Trains Are Magic

Even though my only credential is that I created a blog with the word “ass” in the title, yesterday I was allowed on the Link Light Rail VIP preview ride.  It’s a strange and beautiful world.

What is it about trains?  Everybody loves them.  And yes, of course, the Link Light Rail trains are sweet; the stations are sweet.  The populace will love it.  The allure of the train will draw more people to transit, and the permanence of the stations will catalyze rational and compact development patterns.  Urbanist wonk heaven.

But don’t think for a minute that I don’t have something curmudgeonly to add.  Because as has been noted ad nauseum on this blog—here, here, here, and here—the stations in the southeast Seattle portion of the line completely lack the kind of compact, walkable urban form that is appropriate for high capacity transit station areas.  And now that the trains are running, it’s only that much more embarrassing.  The light rail line itself is a huge achievement, but now the equally challenging task at hand is to transform the built environment around the stations.

The photos below give some flavor of the sad situation on the ground in the southeast Seattle and Tukwila stations:

[ Looking east from the Mt. Baker station platform, with Franklin High School in the background. ]

[  Looking west from the Columbia City station. ]

[ The Park & Ride at the Tukwila station.  Note the wall preventing easy access to the station from the housing. ]

[ The Tukwila station itself is a nice piece of work. ]

Bonus celebrity shots:

[ Seattle City Council candidate Mike O’Brien brought his bike along for the ride; King County Executive candidate Larry Phillips and corporate journalist Josh Feit feeling the light rail love. ]

[ Good timing for Mayor Greg Nickels, who happens to be up for reelection. ]