University Street Station

Sound Transit has seen the light:

 With three new stations coming to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate in 2021, renaming University Street Station will reduce confusion and provide a better customer experience. 

Options under consideration:

  • Benaroya Hall
  • Symphony
  • Arts District
  • Midtown
  • Downtown Arts District
  • Seneca Street

I’m not sure where Seattle’s true arts district is, but if you asked me to guess I’d probably name at least five other neigbhorhoods before I got to 3rd and University. Plus DAD station is a terrible acronym.

“Midtown” is the provisional name for the 5th & Madison station that’s part of ST3, which could lead to issues down the line. That leaves Benaroya, Symphony, or Seneca. Either one seems fine. Rich Smith at The Stranger makes a case for Symphony. But In most cities the station name comes to define the neighborhood anyway.

On a related note, I present one of my favorite recent twitter threads (click through and read all the replies).

90 Replies to “Help rename University Street Station”

  1. No one calls that area ‘arts district’ or ‘midtown’, what are they thinking? Any of the other three names would be fine.

  2. They should also rename UW Station in 2021 as well, to something like “Husky Station.” Two confusingly similar station names is better than three, but it’s still more than one.

    1. Husky Stadium/UWMC is more accurate than Univ of Wash especially because I imagine most people will be exiting at U District if they’re going to campus. I think we should drop “station” from all the names.

      1. Yes to both. “Station” is redundant and looks especially silly on the train readerboards, which have to scroll to fit it in. (What I’ve seen of the new train cars looks a lot better.) Husky Stadium/UWMC covers nearly everything in the area – I suppose you could call it UW South Campus, but unless you go there or work there, that description is fairly meaningless.

  3. I sort of like “Symphony Station.” It’s a bit more whimsical than the typically utilitarian names of the rest of the stations (Tukwila International Boulevard Station, anyone?) I think we could use a little more playfulness around here these days, even if “Symphony” is a literal reference to a place.

    1. Yea, I like that one too.

      But if Benaroya’s kids want to buy that name I’m ok with it. Heh.

  4. Seneca Street as it’s the most timeless. That street name will never change but the Symphony could move or Benaroya Hall could change names some day. The other ones nobody would get because it’s never been called those things.

      1. Seneca is such a minor street generally that the likelihood of needing it twice for a station name is extremely low. It’s not like Rainier or Aurora.

    1. I’ve long recommended Symphony Station, so i’d like to think it’s my influence that got it on the list. :) But seeing the name “Symphony” alone makes me have second thoughts, especially since I want to get the word “Station” off of the train signs. Seneca Street Station is obvious and unlikely to to change, and with RapidRide G having one station on Seneca it could also be Seneca Station which would be good for transfers. (Although it will probably be 3rd & Seneca Station, which is still recognizable.) I liked Symphony Station not just because of the symphony but because it sounds generally artsy and whimsical and would give stressed commuters a chuckle. But an argument against it is it makes the symphony seem like the most important or only performing arts group in Seattle, and visitors will choose it simply because it’s on the subway map. That’s not fair to the other performing arts groups. An entity with a station name should be something large that draws a wide variety of people, like the main library or Pike Place Market.

      Benaroya Station sounds nice because it sounds like “royal”. I always thought Royal Brougham Way was named after something British like Buckingham Palace Road, then I found out it was somebody’s name.

      (Downtown) Arts District sounds too much like a made-up real estate name like West Edge. (Or SODO or Madison Valley.) “Midtown” partly makes sense as between the retail district (Pike-Pine) and Pioneer Square, but it’s ambiguous because many would say Pike-Pine is Midtown. It all depends on whether downtown ends at Stewart Street or Denny Way, and that has never been resolved. The government district south of Seneca seems like the most downtownish downtown we have.

  5. Pioneer Square has a much larger art scene than anything in downtown. The current University Street area is predominately home to financial firms. Benaroya Hall is my fav but the name might change, just as a stadium name does. Seneca St seems the best, though station access points are located on 2nd and 3rd avenues along with University and Seneca streets.

  6. We’ll get used to any new station name as long as (1) it is not confusing like University St. and (2) it is not a horrible, over-long name-by-committee (like Chinatown/International District or Tukwila International Blvd.

    1. Some of the worst ones yet to come are Redmond Technology Center and Southwest Everett Industrial Center, since ST had decided that it cannot under any circumstances name a station after a company even if they spend hundreds of millions to divert the spine to that company.

      1. Agreed.

        I predict that “technology” will be replaced by “tech” in common usage — and only the signs will use the original word. Then over time, even the maps will shorten to “Tech”.

      2. Redmond Technology Center isn’t too bad of a name as it does describe the neighborhood correctly. Along with I’ll add that there are other companies than Microsoft that do have offices there like Nintendo, Honeywell, HCL, etc. My guess as to why they went with that name is to avoid confusion with the station preceding that (Overlake Village) and what the transit center is currently called (Overlake TC)

      3. I must say I agree with their policy to avoid corporate names, especially if they aren’t paying for sponsorship. They still should’ve come up with something better than Redmond Technology Center though.

      4. The company name policy I think is better as a guideline rather than a strict rule. So does not allowing the station to be called “Boeing Station” somehow prevent Beoing from needing to advertise on ST? If it is an advertisement, it’s not a very good one, since it’s in small letters in a long list of stations that Boeing has no say in the presentation of. You’d want to get the clear from the company first, but it seems fine as a last resort. All this policy really accomplishes is confusing riders and adding unnecessary ink to the sign and word salad to people’s lives who are just trying to go to B***** and M********.

        And for Redmond Tech Blah Blah Station, that should absolutely have been Overlake station because it’s next to Overlake TC. That’s already going to cause confusion. You also wouldn’t have a Microsoft problem. You would have to rename Overlake Village, but that seems like less of an issue.

      5. They did shorten the name sometime recently to just “Redmond Technology Station” (no Center). IMO that’s even weirder because it doesn’t sound like a place anymore. “I’m going to Redmond Technology.”

      6. Redmond Technology Center is the name the area goes by officially in Redmond street signs as well. At least it’s consistent if not brief.

      7. @Matt J, I work there and regularly bike through the area, and I haven’t seen any of those street signs. Where are they?

      8. @William C Thinking harder, it may say Overlake Technology Center… but they are on blue street signs. I believe there is one on West Lake Sammamish PKWY and 51st pointing up the hill. I seem to remember one near 520 or 148th as well.

      9. Instead of Southwest Industrial area, depending on where it is it could be called Seaway, after the major street the runs past the Boeing facility. Or heck, it could be called Factory, because there is only one massive factory in this area and it is pretty unique.

        Naming it Paine Field would not be a good idea if it is far from the new passenger terminal, that may confuse people who really want to go there instead. Another major arterial is Airport Road, but that is too generic for a station name.

    2. to divert the spine to a concentration of tens of thousands of commuters. Anything with tens of thousands of people all leaving at once should probably have a station, because high-capacity transit is uniquely able to address it efficiently.

  7. Rich Smith’s piece at The Stranger is well worth a read even if you don’t end up being sold (as I was!) on Symphony Station. There’s a Symphony Station in Boston, also next to their symphony hall. Benaroya Hall and Seneca Street are fine with me, but the others are terrible.

    In Seattle, there are other many other downtown stations, and many other arts districts, and nobody uses those names, or will, and Midtown, if anything, is reserved for wanting to pretend our way into living in New York in 2035 when there’s a station near the library.

  8. It should be Midtown. I think they want to pick Symphony. Politically, they could have gone with Symphony or Benaroya Hall 20 years ago, but not today. But I think they’ll choose Downtown Arts District.

    1. Hopefully not. We may need a write-in campaign against it. The arts district is Seattle Center. Or maybe Pioneer Square with all the art galleries and clubs.

      I suppose “arts district” means the symphony hall on 3rd, art museum on 1st, and 5th Avenue Theater on 5th.

      1. Seattle has four “arts districts”: Uptown, Capitol Hill, Central Area, and Columbia/Hillman City.

      2. I was about to say that, then I realized the response would be “that’s the Capitol Hill Arts District”.

        I’m still mad RapidRide G has Boyleston station instead of Broadway station. And the 12 has “Broadway Court” instead of “Broadway”. And the westbound Pine Street routes have “4th Avenue” instead of “3rd Avenue”. Name the stop after the major transfer point if it’s a half-block away or less!

      3. I retract my write-in campaign against Arts District. The name isn’t that bad; it just has some problems.

      4. So you exit at “Arts District,” and aside from Benaroya Hall you immediately see the worst block on Third Avenue (the worst avenue downtown) – the Post Office and parking garage. Or perhaps you’ve exited at the south end of the station, where you see… the blank wall of the building at Third/Seneca, or some office buildings. Well, you could always exit west towards Second, where you will find… yes, the back door to the Seattle Art Museum. Of course, you can’t actually enter the museum there.

        I’m not sure “Arts Center” is the best name for that station’s vicinity.

    2. Midtown prompts the question – where is uptown? Isn’t that LQA? Shouldn’t Midtown be the Denny Triangle?

      1. Uptown is now Lower Queen Anne but originally it was Belltown.

        Seattle doesn’t have a clearly-defined Uptown-Midtown-Downtown trichotomy. Uptown is clearly LQA (most visibly the Uptown Theater), and its opposite is Pioneer Square, but “Downtown” and “Midtown” are ambiguous. Some possibilities:

        1) Downtown is Yesler to Stewart. Belltown is a gap between downtown and uptown. Midtown or the retail district is at Pike-Pine within downtown. Between the retail district and Pioneer Square is the financial district (around University Street) and the government district (around James Street). What is Madison Street then, is it part of the financial district?

        2) Downtown is Yesler to Denny. This fits best with the street grid. Belltown and the Denny Triangle are within downtown. Midtown is in the middle of downtown around Pike-Pine. South of it might be lower downtown, and north of it might be upper downtown.

        3) Downtown is Pioneer Square or the government district. This provides an opposite end for Uptown but it contradicts the universal belief that Pike-Pine and Stewart are within downtown.

        4) Downtown is Yesler Way or Weller Street to Mercer Street or Valley Street. This may be what’s emerging with the office towers in SLU.

  9. I’ll be sarcastic and name all the “university” named stations this way.

    Univ Dist Stn – North Campus/UW
    UWS – South Campus/UW
    Univ St Stn – Historic 1861-1908 Campus/UW

  10. I’d weigh in but I really think ST knows what they want. By picking some terrible alternatives, they pretty much force the choice to Seneca or Symphony — and maybe Benaroya. Still, they know what they want.

    1. Those surveys businesses send out after you patronize them … the one’s that ask, “How did we do?” “Rate your experience.” … businesses don’t care if you answer them or not. That’s not the purpose of the survey. They expect you not to answer. The only goal of those questionnaires is to get you to think they care.

      BTW, how did you all like this comment? How did I do?

    2. I give it a 3 on a score of 1 to 5.

      I’ve stopped answering surveys that are all a numeric score or wordy equivalent. The results are misleading. Different people have different thresholds for the top score, and often I can’t reduce my opinion to a linear number. Especially those forms in doctor’s offices that say “Rate your pain today on a scale of 1 to 10.” A number is meaningless, and people aren’t going to fill them out consistently over the years or even remember what their last numbers were.

      1. If I’ve got the time, I just pass along that every person I dealt with was doing a fine job, and best thing any survey could conclude was that they needed to be left alone.

        Don’t often get surveyed twice.


  11. Seneca is the conservative choice, because the street isn’t going anywhere, but the symphony might. I prefer Symphony anyway, with Benaroya third. The other options are too general to apply to that location.

  12. Apparently ST has thrown their station naming criteria to the wind. Link stations are supposed to be named after landmarks and neighborhoods. Of the six given options, only Seneca Street meets that criteria. Midtown is not the name of the neighborhood (downtown or financial district fit that bill). It simply isn’t the art district, so there go two of the names. As much as the money in Seattle wants you to believe otherwise, Benaroya Hall is no landmark, so Benaroya and Symphony are outside the given naming conventions as well.

    When only 1 in 6 options are viable by the group’s own standards, you know the fix is in.

    1. Just so I can extremely seriously add: “And along with the first-class union members who built it for me, really proud to say so!”


  13. For an organization tasked with moving people to places, ST is really bad at naming them. The “north” shoreline and “south” shoreline stations are the most recent examples of place MAKING, rather than naming. What is wrong with using long standing and well understood place names like Jackson Park and North City? Frankly, nothing.

    And I’m not sure why they are screwing this up so badly. Is it their misguided policy of rolling-over for municipalities that want to arbitrarily name stations? It seems like they (everyone involved now not just ST) are going out of their way to not name a station after the neighborhood or street that it serves, but rather create an opportunity to add a completely new designation that’s meaningless to everyone but bureaucrats. All of this has been previously documented in frustrating detail in these comments sections.

    My votes:
    University Street Station -> Seneca Street
    UW Station -> UW
    U-District Station -> Brooklyn Avenue
    South Shoreline -> Ridgecrest
    North Shoreline -> North City

    1. ST is simply deferring to what the city of Shoreline wants, like it does on most issues. Seattle doesn’t care much what the station is called, but Shoreline does because it has only two stations and 145th is much closer to its center.

      For University Street, there is no one name the city prefers. “Arts District” is a cutesy name probably pushed by the Chamber of Commerce and real-estate investors. “Midtown” is at least partly geographically accurate, although it’s ambiguous as I said above. The most longstanding name for the neighborhood is “Financial District”, but that doesn’t seem to be very widespread.

  14. The company name policy I think is better as a guideline rather than a strict rule. So does not allowing the station to be called “Boeing Station” somehow prevent Beoing from needing to advertise on ST? If it is an advertisement, it’s not a very good one, since it’s in small letters in a long list of stations that Boeing has no say in the presentation of. You’d want to get the clear from the company first, but it seems fine as a last resort. All this policy really accomplishes is confusing riders and adding unnecessary ink to the sign and word salad to people’s lives who are just trying to go to B***** and M********.

    And for Redmond Tech Blah Blah Station, that should absolutely have been Overlake station because it’s next to Overlake TC. That’s already going to cause confusion. You also wouldn’t have a Microsoft problem. You would have to rename Overlake Village, but that seems like less of an issue.

    1. This is excellent, you could have Jeans Station, and Men in Shorts station and Lab Coat station and on and on.

  15. You could have upper & lower midtown for the 2 stations or midtown east & west. But if those aren’t feasible, I would choose Benaroya.

  16. No law says it has to be a street or a building, or that chosen candidate has to be deceased.

    Jim Ellis.
    Founder of Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

    Ed Elliott
    Chief project architect.

    Ron Tober

    Single-handedly established the Joint Union-Management Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Transit Project and made sure our deliberations resulted in action.

    But some interesting context for the concert hall:

    Sephardic Jews

    One example:

    For me, there’s one “clincher” for the naming. Both the concert hall and the station are so completely in the same building.

    Would also accept “Seattle Symphony Hall” , or just “Seattle Symphony.” Visual and auditory, nice images to have in mind. Will also make it easier to get some worthy music “piped” into the station at all hours.

    I believe there’s also some evidence that soothing music has a beneficial effect on passenger- and employee- attitude and comportment. Behavior too if you are a dog.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I didn’t say it was a law. ST does have written naming standards nonetheless. Clearly they’re “more what you’d call a set of guidelines”, but they still exist.

  17. How about Post Office Station?

    I mean, it’s right there. It’s been there for years, and for people from out of town wanting to mail letters and such back home it would be very convenient.

    1. You’re right, jason. That’s exactly what we should call it! Because given every denizen of Hell that’s found its way into all our electronic communications, personal, commercial, industrial, and military, our only hope for survival is to go back to plain mechanical.

      And morally?

      Trust me as somebody old enough to know, this is the only way we can save ourselves, small “s” or Capital!


  18. Just for clarification, I checked the ownership of Benaroya Hall and it’s apparently owned by (or at least the tax status is assigned to) the City of Seattle. The hall isn’t going to “move” without a pretty dramatic discussion in the distant future. In contrast, I believe that the Symphony can relocate at their own will. That said, I still wrestle with the ethics of attaching a benefactor’s name to a station.

    I’ll also note that the name “Westlake” has to do with the street! The original neighborhood was West Lake Union, and that’s where the street connected to. Then, the street was given over to create Westlake Park and Westlake Center, and today the actual Westlake Station does not even exit onto Westlake Avenue!

    I’ll even observe that Pioneer Square is about as far from Pioneer Square Station than the Pike Place Market is from University Street station — and the ID/C Station is probably closer to the Pioneer Square district as we know it. I rue that Pike Place Market was not an option here; it’s certainly close enough.

  19. And while they’re at it, can they finally drop the endless repetition of the word Station?

    Trains only stop at Stations. They don’t stop anywhere that’s Not a Station. So just delete it, starting with the scrolls on and in the train cars.

    1. The commuters stopped by the maintenance yard for the driver change have a bone to pick with you.

      But I agree with your suggestion.

  20. In general, I think major transit stations should be named like freeway exits. There is an I-5 exit for Seneca St. There will never be an I-5 exit sign for “symphony”, since Benaroya Hall is just one destination among many, and not all that goes on at Benaroya Hall is even the Seattle Symphony.

  21. Traditionally the area between University Street station and Pioneer Square station has been called the Financial District. There’s even an exit sign on the USS mezzanine pointing the way to the Financial District. Why isn’t THAT one of the station name options?

  22. It is incredibly frustrating that this station name is being changed. It simply isn’t confusing…it’s a street name…do people driving down Alaska street get confused and think they are in the wrong state?

    This is an opportunity for people to learn something about Seattle’s history. I bet a lot of people don’t know that the UW campus used to be downtown. But instead of elevating our culture just a tiny bit, we choose to dumb it down because we think people can’t handle it…ridiculous.

    That said, my choices in order are:
    1. Symphony or Seneca
    3. Midtown (distant third)

  23. Then there’s Vancouver, where the then-new Canada Line station in the heart of downtown on Granville St. was named “Vancouver City Center.” Because the existing, right-next-door, reached through a maze of corridors in the basement of The Bay, Expo Line station was already named “Granville.” Ugh.
    University St-> Midtown (yeah, yeah, we’ll get used to it)
    ST3 Station-> Madison
    -humbly submitted by this resident in Lower Queen Anne (never Uptown)

  24. How about “Falcon Station”? This is tribute to the nesting Peregrine falcons that inhabit the old Washington Mutual Tower every year and the canyon-like terrain of that part of the city

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