The Seattle Times Sunday front page article heralding the start of the University Link can best be described as another example of the paper’s attempt to turn a “sow's ear into a silk purse” when it comes to Sound Transit’s transportation policies. The tragedy is the UW link could have been the proverbial “silk purse” for many of the area’s transit commuters.
Sound Transit could have done so with a T/C near the UW stadium light rail station. It would have provided an interface for thousands of commuters from both sides of the lake between 520 BRT and Central Link light rail. Eastside commuters could have used the BRT/light rail connection for a fast reliable morning commute into Seattle. Seattleites could have used the “reverse” light rail/BRT connection for fast morning commutes to Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs. The routes could have been reversed for the afternoon commutes.
The large number of commuters in both directions for both morning and afternoon commutes would take maximum advantage of both BRT and light rail capacity. The only limitation would be Sound Transit providing the added P&R capacity on the east side and 520 bus service.
Instead Sound Transit “allowed” UW objections to the T/C to preclude the stadium station T/C. The fact the light rail/520 BRT route to east side would have detracted from Sound Transit’s East Link “Microsoft” and Bel-Red connections “may” have made them more “amenable”.
Instead the article estimates the UW link will add 45,000 of the 80,000 total riders by 2021, with rather “vague” explanations as to where all the additional riders will come from. It claims a huge success for the fact 5,571 riders “willingly walk the 1,000-ft causeway from the terminal to a train” ignoring the fact they no longer have the option of a previous bus route directly to the terminal baggage claim area.
The idea that a light rail ride to the UW station will enhance development near Columbia City and Othello light rail stations is the same argument originally used for Central Link. The 35,000 current riders are still a fraction of the original more than 100,000 originally projected. The fact that “the light rail by the stadium is just a bit far for walking distance” makes the added development and ridership even more “problematic”. The access to Bellevue and Overlake via a UW T/C would do far more to enhance development near stations.
Presumably the vast majority of UW Link riders will be, as detailed in the adjoining article, due to “Metro shifts many bus routes into Montlake to feed light rail”. Not only will bus riders be forced to endure the “hassle” of transferring to and from light rail trains, they’ll apparently be forced to pay an additional toll for the light rail ride since, according to the “How to pay” column “paper transfers from buses are not accepted on Link trains”. Hardly a magnet for increased transit!
The bottom line is the University Link without the UW T/C is truly another Sound Transit stupid idea that can only be described as a “sow's ear” for transit commuters.