ST3 Plan Needs to Put Riders First

Alternatives A1 & A2 (Sound Transit)

As ST3 goes through a mountain of process to get to a preferred alternative, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend: The stakeholders who are getting their way are focused on how they will be impacted rather than what is best for riders. It should go without saying that the whole point of expanding Link is to serve future riders, their needs should be the first and last consideration before any route is chosen.  

As we’ve mentioned before, this is the point in the process where a balance has to be struck between costs and benefits.  There is limited budget and it’s highly unlikely that additional funding is coming from any level of government.  On the off chance more funding comes through, the preferred alternative should include higher priced options where they have an impact, but in general it’s time to be realistic.  

Sound Transit recently released the level three alternatives, which is a mashup of the options that made it through the SAG and ELG along with the Representative Alignment (RA).  It looks like most of the higher cost options are lumped into Alternative 1 (A1), and a mix of lower cost options into Alternative 2 (A2).

At this stage we’re hoping to bid farewell to the RA.  It was a good place to start, but doesn’t have any features that are worth preserving. We’ll focus on the good parts of A1 and A2 and what needs attention/improvement.
Continue reading “ST3 Plan Needs to Put Riders First”

ST3 Level 2 Planning: Time to Make Decisions

Sound Transit is currently gathering public input on the ST3 Level 2 Planning options they presented a few weeks ago. As we noted early this year, this is an opportunity to make light rail exceptional and the difference is all in the details. At this phase it’s time to apply the concepts of reliability, expandability, and accessibility and make some choices.

Our recommendations make a central assumption: There will not be additional funding available for the more expensive options. This might change sometime in the future, but considering what is happening with our federal, state, and local government it’s pretty safe to say that it won’t happen before the preferred alternative is selected in early 2019. Continue reading “ST3 Level 2 Planning: Time to Make Decisions”

An Opportunity to Make Light Rail Exceptional

This week Sound Transit is kicking off ST3 planning for the Ballard and West Seattle Link extensions with community meetings in West Seattle, Ballard, and Downtown Seattle. The basic alignments have been chosen, but there are still a lot of big decisions to be made before Sound Transit selects the preferred alignment for each segment.

The difference between a good system and a great system is all about making the right choices at this phase. Here is what Seattle Subway is focused on:


When building out a multi-billion dollar system, the worst thing we can do is make planning decisions that damage people’s trust in the system.  A great system gets you from point A to point B in about the same amount of time, every time.  It gives the system a huge advantage over unreliable and frustrating traffic.

Two features in the draft plan jump out as a cause for concern:

  • The Ballard Drawbridge
    As we noted in an earlier post, a drawbridge that can hold up trains or get stuck is a feature we shouldn’t be considering for our massive investment.  A high static bridge or a tunnel are both better options.  A high bridge would be amazing to ride and would not increase costs of the project.  A tunnel would have fewer construction impacts and would facilitate a slightly better station location, but would cost $600M more.
  • Royal Brougham Grade Crossing
    The draft plan adds an additional at-grade crossing at Royal Brougham near Stadium Station.  The combined frequency of current and future 4-car trains will create a dangerous situation where cars will be more likely to “risk it” to get through the intersection.  Crashes will potentially shut down the entire system for hours at a time.  Either Royal Brougham needs to be vacated for auto traffic or Link needs to be elevated at that point.  This needs to be decided in advance.


Continue reading “An Opportunity to Make Light Rail Exceptional”

For Link a Drawbridge is a Bridge to Nowhere

Photo: Jordan Stead/

Sound Transit is currently developing a consulting contract to oversee the process for selection of West Seattle and Ballard route alignments as part of Sound Transit 3 (ST3) light rail expansion.  They’ve concluded that by selecting a preferred alternative prior to the technical work of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), they are able to simplify the study work and thus reduce the total planning time by as much as a year and a half. This means that a preferred alternative will be selected for these lines by the end of 2018.

After discussion and a vote of our board, in order to further our founding goal of building a subway system that is rapid, reliable, frequent, convenient, and useful to all, Seattle Subway is officially taking the following key positions regarding a preferred alternative for the Ballard to West Seattle corridor:

  1. We are concerned that drawbridges, regardless of frequency of openings, pose significant operational challenges. Not only would drawbridges open and delay trains (trains which will run very frequently in the future), but drawbridges may not close. That failure would cause catastrophic delays throughout the system. Therefore, Seattle Subway will only support a high static bridge or a tunnel across Salmon Bay and the Duwamish Waterway.
  2. Expansions from Ballard — northward to Crown Hill and eastward to the University District — are included in Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan. Seattle Subway’s position is that any proposed design solutions must include the potential to expand north and east, such as a wye junction. We will only support designs that provide for in-station transfers at the Market Street station and seamless system expansion beyond Ballard that doesn’t compromise future transit service.
  3. Likewise, an expansion from West Seattle to Burien is included in Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan. Sound Transit must design light rail to avoid a dead end in West Seattle and allow for future expansion that doesn’t interrupt transit service.
  4. With optimum efficiency in mind, any new additions to Sound Transit’s ST3 network must be designed to accommodate 90-second headways. Stations and track alignments must be 100% grade-separated from traffic with no rail-level crossings for passengers.

If you agree with these overarching principles, you can weigh in now by emailing the Sound Transit Board, your elected representatives at the City of Seattle, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Continue reading “For Link a Drawbridge is a Bridge to Nowhere”

Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel: An Introduction

WSTT Initial Service Pattern
Maps by Oran Viriyincy

It is becoming clearer that Sound Transit 3 (ST3) will not provide Seattle (‘North King’) with the approximately $7B needed to fund a true subway from Ballard to West Seattle. At currently proposed ST3 funding levels – $11B in the Senate and $15B in the House for all regional projects–  Seattle’s shortfall could be roughly $2-4B. This presents a dilemma: should we build the high quality segments we can afford (and risk alienating the neighborhoods we pass over), or give in to the political temptation to dilute the quality of the lines (surface running, stub lines, etc) to serve more neighborhoods at once? At Seattle Subway we believe we cannot let today’s funding constraints forever dampen the quality of our transit service. So what investments could we make with an ST3-sized budget that would provide high quality (and highly upgradeable) transit?

There is a single project that rises above all the others: The Westside Transit Tunnel (WSTT). For general readers who have heard of Ballard to West Seattle rail for years, proposing a new bus tunnel may seem to come out of nowhere. But let us show you why this is so important for ST3.

What is it?

The WSTT is a new rail convertible bus tunnel through downtown designed to serve Ballard, West Seattle, the Aurora corridor, and South and East King County. The route and features you see in our diagram did not come out of thin air, but are a combination of routing seen in Sound Transit’s Ballard to Downtown Corridor Study and the Downtown portion of the West Seattle & Burien (“South King County”) Corridor Study. We took these studies and enhanced them with a couple of our own ideas: the addition of a Battery Street fork to serve Aurora and bus improvements to the Spokane Street Viaduct to create a direct connection to the E3 busway and improve the connection to West Seattle.

Just like the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the WSTT will start with bus service and switch to rail over time as we expand our subway system. This new bus tunnel would have two important features from opening day: 1) tracks and power systems for rail and 2) separate stubs and portals for rail expansions. This project is a major step in the building of a true Seattle Subway. Continue reading “Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel: An Introduction”

Sound Transit Responds to Seattle Subway, Transit Advocates

Seattle Subway LogoStill wondering if transit advocacy can have an actual impact on public policy? Last Thursday, when the Sound Transit board voted to adopt the new Long Range Plan the answer was made crystal clear: transit advocacy works.

Proof that our voices were heard came in the form of Sound Transit Long Range Plan Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Final (SEIS) which individually responded to the hundreds of stakeholder, organization, and reader comments to the SEIS, and included a section with summary responses, the majority of which are directed at issues that were brought up by both Seattle Subway and, via our guest posts, readers of Seattle Transit Blog.

The biggest news for us in these responses to our comments is an about-face on policies related to driverless trains, a pillar of what Seattle Subway advocates for since our inception three years ago. We support driverless trains because they can lead to a self-sustaining operating system (as in Vancouver), which frees up money for even more transit. Until this response, Sound Transit solidly refused to study the technology, publicly declaring they would not consider driverless trains. However, their latest response says that driverless trains can be considered as long as it does not interline with the spine section or have at-grade sections. We continue to remain confident in the value of driverless trains (we’re getting close to the era of driverless cars, after all!) and believe that by the time an interlining opportunity comes up, Sound Transit’s perception will likely change.

Many of you echoed our championing of building out West Seattle and the Ballard Spur. The Sound Transit responses to West Seattle and Ballard were similar: they will not make routing decisions until the next phase (system planning) which is resource-constrained. Our contention is that the data given to the Sound Transit Board during system planning must contain ideal options in order to be considered, which is exactly why we began to give detailed feedback at this stage. We will continue to monitor the situation and will give feedback as opportunities arise during the system planning phase.

The response to our Better Eastside Rail article was similar to West Seattle and the Ballard Spur: specific routing decisions will be made as part of the system planning process. However, we break the Eastside out separate from West Seattle and Ballard because we think Eastside options need further development. Due to the scale of the rework needed to bring good study options to the table, we have concerns about timing. Any options presented to the Board should be worth voting for in the ST3 package. Remember, the Eastside voted for ST2, but heavily against King County Proposition 1.

A surprising number of you (60) echoed our thoughts about the PSRC population numbers. Initially our stance didn’t seen to be well received, but people in a position to fix the problem read it and the point was well taken. Sound Transit’s response consisted of a mostly technical explanation of the model that objectively doesn’t work and concludes with discussion of making changes to the model used for ST3. However, since we wrote this article, we have met with PSRC staff and had some very productive discussions. Matthew Johnson will publish a more in-depth PSRC article soon, but the bottom-line issue appears to be related to the way population models treat designated regional growth centers (Ballard isn’t one). Despite the appearance of doubletalk, we do think ST and the PSRC are aware of the issue and are dedicated to making sure they get the best numbers possible in the version of these estimates that really matter—the ones that determine funding priorities and the service plan for ST3.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Responds to Seattle Subway, Transit Advocates”

ACTION ALERT: Sand Point Crossing

Seattle Subway Logo

This summer Sound Transit kicked off it’s Long Range Plan (LRP) update, and asked for your opinion. As part of the process many people reached out to Sound Transit and asked that a Sand Point Crossing be included. In fact respondents asked for a Sand Point Crossing more than all other new corridors combined. According to section 5.3.2 of the LRP:

The majority of comments related to a new corridor urged Sound Transit to study a new crossing of Lake Washington between Sand Point and Kirkland. In many cases, specific station locations and routes were suggested. In addition, commenters felt that Sound Transit should analyze a floating rail bridge, floating tunnel, and suspension bridge from Sand Point to Kirkland to supplement the analysis in the UW to Kirkland to Redmond portion of the Central and East HCT Corridor Study.

First off, thanks to everyone that took the effort to tell ST what you thought. Secondly, thanks to Mayor Murray and CM O’Brien for listening and submitting the Sand Point Crossing (Corridor 14 – UW to Sand Point to Kirkland to Redmond) for inclusion in the Long Range Plan.

That said, late yesterday afternoon Seattle Subway learned that at this Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting, there will be a move to remove Corridor 14 from the LRP. Unfortunately, after all the work people put in to get Sand Point into the Long Range Plan, it could be removed with no guarantees that it will be studied in the future. In fact Sound Transit’s own Draft EIS explicitly excluded it from further study as part of S.R. 520 corridor studies. The fact that it is the single most asked for corridor and being targeted for removal does not bode well for it’s inclusion in future studies. Thursday isn’t the last chance to save the Sand Point Crossing study, there will a full board meeting on the 18th. However as they will be voting on an already prepared plan at that time, Thursday is our best chance. [Edit] Clarification:  On Thursday 12/4 the Executive Committee will consider amendments to the LRP.  On 12/18 the Board will vote on the amendments.

It is Seattle Subway’s stance that not only does a Sand Point Crossing deserve study, but that people will understandably call into question the entire Long Range Plan outreach process if the most asked for new corridor is removed for political reasons. What is the point of people participating in the process if the board is going to throw out the most asked for consideration?

Please reach out to the Sound Transit Board and tell them (again!) that you want the Sand Point Crossing to stay in the Long Range Plan! Click here to email the board.

Sound Transit Listens to Public, Seattle Subway, Will Study Sand Point Crossing

When Sound Transit presented planned updates to their Long Range Plan  to the PSRC last Thursday, there was some blockbuster news for local transit advocates: Sound Transit is adding a Corridor 14, The Sand Point Crossing, to its long range plan for additional study. The Sand Point Crossing was first covered by Seattle Transit Blog here, and then Seattle Subway advocated for it during the Long Range Plan comment period. A lot of you echoed our thoughts to the board and Sound Transit Staff — and they listened.


This post is to say thank you to all of you who sent your comments to Sound Transit. Thank you to Sound Transit staff who reversed direction and decided to add this corridor to the Long Range Plan. And thank you to the Sound Transit Board for your leadership on this issue.

To those who question whether advocacy works and whether Sound Transit listens to the public, I present this as exhibit A. The Long Range Plan explicitly said that they were not going to study this corridor due to the findings of the Trans-Lake Washington Study. Seattle Subway countered that argument and, with your help, the Sand Point Crossing will now be studied.

We will now get objective answers about whether or not the Sand Point crossing is the best option for a Lake Washington Rail crossing. We think it is – but now we can be absolutely sure. When a large agency like Sound Transit is responsive to the public, we all win.

If you have a chance, please take the time to email the  Sound Transit Board and ST Long Range Plan Staff and say thanks. As advocates, we often focus on what is wrong more than what is right – lets acknowledge a job well done.

Thank you all.

In Summary: The Long Range Plan

The Vision
The Vision

Seattle Subway’s Comments on the Sound Transit Long Range Plan Update Draft Supplemental EIS

This is the final post in a series we’ve been doing related to Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan Update Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“DSEIS”). The comment period is over on Monday, so be sure to get your comments in to before the deadline comes. This post calls out conflicts between the goals of the LRP and its content.  If you want to skip the wonkiness but agree that we should push for the best quality rail system possible for future lines in the region, you can copy our comments and send them to Sound Transit in support.

Sound Transit uses its Long-Range Plan to identify and select corridors and technologies for future transit packages. We are currently in the comment period for the Long-Range Plan Update, which means there is an opportunity to give feedback to Sound Transit in regards to the big picture. Sound Transit last updated this document in 2005, four years prior to Central Link opening, and it shows. Sound Transit must review decisions that were made in its early days and are still affecting its direction now, as Seattle and the region have changed a lot in the 15 years since Sound Transit’s inception. We will frame our comments in the context of  Sound Transit’s DSEIS’s Goals and Objectives for their Long-Range Plan (page 1-5).

Section 1: “Provide a public high-capacity transportation system that helps ensure long-term mobility, connectivity, and convenience for residents of the central Puget Sound region for generations to come”

  • “Increase the percentage of people using transit for all trips”
  • “Provide effective and efficient alternatives to travel on congested roadways”

Grade separation provides the most efficient and effective way to move people. It eliminates interference from other traffic and maximizes transit’s speed. Grade separation is a true alternative to congested roadways. The higher speed and frequency that a grade separated system enables creates the greatest increase in ridership as well. This, combined with the fact that nearly all of the 55 miles of lines Sound Transit is currently building are grade separated, make the following section of the LRP DSEIS out of place:

Continue reading “In Summary: The Long Range Plan”

Better Eastside Rail

As the Puget Sound region continues to grow, excellent transit connections between Eastside communities will be crucial.  The quality of transit options available to those communities will shape the safety, convenience and environmental quality possible for their residents and workers. Our vision for rail service to Issaquah would create new connections from Issaquah through Bellevue to Kirkland, would improve trips bound for Downtown Seattle, and would dramatically improve access between the I-90 corridor and North Seattle.

Issaquah Rail Map Continue reading “Better Eastside Rail”

Let’s Build Rail to West Seattle (Option A6)

Let’s get this on the table right up front: West Seattle should receive a light rail line in the next Sound Transit funding package (ST3). STB has covered this issue before with articles about possibilities, options presented, and even the hazards of regionalism. What might actually be included in the next regional package, and how does the study presentation impact the ST board’s decision? We think that a better presentation of the information contained within this study would serve the Sound Transit board and West Seattle well when it comes time to select corridors for ST3. As currently presented, the study makes the West Seattle line appear less cost effective than it should be. Seattle Subway has some suggestions to improve this.

As others have noted, this study is comprehensive to the point of being difficult to comprehend, and contains routes and options that cost more than $8 billion and are well beyond what the region will build in near future. We have two main requests to help make this information easier to understand and analyze.

1.  Option “A6”

Map by Oran.
Map by Oran.

Continue reading “Let’s Build Rail to West Seattle (Option A6)”

ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies

Ballard Seafood Fest (wikimedia)

The population projections in the Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study (table 3-4) are very low and the methodology Sound Transit uses to create these projections should be updated. In the past the media has criticized ST for projections that seemed overly optimistic, but then proved valid post-recession. Sound Transit should avoid over-correcting by using excessively conservative estimates now. Beyond helping to decide which routes to build, the estimates will communicate a potential project’s value to stakeholders and make a case for funding to the federal government.

We were shocked to see that ST was using 29,580 for Ballard’s 2010 population, with expected growth by 2035 of 14% for a total of 33,820. We asked Sound Transit to explain why both numbers were so low. Their explanation was based on an area defined by the Ballard Existing Conditions Report:

The Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study used a definition of Ballard which covers the area from 8th NW to 32nd NW, the Ship Canal to NW 85th. This includes all of census tracts 30, 32 and 47 and approximately 80% of census tracts 31 and 32 (which extend west to Shilshole Bay). The total population of the five complete census tracts in the 2010 census was 32,502; the 29,580 number reflects the reduction of the western portions of census tracts 31 and 32.

The area covered is where all the growth in Ballard has occurred in the past and is occurring now. Additionally, nearly all of the larger development since 2010 has been apartments; there are currently only two condominium buildings under construction. This makes the comparison pretty easy. We asked the apartment market experts at Dupre & Scott if they had numbers for Ballard since 2010. For this example, to be conservative we assumed anything built 2009 or before was 100% absorbed and anything built in 2010 was 50% absorbed when the census was taken at the end of that year. We will also assume apartment occupancy of 1.8 people per rental unit and 2.3 people per sold unit per the census numbers for Seattle.

Here is what Dupre & Scott sent us:

Ballard Development

Continue reading “ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies”

Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)

Purple Line From Ballard to MSFT
Seattle is defined by its waterways. Seattle congestion is defined by its water crossings. Focusing on existing crossings of Lake Washington may have unnecessarily constrained Sound Transit’s study of the best northerly route across the lake.

Their options to get from UW to Kirkland on to Redmond are on pages 3-9 of the Central and East HCT Corridor Study. Each of the options presented misses opportunities to connect major population and employment centers and contains enormous challenges, such as a new bridge crossing of the Montlake Cut.

STB previously covered many of the problems with a 520 light rail crossing. Using 520 forces ST to double back on the west side of the bridge and deliver riders to the east side far from good transit destinations. Below, we will focus on what we want Sound Transit to study, why we want it, and why you should join us in supporting it.

The Sand Point Crossing (Option “SP1”) Continue reading “Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)”

To Build a Seattle Subway We Must Restore Stable Bus Funding.

Seattle Subway Logo

Seattle Subway’s focus is and has always been on rail, its right there in our name. Our mission is to fight for high-quality, fast, grade-separated, automated transit and to advocate that Seattle build it as soon as possible. For that reason, it may come as a surprise to some that Seattle Subway endorses and fully supports Move King County Now – the campaign to pass King County Proposition 1 – which will stop bus cuts as high as 17% and fund much needed (and too long deferred) maintenance on King County roads.

Our reasoning is twofold:

1)  Though Seattle Subway focuses on building high capacity trunk lines for our transit system, at this time buses are a critical component of the transportation infrastructure that helps keep our economy competitive, our city livable and charts the path for future subway lines. Here are more details on what is at stake for Seattle. Demand for buses is at an all time high and is rising as Seattle urbanizes. Cutting bus service now is exactly what we should not be doing.

2)  Proposition 1 must pass in order to clear the way for Sound Transit 3 (ST3) in 2016. Sound Transit needs additional funding authority from the state in order to run a ballot measure. Preserving bus service will be Seattle’s top legislative priority until the funding gap is closed. Therefore — passing this measure clears the way to make Sound Transit 3 the top local priority when state lawmakers go back to table to work on a transportation package.

Off cycle ballot measures tend to bring out more conservative voters in greater numbers as a percentage of the voting population (because more progressive voters tend to skip these votes.)  To win, we need to get everyone who supports transit, our economy, and the environment to vote. Many people don’t realize this vote is coming — we have to change that. We need you to join us in getting the word out! (sign up to volunteer here)

As part of our support on April 2nd from 5:30-7:30pm Seattle Subway is co-hosting a fundraiser at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard with Seattle Transit Blog* and Council Member Mike O’Brien. We hope you can make it and help us save our bus service and build a Seattle Subway.  Details/RSVP here.

*This will be an official Seattle Transit Blog meetup.

Seattle Subway’s 2014 Volunteer Kickoff Party!

Seattle Subway Foundation

Fado Irish Pub, Thursday, 2/27/14, 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Hello, Seattle Transit Blog readers!

Seattle Subway is excited to begin another year of outreach and education. This year we’re starting off with a volunteer meetup at Fado Irish Pub, tomorrow, 2/27, from 5:30-7:30pm. There will be food and drink (for the first 40) provided by us to thank last year’s volunteers and welcome new volunteers who share our vision of fast reliable transit connecting our neighborhoods.

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant is located at 801 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, on the corner of 1st Avenue and Columbia Street, within 3 blocks of the Pioneer Square Link Station’s north entrance.

We have an exciting agenda this year:

  • Support the Move King County Now campaign’s efforts to save King County Metro from severe cuts. Subways take time to build, we need frequent bus service in the meantime.
  • Continue our educational outreach on the benefits of constructing an automated subway to every neighborhood in Seattle and to communities throughout the region.
  • This year we’ll have a chance to comment on the results of the Level 2 Analysis of the Ballard to Downtown corridor as well as Level 1 Analysis of the Ballard to U-District corridor and the Downtown to West Seattle corridor.  Translation – We  have a chance to influence what Sound Transit is going to build!
  • [Insert your agenda item here] We’ll have a board up where YOU can tell us your thoughts on what we should work on this year.

This is going to be a great year, hope to see you at Fado!  RSVP here.

Seattle Subway’s Comment on the Ballard to Downtown Level 2 Analysis

Tomorrow is the last day to submit online on this latest phase of the Ballard Study.  If you haven’t submitted comment, please do so.  If you don’t send a letter, please take the time to fill out the online survey.

Seattle Subway Logo

To: Mr. Ryan Bianchi

Re:  Ballard Transit Expansion Study

The leadership and volunteers of Seattle Subway would like to thank Sound Transit and the City of Seattle for partnering to take the first steps towards bringing rail to Ballard. The Ballard to Downtown corridor is a key regional corridor that deserves fast, reliable service and connections, and we are excited to see that three of the five options in the Ballard-to-Downtown Transit Study include grade-separated service from Downtown Seattle to Market Street. Specifically, we have the following observations of and recommendations for the proposed grade-separated segments studied so far:

  • Grade-separation. Alternatives A, B, and D are grade separated and will provide a faster alternative to driving in traffic between Ballard and Downtown Seattle. Regarding the at grade sections included in option B north of Market street: We want to urge Sound Transit to not intermingle at grade sections into a line that would function best as 100% grade separated. The at grade sections would hamper the speed and reliability of the entire line and would preclude the option to select better rail technology, specifically both driverless technology and the fastest possible technology. Seattle Subway recognizes that Crown Hill may not be currently considered for grade separation. However, we urge Sound Transit to consider the system-wide impacts of at-grade alignment well into the future.
  • Operable Bridges. While options A and B consider operable bridges, none of the options studied include bridges that would be likely to open more than a few times a week. Seattle Subway urges Sound Transit to study the highest possible vessel clearance for bridges in order to minimize delays.
  • Future Connectivity. In all options, Seattle Subway hopes to see designs that are compatible with and connect to the studies currently underway for UW-to-Ballard and for Downtown-to-West Seattle. Furthermore, in order to accommodate the growth coming to Seattle and to get the most out of public investments, we believe it will be critical to design any downtown tunnel with the ability to split and connect to an additional line entering and exiting downtown in the future.

That being said, our work is far from over. As 2016 approaches, Seattle Subway realizes the next step towards building a high-quality subway system is preparing a great ballot measure. After Sound Transit completes its long range plan update, it will have an arsenal of studies at its disposal including Ballard-to-Downtown as well as other studies currently underway from Downtown to West Seattle, and from Ballard to the UW. This will give Sound Transit the tools to compose a package for the voters that balances geographic equity with the expense of building fast, reliable infrastructure that does not get stuck in traffic, and we urge the agency to use these studies to tailor the ballot measure to best fit each neighborhood and lay the groundwork for a system that will serve Seattle and the region for the next one-hundred years.

While Seattle Subway envisions high quality rail built to every neighborhood in Seattle, we realize that finite resources mean there will be difficult choices and tradeoffs. In a future package we hope to see as much of our vision funded for construction as possible, however we realize the scope of that package will depend on the availability of state and federal funding. Thus, we encourage Sound Transit to set aside money in that package for planning and design in all of the remaining Seattle-area corridors so that design decisions captured in the Long Range Plan don’t preclude the eventual build out of the rest of the system. Furthermore, we want to stress that tradeoffs should not include at-grade alignments as cost-saving measures. For example, a cost-saving measure for Alternative D (from Level 2 analysis) would not be Option 5 (from Level 1 analysis) – it would be an updated version of Alternative A or B  (from Level 2 analysis). Lastly, as Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan studies continue, we encourage the agency to build early community support by promoting their efforts specifically to those neighborhoods where rail is being studied, such as West Seattle and communities along the 45th Street corridor.

Again, we write in support of the work Sound Transit has done for Seattle and the region. We are passionate fans who urge Sound Transit to build a system designed from the beginning to serve every neighborhood so that we can realize our shared vision:  A city and region fully connected by fast, reliable high capacity transit.

Thank You,

Seattle Subway

To keep updated on all that Seattle Subway is doing, and for information about volunteering, please join our mailing list!

Seattle Subway is an all-volunteer organization that advocates for grade-separated rail transit in Seattle.

Seattle Subway’s Thoughts on Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan

Our Vision has been well publicized so Seattle Subway focused on three other areas in our public comment letter:

Seattle Subway Logo

To: Sound Transit’s Board and the entire Sound Transit staff

Re: We need fast, reliable, transit that is both economically sustainable and designed for future expansion.

Seattle Subway is thrilled to see that Sound Transit has begun the study work for ST3 corridors – which, within Seattle, include Ballard to Downtown, Downtown to West Seattle, and Ballard to the U-District – and that Sound Transit is aiming to run a 2016 ballot measure. Congratulations are also in order for U-Link, which is on track to be both under budget and ahead of schedule. We are writing this public comment letter for Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan Update to urge Sound Transit to: (1) use driverless technology for all new rail lines, (2) design and construct all future rail lines prioritizing further expansion and (3) select the fastest possible rail vehicle technology.

1. Use driverless technology for all new rail lines

Funding for operations is critical to the economic health of any transit system and the direct Return on Investment (ROI) case for rail projects. The former is demonstrated by the current funding shortfall for King County Metro’s operations. Though the subsidy for each ride on Link will be far lower when U-Link opens, current fares pay for less than 30% of total operating cost per trip. The driverless system in Vancouver, BC covers its entire operating budget via fares; possible due to their low cost per trip. In 2011, Vancouver’s driverless system’s operating expense per trip was $1.97. Using Vancouver’s 2011 expenses per trip, Sound Transit’s revenue per trip in 2011 of $2.05 would have covered operating expenses completely. Such driverless systems convey three immense benefits: 1. Massive savings to taxpayers through faster ROI on rail system investment; 2. A more flexible system, which does not incur cost penalties to run a 1-car train every 2.5 minutes instead of a 4-car train every 10 minutes; and 3. Permanently removing partisan politics as a threat to funding operations of new rail lines.

Continue reading “Seattle Subway’s Thoughts on Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan”