High-Speed Rail Plan Would Beat ST3 Light Rail Times by 1/2, with Swift Services Into Olympia; Expresses Perform Even Better.

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July 12, 2017 by seradt

Following two years of refinement, the recent SPIRE update coalesced firmly around a standard curve geometry and a consequent duo of potential track-speeds. These critical details were arrived at organically via a process of elimination guided by the barriers of our physical geography. They repeatedly asserted themselves, in a variety of ways, as being the most practical standard for our sprawling metropolitan area. The update has since provided us our first and most comprehensive insight into how the SPIRE program would revolutionize rail transport in the south Puget Sound. Now, with timetable string graphs developed for both of the optional design speeds—160kmh or 175kmh (100mph or 110mph)—that transformation has been brought into acute focus for a region bristling with congestion anxiety.

With the last of the infrastructure puzzle pieces set into place, we can responsibly estimate that SPIRE commuter trains will operate the entirety of the Seattle to Olympia corridor with a swiftness that is extremely competitive with the car. Indeed, on the key Seattle-to-Tacoma segment, which would feature all intermediate stops, SPIRE trains will likely always beat I-5 travel times in a private automobile, excepting only those early morning cannonball trips that exceed the posted speed limit.

At approximately 34 minutes for Seattle-Tacoma commuter rail trips, the citizens of the South Sound would find themselves intertwined in the “Seattle economy” in a manner that was never before feasible. Suddenly, for home-buying Seattleite’s desperate for a financial reprieve, the South Sound’s expansive real estate market would become a viable, and affordable, alternative to pricey inner-city neighborhoods. For the first time in its modern history, central Olympia would be brought into the regional orbit with commuter trip times into King Street Station hovering just above one hour.

The SPIRE investments would endow twelve cities with a ribbon of double-track railroad, a necklace fastening together an assemblage of jewels. It would do so while halving the projected trip times of Link light rail from Seattle to Tacoma (to write little of the exciting new service into central Olympia), and while creating an opportunity to bind Western Washington transportation systems together in a fashion that Link never possibly could replicate. Realistically, it exists as our only path forward in the long quest to construct a Washington State high-speed rail line to Portland, with express trains departing Seattle and diverging off the SPIRE corridor near Lacey in a touch over 36 minutes.

Picture the types of economic and social relationships already established across the south Puget Sound, from Seattle to Olympia. Consider the impact of such a rail system on their vitality, permitting an extraordinary increase in their numbers and complexity as they thrive off of a rejuvenated, elastic infrastructure. Along with I-5 and the simultaneously improved freight rail network, it further affords a crucial redundancy in our greater transport system. Each relationship is supported by high-speed trains that strictly depart at least four times per-hour per-direction, that run padded schedules free of delay, and which rapidly deliver the fresh nutrients of ideas and capital to their destination.

The superior backbone of our sprawling Cascadian city is not and will never be new-build light rail or buses on dedicated lanes; no, it will be high-speed electric trains, on existing rail lines, divorced from the freight rail network. In this context, other transport technologies only support the SPIRE backbone as they respond to local circumstances, whether it is light rail in Seattle or bus rapid-transit in Spanaway. For a region hugging the linear shelf of a coastal mountain range across its vast extent, the rail corridor envisioned in the SPIRE plan is the one sensible tool at our disposal to build a transportation system that finally propels us beyond the frustrating limitations of the Auto Age.

Absolutely, the future of Puget Sound transportation is the SPIRE plan or a rail system designed in its spirit.



(160/175KMH (100/110MPH); IN MINUTES)


Seattle King Street Station to…

  • Tukwila: 7/7 min.
  • Kent: 12/12 min.
  • Auburn: 18/17 min.
  • Sumner: 24/23 min.
  • Puyallup: 28/27 min.
  • Tacoma Freighthouse Square: 35/34 min.
  • South Tacoma: 40/39 min.
  • Lakewood: 44/43 min.
  • Dupont / Fort Lewis: 51/49 min.
  • Lacey (Central): 59/57 min.
  • Olympia: 64/62 min.


Seattle King Street Station to…

  • Tacoma Freighthouse Square: 22/21 min.
  • Olympia: 45/43 min.

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