interior of train station with overhead zigzag lighting that acts as a wayfinding aid

A Light Rail Station Brings Greater Accessibility to Seattle Commuters

The latest to Seattle Sound Transit’s Link light rail system incorporates improved wayfinding, new bike lanes and storage, pedestrian-friendly entrances, and widened sidewalks.

Located 85 feet below street level, the latest station in Seattle Sound Transit’s Link light rail system—the country’s first major carbon-free rail network—is poised to unlock a new measure of accessibility for the city’s ballooning population. Designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects in collaboration with McMillen Jacobs Associates, the U District station, west of the University of Washington’s campus, is the first of three stops on Link light rail’s recently launched 4.3-mile extension.

The 105,000-square-foot station knits a pair of pedestrian-friendly entrances into the rapidly growing neighborhood. Landscaping, seat walls, and widened sidewalks welcome on-foot commuters, while bicycle storage in entrance lobbies connects to newly improved district bike lanes. 

To reduce visual clutter inside, the designers created ceilings of soft white corrugated and perforated metal, canted walls concealing back-of-house functions, and zigzagging overhead aluminum armatures containing lighting, speakers, and other systems. Tracing a path to the platforms, the conduits double as wayfinding, with powder blue leading south and red-orange directing passengers north.

exterior of train station with generous overhang
interior of train station, wayfinding lights descend along an escalator

“It was important that this station belong to the whole community, not just the university,” says Mark Reddington, LMN design partner, “so we had to invent two new colors nobody had seen before.” The scheme is becoming a sort of neighborhood regalia, with businesses adopting the blue and orange for street furniture, for instance. 

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The grand open volume is intersected by an intermediary landing that hovers above the platforms, connecting via an open stairway and a pair of color-coded escalators. Video artworks by Seattle-based Lead Pencil Studio face the platforms, helping dignify and humanize the below-ground space. According to Sound Transit, the new line is expected to host 49,000-plus riders per day later this year, and a future high-rise transit-oriented development is planned for construction atop the station.

“It’s a noble thing to contribute to making this a first-class experience for everyone,” says Reddington.

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