Seattle Union Station Redux

Discussion in 'Amtrak’s Future: Member Ideas and Discussion' started by NeueAmtrakCalifornia, Nov 21, 2019.

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  1. Nov 21, 2019 #1

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Historically, Seattle has two major train stations: King Street Station and Union Station. The former historically served the Great Northern and Northern Pacific (and later Burlington Northern) whilst the latter served the Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road. After 1971, Union Station was closed as Amtrak consolidated to King Street Station (King Street has through-running tracks to up north whilst Union Station does not). The station building still stands but the tracks have been removed to make way for redevelopment. Link Light rail and Sound Transit Express have a station right next to it (International District/Chinatown).

    With all the talks of a Cascade high speed rail line, there's a possibility that a new station could be built using the historical Union Station as a base. This reactivated Union Station would initially be used for high speed rail and Sounder commuter trains (this will also give Sounder incentive to electrify).

    Currently King Street is space-constrained, and the Great Northern Tunnel leads to the winding historical route. This would require building a new station. Such a new station would be deep underground to avoid conflicting with Link light rail. Upon completion, all Sounder services will be redirected to this new ROW. Eventually, King Street will only be used for the Empire Builder and Rocky Mountaineer trains, although should Amtrak buy battery locomotives (Neo-Union Station is going to prohibit diesels) then the Empire Builder would be relocated to the reactivated Union Station as well.
     
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  2. Nov 21, 2019 #2

    west point

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    Was told that Seattle Union Station did have a connecting track to the GN tunnel. Anyone confirm?
     
  3. Nov 21, 2019 #3

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    It never did. Only King Street had a connecting track to the GN tunnel.
     
  4. Nov 22, 2019 #4

    flitcraft

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    I think you must mean the Coast Starlight, rather than the Rocky Mountaineer, which terminates in Vancouver, BC.

    There was an article recently in the Seattle Times on the possibility of high speed rail connecting the Vancouver to Seattle to Portland corridor, but it contained no specific information about whether and how this train was to be implemented. Seemed more like a wish than a plan...
     
  5. Nov 22, 2019 #5

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Coast Starlight terminates at King Street, but yeah forgot to mention that once Neo-Union Station services the Cascades and Sounder, and Rocky Mountaineer has gone to Seattle
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
  6. Nov 22, 2019 #6

    sttom

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    So add a stub end station where there is presently a through station with a handful of through trains? Sounds like throwing a wrench into an already functioning set up.
     
  7. Nov 22, 2019 #7

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Neo-Union Station will have through-running tracks for up north unlike its historical counterpart.
     
  8. Nov 22, 2019 #8

    Palmetto

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    Is King St. at full capacity? If it's not, I don't see the wisdom of this.
     
  9. Nov 22, 2019 #9

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    It's space-constrained
     
  10. Nov 22, 2019 #10

    sttom

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    I'm pretty sure if a subway station can have one platform and a train every 2 minutes in each direction, I think King St will be fine for the foreseeable future. And it's not like you can't stick an electrified line underground. Washington did just burry the Alaska viaduct. They seem like the state that would dig down for a station if needed. There are also stations in the world that have 4-6 platforms that handle way more trains. It seems like a big investment for not a huge gain.
     
  11. Nov 22, 2019 #11

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    They can't electrify the current King Street station due to clearance constrains on the Great Northern tunnel, lest you want BNSF (who owns the tracks) to give up double stack containers (which they will not do; they had to notch it so it could accomodate double-stack trains).
     
  12. Nov 23, 2019 #12

    sttom

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    If a railway is going to cite double stack clearance as reason for a commuter or state agency to not build an underground line under an existing station, then there won't be electrification anywhere else along the line unless you also, some how manage to get a separate right of way built. Also, you were the one that said something to the effect of service to Reno would only work with "a 40 mile electrified tunnel" but a subway line of maybe 5 miles is out of the question....
     
  13. Nov 23, 2019 #13

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    There's gonna be a new ROW for neo-Union Station.
    I'll bring this up https://seattletransitblog.com/2017/08/09/seattle-vancouver-high-speed-rail-part-4-terminals/ https://seattletransitblog.com/2017...high-speed-rail-part-2-everett-to-bellingham/ )
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
  14. Nov 23, 2019 #14

    sttom

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    Still didn't answer the question about Sounder....also local service under that plan would either be 1) out of the question or 2) still on existing track. I've ridden trains that have high speed trains and local trains running on them. They high speed trains run significantly slower than 200 mph.

    Also, that plan you shared makes a subway through the existing station a potential idea because if the row is completely separate, they could put it anywhere if they plan for it. Making the existing services shift could make a bigger project harder especially when the people using the new Gadgetbahn don't presently ride the trains.
     
  15. Nov 23, 2019 #15

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Sounder commuter trains will relocate to the new ROW, although from Allentown Junction (which lies south of Union Station) south, Sounder and Amtrak Cascades will split from the new ROW and onto the existing BNSF ROW south to Tacoma. Between Allentown Junction and a little bit north of Union Station, it's blended like in Europe. The tunnel's south approach starts on I-5 near Boeing field (the median has plenty of space for 4 rail tracks)

    Sound Transit can purchase the ROW between Allentown Junction and Tacoma (I know there's a parallel ROW so maybe BNSF can relocate their trains to that ROW). Along the way, Sound Transit can modernize (i.e. electrify and grade-separate) so trains can go up to 125 mph.

    North of Union Station, however is where Amtrak Cascades, Sounder and HSR will be in the same space, although HSR will operate on separate tracks from the tracks that Sounder and Amtrak Cascades will run on as opposed to blended from the northern approach to Union Station to Allentown Junction
     

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    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
  16. Nov 23, 2019 #16

    flitcraft

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    With the passage of the 30 dollar car tabs initiative in Washington, it's going to be challenging enough to get the light rail system built that voters previously approved, since the bulk of its funding has been gutted. I can't see high speed rail being funded till we figure out how to pay for the projects we're already committed to, unfortunately. It won't happen in my lifetime, which saddens me because the Portland to Vancouver corridor is a natural for high speed rail links to work.
     
  17. Nov 23, 2019 #17

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Even more damning is that one new lane on I-5 between Vancouver, BC and Portland in each direction would cost $108 billion, and it seems everyone in Washington is fighting tooth and nail to prevent I976 from taking effect. Been hearing that Bernie as president would be the best shot at getting cascade hsr funded.
     
  18. Nov 23, 2019 #18

    flitcraft

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    By 'everyone fighting tooth and nail to prevent I 976 from taking effect,' you can delete Rob Ferguson, the AG, from that everyone, when, to everyone's surprise, he announced that the AG's office intends to defend 1 976 before the WA Supreme Court. It's going to be interesting to see how they come down on it--the best arguments against it is that i 976 violates the 'single issue' state constitutional requirement, and that it should be unconstitutional for a statewide initiative to bar local voters from opting to tax themselves. (That is likely the weaker argument, I think.) Counting votes on the Court, it's going to be close...
     
  19. Nov 29, 2019 #19

    neroden

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    I don't know what the WA Supreme Court is gonna say, but "it's unconstitutional for a statewide initiative to prevent local voters from taxing themselves" is an extremely strong political argument. Strong enough that if the court rules the wrong way, the state Constitution could most likely be successfully amended to make this a Constitutional rule.
     
  20. Nov 30, 2019 #20

    flitcraft

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    It's a good policy argument, but there's only weak inferential support in the state constitution for it.There's a third argument, though, that may well prevail, which is that the ballot title and description in the voter's pamphlet said that the tax rollbacks applied to any taxes other than those approved by the voters. But if you read through the complete text of the proposal, it annulled taxes currently approved by the voters, and would only allow voter-approved taxes passed after the initiative. If the description on the ballot was misleading--suggesting that the tax rollback wouldn't apply to the Sound Transit measures already approved by the voters--then the initiative could be struck down as fatally flawed. This was the argument that led a state superior court judge to stay the implementation of the reduced car tab rates--he determined that the argument was 'likely to prevail' on appeal, and absent the stay, there would be 'irreparable injury' to the government agencies in question. So... stay tuned!
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2019
  21. Dec 1, 2019 #21

    Seaboard92

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    King Street is nowhere near its capacity from an operating standpoint. Let’s look at it like this.

    Track Nine: Used exclusively for Private Cars and Company Service cars. With the new restrictions against PVs that traffic has almost dried up.
    Track Eight: I’ve never boarded a train from this track or saw one board here.
    Track 7: this track is used however I mostly have seen it used for southbound Cascades when there is a train expected soon or currently on five.
    Track 6: I’ve seen some trains on it but not on a super often basis.
    Track 5: the Thru track. This track sees the Coast Starlight because it’s long and needs the longest platform, the Empire Builder, and the Vancouver Cascades. Now since track 4 and 3 have been converted into Sounder exclusively it does put five a bit stretched as the only Amtrak thru track. It used to host Rocky Mountaineer but the Seattle train is now cancelled indefinitely.
    Track 4+3: Sounder exclusivity.

    From an operating perspective King Street has plenty of space to grow. I’ll have to post it’s old departure board from 52 so you can grasp the waiting room setup at peak times too.
     
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  22. Dec 1, 2019 #22

    jis

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    In my thinking, in any reasonable sized city with fast growing rail service, King Street Station, Union Station and the LRT station being so close together, would all be merged into a single station called Seattle Central which would have very self respecting head houses on both sides and atop the through tracks instead of bickering about which station to grow. ;)
     
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  23. Dec 2, 2019 #23

    jiml

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    That would be the sensible decision until various levels of government and special interests get involved.
     
  24. Dec 13, 2019 at 1:48 PM #24

    neroden

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    The fundamental problem is Fourth Street, which is apparently too important to automobiles to close. Close it, everything gets easier.
     
  25. Dec 13, 2019 at 3:19 PM #25

    NeueAmtrakCalifornia

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    Also another problem for Neo-Union Station: accessing the maintenance facility. Since Neo-Union Station will be underground, they'll have to build an underground maintenance facility like the LIRR Hudson Yards
     

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