Dec’09 UW Light Rail Station Meeting

This is the second or third of these meetings that Amanda and I have went to, and it’s definitely starting to get a bit interesting. According to Sound Transit’s project page and the presentation that they gave, final designs have been completed and the transit agency is preparing to go ahead with the first phase of construction right after autumn quarter wraps up at the UW (December 14th).


There were a considerable number of repeat questions after Sound Transit’s presentation, and it was definitely neat to see that the plans are a lot more concrete and the plans make practical sense (for the most part!). Questions such as bike access (grade-separation from the Burke-Gillman trail, bike runners for the stairs on the east end), trucking soil and spoils out of the excavation area (modifying the Montlake/Pacific Wy signal), and parking issues dominated the Q&A period.

Then came the UW presentation for the overhaul of Rainier Vista and everything went incredibly insane. The guy gave a decent presentation, although quite sparse on the comparisons with replacing Sound Transit’s arcing footbridge to the south end of C-12 with a 100-ft wide lid over Pacific Place (necessitating the need for regrading the street 17 feet lower) and using a separate signaled crosswalk to cross Montlake at the midpoint between Pacific Pl and Pacific Ave (think the Seattle Aquarium crosswalk).  I’ve included a picture below.

It’s tiny at the moment, hopefully a better image will surface in the next couple of days.  One of the most important debatable aspects of the design is the crossing at Montlake that’s partially hidden by the lower text bubble.  Sound Transit is predicting at least 10,000 daily trips using the light rail at Husky Stadium by 2030.  Which one supports this growth?  Apparently 25% of riders are expected to make transit connections, and 70% of the remaining 75% will go north to upper campus.  The remaining 22% will go to the hospital and points south.

Of course, most of the criticism that came after the UW presentation was the practicality of the change compared to the Sound Transit proposal ($18 mil vs. $6-8 mil) and the complete infeasibility of an at-grade crossing for over 75% of users.  The poor UW guy eventually shut down while suggestions and criticisms were voiced against the UW plan, but some important points were raised.  One gentleman was particularly concerned with the jaywalking tendancies and the lack of queuing of the university community and questioned the pace of the traffic light counter to pedestrian traffic (“…if the traffic light isn’t responsive to within 10 seconds, it’s not fast enough…“, to which the reply was “…[the light] is fixed to 30-second intervals.“)  Many concerns were raised about efficiency; is constructing a 100-ft wide bridge only accessible from the station/bus stops by crosswalk really necessary?  The Seattle Transit Blog has a little discussion about pedestrian feasibility in the area, though throughout the presentation it was becoming clear that a pedestrian bridge would not be constructed in conjunction with the Rainier Vista lid.

Neither option supports good connections to the hospital, and it came up through some discussions with other people at the meeting that the medical center didn’t support a dedicated pedestrian right-of-way from the station to the hospital (why? crowd control?).  People that work/visit at the hospital will still have to make the two-hop jump to the hospital through Montlake and Pacific. 

My suggestion would be to extend Sound Transit’s bridge idea. At the current time, transit planners are envisioning re-routing buses to take advantage of the light-rail transfer and utilize the north side of Pacific Pl, hence the inclusion of a stairwell and elevator in the center of the walkway span. Instead of (or in addition to), there should be a pedestrian ramp from that midpoint toward the center of the vista triangle. While this enables people to populate the triangle (it hardly gets any traffic and can be a decent gathering area), it allows for a one-crosswalk connection to the hospital, bike connection to street level, and access to future bus stops.

5 Responses to “Dec’09 UW Light Rail Station Meeting”

  1. Thanks for the great writeup. I was there last night as well, and I’m definitely not interested in the UW design after seeing the presentation and talking to the project manager.

  2. […] Editorial: The UW Land Bridge? Not So Great. by Ben Schiendelman Last night I attended the University Link open house at the Museum of History and Industry. Construction is about to start on UW Station at Montlake, so there was a presentation explaining exactly where construction will take place, what sort of mitigation there will be, and what will go on. I’m not the first to post about this – Alper of Alpertopia covered it today as well. […]

  3. Galen Weld says:

    I was also there last night, and I also asked about the feasibility of a ramp of some non-stair connection to the triangle. The response I received was that a ramp would involve raising the corner of the triangle, which the U.W. didn’t like because it impeded the lines of the vista coming down from the fountain. I was also told to write a letter, and I would encourage others to as well.

  4. Jonathan Dubman says:

    I like the extension of Rainier Vista and the lowering of Pacific Place but the rest of this plan needs work.

    Why is it such a long walk – across two busy streets – coming out of the station and transfering to a southbound bus?

    There will be a large volume of bicycles crossing the Montlake Bridge destined for the station, the campus or the Burke-Gilman trail, especially after we have a bicycle trail across the floating bridge. Do we really want this stream of bicycles crossing Montlake Blvd. at grade?

    We have pedestrian bridges north of Pacific Place and west of the triangle. The Burke-Gilman trail has bridges over 35th Ave. and over or under other arterials. Why is it so bad to have a bridge or tunnel here? I don’t understand the great aversion. There are 40,000 vehicles per day on Montlake Blvd. 25,000 will cross this street in each direction, daily, to access the station. Why not a bridge or tunnel?

    It cannot be the expense… Compared to the cost of building the rail line or even the station, the cost would be negligible.

    For some reason, SDOT has a thing against “skybridges”. They consistently apply the same rules to this area as they do to the streets of downtown Seattle… Streets such as Pike between 7th and 8th Avenues, a public realm SDOT would never dream of sullying with a skybridge.

  5. l like any useful sentenses

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