The Sound Transit board of directors on Thursday faces one of the most important decisions to date on the future alignment of North Link...
The Sound Transit board of directors on Thursday faces one of the most important decisions to date on the future alignment of North Link Light Rail. Most of the route north has been decided, but the exact location for the station in the Roosevelt neighborhood has yet to be determined.
North Link is an exciting project. Traveling from downtown Seattle to Northgate, the light-rail line will attract an added 110,000 riders a day by 2030. By comparison, the Highway 520 floating bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct currently carry 110,000 and 103,000 vehicles daily.
North Link will leave Westlake Station with stops at First Hill, Capitol Hill, Husky Stadium, the University District, Roosevelt and Northgate. The ride from Westlake to the U District will take 12 minutes, leaving every 6 to 8 minutes, 20 hours a day.
There are two proposals for the Roosevelt station — alongside the freeway above the current park-and-ride lot at Eighth Avenue Northeast, or in the heart of the Roosevelt business district — the 12th Avenue Northeast option. I support 12th Avenue.
At this point in the planning, the Eighth Avenue option estimates are $40 million to $80 million less. As we plan the transit network for this region, we must control cost, but we must also build a system that will support functional, creative urban design.
Both light-rail and monorail stations promote exciting neighborhoods. People love these quiet trains, and are quite willing to live a block from the station. People don’t want to live one block from a freeway.
The nonprofit Urban Land Institute lists several principles for successful development around transit. Among them are the following:
• Locate the transit stop at the center of the neighborhood rather than on its periphery. A new rail station will connect an entire regional transit system to the surrounding community, and its location should reflect the centrality of its role.
• Design and position the station to foster the creation of an activity center that surrounds the station on all sides.
• Ensure that the design of the station is of high quality and reflects the character of the surrounding community.
Putting the Roosevelt rail station next to the freeway at Eighth virtually kills any prospects for promoting a walkable neighborhood with additional housing. Again, people don’t want to live one block from a freeway.
Sound Transit’s North Link draft supplemental environmental-impact statement predicts that by 2030 there would be 1,345 more housing units built around the 12th Avenue station than at Eighth and there would be some 4,500 more people living in those units.
The neighborhood plan for the Roosevelt neighborhood completed by the city and citizen groups in 1998 calls for a future transit station to be sited near 12th and Roosevelt Way Northeast to encourage new development. The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, the Roosevelt Neighbors Alliance and the Northeast District Council, representing 20 neighborhood and business groups in Northeast Seattle, have all called for the station to be at the heart of the business district to stimulate the urban village called for in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.
It is clear that a rail station at the center of the Roosevelt community at 12th Avenue Northeast provides much greater opportunities for vibrant and successful development than a station next to the freeway at Eighth Avenue.
Let’s not make a decision to shave some cost now by choosing the freeway station location at Eighth Avenue. Let’s build a station at 12th Avenue that will stimulate a neighborhood with a sense of place that people from throughout the region will want to visit over and over again.
Dwight Pelz is a member of the Metropolitan King County Council and the Sound Transit board of directors.