Envisioning the University District

Link Light Rail in Seattle’s neighborhoods

The University District envisions, in its neighborhood plan, an inviting, and welcoming, people-oriented urban community that can meet the social, educational, residential and commercial needs of a diverse array of people. A wide range of housing options is important to fulfilling this vision. The University community will be a hub of efficient, environmentally sound multi-modal transportation serving the needs of residents, students, customers and visitors. The community vision includes a stronger business district along University Way (The Ave), supported by the high quality sidewalk improvements planned as part of the reconstruction of The Ave Light rail will be a central component of the community's transportation hub. It will be coordinated with bus service and provide enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access. The station will also help knit together the commercial and residential communities with the University of Washington.

The University District will be served by two light rail stations -- one at NE Pacific St. and 15th Ave. NE, and one at NE 45th St. and 15th Ave. NE. These deep mined stations will be served by banks of high-speed elevators. The NE 45th Street Station will serve The Ave business district, residential areas to the north, east and west, and the UW. The station will be designed to reflect these communities. Station plazas, walkways, and improvements along 15th Ave. NE will soften the wall that has historically marked the boundary between campus and the community. The Pacific Station will have entrances on the north and south sides of NE Pacific St. and will be designed to invite and guide pedestrians and bicyclists to various parts of the UW campus and medical facilities. It will also serve Husky Stadium on game days.

Pedestrian improvements on NE 43rd St. will provide a strong east/west linkage from the Brooklyn neighborhood to The Ave, the NE 45th Street Station, and onto the UW campus. These street improvements, will complement the design of planned reconstruction of The Ave and will further strengthen the distinct identity of the University District. Because of its proximity to the Burke-Gilman Trail, accommodating bicyclists will be a strong focus of the Pacific Station plaza as well as the approaches to the station. This emphasis on bike access will strengthen connections between the University District, Wallingford, and neighborhoods to the north and east and provide an opportunity for bike repair and services to be located at the station.

Land use changes resulting from the University Community Urban Center Plan, activities of the Business Improvements Association and Chamber, and coordination with the UW's master planning will strengthen The Ave business district and adjacent commercial areas. The Ave and NE 43rd St. streetscape improvements and the light rail station will enhance access to the area and further support economic growth in the community.

Light rail will bolster several activities already underway in the University District, including integrated pedestrian and transportation improvements and coordinated growth of the UW. These improvements will bring the University community closer to its vision of a welcoming, people-oriented urban community that meets its social, educational, residential and commercial needs.

We can achieve our vision for the University District 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.

Land Use Code (Text and Zoning Changes)

Objective: Change land use regulations to encourage well-designed development that achieves the vision of the neighborhood plan, supports light rail and bus ridership, discourages auto use, and promotes pedestrian and bicycle activity. Land use regulations within the station area should also encourage affordable and mixed-income housing, and should provide economic opportunities for area residents.

Action: Establish a Station Area Overlay around the NE 45th Street Station to prevent strip development with large surface parking lots, and encourage a walkable community, with mixed-use buildings with retail shops at street level, affordable housing, and parking located away from the street or underground. Establish a pedestrian overlay on NE 43rd St. between Brooklyn Ave. NE and 15th Ave. NE to encourage active, pedestrian-oriented development adjacent to the NE 45th Street Station. Coordinate with UW master planning to implement neighborhood planning and station area planning recommendations. Implement the University District's neighborhood design guidelines to ensure development is consistent with the neighborhood's design direction.

Parking Strategies

Objective: Implement neighborhood plan and station area parking strategies to allow for parking necessary to sustain economic vitality and promote light rail and bus ridership, while discouraging commuting by single-occupant vehicles and the use of parking for light rail riders travelling elsewhere.

Action: Consider parking requirements appropriate to the University District that promote the use of light rail and buses, and manage on and off street parking supplies. Set policies that prioritize parking for residents and retail and discourage commuter parking, that allow shared parking among developments, that separate parking costs from building rent costs, and that implement transportation demand management. Work with neighborhoods to implement parking management strategies and transportation demand management programs.

Design Guidance

Objective: Ensure that the stations, 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 architecture, public art, gateways 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 and to key attractions and bus stops.

Action: Adopt neighborhood design guidelines. Develop design criteria with Sound Transit staff and the community to influence projects developed on Sound Transit properties. Mark station entrances and/or other key entries to the station area with gateway treatments. Use the NE 45th Street Station to help establish a gateway to the community and UW. Provide clear connections with signage, artwork, and pedestrian facility improvements to The Ave business district, the University of Washington, the Burke-Gilman Trail, and surrounding neighborhoods from station entrances. Use The Ave project design concepts as the guiding design criteria for street improvements and wayfinding.

Public Facilities

Objective: Public investments in the area around the light rail stations should promote a vibrant, active community with a number of recreational and community gathering opportunities. Public facilities should reinforce neighborhood character, inspire positive social interactions between neighbors, and support local efforts to promote and celebrate the University District neighborhood.

Action: Work with the community to improve open spaces for gathering and recreation, integrate public art into the station, and provide public restrooms in the vicinity of the University District stations, either as a public amenity or through arrangements with major institutions or private businesses.

Sidewalk and Crossing Improvements

Objective: Improve access to the stations for pedestrians. Make walking within ¼ mile of the station a safe and enjoyable experience for all people.

Action: 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 sidewalk when widening is not possible. Encourage, through design review process, new development to provide wider sidewalks. Add pedestrian scale lighting and crossing improvements at the intersections of NE 45th St. and NE 43rd St. with 15th Ave. NE, and adjacent to the north entrance to the Pacific Station, as needed to ensure pedestrian safety. Coordinate improvements with The Ave Project. Ensure good pedestrian and bicycle connections, especially on NE 47th, NE 43rd and NE 42nd Streets, between UW, The Ave business district, the Burke-Gilman trail, and adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Bicycle Facilities and Access

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

Action: Supply bike parking at station entrances to accommodate passenger demand and increased transit ridership. Mark bike routes, or improve the condition of existing facilities, to increase access to the station. Build a bike station at the station entrance near the Burke-Gilman Trail. Improve bike access to the stations from existing routes, especially from the Burke-Gilman trail.

Bus Service Changes

Objective: Work with KC/Metro to increase access to the light rail system for buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders and to expand existing local bus and shuttle van service.

Action: Provide seamless connections and frequent bus service to the station to increase accessibility of area residents, students, shoppers and employees to the light rail system. Partner with KC/Metro to address need for off-street bus layover facilities in the station areas.

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 to foster an enjoyable, affordable, and prosperous neighborhood around the station where people are encouraged to walk, gather, and shop.

Action: Work with Sound Transit, King County, UW, churches, and private property owners to identify redevelopment sites and promote development consistent with the vision of the neighborhood plan. Support neighborhood plan recommendations including employer-assisted housing (e.g., with UW), shared equity housing, co-housing, co-operative housing, and a land trust housing program.

Economic Development

Objective: Support existing businesses impacted by Sound Transit construction and encourage new businesses that benefit from and support the light rail system, create a diversity of family-wage jobs for local residents, and generate activity in the station area to fulfill the community's vision of an enjoyable, and affordable, neighborhood.

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.

Open Space Improvements

Objective: Work with the community, Sound Transit, King County, and other agencies to provide additional open spaces for gathering and recreation in the station area. New open space should provide a vibrant, active, and safe environment for area residents and transit riders to gather and play.

Action: Develop high quality open spaces in station areas and at station entry plazas. Develop a station entry plaza at the NE 45th Street Station.

Car Sharing

Objective: Support bus and light rail ridership development near light rail stations by providing alternatives to car ownership.

Action: Expand the car sharing program to station areas where supported by higher residential densities. Support the existing car sharing program and encourage greater participation. Identify additional parking locations for car sharing vehicles near stations as need grows.

Human Services

Objective: Support human services in the station area that can benefit from easy access to buses and light rail, and will serve students, University District residents, and others in nearby communities.

Action: Retain existing child care centers and explore options for new child care facilities as part of station area developments. Work with property owners to provide space affordable to organizations providing human services to the local community.

Joint Development

Objective: Maximize development opportunities on Sound Transit, KC/Metro, and other publicly owned properties that support the community's vision for the station area and maximize the opportunity presented by a regional light rail station. Work closely with community groups and private developers to create opportunities for public-private partnerships that will benefit the community.

Action: Work with landowners, including local churches and the University District Parking Association, to promote mixed-use development within the station area.

Public Safety

Objective: Create a safe, lively environment throughout the station area through good design, economic development, development of recreational opportunities for youth and adults, and a neighborhood that has a high level of pedestrian activity and community interaction.

Action: 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 Seattle Police officers, the business community, other interested community organizations, and the University of Washington to develop and implement a public safety strategy that promotes and enhances public safety around the station. Include a lighting plan that includes alley lighting.

Plan Coordination

Objective: Ensure consistency among all planning activities in the station area and ensure that station area planning implements the neighborhood vision.

Action: Explore opportunities to implement the University District neighborhood plan. Coordinate the construction of light rail with ongoing and future transportation planning activities and projects such as the UW Master Plan Update, the Trans-Lake Washington Study, the Seattle Transit Initiative and the University Village Master Plan. Ensure effective, coordinated public engagement in decision making and in funding the mitigation of Sound Transit construction impacts to affected businesses, residents and institutions.