U-Link light rail service made it possible to effortlessly glide beneath Capitol Hill, but accessing the Broadway station above ground can still be a challenge for anybody. For someone in a wheelchair, some routes are impossible. Sidewalks obstructed by trash cans and utility equipment, drivers making dangerous turns into crosswalks, and awkwardly aligned sidewalk ramps are just a few of the access issues identified in a study of intersections surrounding Capitol Hill Station.
In February, Central Seattle Greenways and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways conducted an access audit of the subway station before it opened March. The analysis looked at five intersections around the station and how they ranked in three areas: street crossing safety, obstructions in crosswalks and along sidewalks, and sidewalk capacity. The intersections included: Broadway and E Olive Way, Broadway and E Denny Way, Broadway and Thomas, Harvard and E Olive Way, and 10th and E John.
Not surprising, Capitol Hill’s 20th Century infrastructure for moving people around is not quite up to par with its newer, underground counterpart (though there is always room for improvement). For instance, utility and signal control cabinets, like the one at Broadway and E John, stand directly in the path of where crosswalks let pedestrians off on to sidewalks.
On the same intersection, the Greenways analysis also called out the ADA ramps for not being aligned with the crosswalk, which directs people into the middle of the intersection. “Broadway and E John is a particularly egregious example of what not to do,” said the report.
Here are some of the other specific recommendations the group made:
- Install crosswalk markings and signs at Harvard and E Olive Way and 10th and John.
- Install better signage and lane markings to prevent left turns from northbound Broadway to westbound E Denny Way.
- Rechannelize E John and E Olive Way to add left turn lanes at Broadway. The lack of turn lanes here causes drivers to change lanes unexpectedly as they approach and move through the intersection.
- Add left turn signal phases in all directions at Broadway E & E John St / E Olive Way. When the intersection is busy it’s common for drivers attempting to turn left to loiter in crosswalks or in the intersection waiting for a gap in oncoming traffic without watching for people crossing in the crosswalk. This leads to dangerous situations when drivers try to turn through an occupied crosswalk.
- Improve the crossings at Harvard & Olive Way and 10th & John with raised intersections, curb bulbs, or other traffic calming measures. Many drivers do not yield to people trying to walk across these intersections.
As recent light rail ridership is up nearly 80% as compared to last year and boardings at the Capitol Hill Station projected to reach 14,000 by 2030, Seattle Greenways says it will be key to make pedestrian access improvements sooner rather than later.
The impetus for the study was actually not to identify mobility issues, but to analyze sidewalk capacity. Prior to the station opening, Sound Transit predicted 4,000 to 5,000 pedestrians would be coming through Broadway and E John during peak transit hours.
“That was an alarming number to us,” said Brie Gyncild of Central Seattle Greenways. “We were concerned about how crowded the sidewalks would be.” Since the Capitol Hill Station opened, Gyncild said Central Seattle Greenways has not observed sidewalk crowding to be a major issue.
Following a recent service interruption caused by someone shooting off pepper spray inside the Capitol Hill Station, CHS looked at six ways Sound Transit could make the station even better, including improving communications systems.
Undoubtedly the biggest improvement to the Capitol Hill Station will be expanding its connections across the city and region, a move that cleared a major hurdle on Thursday. The Sound Transit Board approved a $54 billion ballot measure to go before voters in the November election.