I-90/Rainier Avenue Link Station (from the Central District News)

In light of Bellevue routing and whatnot, East Link’s first two stations outbound from International District Station have been somewhat of an anomaly, at least up until now.  The Central District News has some new information about the I-90/Rainier Ave. Station, which is currently a freeway stop.  There will be platform entrances from 23rd Avenue on top of the Mt. Baker tunnel entrance, as well as an entry ramp to the Rainier Avenue bus stops below I-90. More below the jump.

From the Central District News:

Due to space restrictions, the station will be sited closest to 23rd, with elevators, escalators, and stairs to get down to the level of the station. On the west side, it will connect with Rainier via a 600 foot long ramp to get down to street level, providing access to the #7 bus route. Sound Transit is actively exploring ways to brighten up the area below the underpass there to make it more inviting for pedestrians.

Among the issues that Sound Transit is still wrestling with is how to protect riders from the noise and chaos of the freeway. The platform sits right in the middle of ten lanes of traffic, so they’re looking for ways to use landscaping and/or physical barriers to help deflect some of the traffic noise.

Mercer Island Link Station (click to enlarge)

At its workshop last week, Sound Transit also revealed some information (PDF) about what the Mercer Island Station will look like.  The station will sit between 77th Ave SE & 80th Ave SE with platform access to both streets, which riders can use to connect from the park and ride.  The design is typical of many freeway rail stations in both Portland’s MAX and Los Angeles’ Metrorail systems.  In pure speculation, however, Mercer Island has tremendous TOD potential with a future lid or cap over the station, due to I-90’s retained cut.

The key feature we like most about the two stations is the center platform.  While neither station will be a rail-to-rail transfer point (at least not until an Eastgate/Issaquah Link extension is conceived), center platforms are good for riders who overshoot their stops.

57 Replies to “A Peek at the Other Two East Link Stations”

  1. If the Central streetcar is to be constructed, might it be ideal to terminate it at the 23rd avenue side of the Link Rainier station rather than 23rd and Jackson? Not quite sure if I can justify to myself the turn onto 23rd and the seven or so block trek south, but just a thought seeing as this station takes advantage of 23rd much more than I thought it would.

    1. That is an *excellent* point. The biggest problem with extending the streetcar into the CD is that there is no high travel demand destination or origin, it just kind of petters out as you get close to the water. This makes it impractical to completely replace a bus line because it just isn’t worth it to build a streetcar all the way to Lake Washington, but if you don’t replace a bus line than you are duplicating service and that doesn’t make sense either.

      The Rainier Ave station really solves this problem by creating a high demand destination and origin in the CD. This ensure that capacity will be higher and more uniform along the streetcar line. Its a bit long but at ~1.2 miles it isn’t out of the question. How about an upzone a good amount and then use an LID to recover the construction costs?

      1. Yea, was wondering if an upzone in this area would work. Wasn’t sure if the neighborhood context was similar to the Rainer valley stations (for better or worse.) In this regard, a LID could be a practical way of justifying the ~1.2 mile or so cost, and for that matter reinforces the whole notion of getting a line in the CD in the first place. You make a good point that this terminus would act more like an origin and destination versus an ever dwindling linear path toward the lake.

        Curious about the practicality of even continuing the streetcar down 23rd, serving this station and terminating at Mount Baker, providing a continuous linkage between multiple nodes. While this may stretch down too far, I’m still interested in the idea of at least the Rainier station as a transfer node.

      2. I don’t know if it would work or not but generally LIDs with streetcars work best when areas are currently undervalued, even at their current zoning potential. I too thought about going all the way down to Mt. Baker. It would be a very nice way to tie everything together. These is a lot of redevelopment potential starting about 3 blocks south of I-90.

        I think we are both thinking of a Jackson/23rd alignment but this also opens the door for a Rainier Ave alignment as well. I personally like a Jackson/23rd alignment more if the zoning is increased enough but Rainier Ave has a *lot* of under utilized land that could be up-zoned significantly without the neighborhood opposition that you normally get. Its close to the Goodwill site as well.

      3. Awesome, thanks for linking the map Adam. If the upzoning could fly, I too would prefer the Jackson/23rd, but Rainier could have significant potential if done properly. I could see a lot denser, taller construction going up on Rainier. That and I imagine the LID issue resolves itself better. Seems to be a ton of under utilized land. I could see traffic mitigation being an issue, depending how and where the tracks are placed. The plus is that even though it’s further from the actual interstate platform, it could still work on Rainer with ramp.

        As far as going down 23rd, I’ve noticed the development around 23rd and Rainier. Either Rainer or 23rd could bridge this development to Rainier stations and Mount Baker, but 23rd does have the appeal of linking up to the current CD location which the area seems to desperately want. Thinking about it though, Rainier does look appealing. Could see a significant shift in population in the CD/Rainer area if Rainier is developed.

      4. I think another plus of the 23rd alignment is that you could terminate the 48 around Jackson-ish, further improving reliability. By the time all this is built you’ll have East Link and U-link providing an extremely fast connection to UW, so there wouldn’t be much mobility lost by people further south.

      5. Or you could work the 48 into one of the CD/Cap Hill local routes and have it head downtown. Again I think Metro needs to spend at least a year or so looking at how to restructure service so that it is most efficient and improves mobility for riders.

      6. It might even make sense to make the streetcar keep going all the way down Rainier to Rainier Beach.

      7. Or put it through the pedestrian tunnel to Leschi.

        Okay, 90% kidding, but I’m psyched that this station is 600′ closer to Lake Washington and Leschi than I had expected.

      8. I completely disagree with the people saying we should change the 48’s southern terminus! If it’s downtown or if it’s 23rd & Jackson, suddenly the areas between the U District and 23rd & Jackson would be two transfers away from the Rainier Valley, or one if they go way out of their way via Downtown. This is a very high ridership corridor, and it shouldn’t be broken up any more. (I don’t mean the north end of the 48; the 48 should be broken up with a 48 going Campus Pkwy to Loyal Heights and a 47 going Roosevelt-Mount Baker).
        Also, in the future, I think the 48 route would be a great candidate for a streetcar. Although it would probably need a counterbalance on 24th.

      9. No need for a counterbalance on 24th. It used to be a street car line and it was not counterbalanced. The J Church climbs a MUCH steeper hill than 24th through Dolores Park–on curves.

        BUT, 23rd/24th is too narrow to give a streetcar the necessary priority.

        Yes, GM helped to screw the streetcar systems of America. But MAIN reason they died is that they had shared right of way with cars. After about 1945 people decided that they were in the way. Very few people objected to the tracks being ripped out except in places where there was a downtown CBD tunnel that buses could not use: Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh or high-speed dedicated trunk lines connecting the edge of the CBD to a semi-suburban collector area: San Francisco and Cleveland.

        Every where else people were glad to have them out of traffice.

        It is STUPID to put them back without lane reservations.

      10. spelling and grammar corrections:

        “But the MAIN”

        “out of traffic”

        Also, Pittsburgh really should be in the “high-speed dedicated trunk line” section rather than the CBD tunnel section. The T tunnel was opened in the early 1980’s when the trunk line was reahabbed out to Castleton Jct.

      11. I disagree. Putting streetcars in regular traffic with cars shows cars that they don’t own the road. Streetcars are not meant to be high speed regional connectors like Link. They are meant to be neighborhood connectors like buses, stopping every couple blocks and running in mixed traffic where they can get high ridership and not cost very much.

      12. So… a more expensive version of a bus?

        And yes, I know the argument about increased development along the route. But in terms of the actual transportation aspect of the streetcar (which is, as far as I understand it, the primary purpose of a streetcar), you’re saying it should be functionally equivalent to the busses it would be replacing? (Actually, it would be worse, because it cannot change lanes to get around a stalled car, etc.)

      13. Well, more specifically, exclusive lanes should be used in *most* areas. It’s fine and desirable to have shared running in *some* places, particularly those with light car use, but there is not a great deal of point to a streetcar with *all* shared running (one fewer wire than a trolleybus and a slightly smoother ride… probably not worth it by itself).

        Good shared-running scenarios:
        – road only for local access plus streetcars, no through traffic;
        – streetcar lane also open to buses but not to cars;
        – sufficiently few cars that it ‘just doesn’t matter’, but watch out, because the cars may appear later and crowd out the streetcar.

        Bad shared-running scenario:
        – adding a streetcar to a road which is continually congested.

        Incidentally, any road with more than two driving lanes (one moving in each direction) has enough room for at least one exclusive streetcar lane. Any road with more than two lanes of any sort (i.e. practically everything in the Seattle area) has enough room for local-access-only-plus-streetcar, and if there’s a parallel thoroughfare, this is wise.

        Or, in other words, *23rd is plenty wide enough for exclusive streetcar lanes*. Taking two lanes still leaves a driving lane in each direction, and parking lanes on both sides in many places. The road is not even crowded enough for the elimination of the middle lanes to cause any problems.

      14. I think we’ve already established the capacity, maintenance and capital cost advantages pretty well on this blog.

      15. “The T tunnel was opened in the early 1980’s when the trunk line was reahabbed out to Castleton Jct.”

        A correction, Anandakos: when you say “Castleton Jct,” I presume you’re referring to Castle Shannon, PA (where I grew up). Actually, the 1984 line rehab took trains through Castle Shannon and on further south to Library and South Hills Village. There is a junction in Castle Shannon, but it’s called Overbrook and isn’t a terminus station.

      16. “I think another plus of the 23rd alignment is that you could terminate the 48 around Jackson-ish”

        I’m still dubious about the 8 replacing the 48 on the Mt Baker to Rainier Beach segment. I think more people in Rainier Valley are heading to the U district than to Broadway. But I’m not 100% sure.

      17. “cars own the road”

        Ask yourself, how many voters drive vs how many ride transit? Yes, that’s right transit riders are in a minority. And given a confrontation of cars vs street cars, street cars will lose. So to mitigate the confrontation, we need to give the street cars their own right of way and yet let cars have a dedicate lane. MLK may be ugly because its so wide but really it serves people along it well. Wide streets for freight/cars & bicycles and Light Street Cars/Rail.

      18. Mike, I’m dubious about it too. But no one is going to take the 48 from the RV to the U District in 2017.

      19. When creating the map for the Seattle Streetcar wiki:
        Oran drew a possible extension of the First Hill Streetcar from Yesler running down S. Rainier hitting the East Link station and then all the way to the Mt. Baker Central Link station. I have no idea if that was just an idea he had or if that is actually being considered, but it looks/sounds interesting.

        Map at the link.

      20. I’m pretty sure that was just him thinking out loud so to say. The extension to Jackson was the only one officially studied.

      21. It was considered and then dropped along with the West Seattle and Ballard via Interbay streetcar lines. Look at the Streetcar Network report appendices.

      22. Actually, the West Seattle and Ballard via Interbay streetcars were rejected for technical reasons, the Rainier one was the only one that was rejected for duplication of service, but if they get the Goodwill site project going again, and once Rainier Station is finally being built, I think the Rainier Streetcar would be great. Perhaps they could route it up to Capitol Hill instead Downtown via Jackson.

      23. I think you’d want two from Rainier. Jackson, and one that would take 23rd all the way to Ravenna.

        West Seattle and Ballard via Interbay are what we need high capacity transit for. :)

  2. I would suggest that if they’re going to consider plantings/landscaping as a potential way of shielding riders from the less than friendly confines of the interstate, it would be wise to choose plantings that don’t go bare during the winter time. Cold wind driven rain and noisy vehicular traffic in conjunction with bare plantings offering no protection will make winter time Link usage at the I-90/Rainier Ave station rather unpleasant.

    1. Plantings, trees, landscaping, etc. do NOT buffer sound. Only a solid barrier will do that — heavy glass, brick, or concrete, for example. What we do NOT want is something like the Rosa Parks Station where the Blue and Green lines intersect in south LA.

      I made the transfer there once and it was a living hell, right in the middle of a noisy urban freeway — and that was above ground, not with the added echoes of a retained cut.

      1. Glass sound walls along the outside of the tracks (and ramp) are about as effective as I can think of. Nothing less substantial works for freeway noise, and anything non-translucent seems cave-like. (Alternative: build a fully-enclosed, roofed, lighted station and it will feel like a subway station.)

      2. Exactly. Just make it a subway station. If it’s underground, it’ll be quiet and rather relaxing. If you have it next to a freeway (even with sound barriers), you will be yelling to the person right next to you on the platform.

        Why can’t this take on the appearence of the London Tube? or the Paris Metropolitan? Enclose the stations like a subway!

    2. The Mercer Island design reminds me of the Chicago L, where many subway lines run in the median of 10-lane freeways. I guess they could encapsulate the entire station area or something, but that might be impractical for the time being.

  3. Frank at Orphanroad made a very good point about the Mercer Island station. It will be just two stops from downtown Seattle, two stops from downtown Bellevue. Sounds perfect for young professional couples.

      1. Still there but my browser is telling me that I shouldn’t visit it because of malware.

      2. The site (Orphan Road) was briefly hijacked, possibly by an ad, unfortunately it is now stuck on the “bad site” lists kept by google, mozilla, and others until those sites decide to remove them.

  4. With regards to the noise/elements at the Rainier station … couldn’t they do something with glass … like they did over pine street at the convention center? … mix it with the glass bridge wall at the sculpture park … it would prevent a lot of the noise from the freeway and keep the rain off of people. colored glass could be used to beautify the project AND be part of the station’s 1% public art requirement.

      1. That is a lame excuse. Glass brick, even if very dirty, is going to look better than solid dirty concrete. Plexiglass walls would also look better.

        And trees are not an option for sound buffering. It requires an enormous hedge to get decent sound buffering from vegetation, and there simply isn’t enough room for it, and it won’t work in the winter anyway.

      2. Evergreen shrubs? However with any screening there will be security and safety issues. If the station is too isolated visually from the highway it might not feel safe to be waiting for a train all alone. Though to be fair the two SODO stations aren’t real visible and the area they are in is rather deserted in the evenings.

      3. “If the station is too isolated visually from the highway it might not feel safe to be waiting for a train all alone.”

        Really? You are scared or something? It’s a subway station. I would actually feel more secure being in an enclosed subway station rather than watching reckless drivers screaming past me.

      4. So use those cutting board that they sell at IKEA.

        Or maybe some particle board from Dunn Lumber. That could be a hook to get Reagan Dunn over from the dark side.

  5. Too bad about the colored glass- how about tile instead? A concrete wall with colored tile work on the inside? Lid it with glass for natural light like they show here already, or top it off with TOD. The tile could be part of the 1% for art.

  6. Mercer Island idea. The western portion of I-90 on The Rock is already lidded, so how bout lid this block, put in a park/plaza/espresso cart area, and give the station the feel of a subway station? Maybe the Islanders would like this so much they’d pay for it.

    1. How? With a property tax? You can’t do it with a sales tax on MI since their commercial district is pretty small and low-volume. MI has a lot of rich people but it’s tax base isn’t particularly broad. I suspect raising the property tax lid would require a vote – good luck with that.

      1. I was thinking an Infospace-style venture capital scheme: no financial return, a little trickery.

    2. This is clearly the most attractive choice here– fully enclosed and lidded as a subway station. If it can’t be done now, design the layout so that it can be done later.

      1. Defintely. The feeling of “subway stations” has become most popular with citizens in the Greater Seattle Area.

        Underground stations look more like a worldclass subway system rather than a wimpy trolley-like lightrail.

  7. I’m so thrilled they’re building the Rainier station with access to both and 23rd. The current highway bus platforms are essentially useless for the African-American Museum or for anyone on the lid/in the Judkins Park area thanks to the circuitous and isolated paths one would need to take in order to reach them. It would have been horrible not to fix this during the rail conversion.

    But I’m still bugged by the other in-city omission: the small-but-not-negligible commercial strip of 31st Ave S that sits DIRECTLY on top of the tunnel. This could have been a worthy addition to the line — and INCREDIBLY CHEAP to build. I think the express lanes might be underneath the westbound lanes and the bike tunnel at this point, but still: build two functional side platforms in the existing space, sink two elevator shafts just outside the tunnel walls, and you’re done.

    It’s only 1/2 mile from the proposed 23rd Ave station entrance, but the sole pedestrian route is the bike path through the lid park followed by a very steep and poorly lit incline (not the type of environment that creates an effective walk-shed, especially after dark). The Beacon Hill and Mount Baker stations aren’t much further apart, and the geographic justification is similar.

    A very simple, very inexpensive station below 31st would have magically transformed a pre-existing commercial strip and neighborhood center from a 25-minute slog on the infrequent #14 to a 5 minute hop from downtown or anywhere.

    I just don’t understand Sound Transit’s insistence on building transit with suburban stop spacing even within the city.

    1. An interesting idea although the density up there is probably not high enough to justify the station. I drove the 14 last shakeup – it was rarely crowded at this point during rush hour. However, this would be another interesting transfer point since there is a stop right across the street and also the commercial district as you mention. Frankly, this would be a better transfer spot than the Mount Baker Transit center which involves an at-grade crossing of Rainier and a 2 block walk to the Link station which then has a 15 minute travel time to Westlake.

      WSDOT has a piece of property up there that I imagine is right over the freeway so you’re probably right about the station being relatively inexpensive.

  8. These look like Los Angeles-Portland stations that don’t give the feeling of a “rapid transit system”. Both stations could easily be lidded to give a “subway” feel to it.

    In ten years of waiting time, I don’t want to ride a system that mimic’s America’s currently wimpy light-rail systems that are inefficiently placed in the center of the highways as reckless drivers are screaming past commuters standing on the platform.

    We need to mimic what the world has done (London Tube, NY Subway, Paris Metro, Tokyo Metro) by placing the tracks underneathe protecting commuters from the elements.

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