Grand opening: a CHS user guide to Capitol Hill Station

Capitol Hill Station party planning is in full swing for U-Link light rail’s grand opening which will connect Capitol Hill to the University of Washington and the rest of Seattle’s light rail line.

Depending on how you look at it, the grand opening can be extended well beyond the $1.9 billion, 3.1-mile U-Link extension. If the major purpose of a light rail system is to connect downtown to the airport, we celebrated that in July, 2009. But if you strive for more — say, creating dependable connections between vital areas of your city — the debut of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station might just be Sound Transit’s true light rail grand opening.

Saturday’s celebration includes two parties connected by two miles of tunnels and includes music, games, parades, and food trucks. The schedule and roster of participants has been posted to ulink2016.org. The first train pulls into Capitol Hill shortly after 10 AM and will be greeted by a Mayor Ed Murray-lead countdown and confetti cannon celebration.

Saturday revelers patient enough for what are expected to be long lines will be able to travel back and forth between the Capitol Hill Station and the UW Station parties. Free ticket holders can present a printed ticket or an image of the ticket on their phone. “Golden ticket” winners and members of the workforce that built the line will get an early ride from the UW prior to Capitol Hill’s explosive grand opening. Sound Transit is also holding a VIP ride and ceremony Friday evening.

Regular Link hours are 5 AM to 1 AM. Six-minute frequencies are planned for rush hours on weekdays with ten-minute waits planned for “off-peak” hours. But before you party down and start riding, here is what you should know about Capitol Hill’s brand new train station.

Where is it?
Located 65 feet underground, the train platform runs along the east side of Broadway between E John and E Denny Way. The station is accessed through three street level entrances.

The north entrance at the corner of Broadway and E John is the main gateway to the underground train platform. A smaller south entrance is on Denny Way, accessed at the corner of Nagle Pl. and offers a direct connection to Cal Anderson Park. An even smaller, Seattle Central College-friendly west entrance is on Broadway just south of Denny Way and is accessed next to Annapurna Cafe.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.54.29 AM

A crow’s-eye view from above

All three entrances are equipped with escalators, stairs, and elevators. Cell phone service will be available in the Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link tunnel later this summer. Wi-fi will not.

Real time arrival signs are located at the station’s street level entrances and above the platform. The station platform is located between the northbound and southbound trains (clearly identified by signs) so riders can travel either direction via all three entrances.

On the Capitol Hill platform, you are greeted by the shiny pink Mike Ross Jet Kiss sculpture. Up the escalator, you find Ellen Forney’s giant, paneled Crossed Pinkies. Across Broadway, her Walking Fingers stroll in the west portal.

Photo by Don Wilson Capitol Hill Station 2016

Security will be on site at the station during all operating hours and outside station lighting will stay on overnight. Pull down cages close off the station entrances, but outdoor overhangs and the small entrance plazas will remain accessible.

IMG_3313 (1)How much does it cost?
From Capitol Hill, $2.25 will take you as far as SODO station, $2.50 to Othello, $2.75 to Rainier Beach, and $3 to Sea-Tac Airport. The fare from Capitol Hill to Husky Stadium will be $2.25.

ORCA card readers and ticket vending machines that take cash and cards are located at the street level of each entrance. Riders need to buy a paper ticket or tap their card before boarding a train, or risk fines and embarrassment getting caught by a fare enforcement officer.

Over the next three weeks an ORCA To-Go mobile sales and service team will be at the Capitol Hill Station. The To-Go team provides full-service ORCA card sales and assistance for purchasing or loading fares on to a card.

Getting to the station by public transit
On March 26th, King County Metro’s bus route changes will go into effect to better serve Capitol Hill Station. Some routes and stops were ready to go.

Coming from north Broadway/10th Ave E, the Denny Way stop for routes 9, 49, and 60 will drop riders directly in front of the station’s west entrance. Coming from the opposite direction, those same lines have a stop at E John just across the street from the north entrance.

map-capitol-hill-linkNorth Capitol Hill residents closer to 15th Ave and 24th Ave could take routes 10 and 43 respectively to land on the opposite side of Broadway from the north station entrance. Riders transferring from an 8 coming from Seattle Center or the recently rerouted 10 from Downtown will be dropped off directly in front of the north entrance. Real time arrival signs for Broadway buses adjacent to the light rail station will not arrive until 2018 at the earliest, according to Metro.

The northern terminus of the recently launched First Hill Streetcar lets passengers off just steps from the west entrance near Denny Way.

If you are already on a light rail train, getting to the Capitol Hill Station will be straightforward on the single-line system — just look for the flag icon. We can start talking train transfers if Sound Transit 3 passes in November.

Street parking around the station will not be easy and will not be cheap. There is no dedicated car parking at the station. If you are getting dropped off, avoid Broadway and opt for a quick stop on of the station’s surrounding side streets. Lyft is offering discounted rides to and from the station March 21st-25th.

Getting to the station by bike
A staffed bike valet will be available at the Capitol Hill Station on opening day. Bikes are permitted on all Link trains. Sound Transit is asking that cyclists use the Capitol Hill Station elevators to bring bikes to the station platform (none of the station entrances have bike runnels).

Northbound riders on the Broadway bikeway will most likely enter via the station’s south entrance, and vice versa.

When the station opens Saturday, bike rack parking will only be available at the west entrance near SCC where the racks will hold around 40 bikes. The City will be adding three on-street bike corrals around the station in a month or two. A couple months later, Sound Transit will add racks for another 120 bikes outside the west entrance.

Sound Transit will install a 100-200 capacity bike cage on Broadway once the first “transit oriented development” site is complete sometime in 2019.

Since you recently helped purchase Seattle’s bike share system, you may want to use Pronto when you exit Capitol Hill Station. There are two Pronto stations within three blocks of the station — one at Broadway and E Harrison and another at 12th Ave and E Denny Way. The Seattle Bike Blog has raised the idea of shifting the 12th Ave Pronto station to be closer to the light rail entrance.

What could’ve been
While a Capitol Hill light rail station near Broadway and Denny Way was part of the earliest Link light rail plans, Sound Transit did explore other options.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 10.23.38 AMThe primary alternative to the current Capitol Hill station design would have placed the station on the west side of the same block of Broadway, with the main entrance at the southwest corner of Broadway and E John. That station location was part of a handful of alternative route alignments, including a route running under 10th Ave E to connect to abandoned station locations on the west side of the UW. Another route option would have skipped Capitol Hill altogether with a station at the edge of South Lake Union at Eastlake and Harrison.

Sound Transit also ended up scrapping a proposed First Hill station on Madison, citing high risk and expenses. In January 2006, the Sound Transit board authorized staff to begin planning for a possible new streetcar line to make up for it. The First Hill Streetcar held its maiden ride in January.

You'll need this "ticket" to ride free Saturday -- but don't print it out. Sound Transit said you'll be able to show it on your phone.

You’ll need this “ticket” to ride free Saturday — but don’t print it out. Sound Transit said you’ll be able to show it on your phone.

Those big paved lots
The large, empty swathes of pavement around the station will remain closed in anticipation for a four-site development project that will include housing, retail, and community space. Portland-based Gerding Edlen is leading the development planned to meet community priorities for 418 apartments with 38% of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.”

Plans for a Broadway retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Construction is expected to begin in 2017 following planning and design review.

Can’t remember what all that open space looked like before it was leveled? CHS took a look back at the two months of carnage in 2009 that cleared the path for U-Link’s arrival. It’s also worth remembering that a few of those businesses did survive and those owners will be cautiously celebrating Saturday.

So, where will you ride to first?

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6 thoughts on “Grand opening: a CHS user guide to Capitol Hill Station

  1. Here’s a useful “how to” from the Stranger: You Can Bring Your Bike on Light Rail, but Maybe Don’t Bring Your Cargo Bike—For Now

    Sound Transit’s light rail trains offer two dedicated spaces for bikes. Look for bicycle icons on the outside of the train as it pulls up. Inside those doors, you’ll see a partition and a hook. Lift your bike’s front tire up and let it hang vertically from the hook. Easy. If the bike spaces are already taken, you can stand and hold your bike next to you inside the train.

  2. The amazing part of light rail, for me, is that we get fast, reliable access to every bus in the downtown bus tunnel.

    In that sense, light rail opens up an immense range of transportation destinations for folks who live near the new station.

    I think the big destinations for light rail I’ve already figured out are:

    BIKING – OMFG

    1. South Interurban & Green River trails: these are awesome for biking and virtually empty, even during peak times of year.

    Light means a direct transfer to access these via bus 150 in the transit tunnel – which cuts the trip from cap hill almost in half.

    2. Chief Sealth Trail: Super easy to access via light rail now (a few blocks over from Othello station, if I recall.)

    3. Burke-Gilman: Totally crowded but now easily accessible, making it really easy to get to Fremont.

    PRACTICAL STUFF

    0. Fast access to Kirkland (255) and Bellevue (550). I used to avoid my eastside friends because it took forever to wait for a bus to get to downtown, and then wait for the eastside bus you probably just missed.

    Now that we have a reliable, same-platform means of getting to the downtown bus tunnel, it’s effectively about 20-30% faster to get to Kirkland and Bellevue by public transit.

    1. Convention Place Tunnel station: no more insane delays waiting for the 8 bus to go 2 blocks in 20 minutes. Can walk to Convention Place, take any bus to Westlake, and then light rail to cap hill. (until the station is torn out, at least)

    2. Living Computer Museum: 10 minute walk from SODO light rail station.

  3. Unfortunately for those of us who live in lowly Eastlake and will get 0 benefit from the Light Rail, Metro will be cancelling 5 routes that served us.

  4. All around amazing that this is done, under budget and in advance. But why is this on the wrong side of UW? The UW station is next to the UW Med Center and Husky Stadium. 99% of those traveling to the U District are traveling to the OTHER side, over near 45th & The Ave, so the current station is mostly useless to them. When is the actual useful station being worked on behind the Neptune theater going to open?