As Sound Transit continues to move forward with its preparations for the West Seattle/Ballard extension of its light rail network there are several, valid, concerns that sports fans from the suburbs should pay attention to. The proposed station depth; lengthy transfers from Line 1 (“the spine” of the network) and east link, and the proposed locations around Seattle Center will to make it so that using transit to access the arena less convenient than your car.
And when you consider the point of rapid transit is to reduce car trips, therefore CO2 and traffic, it’s really fucking stupid.
The transit agency’s draft environmental em pact statement (DEIS) was released in January, 2022 and immediately raised alarm bells for transit activist. Among the concerns was nearly six minute walks for transfers between the existing one line and the new extension, and the depth of the stations — between 100 to 200 feet. What makes this even better, is that these West Seattle extension stations will only be accessible elevator.
If you’re coming from Angle Lake (Federal Way in 2024) or Northgate (Lynnwood in ‘24) this makes accessing the arena for Kraken and Storm games, via transit, exceedingly difficult and time consuming. When you consider the fact that trains run every six minutes at peak hours, you could miss two entire trains during your transfer and elevator rides. That’s just horrific planning.
Of particular concern is the station, and transfers, at the International District. That looks to be the busiest station on the network as you’ll have transfers to East Link (Mercer Island & Bellevue), one line (the north-south spine), and the Ballard/West Seattle extension. It’s proximity to both Lumen Field and T-Mobile park makes it already crucial to sports fans who use the transit network; and if they get the transfers right, it’ll be even more busy with Kraken and Storm fans too.
While Sound Transit hasn’t selected a specific location for the station or it’s depth, it feels pretty obvious that the best rider experience, transfer wise, is going to be the shallow options. Rider experience is going to be the big driver for ridership and to make it more difficult to transfer from one line to the next is going to kill ridership on the network…particularly from sports fans trying to access lower Queen Anne.
As for where light rail gets out at CPA, it would drop you off right across the street from the building. Even better yet, it’s shallow!
Sports fans should be part of the equation
In a “post”-Covid world, commuting patterns have shifted as more workers are either working entirely remotely or some hybrid schedule. And this has impacted how transit riders have used light rail. But the number of riders are still steadily climbing, heavily thanks to sporting events.
Ridership on Link is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.
That’s mostly thanks to riders like Cantero hitting up sporting events or restaurants or running errands throughout the day. There are fewer commuters, but more all-day travel.Matt Levin, Marketplace
With the changing transit rider patterns, it would be absolutely asinine for Sound Transit to ignore the impact of difficulty of sports fans being able to transfer easily from the train that gets them home to the train that gets them to the arena. As sports fans, we’re going to be a major part of the transit ridership and we should make our voices heard.
This was made clear to me last night as I rode the one line to the International District station. It was packed to the gills with M’s and Sounders fans…but hardly any Kraken fans — which had a pre-season game.
Currently, the transfer to get to Climate Pledge is inconvenient and time consuming. Riders headed to a Kraken game this winter will have to take the one line to Westlake Station and then ride an elevator, or climb stairs, to the Monorail. Which is why Kraken, and Storm, fans still rely on their cars to get to their games.
If Sound Transit goes with the deep station options, it will continue those inconvenient transfers. Which means they will limit their ridership and revenue when they really need it.
Any of the suggested tunnel stations will make transit experience worst. Many cities in Europe only use a single tunnel. Many are using digital signaling systems to increase train frequency rather than spending billions on a 2nd tunnel, except Munich who is building a 2nd tunnel, but after the existing tunnel has been used by 700,000 riders a day – Seattle is far from that!
Difficult transfers are not the only problem for sports fans. Sound Transit also plans to move the Rainier trains to a new track which will NOT stop at the Stadium (see: https://wsblink.participate.online/stations/stadium), meaning people arriving from the Rainier Valley / Seatac will need to transfer at SODO station by going up and down a set of stairs to another track and wait for a train from West Seattle to take them to the Stadium but that train may already be full – it might be easier to take a long walk from SODO station to the stadium.
It would be much better for riders if both West Seattle and Rainier trains would share the existing track, stations, and tunnel. The higher the frequency in the existing tunnel, the less most people have to wait which speeds up transit. If you need to transfer, you may only have to get off the train and wait for another train!