Envisioning Pioneer Square

Link Light Rail in Seattle’s neighborhoods

Pioneer Square is a vibrant residential, shopping, cultural, and government center characterized by its historic buildings and active street life. The neighborhood plan vision includes creating more housing, strengthening the community’s economic base, and improving parking, transportation, infrastructure, and public safety. The plan developed a set of guiding principles that includes "providing excellent transit service to and from the area and clear pedestrian connections to facilities within the area." Light rail will make this vision a reality by giving residents and visitors a strong reason to leave their cars at home. They will be able to get the best access to the galleries, shops, and stadium events, while creating the least impact to neighborhood streets.

The Pioneer Square light rail station will be in the existing Metro bus tunnel, with three entrances a few blocks from the heart of the shopping, cultural, and residential area. New development throughout Pioneer Square will add to the mix of activities in the station area, strengthening its economic base. The City of Seattle’s new Civic Center will create the front door for the Pioneer Square station and add open space and public facilities for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. Other public investments in the neighborhood include new housing and artist live/work space in surplused County and City buildings, redevelopment of the north Kingdome lot, the new football stadium, and improvements to King Street Station. The new downtown central library will be located a short walk from the light rail station.

Streets that are designed to encourage walking, bicycle, bus and light rail use are central to the community’s vision. This includes a clear, well-designed set of maps, signs, and markers to direct people to neighborhood attractions. Well-marked routes are especially important to help people get to and from the light rail station, the Pioneer Square business district, government buildings, the King Street intermodal station, Colman Dock ferry terminal, and bus stops. More buses on downtown streets increase the need for well-marked crosswalks, lighting that illuminates the sidewalks at night, and enforcement of crosswalk laws for drivers and pedestrians.

New development, including housing over shops or services, is required to meet the standards of the Pioneer Square Special Review District to ensure that the historic character of the neighborhood is maintained. Public art and improvements to public open spaces are welcome additions to the neighborhood and will also make the streets more attractive for pedestrians.

Human services, including childcare, benefit greatly from being located near light rail stations. Existing childcare centers, and other locally-owned businesses, need support to adjust to light rail construction. After the station is complete, childcare near the station will benefit families with working parents, provide a new market for childcare providers, and jobs for local residents.

In addition to the bus service that already exists, light rail will help achieve the Pioneer Square neighborhood’s vision for a strong community with excellent access to transit to serve its diverse, growing population. The light rail investment will focus economic development in the neighborhood and provide residential, commercial, and employment opportunities.

We can achieve our vision for Pioneer Square with these tools.

A number of different tools and actions can be used to achieve the vision for the station area. Many of these tools will be used in the majority of station areas. Only the tools and the actions specific to this station area are listed below.

Parking Strategies

Objective: Implement station area parking strategies to promote light rail and bus ridership, enable development that will benefit from and support transit, and protect neighborhood parking.

Action: Work with the Pioneer Square Business Improvement Association to manage on and off street parking supplies and special event parking demand. Consider parking requirements appropriate to the neighborhood that promote light rail and bus use. Establish policies that prioritize parking for residents and retail, discourage commuter parking, allow shared parking among developments, separate parking costs from building rent costs, and implement transportation demand management.

Design Guidance

Objective: Ensure that the station, surrounding development, and associated street and sidewalk improvements reinforce the architectural, social, and visual character of the neighborhood and support the community's vision and goals. Incorporate public art and other design elements that communicate a clear sense of neighborhood identity. Include an easy to understand system of maps, markers, and signs to help visitors and residents find their way around the station area, to key attractions, and to bus stops.

Action: Coordinate guidelines established through the Pioneer Square Special Review District with other City permitting processes and guidelines for light rail. Provide design guidance through the City/County developer selection process for surplused buildings. Create maps, routes, and markers in Pioneer Square that reflect the community’s commitment to neighborhood history and art. Establish well-marked routes from the station entrances to the King Street intermodal station, Colman Dock ferry terminal, the Civic Center, and the Downtown library. Add historic street lights where they don’t currently exist.

Public Facilities

Objective: Promote a vibrant, active community with a number of recreational and community gathering places. Public buildings should reinforce neighborhood character and support local efforts to promote economic opportunity. Community gathering spaces, plazas, bus stops and the light rail station should inspire positive social interactions between neighbors and celebrate the Pioneer Square neighborhood.

Action: Coordinate with the Civic Center and Downtown Library projects. Add more open spaces for gathering and recreation, integrate public art into the station, and provide public restrooms in the vicinity of the Pioneer Square station, either as a public amenity or through arrangements with private businesses.

Street Reconfiguration/Operational Changes

Objective: Improve access to the light rail station for pedestrians, bikes, buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders. Ensure good circulation and traffic flow throughout the station area.

Action: Make improvements to downtown streets, sidewalks, and bus facilities as part of the Downtown Surface Streets Improvement project. Create more walkable routes from the station to the Colman Dock ferry terminal, King Street intermodal station, the Civic Center, and the Downtown library.

Sidewalk and Crossing Improvements

Objective: Improve access to the light rail station for pedestrians. Make walking within 1/4 mile of the station a safe and enjoyable experience for all people.

Action: Improve pedestrian connections in Pioneer Square. Bring curb ramps up to the standard set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Repair heaved sidewalks between major destinations and station entrances where necessary. Increase sidewalk width within 300’ of station entrances or make other improvements to the pedestrian environment if sidewalk widening is not possible due to right of way constraints. Add decorative lighting that illuminates the sidewalks. Make crossing improvements where necessary. Focus on the 2nd Ave. Extension, and 3rd-5th Aves. between Jackson and Madison Sts.

Bicycle Facilities and Access

Objective: Provide bicycle facilities at the station and improve bicycle access throughout the station area to increase bus and light rail ridership and reduce auto dependency.

Action: Supply bike parking at station entrances to accommodate passenger demand and increase bus and light rail ridership. Establish standards for additional bike parking in new station area developments. Sign and/or stripe bike routes as appropriate to increase access to the station.

Car Sharing

Objective: Provide a viable alternative to car ownership and encourage people who live near a light rail station not to own a car, or in the case of a family to own one car.

Action: Expand the car sharing program to all downtown station areas. Identify parking spaces in the station area for the program’s use, particularly near the station.

Bus Service Changes

Objective: Work with KC/Metro to increase access to the light rail system for buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders.

Action: Provide frequent bus service to the light rail station. Make transfers between bus and light rail convenient to encourage transit ridership.

Housing Actions

Objective: Increase opportunities for new housing and home ownership in the station area that take advantage of access to the regional light rail system, maintain the diversity and character of the neighborhood, and generate activity around the station so that people are encouraged to walk, gather, and shop.

Action: Work with Sound Transit, the City, and the County to identify housing opportunity sites. Develop housing for homebuyers as well as renters. Develop housing programs and financing mechanisms that enable affordable housing to be included in new housing developments. This may include use of the City’s downtown development bonus programs that encourage affordable housing, human services, and open space in exchange for increased building heights. Redevelop public and privately owned sites in the station area. Promote greater use of Property Tax Exemption and Location Efficient Mortgage programs where they support City housing goals. Note that all new development proposals must be approved by the Pioneer Square Special Review Board. Redevelop surplus City and County buildings into live/work space for artists or market rate housing over shops.

Human Services

Objective: Support human services in the station area that can benefit from easy access to buses and light rail, and will serve Pioneer Square residents and employees. Maintain a balance between human services and other activities in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.

Action: Continue to explore options for new childcare facilities at the 3rd and James station entrance as part of the City of Seattle’s Civic Center project

Economic Development

Objective: Support existing community businesses during bus operation changes leading to the opening of light rail in 2006. Encourage new local businesses that benefit from and support the light rail system.

Action: Work with the community to develop and implement a plan that directs impacted businesses to appropriate resources, tools, and assistance during construction and helps ensure their successful relocation, operation during construction, and long-term viability. Encourage new businesses that support transit and create jobs.

Joint Development

Objective: Maximize development opportunities on Sound Transit, KC/Metro, and other publicly owned properties.

Action: Work with property owners to redevelop surplus City and County facilities into housing, artist live/work space and street-level shops.

Public Safety

Objective: Create a safe, lively environment throughout the station area.

Action: Implement the Pioneer Square public safety recommendations articulated in the neighborhood plan. Provide good lighting and clear lines of sight in public spaces and new development to promote pedestrian activity and "eyes on the street." Coordinate with the Public Safety Committee of the Pioneer Square Community Council, Seattle Police officers, the business community and other interested community organizations to develop and implement a public safety strategy that promotes and enhances public safety around the station.

Plan Coordination

Objective: Ensure that all Pioneer Square planning activities are consistent and that station area planning implements the community vision.

Action: Coordinate the Downtown Urban Design Plan, the Downtown Surface Street Improvements Project, the South Downtown Foundation Investment Strategy, and the work of other private entities.