While answering a different question of mine, ST spokesman Bruce Gray shared this interesting bit of news:
The Port has plans for a new hotel in the space between the station and the terminal where the old rental car service facility was located. As part of that construction, a new moving sidewalk could be built to help folks get from the terminal to our station.
I emphasize the word “could” — I’ll be digging into this possibility into the future — but anything to make connections easier is welcome.
However, I think the most recent STB comment thread on this subject illustrates a common pathology of internet commentary. The positions drifted to extremes: either the location of the station is a travesty, a clear manifestation of malice or incompetence; or, the placement is optimal, ideally suited for access to a new neighborhood in Seatac and a direct shot to South King County.
I submit to you that it is neither. Of course it would be better if the station were a short footbridge away from the terminal, like Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station. Even though Seatac’s development plans, or the aforementioned moving walkway, might mitigate that shortcoming, the mild inconvenience remains.
But it’s just that: a mild inconvenience for most people. A few minutes’ walk is a big deal for a transfer. Missing a connection to a bus that runs every 15 minutes – or more – due to an inefficient transfer (e.g. Mt. Baker) is a horrible feeling. However, we are conditioned to arrive early for flights, and the airport is not a transfer point in the conventional sense.
I do this walk all the time, and as Mr. Gray points out, I’m not alone: the station is the system’s second most popular, with 3 million visitors last year, the vast majority of which were using it for airport access. On the other hand, I tend to use the airlines at the North end of the terminals, and I travel light enough that I can use the airport subway to get to the other end if need be. Obviously there is some segment of the airport market for which that isn’t true, which is why improvements are worthwhile.
The rest of Gray’s remarks regarding station placement are below the jump.
It boils down to – cost, airport operations, City of SeaTac land use plans and system speeds.
We initially looked at an option to put the station above the pedestrian bridges from the garage to the terminal. High costs, major construction and potential operational impacts to airport access and the tight curves into and out of that area sunk those plans. The Port also will need to expand the terminal at some point and we can’t be in the way of that.
We’ve also always had our eye on S. 200th and beyond. Tossing in what amounts to a side spur to get closer to the terminal door adds travel time going south or continuing north.
Which brings us to the City of SeaTac. They had a strong interest in the station serving the areas to the east of the airport. At the time, SeaTac had plans for a new “city center” in the area just east of the station. While those plans may be on hold, the station is still able to effectively serve SeaTac and the surrounding area better than it could if it were tucked against the terminal.
We think our location serves airport travelers’ needs very well. It’s the second busiest station on the entire line with almost 3 million people passing through last year…
[The port] couldn’t fit a moving sidewalk into the garage without impacting traffic flow on the floor below the walkway.