On Thursday, February 23, the Sound Transit Board formally adopted a policy for naming stations and other Sound Transit facilities. Before this, the naming process followed a design manual, but there was no Board policy. This has become a problem as Sound Transit builds stations where there might be some controversy about the name, and as Sound Transit enters a new phase in its construction program, where there are multiple lines under construction. In the not too distant future, there will be trains traveling on different lines to different destinations. Right now, there is only Central Link Light Rail. In the future, there will be a north-south line and an east-west line.
Under the new policy, there will be five criteria for deciding station/facility names:
- Reflect the nature of the environment: neighborhoods, street names, landmarks, plus geographical locations
- Be brief and easy to read and remember
- Comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and requirements and be limited to 30 characters
- Avoid commercial references because they may change, prove confusing to the public and be costly to change
- Avoid similar names or words in existing facility names.
For naming lines, Sound Transit will use the common transit system method of identifying lines by color, with a direction for the train based on the last stop on the line. For example, the north-south line could be the Blue Line, with northbound trains identified as ‘Blue Line to Northgate’ and southbound ‘Blue Line to Kent-Des Moines’ (if those are the station names), with the end point changed as the line is extended further.
Station names in South East Seattle originally were based on the names of the cross streets. Neighborhood plans in both Columbia City (‘Edmunds Street Station’) and Rainier Beach (‘Henderson Street Station”) made strong representations that these names were relatively obscure and confusing in identifying the destinations served. They also argued that they would be a disservice to the commercial districts and future housing developments in these neighborhoods by failing to highlight them. The City Council agreed, and, as Chair of the Neighborhoods Committee, I led the successful effort to persuade the Sound Transit Board to adopt the current Columbia City and Rainier Beach station names.
As the line continues north in Seattle, most of the station names will be easy to agree on – Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, and Northgate are all widely accepted community names, and there is a lot of logic in naming the Husky Stadium station for the University of Washington.
The naming policy will become interesting when the Board considers the station at Brooklyn and 45th. Right now, this has the provisional name of the ‘Brooklyn Station’, but communities around the station are already lining up behind ‘University District Station’. While there is some question of overlap with the ‘University of Washington Station’, I think we can probably overcome that. The real problem is with the ‘University Street Station’ in downtown Seattle. I think there is already a confusion problem with that and a ‘University of Washington Station’, but having three stations with ‘University’ in their names makes no sense. Since the ‘University Street’ station has no relationship to an actual University, I think that’s the name that has to be changed. This will require concurrence from King County and Metro. I will urge Sound Transit to begin that process in the near future so that the way can be cleared for a rational discussion of how to name the stations that are around the actual University.