it detours to West Seattle and Burien, but that shows the speed of grade-separated transit. The study result showed it would have high cost and low ridership. South King and East King went quiet about the line when they heard the result, so we don’t know how much they’ll renew their push for it in the future. North King has several other transit needs that a West Seattle extension would have to compete with, like the also-studied Ballard-UW line.

      1. In my opinion you’d need two lines to build for Renton and Burien to make it worth it cost and ridership wise. One you stated and another line that connects Renton to Rainer Valley line via Bryn Mwar or MLK Blvd. In my opinion, both are needed lines that would provide improved transit to Northern South King/South Seattle. Alongside provide an opportunity to improve housing density in South of Seattle area.
        This is why I believe the whole debate on West Seattle Link to be missing the forest for the trees on the issue and throwing out the baby with the bath water. Alongside the fact that RapidRide lines in West Seattle will reach the overcrowding problem again in the future and we need to be planning for that and that means looking at solutions that aren’t “more bus service” because our resources for drivers is limited and we should be looking at solutions that frees up drivers.

      1. Link could have from Westlake: Bellevue & Pine, Capitol Hill Station, 15th & Thomas, 23rd & Aloha, 520, then UW. That would make a continuous walkshed from Westlake to 23rd, so that people wouldn’t have to take buses between station areas. It would create at least partial walksheds on 23rd/24th. All this could theoretically replace the 43 without loss of functionality.

    2. I agree with your assessment John. In my opinion, the problem is the lack of expertise as well as hubris on the board. I’ve played this mental exercise with a lot of my friends, many of whom are highly educated. They have sat on important boards and had powerful positions. I’ve asked them the same question: Imagine you, personally, are on the board and are told you can spend 50 billion dollars (give or take) improving transit, what do you do?

      The first thing all of them say is “I don’t know” followed by “maybe I would …”. Eventually though, most of them do exactly what I would do: Hire consultants to figure how best to spend the money. Hire a team. Maybe two or three to get a different set of opinions. Have them come up with several ideas. Not necessarily in great detail — that would be a lot more expensive — but just rough plans. Or maybe they ask if such a team exists within the agency (it doesn’t) or how it cooperates with Metro (or other transit agencies) when it comes to planning rail. (The transit agencies are largely brought it in after the fact. Not only after the initial decision (e. g. build rail to Issaquah) but after they pick individual stations as well.)

      ST doesn’t do any of this. They started with a mission: Build a “spine” — a light rail line from Everett to Tacoma. Everything about this is arbitrary. Why light rail? Why Everett to Tacoma? In all cases, the answer was basically “because it sounds good”, as opposed to “that is what the experts recommended”.

      So they muddle along. Various decisions were done the same way. Faced with going north versus south initially, they chose south. The experts told them they would get way more riders per mile going north, but they seems more interested in appearances than value. Even when they finally built the line that everyone — I mean everyone — in the transit world thought was worthy (UW to downtown) — it was half-ass. Oh, it could have been worse — they could have gone via the freeway. But there were several mistakes. One station between the UW and downtown (while removing the Convention Place Station). Two stations in the UW (instead of three). The UW Station is also relatively weak, located in the worst possible spot in the area (north, south, or in the middle of the triangle would be better). But guess what? The section is so fundamentally strong, those two stations actually doubled Link ridership. U-District station is excellent, and ST deserves credit for doing it right there, as well as at Roosevelt. Northgate is solid, and with the bridge to the college, about as good as you are going to get for the money.

      Faced with this unjustified confidence (given to them by a public that isn’t looking at things at great detail) they swung for the fences. Again, the first priority was “The Spine”. It is literally one of the measures on each and every project. But the obsession with the spine is merely an example of the overall bad process that has lead us down this road. It is arbitrary. If things go as planned, West Seattle Link will be the next major rail extension in Seattle. Why? It is extremely expensive. Relatively few people will ride it. The time saving for many riders will be minimal. The benefit to the network will be minimal. It is very easy for me (albeit a transit nerd) to find projects that are probably more cost effective. Replace the 7 with a cut and cover rail line. Ballard to UW (which was studied, and found to be far more cost effective). A line from Mount Baker, Judkins, First Hill, Westlake and then just about anywhere north (Eastlake/Westlake/SLU/Belltown and so forth). West Seattle was chosen for completely arbitrary reasons, in the same way that The Spine is arbitrary.

      Now, of course, things have gotten worse. UW to Downtown was so fundamentally strong that losing what would likely have been one of our most popular stations (if not the most popular) was not the end of the world. We all miss First Hill, but UW Link is a huge success, despite the obvious warts.

      The same can’t be said for any ST3 project. Ballard is fragile — the details matter and mistakes similar to UW Link will likely make it worse than just spending money on buses. West Seattle Link is in much worse shape. The only thing that would make West Seattle Link a good value is if prices dropped considerably (and it resembled typical light rail). This hasn’t happened (nor was it likely to happen). It is the opposite.

      1. “Why Everett to Tacoma?”

        Because suburbanites want an alternative to getting stuck in freeway traffic. “Everett” is shorthand for Everett, Lynnwood, and Mountlake Terrace, and is the biggest city in Snohomish County. “Tacoma” is shorthand for Tacoma and Federal Way, and is the biggest city in Pierce County. “Redmond” is shorthand for Redmond and Bellevue.

        Seattle is only a third of King County’s population or a quarter of the region’s population, so what the suburbs want, the suburbs get.

        “Why light rail?”

        Because it’s street-compatible. Link was originally envisioned to be a lot more surface, like previous American light rails.

        But yes, they should have consulted transit network experts. They could have told ST that street-running and long distances are contradictory, because street-running is slow and long distance requires fast speed.

      2. “Why Everett to Tacoma?”

        Because suburbanites want an alternative to getting stuck in freeway traffic.

        So what? The vast majority of transit experts would tell you the best option — by far — for those riders is either commuter rail (on existing tracks) or express bus service. A subway — sorry — a light rail system, from a distant suburb/city won’t do crap for them. It just won’t.

        And why on earth are we prioritizing a relatively tiny portion of the population that will ever take transit over the masses (in the city) that will? This is what I mean by “arbitrary”. Arbitrary is defined as “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system”. I’m not saying it is random, it is just personal whim, without reason or system.

        I know the politics and ignorance behind many of these decisions, but they all add up to choosing an arbitrary (and poor) means of helping an arbitrary (and small) number of people, while the masses sit stuck on buses stuck slogging around the city.

        “Tacoma” is shorthand for Tacoma and Federal Way, and is the biggest city in Pierce County.

        Which again is arbitrary! City borders are arbitrary. Density is not. Kansas has 2.9 million people. Holy Cow! That is a lot of people. That is way more than Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue combined! They must have a subway system covering the whole state, right? Right?

        Big, sprawling cities and suburbs in distant areas do not benefit from subways. It only means one more transfer in the middle of nowhere, for a relative handful that will even bother. Again, we can argue about this until the cows come home, but why should we? We know more than the board, but that doesn’t mean we know more than experts, who can actually look at the data (and, most likely, confirm what I just wrote). But hey — prove me wrong! Hire those firms, and see if they say that the most cost-effective way to improve transit in the region is to build the spine (and West Seattle Link, and a second transit tunnel, and Issaquah-to-South-Kirkland-Park-and-Ride Link). I’ll eat my hat.

      3. “Because suburbanites want an alternative to getting stuck in freeway traffic.”

        “So what? The vast majority of transit experts…”

        So what to your so what. These are political decisions. The biggest public movement was drivers wanting to get out of freeway congestion, and their city leaders championing it partly because they wanted it too and partly to get their votes. Seattle is only a small portion of the county’s/region’s population, so even if Seattle wanted something different, that was overshadowed. This movement is what convinced the legislature to create Sound Transit, and what ST sees as its mandate, and thus the reason for the spine, and the spine’s prioritization over everything else, and West Seattle’s prioritization over other Seattle corridors. Because they have only a few ways off the penninsula, and the main one is a congested freeway.

      4. But again, that is all arbitrary! The areas that will have rail is arbitrary. The choice of rail is arbitrary. Of course there are political decisions being made, but they are based on ignorance.

        Here is an analogy: In 2003 the Cleveland Cavaliers had the first pick in the NBA draft. It was assumed that they would pick LeBron James, since every basketball expert made clear that he was not only the best player in the draft, but the type of player that comes along rarely. What if, instead, the owner decided to take the tallest basketball player available. “Basketball is about height, and the guy we are drafting is taller.” said the owner of the team.

        Fans would be pissed. Management would be pissed — some of them would resign. Folks who know very little about basketball would think “Actually, that seems like the right decision. Height does seem to be very important. The taller the better.”

        That is basically what is going on. Leaders who had no clue about transit were able to make arbitrary choices on behalf of a largely ignorant population.

        The biggest public movement was drivers wanting to get out of freeway congestion.

        But you don’t solve that problem with a subway! You solve that problem with bus lanes, express buses and commuter rail (running on existing tracks). You take advantage of existing infrastructure. Otherwise you are spending a fortune on something that doesn’t work as well (like drafting NBA players based only on height).

        Seattle is only a small portion of the county’s/region’s population

        But it has by far the most density! It has by far the biggest destinations (downtown Seattle, UW, First Hill, Capitol Hill). The only place that comes close is downtown Bellevue. When it comes to what works for transit, you mainly have Seattle, with a smattering of places on the East Side, and an even small list in the northern and southern suburbs.

        It really doesn’t matter what portion of the region is Seattle. It could be 100%. It could be 20%. What matters is whether it makes sense for rail or not. Density and proximity are the best proxies, but if you dig deeper, it all points to the same thing: Seattle should be the main focus of any major rail system.

        Seriously, if Seattle was a city of 700,000 with nothing outside it, rail from UW to downtown would still make sense. Look at the Forward Thrust Plan. Now imagine it stays completely inside the city. You’ve still got rail to Lake City and Ballard. You’ve still got BRT to West Seattle. You would probably move the line to Renton over so that it goes through the heart of Rainier Valley, and call it a day. It is far more compact, but also, quite likely, far more productive than what we are building.

        Of course we don’t live in that kind of city. Suburbs exist. But for the most part, the suburbs are spread out, and don’t have major destinations. The destinations they do have are spread out as well. This is very different than Seattle. The UW and Downtown Seattle are probably the two biggest destinations in the state. They are about four miles apart. In between, you have First Hill and Capitol Hill — also big destinations. Now consider the spine. Outside Seattle you have minor destinations until you get all the way up to Everett, which is a very long ways away. Going south, you have SeaTac, then Downtown Tacoma — so far away that Link basically ran out of gas before they could directly serve it. So not only are these places not very big destinations (or high density) they are really spread out. Connecting them in this manner adds very little value.

        But also consider the existing infrastructure. Freeways are fundamentally fast. If I want to drive from Tacoma to Seattle in the middle of the day, I’ll average close to 60 MPH. If I want to drive from the Central District to Queen Anne, I’ll be lucky if I average 15 MPH. Thus replacing an express bus (from the C. D. to Queen Anne) with a subway would save a lot more time, benefiting those riders a lot more.

        I could go on. We simply took the wrong approach, because so many decisions were arbitrary. We should have taken the more common approach used across the world: Build a subway covering the main parts of the city and connect it well to outside buses and regional trains. It is what DC did. But instead, folks just assumed that rail was the best approach for the region, and as a result, most of the people will be worse off. Not only the folks in the city, but folks in the suburbs (and surrounding cities) as well. If they had built a system like DC Metro, the vast majority of riders would be better off.

      5. Why Everett to Tacoma? In all cases, the answer was basically “because it sounds good”, as opposed to “that is what the experts recommended”.

        No, Ross, “Because the Legislature directed them to do it.” There would be no Central Puget Sound Transit Authority if the suburban legislators of Shoreline, Snohomish County, the small cities of East and South King County and non-Tacoma Pierce County had not had visions of Sugar Plum Trainsets dancing in their heads.

        A “We don’t want another MARTA fiasco” worry, was probably nagging them, too, in those days of Federal Largesse.

      6. I mean the thing is that we are kind of trying to build is basically a french RER or danish S-tog system. Aka more having long distance stations in the suburbs and then an underground shared tunnel in the core. Outer branches having 10/12/15 minute frequency that then becomes shared in the middle for 5/7.5 minute frequencies.

        But for some weird reason people (and even Sound Transit) keep trying to look towards urban subways when that’s not really what we’re building.

        > I could go on. We simply took the wrong approach, because so many decisions were arbitrary. We should have taken the more common approach used across the world: Build a subway covering the main parts of the city and connect it well to outside buses and regional trains. It is what DC did.

        I mean technically that is still semi possible. I guess redirecting funds to go towards say Amtrak Cascades (third tracking a lot more of the bnsf route) and have 15 round trips per day. This would emulate a having an ‘urban’ subway and then a more regional train system.

        I’m not quite sure if Everett or Tacoma would like that instead but at the same time I’m not quite sure if Everett has enough money to build an elevated track reaching both Paine Field and itself.

      7. If the state wants to invest in HSR, then we could run regional trains on the same infrastructure faster and more efficiently than LR and a connection from Tacoma or Everett to Seattle would actually be competitive in terms of travel time. Buses could fill in the area in between and automated light metro could serve neighborhoods such as Ballard.
        It looks like Seattle Times is going in that direction:

    3. JohnL: I think you express sentiments that many of us feel. That’s because we want transit to benefit riders as its primary measurable objective.

      I think the problem with the ST Board is that they think this is only a very tertiary measurable objective. They get a barrage of secret office visits and phone calls from developers, corporations, wealthy land owners, neighborhood groups and others who look at the ST money that is going to be spent and want to at least make sure it doesn’t make anything worse for them personally — and ideally make money for them. Oh sure those people will argue that what makes money personally for them adds value to the region so that it’s “economic development” but is it really?

      Then there are the governments that see ST3 as a funding source to solve other needed problems. Needing to rebuild all the Madison Street utilities? Let’s turn it into a transit project and use transit money instead for that! Needing to replace an antiquated public building? Let’s turn it into a transit project so that that funding pays for demolition and simultaneously move construction from other fussy building owners!

      Notice how little time the Board spends on GHG reduction, on optimizing ridership by either putting train sets where they get the highest use (short turning trains during peak times) or on re-engineering for automation to enable more frequent trains. They even changed their Preferred Alternative earlier this year knowing NOTHING about how it impacts ridership or reduces GHG! It looks to me that except for Balducci no one else is even trying to put riders and the environment first (except possibly the WSDOT ex officio member).

      At least with a growing regional population there is a way to make some lemonade out of much of ST3. South King and Snohomish cities seem more interested in residential up-zoning around stations than parts of Seattle do. ST2 opens up thousands of acres to frequent regional transit access that can be redeveloped to provide more housing over time. Kudos to places like Bellevue (Spring District), Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and others trying to foster new denser neighborhoods seemingly more aggressively than the City of Seattle is.

      I truly believe a day is coming when the operations of Link will be more important to these officials than building new tracks and stations is. We aren’t there yet. I’ve speculated that this will happen between 2025 and 2030. Once the real estate chess game has ended and construction begins — and especially when daily operations problems rear their ugly head, Board meetings will become overrun with daily crises and the “real estate friends parade” will trickle to having little impact since there won’t be much remaining to give away — until the next expansion vote.

  18. Great write-up! I’ve been “all in” on West Seattle Link, and reading this has me doubting, especially from the transit rider’s perspective!

    One question I have is whether “a” West Seattle line might alleviate some of these concerns: A line that goes down Delridge for a few stations, rather than doing Delridge to Alaska Junction. The idea being that Alaska Junction down the the ferry would be better off with BRT upgrades. IIRC some busses even stay on the ferry and continue to downtown via Fauntleroy, so it benefits them as well! Meanwhile, if you can build a few more stations down Delridge, elevated along a relatively flat route, you might eliminate the bus transfer for many people. Especially if you’re nimble and get all the way to Westwood Village. Also makes it easier to extend through White Center, Burien, maybe cut across to Renton if you’re ambitious for ST4. (I’m talking mainly from an equity and transit perspective here. Politically I know it would be very difficult to drop Alaska Junction!)

    1. Yes, if we hadn’t just made all the upgrades for RapidRide H a light rail line along Delridge might have made more sense. You would still need to cross over the WS bridge approach and the Duwamish and get around Pigeon Point. It’s still quite expensive. It might be better to stay low and go straight South on either side of the Duwamish and connect the WS buses to such line (along Roxbury for example) or build gondolas to connect the Junction, South Seattle College, White Center etc to that line.

      1. I mean that was the original to route for west Seattle link down delridge. Regarding the improvements of rapidride H on delridge it was nice but only cost 100/150 million compared to the 4 billion west Seattle is going to spend it’s fine to rebuild it again though of course a bit wasteful

      2. We suggested to ST a Delridge alignment instead of the Junction for better ridership and equity, but ST said no because it wanted to serve Alaska Junction.

      3. Yes, if Sound Transit and SDOT would really be equity focused, they would have done that; also, from a regional expansion point of view. They could have still run a gondola from Delridge Community Center up to the Junction in one direction and South Seattle College in the other direction.

      4. TBF, many are pushing for a Link line up Aurora, despite the E being there. The rail would presumably serve as the “express” the same way it works in the Rainier Valley, and kind of similar to the A and Fed. Way Link. Busses and rail can serve the same corridor. Also the H would presumably go to Admiral and Alki instead of crossing the bridge. The H could divert to the college while the train goes straight through? This is all possibly an overkill, though.

      5. Brandon, you can’t have BAT lanes for the E AND a “line up Aurora”, unless you’re thinking of tunneling it. That’s simply a non-starter.

  19. If you have time Wednesday afternoon, from 4:30 to 6:30 ST will have a “South Downtown” open house on CID and Pioneer Square station alternatives. From 5:45 to 7:50 the Seattle Transit Advisory Board meets, with a “Transit Service Planning 101” presentation at 6:30.

    ST open house:

    Seattle board:

  20. The buses in West Seattle are adequate, not great. I go into the office downtown once a week or more. The “Rapid” C Line is anything but… slogging its way down Third Avenue and then Columbia. It’s also crowded, standing room only much of the time. For commuting between Downtown and the Junction, Link will be a big improvement.

    For getting around West Seattle alone, bussing between Alki, Admiral, Alaska Junction and Morgan Junction, the 128, 50 and C Line are pretty decent actually. They run frequently enough, even on weekends and the buses actually show up. No ghost buses! Living car free in the northern part of the peninsula is definitely do-able.

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    1. Is this a suggestion that Delta take over Sound Transit’s or Metro’s operations? If so, you might have been wise to make the suggestion more explicit.

  22. Seattle City Council and the King County Council,
    I have issues and challenges that I would appreciate you addressing and taking care of these challenges.

    1. Put all the Neighborhood Powerlines Underground. Start with the Poorest Neighborhoods. I understand that the City of Seattle is planning to put the Powerlines in downtown Seattle and Capital Hill underground. Please start with the Poorest Neighborhoods. We must Improve the Seattle Neighborhoods 1% a Day.

    2. We need to find a way to improve our Sidewalks in Seattle Neighborhoods. Again, start with the poorest Neighborhoods. We must Improve the Seattle Neighborhoods 1% a Day.

    3. The Sound Transit Light Rail coming to West Seattle needs to be Under Ground. It was terrible in 2008 when Sound Transit but Light Rail Above Ground on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Many Groups, some Politicians and others take advantage of the poorer Neighborhoods. Please keep Sound Transit Under Ground in all Neighborhoods. The old saying or question, “What Side of the Tracks are you from?” Is still true today!
    We must Improve the Seattle Neighborhoods 1% a Day.

    Thank you for your support.

    1. This is a snark troll, right? And you forgot the “/snark” tag.

      Do you really believe it is possible to improve anything of a public nature by 1% a day? In less than half a year EVERY block in Seattle would have a sidewalk in your fantasy? Really? And every powerline — even including the high tension lines which use the aqueduct right of way across Beacon Hill? — will be underground in that same time?

      Your goals to build sidewalks and underground utilities are certainly admirable, but they will never come about at even one-fiftieth of the pace you demand.

    2. > Put all the Neighborhood Powerlines Underground. Start with the Poorest Neighborhoods.

      Putting everything underground is very very expensive. And honestly very low return on I’m not even sure what. Aesthetics mainly? I’d skip it unless if there is some actual need.

      > We need to find a way to improve our Sidewalks in Seattle Neighborhoods

      We already do fund sidewalk repair. And honestly around 15/20%ish of the transit budget ends up repairing sidewalks as well when rebuilding the street for busses.

      The traditional sidewalks are just pretty expensive to build and unless one wants to levy some high property tax to expedite sidewalk construction it’s not worth raiding the city coffers to build them.

      > but Light Rail Above Ground on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Many Groups, some Politicians and others take advantage of the poorer Neighborhoods

      It’s a very long story to retell there but in any case the only way sound transit could afford tunneling such a long stretch there would be cut and cover the entire stretch. Which probably would been contested for the lengthening construction impacts. For deep bore tunneling I’m pretty sure Link would not exist today if they had chosen such an expensive alignment.

      Also link chose to build the southern segment of downtown to the airport first over the northern segment from downtown to u district/northgate the “richer segment” hardly conforming to your idea.

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