In a few weeks, Sound Transit is set to inaugurate revenue service on Northgate Link, the first expansion of the region’s high capacity transit system in five years. On the morning of October 2nd, three new stations will officially join Line 1, known once upon a time as Central Link, creating a safe and reliable means of getting quickly between the University District and Northgate, as well as points south, from Capitol Hill and downtown to SoDo and the Rainier Valley.
The new stations are poised to once again revolutionize travel in Seattle, just like the University Link project did five years ago when its completion contributed two new stations to Line 1. Those new underground stations resulted in a massive ridership boom, bolstering mobility within Seattle and giving people outside of Seattle new options for getting in and out of the city without sitting in traffic.
As local readers know, the stretch of I‑5 between Northgate and downtown is one of the most notoriously gridlocked segments of highway in all of Washington State. There are arterial streets that parallel I‑5, along with Aurora Avenue North (Highway 99), but they can be congested too, making travel between Northgate and downtown needlessly cumbersome and stressful.
Link will change that. In a matter of days, one new aboveground multimodal hub and two underground subway-style stations will throw open their doors to riders, and it will be possible to completely bypass traffic on I‑5 and adjacent arterial streets for seamless trips between Northgate and downtown… or even shorter trips, like from the U District to the southeast end of the UW’s campus.
The increased reach of our rail spine will also allow bus routes and schedules to be reconfigured to provide more and better service in north King County and south Snohomish County, something that transit planners have chosen to do in conjunction with the new station openings rather than wait.
For those neighborhoods about to gain new stations, Northgate Link is a tangible and direct mobility win. For other neighborhoods, whether in Seattle or beyond the city limits, Northgate Link’s arrival reminds us that a more sustainable future is possible and within our reach — but only if we recommit ourselves to getting Sound Transit 3 built and adding to that with a Phase IV expansion plan.
Back in July, when we surveyed Seattle voters in advance of the August 2021 Top Two election, we asked about this very subject. In partnership with Seattle Subway, we inquired whether voters would back a new city-level transit funding measure to speed up construction of light rail projects within the city limits.
We posed the question in two different forms.
One version was accompanied by a map and referred specifically to the possibility of project delays sanctioned by Sound Transit’s realignment process.
Today, we’re pleased to share the other version of our question, which found similarly high levels of enthusiasm for expanding Link light rail in Seattle.
This version, rather than bringing up realignment, simply notes that many neighborhoods in Seattle aren’t yet connected to the system and still won’t be even after Phase 3 has been delivered. The question then asks whether respondents would back a funding measure to change that:
QUESTION: When all Sound Transit 3 projects are fully built, more than half of Seattle’s densely populated neighborhoods will still not have their own light rail stations. Would you support or oppose a new transit funding measure to connect the rest of the City of Seattle with Link light rail?
- Support: 76%
- Strongly support a new transit funding measure: 48%
- Somewhat support a new transit funding measure: 28%
- Oppose: 19%
- Somewhat oppose a new transit funding measure: 6%
- Strongly oppose a new transit funding measure: 13%
- Not sure: 5%
Our poll of 617 likely August 2021 Seattle voters was in the field through Monday, July 12th, through Thursday, July 15th. All respondents participated online. The poll was conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a modeled margin of error of 4.3% at the 95% confidence interval.
As we can see, Seattle voters overwhelmingly favor a new transit funding measure to connect more of Seattle’s neighborhoods to Link light rail. Nearly half are in strong support, more than twice the total number who say they’re opposed.
Unlike in the 1990s, when our region was debating whether we should even build light rail at all, we no longer have to rely on pictures from other cities, architectural renderings, or hypothetical travel times to make the case for high capacity transit. The system we’ve already built makes the case for itself.
While voters are sold on light rail as a good investment, there is still the practical matter of delivering it to the neighborhoods that need it.
That’s why we asked about support for a new transit funding measure in two different ways. Given that we’re in the midst of a climate emergency, we just can’t wait until the 2050s or 2100s to get Link into more neighborhoods.
We’ve got to figure out how to accelerate our high capacity transit buildout so that we can be the climate action and sustainability leader we aspire to be.
No one appreciates the need for action more than our friends at Seattle Subway.
If you’re interested in their efforts to create a city and region fully connected by fast, reliable high capacity transit, consider bookmarking their website, following them on social platforms, or supporting their work with a contribution.
A reminder: Stay tuned for more Seattle polling!
NPI and Change Research will be joining forces again this autumn to survey Seattle voters in advance of the November 2020 general election. We look forward to bringing you more credible insights about what’s happening in the Emerald City before voters make their final decisions this autumn.