(Yesterday's) Afternoon Jolt: South End Screwup

By Erica C. Barnett October 18, 2010

Today's loser: Residents of Southeast Seattle who might, had Sound Transit not decided to build an expensive (and over-budget) station through Beacon Hill, have had two more light-rail stations in their part of the city.

As Seattle Transit Blog has noted, the distance between stations on the south end of the line is much longer than in the central, north, and (planned) east portions of the line: Nearly two-and-a-half miles from station to station, compared to just over 1.5 miles for the north section and just over a mile for the central portion. (Future Sound Transit plans for east and north extensions show stations even closer together.)

Some of this makes sense---for example, downtown stations will naturally be closer together.

However, the distance between South End stations, at least in Seattle, is the direct result of planning decisions by Sound Transit, which eliminated or indefinitely "deferred" two at-grade stations in South Seattle---the Graham Street Station between Columbia City and Othello Station, and the Boeing Access Road Station, between the Rainier Beach Station and Tukwila---in part so it could build the costly underground Beacon Hill station.

Although Sound Transit initially estimated 3,000 people a day would board at Beacon Hill, currently, only about 1,000 do---about two percent of the total number who board the train over the course of the route on weekdays. While it's hard to extrapolate ridership potential for nonexistent stops from current numbers, it's clear that many South End stations both fail to meet Sound Transit's goals for walkability (transit stations within half a mile of transit riders) and that they may not, as a result, be living up to their ridership potential.
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