With a college campus, restaurants, shops, a streetcar line and a famous hamburger stand nearby, Capitol Hill Station is the place to be.
This is part two of a two-part series. Read about the University of Washington’s light-rail station here.
The new Capitol Hill Station will make it possible to ride up from downtown Seattle in four minutes, grab a burger at Dick’s and attend college classes, all without crossing a busy street.
It would be easy to dismiss the importance of the tunneled light-rail stop — to open at 10 a.m. Saturday — because its location on Broadway already can be reached on buses, streetcars, bicycles and sidewalks. It won’t prevent congestion.
But there is something to be said for giving people options to avoid a packed evening bus that crawls uphill, or to avoid walking around jammed cars in the crosswalks at Boren and Pine.
Sound Transit will open the underground stop at the same time as University of Washington Station. The $1.8 billion, 3-mile tunnel from Westlake to the UW is funded mostly by local sales and car-tab taxes, plus an $813 million federal grant.
Capitol Hill Station serves not only 21,000-plus people who live within a half-mile, but Seattle Central College, where on a typical day 8,000 to 10,000 students, faculty and other workers arrive. Streetcars to Seattle University and First Hill hospitals depart the light-rail station’s west entrance.
Surplus property at the station will become home to a farmers market, as well as 400 new apartments, some 30 percent reserved as affordable.
There are 40 bicycle racks, with plans for 120 more. A block of Denny Way over the station is now a westbound-only “festival street,” to encourage walking and passenger drop-offs.
The train station will be worth a visit for art’s sake.
An image by Seattle cartoonist Ellen Forney of walking fingers, and another of a linked pinkie handshake, greet passengers at the entrances. At boarding level, a pair of sliced fighter jets, repainted magenta and yellow, kiss overhead, in a mobile by Brooklyn sculptor Mike Ross.
After years of disruption, merchants hope for a payoff.
“Everybody is ecstatic about the station opening. We can’t believe it’s a week away,” said Sierra Hansen, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, which estimates 400 businesses operate on the hill.
More people are likely to visit the hill because they can ride directly from downtown, Rainier Valley or even the UW, instead of switching from rail to a surface bus or streetcar.
“It will close distances and make travel more efficient,” said artist Elise Rannestad, who lives in Skyway and rides a combination of bus and light rail to her job as a receptionist downtown. Now, she’s thinking about noon escapes to the art-supply store near the college or art classes on the hill.
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Rannestad said transit keeps her carbon footprint low and allows time to read or meditate.
“I’ve always been pretty phobic of driving,” she said. “With Seattle drivers, I get scared.”
Events last week illustrated the value of escaping surface traffic.
Capitol Hill bus routes were blocked Tuesday afternoon when a car hit a Metro bus at rush hour.
Some routes and bus stops are changing as King County Metro Transit feeds more service to the new Capitol Hill Station, and UW Station to the north. To find maps and descriptions, see http://1.usa.gov/1QPMQRz
On Thursday, a crash on I-5 in SeaTac caused a 9-mile jam — but by September, it will be possible to opt for the new Angle Lake park-and-ride in SeaTac, and take Link all the way to the UW.
The tunnel to Capitol Hill will help students such as Jacob Lopez, of Auburn, who rode his skateboard to the apparel-design lab at Seattle Central on Thursday, when the streetcar tracks on Broadway were blocked for a half-hour. He called the skateboard “a necessity” when traffic snarls.
When spring quarter begins, he’ll walk off the Sounder train at King Street Station and ride Link from Chinatown/International District Station to class.
Within a short walk
• Seattle Central College and Jimi Hendrix statue, one block south.
• Seattle University, three-quarters of a mile south.
• Pike-Pine nightlife area, three blocks south.
• Cal Anderson Park, one block east.
• Volunteer Park and Seattle Asian Art Museum, three-quarters of a mile north.
• Streetcar line to First Hill hospitals, Chinatown International District and Pioneer Square, next to west entrance.
The chamber’s Hansen said the community is worried about an influx, and some in the young bar crowd may become targets for crime if they cut through Cal Anderson Park to catch a late train. Plans are under way to improve lighting, but public-safety worries have been eclipsed by excitement over the new transit hub, she said.
Broadway’s long wait
To deliver this train stop, Sound Transit demolished a block of small businesses on Broadway, at the epicenter of what’s been called the hippest, densest neighborhood north of San Francisco.
Dump trucks roared down the hill, and lanes were blocked for station and streetcar construction. A geyser of mud streamed into the air one day.
Saturday’s party at U-Link
Light-rail stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington open at 10 a.m. Saturday. Trains will arrive every 10 minutes on their normal Saturday schedule, until shortly after midnight. Rides are free.
Both stations will provide valet bicycle parking, music, food trucks and info booths, as launch-day festivities run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are no park-and-ride lots at the UW or Capitol Hill, but a free shuttle bus will be provided Saturday between Northgate Transit Center (which has park-and-ride spaces) and UW Station. Drivers may park at Tukwila International Boulevard Station (also reachable on RapidRide A and F buses) and ride the train to the UW. More information at www.ulink16.org
Asif Alvi, owner of Perfect Copy & Print, stuck it out, at a storefront one block north.
“For the larger good, a few will suffer,” he figured at first. Sales dropped by half, and he made deliveries as far as Lynnwood, “to regular customers who were coming in and saying, ‘There’s never any parking. There’s aggressive panhandling.’ ”
Jamie Lutton, owner of Twice Sold Tales, said she remains bitter that transit staff wouldn’t let her post a sign on a construction wall, showing the bookstore’s new location two blocks west. She said she spent $70,000 to stay in business.
“This is the kind of thing that will make small-business people Republicans,” said Lutton, who favors Democratic contender Bernie Sanders for president.
Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said the agency focused on areawide promotions with the chamber. These included the family-oriented Hilloween celebration, and art on the red wooden wall that surrounded construction.
Alvi said he’ll try to recover by selling cellphones and service plans. But he thinks mom-and-pop stores will decrease as landowners cash in on high-priced redevelopment around the station.
Mayor Ed Murray, a 32-year Capitol Hill resident, takes a sunnier view:
“The fact that tens of thousands of people are going to be coming into this station is going to create businesses and restaurants once again on Broadway,” he said.
Lutton said she’s eager for more customers. Twice Sold Tales is holding a half-price sale on hardcover books this coming weekend and will have somebody hand out ad fliers to Link riders.
“I basically ran in the red all these years,” she said, “because I knew when the subway opened, I’d have a viable business.”