Yesterday Sound Transit announced that Angle Lake Station will open on Saturday September 24th. The elevated station sits 1.6 miles south of Airport Station, currently the southern terminus of the Link light rail line. Angle Lake will be the furthest south you can go until the Kent/Des Moines extension is opened, expected by 2023. Sound Transit says that it will take just 41 minutes starting from Angle Lake to reach Westlake Center and about 48 minutes to reach University of Washington Station.

Link's map got one more dot. (Sound Transit)
Link’s map got one more dot. (Sound Transit)
Originally scheduled for a 2020 opening in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, the agency accelerated the project by four years after securing $10 million in TIGER funding, with the press release giving a special shout out to U.S. Senator Patty Murray for helping to snag the grant. The $383 million extension also came in $40 million under budget.

Now, some Seattleites may be asking themselves: where is Angle Lake and why would I go there? A few even took some ribbing on Twitter.

Kidding aside, Angle Lake Station will bring more of the city of SeaTac into Link’s walkshed, perhaps spur a moderate amount of transit-oriented development, and offer people from around the region access to lovely Angle Lake. Granted both the walkshed and development potential of the station area is hindered by institutional uses near the station, namely airport facilities and a federal detention center. However, we still expect to see a few mixed-use projects to go in where they can.

The public can access the waters of Angel Lake via the eponymous Angel Lake Park. (Photo by
The public can access the waters of Angle Lake via the eponymous Angle Lake Park. (Photo by Gr8white)

Plus transit riders might want to take the trip at least once to see the station itself, which has an impressive design and station art. Sound Transit policy dictates that they spend 1% of the project budget on art. Laura Haddad created a sculpture called “Cloud” above the station platform. The Angle Lake Station website paints quite the picture:

Wind activates thousands of individual discs while the sunlight makes them shimmer and glow. The Cloud serve as a sculptural barometer of local weather.

Meanwhile, Jill Anholt’s piece “Immerse” hangs over the plaza and staircase and apparently “the sculpture’s four delicate arcs [transfer] light into the parking area below.” Did we mention the parking? The station raison de vivre is the adjoining 1,050-stall parking garage (plus 70 surface spots) which one would hope would guarantee at least that many riders from the station each day. Sound Transit actually expects five times that number and predicts Angle Lake Station will serve 5,400 riders coming and going each weekday by 2018.

The darked red tracts are desnet while the orange are medium and the lighter peach color is the least dense. The station is the star. (ArcGis)
The dark red tracts are densest (10,000+/sq. mile), the orange are inbetwteen, and the lighter peach colored tracts are the least dense. The station is the star. (ArcGis 2012 Density Map by Esri)

But there is one small hope for the immediate station area: one of the main pockets of density in SeaTac is adjacent to the station. The density is nearly 15,000 per square mile in a small census group just southeast of the station. On the other hand, the rest of the adjoining census block groups are not very dense. A mile to the south a few census blocks spike significantly in residential density. But all told, for a suburb, the land use is not as bad as it might seem at first glance even with the sprawl-y ramblers breaking out like hives on a cul-de-sac grid.

The "Cloud" sculpture looms over the elevated Angle Lake Station. (Sound Transit)
The “Cloud” sculpture looms over the elevated Angle Lake Station. (Sound Transit)

So, Angle Lake Station is a modest addition to our light rail network, but one not without perks, a few of which are hiding just below the surface. Maybe we’ll see you at Angle Lake Park for an autumn dip? Or hey, if you forgot to get off at the airport, at least take a moment to gawk at the station art.

9 COMMENTS

  1. It is hard to see how this station will carry 5,000 people. Generally speaking, suburban stations are highly dependent on park and ride commuters, or feeder buses. The park and ride lot has room for about 1,000 riders. My guess is most will park for the day, and leave late at night (there won’t be a lot of midday churn). Unlike some suburban areas, there really is no reason to transfer from a bus in the area. In other words, I don’t see people taking the train from this station to Tukwila, since there are no huge office towers next to the Tukwila station (nor any by this station). People may take a train down there, and then transfer to a local bus (or the other way around) but they probably do that now. As far as density goes, this isn’t as bad as much of the suburbs, but isn’t very good either (as you point out). In comparison, Beacon Hill station is much better, is much closer to the other stops, gains more over surface options, has bidirectional service, yet only carries about 2,000 a day.

    My guess is that ridership will increase about 1,050 over what it is now.

    • I’d expect it to be more of a destination than Beacon Hill, between hotels serving the airport & the Alaska Airlines corporate campus.

      • It isn’t that close to the hotels. The nearest one is about five minutes away — the Skyway Inn (a pretty small motel). Hotels have shuttle buses that pick you up (folks with luggage don’t like to lug them through the streets). Folks that work in the hotels aren’t really going to see much of an improvement (they will simply get off at a different stop — if they even do that). The Alaska Airlines corporate campus might get you a few riders, but again, the improvement over the existing service (train + bus) is really not significant. This station is not next to the corporate campus, but will require a bus anyway (it is about ten minutes away if you walk).. At best I see a shifting around (people who ride the A will use a different connecting stop) but I sure don’t see significant new ridership, because I see only a handful of trips that are made significantly better (the Chevon Station, the Bullpen Bar and Grill, the All Star Grocery and Video, Eyebrow & Lash Art Spa …). By the way, here is a map (the station will be on 200th and 28th, not on SR 99): https://goo.gl/maps/cKD5HeQ4Jjs

        • Actually, I work for Alaska Airlines, and one of the buildings (the McGee building) is exactly next to Angle Lake Stn and has a few hundred employees in that building alone – many of whom plan to take the train when it opens at least as a supplement to driving. We also need an easy way to get to and from the airport without having to figure out parking and carpooling. The main Corporate Headquarters building is at Int’l Blvd and S 195th, which is a fairly pleasant walk from the station (one could take the A Line one stop, but walking might be easier). I currently take the light rail to Tukwila and transfer to the A Line to go to S 200th, which is a seemingly small extra step on paper, but in reality is a giant pain in the ass since it adds extra transfer time, the RapidRide is anything but rapid, and the experience of a bus is a lot worse than the experience of light rail. I’m VERY excited about this station and will use it every day.

          • I stand corrected (I didn’t see that building). But most of the campus is at least ten minutes away — a distance large enough to warrant a connecting bus (as annoying as it seems) or simply continue driving. My point is not that people will avoid this station, just that (other than the people that will use the park and ride) those that will use this station are using other stations (as is your case).

            Just out of curiosity — why don’t you continue to the SeaTac station and then transfer (I would assume that would save you a couple minutes)?

          • If we can’t expect most people to walk ten minutes the whole system is doomed, high density or not. I don’t think Angle Lake is going to be among the worst performers. With some good infill going in it might actually be among the better suburban stations.

          • Seem to me we also should consider what will happen when the light rail station is finally built in Federal Way. Right now it is around a 20 minute car commute to Angle Lake from Federal Way. Once the Federal Way station is built it will lessen the demand on the parking areas at Angle Lake.

    • As to 5000 people, maybe not but the ridership would only have to reflect that many trips (not unique riders.) So parking for 1120 puts the floor at 2240 plus all the drop offs, walk ups and transfers.

      Beacon Hill is definitely denser but I suspect the lower ridership there is a function of the neighborhood having a busy bus route in the 36 (weekday ridership of 10,700 in 2015) and being close enough to downtown that waiting for the faster train to come might not be worth it for some users.

      • Good point about the trips versus riders. OK, that makes a lot more sense. I was focused on boardings, and 5,000 would make this one of the biggest stations in our system. But 5,000 boardings and alightings (or 2,500 boardings) puts it close to just about every station in Rainier Valley (as well as Beacon Hill). With the parking, you are half way to that number, which makes the forecast a lot more reasonable..

        As for the 36, Link should enhance, not replace bus service. For example, the 36 results in increased ridership on Link to the V. A.. I think the same thing is true here — riders will leverage the ‘A’ Line. I think the ridership is highly dependent on it. Some claim the transfer is better than the alternatives (Tukwila or SeaTac) but others say the opposite: https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/08/24/angle-lake-open-september-24/#comment-751004. If the folks who think this is a better transfer are right, and people shift from using Tukwila and SeaTac to here, then I can see achieving this number without too much trouble.

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