Seattle Subway released a new light rail system expansion map yesterday and hopes to use it to inspire Sound Transit and the general public to select Sound Transit 3 (ST3) alignments that allow for logical line extensions and follow a strategic long-term vision. “The key concept for ST3 planning,” Seattle Subway wrote, is to “build for expandability.” Seattle Subway’s Executive Director Keith Kyle said the map has more than a dozen tweaks to the expansion map they released last year.

2018 Seattle Subway vision map. Click for larger version. (Seattle Subway)
2018 Seattle Subway vision map. Click for larger version. (Seattle Subway)

“The things we want to focus on are things we’re fighting about now,” Kyle said. “Madison and SLU [South Lake Union] station being built for interlined expansion, moving ID [International District] Station to the west side, and moving the stadium and SODO stations west.”

The westward movement on International District/Chinatown Station and in SODO echoes my Union Station proposal, which also recommended running the West Seattle line on 1st Avenue, where it’d be much closer to the stadiums. In fact, Seattle Subway is calling the stop in question “Actual Stadium” in the latest map to highlight the advantage over the existing station location near 6th Avenue, which requires a nearly half-mile walk to games. Additionally, a 1st Avenue alignment would better serve Starbucks headquarters, which Seattle Subway calls out by name in the map.

One example of interlined expansion is the Magenta Line, which lives on, dropped a few shades, as the Pink Line.

“The Pink Line will serve the Aurora corridor, which is already a huge transit market but has bones to be the largest transit-oriented development opportunity in the region,” Kyle said. “It will finally fulfill Sound Transit’s promise to serve First Hill, the densest [American] neighborhood north of San Francisco and east of Chicago. Another exciting thing about the Pink Line is how it can integrate with a 520 crossing and create a one-seat ride for the ST3-approved Issaquah line.”

Seattle Subway’s Pink Line routing runs along Aurora Avenue, connecting the Bitter Lake neighborhood of Seattle to Downtown and crooking northeast on Madison Street, picking up First Hill, the Central Area, and Madison Park before crossing Lake Washington on SR-520, hitting South Kirkland and interlining with the Issaquah line (due for completion in 2041).

The SR-520 crossing replaces the Sand Point tunneled crossing of Lake Washington in Seattle Subway’s previous vision map, which had extended the Ballard-to-UW line to the Eastside.

Also captured in this map update is a change in ST2 timelines with the Lynnwood Link Extension pushed back to 2024 after the budget grew considerably because of the rising cost of labor and of land and the expanded scope of the project from initial estimates. That makes 2024 a busy year for Sound Transit with the Downtown Redmond Extension‘s two stations and the Federal Way Extension‘s three stations joining the four stations added with Lynnwood Link. Sound Transit has also scheduled bus rapid transit (BRT) lines on SR-522 and I-405 for delivery in 2024.

King County Plans

Seattle Subway wants to keep the momentum going with another ballot initiative and the vision map with lines looping Lake Washington to serve Renton, Newcastle, Downtown Kirkland, and upgraded 522 BRT service to Woodinville, Bothell, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park. The Renton to Bellevue section was an addition from the 2017 map.

“Some of the things we did were in direct response to feedback we’ve received from the public from past versions,” Kyle said. “Adding the 405-oriented extension from Renton to the Eastside, for example.”

While surburban King County’s light rail coverage would be excellent, Seattle Subway didn’t forget about Seattle between the new Pink Line, the Ballard-to-Sand Point line, the Red Line extension to White Center (and Burien), the Green Line extension to Crown Hill, Greenwood, Northgate, and Lake City, and the Gold Line, which has been re-imagined as a spur from Capitol Hill Station. The previous version had the Gold Line interline with Ballard Link Downtown and beeline to Sea-Tac Airport via South Park and Georgetown. Instead, the latest Gold Line iteration would serve 23rd and Madison and turn south mirroring the Route 48 bus through the Central Area, and terminate at Mount Baker Station.

Pierce and Snohomish Counties

Seattle Subway envisions fewer extensions envisioned in Snohomish and Pierce counties. Link extensions from Downtown Everett to Everett College and from Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall remain.

“For the long-term, we see subway expansions radiating from central Tacoma and Everett–but in the mid-term they don’t appear to be ready to expand,” Kyle said. “Demand in King County is more immediate. We are experiencing a full scale twin crisis of housing and transportation. We’ll be ready for major improvements before the rest of the region is ready.”

For the time being, Seattle Subway’s King County focus would primarily leave the ST3 light rail spine to serve Pierce and Snohomish counties supplemented by bus rapid transit given the lower population densities. And some bus rapid transit is already on the way. Pierce County is in the process of planning a BRT line on Pacific Avenue, and if the project is as successful and transformation as planners hope, it’s not hard to imagine the corridor densifying and eventually being light-rail ready–maybe 30 or 40 years down the road. Likewise in Snohomish County has a BRT line under construction–the Swift Green line, in addition to the Swift Blue line, which opened in 2009. Both counties have identified more BRT corridors in their respective long range plans.

Timelines

Seattle Subway has its sights set more immediately.

“The next transit measure, likely in 2024, will very likely be at the King County level.  We need to start planning for that now,” Kyle said. “Demand is so high in King that we will also be ready to expand more when Tacoma and Everett catch up.”

Many transit advocates have pointed to the pattern of Seattle backing away from transit investment, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This year is the 50-year anniversary of the Seattle region voting down Forward Thrust and Atlanta getting MARTA instead. More recently, the Seattle Monorail Project came close to expanding the high capacity network before mismanagement pushed local officials to pull the plug–the monorail taxing authority still remains should we decide to use it.

“Getting everything lined up to actually win a ballot measure while not suffering the same fate as the monorail (we will need establishment support) will be much more difficult,” Kyle said last year when I asked about Seattle using monorail taxing authority.

Will King County forge ahead of the regional pack and support an ambitious plan to augment ST3 light rail? Time will tell.

A Faster Metro Plan: Fund E Rail with City Transportation Authority

 

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Lake Washington is too deep for a tunnel; the average depth is 108 feet. Like Puget Sound and Lake Sammamish it was gouged out by a very heavy glacier during the Ice Age. Also, the bottom is typically about a hundred feet of saturated sediment; it’s just not good for tunneling. Any extension from Sand Point would have to be another floating bridge. Apparently Kirkland is implacably opposed.

  2. About the north end of the Pink Line. If you’re going to do the Aurora corridor, do it right by not following Aurora between the Ship Canal and about 85th. Instead follow Phinney/Greenwood which really does have “bones to be the largest transit-oriented development opportunity in the region”. That’s because it’s the top of Phinney Ridge which means that there can be a checkerboard row of high rises with spectacular 360 degree views of the region which don’t block anyone else’s views. And since the street is north-south the shadow issues are less severe; no downhill property would lose the sun for more than 40% of the day at the worst and with a checkerboard, in nearly all cases much less.

    Actual Aurora is a POS between 50th and Winona, and the development potential between 39th and 50th does not nearly equal that along Greenwood. And most important of all, an Aurora alignment with a new high bridge does not serve Lower Fremont whereas a subway along Dexter and Fremont/Phinney/Greenwood would do so.

    Is it more expensive? Yes, perhaps frighteningly so, but a new high level bridge basically just gives Shoreline riders another quick ride to the City while bypassing actual Seattle residents.

  3. Wow, the Pink Line deviating just south of Midtown to First Hill, Madison Park and South Kirkland is brilliant. It would offer a second crossing of Lake Washington without “trespassing” further on UW or twisting up the Kirkland City Council about spoiling their serene lake view from their downtown. It would directly connect downtown Bellevue and South Lake Union without a transfer, albeit with a few more stops than the “direct” route via I-90. It would require Midtown Station to be stacked but given the problems with building foundations and “over-under” tunnel through the Financial District might be considerably less risky than side-by-side. It also narrows the station footprint but makes “out-of-direction” transfers to and from the Pink Line change levels though only one time. And, one time or the other each day direct users of the station would be a level deeper.

    And, since the Pink Line will be deviating just north of “Gates Foundation” that station will have to be stacked as well. And it might make building Denny Way less intrusive to stack it. But, the complex transfers at Westlake would be made more cumbersome if the new platforms there are stacked. So, is there some complicated TBM driving in store for the new tunnel?

    I completely agree that a “bypass” for the Deep South King/Pierce County line should eventually be built through the Industrial District, though I’m not sure it’s worth crossing the Duwamish to pass through South Park. Running up the east side of Boeing Field would be a lot cheaper and just as fast or faster. Grant, the eastern walkshed of the Georgetown Station would be truncated, but it would also be in the historic center of “Georgetown”.

    The Brown Line should operate on into the Airport; people would scream bloody murder about having to transfer one station from it. It’s only an additional eight or so train minutes per trip.

    One problem with terminating at the airport, though, is that there is no “tail track”. For the two and a half years that trains terminated there, they swapped platforms like at HSS. That doesn’t work when the station is also serving through trains. There’s plenty of space south of the airport to widen the support structure and move the through track to the west, making the current through track the tail but of course, it’s not free. Since both the Brown and Green lines would be terminating there, it would be good to have a pair of cross-overs from the southbound track to the tail so that trains could enter it in “first” or “second” position for exiting. And of course a walkway has to be provided for the operators to change ends.

    Can the Green Line as proposed be operated with thirty intermediate stations? At a minute dwell and a minute to accelerate and slow, that’s a full hour consumed by station stops. Can the train make it at a practical average speed excluding those stops of 35 mph all the way from the airport to Sand Point? Maybe, but it’ll be close.

    Finally, I’d suggest pushing the Pink Line a little farther north than 145th, say 160th. That huge parking lot on which the Sears sits is a helluva good place for a goodly urban village!

    So far as the Gold Line, as mentioned below it seems foolish to truncate it at CHS. Extend it on through SLU to get better coverage of the area around Fairview and push it on through the Battery Street Tunnel to a stub-end at Western. That gives a good portion of Belltown access to the regional system at one of the many transfer points on the Gold Line.

    The idea below to put a trunk line on the waterfront is not good. Daily commuters don’t want to go to the waterfront; they want to go to the Retail, Government or Financial districts downtown.

  4. It would be great if Seattle Subway could engage north and south a little more. There’s probably a lot more we could do in Tacoma and Everett.

  5. What was the logic behind moving the Lake Washington crossing from Sand Point to Madison Park?

    Does the ID station actually echo Doug’s Union Station idea? Looks to me the new tunnel will still be east of the existing tunnel, or am I misreading the map? The only similarity is having the West Seattle line zig over to 1st Ave rather that wait until SoDo to split off the existing line.

    • The logic of the Madison Park connection is several (I think): 1. It makes a Madison Line more viable as a corridor for LRT; 2. It offers a more direct connection to the centre of Seattle for cross-lake trips; and 3. It can run along SR-520. There may be other reasons.

      The map is not necessarily explicit on 4th Ave S alignment/Union Station, but it could be inferred that the Red and Blue Lines are moved over to a new alignment west of the existing tunnel before getting plugged into the existing tunnel north of S Jackson St. Meanwhile, the Green and Purple Lines would use the existing station and be splintered off into a new tunnel through the city centre.

      • It makes logical sense, but I can’t imagine Madison Park not fighting this tooth and nail. Regardless of logic, do we really think this is more politically feasible than a crossing at Sand Point?

        Also, I saw this question mentioned on Facebook: where’s the tunnel portal going to be?

        • I think that’s too detailed of a question. Studying it would yield clearer answers, but if it’s close to shore it might not be too deep to come out of the water. However, there are clear regulatory challenges that probably make that not so desirable, which pushes a portal somewhere near land’s edge? As to the political wisdom, I couldn’t say, but I imagine a tunnel would be heavily desired if this were the routing chosen. Presumably, an alternative path to SR-520 could be taken without going via Sand Point. A new cross-lake span would be expensive to do, so something like the Pink Line could be a clever way to avoid that.

          • Thanks! As I mentioned over on FB, it’s not particularly important at this conceptual stage, but Madison Park is the one neighborhood I can think of that might be even more resistant to this sort of thing than Laurelhurst and Windermere in the case of the Sand Point route. I’m sure they’d prefer a tunnel to anything above ground, but they’ve fought things like a path on public ROW from 37th to the Arboretum (and Broadmoor got handed that public ROW as part of the fallout). I can see them fighting anything that involved taking private land a lot harder.

            Then again, maybe when it comes time to actually planning out these things Madison Park will have progressed beyond its current state of mind. I grew up near there and it’s been pretty static for 40+ years, but you never know!

  6. I feel like Belltown needs service. It’s one of the most densely populated postal codes in the state, yet it’s always getting screwed over in these plans because we’re forced to choose between Belltown and SLU. Personally, I’d be interested in looking at building a new waterfront viaduct (ha!) should be considered. A sleek modern rail viaduct is far less disruptive than a 2 level highway with roaring engines and exhaust fumes, plus having a train zoom by your window before the water is cool pretty cool imo.

    Essentially, my vision for this kind of a plan would have the pink line basically follow the current alignment of highway 99, through Aurora, into the Batter St Tunnel, then a new rail viaduct along the waterfront, with stops at Belltown, Pike Place, Downtown CBD, then Pioneer^2, and after that it can follow the red line/highway 99 until it gets to Tacoma. This would obviate the necessity of the purple line, so I’d think it could take the place of the pink line to curl back towards Madison Valley and onto 520. We would essentially have the purple line become the double crosstown routes, while the pink line would be the “I want to go very far very fast” line.

    On the subject of the Duwamish bypass, IMO it is a great opportunity for express service. There’s tons of space in the industrial space, and eventually as we redevelop it, we don’t want folks from in Tacoma having to slog through all those local service stops. That said, on the other hand, it might give anti-housing sentiments some ammunition (“you don’t need to live in Seattle, you can move to Tacoma and get here in 45 minutes anyways!”) which will gentrify Tacoma even more and not be helpful for realizing the benefits of density.

    Also I don’t love the gold line here. It’s so short, and doesn’t go to into SLU. I get that it will be soul-suckingly expensive to cross I-5, but IMO stopping just short of amazonia/SLU is questionable. Heck they might even be willing to put some money in the hat. Also, we’re missing the soon-to-be-redeveloped Rainier Valley here too for pretty much no reason.

    • Also I think it would be great to see a direct Issaquah-> Seattle line. Once Issaquah gets built out, it will be a royal PITA to have to go to east main, then turn around to get to seattle, instead of just following I-90

      • As opposed to the PITA for all the people who live in Issaquah and work in Bellevue and Redmond? East Main is center platform, the transfer should be straightforward.

        • It’d be interest to see what the travel time differential would be, but I think Andrew has an interesting suggestion. Doing so would probably mean needing to route some Pink Line trips from Issaquah to Woodinville to maintain frequency on the Blue Line between Bellevue and Woodnville that would be diverted to Issaquah. I think the key downside though is the added complexity to scheduling and reliability through the new city centre tunnel. More routes interlining in the city centre always presents challenges, but if we attain a fully driverless and automatic system, a lot of those challenges could be vastly reduced.

          • ????? Nonstop from Issaquah to Redmond? No service to Crossroads? Really? What huge market sufficient to push a rail line through one of the most chi-chi neighborhoods in the region without stopping exists between Issaquah and Redmond? Will ever exist between Issaquah and Redmond?

          • Oh, I see: an overlay, probably only at peak hours at least initially. Sure; that gives greater service between Bellevue and Redmond when it’s likely to be needed without overloading the bridge. It’s likely to be needed eventually.

          • It’s impossible to “cut across” between the Pink and Blue Lines because of the wetland. You certainly can’t have a junction within the envelope of the express lanes.

  7. I feel like Belltown needs service. It’s one of the most densely populated postal codes in the state, yet it’s always getting screwed over in these plans because we’re forced to choose between Belltown and SLU. Personally, I’d be interested in looking at building a new waterfront viaduct (ha!) should be considered. A sleek modern rail viaduct is far less disruptive than a 2 level highway with roaring engines and exhaust fumes, plus having a train zoom by your window before the water is cool pretty cool imo.

    Essentially, my vision for this kind of a plan would have the pink basically follow the current alignment of highway 99, through Aurora, into the Batter St Tunnel, then a new rail viaduct along the waterfront, with stops at Belltown, Pike Place, Downtown CBD, then Pioneer^2, and after that it can follow the red line/highway 99 until it gets to Tacoma. This would obviate the necessity of the purple line, so I’d think it could take the place of the pink line to curl back towards Madison Valley and onto 520. We would essentially have the purple line become the double crosstown routes, while the pink line would be the “I want to go very far very fast” line.

    On the subject of the Duwamish bypass, IMO it is a great opportunity for express service. There’s tons of space in the industrial space, and eventually as we redevelop it, we don’t want folks from in Tacoma having to slog through all those local service stops. That said, on the other hand, it might give anti-housing sentiments some ammunition (“you don’t need to live in Seattle, you can move to Tacoma and get here in 45 minutes anyways!”) which will gentrify Tacoma even more and not be helpful for realizing the benefits of density.

    Also I don’t love the gold line here. It’s so short, and doesn’t go to into SLU. I get that this will be soul-suckingly expensive, but IMO stopping just short of amazonia/SLU is questionable. Heck they might even be willing to put some money in the hat. Also, we’re missing the soon-to-be-redeveloped Rainier Valley here too.

  8. The pink line is a really good idea, but some elements needs to be thought through carefully.

    In my mind, rather than stopping at Denny it should have a stop in Belltown around 2nd and battery. Belltown is one of the densest areas of Seattle, so any kind of long term plan needs to include it. In that case, rather than following 5th ave, it could be a 1st ave subway and replace the (perhaps already cancelled) streetcar.

    On the other hand, this adds a couple billion to the cost of of the line… So I won’t pretend there aren’t downsides. However, keep in mind going up madison would require a new subway anyway. It’s also not clear that the ballard line subway will be constructed in such a way as to make branching possible at the two required points. So far ST has not done a good job of making subways that could be branched the future.

    The bridge to south kirkland seems questionable. Several billion to augment 520 to support light rail. South kirkland will already have a route to downtown.

    In principle, I think another lake washington crossing is justified, but since it will be so expensive that route must to be a high ridership corridor that connects major housing and job centers in a way where they haven’t been connected before. The pink line east of lake washington here doesn’t really do that.

    I’d say crossing via submerged tunnel from sandpoint and then running to kirkland and redmond is a better option. Providing a fast connection between Ballard, Fremont, UW, Kirdland, and Microsoft seems like a bigger win than a parallel connection to downtown for the eastside. UW and Microsoft are major employers. Ballard is a major population center. The whole line is basically straight east west. Seems better overall.

  9. But again, I don’t blame Seattle Subway too much. They are simply expanding on Sound Transit’s misguided “rail to everywhere” obsession. They both are designing transit that looks pretty good on paper, but simply doesn’t work well because little details fail.

    As I said, designing a great transit system is difficult. You are bound to make mistakes, and you are bound to have tough trade-offs. But there are a few key guidelines that folks in both places need to keep in mind. The first is that density + proximity = success. In every city, the bulk of the transit ridership is within the urban core. Even in cities with outstanding commuter rail (cities like New York and Chicago) it is the transit system in the center of town that dominates. San Fransisco is a great example. On BART — a system designed to provide very fast suburb to city (or city to city) service — most of the riders are in the central core. The trains go 80 MPH and there are very few stops, making it ideal for long distance travel, but most people take relatively short trips inside the central city. It is just the way transit works. Concentrate on the core, get it right, then worry about the suburbs. All you need there are decent termini (and ST2 has that) along with commuter rail (which we already have) and commuter bus service (which could be improved). That’s it. Get the core right, and the rest falls into place.

    But getting the core right isn’t easy. To begin with, it is expensive, and every city has other, arguably more important things to worry about (crime, poverty, homelessness, etc.). It is expensive to build an effective rail network in the inner city, which is why almost all of the cities that have built it did so a long time ago. D. C. is the only U. S. city to build a solid system in the last fifty years. Even the very effective Canadian systems (Toronto, Vancouver, even Calgary) don’t make it easy to get around solely by train. Again, the problem is cost. I could come up with a sketch of a very nice rail system for the central part of Seattle. If memory serves, Seattle Subway did exactly that, when they started. But building such a system (with subway stops in places like Magnolia) is really expensive. It isn’t realistic, just as this plan isn’t realistic, even though it would have higher ridership and provide for a better system (even for the suburban users).

    Since building such a system is very expensive, you have to think about the buses. Bus ridership in most cities is bigger than subway ridership. Even in Chicago, which has a very extensive, very effective rail system, more people ride the bus than the train. It is essential that the buses complement the trains. Build trains where buses are slow, and have them connect to buses where they are fast. That is why I’m such a big fan of Ballard to the UW. That route (the one taken by the 44) is always going to struggle with speed. Build underground rail there, and a trip by transit is faster than taking a car, even in the middle of the day. You can’t say that about most of what Seattle Subway proposes. Furthermore, it works really well with buses that are fast. The E runs at a very good clip. So do all the north-south buses (the 40, the 28, the 5, etc.).

    But Seattle Subway’s proposal ignores that. Not only have you ignored the very urban Belltown, you’ve missed the urban, and well connected 24th Ave. NW. Instead of terminating the Ballard to UW line there (which would make the most sense) you stop short, for no good reason (while wasting time going all the way out to places like Sand Point, and that is just inside the city). Yet that is not the worst of it.

    You basically replace a very well functioning E, with something that wouldn’t be much better. The E is popular because it is long, fast, frequent and has decent stop spacing. Replacing it with something only marginally faster, shorter, and probably less frequent with fewer stops isn’t going to improve the experience for most riders. Certainly not enough for the extremely high cost. Likewise with Madison. Pretty soon we will have a bus that will run every six minutes, all day long. It will do so mostly in its own lane. The only time that a train would be faster is if you took the train a long distance, which is simply impossible for such a short street.

    Seattle Subway would do well if it stopped obsessing over futuristic “rail to lots of places, but not where people are” plans, and worry about the details here. How easy will it be to get from Lower Queen Anne to Capitol Hill, now that both places are served by rail? Will the transfer be short, or will it be a big pain? What about the stop at “South Lake Union”? Will it be too close to the next one (shrinking ridership) or will it be a bit farther away? Will it connect to buses on Eastlake and South Lake Union, or will riders be expected to walk an extra couple blocks? How about the station on Aurora, designed to integrate with the E? Where exactly is the E supposed to stop, once the SR 99 tunnel project is complete, and how far away are the train stops from the bus stops?

    Which is not to say that everything they worry about is wrong. It is a good idea to think about expansion, but it is important to consider what expansion is most likely. Ballard to UW? Sure, quite possible. Expanding northward along 15th? Only if it is cheap, which is why elevated makes the most sense. The only other expansion that is even remotely possible is a Metro 8 plan, especially one that loops around to serve Belltown (like so: https://drive.google.com/open?id=19pwUFBe-I8-LeP6jdbhj-IM_nfcQdrNH&usp=sharing) but unlike the other expansions, that one seems unlikely, even though it would be the logical thing to build after the other two. Worrying about how to accommodate it with the ST plans is probably unnecessary. For the next 100 years, the most likely scenario is that we add a couple of (relatively cheap) stations in Ballard (at 65th and 85th) along with a Ballard to UW subway. That is fine — as long as the buses run well, and compliment the subway. It isn’t as good as what Vancouver or Toronto has (even though their systems are much, much shorter) but it is at least decent. You have some rail within the urban core, and you have decent bus integration. That is the best thing we can hope for, really.

    Not that the map they’ve drawn is all bad. The two stops they have for the West Seattle Line actually make sense. A stop by Starbucks and a stop closer to the stadiums — if they are cheap — would be great. Might as well, as doing so makes more sense than simply building stations next to stations (as is the current plan). That is really the problem with their futuristic, trains to Woddinville and Newcastle proposal. It contains one small nugget that actually makes sense, and should be studied, despite huge amounts of “ain’t never gonna happen and God help us if it does” suggestions.

  10. Seattle Subway has a bizarre obsession with size. They want rail, rail and more rail, regardless of its efficacy. Instead of calling themselves “Seattle Subway”, they should call themselves “Puget Sound Subway”, or “Suburban Subway”. They seem obsessed with setting a record in terms of the longest subway, and they would certainly set it with this proposal. Longest subway in North America, lowest per mile ridership, highest cost per rider (both for initial construction and maintenance) — you name it, they would win.

    Designing a successful subway system is always tricky. There are little issues that have to be resolved. But when you propose literally hundreds of miles of new track and don’t include the most densely populated part of the state (Belltown) you’ve made a mistake. When you propose spending billions replacing bus service that is very fast and very frequent (more frequent than our trains) then you’ve made a mistake. When a typical trip on Madison is actually faster by bus than that same train, you know you’ve messed up. Just because the trains move faster doesn’t mean the trip is faster. First you have to get to the station — then you have to get to the platform (and then reverse the process at the other end). When you build lines that inexplicably end, forcing multiple transfers, making the trip no better than today, you know you’ve blown it. A typical trip from South Lake Union to Capitol Hill looks great on paper, but is no better than today. Imagine trying to get from Harrison and Fairview to Harrison and 15th. It is literally a mile (as the crow flies). Right now you would walk a few blocks, take the (slow and inconsistent) 8, ride it about a mile, then walk a few blocks. With this proposal, you start by walking an extra five blocks (since the station is planned for Westlake and Denny, not Fairview and Denny) take a train one stop, transfer, take a train another stop, transfer again, then take the train one more stop and get off right where the bus would have left you off earlier. It is absurd. No one would to that — they would do what they do today (take the bus).

    The only thing worse than the size obsession is the rail obsession. Notice the little grey lines on the map. Those are streetcars. Why bother pointing out the streetcars (which carry very few people) and ignore the bus service? It smacks of an obsession that has nothing to do with moving people, but seeing more rail. Miles and miles of new, pretty rail. Do folks there really think the ridiculously curving First Hill Streetcar is more important than the 7? Speaking of which, why on earth is there a second line to the airport, but you’ve ignored a second line in Rainier Valley? If you are going to try and replace every transit corridor with a train, than you don’t skip over the one with lots of people on it.

    I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on Seattle Subway. They obviously don’t know much about transit, but that is true of Sound Transit. Unlike ST, they are just hanging out, drinking beers (I hope), smoking weed (I hope) and jotting down pie in the sky proposals like a 7 year old with a big box of Legos. That’s cool. The problem is when people take their bizarre fantasies seriously.

    There is no way we are building something this big, and even if we did, we couldn’t maintain it. Just look around. Every major city has trouble expanding their system, even when expansion actually makes sense. The Second Avenue Subway carries 200,000 people, and when complete, will carry over half a million. That is several times more than our entire system, and more than if you built this entire light rail fantasy plan. It is only 8 miles long, but it isn’t fully funded yet. The most successful, most popular transit system in North America has maintenance problems (big time). So do more modern systems, like DC Metro. Or how about the Bay Area? San Fransisco is one of the most densely populated and fastest growing cities in the U. S., yet there is no plan to actually build a real subway covering the area. There are no plans to actually leverage what works for BART (the crossing) or building what should have been built in the first place (a lot more stations and lines in the San Fransisco/Oakland/Berkeley). Meanwhile, cities that have built miniature versions of Link (miles of rail to the suburbs) find themselves unable to run the trains that often. That is because suburban ridership drops off dramatically during the day and you can’t even justify running the trains. So cities like Denver cut back, and suddenly your expensive train runs less often than a typical Seattle bus. Outside of Seattle, L. A. is the only place where there is a major transit expansion, and that is because they are basically playing catch-up. But even with their enormous projects, they won’t come close to what Seattle Subway envisions for this area. L. A. is huge and remains huge for miles away from the central core. Places like Long Beach are as urban as most of Seattle, and yet lie 20 miles outside of downtown. Seattle just doesn’t have that. Once you get outside of the city limits, population density drops dramatically here (with the exception of a few places on the East Side). It is rare to find a city that is both sprawling and dense along the way, but L. A. is it. Seattle isn’t.

    • Ross, the Second Avenue Subway has to be drilled through the Manhattan Island granite because there is no way that the city can take one of its five north-south arterials out of service for years to dig a cut-and-cover subway. It uses TBM’s, but it’s right at the edge of “boreability”. It will cost at least $100 billion if it’s completed to the foot of the Island.

      And the reason that NYMTA “has maintenance problems big time” is the parsimonious New York State Legislature. The State took over transit for New York during the time that the city was suffering from white flight exodus and the “Trendy Surburbia” blues. New York City could today easily afford to improve the subway, but the Legislature persists in siphoning city tax dollars off for upstate projects.

      So far as Seattle Subway’s plans they are for the future! They only cost whatever a few tunnel bellmouths run, but they allow for a future that none of us can predict accurately. That future might include many people who this very day have no interest in living in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps even a disinclination. But within a decade when summertime temperatures reach 115 degrees in the humid south and 125 in Arizona it will be impossible for people to stay cool. There will be frequent fatal summer heat events which will cause the migration to the “sunbelt” to reverse rapidly. Folks may keep their southern houses for the wintertime but they will need to live in a cooler part of the country in the summer.

      There is no better place to escape summer’s heat than the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascade Mountain range.

      I don’t know how corporations will cope with their staffs migrating twice a year but they’ll have to manage. More likely AI will surplus a large number of current “knowledge workers” and some sort of Guaranteed Annual Income will have to provide for them so at least the immigrants won’t have the means to buy a sprawl-house. A tax on AI activities could raise the necessary revenue.

      Anyway, it’s very likely that a LOT of people will need to come here in the next twenty years and lo and behold, they’ll need those lines to get around.

      With, yes, belt lines like the Metro 8 and probably a replacement of 405 BRT with a higher-speed-than-LRT system.

      And of course, it’s possible that Republicans will see the light and recognize that investing in alternative energy systems hurts only Heartless Dick®, Dave, Charley, Rex and their friends but benefits everyone else. However, I wouldn’t count on it.

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