Platform Looking East
Platform Looking East

On Thursday about 100 people joined around two dozen staff from various agencies to hear about the 30% design of Rainier Station. The event was at the Northwest African American Museum, a venue that stands to move up a few pegs on the tourist trail when it has easy light rail access.

Although various factors will prevent the station area from ever being Capitol Hill, there’s always more the City could be doing about zoning. In any case, one particularly appealing aspect of the station is the dual entrances on Rainier and 23rd Ave. Those will provide access to the pivotal 7 and 48, as well as the I-90 bike trail. From there, ST estimates travel times of 15 minutes to UW, 22 to Northgate, and 26 to Overlake. ST estimates those times will attract 3,000 riders in 2030, seven years after it opens: 2,000 from the 23rd Ave entrance and 1,000 from Rainier.

The bad news is that the distance between the two entrances is (unavoidably) quite a bit longer than a train length, meaning a longer walk for riders. On the 23rd Avenue side, after the portal* it’s a 330 feet walkway, terminating in a nice viewpoint of the skyline before descending to the platform.

Station Cross Section
Station Cross Section

Architect David Hewitt told me about a third of the platform will be covered, but the walkway will be uncovered largely for cost reasons. The platform will also feature wind barriers that curve in such a way that one can shield oneself from any direction. The barriers will be transparent to maintain sightlines.

23rd Ave Entrance
23rd Ave Entrance

It’s the Rainier Avenue approach that has the most notable features:

  • An at-grade crossing from the platform to access the ramp. Mr. Hewitt cited aesthetic reasons for not having riders descend between the tracks: it would be “ominous” and give people a “sense of entrapment.” ST’s architect on the project, Cynthia Padilla, said the crossing would likely be similar to Sodo, with bells and lights. ST is also planning an “accessible pedestrian signal” that vibrates with distinct “walk” and “wait” signals when one touches it.
  • A 407-foot walkway to an escalator/elevator set, opening into a plaza cut out of the exisiting embankment.
  • Demolition of  the Westbound bus bridge over Rainier, daylighting the plaza. The pedestrian walkway/platform for the Westbound flyer stop will remain, providing a pedestrian crossing to and from Southbound buses on Rainier.
Rainier Avenue Entrance
Rainier Avenue Entrance

That brings us to the plans for I-90 buses. Project Manager Paul Cornish said that plans have firmed up since I last reported on the D-2 roadway. ST is still planning for the 554 to either terminate at Mercer Island or divert to South Bellevue.

Metro’s current plan is to have the busway between Rainier Station and downtown be one lane, permanently Eastbound. Westbound buses, mainly in the morning, would get off on Rainier and fight the relatively mild congestion, while in the afternoon enjoying dedicated right-of-way. As a result, WSDOT will retain the Eastbound busway and demolish the Westbound one. That said, Mr. Cornish said there was still a possibility that all I-90 buses would terminate at Mercer Island if the agencies could resolve the logistics of layovers and satisfy all the stakeholders there.

As always, ST is soliciting suggestions for the station name. Merely to stimulate discussion, the survey suggests Judkins Park (the neighborhood name) of Jimi Hendrix Park (the park by NWAAM). I’m glad to see Rainier omitted, as it would be confusing given Central Link’s interface with Rainier Avenue. Personally, Judkins Park, Central District, and 23rd Ave are all names I see merit in.

ST will complete 60% design the first half of next year, and 90% by the end of 2014. There is not yet an online means to view the materials and submit comments, but ST assures me that will appear soon. [UPDATE: Materials are now online.]

*Including a bike cage, on which more tomorrow.

122 Replies to “Rainier Station Open House Report”

  1. It’s interesting to see how much more dense the areas directly south of I-90 are becoming, particularly the area south of Massacheusetts between Rainier and 23rd.

    1. Interesting. I haven’t been in that area in a while. Looking at Google Satellite view or Google Streetmaps, it is obvious that Google can’t keep up. Like many parts of the city, it looks different now than it does on the map. I can see one crane, but I assume that some of those empty lots have been transformed as well. All of this suggests that while this station is not an ideal location, the number of people walking to it will still be significant.

  2. Such a big station for something that’s going to get little use. Also, 100 people were at the meeting and they were all silent? Was there no Q and A? If so, what were some of the concerns/questions?

    1. I was at the meeting, and there was little general Q&A. Attendees were instead encouraged to bring their questions to the representatives of the various agencies/groups that had tables surrounding the room.

    2. The biggest question was about buses, which is what led to the information about truncating routes and the one-way transit lane.

      For a person living near Rainier Avenue, especially north of Columbia City, this will be the fastest way to the Eastside. It’s also 15 minutes to UW compared to some 28 from Mt Baker station — although ST must be factoring in a speedup in the DSTT to reach 15 minutes, so maybe the Central Link time will drop to like 23 minutes. My own timing in the DSTT is that it takes 10 minutes in the daytime and a screaming 2 minutes after 8pm, so maybe when the buses leave the peak time will drop by half. Also, Rainier station to the DSTT has zero stops and grade-separated speed, as opposed to from Mt Baker station which has three intervening stops and the SODO surface alignment.

      So it could possibly become the most popular station in Rainier Valley, or at least be comparable with Mt Baker and Columbia City stations. Especially with the new riders in north Rainier who aren’t going out-of-direction to Mt Baker now.

      1. I’m not sure how the 13 minute disparity is calculated. I ride Link in from Mt Baker Station every day, and the travel time from MBS to IDS is 9-10 minutes depending on any wait at the DSTT queuing area. I’d guess the travel time from Rainier to IDS would be on the order of 3 minutes, so once there is no queuing slowdown, this should only cut 6 minutes off the travel time.

      2. I get 10-15 minutes from Mt Baker to Intl Dist, 10 minutes daytime or 2 minutes evening from Intl Dist to Westlake, and ST earlier estimated 8 minutes from Westlake to UW.

      3. I don’t think you can blame all the time spent in the tunnel before 8pm on the buses. Surely at least some of that time is down to those pesky passengers. I know that they are annoying, and that everything would run more smoothly if we could jusrt get rid of them, but…

      4. The people who live along Rainier Ave will take the route 7 to “Rainier Station.” What will the people living closer to MLK south of I-90 do? Take Central Link to Mount Baker Station then transfer to the route 7 to Rainier Station? Take the route 8 up MLK until it’s near Rainier Station? And even worse, the commute home of taking East Link westbound at night, getting off at Rainier Station, then walking a few hundred feet to the nearest route 8 bus stop and waiting up to a half hour for the next southbound bus? Unless one lives along Rainier Ave, trying to get to East Link from anywhere else in the Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, or the CD, will be no easy feat.

      5. If you’re already on Link heading north from Columbia City, transferring to the 7 to reach Ranier Freeway Station will not make sense. Even if you’re headed to the eastside, the 7 is slow enough and reliable enough (plus the 5-15 wait-time minute overhead of the extra connection) to make the option inferior to simply transferring at IDS. Even if the figures are very close on time, connecting at IDS wins easily on the hassle factor.

        On the other hand, if you are already headed north on the 7 from home, then the calculations change dramatically – even if the 7 takes the same amount of time to get from Mt. Baker to Ranier Station as Link takes to get all the way downtown, the connection to Link at Ranier Station still gets you to Bellevue significantly faster than going through downtown.

        If your destination is downtown Seattle or the UW, however, I would expect the transfer at Mt. Baker Station to be the fastest overall option in that case. Really, I don’t see Ranier Station being that useful for trips to downtown Seattle unless you are accessing the station via foot or bike.

      6. Given that IDS is apparently going to have a time consuming and cumbersome train-to-train transfer from south-to-east requiring two level changes, and the stretch between Columbia City and Othello is long enough to necessitate continued high quality local bus service in the Valley, I expect Rainier station to be especially popular for bus-train transfers from the south.

        With the growth in bicycling, the access this station will have to bicycle trails including the lakeside neighborhoods via tunnel, plus speeding traffic 2 feet away from the I-90 bicycle trail on the floating bridge, I expect the bicycle hooks on those trains to be in high demand.

      7. I expect Rainier station to be especially popular for bus-train transfers from the south.

        I thought so too, until I realized those passengers would be denied a direct street crossing, and instead funneled over 1,000 feet along an uncovered path, across the remnant’s of today’s bus platform, and down today’s unpleasant mish-mash of ramps and ill-placed stairs.

        This will make the I.D. transfer seem easy by comparison.

      8. d.p., you realize there’s a stairway alternative to most of the ramp in the current structure, right?

        The current design isn’t optimal, but a ped bridge isn’t so bad when the station is in effect elevated.

      9. There are partial stairways in a few locations, all of which require some use of the switchbacking ramps to reach.

        This is the current westbound set-up that you say is being retained. The stairs are terribly located, requiring so much out-of-direction walking at the top and dropping you so far from the bus stop at the bottom as to be no better than the ramps.

        Martin, you simply cannot gloss over the fact that ST’s plan requires patrons with southbound bus transfers to traverse the entirety of today’s low-visibility infrastructure before beginning their combination ramp and stair zig-zag down to the ground… and that all of this will be in addition to the 407 feet of new, uncovered, low-visibility walkway.

        You’re looking at yet another 1000-foot intermodal transfer. And it will be a sketchy one to boot. But in this case, hundreds of those feet are totally superfluous, existing only because ST won’t go to bat for a crosswalk and/or because the agency may actually mistake really long and needlessly segregated access routes for a good thing!

      10. My kingdom for a protected bike lane from Mount Baker Station to “Rainier” station.

        Since I live at Orcas/MLK, I could bike my first mile (to Central Link), my middle mile (to East Link), and my final small distance in downtown Bellevue. Carrying a bike up the stairs (or waiting for two! slow elevators) in IDS sounds pretty miserable.

  3. It looks to me like this will mainly be a feeder station. Frequent buses should provide for a lot of fast service to an area that is generally quite dense, just not right next to this station. It isn’t clear to me what that experience will be like. In other words, what it will look like once the person gets off the bus and walks to the train station (or vice-versa). Are there sets of stairs to go up? Does it make a difference which direction you are headed (or which direction you came from)? These are the little things that can pretty much kill a station (like the Mount Baker station). I’m not saying it will be that bad, but I’m hoping it will be pretty nice. If it is, then it makes sense for someone heading downtown to get off the bus and transfer to the train. If not, then the station simply doesn’t make sense for lots and lots of people.

    1. The immediate area isn’t dense at all. From where the center of the station will be, there’s nothing 500 to 1000 feet in every direction except parks and businesses. The station to downtown and vice versa will get almost no use, and from the station going east and vice versa will get very little use. This will be one of the least used stations in the entire system.

      1. I should have been more clear. The immediate area is not dense. However, the overall area (the greater area, if you will) is quite dense. That is why it makes sense as a feeder station. That is why the transfer from the bus is extremely important. If you live south of there, it probably makes sense to transfer (if you are headed downtown). If you live north of there, it might make sense (assuming the transfer is very fast). This is why I wrote the paragraph and asked the questions. I want to know how good the transfers will be.

      2. This will be one of the least used stations in the entire system.

        The walkshed is ugly, but Metro’s two busiest cross-town buses will stop at this station. It will see plenty of use.

        And FINALLY a plan that doesn’t stick 48 riders with a half-mile walk to catch the cross-lake transfer.

    2. Maybe someone has the numbers, but I would guess the Montlake Flyer stop has at least ten times the boardings the Rainier Freeway stop does.

      1. I suspect you are right. One thing I’ve noticed is that the Ranier Frewway stop seems more used off-peak than peak. Given that many buses get there (in both peaks) too full to accept passengers, I wonder if there’s currently some unmet demand.

      2. Maybe someone has the numbers, but I would guess the Montlake Flyer stop has at least ten times the boardings the Rainier Freeway stop does.

        The Montlake Flyer stop also has convenient, direct connections to the local buses on 23rd. The Rainier freeway stop doesn’t. And once you’ve made the transfer hike, the 550 and 554 just pass you by most of the time anyway (for reasons I’ve never understood), so you learn to ride a slow bus into downtown instead, where you can actually get a ride.

      3. Also, Ranier Station today doesn’t have direct service to Microsoft. With East Link, it will. That, alone, will make a big difference.

      4. My problem with commuting on the 9X to the 550 to the eastside, is the bus is almost always standing room only by this point. If link has this problem, there will continue to be few commuters making this transfer

      5. The 550 is going to 5 minute peak headways in just over a week. Link is likely to be worse than that. My experience (admittedly limited) is that when the 550 has space, it stops. My further experience is that it generally has space except in the peak. However, Link is likely to have a lot more capacity.

        I’ve actually seen more people get on at the flyer stations off peak than peak. As I’ve said elsewhere, I suspect that people who tried it in the peak have given up.

    3. In other words, what it will look like once the person gets off the bus and walks to the train station (or vice-versa). Are there sets of stairs to go up?

      Well, it depends on which bus.

      From the 48, there will be a single large entrance, where the I-90 trail crosses 23rd on the Lid (the existing mid-block pedestrian signal will be modernized). It will be a wide ramp from the street decending to the stairs/elevator that leads to the single center platform. This will eliminate the current 1/2 mile down-around-and-back-up 48/550 transfer hike. Presumably, the 48 will pick up a new stop at the crossing (some eventual re-spacing of the surrounding stops would be appropriate but is probably not in the works).

      From the 7, it will be a single staircase and pair of elevators opening directly on to the western sidewalk of Rainier, in what is currently the shadow of the westbound transit lanes, but will then be a daylighted area. Once at station height, people will have to cross the westbound tracks at grade to reach the single center platform. The crossing will be signalized a la SODO, rather then open like Rainier Beach. With WSDOT having a say in any design changes for Rainier under the freeway, I wouldn’t hope for any mid-block pedestrian crossing for southbound bus riders, but there’s a signalized crosswalk just to the south, on the far side of the eastbound offramp. It’s not exactly convenient (and it’s a very long cycle light), but it’s there.

  4. Looking at the big picture just a bit, this is a good demonstration of the dangers of our piece by piece approach. Politically, we had no choice (previous attempts at building a more holistic system failed at the ballot box). But Mount Baker station now looks pretty stupid. Done right, this new station (Judkins Park) can provide feeder service both north and south, basically covering everything north of Columbia City in the Rainier Valley. This would have allowed the Mount Baker station to be placed in a better location.

  5. @David Lawson — I notice that the map you made for your excellent post about the bus reroutes didn’t have a spot for this station ( Does this change anything?

    Also, completely unrelated to this article (but if you read this and comment) — there was talk about writing something about Magnolia as a followup to your original proposal. I have a suggestion for that neighborhood, but figured I would wait until you write the followup. If you changed your mind, then I can write it on an open thread.

    1. Thanks, Ross. As noted, the reason Rainier is not in the FNP map is because it’s a 2021 snapshot.

      I’ve been swamped at work lately and have not had time to do any FNP-related thinking. A post for Magnolia is most definitely in the works. I have two proposals (both of which are radically different from current service): the “economy” one in the FNP and a “luxury” one I developed for an aspirational 433-bus Seattle network.

  6. Yes, the convenors kept the Q.A. brief encouraging us to visit the representative tables. My reactions to these designs are that the daylighting of the plaza on Rainier is a good idea. They need to do something more with the wall containing the elevator and escalator. It is simply asking to be defaced. I suggest a 3D mural or “frieze”. Would make it less stark. Also, they should put in a mid block cross walk from west side to east side of rainier rather than expect those arriving on the west side of Rainier to traverse the ped ramp. I also hope they can do something about creating cover over the long approach at the station. And lastly, some form of concession or coffee shop might make sense.

    I’m sorry that people feel this station is a waste of money but it is an important gateway for at least 1/4 of the geographic portion of the city to get to the eastside or elsewhere on Link.

    1. Indeed, 20-25 years from now we will value that station in what will become an increasingly dense residential and business area.

    2. I certainly don’t think it is a waste of money. I think it is very important. My concern (as stated above, but now lost in a side discussion) is how well it integrates with the buses. For example, if you are riding a bus heading north on 23rd, do you have to wait for the light, walk the ramp 330 feet, then take an escalator (or stairs) to the platform? Does the same apply for folks heading south on Rainier? Is there anything that can be done to improve the situation? (These questions might be more appropriate for Metro and the city)

      As far as the local walkshed is concerned, the best area is probably the triangle to the south (which, as North Beacon said, is becoming more dense). It looks like one entrance is on 22nd, is that right? Was there talk of adding an entrance on 21st as well? Obviously it isn’t essential (one extra block isn’t the end of the world) but if it is cheap, then why not? It would not only help the folks on 21st, but also those to the south and southeast.

    3. Yeah, public agencies around here have mostly killed off the old-fashioned Q&A. Smart, from their perspective, although less efficient and democratic.

      1. Seems more efficient, to me. If people can approach individual stakeholders directly and simultaneously, rather than one person at a time asking a question of the entire panel, and then one person from the panel replying, you waste less of everyone’s time.

      2. Spend some time hanging around a table (or know anyone who has to work these things) and you quickly realize staffers spend much of the night answering variations of the same question over and over instead of just once. But agencies prefer it because people are generally much less confrontational one-on-one and because it’s far easier for them to control the story since almost all public interaction happens in a more-or-less private setting—reporters aren’t hovering around recording individual Q&As and have a much harder time getting a sense of any thematic public concerns.

      3. Nasty behavior.

        Individual question stuff is good when the agency has no plan and is actually looking for open-ended input. But that is rare. When you have a draft plan and are looking for comments on it,… the traditional Q&A works better.

  7. I’d rather call it Rainier station than any of the other proposals. The parks aren’t large enough or significant enough to have a station named after them. Imagine telling somebody, “Go to Jimi Hendrix Park station” or “Go to Judkins Park station” and they’ll say, “Hendrix where, Judkins what? Is that in Shoreline?” Plus it’s much less cumbersome to say “I’m going to Rainier station”.

    23rd Avenue station leads to the oddity of a few random stations having numbers, not enough to usefully navigate around, like the Vancouver Skytrain which has arbitrary “29th Avenue” and “22nd Street” stations among the names, which gives you no idea which direction or how far away 10th Street or 40th Street are, so the numbers are practically useless.

    1. Judkins Park is the name of the neighborhood, not just the park itself. It’s a fairly common name to people living in the Central District or North Rainier Valley. It get’s my vote.

      1. I agree Pete. It would also be confusing to call this “Rainier” because the Mount Baker station is also on Rainier Avenue, and Rainier valley as well (and I would argue more towards the center of Rainier Valley than this station). This also might not be the last station on Rainier Avenue. Judkins Park is also the name of the bus route (if I’m not mistaken) so there is already name familiarity for folks who have never actually been to the park (like me).

        Personally, I wish the Mount Baker station would have been called Franklin High School, especially since the station is very close to the school (a landmark) while being on the outside edge of the neighborhood (at least, according to the city — I always have to look up that station name.

      2. You’re right Ross, Route 4 is signed to Judkins Park. It would probably be good to alter its route to continue down 23rd and make the stop in front of the 23rd Ave portal, instead of its current jog over to 24th Ave at Dearborn, then over to ML King at Judkins Street. It could continue to head down 23rd, then turn left at Massachusetts St to reconnect with the current routing at ML King. That assumes that the ML King portion still makes sense. It would be more streamlined to simply go straight down 23rd to Plum, and make the circle around Center Park from there.

      3. Yes, the #4 reads Judkins Park. Hopefully that poor bus will get eliminated before too much longer.

        I’d agree with Judkins Park as well for a station name; the station location is at the very southern edge of the CD, and even though we may never get an actual Link station anywhere near the heart of the neighborhood, I’d still not want to call this station “Central District”.

  8. I, for one, look forward to using “Station Name Station”, and to visiting all of my friends in “Station Name Lofts At Station Name Station”.

    Seriously, though, I can accept the long pathways to the primary portals as an unavoidable consequence of the distance between 23rd and Rainier.

    I cannot accept the forced diversion of passengers headed south on Rainier over a long, winding, brutalist, sketchy concrete ramp that forces a thousand feet of winding descent to the street, for the sole purpose of keeping Rainier operating as a speedway through the area. This is no better than the Mt. Baker Pedestrian Spiral, and it has no more place in a 21st-century redesign than that one did.

    Pedestrian overpasses are anti-pedestrian and need should be dynamited, not preserved.

    1. Hey d.p., you do you mind answering my question (since no one else has). I’ve asked it a couple times, but haven’t got an answer (and you seem to know). Just to repeat — what exactly will be the experience for folks riding buses and transferring to (or from) the train? As I see it, there are four possibilities — north and south bound on 23rd and north and south bound on Rainier. I’m more interested in the folks who have to cross the street (since the rest of the experience will be shared regardless of which direction they arrived). Thanks.

      1. I missed the presentation because… err… well, I got the date wrong. Which I didn’t figure out until my bus was pulling up to the platform on the Rainier overpass.

        This did, however, give me my first-ever chance to use the platform/ramps/misplaced-demi-stairways to catch a connecting 9 bus. Which I barely caught, despite having more than two minutes to make the transfer. Highway overpasses are high, and ADA-compliant ramps that zig and zag to ground level are long!

        Forcing southbound transfer passengers to exit the trains, cross the tracks, traverse 407 feet of new walkway, then continue across the entire existing platform (invisible and sketchy), before backing-and-forthing down to their bus stop on today’s inconvenient ramps and staircases — just to avoid painting a crosswalk or impeding SDOT’s precious level of service — is unconscionable!

      2. p.s. While I don’t think crossing the tracks is the end of the world, I think ST’s “ominous…sense of entrapment” rationale is bullshit. They just needed more room to build the expensive, grandiose concrete-and-glass entrance you see in the third rendering above.

        Remember, ST will always spend money on monuments to themselves before they spend money on passenger convenience.

        For all that money, they certainly could have built a glassy, airy, well-lit, and fully weather-protected passageway between the tracks. But they’d rather have their visibility, even if it means forcing you to walk next to the tracks in the rain.

      3. I see nothing particularly expensive about the structure in picture 3. There’s a stairway of the necessary width, with an escalator, next to a pair of elevators. It’s all pretty straightforward and minimalist, with the exception of the roof over the stairs. And I have a hard time believing that the high flat roofed steel box in the image costs significantly more than the less airy sloping alternative.

        It’s the structure at the 23rd ave entrance that I find a bit extravagant. Unless they’re housing electrical equipment in there or something.

        They’d rather have their visibility, even if it means forcing you to walk next to the tracks in the rain.

        Yeah. Visibility and unrestricted sightlines are huge considerations when designing public spaces these days. For better or worse, that’s the predominant public safety philosophy. My wife volunteers with Seattle Parks, and she just lost a huge debate over tearing out natural areas at the Roxhill Bog, because the City decided it’s too unsafe to not have open sightlines to everywhere.

      4. +1 on the grade crossing. And frankly, while I don’t think it’s a huge deal, it does add some safety risk. Looking at the pictures, it seems that the crossing is of the westbound track, is this correct?

      5. I wasn’t using “visibility” in a way that remotely implied safety.

        I meant that ST needs its structures to have big above-ground “presences”, even if that comes at the expense of passenger convenience because the overbuilding makes stations harder to access (Tukwila, Mt. Baker, UW) or hemorrhages money that could have been put toward, say, Graham platforms or First Hill subway engineering.

        On the matter of safety, I can’t say I’m nuts about the uncovered, unlit, tree-lined pathway that runs beside the tracks for hundreds of feet between the lower portal and the crossing to the platform. This will not be “visibile” from the street or from the platform itself.

        I would much rather be on a simple, straight, protected pathway running between the two tracks, with a straight-shot sightline to the boarding area.

      6. @William,

        Every MAX station in the reserved section west of Beaverton has at-grade pedestrian crossings at the end of each station. Yes, very occasionally, someone gets hit, but it’s fortunately rare, and the trains are going slowly.

    2. Several of us raised concerns about the pedestrian crossing options to the Southbound Bus zone on Rainier. There was vague discussion about surface level options but no detail.

      A signalized surface crossing of Rainier with pedestrian refuge and a permanent red light camera would be a good start. A place to hang drivers from their toenails who hit pedestrians despite all of these improvements would also be in order. (Obviously not serious about the toenails bit, but this crossing WOULD be an AWESOME place to perform crosswalk stings – Something SPD should be doing enough to piss off the Seattle Times editorial board…)

      1. My guess would be that SDOT would balk at adding a crosswalk directly in front of the Rainier Ave portal, as there is a traffic light and crosswalk at the eastbound offramp about 150′ to the south of here. They generally don’t like putting signals that close as it’s difficult to keep cars from blocking the box when the light changes and only the first handful of cars can successfully make it through. Though if the two were tied together and had a pedestrian cross cycle as part of the sequence it could probably be mitigated somewhat.

      2. Crossing is just one problem. Another is the “go down to go up” accessibility for pedestrians who want to go west of Rainier Avenue from the station. I wonder if here isn’t a new “higher” path that could be created that ties into the I-90 trail south of I-90 somewhere on the side of Beacon Hill west of Rainier Avenue. If that was done, the additional drop onto the west side of Rainier would be quite easy with an elevator and stairs. Given the billions on East Link, isn’t there some pot that can be found to provide some pedestrian connectivity to fix both this and the Beacon Hill accessibility challenge?

    3. WSDOT also has a say on any changes to Rainier in the I-90 interchange area. So even if SDOT was/is willing to add a midblock crossing, the chances of it happening are virtually nil.

      1. Make the case to SDOT and WADOT.

        If they reject — and only if they reject after a full explanation and great pressure — then rebuild the pedestrian crossing from scratch, with new stairs and an elevator on the other side, visible from the street, and with no trace of the former flyover platform.

        Even if it means spending less money on the “grand portals” (ridiculous structures that belie the total lack of weather protection behind them anyway).

        For fuck’s sake, the user experience isn’t rocket science here!

      2. I don’t think WSDOT would stop it. They basically will let the city handle it. Don’t expect any resistance, but don’t expect any money, either. That is essentially their policy.

  9. So the morning plan for the 212 is either to run it as a shuttle to S.Bellevue/Mercer Island, or have it have to cross from the inside to the outside of the highway to exit at Ranier, and then take surface streets. I think there’s a lot of optimism built into the “acceptable congestion” assumptions. Has anyone looked at where a bus is going to have to start its merge over to make through the five lanes of traffic squeezed into four so that it will actually be able to leave the highway reliably at Ranier Ave?

    1. There’s a pretty long stretch of weave-free highway where it can make that merge, after the bottleneck merge and before the exit. It’s got the entire length of the bridge and tunnel to do it. Think about how 520 loosens up once you’re actually on the bridge – it’s the same kind of deal. The exit itself is also not typically congested in what would be our peak direction.

      1. I suppose so, although I worry about the fact that there’s one fewer lane available to traffic in that area, and that both the lanes and the shoulders are going to be of sub-standard width.

        When all’s said and done, I suspect that Seattle will want to minimize the number of buses on 2nd and 4th as much as it can, and that these are prime candidates for elimination. I’d certainly rather transfer to the train at S. Bellevue or MI rather than Stadium or even IDS.

        That said, I have worries about reliability of timings into S. Bellevue — the exit to 405 is usually backed up, and tends to make for quite a bit of congestion across the highway. Will buses be able to reliably cross for the S Bellevue exit? Do we have data from the 555/556? The way back seems okay, except for periods when the Richards Road exit is badly congested (in my experience, usually because the Bellevue Police have decided to meet their ticket quotas through Factoria)

        Mercer Island looks easier Westbound, but Eastbound lloks like it’ll take three left turns — onto 77th (probably still okay without a light) [may need a new light for the freeway off ramp]. Left onto 27th (already has a signal), signal at 78th, left at 80th — will definitiely need a signal, and then right onto the freeway.

      2. The 555 does not make that weave; it gets off at Richards Road to stop at Factoria and then takes Eastgate Way to the P&R rather than using the freeway station.

      3. But the 556 does, right? I definitely saw a Northgate bound bus using the HOV entrance at Eastgate this morning.

      4. I suppose so, although I worry about the fact that there’s one fewer lane available to traffic in that area, and that both the lanes and the shoulders are going to be of sub-standard width.

        There will be no change in the number of general purpose lanes. Buses lose one (underutilized) lane in the peak direction, and gain one (badly needed) lane in the off-peak direction. Lane widths will not be substandard, at least not any more substandard then they are now. The Westbound bridge has incredibly generous shoulders now which will easily accommodate the additional lane, while still allowing a basic right-side shoulder, and the eastbound bridge will go back to it’s pre-1990 4-lane configuration, as it was originally designed – the original sidewalks have already been removed from that bridge, allowing for wider shoulders than it had in ’89. There will be no shoulders in the eastbound Mt. Baker tunnel, which is how it has been for over 70 years, and WSDOT still finds it suitable for 60 mph traffic.

      5. 1. I-90 is an Intersate Highway. The minimum standard width of an Interstate Highway lane is 12 feet. In the new configuration, the lanes will be less wide than that. Likewise, teh shoulders are going to be more narrow than the relevant standard. How is this not substandard?

        2. In the context of the conversation, we are talking about the need for peak direction buses to weave through westbound traffic. In this context the additional Eastbound lane is completely irrelevant. We are going from five lanes westbound to four. Last time I checked 5 is one less than 4.

        As you point out, getting an extra lane in the off-peak direction is going to be valuable, and I favor the conversion of the center lanes. But let’s not sugar coat things: peak direction road capacity is reduced, probably pretty significantly, in the new configuration.
        At least in the short term, East Link is very unlikely to pick up the slack. We need to be certain that we take this new reality into account when designing bus routes to be used in the new configuration.

  10. Was there any discussion of station art? I wonder if ST couldn’t kill two birds with one stone by commissioning an artist to design the walkway covering, satisfying its STart requirement and getting an amenity it otherwise can’t afford.

    First thought about this when ST revealed they slashed the wind shielding from the airport station for budgetary reasons.

    1. How dare you suggest the functional part be aesthetically pleasing, or the aesthetically pleasing part be functional!

      1. Yes, art like the $6000-a-piece metal fish makes the wait at the noisy, windy, isolated, under-protected Eastgate P&R Bay 3 freeway station a delight.

      2. I think Sound Transit operates under a “1% for art” policy like many other public agencies in the state. I’m not sure, though, and am too lazy to check.

      3. Does it prohibit the symbiosis of art and design, i.e. the hallmark of all great public spaces through all of human history?

        (It sure seems like it, but goddamnthatisdumb.)

      4. Well, the problem with the x% for art policies, is that the art budget isn’t determined until the station costs have been established. You pencil out a station design, send it out to get some cost estimates, and only THEN do you have an art mandate. So then, you go back to the design and add the art with your new art budget. Which is how we end up with tacked-on sculptures and the like, that don’t integrate super well.

      5. I’ve seen that sort of idiocy in any number of “station art” projects nationwide. Nobody seems to understand any more that the station should *be* art — it should not have random artwork hanging in it. Well, I won’t say nobody: a few of the artists hired for “station art” projects immediately say “I want to design the stairwell”, but then they have to fight to be allowed to do it! It’s bizarre.

    2. @Lack Thereof: Yeah, I poked around in a half-ass way and didn’t turn up much. They have their STart program, but I couldn’t find details. Don’t know how “required” it actually is or whether it’s a true 1% program.

    3. To, the contrary, d.p. From the website: “Art can consist of large sculptures at stations or part of the functional parts of a station. ”

      I’m hard-pressed to think of good examples, though. Maybe the lighting underneath Mt. Baker Station? Can’t recall if it’s actually bright enough to be functional as well. The safety poles at the maintenance yard. Maybe the drainage at Othello? And I think the rope patterns in the station paving are supposed to indicate boarding locations.

    4. All ST presentations have a large section on art. It’s like one of their four topics. I don’t pay much attention to it, but I think they said they hired the station artist, or maybe they’re looking for an artist. In any case, the artist is involved from the early part of the design process and chooses what to make, and has some influence on where it’s installed and I assume on the rest of the station design.

      1. Maybe the artist encourages the architects to go even bigger, in order to make space for their function-less additions. And maybe the architects acquiesce, because apparently they’re [ah]

  11. Was there any discussion of drop-off/pick-up activity at the station? There will be quite a lot of this for several reasons. There is poor or non-existent bus service in the neighborhoods near Lake Washington. The longer travel time and the travel time advantage to get to Downtown Bellevue or Microsoft’s campus are going be a factor. Finally, any I-90 tolling will really ramp up the demand for drop-off and pick-up riders heading to and from the Eastside..

    I suspect that if it isn’t addressed, there will be lots of neighborhood intrusion from people dropping off and picking up East Link riders.

  12. The biggest issues I’ve had with the existing Ranier Ave. Station are
    1) Poorly-designed ramps to access the station
    2) Lack of pick-up and drop-off access.

    1) is a classic example of how ADA distorts planning for things like this. They built lots of convoluted ramps so that wheelchairs can access the station at reasonable grades, then neglected to spend additional money on a staircase, thereby forcing everyone to use the wheelchair ramps, even though the walking distance is significantly longer. The ramps are also awkward for people on bikes, due to multiple extremely tight turns, and a sidewalk that is too narrow for people on bikes to pass pedestrians effectively. (In other words, even if you have a bike, you’re stuck descending the ramp at what is, effectively, walking speed).

    2) I ran into firsthand when I tried to take a taxi to Ranier Station to access the 554, only to discover that the platforms were a good 5-10 minute walk away from the nearest place the taxi could drop me off. While buses will be the primary motorized form of access to the station, the possibility getting dropped off in a car or taxi should not be neglected. At a minimum, we need pullouts on either Ranier or 23rd (whichever is closer to the platform) for cars (not buses – they need bulbs, not pullouts) to pick people up or drop them off.

    1. Are they actually allowed to provide a shorter route for the enabled? My impression is that providing access to the disabled that is more circuitous than that provided to the enabled is a good way to invite an ADA action.

      1. I’m not an expert on ADA law, but I can say that there are building entrances all over the place where a staircase provides a more direct pathway in than ADA ramps.

        On the other hand, ADA is far more burdensome to transit than to buildings. Consider all the money that gets spent on paratransit every year and how everyone else gets service cuts because there’s not enough money. Or that paratransit provides an artificial incentive for a network where all the service is concentrated at the peak, simply so that paratransit only needs to be provided at the peak. Or an incentive to save money by eliminating Sunday service in Snohomish County, rather than restructuring of commuter routes. Or how Sound Transit wasn’t allowed to build 10 feet of elevated sidewalk to connect the pedestrian bridge over Ranier Ave. to the platform level of Mt. Baker Station without rebuilding the entire perfectly good bridge to be ADA-compliant, even though an accessible, signalized crosswalk was already available right below the bridge. Or consider the large number of small-town-transit systems in the country that comprise of entirely paratransit, with no fixed-route service at all (ADA says you can’t have fixed-route service without paratransit, but having paratransit without fixed route service is just fine, hence a agency with not enough money for both must choose paratransit, even though it serves far fewer riders, at greater cost). Or that adding a wheelchair lift on every bus in a fleet of 1,000 buses costs way more than adding a handicap ramp to a building entrance. And that’s before you even get to the unreliability and missed connections for everyone else when the wheelchair lift deploys.

      2. My understanding is that they can certainly build both (an ADA ramp and a staircase) as long as the ADA ramp (or elevator, etc.) is not harder to access than the stairway. There are numerous examples of escalators, stairs and elevators all serving the same area (and all built after ADA became law). The only reason to have the wheelchair ramps be the primary mode of access for everyone is cheapness (I’m beginning to detect a theme here).

      3. Almost all ramps are longer than the stairs next to them, unless the stairs are only two or three steps. It’s not really possible to have a ramp as short as a stairway and still have a gradual incline.

      4. This is one of those examples where defaulting to the cheapest, least creative, laziest letter-of-the-law design winds up with worse results for everyone.

        There are plenty of people with mobility issues that do not prohibit them from using stairs or escalators, but who may be harmed by superfluous walking distances. There are people with vision impairments for whom a straighter path will always be easier to navigate than a circuitous one.

        In certain situations and with enough creativity, universal design can serve many different needs with a single structure. If space and cost are limited, two adjacent options may be preferable. But a single switchbacking path, creating excess distance for all (while barely meeting ADA requirements anyway) is almost never the right choice.

      5. RossB is correct about equal access rather than identical access being the driving factor in ADA design and enforcement. The design of integrated stairs and ramps is very common and in fact is generally a design problem on one of the architectural licensing examinations. (d.p.’s link to a universal design integrated ramp/stair is an example of a solution to this issue; it won’t take you much looking around to find others)

        Penny-pinching where it is not necessary and in fact counterproductive is the only reason not to have a more direct path via stair as well as the ramp. The ramp meets requirements for everybody, so if something is cut it will be the stair. Rainier/Judkins station is a great example of where that should not be allowed to happen.

      6. @ William – no problem. They drum this stuff into you in the world of architecture!

        As far as handrails are concerned, there are many requirements pertaining to height, size, gripping surface etc. Are you referring as to where they are not needed? If there is more than a 6″ rise they are required (the ramp in Portland’s Pioneer Square shown in d.p.’s photo is not accessible, although of course there is nothing prohibiting anyone with a disability from using it if they choose to). A ramp with slope of less than 1:20 (5%) is not considered to be a ramp for ADA purposes and so a railing would not be required there. Local building codes may have more stringent requirements.

      7. I should be more specific – the ramp is required if it is on an accessible route of travel, which would be likely in this case as one is always required (if there is a second route or means of accessible egress elsewhere, a ramp would not be required there).

        There are specific code requirements pertaining to transit facilities as well; for example in this particular station design both access points to the station — Rainier and 23rd — are required to be accessible because there are different bus routes serving each end — so even if per code there were no other reasons to have an accessible access point at each end of the station, that provision would still require it. Of course that makes sense….

      8. If they need a gigantic and circuitous sequence of ramps, they should probably be building elevators. An extremely circuitous sequence of ramps is actually worse for people with mobility impairments who can walk some; it’s a very dumb idea. Ramps are suitable for *short* rises and falls, less than one floor.

        It’s remarkably common for transit agencies to have an allergy to elevators, and to build insane ramp structures instead. I *sort of* understand why (they think elevators cost more to maintain), but on the whole, elevators are a good thing, and they should simply work on designing more reliable elevators.

      9. For clarity, ramps are also suitable when you have a large rise or fall but also a large, direct horizontal distance to cover. If you find yourself designing more than one switchback, you should stop thinking “ramp” and start thinking “elevator”.

      10. @Nathanael:
        Another reason they probably shy away from elevators is that people seem to think that transit elevator is a synonym for urinal.

    2. btw +1 on point 2. I suspect that a return to one car households is much more likely than a mass adoption of a carless lifestyle.

    3. Couldn’t you just drop off or pick up someone on 21st, 22nd or Atlantic (north of Massachusetts)? As I understand the diagram, the east entry is roughly at 22nd and Atlantic, so this would get you really close to the platform (closer than the folks getting off a bus on either end). This seems rather convenient to me. If you are coming from the south, go up Rainier. If you are coming from the north, go down 23rd. That way, from either direction, you take a right turn.

      1. I don’t think you understand the design at all. The entrance (portal) is at 23rd. There is a long (uncovered, but totally segregated) walkway, and then a descent to the platform.

        All of this occurs in the middle of a highway. There are no additional opportunities for mid-path access.

      2. No, I don’t understand the design. I couldn’t find very good documents on the Sound Transit site (but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place). I asked here, but people are more interested in insulting ST, the city, WSDOT or my definition of “dense” than actually providing much insight (to be fair, someone did give me a rundown of the access issues for bus riders). The only link on this article is a picture of a cross section. There is no view from the top. I assumed that the station would completely span the freeway, providing access from the north and south, as well as east and west (basically it would be another lid, but with trains running through it). You are saying this isn’t true? Frankly, if this is the case, then this is huge deal. Basically, this hammers the only area that has any walk-up (the triangle to the south). You are asking all of those people to walk blocks out of their way. Folks further to the south will be forced to walk next to really busy streets (Rainier or 23rd). Yuck. I’m not saying they won’t do it, but for a city that puts so much effort into making things pleasant (retaining trees, avoiding shadows, burying freeways) it is crazy that we ask people in this neighborhood to just tough it out and walk along the busiest streets in the area, or blocks out of there way. What a nice reward for actually choosing to live close to a station.

        Unlike a lot of the criticism, this is not something that can be fixed later. They aren’t going to add any doors or ramps once it is done. Look at the Mount Baker station.

        On the other hand, it is up to the city to build crosswalks. We can always add them. We can synchronize the crosswalks so they don’t create backups. We can give priority to the crosswalk so that you get a walk signal three seconds after you press the button. This is all stuff the city can do later.

        So, basically, if this initial design doesn’t have walking access directly from the south, it should be added. If the station sits in the middle of the freeway. and the only connections to the surrounding neighborhoods are from the east and west, then let’s try and fix it. Let’s ask for a ramp from the south. I really don’t think one is justified from the north, but it sure looks like it is from the south.

        Where do I send my comments? Oh wait — I did find that:

      3. The unfortunate and objective truth is that the station is in the middle of a highway, and that it’s not an important enough station to spend zillions to deviate from the middle of that highway. Building another lid three times the size of Freeway Park would be a whole additional can of worms, and seems so far outside the realm of possibility that I’m a bit amazed you thought that’s what was happening.

        I must also say that I don’t particularly have a problem with station access being logically and legibly located on the two primary streets through the entire area. Today, it’s a great difficulty to reach 23rd, NAAM, the Judkins neighborhood, or the 48 bus from the flyover station; that will cease to be the case with Link. The community center and the small pocket of residential to the south will be entirely within a four-minute walk of the 23rd entrance via a brief at-grade portion of the I-90 trail. Give that trail segment better night lighting and the neighborhood is pretty well set for access.

        I’m much more concerned about the lousy interface from street level to portals to platforms, which will effect everyone who tries to use the station from any starting point or bus transfer.

        What you desire is technically feasible, though — you would punch a pedestrian tunnel through the highway retaining wall near 22nd, with an additional stairway and lift rising between the tracks somewhere around the east end of the platform. Some New York and Chicago and Paris stations at sites with weird natural or man-made topographies have entrances like this. But those are rarely minor stations, and the sideways pedestrian tunnels tend to provide vital access to otherwise unreachable major streets and populous areas (not an easy walk around the corner to the main entrance from a minor subdivision).

        I think you should feel free to submit your third-entrance idea via the comment form, but I also feel you should know why the third entrance might be seen as unjustified and the additional engineering and construction might validly be seen as wasteful.

      4. @dp: +1: and as long as we are being honest, this station is just about as far west as a station could be and still be said to serve 23rd. But any deviation from here to avoid the highway is going to make reusing the Mt Baker tunnel bore really hard. So this really is a case where we are taking about zillions to do much with it.

        On the other hand, getting the entrance right on Ranier is imperative, and there ought to be affordable ways to make this acceptable. [I don’t know 23rd well enough to comment on whether what they have up there is believable].

      5. By Martin’s numbers, it’s actually closer to 23rd than to Rainier, by about 100 feet.

        The most ridiculous thing to me is that construction of these isolated “portal” buildings, with hundreds of feet of exposed wet pathway behind them. Who do they think they’re fooling? There has got to be some superfluous design element that can be cut for the sake of a bare-minimum dry pathway.

        Again, this is not rocket science.

      6. d.p. Fair enough. You might be able to move it west another 150 feet or so, but that still isn’t going to give you space to dive under/climb over the Freeway and still be at the right level for the tunnel portal.

        The 23rd entrance portal looks okay to me — some sort of visible marker out on the street helps orient occasional users, and give them confidence that they’re in the right place. What I see in the picture doesn’t seem too monumental to me. That said, I agree totally about not covering (which can’t possibly be that expensive) or better yet enclosing it entirely.

        The building at the East end of the platform looks a bit overdone, perhaps it’s needed for an elevator, but it still feels like overkill.

        It’s really the Ranier entance that looks like a disaster to me.

  13. @Ross: I agree with you that it’s difficult, given what’s available online to really comment. I eagerly await ST getting the materials online [according to the original posting, that’s coming soon]. In the meantime I’m inclined to agree that this design is just making too many compromises. I understand that trying to serve both Ranier and 23d is going to give you a 1000 foot long station, which is obviously going to require people to do some walking. Given that, it’s imperative that we make this walk as easy as possible.

    This design is worse than Bellevue [which to be perfectly honest I’d be a lot less upset about if it didn’t make the tunnel so pointless.], and at least in my eyes, is much worse than the issues at IDS. I think it’s worse than the airport, but I admit that I’ve only done the transfer there twice, and both times I’ve had padding in my schedule and welcomed the opportunity to stretch my legs.

  14. So, where exactly where the train be running? My assumption has been that it’d use the current bus ramps from the tunnel and the current bus lanes, but if buses are still going to be using one of those lanes…

    1. The train will be running in the current express lane tunnel, and will transition out of the tunnel onto a new elevated structure, which will be located roughly where the westbound bus lanes currently are. The station will be located at this transition from tunnel to elevated.

  15. Thanks, d.p. So is the station (as far as you know) going to be in the middle (from a north/south perspective) or more towards the south? The middle would put it right over the express lanes. If it is towards the south, then the additional entrance (as you describe, which is exactly what I had in mind) wouldn’t have to go very far. If the station is in the middle, then it would probably cost a lot more.

    I’m sorry for asking so many questions that might seem stupid, I just can’t seem to find out the answers. I’m used to information like this being readily available, but I can’t find it. I don’t want to attend a meeting just to see some maps and diagrams. Again, maybe I’m not looking in the right place (and if so, please let me know).

    I agree, though, all things considered, the bus to train experience is way more important. Which gets me to your specific complaints (and again, my ignorance of this station). Assume, for a second, that the city did everything right from a crosswalk perspective. Or, to put it another way, just assume that the bus rider gets on or off the bus on the side of the street closest to the station. What is wrong with the station? From 23rd, you have a long ramp followed by escalators/stairs. From what I can tell, the entrance (sorry, entry portal) is at street level (I assume). How can it be made better?.

    From Rainier, things look worse. Basically, you have to follow zig-zag ramps to get up to the station (right)? What would the alternative be? I want to know because I would really like to see this station improved, and not to be rude to Sound Transit, but I’m afraid that we may fail, once again, to do the little things that make a big difference. I don’t think they necessarily understand that there is a big difference between “you can get there” and “you can get there quickly and easily”. On the other hand, I do think that Sound Transit listens and responds to the comments (especially if there are a bunch of people saying much the same thing).

    1. The station is in the express lanes. The tracks are in the express lanes. The express lanes are the future rail lines.

      The primary fix for the station, I think, would be some consistent weather protection end-to-end. Even a flimsy suspended roof of tent-like material, with good lighting and attention to sightlines, would that the rider is within a unified station structure from the moment they leave the street to the moment they step on the train. This is vital for communicating safety and an understanding that people need transit even on dank winter days with early nightfalls.

      This is particularly crucial in the direction of Rainier, where the current plan reads more like you’re wandering down a greenery-flanked country pathway and you might just happen upon a train platform somewhere further in your journey. I think the choice to force a track crossing is a mistake, not because track crossings are the most dangerous thing ever, but because sightlines from platform to 400-foot pathway and vice versa will be broken. It’s like the architect is trying to exacerbate the sense of distance and foreboding in this not-always-safe neighborhood.

      1. Thanks d.p. I was afraid that the station was, indeed, above the express lanes. Blasting a hole and building a ramp might not be worth it.

        I agree with your suggestions. They sound pretty cheap and exactly the type of thing that they want to hear. This is why they do reviews of this nature at this point in the process. Some folks might like the current design from an abstract, aesthetic standpoint, but security and comfort are a lot more important.

        But what could be done to make the Rainier situation better? You mentioned that it looks really bad (and I agree). But other than a nice crosswalk (which is essential to me) what could be done? Is there room to add more straightforward stairs (or better yet an escalator) from that side? If so, wouldn’t that save some time?

    2. @ RossB – I’m not sure you need to follow the (existing) zig-zag path up the hill, although without looking at a plan view it is hard to tell. Based on the elevation that Martin has attached a rendering of, there is a stair/escalator directly from a plaza at Rainier, as well as the required two elevators. You’d go directly up the stair/escalator/elevator to the upper level, then walk to the platform. The structure looks sized as necessary for a large-load, front and rear entrance two-elevator shaft with the space above required for the machinery (unless they go with hydraulic elevators with adjacent machine room at ground level, in which case there is less head room required in the elevator shaft). The structure could be made smaller by deleting the covering over the stairs/escalator, but isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of covering the pathway as much as possible? It perhaps could be made a bit shorter but at that point you are talking about minor cost difference (if any).

      At the 23rd Avenue entrance (portal) I don’t see the purpose of the structure to the left. To the right is the bike cage. Without a look at the plans there’s no way to know if that structure encloses necessary operational spaces or not. There’s no elevator there so it’s hard to see why that is necessary otherwise. It also appears quite a bit taller than necessary.

      1. I agree, Scott. I think the zig zag that d. p. may not be an issue when this is done. If that is the case, then I can answer my own question (and d. p.’s concern) above (yes, it can be made more straightforwardly and in fact that is the plan). But I think it is funny that we are all guessing (some more than others) about the details of this plan.

        I also agree with you with regards to the big structure. What is the point (especially if we can’t afford a roof over most of this)?

      2. I’m not sure you need to follow the (existing) zig-zag path up the hill, although without looking at a plan view it is hard to tell.

        No you do not, and that existing zig-zag path on the east side of Rainier will likely be removed, as the station entrance and elevator structure will blast a path right through the middle of them. I suspect the ghosts of the path in the image is simply there because they superimposed the new station entrance over a photograph of the existing streetscape.

        On the west side of Rainier, however, things will remain unchanged.

      3. Yes, it’s the west side that remains unchanged. And in the absence of a crosswalk at ground level, that is a huge problem. We’re talking an 1000-foot transfer, over extensive low-visibility infrastructure.

        But don’t take my word for it. Go up to the westbound platform that exists today. That’s being retained as part of the future pathway. Then realize that your journey to this platform was barely half of your future journey to the train.

        (Also, see my Google links here: )

        Bus transfers, for those headed across the lake, will be the major use of this station. A terrible transfer is an incredibly huge problem. That ST generally sees forced pedestrian detours as a feature (rather than a bug) is an even bigger problem!

      4. So, the city should build a crosswalk at ground level. The city. Hell, make it a campaign issue if you want. What do you bet both candidates for mayor (and every candidate running for city council) supports a new crosswalk there. Ask them. Synchronize it with the existing light (at the intersection) as suggested earlier. Give signal priority to the folks that press the button. Problem solved. This just doesn’t seem like an ST issue, but a city issue. Guess what — this ain’t Bellevue. With enough pressure, it will be done.

      5. Yes, the city. Meaning SDOT.

        The same SDOT that refuses to let RapidRide turn left on Mercer without waiting for 4 minutes. The same SDOT that skips entire cycles at Westlake and Denny if no cars have triggered the intersection, even if pedestrians have pressed the button. The same SDOT that gives pedestrians this and this and this (and, by extension, this).

        Welcome to Seattle, Ross. SDOT likes cars. Once ST has designed them an “out” to not interrupt traffic flow, there will never be a crosswalk there.

        These two dumb agencies are reinforcing one another.

      6. Ha! It’s about time someone referenced “the punch”. Such a classic example of why pedestrian overpasses suck.

        Seriously, though, my guess is that the city did little to improve the crossing close to Mount Baker station because the Mount Baker station is not in a great spot. Add crosswalks there, and you still don’t have a good station. You still force people to cross two busy streets and a quiet one (for good measure). Yuck! That really was a failure by Sound Transit. SDOT and Metro could do some things to make it better, but it wouldn’t make it great. Nor would it be easy. That interchange is really complicated and a mess. For example, add a crosswalk at MLK, (under the pedestrian overpass) and you can easily back up traffic heading south, whether it comes from MLK or Rainier Ave. Dealing with MLK is easy, just synchronize it with the main light. But Rainier is another matter. I guess you can synchronize it with the right turn arrow (no right turn arrow if the crosswalk is in “walk”) and also add a “no right on red” sign. I guess that works. But it has the possibility of really messing up that intersection, which could add minutes for every car and bus that goes through there. Or not. Who knows? My point is that the study and proposal would be complicated. I’m not saying I wouldn’t welcome it, but it would be expensive, and considering the other flaws with the station, it might not even be worth it.

        On the other hand, adding a crosswalk underneath the freeway on Rainier should be pretty easy. There are no cross streets to the north and south, so for the most part, the only thing you slow down are drivers on Rainier. You might slow down people exiting the freeway, which might be a sticking point, but by and large, I think it would be a straightforward change. The only synchronization needed is to stop the left turn lane (from the off ramp towards northbound Rainier) and the light heading northbound on Rainier.

        Getting back to politics for a second, I think you glossed over the bigger point. It is easy to criticize the city (or just SDOT) for being car focused. If you think it is bad now, you should have seen it forty years ago. But things are changing. Maybe not as fast as we want, but they are still changing. To say they like cars is to ignore all the little changes that have occurred over the last five years to make the pedestrian experience better. I’m not saying they have done everything they should have done, but road diets are a great sign of progress. Furthermore, road diets are controversial — for the most part, crosswalks aren’t.

        The way problems like this get solved is to lobby the city. Do you think anyone in power in Bellevue gives a flying f** what people on this blog think? Not in the least. They are too busy looking over their shoulder to see what Kemper Freeman will do. On the other hand, the opposition candidate for mayor of Seattle wrote an editorial, to this blog, making a case for himself after they endorsed the current mayor. Richard Conlin has commented on this blog, not for political reasons (like Murray) but because he wanted to say that he thinks a pedestrian overpass at Northgate is essential, as is a station at 130th. The people who direct SDOT to do the things they do actually listen and care about what folks here have to say. This is important.

        But it doesn’t mean these things will happen automatically. You can’t expect them to read the 108th post in a blog and then jump to action. However, a well planned, well organized campaign for changes to traffic signals or crosswalks, together with a letter writing campaign, could easily sway the mayor and the council. Right now we should focus on things that Sound Transit can do, with an eye towards future improvements (like a crosswalk) that can be handled by the city later.

  16. OK, I’ve already designed a better station design for the Rainer end.

    (1) A single, wide, ramp, *between the tracks*, running from Rainer to the platform. Under ADA regulations, it is possible to construct a ramp which rises 30 inches for every 35 feet of run, including landings. With 406 feet to work with, this means that the full set of *straight* ramps can rise by 11.6 feet. This should be sufficient. If it isn’t, a single switchback at the Rainer end should do the trick.

    (2) The “canyon” should have murals painted on both walls. It can also have a canopy which continues directly from the station canopy — designed by the station artist, of course.

    (3) This design requires the placement of the tracks on the *outside* bridges over Rainer — the slip ramp bridges — rather than on the center bridge, which would be demolished. This would allow for gentler curvature of the rails anyway, as well as eliminating the reverse curve at the station, and would be an improvement.

    1. There’s actually almost 40 feet of rise to accomodate from street to platform, and it looks like the plans are still using the eastbound slip ramp bridge for buses. (but shouldn’t 400 feet of run give you almost 30 feet of rise [12* 35 = 420]?) I really like this set of ideas, but I don’t think it does much to address the worst aspect of ST’s design: the horrible service of the west side of Ranier Ave.

  17. Having the materials available makes this a lot easier to understand.

    I think that most of what is fatally wrong with this design can be fixed by covering the walkways between the portals and the platforms and by putting in a crosswalk on Ranier.

    It appears that there are compromises being made because of the rentention of the eastbound flyer stop for buses. As planned these will only serve Metro’s peak hour I-90 expresses. What would it take to get Metro to abandon these routes? How bad would it be to eliminate the flyer stop (as we do Westbound) My impression is that the freeway stop is already very poorly served because the buses are so full leaving downtown. It’s difficult to see a scenario in which these buses will better serve this stop 10 years from now. For example, I don’t think Nathanael’s suggestion to use the outer tracks can be made to work as a result.

    I still don’t like the at grade crossing at the east end of the platform, but I don’t consider it a disaster.

    I hate that only the center third of the platform is covered. I understand that this is a fairly common trick that transit agencies use to get people to spread out on the platform, but I don’t see the need at a station that I don’t expect to have huge traffic volumes.

    Both ends have escalators with more than two storeys of rise, yest there’s only an up escalator at each end. Really?

    it looks like the’re planning facing crossover just east of the station. I’d have expected a trailing crossover (probably west of the sation) so I’m wondering why this is their preference.

    I’d still like to have a pedestrian overpass for Ranier Ave, but I’m not sure I’m willing to spend for an elevator, and the required length of ramps is too ridiculous to accept.

    It looks they have thought about passenger drop off on 23rd. It’s not clear there’s anything reasonable that can be done on Ranier.

    1. There is a pedestrian overpass of Rainier Ave. I’m having a hard time understanding some people’s gripes about the west side of Rainier. There are ramps, there are steps to avoid the ramps, there’s a crosswalk a short way to the south and there is a pedestrian overpass. What more is needed?

    2. “What would it take to get Metro to abandon these routes?”

      That’s what ST is discussing with Metro right now. How much Metro wants to keep those buses, and how much Mercer Island and Bellevue are concerned about the (congestion) impacts of terminating them at those stations. If Metro agrees to abandon the flyer station, then that part of the freeway could be removed too.

      However, I personally am a little hesitant to eliminate the bus backup alternative completely, because inevitably there will be occasions when East Link closes temporarily due to a collision or a train breakdown. And in a worst-case scenario, if the trains can’t run on the floating bridge after all, then there would need to be a bus backup for a longer period.

Comments are closed.