On the eve of Northgate Link’s grand opening, a ceremony and preview ride kicks off a month-long celebration of the Puget Sound region’s latest expansion of rapid transit, this time 4.3 miles north to 3 new stations in the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. For a summary of the speeches, read STB’s live coverage of the ceremony on Twitter. On opening day Saturday, various community organizations have prepared events and activities at each station beginning at 10 am.
At Northgate Station, there will be a grand opening ceremony for the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning I-5 to North Seattle College from 10 am to noon. For Roosevelt Station, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association has organized an opening celebration with live music & dancing and food trucks from 10 am to 4 pm at 12th Ave NE & NE 66th St between the station entrances. The U District Station opening festival runs from 10 am to 8 pm and features a $3 food walk, live entertainment, activities for kids, and a beer garden. Sound Transit has exhibits explaining design features and public art along with photo/selfie spots at all three stations that will be up throughout October.
Decades in the making, the Northgate extension to the Link 1 Line, formerly Central Link, will transform travel within North Seattle and beyond by providing a fast, frequent, and reliable transit artery that combined with frequent buses forms a network that expands access to work, education, and leisure opportunities. Metro and Sound Transit bus service in north Seattle as well as ST and Community Transit service from Snohomish County has been restructured to take advantage of Link’s strengths.
The first train departs Northgate for Angle Lake at 4:51 am. At 5:01 am, the first train to Northgate arrives from SODO. Trains will run every 10 minutes for most of the day, every 8 during peak, and every 12-15 in the early and late hours.
For those who have not yet a chance to visit the stations, here are our first impressions from the preview ride. UPDATE: Photos from the event and more are on Flickr. Share yours in the comments below.
Grab a colorful complimentary commemorative map at any of the three stations. The map illustrates attractions and activities along the Link 1 Line with an emphasis on the 3 new stations, their entrances made to be landmarks in their own right. The paper these are printed on is a nice semi-glossy stock suitable for framing after your adventures.
Just like in U Link’s grand opening over 5 years ago, two 4-car trains arrived into the station simultaneously to carry event guests and media to tour the other stations. Unlike U Link however, the trains were not wrapped in a special livery but consisted of new Series 2 light rail vehicles. ST’s mascot Zap Gridlock and the Robert Eagle Staff Middle School drumline led the crowd up to the platform while dignitaries ceremoniously cut the ribbon around 6:14 pm.
Northgate is an elevated center platform station with glass walls on both sides providing some protection from wind and noise from the freeway. Curiously, just like Angle Lake the variable message signs here are not the newer LCD screens used in the other new stations.
We watched buses come and go at the transit center from the train. Northgate continues to be a major bus hub for north Seattle. The new bus stops are located under the station’s south entrance (exits B and C). Metro has prepared a new “Buses from here” station-specific network map to help you find your bus route and boarding location. Bus stop shelters have the same station identification signs as found on the platform to tie The north entrance (exit A) leads to a new parking garage and path to the Kraken Community Iceplex.
The train departed Northgate and spent only a moment above ground before going underground at the Maple Leaf portal. We caught a glimpse of the new pedestrian bridge over I-5. Aside from a little jerk near the portal, the ride was very smooth. Travel time between Northgate and Roosevelt is under 3 minutes.
Roosevelt Station is located in the heart of the Roosevelt neighborhood under 12th Ave NE between NE 65th St and NE 67th St. But it could have been elevated along I-5 if not for the efforts of neighborhood advocacy as featured on ST’s Platform blog.
One of the public art pieces at the station depicts bicycles which got me noticing the runnels, channels running along the side of stairs to help people move bikes between levels. This station, like the other two, has stairs from platform to mezzanine to surface in addition to the escalators and elevators. The ceiling is very high due to the depth of the station, creating a spacious cavern.
On the mezzanine in a nook that seemed like a perfect fit for a busker was a band performing live music. The direction signs had large bold text and symbols.
The neon lit facade of the Standard Radio store, a neighborhood icon that once stood on the site of the station’s entrance, has been preserved in the ticketing hall.
After nineteen years of going downtown, Roosevelt is the new terminus for ST Express Route 522 to Lake City, Kenmore, Bothell, and Woodinville. A-frame signs with a map showing bus boarding locations have been placed throughout the station to help guide people making connections. Similar signs are at U District station as well.
On the surface at bus stops at all three stations, there are new e-paper real time arrival displays with button activated text-to-speech are paired with backlit Buses From Here maps to reassure riders making connections to buses. These installations use the same “tech pylon” hardware found at RapidRide stations.
Sound Transit has made the Link 1 Line’s green line and circle “1” a key design motif in its grand opening artwork to bring awareness to the new line naming scheme. People are going to have to get used to calling it the 1 Line because the 2 Line will be coming in 2 years.
The green lines on the floor led to photo spots and signs with fun facts about the stations. We had about 15 minutes to explore Roosevelt Station before boarding the train onward to U District Station, just under 2 minutes away.
U District Station
U District Station is just a block off The Ave (University Way) under Brooklyn Ave between 43rd and 45th streets. The opening of the station marks a return of rail transit to the neighborhood since streetcars first arrived in 1892 and last departed in 1940.
It is nice to see various sheltered bicycle parking options. On the south side there are racks, lockers, and a secured bike cage with racks for hanging. If you’ve seen the bike racks on the UW campus you too would wonder whether this is enough parking.
One design feature of this station that helps people find their way out are the color-coded overhead light rails that run along the platform and up the stairs. Teal leads to the south exit (B). Orange leads to the north exit (A). Some people got confused since each color runs along the whole length of the platform. One has to look for their color “going upstairs” to head in the right direction.
We did not get the chance to ride between U District and UW stations under campus to feel how the floating track slabs designed to mitigate vibration affects the ride but did notice the track bed in the station is different than seen in other stations.
The art in the station at least to me is evocative of older buildings you would see in Brooklyn, the neighborhood’s pre-U District name. It’s like someone undergrounded an elevated train and its adjacent buildings. On the mezzanine was a violin and bass duo performing music from the Super Mario Brothers video game (another Brooklyn reference!). The underground theme and level complete tune seemed appropriate for the location.
One last thing that I want to briefly mention is the improved signage and information throughout the stations. It certainly warrants its own detailed review. The Link schedule has a new format. Line diagrams are now tailored for the direction of travel from a platform. The exit coding system trialed in downtown stations is now in use with visuals accompanying landmarks.
This is only a fraction of all the cool new things inside and around the stations that I was able to observe in the limited time during the tour and write up between last evening and the first run from Northgate. So please add your observations and enjoy your new stations!