What if the Sounder train added a Ballard stop?

That’s the idea floated by Stephen Fesler in the Urbanist: what if the North Sounder train, which travels between Seattle and Everett, added stops in Ballard, Interbay and Belltown?

Since the tracks already exist (map), the Sounder could add “infill stations” in Ballard just north of the Salmon Bay Bridge and south of NW 57th St. — as well as at Fishermen’s Terminal, Smith Cove (near the new Expedia campus) and Broad St. along the waterfront. If the stations are “modest” and don’t include parking, Fesler writes, they could cost a “few million dollars a piece.”

He continues:

A station serving Ballard could be successful in generating favorable ridership for several reasons. Firstly, riders north of Seattle may find the station useful to access jobs in central Ballard and the industrial area centered on Salmon Bay. A variety of all-day and peak-hour buses make connections to those areas easy. Secondly, local residents might find the service desirable to get quick service to Downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square, and SoDo. Other proposed stations could make intermediary destinations viable, too.

What would this mean for light rail? Fesler says the Sounder could pick up some of the slack before light rail debuts in Ballard in 2035. After that, light rail “wouldn’t fully compete with North Sounder since the commuter line would still serve unique destinations to the south,” he writes.

What do you think of his idea? Fesler has many more details in this post.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

17 thoughts to “What if the Sounder train added a Ballard stop?”

  1. “If the stations are “modest” and don’t include parking”

    So cute these urbanists. They think Ballard folks will use a remote station, on the waterfront, if they can’t park there. What, they’ll take a bus to the station, back tracking away from downtown?

  2. There would definitely need to be parking, unless the Metro bus options were greatly improved in Ballard. Right now, it’s impossible to take Metro without a long, hilly walk, unless I’m commuting (one direction) during rush hour. So getting down to the train tracks would be a royal pain in the patootie.

  3. I suggested this 12 years ago and was told it was cost prohibitive b/c Ballard wasn’t a priority to get butts in the seats.

    There are numerous options here where this could work with parking. One option would be to build a parking facility at the hairpin turn at Golden Gardens, another option could be do negotiate a park and ride facility with a long term lease at the Ballard Elks or Port of Seattle, with an elevated crosswalk over Seaview Ave.

    Sadly it seems Sound Transit appreciates Seattle residents for our tax generating abilities, but want to serve the outposts and low income residents more than people who live in Ballard and work downtown.

  4. It is funny how in most major cities with similar climates to Seattle (New York, London, Tokyo), they can have extremely successful mass transit systems without putting in any car parking – yet here in Seattle, people want massive parking garages or sprawling part-and-rides on every light rail, train and corner bus stop.

    Considering each taxpayer provided parking stall costs on the order of $20k to $60K, those stalls cost more to build than the value of the cars that sit on top of them. It’s kind of crazy to think of it that way.

    I, for one, would gladly ride my bike a couple blocks to hop on a train to downtown – then hop on a light rail line to arrive within a few blocks of my work in Tukwila. And when the Bellevue light rail line opens within 3-4 years – it would be trivial to go across Lake Washington, and I could leave my car at home. A Ballard Sounder stop would be a huge transit benefit to the local community.

  5. I’d ride it to go downtown if the price wasn’t too high. I don’t work downtown, but I’d use it for fun on weekends, or to get to the Link to get to SeaTac.

    Parking? Bus or bike, no big whoop. Lyft if I had a bunch of luggage.

  6. 1. the stop is way too far west (most Ballardites live east of there) and there is no real good way to get there without driving because the 44 is not reliable
    2. Sounder only runs a few times a day
    3. If Seattle were to accept this, wouldn’t we would be at least partly responsible financially as a Sound Transit district (whereas we are not responsible for Sounder North trains for ST purposes)? Say goodbye to any future tunnel under Salmon Bay if we have to pick up the tab.

    If I was made king of transit, I would have had a Ballard to UW station with stops in Fremont, Wallingford, etc. — built much sooner than the ST3 alignment that passed and we would not have had to worry about going above or under the ship canal. But that ship has sailed. The best we can hope for is that the approved alignment gets built faster, and there aren’t any legal challenges.

  7. Does he have an example of a “modest train stop”? I have never seen one.
    Even if no parking, there would have to be huge traffic changes to accommodate all of the drop-off vehicle passengers including buses.
    Years ago it was decided not to put it at Golden Gardens because there would still not be enough parking and it would no longer be a usable park with the parking completely taken by 7 AM.
    Whatever it takes, there should be a stop in Ballard which will most certainly be cheaper than light rail that only goes to Market Street and be ready to use a heck of a lot sooner.

  8. You put the station on the site of the old Ballard train station: https://www.google.com/maps/place/34th+Ave+NW+%26+NW+Market+St,+Seattle,+WA+98107/@47.6690857,-122.4032617,198m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x549015e801f91ab9:0x953e5f6c43c9c1d2!8m2!3d47.6686248!4d-122.4011338

    The old station building is still there but has been moved slightly west, and rotated, and appears to be used as a house: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6692075,-122.4029426,3a,60y,251.07h,88.11t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1szGyXg8SWvKDmwSDYmDUucA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    So you would build a new platform where the BNSF shed is. Build a broad, well-lighted pedestrian underpass under the tracks at the end of NW Market Street. Build a staircase up from Seaview Avenue NW on the west side of the tracks. Reroute Metro Route 44 somewhat so instead of turning south at 32nd and Market it would continue to 34th and Market and turn south there, with a stop at the corner.


    Don’t know about the ridership the station would get, but it’s a fact that there will be zero riders boarding there if the train doesn’t stop there.

  9. Deja vu. To quote what former Mayor Nickels once said to me “Ballard Sounder rail station? Not in our lives.” Perhaps he meant his political life? The option of a Ballard Sounder station was in fact one of the four legs of the chair that was the original Ballard (and Crown Hill) Neighborhood Plan, and I have the drawings of the Ballard rail station ($20,000 of city money spent for these lovely Miller-Hull designs) somewhere in my archives, in case the city “lost” them. We collectively had lots of community conversations about the station, location, parking, transit access, and interconnections with cross-sound passenger ferry service at Shilshole (the Port is supposed to allow for such uses, not that they like to be reminded, as part of their property title granted by the state and city). Harumph. Since Metro cut off any transit to the coast, that sure bitched the idea. Sure you can walk down the hill from the parttime Route 17, or walk the lovely pedestrian trail from 32nd. Then came the Monorail Mania which pretty much buried the whole rail station idea. Also, there is a major problem that the Seattle subarea of the Sound Transit funding scheme has ALL of its money dedicated to light rail, and for Seattle to “buy in” to the heavy rail system would be political coin that I doubt this Mayor or Council would be willing to spend. “Guest” above seems to know this. So, given light rail is still in the Future, so is using the low ridership Sounder. One thought is to drop a log across the tracks and jump aboard but I didn’t say that. Footnote: all this is still in the CHBNP, for what that’s worth since the new growth management plan superseded any such rational or quantifiable planning vision.

  10. @Stephen Lundgren: Right on. I also attended some community meetings. There will never be a Sounder Station in Ballard. There are too many practical negatives–no acceptable station location for starters–let alone no money. This was discussed to “death” decades ago. I would have loved it to happen, but it ain’t gonna, so why do we continually beat a dead horse?

  11. @Fart: No urbanist is calling for this station, it’s the people who live extremely close by that want it. Urbanists know it’s an expensive endeavor to build a train stop for maybe a dozen people that would use a train that only takes them to King Street. For anyone else, the 17X would be quicker and actually takes you through downtown AND you can easily park near the stops if it’s too far a walk.

    Every couple of years, the Shilshole station comes up and it’s always DOA. Use the money to push Ballard Link up in schedule.

  12. I think this is a great idea. A fantastic way to get to commute to Boeing Longacres – and I know there and many Ballardites that work there.

  13. I’ve been talking about this for years. It already goes by, why not stop? Build a simple platform. Bus stops aren’t elaborate, why does a train stop have to be? Uber, walk, bike, or Metro to the stop, they are all cheaper than parking downtown.

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