Pedestrian Chronicles: No Stadium Access from Stadium Light Rail Station

Light rail would make more sense if it was pedestrian-friendly.

By Josh Feit March 14, 2014

You would think the Stadium light rail station at South Royal Brougham Way between 4th and 6th Aves.—presumably designed with light rail commuters in mind—would be easily accessible by foot to and from the stadium from many directions.

My dangerous, circuitous, and inhospitable walk between Safeco Field and the light rail station last night taught me otherwise. There is, evidently, a single defined path on game day. But make one false move—like missing the unmarked doubleback loop off Royal Brougham—and suddenly you're in a concrete no-man's land that offers no out for pedestrians.

This major flaw makes it clear the station area planning was done without concern for people who are walking.

A light rail station design that only offers one access point—to and from the stadium—in the map of surrounding streets, demonstrates botched planning.   

A light rail station design that only has one access point from the map of surrounding streets is botched planning. 

I was at a fundraiser last night—the Chocolate for Choice event for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington at the Terrace Club, a large room on the concourse level of Safeco. As I was heading out, a few friends announced drinks at the Elysian, the bar-food joint across the street from Safeco and Century Link on 1st.

Sounded great, but Erica, who'd been a judge at the event, was crashing from all the chocolate and asked if I'd walk her to the light rail first.

I told my pals I'd meet them in 20 minutes, and headed out to the Stadium light rail station with ECB. 

Stepping out of Safeco heading east toward the station, we were promptly funnelled onto Royal Brougham Way with no other option but to take the overpass south out onto 3rd. We continued south on 3rd, evidently missing the loop back and around, and were making the fatal mistake of walking out into the streets around the stadium district and expecting to walk to the Stadium station.

There was no formal way to cross over to 4th, so we dashed across the street after walking a few frustrating blocks south.

There was also no way to walk safely north along 4th, nor did 4th appear to lead to any cross streets that would take us the block east to the light rail stop, so we headed south hoping for a cross street to take over and double back—all the while being dragged further south instead of north to the station.

We eventually hit Massachusetts, but one block in, we hit a dead end. So we walked along a weird access road down to Holgate where we cut east again, trying to find a route north back to the light rail. At this point, Google maps indicated we were equidistant from the Stadium station and the SoDo stop further south.

We were intent on getting to the Stadium station and looked north trying to find a ped-friendly route. There wasn't one, so (after watching a transit cop pass in his car), we headed north up the E3 busway. And were eventually met with "Pedestrians and Bikes Prohibited" sign a few blocks in.

In a defiant teenage mood at this point—the street grid as laid out wasn't working for us—we ignored the sign and walked along the intimidating road 10 minutes north to the light rail stop. Although, in a final F-U from whoever designed this anti-ped maze, the light rail station was chained off from the path. In a triumphant act of defiance, we hopped over the chain.

The train came, and I started back toward the stadium district, thinking, "Okay, maybe the route from the stadium to the Stadium station isn't clear, but surely, the route from the Stadium stop to the stadiums must be spelled out clearly."


From the station, I crossed the street to the west at Royal Brougham Way and was immediately blocked by a highway on-ramp and a fence by the train tracks. I ended up walking on a worn dirt path on the west side of 4th where I eventually came upon an elevated unmarked ped breezeway.

Should I take the unmarked elevator somewhere? I came across a hall that led out onto some stairs, and—in an evening of cartoonish visual metaphors ("Dead-End" signs, chains in front of light rail stops, barbed-wire fences), I finally had to give in and break out laughing as I came upon the gigantic, empty parking lot on the north side of CenturyLink field.

The symbolism that I had been losing ground all night in a stadium district designed exclusively for cars couldn't have been clearer.

I crossed the massive lot, passing a lone woman (the second pedestrian I'd seen all night) going the other way, and crossed the street to meet my friends an hour after setting out.


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