Seattle Subway isn’t an organization to rest on its laurels. Fresh off Sound Transit 3 (ST3) success–with voters greenlighting 62 miles of light rail and two bus rapid transit corridors–Seattle Subway continues to keep an eye on the next transit measure.

This is a yearly ritual for all-volunteer-run organization; this year Seattle Subway Executive Director Keith Kyle said the tweaks are geared toward zeroing in on lines that are attractive for future transit measures. As you can tell from the map, Seattle will be a centerpiece, but there are some interesting additions for the suburbs too. The major differences from past maps (like the 2018 and 2017 versions) include extending the Aurora line to Edmonds, picking up Shoreline along the way and extending the Metro 8–named because it would turn the perpetually late Route 8 bus into a workhorse rapid transit line–to Belltown and Pike Place Market.

“There’s a lot of people really excited about the Metro 8 line,” Kyle said. “So we kinda spent some time thinking about what would it look like if you could really pull in neighborhoods that aren’t getting great service. How would you improve service to a lot of dense areas? I haven’t seen a version of the Metro 8, for example, that serves Belltown before or that tries to serve the [Seattle] Waterfront.”

With the 2019 tweaks, the Metro 8’s eastern terminus would be Mount Baker and its western terminus would be Pike Place Market, pulling in the Waterfront, which will soon get a big-time makeover. Along the way, it’d pick up Belltown, Denny Triangle (interlining with the Green Line’s Denny station), South Lake Union, Summit Slope (aka East Capitol Hill), and Western Capitol Hill with a 15th Avenue stop. From here on, the Metro 8 follows the same course as last year’s version–next stop Madison Valley, where it’d connect with a Madison Rapid Transit line that the map envisions crossing Lake Washington to Kirkland and interlining with the planned Issaquah line from the ST3 map. It’d also serve the Central District with two stops and Judkins Park, connecting with East Link.

Seattle Subway’s 2019 Vision Map expanded the Orange “Metro 8” Line and the Pink “Aurora” Line north to Edmonds. Click to enlarge in separate tab. (Map credit: Oran Viriyincy)

One place the vision map’s Metro 8 subway doesn’t serve is Capitol Hill Station. Perhaps this is a nod to the difficulty at shoehorning another station next to the existing one or to the overcrowding that could result if they do. The benefit of such an alignment is that the Metro 8 would get to serve other parts of Capitol Hill, but the lack of an easy connection between lines would be a drawback from a user standpoint.

The extension of the Aurora Avenue line to Edmonds was based on feedback received on the last vision map, Kyle said, as people asked why the Magenta line stopped at the Seattle border (the magenta color is now officially pink this year). This version keeps on rolling down Aurora and eventually swoops over to Edmonds. If the next phase is funded at the city level, then that would mean Shoreline and Edmonds would need to support funding the rail extension for the Edmonds extension to happen.

The vision map exercise isn’t necessarily geared toward sorting out all the technical questions. Instead, it’s about galvanizing support and keeping momentum going to expand rapid transit in the region. After missing many transit opportunities in previous generations, many transit advocates want to fully seize the opportunities before us today.

“I don’t think a lot of people think that Ballard and West Seattle is the end of a transit system expansion and high quality rail in Seattle,” Kyle said. “I don’t think a lot of people look at that map and say it’s done. It’s not done. It was the next step. It was a huge step forward, but we really need to take the next step forward beyond that.”

Thinking about the next step now has its benefits. Seattle Subway looks at developing a long-range plan beyond ST3 as a way to speed up delivery of projects.

“The biggest thing we hear is these things take too long to build,” Kyle said. “We have to keep as many projects in the pipeline as quickly as we can now so that when they start coming to fruition, it’s just one after the other, and we get all of that network effect and all the investments that we’ve already made start paying off more.”

With expensive central pieces of Seattle’s light rail network already funded and under development, adding an elevated Aurora Aurora line and extending the lines beyond Alaska Junction and beyond Ballard will be a lot cheaper per mile. A big reason why the extensions would be more inexpensive is that they largely could be elevated, and elevated rail tends to be about four times cheaper than deep-bored tunnels, Kyle said. One could argue it’d be foolish not to extend the lines with the difficult and expensive part done.

“When you reuse the second downtown tunnel to do an Aurora line, well the downtown tunnel is extremely expensive, extremely hard to do, but then if you were to go to elevated [rail] on Aurora, it’d be relatively inexpensive. You’re taking advantage of these huge investments that we’ve decided to make as a region, and really building out a Seattle subway, and that’s obviously our goal–it’s right in our name,” Kyle concluded with a laugh.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. would be nice if all ferry lines connected to a light rail terminus. not only connect the major mainland cities of tacoma, seattle, everett, bellevue, etc…but far away places as well, so people there can walk on their ferries and not have to drive.

  2. I’d suggest a spur from Totem Lake to UW via Kirkland (and across 520.) That would connect the two UW campuses and give more options to Totem Lake and Kirkland, which are two areas that are adding density. Also better access to Evergreen Hospital and the surrounding retail. It would allow academic and tech traffic a quick way to cross the lake without a huge bypass through Redmond then Bellevue.

    So UW Bothell-Woodinville-Totem Lake- Kirkland- NE 68th-S.Kirkland-UW. Not much would be needed, and maybe run it along the existing rail to trail path (Cross Kirkland Corridor) which is already publicly owned.

  3. i agree it’s not compete for the north the orange line needs to continue north to SR 99/ Airport Rd Station then go or follow on a similar route to the Swift Green Line to UW Bothell Valley Line going from Renton with stops in Tukwila Kent Auburn one here to replace Piece Transit Route 497 possibly a stop in Summer stops in Puyallup and Tacoma with a stop at the fairgrounds Purple Line extend this line to 512 Park & Ride this way the Purple and Valley lines can connect as far north as 84th or connect at 512 Park & Ride

  4. Sound Transit doesn’t simply exist as a vehicle to take car tab fees from Pierce County to build Seattle a subway. At least give us a reach around pretend that Tacoma and Pierce County exist. A single line extension to the mall is entirely inadequate and insulting.

    • Some elements of Seattle Subway think that the makeup of the next ballot measure may be different from the traditional region-wide approach. You’ll also notice that they don’t make many prognostications about extensions into Pierce County beyond what the ST long-range plan indicates (although technically the LRP suggests LRT as far south as DuPont). Their primary interest is in Seattle and King County. If you have thoughts about what Seattle Subway should speculate and argue for in Pierce County, perhaps reach out to them.

      In any case, the car tab fees raised in Pierce County go back to investments in Pierce County. It’s hard to imagine that changing in the future if the same subarea equity principles are brought forward in region-wide vote.

    • How many times is it going to take to pound it into the heads of people outside of Seattle that virtually ZERO of their car tab fees go towards building light rail in Seattle? That is not how Sound Transit is set up because of subarea equity. Believe me, transit activists would never have set it up that way because we’ve built a less efficient system because of it.

      • I think most people don’t actually understand the regional compact of subarea equity or the principle. Even when this is noted, many outside of the North King subarea think that their projects should be expedited over Seattle projects or that Seattle should pay for them without realising the implicit implications of what that means for the stability of the regional compact. And with that said, there are a lot technical aspects to how subarea equity actually works with “loans” between subareas and priority in the imaginary fund balances.

  5. I think it would be nice if the pink line went through Queen Anne and Beltown. Else extend the yellow line south from the waterfront station

  6. Is it accurate that NE 130th station won’t happen until 2021 even though it’ll get all the way to Lynnwood by 2024?

  7. Can’t help but notice that the Pike Place to Denny segment envisioned for the Metro 8 bears a strong resemblance to the Battery Street Tunnel… being filled with AWV rubble as I type.

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