Seattle Subway’s summary recommendations for the ST3 DEIS

As the public comment window for Sound Transit’s West Seattle Ballard Link Extension draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) comes to a close, it’s time to make your voice heard about what will be built as part of ST3. 

As always, powerful stakeholders who do not prioritize transit quality are very well represented in this process – we need your voice to make sure that our leaders hear from future transit riders.  When evaluating options, we focus  on what will be best for transit riders: reliability, expandability, and accessibility.  

There were a lot of surprises in this round of Sound Transit planning. Some of them were positive, such as options in West Seattle that seem to address both community and transit riders’ concerns, and cost parity between elevated and tunnel options in both Ballard and West Seattle.  

Some surprises were cause for alarm, such as deep stations, slow transfers, and lack of options that serve Central Ballard and South Lake Union. Sound Transit made significant steps  during this round but still has a long way to go. Sound Transit needs to study more options; because of that, we are not ready to recommend specific options for every alignment and station presented. After reviewing the draft plan, these are Seattle Subway’s recommendations for giving feedback on Sound Transit’s DEIS.  

BALLARD: 

Continue reading “Seattle Subway’s summary recommendations for the ST3 DEIS”

SLU Station Can Be Better, Cheaper, and Easier to Build on Westlake

When looking at the two options presented by Sound Transit for South Lake Union (SLU) in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), we’re struck by how poorly the station will serve South Lake Union.  The Harrison option is deep at about 120’ and all the way on the western edge of SLU.  The Mercer option is slightly less deep at about 85’ but its location west of highway 99 isn’t really in SLU and involves an extremely poor pedestrian environment.  Both stations are monumentally difficult to build and expensive due to their proximity to highway 99.  We can avoid all of those issues and build a station that serves South Lake Union far better by building the SLU station on Westlake.  

The Center of SLU deserves a station.

A station under Westlake located approximately between Harrison and Republican has a lot of advantages. Though it’s still slightly to the west of the center of South Lake Union, the walkshed includes nearly all of this dense neighborhood.  It’s aligned with the Denny station which means isolated construction impacts and the potential for a shallow station.  It can also cross SR 99 further north where it isn’t as deep while avoiding the need for a complex and expensive mined station under the highway.  

Central SLU is somewhere around Westlake and Republican

A SLU station under Westlake aligned north/south can also serve the dense population and job centers to the north and east far better than the proposed DEIS SLU station locations.  Aligning the station north/south will also enable a future Link extension along the highway 99 corridor much easier – opening up one of the best corridors for transit oriented development opportunities in the country.  

Continue reading “SLU Station Can Be Better, Cheaper, and Easier to Build on Westlake”

ST3 Transfers Must be Excellent

Convenient transfers can transform a good transit network into a great one. When you don’t think twice about switching lines, the network is really doing its job. Unfortunately the designs proposed for ST3’s two new massive transfer stations, Westlake and International District (ID) Stations fall well short of that mark. These designs feel like they come from principles steeped in “transit is only for commuters” or “transit is for other people” rather than what they should be:  transit intended to be the primary way everyone gets around the city.

So what makes a good transfer?  Some of that is subjective – people don’t want to have to cross the street or get rained on in the process, but most of it is objective:  How fast can I get to the platform with the other train I need to catch?  Anything over three minutes for an average rider is too long: after making it to the platform you still have to wait for the next train. Getting from one line to another has to feel as close to seamless as possible.

ID Station

Of the ID station options presented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, only two seem to be worth further discussion: 4th and 5th Avenue “shallow.”  As we noted in our deep stations post, we were disappointed to see that shallow doesn’t actually mean shallow – it just means less deep than the absurdly deep options.  Sound Transit excluded a real shallow 5th Avenue option from consideration in a previous analysis phase due to construction impacts and considered a shallow 4th station too risky due to proximity to the existing DSTT.  Not having either option to discuss or recommend at this phase is a major miss because rider experience matters and shallow stations provide the best rider experience possible.

Of the “shallow” options presented, 4th seems to have the most potential. It could be a real transportation hub located between the existing ID station and Sounder/Amrak with direct transfers from buses on 4th Avenue. It also appears to be the hardest to fix for riders without switching to a station design that is as shallow as the existing ID station. Very common transfers from the line that terminates in Tacoma and Ballard are expected to take four minutes. We don’t see obvious ways to speed that up but we’ll leave those solutions to engineers. Sound Transit estimates that 43% of the daily 34,200 riders will arrive via transfers. That means every minute shaved off transfer times will collectively save these 14,700 riders transferring at this station ten days, every day.

Very common transfers add four minutes to each trip. ℅ Sound Transit.  
Continue reading “ST3 Transfers Must be Excellent”

Are ST3’s Deep Stations a Problem?

Like most observers, we were shocked when we saw how deep Sound Transit’s station plans were for the new downtown tunnel. Beyond engineering complexity, deep stations can present a problem for riders: getting to and from the surface isn’t always easy and fast.  This concern is particularly amplified by the location and intention of these stations, downtown stations are expected to be high-ridership and a lot of trips will be short. 

Before the pandemic, a large portion of trips in the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) both started and terminated in the tunnel.  We would expect demand for these kinds of trips to be even higher when the new ST3 tunnel opens, which adds high value tunnel destinations at Denny, South Lake Union, and Seattle Center. That demand might look elsewhere if the rider experience is bad, adding 5 minutes to both sides of a short ride just to get to the platform doesn’t really make sense for riders. The scale of the investment detaches from the utility of the infrastructure.  In short – this tunnel is very expensive and better be very good too.

So, is it possible to have deep stations but maintain a good rider experience?  The center of this issue for riders is about speed and reliability to get to and from the train platform.  The depth of the station isn’t an issue if you and 200 of your fellow riders can get from the platform to the surface in a couple of minutes.  That means that escalators are pretty much out as a primary means of getting people in/out of a station that is over 100 feet deep. Sound Transit’s DEIS presented the following depth options for each station: Midtown:  140-190, Westlake: 125-140, Denny 100-125, SLU 85-120, Seattle Center 85-120.  That means it’s very likely that every station in the new DSTT would fail riders if the primary conveyance is escalators.  


  Midtown station, ℅ Sound Transit.  Riders are skeptical.  

Continue reading “Are ST3’s Deep Stations a Problem?”

ST3’s Ballard Station Has to Serve Ballard

As we review the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) results as presented by Sound Transit, the decision to cut out all the central Ballard station options stands out as a huge mistake. There is only one Ballard station in ST3 and we have only one chance to get this right. We need a Ballard station where it will serve people who live in and visit Ballard:  20th and Market, directly in the center of the urban village.  

A place is not defined by its largest intersection. The EIS includes two station location options, 15th and Market and 14th and Market. Though a station at 15th and Market is marginally better than a station at 14th and Market, neither serve the entertainment district on Ballard Avenue well or maximize usability for most people who already live in Ballard. The forthcoming Ballard station doesn’t need to rely on new transit oriented development; there is already an urban neighborhood there in need of transit service already  – this must be development-oriented transit.

The good news is that Sound Transit studied the 20th tunnel option during Pre-DEIS work and discovered the obvious:  A 20th Avenue station performed significantly better for riders than the other options presented. The bad news is the station was cut from consideration before the EIS process for cost reasons. But an interesting thing has happened since then: the EIS analysis brought cost parity between elevated and tunnel options in Ballard. An elevated 15th station with a drawbridge now costs the same as a 14th tunnel now.  Would that cost parity extend to a 20th station?  It might. We need Sound Transit to go back to the drawing board and find out, because the difference for thousands of daily riders is significant.

20th is much better than 15th for riders (and 15th is better than 14th.)  
Continue reading “ST3’s Ballard Station Has to Serve Ballard”

Action Alert:  SSB 5528 In House Transportation Committee

Senate Bill 5528 is moving!  It passed the Washington State Senate with Bi-Partisan Support and is now scheduled for public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, at 1:30pm.  

We need your help to make this bill become law. 

To show your support for more and better transit:

  1. Go to the House Committee Sign In
  2. Select position:  “Pro”
  3. Enter your information
  4. Verify that you are not a robot
  5. Click “Submit Registration”
  6. That’s it!

A huge thank you to all of the sponsors of this bill in the Senate:  Senators Pedersen, Liias, and Hawkins; and in the House:  Representatives Hackney, Berry, Fitzgibbon, Ryu, Valdez, Wicks, Chopp, Pollet, Bergquist, Macri, Lekanoff.

If you support more transit service at local levels, you can help make it a reality, it takes under 30 seconds: sign in pro for the House Hearing of 5528.
State Senate Roll Call results: thank you to the Senators that voted in favor of SSB 5528

SB 5528 Gives Transit Power Back to Voters

Senate Bill 5528’s local option will provide significant benefits for regional and citywide rapid transit expansion.

The 2022 legislative session is starting off with a bang this week. Before the first week is done Senate Bill 5528 will have a hearing in the transportation committee. The bill picks up where last year’s HB 1304 left off but expands the function to a regional level under the governance of Sound Transit.  A city, subarea, county, or combination thereof will have the option to create an “Enhanced Service Zone” to target the investments their voters care about most

SB 5528 allows the Sound Transit Board to give voters the opportunity to fund faster construction timelines on existing projects and/or fund new transit improvements and services for individual cities and sub-areas within the Sound Transit district. 

What is possible is only limited by what the individual cities and their voters want. Some sample potential projects and Enhanced Service Zones:

Continue reading “SB 5528 Gives Transit Power Back to Voters”

Seattle Subway 2021 General Election Endorsements

Link Light Rail Train heading to the SODO Station Credit: Lizz Giordano

We are excited to share our endorsements for the 2021 general election! 

Our picks are based on hearing from candidates at our June forums (Seattle City Council Position 9 & Mayor of Seattle), in questionnaires sent in May (City, County and Port), and keeping in mind track records and our prior meetings with candidates during our constant advocacy work. We endorsed the following candidates who will appear on your November 2nd ballot. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop your ballot in a dropbox before 8:00pm on Tuesday, November 2. 

Summary of General Election Endorsements:

Seattle Mayor:  M. Lorena Gonzȧlez 

Seattle City Council, Citywide, Position 8:  Teresa Mosqueda

Seattle City Council, Citywide, Position 9:  Nikkita Oliver 

King County Executive: Dow Constantine 

Port of Seattle Commission, Position 1: Ryan Calkins

Port of Seattle Commission, Position 3: Hamdi Mohamed

Port of Seattle Commission, Position 4: Toshiko Grace Hasegawa


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Ready the ballot box: Seattle wants Northgate-style light rail expansion citywide

Ready the Ballot Box: Seattle Wants Northgate-Style Light Rail Expansion Citywide

On Oct 2nd, thousands of Seattlites will flood three new light rail stations as the Northgate Link extension opens. While Seattleites will be excited about the new stations, almost everyone in the city seems to agree that neither Northgate Link nor the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions funded by Sound Transit 3 (ST3)  are enough Link expansion  for the City. 

A recent Change Research poll of likely Seattle voters found overwhelming support for an expanded Link: 76% would support a new transit funding measure to expand Link light rail, including 48% who ‘Strongly Support’ the measure.The most confident supporters of Link expansion could almost carry the ballot box on their own. 

The poll reveals that 18-34 year olds support expansion at a whopping 90% (with 66% indicating strong support).  Their monumental 90% support speaks to a clear fact: despite Seattle’s increasingly pro-transit voting history, we’ll be even more pro-transit in the future.  And it’s not just younger people who support Link expansion; voters ages 65 and over came in at 71% support.  In fact, of the 20 demographic groups evaluated by Change Research, only Seattle’s very small population of Republican voters registered net opposition to a new funding measure for Link expansion.

The evidence confirms what many of us have known for years: Seattle needs a citywide plan for high quality rail expansion and, though ST3 is a start, the system we’ll have once ST3 is done is a long way from “done” for Seattle. Seattleites are on board for good reason: Post ST3 nearly 60% of the densest neighborhoods will remain outside the reach of light rail and neither the City nor Sound Transit currently have a plan to resolve that.

Continue reading “Ready the ballot box: Seattle wants Northgate-style light rail expansion citywide”

Seattle Subway August 2021 Primary Endorsements

Our August 2021 Primary endorsements are finally ready! Just in time, with ballots dropping today. We tried to gather as much information as we could by hosting forums (Position 9 & Mayoral), sending out questionnaires (City & County), and keeping in mind track records and our prior meetings with candidates during our constant advocacy work. We endorsed the following candidates who will appear on your August 3rd Primary ballot because we felt they rose above the rest when we simplified things and asked ourselves: who are the one or two very best candidates for transit in each race? Endorsements here don’t necessarily mean other candidates aren’t strong in their own right, but we felt they had further to go to become our best transit champions. Don’t forget to mail your ballot before August 3rd or drop your ballot in a dropbox before 8:00pm on August 3rd. We will also update these endorsements for the General Election in November.

Continue reading “Seattle Subway August 2021 Primary Endorsements”

YOUTUBE LIVE FEED 7pm: Seattle Subway / STB Citywide City Council Position 9 Forum

YouTube Live available above. Also streaming on Seattle Subway’s profiles on:
Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/SeattleSubway/
Facebook at: https://facebook.com/SeattleSubway/

REGISTER TO ATTEND via Zoom TONIGHT: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

Starts between 7pm and 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment.

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral and City Council elections MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people.

In response, Seattle Subway is co-hosting two virtual rapid transit forums with Seattle Transit Blog. Our second forum will be for the Position 9 City Council race, to understand the stances of candidates for citywide council position 9 on a wide range of mass transit-related issues:

Seattle Subway Position 9 Forum, moderated by Michelle Baruchman

TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 7, 2021
The forum begins at 7:00pm and as late as 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment
The forum ends by 8:15pm

REGISTER to attend via Zoom: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

See you TONIGHT at the (virtual) forum!

Position 9 City Council Forum Tonight

Candidates (left to right): Brianna Thomas, Nikkita Oliver, and Sara Nelson.

FORUM TONIGHT! REGISTER NOW TO ATTEND VIA ZOOM

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral and City Council elections MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people.

In response, Seattle Subway is co-hosting two virtual rapid transit forums with Seattle Transit Blog. Our second forum will be for the Position 9 City Council race, to understand the stances of candidates for citywide council position 9 on a wide range of mass transit-related issues:

🚃 Seattle Subway Position 9 Forum, moderated by Michelle Baruchman

TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 7, 2021
The forum begins at 7:00pm and as late as 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment
The forum ends by 8:15pm

REGISTER for Zoom information: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

See you at the (virtual) forum!

YouTube LIVE FEED: STB’s & Seattle Subway’s Mayoral Forum

By SEATTLE SUBWAY

YouTube Live available above. Also streaming on Seattle Subway’s profiles on:
Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/SeattleSubway/
Facebook at: https://facebook.com/SeattleSubway/

REGISTER TO ATTEND via Zoom at 7pm TONIGHT on Zoom: bit.ly/SeaSubMayoral

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral election MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people with public transit.

Continue reading “YouTube LIVE FEED: STB’s & Seattle Subway’s Mayoral Forum”

Please Tell Council: Don’t Leave Us Behind!

This map shows all the lines that will become infeasible if Seattle City Council doesn’t ensure the City has a clear vision for a future where we are fully connected by light rail. (Seattle Subway)

Seattle could have a complete Seattle Subway network, but only if the City of Seattle has a plan to champion that future. Currently, Seattle is marching into the future without a plan for a fully connected city. Even when ST3 is complete, nearly 60% of Seattle’s built-up areas will still not be served by light rail. If Seattle City Council doesn’t act now, many of these areas will never be served. Decisions are being made now—without the Council’s conscious input—that may forever preclude parts of our city from ever being added to the light rail network. This includes corridors as obvious as Aurora or a replacement for the forever-late King County Metro route 8.

Currently, 57% of Seattle’s urban villages will NOT be served by the ST3 light rail plan. One would think that all of those neighborhoods could just be added later, but for ST3 planning reasons, they likely will not be unless we determine now what our future system should look like. The reason lies in the details of how Sound Transit plans extensions (or—more charitably—is forced to plan by state law and the FTA).

Sound Transit only plans exactly what voters voted for. In 2016, voters approved light rail from downtown to Ballard, for example. No aspect of that authorization included future compatibility so that some day, an Aurora Line could be added. However, any look at the pre-pandemic Rapid Ride E-Line would tell you that we are already past due for light rail on that corridor.

Continue reading “Please Tell Council: Don’t Leave Us Behind!”

A true Seattle Subway requires a citywide plan for the future

House Bill 1304 for grade-separated transit is now unlikely to pass this year and its last hope is a long shot: inclusion in a larger transportation package. As a reminder, the bill updates the antiquated language in the CTA law so it can be used for rail expansion now. Though we’re disappointed that HB 1304 didn’t pass on its own this year, it’s not uncommon for a bill to take multiple years and we’re really thankful for the work done by the bill’s sponsors and the many people who voiced their support and gave testimony. We’ll be headed back to the legislature next year.

That said, when one door closes another one opens. The Seattle Department of Transportation will send the Seattle City Council a proposed plan for what should be funded by a new $20 Vehicle licensing fee. This is an excellent opportunity to fund an updated Seattle Transit Master Plan that includes a roadmap for a future citywide Link rail system. This is work that, almost incredibly, has never been done for Link expansion in Seattle.

Continue reading “A true Seattle Subway requires a citywide plan for the future”

ACTION ALERT: Traffic is over… if you TESTIFY for it

The first hearing for House Bill 1304 for grade-separated transportation was moved to Tuesday, February 9th, at 10 am. Register now for Seattle Subway’s pre-testimony seminar scheduled for Monday, February 8th, at 6 pm.

As we noted last week, this bill will give Seattle the tools we need to solve a lot of problems. The most exciting part: HB 1304 can help address Link expansion timelines and create a system that serves the entire city. We need your help to advance the bill out of the Local Government committee.

Regarding the ST3 budget gap, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff wrote earlier this week, “Succeeding now requires us to come together to overcome lower revenue projections and higher cost estimates.” We agree with Sound Transit that time is of the essence. To fill the budget gap caused by COVID, we truly need partnership at every level of government—city, region, state, and federal—working together. 

Continue reading “ACTION ALERT: Traffic is over… if you TESTIFY for it”

The Next Big Step for a Seattle Subway

Part 3 of a three-part series

Seattle Subway goes to the Legislature.

[UPDATE: The hearing has been moved to February 9th. There is no updated link at this time.]

We’re very excited to announce HB 1304, a bill to enable local rapid transit funding, is now live with its first hearing scheduled on Wednesday, February 3rd 9th at 10 am. This bill will give Seattle the tools we need to build a citywide, high quality transit system the right way. The system the city has dreamed of ever since the Bogue plan was presented in 1911.

HB 1304 will help us solve a lot of problems:

Continue reading “The Next Big Step for a Seattle Subway”

How to deliver ST3 in Seattle

Part 2 of a series

Sound Transit recently delivered some disappointing news about their estimates for ST3 project costs. When paired with decreased revenue due to Covid-19, the projected 50% increase to Ballard and West Seattle cost estimates present a gloomy outlook for the projects. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but it’s still possible for Sound Transit to deliver the high quality system voters approved. Transit improvements are still essential to our city and these projects must be delivered. We need to look hard at a combination of new funding sources and value engineering to get this plan back on the right track. However, making major decisions about the quality, scope, and schedule of ST3 this year is a mistake with long reaching consequences.

The underlying reasons to build transit in Seattle haven’t changed. Seattleites still want fast, reliable, convenient, low-carbon ways to get around the city. Voters have repeatedly reaffirmed their desire to make progress on transit — including November’s vote that passed by over 60 points in the middle of a pandemic. Seattleites believe in a post- pandemic future, and we need to make sure Sound Transit delivers the progress they demand.

Seattle voter support for transit is steadily increasing with every vote
Continue reading “How to deliver ST3 in Seattle”

The case for transit: 2021 edition

Part 1 of a series

Paris, the City of Lights…and Transit and Urban Form! (Credit: Alissa Smith, Hope College)

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about whether transit will thrive post-pandemic have been floating around. In our long term view, the human tendency to gather and the need for urban mobility has not gone away. While the pandemic has paused life for a while, and Zoom has made working from afar possible, none of that has changed human nature, or radically affected the tools we need to combat climate change.

Our species still requires connection. If history is any indicator, post-pandemic we will still have social events, shop in urban villages, and cluster where other people are. We will do these things because we are hardwired to value them. Not only does human nature point to this need for cities, climate science demands we double down on them. Don’t just take my word for it—let’s dive into a city doing it right.

The (thankfully) ex-First Lady likes to say “Be Best.” On transportation, we just say “Be Paris.”

Continue reading “The case for transit: 2021 edition”

Action Alert: Tell Council to Save Transit Funding

Nose Of A 2018 New Flyer Industries XDE60

Last Friday, the Seattle City Council Transportation committee met and passed an initial round of amendments to a proposed Transportation Benefits District (TBD) on to full council.  The last amendment, to increase the funding from 0.1% to 0.2% sales tax, was proposed by CM Tammy Morales and eventually withdrawn so that council could have more time to consider and get feedback from their constituents. 

Though we agree with the concerns voiced in council that adding a regressive sales tax is not ideal, the proposed plan would cut TBD service funding by 75%: a far more regressive outcome.  This funding is needed to maintain bus service that an increasing number of Seattlites will depend on just as we try to recover from a recession that is hitting people with lower incomes the hardest.  

This change means replacing the $60 Vehicle Licensing Fee (VLF) from 2014’s TBD with a 0.1% sales tax, which will still represent a tax cut for households with lower incomes who own a car.  A household would have to spend $60,000, not including rent or groceries, to match the VLF for one car. For lower income households that already fully rely on transit, cutting service could be devastating.

Full council is meeting next Monday, 7/27, to finalize the package that will appear on the ballot.  Please join us in letting the City Council and The Mayor know that you support the full .2% TBD and emergency funding for transit next year using this quick form.