Last week, U District, Let’s Go with partners Transportation Choices Coalition, Seattle Department of Transportation, and the U District Partnership held a Transit Talk at the University Book Store. The event drew an audience of U District small businesses, community organizations, public agencies, and neighbors that all wanted to know one thing: how Link light rail would impact their neighborhood.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for the community to come together to learn from other leaders that have experienced transportation related changes to their neighborhoods,” said Miriam Castro Program Manager with U District, Let’s Go. “In my conversations with small businesses and community organizations, I’ve heard an array of emotions about the changes to come and a lot of questions about how the neighborhood might change.” U District, Let’s Go coordinated a panel of leaders and experts that could talk about their experiences of how Link light rail impacted their businesses and community districts. To that end, panelists were asked to share their top three lessons learned, ideas, or resources with the audience. “I wanted the attendees to walk away with actionable resources that they could act upon between now and opening day in 2021,” says Castro.
Click here to watch the Seattle Channel’s recording of the Transit Talk.
Here are a few highlights and resources learned at the Transit Talk:
Panelist rachel marshall, co-founder of rachel’s ginger beer and co-owner of two small businesses near the Capitol Hill Link light rail station, shared her insights. “We experienced a 70% increase in revenue when the light rail opened in Capitol Hill. That extended to all of my businesses on the hill and has been sustained. It was astounding what light rail brought to our front door.”
Councilmember Rob Johnson, the panel’s urban planner and former executive director at Transportation Choices Coalition said “once the UW and Capitol Hill light rail stations opened, 70,000 people started riding light rail every day. We are bucking the national ridership trend. And that’s only going to continue to grow as we expand our system.”
“Rob Johnson’s perspective on looking at how business owners can help employees contribute to our community’s transit needs was a good takeaway. Hearing how Chinatown was relentless in talking with the transit agencies to bringing about change was inspiring.” Said Lois Ko, owner of Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery. Ko’s business is located on University Avenue steps away from the new light rail station. “rachel’s reassurance for transit not taking away customers to other hip spots, but pointing out that we are the hip spot, was good to hear! Her hardship and success story gives hope to us small businesses.”
Dorene Cornwell provided her takeaways from the event from the perspective of an active Community member. “I think the opening of the Brooklyn Ave station is going to bring LOTS of changes. Having 100 pedestrians per minute exit the light rail station at peak periods is a big deal by itself and just having the right continuous sidewalk, greenway, bus network to keep all that traffic moving is going to take careful planning,” she said. “I was impressed by the people at the Transit Talk speaking about how embracing transit has been good for business in Tacoma, in the International District, and on Capitol Hill near that Link station. Also important was the message that the businesses sometimes have to push back against the transit agencies.” Councilmember Johnson asked the public transportation agencies in the room to raise their hands and encouraged everyone to engage in meaningful dialogue with them.
“Tacoma is working on very similar challenges as the U District, we’re working closely with businesses to free up parking for visitors. Over the years we’ve found that the place that is best served by transit is the most economically thriving part of our city and the most alive part of city,” said Kristina Walker with Downtown: On the Go! Tacoma’s transportation management association. She shared how her business district works in partnership with the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, and Pierce Transit. “Our country spends $124 billion on congestion. Congestion is bad for the economy and transit is part of the solution,” “Ask your customers how they get to your store—how can you make it easier for them to get there?” A recent SDOT neighborhood district intercept survey found that walking and talking the bus are the most popular forms of transportation to the U District. “Build on that,” she said.
Click here to watch the recording and hear from the full panel.
Below is a list of speakers and how you can connect with them:
- Rob Johnson, Seattle City Councilmember for District 4
- Kristina Walker, Executive Director at Downtown Tacoma on the Go!
- Jamie Lee, Director of Community Initiatives at Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation & Development Authority
- Nick Abel, Transportation Specialist at Commute Seattle
- Michael Wells, Small Business Advocate at City of Seattle Office of Economic Development
- rachel marshall, co-founder of rachel’s ginger beer and co-owner of Nacho Borracho and Montana
Also in attendance were representatives from Sound Transit, King County Metro Transit and U District Mobility.
Other resources include:
“A huge thanks to our partners, panelists and tabling organizations, to the University Book Store, which has proven to be a great partner for my program, and to the Seattle Channel for recording,” said Castro. “Also a thanks to Chase Landrey, Community Engagement Coordinator at U District Partnership, for moderating the event. This was a big ask of him, with the University Street Fair the weekend before this event, he was burning the candle at both ends!” You can find Chase just about anywhere in the U District and he is always up for a good chat. He holds open hours at local coffee shops too. Here is his Coffee with Chase schedule.
“This isn’t our last Transit Talk,” said Castro. “The conversation is just beginning.” Michael Wells, the Small Business Advocate with the City of Seattle and former small business owner (Bailey/Coy Books) said creativity is key when times get tough. marshall and Wells suggested that the U District looks at what other people are doing to activate their space. “Check out what Pike Place Market is doing and U Village, check out their Rainy Day promotion and ‘Hilloween’ on Capitol Hill.”
“Michael and rachel’s suggestions will prompt our next transit talk theme to include representatives from the Roosevelt and Northgate neighborhoods. Our three neighborhoods are about to get closer, we should start talking now,” said Castro. Another Transit Talk is planned for the fall. To stay up to date on U District, Let’s Go programming, sign up for the newsletter or add us on Facebook or Twitter.
U District, Let’s Go is a collaboration with Transportation Choices Coalition, Seattle Department of Transportation, and U District Partnership, supported by a WSDOT project using Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) funds.