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With U Link, combining bikes and transit just got even more powerful

Bike valet! If only this were permanent or replaced with another more secure option.
UW loaned these old-style staple racks while Sound Transit works to install more permanent and modern staple racks in addition to the “coat hanger” racks already installed.

University of Washington Station opened Saturday and immediately assumed its role as the bikiest light rail station in the region.

The bike parking was overflowing during Saturday’s opening celebration. Even the additional free valet bike parking space provided for the day was handlebar-to-handlebar.

And it makes sense, UW Station is only a stone’s throw from the Burke-Gilman Trail, likely our state’s busiest walking and biking trail. Not only that, but the segment of the trail through UW campus was already the busiest section of the trail before the light rail opened, moving about as many people during a busy commute hour as a lane of a freeway.

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UW saw this coming, which is why they have been working for years to remake the trail in the station area. The area connecting to the station (dubbed Rainier Vista) was completed last year, providing an underpass trail for people continuing through and creating new access points from the station into campus and to the trail. Unfortunately, work on the section of trail west of the station is still under construction and isn’t scheduled to reopen until the summer. At this point, it has been two years since the trail was fully and consistently open through UW.

Even with construction, the trail and other bike routes bring a huge number of homes and destinations within easy reach of UW Station. The station location is not very good for walkable access to the U District business center or much of campus, but it is very bikeable. Very dense parts of the U District, North University and Wallingford areas are within a ten-minute bike ride from the station — not to mention the U Village shopping center — as estimated in this map from WalkScore:

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.47.26 PM

The result is even more dramatic when you increase biking time to 15 minutes:

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.47.05 PM

These maps may also provide a bit of insight into the potential reach of Pronto in the next expansion. And on that note, a Pronto Station at UW Station can’t come soon enough (the closest station is a two minute walk away across a busy street and out of view of the station itself). The good news is that a better station location is in the works.

Oddly enough, someone going from Fremont to Capitol Hill may be better off biking all the way to UW Station and taking light rail (20+ minutes depending on train arrival and biking speed, according to Google Maps) versus biking or taking the bus the whole way (30+ minutes each). From Ballard to Capitol Hill, it’s 45+ minutes by bike or bus, but you could make the trip in 30+ minutes by biking to UW Station.

Combining bikes and transit just got a lot more powerful.

Pronto crews worked late into the night to move this station before the Saturday grand opening. Sorry First Hill, you had to take one for the team. First Hill needs full coverage of stations in the next expansion.

Capitol Hill Station is a slightly different story. Much of its easy bike reach is better served by other stations either due to proximity or topography (if you’re in Madison Valley, biking up that mega hill just to get to light rail may make less sense than just biking to UW Station, for example). It’s biggest bike access potential lies in the Central District and other dense areas just out of an easy walk.

Below are the maps from WalkScore. This is a very strong argument for a Central District Pronto expansion:

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.45.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.44.52 PMSecure bike parking at Capitol Hill Station is also very needed, but probably not on the scale of UW Station with its Burke-Gilman access. There were a good number of bikes at Capitol Hill Station for the launch party Saturday, but nowhere near as many as showed up to UW Station.

A lot of people are going to want to combine biking and transit. And without secure and convenient bike parking and/or expanded bike share, many people are going to want to bring their bikes on the train. But bringing bikes on the train is not a solution that scales well. If a couple people do it per train, it’s not a big deal (Sound Transit’s rules say four per train car), but demand (especially during rush hour) will likely outpace this limit. Train cars with a more open design can help, too, and are in the works for the next purchase.

Of course, big demand from people biking to transit is a great problem to have.

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17 responses to “With U Link, combining bikes and transit just got even more powerful”

  1. Davepar

    My wife took the train from the Stadium station this morning. She said the bike racks under the pedestrian overpass were full and her train car had the maximum 4 bikes.

    1. Matt

      Yeah, the bike racks at UW station were mostly full when I rolled up around 8:20am. I didn’t really have a hard time finding parking, but it didn’t take much imagination to see a crunch. Especially since it was a bit cold and drizzly this morning.

  2. ronp

    I biked to the UW station and locked my bike this morning, there were several open spaces on the racks nearest to the station, but pretty full.

    Hope my bike is still there at 5:30 PM! Cheap lock and bike, so hopefully no one messes with it.

    Seems like the train +bike works out to around 35 minutes for me. I can usually bike downtown in about 40-45 minutes. The locking, long escalator ride down, waiting for the train, long ride up and then walk to office really adds up. The train is super fast all the ancillary non-biking movement is slow.

    Regardless, the train is amazing and I look forward to the Northgate extension and hopefully a yes vote in the fall for ST3.

    1. Matt

      I timed my commute this morning. It took 32min door-to-door vs. 45-50min riding all the way to Pioneer Square. I probably won’t do this every day, but I imagine this will replace the 76 for me on those days I’m too lazy to bike all the way downtown.

      The escalators really do add up. I kind of wonder if the elevators might not be faster.

      1. Phil

        Pro tip – they are…much.

      2. RDPence

        I timed the escalator trip down at 2:40. The elevators are very speedy, although with only two, the wait time might be an issue.

    2. William

      “Regardless, the train is amazing and I look forward to the Northgate extension and hopefully a yes vote in the fall for ST3”

      I am looking forward to the Northgate extension too, but am baffled as to why it is going to be another 5 years given that they have been working on it for several years already.

      I hope that ST3 comes up with a slightly more aggressive time schedule. Otherwise, it will time out as a useful solution to mass transit

  3. Gary

    The other cool link is that the UW to Westlake or University Station allows you to ride the BG essentially to downtown without having to bike Dexter or Eastlake. (boy do we need a bike route from UW to downtown that is safer than the current jog and dodge route we have now.)

  4. Seattle Times Editorial Board

    Spending a few thousand dollars on usable bike racks and a bike share station makes no sense when we could spend millions on a parking garage. Get your priorities straight. #WhatClimateChangeEmergency?

    1. MikeG

      I get that this is snark, but seriously, can’t you have a creative screen name without posting under the handle of “Seattle Times Editorial Board”?

      1. Seattle Times Editorial Board

        Hi MikeG,

        Our comment is in reference to our recent editorial:http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/sound-transit-3-cars-are-still-a-reality-in-a-mass-transit-future/


      2. William

        @Seattle Times Editorial Board

        In reference to #MakingSeattle1950 again, one could argue that light rail is #MakingSeattle1890 again since what we have looks awfully like the first deep lines in the London Underground. By the time all this is built we will have ubiquitous driverless cars and if we prioritize the roads we have for driverless transit (rather than long distance driverless SOV commutes) we might need neither parking or the light rail itself and the roads will be a lot safer for cyclists.

      3. Wells

        “We will have ubiquitous driverless cars and driverless transit..”
        I’m amazed anyone other than science fiction fanatics believe this. Automobile-related business interests have a fine little transportation monopoly making enough money to pay various propaganda ministers and ecolytes to manipulate the gullible.

  5. Southeasterner

    Dare to dream…


    Anyone have $20-$30 million to contribute?

  6. Josh

    Expanding the bikeshed of transit hubs is another reason Copenhagen is spending millions increasing the average speed of their bike facilities.

    Each one-minute stoplight cycle is equivalent to adding more than a thousand feet to a 12 mph bicycle trip. Eliminating as many signal delays as possible for bicyclists greatly expands the 10- or 15-minute bikeshed of any facility.

  7. […] Biking to UW Station is… popular. […]

  8. […] cage opens as bike access to light rail skyrockets due to the opening of Capitol Hill and UW Stations. Secure bike parking is one way to limit the […]

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