The state TOD bill is still making its way through Olympia, and I’ve been thinking a lot about development around Central Link stations. The one that always springs to mind is Mount Baker station, at the intersection of Rainier and MLK. Clair Enlow, a who writes a regular “design perspectives” column in the DJC, has written a great piece on HB 1490, and has a terrific description of the area around the station:
The intersection of McClellan Street and Rainier Avenue is straight out of the late auto age, where cars take precedence over pedestrians.
There’s a gas station, an auto supply store with parking, a big apron of parking for a drugstore-grocery and the back wall of a big-box hardware store. At a bus stop nearby, passengers wait for a Metro bus to fight its way through the heavy traffic on Rainier.
But the future is rising just beyond the auto supply and tire stores. The glass and steel vision that is Mount Baker Station now stands below the arc of the light rail platform, which swings around from Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and disappears into the Beacon Hill Tunnel.
More Enlow and my thoughts below the fold.
“There are several opportunities (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) as we are building out the system,” said Bill LaBorde of the Transportation Choices Coalition, one of a handful of environmental organizations now working on the bill to make it more acceptable to cities and other stakeholders. “The next few years are our best shot to take advantage of them.”
The legislation is based upon principles that are now hard to refute, and fairly easy to follow. First, global warming is based largely upon carbon dioxide emissions, which must be reduced dramatically to stabilize these changes. Furthermore, vehicle miles travelled are responsible for about half of the threatening emissions. Finally, auto use is strongly influenced by patterns of development.
The bottom line is, sprawling development increases our dependency on cars. Compact, walkable neighborhoods linked by transit decrease it. We need more of the latter, and the underdeveloped land right next to light rail stations seems like a perfect place to start.
Take a look at the satellite image of the intersection of MLK, Rainier and McClellan (or if you think that aerial view is a little more illuminating). That station’s immediate area contains the largest concentration of surface parking in Southeast Seattle, and most of that is within or just past the half-mile radius of walk-ability HB 1490 had in its original version. The big box retailers and huge supermarkets bring tons of traffic from relatively far off, which is why they need those huge parking lots, and I can’t imagine how NIMBYs would prefer have those retailers and the traffic that comes with them over some dense development. It seems to me that the area around this station is Seattle’s version of Bel-Red, a huge opportunity to turn a dusty pass-through-only area into a walkable urban environment.
Am I crazy? Would a couple of twelve or fifteen story apartment buildings be wildly out of place? I am wrong that NIMBYs would prefer apartments and restaurants over big-box retailers? Let me know in the comments.