A Wish List for Seattle Transit
Seattle is a beautiful city burdened by an obstructionist political culture and the most auto-centric citizenry in the Pacific Northwest. It’s transit has been built less quickly, and less extensively, than its chic neighbor to the north (Vancouver) and its scrappy neighbor to the south (Portland). As a result, it’s a blighted aesthetic that greets you as you enter the city from north (the monstrous I-5 bifurcating the city at its core) and from the south (an industrial wasteland). At least the eastern approach has Lake Washington and the pleasing suburban homes of Mercer Island and Leschi.
Things are changing, albeit slowly. The transit community is working hard, and the core of people who care about transit issues is solid. The Seattle Transit Blog has a well-educated, passionate staff and an informed base of commenters. It’s a pleasure to read the policy-dense and (for the most part) fantasy-light material that they post.
So here’s where they stand. A small radial light rail line just opened from downtown to the Airport. Expansion will proceed at a snail’s pace (1 new line per decade), with the next extensions going to UW in 2016 (desperate to reduce bus crowding) and the Bellevue/Eastside area in 2020-something. Bellevue needs better transit even if they don’t know it. (Sound Transit, if they choose to pay for a downtown Bellevue tunnel on behalf of the city council, will be like Mary Poppins pacifying the child with a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.)
But in all the high-quality policy discussion, a guy still has to dream a bit. So what follows below is pure fantasy with a fleck or two of reality thrown in for good measure. Here’s my drawn-up wish list for Seattle in, I don’t know, 2075, after 5 more rounds of “Sound Transit” ballot measures have passed.
(1. COMMUTER RAIL. Sounder has been extended along the Renton Junction and existing trackage to serve Renton with 3-5 peak-hour trips per day. Eastside commuter rail has been added from Snohomish to Renton, serving commuters from Bellevue, Microsoft, and those transferring to UW or downtown Seattle.
(3. CENTRAL LINK. An branch has been added to Central Link that functions as an airport express, stopping in Georgetown and Boeing Field. This would run adjacent to Sounder, Amtrak, and BNSF before rejoining Central Link near the new Boeing Access Road Station. The line runs from Everett to Tacoma, providing end-to-end service in 2 hours or less.
(3. EAST LINK. Completed as planned by 2023.
(4. BALLARD-WEST SEATTLE Line. This new line runs from Northgate to Federal Way via Ballard, Queen Anne, a 1st Avenue tunnel in downtown Seattle, West Seattle, and SeaTac Airport.
(5. ISSAQUAH Line. The Issaquah Line largely parallels East Link, but as the 3rd Avenue tunnel is at capacity, it instead crosses under Pioneer Square from the east and terminates at the Ferry Terminal.
(6. MADRONA Line. Provides local service in east-central Seattle.
(7. MADISON Line. Runs from Pike Place, down Pike Street, through Capitol Hill and the Madison Valley, crosses 520, and terminates at Microsoft. Sort of a hybrid between the #11 and #545 buses.
(8. GOLD Line. Replaces buses #48 and #522 and provides essential cross-town connections while serving Lake City, Bothell, and Woodinville.
(9. LAKE UNION LINE. Runs across town from Ballard to UW, across 520, and then along the BNSF right-of-way to Woodinville.
Comments? What connections might be missing? *Sigh, ’tis only a dream.