There are several regional awards for transit-friendly employers, which usually recognize their implementation of programs that subsidize commute modes other than driving alone to work, or provide some other amenity or scheduling framework that supports car-free commuting. And that’s great, because there should be incentives for pro-social policies.
However, the best pro-transit policy is to choose a location that has good transit service in the first place. Cut-price transit passes and shower facilities only do so much if employees have to pay an enormous time penalty when getting out of their cars. If you’re an employer interested in attracting talent that doesn’t want to stare at taillights all day, here are some recommendations from your friendly local transit experts.
The criterion here is how much of the region is reachable with minimal time penalty over driving. If your employees want to live in Ballard or Capitol Hill or Puyallup or Bainbridge Island, can they get to your office in a reasonable amount of time or not? Since Seattle lies at the center of the region, its best-connected neighborhoods are among the most accessible ones. And of course, to be on this list there has to be an appreciable amount of office or industrial space.
10. Northgate. The minor office park district just south of the Northgate Transit Center is already a hub for bus service for prosperous North Seattle, including the freeway express #41 to Downtown. It’s also six years away from light rail, which will provide very quick connections to points in Central Seattle and the Eastside, and later will stretch into Snohomish County. The City also has ambitious plans for more commercial development here. If making a long-term siting decision, Northgate moves up a bit on this list when Link offers an alternative to the daily nightmare on I-5 reverse-commute to downtown.
9. Rainier/I-90. The modest commercial district strung along Rainier Avenue on either side of I-90 also surrounds the intersection of a very intense-yet-slow transit corridor (Rainier) and an intense-and-fast express bus corridor (I-90) with rapid, frequent connections to the downtown hub and the Eastside. In 8 years, Link will improve connections to the Eastside and transform its relationship with North Seattle.
8. Downtown Tacoma. The hub of the sadly-declining Pierce Transit, Downtown Tacoma draws a particularly large amount of two-way ST Express service, and has rapid (but infrequent) Sounder Connections to the Kent Valley and Lakewood. Tacoma Link is a pretty good way to get around downtown.
7. Sodo. A short hop from the downtown transit hubs, Sodo is on the way for commuters from points south and has light rail service. If it were easier to walk around Sodo once transit gets you there, this neighborhood would rank higher. Due to lack of pedestrian pathways, much less decent ones, this rating only really applies to locations along the 5th Ave busway, north of Lander Street, or close to a cross street.
6. The U-District. Seattle’s “second downtown” is a major transit hub for Snohomish County, Northeast Seattle, and the Eastside. It is mere months from a fast but somewhat inconvenient bypass of I-5 when Link comes to Husky Stadium. In 2021, this will move up substantially as the U-District Link station makes all other means of getting downtown obsolete.
5. Capitol Hill. In months, Link will make the intersection of Broadway and John three minutes from the Montlake and Westlake transit hubs. Capitol Hill also has the most intensive grid of local bus and streetcar services, providing frequent omnidirectional connectivity.
4. Belltown. Belltown is down the road from the downtown Seattle hub, connected by a rivers of buses along 3rd Avenue and closer than downtown for commuters from Northwest Seattle. Although for most riders the transfer adds a bit of inconvenience, the time penalty is less than ten minutes.
3. Downtown Bellevue. The transit hub of the Eastside, downtown Bellevue also has excellent bus access to downtown Seattle and decent express service in all directions. It’s also less than a decade away from its own traffic-separated rail line to Seattle and Overlake.
2. Westlake. At one end of the transit “downtown,” and only a short tunnel or busway ride away from the Pioneer Square terminii, Westlake is the first downtown stop for Metro and Sound Transit buses from points North, Capitol Hill, and SR520. Unlike Pioneer Square, Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union are directly connected to it via rail. Thanks to the Columbia St. onramp, it’s also a more straightforward trip to West Seattle.
1. Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square sits at the hub of regional transportation. Of all downtown locations, it is closest for many Community Transit riders, anyone South of James St. not in West Seattle, and anyone that commutes on I-90. Most core routes from the north also stop there before ending their run. It is also uniquely well positioned for ferry and Sounder, two modes with a time advantage over even low-traffic driving. Even the few hardy souls who commute via Amtrak will find it convenient. No matter where in the region your employees live, they are likely to find transit an attractive alternative to driving. And of course, the historic nature of the neighborhood means less available commuter parking, perhaps the single largest factor in giving transit a relative advantage.