The philosophy behind the plans for Link stations in the Rainier Valley was that people would take “alternate” transportation — buses, bikes, and feet — to get to the train. A couple of weeks ago, we looked how the bus side of that plan was working out. Today, walking and biking:
Sound Transit invested a lot in improving sidewalks, along MLK in particular. However, MLK is a relatively undeveloped, low-density corridor by Seattle standards, and the density was further reduced by eminent-domain seizures for construction staging areas. The walkshed, measured in people, is simply not that large. West of the line, the steep and heavily wooded side of Beacon Hill further restricts the accessible area.
If walk-up ridership is to significantly improve, the most important thing is to upzone and aggressively encourage dense development, although sidewalk improvements are urgent in the places where they are needed.
Sound Transit was sure to put bicycle racks at each station, and more importantly trains are well designed to accommodate bikes. However, the failure to put any sort of bike infrastructure on MLK itself — just rebuilt for the train — is a huge failing. A quick glance at the latest Seattle Bicycling Guide Map (pdf) shows the pitiful bike infrastructure around most stations.
Beacon Hill is served by sharrows, and Rainier Beach has an actual bike lane (thick blue) and bike trail (green) approaching it. For the other three Valley stations, there are oh-so-inviting “unmarked, un-signed connectors” (yellow lines) in the rough vicinity of the station. There isn’t even a signed bicycle route (dotted black line) that takes you directly to any of the five stations in the Southeast.
Building along the relatively sparse MLK corridor, with little to no parking, was a conscious decision to trade lots of ridership now for the promise of a more development, and therefore, more ridership, in the future. While that decision is defensible, it makes it all the more imperative that the City make minor improvements in pedestrian and bike access, as well as doing whatever is necessary to bring about the development that was the purpose of the routing in the first place.