UW Station Visit

Yesterday, Sound Transit invited local media to visit the construction site of the forthcoming University of Washington station. By 2016, University Link project will be complete, and this station will become the north terminus of Link for about five years, until the opening of the North Link project. The station is currently about 50% complete, and the overall project about 60%; by summer, the contractors will have laid rails all way from the Pine Street Stub Tunnel to this station. You can see cross-sections and renderings of the finished project at the University Link Document Library.

Click on the picture above to see the photos I took. Thanks to Sound Transit for inviting us!

54 Replies to “Nine Stories Beneath the Ground”

    1. Don’t forget about the medical industrial complex. I mean, really, serving UW Medical Center with fast one-seat rides from downtown was cheaper and faster by bus. Having two train stations on a college campus should really only happen at a *major* university. UW doesn’t have its own dedicated cable channel for its sports program or a dedicated network channel like the NBC Fightin’ Irish. So, it really is too small to merit two stations.

      As for the stadium, Clink is too booked up to fit another six events each year. And it is a really long yacht ride from Bellevue, Kirkland, and Medina, with no good space for a yacht moorage.

      1. There’s only one campus station. The problem is it’s a few yards southeast of where it should be, under Stevens Way at the HUB. The U “District” station doesn’t count because it’s a transit market in its own right, one of the most successful transit-oriented neighborhoods in Seattle, and a showcase for what other station areas should be like. If you think U District station is sufficient for UW, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.

      2. I’m going to have to disagree with your premise that the station should have been at the HUB.

        Currently, transit has has a major problem that getting between anywhere on the eastside and anywhere in north Seattle was a giant pain-in-the-ass. Up until now, we have attempted to solve this problem on a patchwork basis with bus routes like 242 and 555 that run infrequently during the peak, not at all during the off-peak, and serve a minimal portion of north Seattle as well.

        Today, there is not a single off-peak transit option that is remotely time-competitive with taking the 255 or 545 to Montlake and biking however far it is from Montlake to your final destination.

        Link has the potential to finally fix this problem for once and for all by offering the option to take a 520-bound bus to Montlake and transfer to Link to go north. Yes, we can go on and on about how the transfer environment isn’t perfect. Yes, you will still have to walk a few hundred feet from the bus stop at the top of the Montlake lid to the UW station. But it will still be much, much faster than detouring through downtown Seattle, either on a 520-bound bus or even on EastLink.

        Had the station been located at the HUB, the walking distance required to connect with a bus along 520 would have doubled. At a minimum, the connection time would be about 10 minutes longer than it would be at its actual location, 15 minutes long if you’re a slow walker. And the road-network through campus would all but guarantee that you would be walking the entire way – it is impossible for any bus to get from Montlake and 520 to the HUB without taking an extremely circuitous route, which would actually be slower than walking for anyone who isn’t crippled.

        Furthermore, the current location provides better stop spacing between stations, adding areas like the north part of Montlake to the walkshed, and for students going to class, walking up the hill really isn’t that big a deal. After all, students who drive to class typically have to walk up that same hill to get from the parking lot. And if you need to get to the northwest end of campus, that’s what Brooklyn Station is for.

        If anything, I would argue that the station should have been built a few hundred feet to the south to provide better connections to SR-520 and the eastside, but I understand the need to compromise between several competing goals, so what we have is what we have.

      3. asdf, had our agencies’ landers actually worked together, we could have improved the transfer environment by truncating buses at the station rather than on the lid, without re-siting the station at all.. What we have isn’t a compromise so much as a lack of collaboration.

      4. I have ridden the 43. I’ve never ridden the superfast express route between downtown and UW Medical Center because it either doesn’t exist, despite the immense efforts of BRT-is-better-than-rail advocates, or I don’t know where it picks up. Is there a UW Medical Center shuttle from downtown?

      5. ?????

        UW only has one station on the campus, if you can even call the current location by an athletic facility used twelve times a year “on the campus”. The other station will be two full blocks from the northwesternmost corner of the campus. That’s hardly “two stations on campus”.

      6. There’s a UW shuttle from UWMC to Harborview. It’s not quite downtown but it’s sometimes close enough.

      7. I hope that there will be lots of Eastside off-peak buses going to UW station, but ST and Metro have given no indication they’ll divert any of their downtown routes, plus ST hasn’t included much layover space at the station, which it would if it thinks there’s even a possibility of terminating bus routes there in the future. So that opportunity looks dim right now.

      8. Doesn’t the Health Sciences Express also go to the Fred Hutchinson CC which is also-sort-of close to downtown?

      9. Personally I think a station at the HUB would have been a good idea … as well as one on Campus Parkway (you know … where the buses are) … sure they would be close together … but they are just as close under 3rd ave … I do not buy into the thinking that people would avoid using link if there are a lot of stops … Link stops/starts pretty quickly … it’s the buses that clog things up (or rather people paying with cash on the buses)

      10. Honestly, I doubt the university would have wanted a station at the Hub even if it had been offered. For one there’s no development potential there cause it’s all built out and historic anyway. Two, I suspect they’d be very averse to the idea of non-students (read: homeless people) hanging around right in the heart of campus. And while I’m not all that fond of the location myself, in many ways the medical center is at least as important as the university’s education infrastructure.

      11. By the way, it’s only by the lowest of possible standards (e.g. “walk a sixth of a mile across an eight lane street and then a five lane street with aggressive drivers”) can the current station location be said to “serve” the UW Med Center.

        At least access to the main campus will be via the elevated walkway, inconvenient though the multiple escalator trips will be.

      12. Regardless of what Metro planners say I’m supposed to do, I expect that once the UW station opens, I will find 542/545->Link a faster way from Redmond to the center of downtown than 545 all the way. Superficially, 545 all the way looks faster, but when it takes 15-20 minutes to get from the Stewart St. exit ramp to 5th and Pine, Link comes out ahead, even after you walk to it and wait for it.

        Now, had the Link Station been built under the HUB, the additional walking distance would have caused the transfer to no longer pencil out travel-time-wise, so we’d be stuck with no alternative to sitting in traffic for 20 minutes as the 545 approaches downtown.

      13. “walk a sixth of a mile across an eight lane street and then a five lane street with aggressive drivers”

        Once you’re in the triangle there is an underpass that gets you across Pacific to the hospital. I still think it was short sited of UW to not directly connect the parking garage to the Link station. FWIW the Link Station is closer to Hec Ed than the pointy ball stadium and Hec Ed see hundreds of events every year. And not just athletics. All of those events, like HS graduations result in gridlock on Montlake.

      14. Bernie,

        Thanks for reminding me of the underpass. That does make access to the Med Center better, and “absolutely”, the Mezzanine level should have been connected to the garage in some way.

        I argued for that a couple of years ago, but someone said “ST doesn’t want to be connected to underground passageways which might have rapists” or some such. Well, then, have gates that close when the Med Center “closes” (if that that word is even meaningful for a hospital).

        Whatever; the crossing of Montlake is going to be unpleasant for all time.

      15. I think the UW was the party worried about the criminal element in a tunnel. And I think there was also a concern that parking would be taken up by non-hospital users wanting to go downtown. I think that’s unwarranted since anyone driving would more than likely just drive all the way to their destination and pay for parking DT. That lot is 24/7 but after a certain time (midnight?) the gates are open and you don’t have to pay so maybe they would have to keep the parking attendant on for a few more hours.

      16. There’s building a bridge across Montlake, not an underpass. Besides providing access to the UW med center, the bridge will provide a direct connection to the Burke-Gilman trail.

        Between the Burke-Gilman trail going right there and bus connections being crappy, getting people in northeast Seattle to bike to the station is going to be critical in order for this to work. I hope the station has lots of bike parking, preferably covered. I would also like to see some bike lockers that can be rented by the day, rather than by the year, as well as a BikeShare station.

      17. This was my hint that Brent was joking:

        “UW doesn’t have its own dedicated cable channel for its sports program or a dedicated network channel like the NBC Fightin’ Irish. So, it really is too small to merit two stations.”

        Obviosuly, sane people who aren’t joking judge universities by things like students and professors and research and education. So I take this as a joke.

      18. Pacific is as important a transfer stop as Campus Parkway, really. More important for people heading out to the suburbs on express routes.

        I’m really looking forward to the Link extension. The last time I rode the 73 from the tunnel up to the U District it was beyond packed. People were even having to stand in the turntable area where there’s nothing to hold onto, and we still left some people on the platform.

        The UW campus is pretty sprawling and it was always going to be a long walk for someone. It’s not that far to Stevens Way, though, and there are frequent buses in both directions there.

    2. U-District Station will become a campus station simply be being surrounded by UW buildings. Campus growth is inevitable.

      Even if that silly plaza gets built, it will eventually get replaced by a high-rise building of some sort, as people realize what a horrible waste of that space a plaza is next to a train station.

      But even after U-District Station is open, SR 520 buses will continue to run downtown, because more riders want to get to UW Medical Center than to UW Station (which is true, since UW Station is hardly anyone’s final destination). And so, most buses won’t serve UW Medical Center. Maybe I’m dense, but the logic of that is still eluding me.

      1. My understanding was that the soil conditions there are kinda crappy, but I guess if you build a stadium there you might consider a high-rise. I could also be thinking of the land east of the stadiums .

      2. I’m pretty sure that whole area east of Montlake is reclaimed land. I suppose you could always build on pilings but I wonder how deep they’d have to go.

      3. Depends on what you mean by reclaimed land. Most of it was under water until the lake level was dropped 9 feet to build the locks and ship canal. A large portion out by the Center for Urban Horticulture was used for many years as a dump. They burned most of the garbage back then so I’m not sure what that means for the soil other than at least you don’t have to worry about methane. From what I remember of burn type dumps, McChord AFB used to do this back in the 60’s, they’d dig a pit and burn the trash and then cover what was left with the soil they’d excavated. They’d drive heavy equipment over it as part of the back fill operation so the result would be fairly compacted.

      4. For the last 15 years of its life Union Bay wasn’t a burn dump, so it does have methane offgassing. Per the Daily: “Around 1968, a fire burned constantly from the [methane] pipes for two years, Ewing said. The methane can be seen bubbling in the slough and the pools in the area, and all buildings within 1,000 feet, like the IMA, have to have methane mitigation systems.”

      1. I’m not sure I’d trust the writer of that SLOG story on their facts too much…

        “Here’s us, preparing to descend 900 feet down into the belly button of the earth.”

        It’s a deep station, but there’s an order of magnitude error here. They didn’t even get the name of the station right.

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Any ideas what ridership is expected to be once UW and Capitol Hill stations open up? I’m guessing the existing network will be up around 33-35k per day by 2016, so are we thinking like 60-70k per day by 2017?

      1. Well here’s some projection info for 2030 anyway:


        It’s not as clear as it could be though. On the one hand they say they expect University Link (both UW and Capitol Hill stations) to add 70,000 boardings per day, but on the other hand they say UW will add 25,000 riders and Capitol Hill will add 14,000.

        They probably should be consistent and either stick with boardings or riders, mixing is a bit confusing. Anyway, I am assuming that they get the 70,000 boardings by assuming the most but not all of the 39,000 additional riders will be boarding to and from each day. But then if I start thinking about whether getting on at Westlake Center and getting off at University Station counts as a University Link boarding I get confused.

        But hey, that’s a lot of new riders! It sounds like we’ll have well over 100k boardings per day from UW Station to Seatac by 2030, and somewhere in the vicinity of 150-170k with North Link. Then there’s East Link… this is fun.

      2. System-wide ridership looks like it’s estimated to be about 280,000 per day, but I still don’t feel like I have a solid answer on whether that’s riders or boardings. Anyone know for sure? And is the current ridership of ~28k per day individual riders or boardings? I always presumed it was the latter.

      3. There’s no way of telling whether a rider rode the system 20 times in one day, so all measurements are “boardings”.

  1. So the station will be done by 2014, but it will take 18 months of systems installation and testing?

    1. Nope. Metro’s restructure efforts will take a couple years, and every route will have someone who is belligerently unwilling to accept losing their one-seat ride to downtown and/or UW. Politics takes time. Lots and lots of time.

  2. So the station will be done by 2014, but it will take 18 months of systems installation and testing before it is operational?

    1. I very much hope the line will be able to open early, but I’m not holding my breath. There’s still tons of things that could happen.

      Most embarrassingly would be if everything is ready to go, but service can’t begin because ST doesn’t have money in their budget to operate the trains until the end of 2016.

    2. Capital Hill Station will be done after UW Station. There was about six months of schedule float in the schedule as of the November progress report.

      1. Maybe if the neighborhood just decided to rename itself Anarchist Hill, people could learn how to spell it.

      2. I like my wife’s way of remembering it:

        Capitol with an o is the neighborhood.
        Capital with an a is the big letter. B/c a is a letter.

        I… smiled and nodded. But I also always remember the spelling (at least when I think of it).

      3. When you hear capitol, think of a white dome. The Congressional building or a state legislature building. Capitol Hill is called that because at one time it was being considered for the state capitol. Everything else is capital. Cities, letters, ideas…

  3. Are the building a stub tunnel now to connect with north link? Will they have to tear up a big hole for years again to connect the two segments and remove the tbm? Will the tbm go north or south?

    1. checkout the extraction pit on Pine Street by the vent (the UW vent will look similar in nature) … all they really need is some doors in the ground that can be opened to crane out the TMB sections when they are done.

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