Just a week after concluding realignment on a largely positive note, Sound Transit today is again tempted to water down station access for relatively little cost savings. At today’s System Expansion Committee meeting, they revealed that they are considering two changes to Stride stations (one at Tukwila Intl. Blvd. Station, and one at the Brickyard Station) that would permanently cut off local neighborhoods from their stations. If these changes were to be made, local residents would need to need to detour far out of the way toward the nearest street crossing of the freeway, and then come all the way back to the station on the other side. Especially after (rightly) deprioritizing parking in ST3, we need to put a strong emphasis on improving non-motorized station access, and it’s disturbing to see Sound Transit considering such a big step in the wrong direction.
Alternate routes for these stations are harsh, much worse than the escalators that were cut in Lynnwood Link. Both involve crossing large freeways along themselves busy streets. and in the case of TIBS, this would involve a jog down a staircase and up an escalator (can’t take the stairs? Then you’re going all the way to Southcenter Blvd). Any hard-fought access improvements that Sound Transit has added to these stations in the last few years would be effectively wiped out and actually made worse for local residents, as the placement of these stations closer to the freeway would actually make the station farther from affected riders, rather than closer like it would if these bridges were preserved. The message this sends to these neighborhoods is clear: these stations are not for you, and that cannot be allowed to happen. As we saw in realignment, Sound Transit is financially capable of completing all projects (even the heavily-delayed parking projects) by delaying project delivery. So if Sound Transit could pay for the up to $20 million in savings (just 2% of the total cost of these projects) by delaying the project by weeks or months, then I would urge Sound Transit to do so, because months of delay is worth it to avoid generations of passengers missing out on good transit access.