The ST UW Station Plan (Sound Transit)
The ST UW Station Plan (Sound Transit)

From the PSBJ:

Over the coming year, Urban@UW will develop and launch pilot projects focused on urban issues. Examples might include addressing sidewalk accessibility, using data to assess community well-being, and transportation for disabled King County residents. Those projects could take the shape of a series of conversations, a small-scale research project, or other formats.

The Seattle area in many ways is the perfect place to launch such an initiative. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area added 61,373 residents last year, making it the 11th fastest-growing large urban area, according to census data. The economy is also surging, with a jobless rate below 5 percent.

It’s great to hear that UW wants to be a partner in solving transportation problems here in Seattle.  Especially since the university has caused quite a few transportation problems in recent years.  To wit:

  • The inconvenient location of the light rail stop at Husky Stadium (inside the triangle would have been more convenient for everyone)
  • Extracting $43M from Sound Transit & taxpayers to move light rail away from the physics lab
  • Refusal to facilitate bus-rail transfers at said station and active opposition to a multimodal transit hub there
  • Making bus-rail transfers at Mt. Baker worse than it needed to be by retaining its laundry facility for future development
  • Dodging its responsibility to pay parking taxes

As a UW grad myself, I look forward to the new initiative, though I won’t hold my breath that the well-meaning folks running Urban@UW have any sway with the UW President or the Board of Regents who are responsible for the anti-urban transgressions of years past. But if the UW truly wants to improve Seattle transportation, there are plenty of opportunities in its own backyard.

57 Replies to “UW Wants to Help Find “Solutions to Urban Issues””

    1. Unfortunately some short term positions as president and on the board years ago forced a terrible underground station location that we are stuck with for, oh 250 years or however long a subway station lasts. Maybe they could have forced ST to place it even further from the heart of the daily academic campus to make it as inconvenient as possible to use for students, faculty and staff?

    2. This gave me a chuckle; what a great Thanksgiving weekend article. Frank’s first four points are exactly right. UW should have started this twenty years ago and helped with Link’s station locations and access rather than trying to push it away. There’s still something now it can do without moving the stations: extend the Triangle parking tunnel to the station. It goes under Pacific Street so it would greatly improve access to both southbound and northbound bus stops.

  1. The UW is a fine institution, but sort of a lousy neighbor/community member. I worked for them for a brief time after being a student and then staff member at a Big Ten university, and was appalled by not only the bureaucracy of the place, but the attitude it had towards undergraduates and the U District neighborhood. I’m glad to see that they are reaching out, but I’d keep an eye on what they are reaching for, and wonder why they are reaching for it.

    1. I’m not sure the U-District neighbors are being good neighbors toward UW. It is a state university that needs to be able to expand in order to have more students and carry out its mission. Various forces have opposed its ability to expand, especially upward, and now complain about how many properties, how much of a footprint, and how many residents will get displaced if UW expands, all the while supporting a plaza next to U-District Station to prevent anything (like more housing or educational facilities) from being built there.

      Being a good neighbor is a 2-way street. Residents and businesses locating next to UW knew they were locating next to the largest educational institution in the northwest USA.

      And now, we’ve invested in the high-capacity transit, so it only makes sense to maximize UW.

      1. I would suggest that the region is populous enough (4-5M) to now have two major state universities within its borders. I can’t think of another populous metro area that doesn’t have more large state higher education campuses beyond satellites that are kept small.

      2. Yeah, I’m all for piling on regarding their scandalous skimming from ST and absurd insistence on making light rail access needlessly difficult, but the notion–in the context of a state with a shortage of access to public higher education–that they shouldn’t grow by legally purchasing adjacent property because of the preferences of some neighbors of that property doesn’t seem any more worthy of respect than your standard NIMBY “I don’t want to live near apartment dwellers” preference. When we place restrictions on private property, it should be done in a manner that serves the public good, not the whims of adjacent property owners.

      3. A lot of colleges are being added, although nothing like another UW. Bellevue College and Seattle Central went 4-year, and WSU, CWU, EWU, and I think WWU all have campuses around. Then there’s that Microsoft-China thing in the Spring District if that has gotten off the ground yet. Washington is like 50th in the number of university slots per capita so it has a long way to catch up.

  2. This looks more like a public relations statement than it does a big commitment. Consider that disabled access is the law, and better sidewalks are not that big of a financial commitment. Using data just sounds like a funded research project!

    Thanks for calling them out on past anti-transit decisions!, Frank!

    1. Even with its state/non-profit status UW is still a self-serving business. Deans and college presidents just love to fire off these kinds of announcements every week. ‘Initiative’, ‘Major Research Project’, ‘Innovation’, ‘Blablabla’, ‘Can we have some money’. The concrete actions by UW listed above by Frank don’t lie. Just another instance of university vaporware.

      1. Having participated in two programs that have been facilitated by this organization so far (Data Science for Social Good, NextSeattle), my impression is that this organization is supposed to make cross campus collaboration between different colleges and departments easier and more explicit, while also providing an organization to fund multidisciplinary projects.

        They’re also working with the eScience institute, the White House and Seattle on funding and applying urban science/smart cities research.

        TL;DR
        From the perspective of an undergrad, stuff has been coming out of it.

        Links:
        – Data Science for Social Good: http://escience.washington.edu/get-involved/data-science-for-social-good/
        – NextSeattle: http://expd.washington.edu/nextseattle
        – Metro Lab Initiative: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/14/fact-sheet-administration-announces-new-smart-cities-initiative-help

  3. Is this design photo amazingly out of date?

    It looks nothing like the current Rainier Visa nor like the final design renderings.

    I assume this was before they planned to have a bridge over Pacific?

      1. Connecting the Med Center is one badly- needed project! I suspect that looking at the window from that building and seeing that beautiful station – and realizing that it isn’t easy to reach – is finally registering with the Med Center admin.

      2. I think a Capitol Hill North,East and West like setup would have served the UW station much better. A tunnel entrance at the med ctr, one at the triangle and the one at the stadium. I’m all for preserving the view and not putting the station in the triangle but that street crossing to the med ctr and bus transfers near the one station will prove to be royal pains.

      3. the bridge connecting the north end of the triangle. This version shows a surface street instead.

        Also, the current version has no circle courtyard in the center of the triangle and instead has more of an hourglass shape extending from the triangle over to the south end of Rainier Vista…

    1. Well, considering that particular version of Husky Stadium has been gone for four years, yes, I’d say the photo is out of date (i.e. it’s a rendering).

  4. Will they consider:

    Fuel cells for a neighborhood urban microgrids
    Hydrogen for transportation to remove urban pollution

  5. Now I’m confused.
    Didn’t Link have to move the alignment east to it’s current location from Roosevelt because trains would screw up science experiments, but this article shows the 4 offending buildings nearly on top of the current alignment and a new building going where Link was supposed to go. Did I just dream up the reason for moving to Montlake, in addition to ST said it didn’t have to dig as deep over there.

    1. What’s happening is that Sound Transit and the UW physics department discovered that the rules of physics may have “clauses”. For instance, the rule that a thing cannot be in two places at once, and also cannot be in the same place at the same time.

      Think of it! A massive regional transit system that existed before Mt. Rainer may still be less than a dimension away. Meaning that a single black hole may be all we need for station access. With zero need to do business with the clowns who gave us all the LINK elevators and escalators. This would definitely explain why a few buildings aren’t where they were year or two back.

      So don’t worry about this one, Mic. It’s just a matter of getting the instruments “dialed in.”

      Mark

    2. The original alignment was on the west side of the university by Portage Bay. ST decided the ship canal crossing there was too risky; that’s why Link ended up going south first. But a secondary problem was being near the seismic labs and having to pay large mitigation for that; I think to move the entire labs. Several years later they came up with the current alignment and determined it to be feasable. It still has some seismic impact but not as much.

  6. 1. Anybody, especially an agency, that uses the word “issues” in place of “bad trouble” is not worth having a “conversation” meaning “demand for compliance” or “words to be ignored” is definitely not worth “a microsecond” of any single individual’s time.

    2. Which means a strategy of highly publicized refusal to share the same room with them until we can go in with enough politically active voters who’ve developed enough of a relationship with pertinent public officials that we can at least bluff UW into being afraid of us.

    3. Also, remember that since any station’s lifetime will be longer than any current official’s tenure on earth, anything above ground with that few buildings around it can be modified into a decent transit station.

    Based on this country’s economic history, over the lifetime of anybody now reading this there’ll be more than one period where national politics will not only permit but demand a lot of public works jobs.

    And there’ll be a Constitutional amendment that no official, either elected or appointed, shall ever say “issue” or “conversation” on public time.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s amusing to think of what “urban” problems they have in mind if they didn’t notice this transit access stuff under their noses.

  7. This is small potatoes compared to the big misses on this project, but it would help to build stairs at the NE corner of the Montlake Bridge. The passage underneath the bridge next to the cut itself is quite narrow, but this would at least give the South campus another grade separated access route to the station that is slightly more direct and less trafficked than the Burke-Gilman. Right now, the bridge only has stairs at NW and SE corners despite there being room on all four corners (mostly mud right now).

    I suppose that entire area is being neglected until state decides whether to fund another crossing for 520.

  8. Was at the Apple Cup yesterday and the topic of conversation was how nice it will be next year when the Husky Stadium Station is open. All locations have pluses and minuses. The current location was dictatated patrly by the U and partly by geology, but add a pedestrian overpass from the triangle to the Med Center (which is very doable) and the current station location really isn’t that bad.

    But Frank demonstrates in this post exactly why the UW needs to be so protective of the assets it already has, because it is exactly this attitude that the UW is somehow the enemy or culpable for all local wrongs that leads the UW to take such an aggressive stance in protecting their own interests. And this is exactly what the UW should do, because they are still the premier educational institution in the state, and in an era of tight state budgets and statewide anti-Seattle views nobody is going to look out for the interests of the U except for the U.

    So, ya, the U might have played a little hardball against the U and won a round or two, just like yesterday.

    Go Dawgs! And if in the future they can get more concessions from ST, then I will say it again.

      1. I don’t think you can blame the U for the transportation problems of NE Seattle, but if having a scapegoat will make you feel better than go ahead

      2. Besides the fact that all roads to anywhere from places like Sandpoint all go through UW congestion, there is absolutely no reason to associated NE traffic problems with UW.

      3. @les,

        That is just blaming success, and there is no doubt that the UW is successful. But last I checked the road system was still the responsibility of SDOT, and the bus system was still the responsibility of Metro.

        And by requiring every student to have a Metro pass the UW has actually done more to support transit locally than just about any other institution locally – public or private.

      4. As the post mentions the location of the station and better placement of connecting buses on the part of the UW would have gone a long way in helping out the NE residents. we are reading the same post aren’t we?

    1. By making Link less functional, UW’s administration is harming the interests of their employees and students. “UW” is not a singular entity with single agenda.

      1. The UW has other interests to protect, not just transportation. They have done an admirable job so far and there is no reason to expect that they won’t do just as well in the future.

        And the current station locations are very functional.

      2. This year no Link, next year Link. With a UW Link Station, UW Administration is harming the interests of employees and students? I think this line of thinking is a stretch.

      3. Obviously, no one is claiming they prevented Link from reaching UW altogether, Chuck. Follow the links in the article for the backstory.

      4. The UW has other interests to protect, not just transportation.

        “Other interests” is correctly read as “football”

    2. Come on, Lazarus, everybody knows that football has as much use for a hardball as it does for a bat. But it probably doesn’t make any difference whatsoever what kind of coach US will have to budget the same salary for.

      Meaning precisely a hundred times ST’s budget for a trillion years. So reason physics building is moving around, as Mic has correctly noted, is that ‘Coach says that’s where it’s gotta go because the vibrations are putting the team (whatever sport it is) off their game.

      Also because the physics department is giving him some garbage like athletes can’t get “A’s” just ’cause they can’t add. UW accounting’s finest computers prove that the egg-heads are fulla crap!

      Also, who cares if it’s either bowling with a “birdie” or badminton with a bowling ball?

      Mark

    3. Lazarus, the things we’ve asked for would benefit the UW’s own students and staff, and football alums. I graduated from UW as did others here, and I also worked for it, so I’m not trying to cripple my alma mater; I’m trying to get it to do what students like me would want. If the UW thinks Sound Transit is an enemy and a negative impact, then it doesn’t know its own needs. Link is the best thing to have happened to UW’s accessibility since ever. It will be very popular with commuter students, students coming from the airport to their dorms, visiting scholars, and students going to Pioneer Square to get drunk.

      On Friday as I was taking the 255 to Kirkland, we ran into gridlock right at the beginning of 520. At first I thought, “The tolls aren’t deterring traffic jams after all”, but as we got further I saw that the tie-up was just in the right lane with cars exiting at Montlake, and on the other side the cars were lined up the same way. I though, “Why would anybody drive to a Husky game and endure that traffic?” Then we got to the South Kirkland P&R and there were a hundred people lined up for the shuttle bus. We went up to the trail and to downtown Kirkland and took the 234 back, and there were still a hundred people lined up there, hopefully not the same ones. Link won’t help people from Kirkland in particular, but if there are just as many people coming from other places it’ll help them.

      1. On weekday afternoons, the Montlake exit ramp now routinely backs up onto the freeway. In fact, it happens often that some route 545 drivers have begun wising up to it and taking the left lane across the 520 bridge, switching over to the right in the short distance between the exit turnoff and Montlake Freeway Station to avoid the traffic. I’ve actually started switching from riding the 542 both directions to riding the 542 only in the morning, while going back to the 545 I used to ride most days in the afternoon.

        Until a bus lane can be built down the Montlake exit ramp, this does not bode well for the 541 Sound Transit is planning on operating next spring.

    4. “The UW has other interests to protect, not just transportation.”

      Everybody who goes to the UW campus has to get there somehow, including those investors that give it grants, and the rich football alums who buy season tickets. What other interests is it protecting? What other interests is ST or Metro harming, besides the view down Rainier Vista?

    5. >> add a pedestrian overpass from the triangle to the Med Center (which is very doable) and the current station location really isn’t that bad.

      No, it really is bad. It is horrible. In what world to you build a pedestrian overpass to a subway? That is nuts.

      The obvious answer was to build it in the triangle, as was suggested. Connect to the Medical Center via the existing tunnel (from the parking garage). There really is no advantage to having it next to Husky Stadium. There is a clinic in the stadium, but it serves a handful. On game day the cops close off the street and wave pedestrians across anyway.

      The only possible advantage to having it over by the stadium is if you really want to turn the area into a transit center. This is something that is being fought by the university. It isn’t clear how good that would be anyway. All that would do is give the buses a chance to turn around. That would be fine for a bus coming from 520, but it would be much better for those buses to simply use a 520 Link station. But having, say, the 48 turn around there doesn’t sound that good to me. To be clear, I definitely want to add a transit center there, but it wouldn’t even be necessary if Link had built a 520 station.

      It is easy to put the blame on the university for its poor stations, but Sound Transit deserves just as much, if not more blame for the overall mess. That being said, what’s done is done, and the UW should fulfill its civic responsibility and provide both good bus service as well as good bike service to the area.

      1. I assume that the UW considered the Triangle Parking garage sacred, and anything that cut into its parking capacity would be a non-starter.

  9. Right ON! Something I’ve been wanting to say for many years. Still angry to this day about the UW’s (Fill IN) role in our region’s transportation woes.

  10. As an older, transfer student, undergrad, I came claim credit for the Light Rail Line – with big kudos to then Councilmember Jim Street. My particular experience with the UW and the regional powers of the Regents level testifies to the malicious nature of this current initiative.

    1. As one in the trenches during the “where should the line go” years, didn’t UW object to it running along the west side of the campus in a tunnel?
      That would have fixed a lot of problems truncating routes at 15th/Campus. You could have bought electron microscopes for lots of grads, given all the twists and turns the line is making.

      1. Yes and the sad thing is ST could have paid the UW for a new lab and building at $100 million and saved $300 million in construction by putting the station at a more convenient location. The worry was vibrations which I did have the recent pleasure of discussing this with Mark Hallenbeck.

      2. Thanks Daniel and Mike for refreshing my memory on this. Brooklyn Stn will ease the pain when it opens, but that’s still a good walk to the Hub from there.
        Link is forever kneecapping itself with all these long walks to where people are actually going, unlike underground systems in major cities (NY, Paris, London, Tokyo,….).
        We’ve consigned ourselves to single stops and long walks (Seatac, Broadway …).
        CPS station is a good example for the UW to explore why transit thinks that Westlake is ‘close enough’, when it should be retained for a stop of its own, yet when it comes to capturing automobiles off the freeways, the planners stumble all over themselves trying to get the bus bays and rail platforms directly next to the the multi-story mega motel 6 for your auto for the day.
        Go figure!

      3. Link is forever kneecapping itself with all these long walks to where people are actually going

        I rather think UW is the principle kneecapper in this case.

      4. “CPS station is a good example for the UW to explore why transit thinks that Westlake is ‘close enough’, when it should be retained for a stop of its own”

        Nope, it’s an example of a badly-located station that’s a long walk from anywhere, We don’t need to keep such dud stations forever.

      5. I respectfully disagree with the utility of CPS. Draw a 1/2 mile radius around it, then some of the other stations ST is banking on riders being willing to walk.
        Now, use CPS as the north branch for a line going through the DSTT from south to north, with stations in the heart of SLU & Seattle Center and beyond.
        Cross platform transfers are far superior to 2nd tunnels, and the capacity to run 90 sec headways has always been there and is routine in many systems far more complex and crowded than our will ever be.
        That’s the utility of CPS, and not just a basement station to another event at the WSCC.
        Of course, I’m beating a dead horse until the city, Metro, and ST throw the last shovels of dirt over an idea I’ve been pitching for 20 years now.

      6. There’s a difference between walking in a pedestrian-orented neighborhood and walking in an urban jungle. Walking east to Capitol Hill is across a freeway. Walking north to SLU is down a hill and a wasteland. Walking south to the Convention Center is going past the Express Lanes entrance which is like another intersection. Only walking west toward downtown is a pleasant walk, but that’s where Westlake Station is.

        Convention Place could be useful as an entrance for trains or buses from SLU. But we were talking about the line to UW. If it had been kept in the original plan, then it could remain by intertia. But since it was taken out, putting it back in would be an insult to the places it purports to serve but barely does.

    2. Hey, Douglas, in 1983, Jim Street appointed me as ATU Local 587’s representative on the committee advising the DSTT art project!

      Though, unlike the Employee Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Transit Project, the public artists threatened to have me bronzed if anybody listened to my advice on anything.

      So it wasn’t my fault, or the artists’ or Jim Street’s fault that the Convention Place fountain ran for about two weeks and since then has served for a huge vertical trash-can.

      Or that the two clocks in Pioneer Square station, which really are fantastic creations have never been either restarted or cleaned. Or the huge tile one at Westlake stayed stuck for over a decade.

      Or that the blue, white, and yellow reflectors on the walls of the tubes, specifically designed so bus headlights would create a space-time-warp effects are hardly ever used.

      They need high beams to make them light up- so even the one driver in a thousand who does know about them thinks it’s an infraction to use them. Probably not, since rule-makers don’t know they’re there either.

      However, if I’m ever found stabbed with a drafting pencil or a palette knife…there’s a lady artist who swore she’d kill me for noting that if her platform ceiling lights weren’t moved back about ten feet, first negative trolley shoe would create a great dynamic conceptual art event. Which was probably her whole intent!

      The Employee Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Transit Project is another matter. Accountability requires disclosure how many problems were caused because Jim Street couldn’t override my advice in time. Most egregious was my insistence that the Breda fleet not be shredded and returned to Italy as Brillo pads.

      Or worse, that joint use couldn’t have any problems, because of course Metro would use the millions of dollars worth of signalling equipment that they turned off two weeks after service opened. When Jim became a judge, lucky for me the Statute of Limitations had expired.

      Can you give me any word on Jim, Douglas? I haven’t seen him in years. Thanks.

      Mark Dublin

  11. That Urban@UW tag quote combined with an image that makes the UW look decidedly suburban compared to certain other institutions forms an interesting bit of artistic irony.

    Granted, they have completely different histories in terms of their reason for founding, but if Portland State were built in Seattle it would probably be in the International District. There would be no university stadium. Having such a lavish waste of urban land would be beyond reason.

  12. Excellent post. I will say a couple things though. First, while the UW deserves a lot of the blame for prior mistakes, so too does Sound Transit, if not every local representative. Sound Transit is a very powerful, multi-county organization. They should have a lot of sway. The UW is a state institution. I see no reason why the city, county and state shouldn’t work together in this manner (especially since every leader is from the same party). Sound Transit should have demanded more and gotten more out of the UW. That means, or course, using the power of the press as well as having meetings with the governor to have them do it right. It might also mean just spending more money. But I think Sound Transit has been a very passive, very cowardly organization. Given their past history, it is understandable. The misplacement of the station in Husky Stadium or the terrible transit connections at Mount Baker are nothing compared to the lack of a station at First Hill. But all are the result of fear. Fear of a cost overrun, or some sort of problem that will cost them public support. It makes sense to jettison the fuel when you are afraid you might crash — the problem is, the plane can’t get as far. That is our line light rail line right now.

    But that being said, Frank is absolutely right that improvements can be made right now by the university to make this system better. We need a bus barn or transit center at Husky Stadium for buses coming from 520. We also need the mother of all bike lockers there as well. Neither is really that expensive. It will cost the UW money (they get a lot by charging people to park there) but peanuts compared to the value of the system. If it comes down to it, then Sound Transit should just pay them. It boggles the mind that we build such useless, giant stations (for a subway!) while being ridiculously cheap when it comes to things that matter (like bus to rail interaction or bus to bike interaction). The latter seems like a minor thing, and is in most cities, but not this one. We have very high bike ridership for a city with so many hills, and it just so happens that the station is very well suited for bike access. There are plenty of people — including me — who only ride on the Burke Gilman (or similar bike paths). With room to store bikes, you connect Fremont and Ballard to Link. That means that until we build a subway from Ballard to the UW, the fastest way to get from Fremont or Ballard to Capitol Hill will be via the Burke Gilman and Link. For the university to not understand this is, well, stupid. You don’t need to go to go to one of the finest universities in the world to know that.

  13. The main issue with the 15th avenue ne alignment was the 200 feet of muck under postage bay, forcing a very deep alignment and high cost. Another item to add: opposition to a third university district station under the HUB. Since the district is a second downtown, in terms of rider demand, it would make sense to have tighter station spacing. It would make for easy transfers with Stevens Way routes.

    1. True, but the water wasn’t that deep around the Eastlake Bridge, and with TBM’s capable of pressure faces, muck rings, jet grouting, freezing, or even waterproof sections lowered into a muck trench [ref, Istanbul], I’ve always thought ST gave up fighting for a better outcome than Montlake. It would be interesting to run the numbers on service hour costs for both alignments over 30 years.
      Both UW stations are now a 1`/2 mile walk to the center of the Campus and one up a nice long hill.

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