Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, which is served by Amtrak Cascades. (Credit: Stephen Fesler)

This Transpo Notes roundup touches on a mix of transit and trail stories, including:

  • Restoration of Amtrak Cascades service to Canada;
  • Seattle’s recommendations for West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions;
  • Kitsap Transit’s July service changes; and
  • Newly opened expansion of a Bellevue trail.

Further Amtrak Cascades service restorations are coming

On Friday, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced fall restoration of Amtrak Cascades service north of Seattle. “WSDOT and ODOT are pleased to share that train service between Seattle and Vancouver, BC now will resume in September 2022,” Janet Matkin, a WSDOT spokesperson, noted in an agency email. “Earlier plans called for a December return to Canada, but Amtrak was able to advance the schedule. Stay tuned for further details.”

Matkin told The Urbanist that service will initially be one roundtrip daily. Service on the corridor has been suspended since May 2020. As a partial replacement, Amtrak Cascades has been running bus service across the border since December. WSDOT had hoped that Amtrak Cascades service would be up and running earlier in 2022, but Amtrak has been challenged by a tight labor market and lack of necessary staffing to restore and expand service.

Last Thursday, Amtrak Cascades also announced restoration of express Cascades POINT Intercity Bus Service between Portland and Eugene service with a single stop in Salem. The service is twice daily and went into effect on Friday. A regular version of the route runs four times daily.

Looking ahead, WSDOT has begun a service development plan for Amtrak Cascades that could lead to a cohesive plan for implementing more service. A final plan is due in October 2023.

Seattle recommendations for West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions advance

Image of Draft Environmental Impact Statement alignment and station alternatives considered for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions. (Credit: Sound Transit)

On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee met to discuss recommendations for the Sound Transit Board of Directors in selecting a preferred alternative to be studied in the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS). The committee considered several amendments to the package of recommendations that a city staff team put together in the spring.

In brief, the original recommendation package suggested the following:

  • West Seattle: a medium tunnel to an Alaska Junction station at 41st Street SW, a retained cut station for Avalon, an elevated station station for Delridge at Andover with refinements for bus integration optimization, and a south crossing of the Duwamish River;
  • SODO and Chinatown-International District CID: an at-grade SODO segment with overpasses at S Lander Street and S Holgate Street and further studying shallow 4th Avenue S and 5th Avenue S alternatives in the CID (though with no stated preference) with mitigation and further alternatives improvements;
  • Downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and Uptown: a mix-match approach with 5th Avenue Midtown and Westlake stations, a Terry Avenue Denny Way station, a Harrison Street South Lake Union station, and Mercer Street Seattle Center station;
  • Smith Cove, Interbay, and Ballard: no preferred Smith Cove station location, a retained cut Interbay station at 17th Avenue W, and a tunnel alignment to a Ballard station at 15th Avenue NW with station access refinements across the street.

Three primary amendments were proposed in the committee, but only two of the three were adopted.

A consolidated amendment offered by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the committee, and passed by the committee clarified several aspects of the recommendations, including that:

  1. The city doesn’t have a stated preference for the Delridge station and segment and specifically calls out inadequate analysis of local social resources along the segment, such as a daycare center and transitional housing provider;
  2. The city doesn’t have a preferred alignment for Smith Cove but does support a station at W Galer Street, which is five blocks north of the Helix Pedestrian Bridge;
  3. The city wants the Interbay segment to avoid impacts to any future Seattle Storm training facility; and
  4. The city finds that any 14th Avenue NW station in Ballard would be unacceptable without a station entrance west of 15th Avenue NW.

Councilmember Dan Strauss spoke at length about Ballard saying that in light of news that a fixed high bridge could face additional challenges (such as constructing an even higher fixed bridge or including a high drawbridge over Salmon Bay to satisfy a recent United States Coast Guard determination), the recommendations should include additional language reopening analysis of tunnel options west of 15th Avenue NW. The adopted amended recommendation language specifically calls for “re-examining Ballard tunnel alignments that would more directly serve the center of the Ballard Hub Urban Village in the vicinity of NW Market Street and 22nd Avenue NW.” However, Sound Transit eliminated west of 15th Avenue NW concepts earlier in the alternatives development process. Sound Transit’s evaluations found complications in light rail expandability and added project costs while ridership estimates were in the range of most other alternatives.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant further proposed a suite of amendments focused on expandability and rider experience, which included:

  • Objectives to minimize surface-to-platform travel times, escalator and elevator redundancy in stations, prioritizing placement of station entrances and infrastructure on city-owned land and streets, providing future expandability features at strategic locations, and other pragmatic strategies to control costs; and
  • Explicit calls for removal of deep 4th Avenue S and 5th Avenue S CID station alternatives, study of a shallow 4th Avenue S CID station with cut-and-cover construction and improved station access, preference for an additional 4th Avenue Midtown Station alternative, preference for studying additional Westlake Station alternatives, and southern expandability spurs at SODO Station.

Though fellow councilmembers were interested by aspects of the Sawant amendment, Sawant didn’t move it during the meeting and instead suggested that it could come back in one form or another before final passage of the recommendations. That could come at the Tuesday full council meeting on July 12th. If passed, the final recommendations would be forwarded on to the Sound Transit Board of Directors, but are non-binding and may or may not influence board decisions.

Kitsap Transit is shaking up service in July

On Monday, July 11th, Kitsap Transit will be adjusting service on a variety of routes, as follows:

4Two morning trips and one afternoon trip will be added to the route.
5Two morning trips and one afternoon trip will be added to the route.
9One morning and afternoon will be added to the route; other adjustments will be made to the routing.
20Three morning trips and one afternoon trip will be added.
24Two morning trips and one afternoon trip will be added.
26Three morning trips and four afternoon trips will be added for 30-minute service from 2:00pm to 5:30pm.
81Three morning trips will be added to the route and other adjustments will be made to the schedule.
86Trips will be reduced by half and will see other adjustments.
95The route will see minor adjustments to routing.
99The route will see minor adjustments to routing.
212The route will operate every 30 minutes on Saturdays.
215One afternoon trip will be added.
217The route will operate every 30 minutes on Saturdays.
219One afternoon trip will be added.
221Three morning trips and five afternoon trips will be added for 30-minute service from 2:00pm to 6:00pm.
222One morning trip will be deleted.
223One afternoon trip will be added.
225Three morning trips and one afternoon trip will be added.
229Two afternoon trips will be added.
301, 302, and 307The schedules of these routes will be adjusted to align with foot ferry arrival and departure times, and Route 307 will operate on Saturdays though September 24th.
332One afternoon trip will be added.
390The schedule will be slightly adjusted on Saturdays.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail

Last week, Bellevue announced completion of another Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail segment opening. The last expansion adds 10 blocks of trail next to I-90 between 132nd Avenue SE and 142nd Place SE (2nd segment). The segment offers a 12-foot-wide paved pedestrian and bicycle path on the north side of SE 36th Street. The new segment will also deliver additional lighting and traffic signal changes.

Bellevue has promised further expansions of the trail with a third segment between 142nd Place SE and 150th Avenue SE and a forth segment between 156th Avenue SE and SE Lakemont Boulevard.

Article Author

Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.