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When light rail is complete, should it be Capitol Hill Station or Broadway Station?

In addition to vigorous debate over potential changes to the city’s zoning laws around small commercial development in residential areas of Seattle, the most recent Capitol Hill Community Council meeting also revealed an important naming decision moving forward with Sound Transit’s U-Link project that will bring light rail to Capitol Hill by 2016. As we see, it you have two choices — and it’s a pretty big deal as far as the long-term “brand” of the light rail line and the neighborhood go.

Should it be Capitol Hill Station — or Broadway Station?

Here’s what a Sound Transit community rep who couldn’t make the meeting provided in email form to the council outlining the station naming proposals currently being considered by the agency:

All the tunneling for the projects is complete! ST will now focus on construction of cross-tunnel passages between the two tunnels for ventilation and emergency/safety exits. At some point this coming summer, the ST board will adopt formal station names for the University Link and North Link projects. The proposed station names are: Capitol Hill Station, University of Washington Station (Husky Stadium), U-District Station (Brooklyn), Roosevelt Station and Northgate Station. If the community has any comments about the proposed station names, please contact Wilbert Santos at

With the main tunnel boring work completed on the three-mile line connecting downtown to Montlake via Capitol HIll, effort on the project will turn to focus more on the construction of the stations at Husky Stadium and on Broadway between John and Denny. The work to shape the transit oriented development that will accompany the construction of the station will also ramp up. Last summer, the City Council was banging out an agreement with Sound Transit to provide a framework of specific community guidelines for the process to open up development around the station. With those contracts coming up for bids, expect the public process to kick back into gear.

While the potential names for the station might seem rather dull and generic, there are some important long-term implications for the area from a “brand” perspective. In Capitol Hill Station, Sound Transit delivers a resource that embodies the neighborhood as a whole and is instantly recognizable as a general location throughout the city and region. Broadway Station would be a more focused decision and, in that focus, has the potential to help continue to lift up an important Seattle thoroughfare and the idea of Broadway as an independent entity in the city. Or, yeah, maybe it’s just about picking the most clear and easy to understand name for the project. Your call. 

By the year 2030, Sound Transit project that the Capitol Hill StationBroadway Station station on Broadway on Capitol Hill will serve some 14,000 daily riders.

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46 thoughts on “When light rail is complete, should it be Capitol Hill Station or Broadway Station?

  1. Well, since there are four stops on Broadway, it really doesn’t make sense to call one of them the Broadway station. It sort of depends on what they intend to call the other stations. Are they named after the streets or the neighborhood? But then, one could argue that the station at Pine/Pike is also Capitol Hill. However, when you mention “Broadway,” I think most people think of the Broadway shopping district which is the upper part of Broadway which would be appropriate for this stop.

    Looking to LA’s subway/light rail system, they name the stops after the neighborhood except for the four stops on Hollywood Boulevard. Those are designated by the cross streets: Hollywood/Vermont, Hollywood/Western, Hollywood/Vine, Hollywood/Highland.

  2. For that matter, there are also four stations on S. Jackson. Clearly the last stop is in Pioneer Square and could be designated at such, but the other three are all in the International District. How do they intend to name those? That can’t all be “Chinatown ID,”

  3. Similar in Chicago too. There are a few Western Ave stations on various lines. I think it’s best not to use street names as this can confuse out-of-towners, “well at least we’re on the right street!” Give them a zone and all in the area can benefit from this. Key to that will be very good area maps at the station exits.

  4. Okay, obviously I’ve had too much coffee this morning and I’m over-thinking the issue. BUT, when/if they extend the line to Aloha, that too is the Capitol Hill neighborhood. So that puts three stops in what we consider to be “Capitol Hill.” Why, then, give only one of them that designation?

    No more coffee for me!

  5. This is for the lightrail station, not street car stations.
    The more specific a name, the better in my book. “Broadway Station” tells you exactly where you are.

  6. motab, I think you (and some of the others commenting) misunderstood this article. It’s about the “light rail” station, not the “street car” station. The street car is not going all the way to the University of Washington. The light rail will have only one stop on Capitol Hill at Broadway & Denny/John.

  7. while I usually prefer more accurate names for stations (I think the one on Brooklyn/43rd should be named “Brooklyn/43rd” … I think the Capital Hill Station should be named just that. It identifies the area and not just one street in the area. (Had the First Hill station been built I would have recommended “First Hill Station” for that one and not Madison/Summit St. Station)

    It is the only station in the area of the city and it would also make sense for use in conjunction with the Streetcar line as others have said it has 4 stops on Broadway. on the streetcar when they announce the stop for the “Capital Hill Station” it will make more sense than the “Broadway Station”

    More people (who don’t live downtown/Capital/First Hill) will know where they are by using Capital Hill station name than Broadway station.

  8. I prefer Capitol Hill station. Broadway station is appropriate, and rolls off the tongue better, but I still prefer Capitol Hill station since it will be the only stop in the neighborhood.

  9. Naming it Capitol Hill Station, after the neighborhood, is more consistent with most of the other station names: Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Sodo, Roosevelt, Northgate, etc

  10. Broadway is one fewer syllable and easier to say but there’s problems with it. I’d think, for example, that more than one out-of-towner would assume that the “Broadway” station was downtown – just like the past several stations just previously passed through. Capitol Hill is more appropriate because it is more generic. It’s not like we’re getting a real subway line with stops every few/several blocks. If that were the case then more specific naming would fit better.

  11. Isn’t the streetcar stopping in just about the same spot? Won’t this spot be a transfer between the two lines (light rail and streetcar)? If so, the answer is obvious. The rail station should have the same name as the streetcar stop. How silly would it be to name the two different things, and simply invite confusion?

  12. Capitol Hill is a much much bigger area than just Broadway. It would be vague and downright deceptive to call the station Capitol Hill when you are just at one corner of the neighborhood.

    In the 20+ years i’ve been in Seattle there has always been this attempt to shrink Capitol Hill down to one single uniform district. But it’s not. What makes Capitol Hill great is that it is a large group of diverse neighborhoods.

    Naming it Capitol Hill tries make everyone feel included, to invoke a feeling of place that doesn’t exist.

    15th Ave E? Interlaken Park? Volunteer Park Cafe? St Josephs? Central Co-op? Pike & Melrose? They are all certainly Capitol Hill but not at all close to the new Broadway Station which should be called something else, hmmm… Oh i know: Broadway Station after the neighborhood it is in the middle of.

    Naming it Broadway tells you where you are, Naming Capitol Hill hides where you are. Period.

  13. Well, *I* would say call it Capitol Hill. While it’s true that CapHill is much more than Broadway, it’s also true that this station will be the only rail station for the entire area. And Broadway & Olive is indisputably the “ground zero” of the commercial center. It’s not like we need a level of granularity like, say, Paris, where nowhere is more than 500m from a metro stop. You want Capitol Hill on light rail? This is the one stop you get, regardless of where else you’re going.

    I don’t think the streetcar stops are named yet, except for preliminarily tagged by cross-street names. Since this will (initially at least) be the end of the line for the streetcar, and since most transit lines are known by the endpoints of the line (ie, Pioneer Square-CapHill line), calling the streetcar stop Capitol Hill would make sense and be consistent, and be intiutively obvious to most people.

  14. Isn’t this yet another case where many other cities have already solved the problem for us? You name it for a landmark or a cross street. I think “Cal Anderson Park” is a good name for a station.

  15. You are completely correct!!! It was too early in the morning and I somehow I got it into my mind that this was about the street car line and not light rail. Ignore all my ranting. (Boy is my face red!!)

  16. I don’t think “Broadway” tells you exactly where you are any more than “Capitol Hill” does. There’s going to be one station for the neighborhood called Capitol Hill. Why name it after one street running through the neighborhood?

    As others have said, I think naming a station after a neighborhood is more intuitive to most, including out of towners.

    The Google map already mistakenly calls this neighborhood Broadway…I don’t think naming the station Broadway will help anything.

  17. Do you get confused when you land at San Francisco International Airport, walk out the door and for some reason can’t even see downtown SF? True of most airports named after the city they generally serve.

    Smart people can absorb these generalities in name. Capitol Hill Station should work fine.

  18. The more regional a transit system, the broader the station/stop naming should be. The streetcar should use cross streets since there are multiple stops in one neighborhood. Light rail should use neighborhoods since, generally, there is only one stop per neighborhood.

  19. I definitely think Capitol Hill station would be better. Broadway station really isn’t specific enough a name to provide any value, and Capitol Hill station gives people from other cities/neighborhoods the most valuable information, which is that it’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I’m not really sure what’s to be gained from telling people it’s on Broadway specifically, nor that it will be any help to people who aren’t local, which is who informative names are most helpful for.

  20. Broadway & Denny Station- then riders, pedestrians, vehicles, etc. will know exactly where they are, and where to go to catch the light rail.

  21. I concur with the people who think this should be called the Capitol Hill station. This does refer to the entire Capitol Hill neighborhood not just Broadway, specifically the shopping district from Pine to Aloha which is what I think of as the Broadway neighborhood. (And I’m a Capitol Hill native!!!)

  22. I think the Brooklyn Station should be named the Brooklyn Station to distinguish it from the Husky Stadium, which will serve a part of the U District. Broadway Station or Cal Anderson Park Station would be most accurate. Few other places in Capitol Hill will be accessible via the light rail. Interestingly, I have noticed that the First Hill Streetcar is often called the Broadway Streetcar. I have for sometime felt that the the name of the Mt. Baker Station is a bit misleading, and if I was trying to let someone unfamiliar with transit here know where Mt. Baker is snf where the transit station is, the name does not help. It seems to be really more of a Rainier stop of some sort. I do not have strong feelings on this issue. Others probably care more than I do.

  23. We must eliminate this dark hole! Say no to a station. If they want anymore freaks in my neighborhood make them walk! Plus we do not want anymore smart assed student sucking of the government.

  24. My vote is for Capitol Hill Station to reflect the fact that one will be able access the whole neighborhood from the rest of the region. It will be right on Broadway, but people will use it to access the whole area.

  25. Nearly every day I hear people ask bus drivers, people at the bus stop, or myself “does this bus go to Broadway?” I can’t remember ever hearing Capitol Hill. I think for most people in the city and the region and not living in the neighborhood, Broadway is somewhat iconic and is the prime destination.

  26. I agree with Joanna – the Broadway station gives people a better idea of where they are once they get off the train. I’ve always thought the Mount Baker station should be named the Rainier Station. Just makes more sense.

  27. yes….naming the stops in regards to the closest street is common practice…I lived in Berlin for many years, aandd there the stops are regional names…after the platz closest…also in Prague the stops are location orietned names….finally the bahn is coming to the Seattle…what makes a place a city is definitely rapid transit….the existing south corridor line is great….Bravo!

  28. I’ve seen the city of San Diego (ultra conservative in so many ways)get over themselves so much that they’ve actually changed the old Blaine St. name to now “Harvey Milk St.” I’m in favor of changing Broadway’s name to Harvey Milk St. or perhaps Cal Anderson Blvd. What do you say neighbors? :-)