Where to site two stations in South Lake Union is proving highly contentious. One late addition "shifted west" station pair avoids Westlake Avenue and puts the next station on 5th Avenue rather than siting it next to the frequent bus service along Aurora Avenue. (WSDOT)

Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Board is set to decide between building the best light rail system we can with the ST3 package passed by voters in 2016 or building on a trend of ignoring professionals to deprioritize future riders in favor of ancillary political favor

Just over a year after Sound Transit boardmembers bemoaned the costs associated with building a world class transit hub in the Chinatown-International District (CID) along 4th Avenue, the board is now considering, against the recommendation of its own staff, adding up to a billion dollars in costs to shift the location of two stations in South Lake Union.

The decision would needlessly balloon the budget for Ballard Link project, while sacrificing ridership and worsening the quality of service for riders by no longer featuring a station conveniently co-located with a Rapid Ride E Line bus stop. The existing locations create an objectively better system with higher ridership, delivering service at least one year sooner while serving an additional 3,000 riders per day.

So, here’s an idea, instead of departing once again from the voter approved plan, to study that which has already been studied, why not select the South Lake Union station locations that best serve riders. We can put Sound Transit resources to better use benefitting both riders and the communities around light rail stations.

For example, we could build the stations at Midtown and CID on 4th Avenue and commit to a construction mitigation fund for affected small businesses and residents. Choosing a world class transit hub in the CID would mean higher ridership across the system, as it would create the connection to the Rapid Ride G Line at Midtown, simplify transfers between light rail lines, and simplify transfers between light rail and the plethora of other modes, like Amtrak, which exist in the vicinity. 

If you’re like me, and you want us to actually meet our climate goals by reducing transportation emissions; if you want a future where people can reliably move around our city and region regardless of their ability to operate and/or afford a car; if you believe that we can have a city that is vibrant, walkable, and worth passing on to the next generation, then please take the 30 seconds it takes to send this “don’t delay” action network letter, then send it to a friend.

Tell the ST board not to make this mistake, because if we don’t do this right, the generations that follow us will look at us with the same disdain that we do at the generation which rejected Forward Thrust and failed to build high capacity transit generations ago. We know better; we can do better; we must do better.

Take action: Send a letter to the Sound Transit Board to avoid delay in South Lake Union.

Article Author
Efrain Hudnell

Efrain Hudnell is a board member at The Urbanist. He first came to the Puget Sound region in 2015, just as the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure was beginning to build momentum, which ignited a curiosity for transportation in him and years of advocacy work. He has previously served as executive director of the grassroots Seattle Subway organization, and he ran for Seattle City Council in 2023. He aims to center communities of color in the urbanist movement so as to undo the harms current transportation policy and land use. He has a Bachelor of Arts from New Mexico State University, a Juris Doctorate from Seattle University, and splits his time between Seattle and Berlin with his fiancée, Nina.