When down in Seattle a few weekends ago, I had a chance to visit the newly opened stations on the Link light-rail line: Capitol Hill and University of Washington:

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Link map

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This extension has transformed accessibility in north-central Seattle.  Before, the I-5 freeway was a mental as well as physical barrier, separating the nearby neighbourhood of Capitol Hill from the downtown and the rapidly emerging job centre of South Lake Union.  U-Dub was a car trip away, one typically bogged down in the congestion just north of the ship-canal bridge.  Now both are mere minutes away.

The stations are something to behold – both the garish ones built for the original bus tunnel that opened in 1990 and the two more restrained ones for Central Link which opened in March this year.

The station at the university is situated some distance from ‘Red Square,’ the heart of the campus, but next to Husky Stadium and near the hospital complex.

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Not surprisingly given Seattle’s ridge-and-valley topography, the stations are deep (though the elevators are fast) – but they haven’t been stingy in the size of the platforms and public spaces (particularly when compared to the stingy stations of the Canada Line).

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They’ve also continued the commitment to public art and the expressive use of colour:

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The Capitol Hill station is much better located, situated on Broadway, the high street of the neighbourhood, and next to Cal Anderson Park.

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However, too much grey:

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Perhaps intended to provide the backdrop to the dramatic public-art piece, Jet Kiss

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The Link extension has been an immediate success, attracting thousands more riders (anyone have data?).  But it still doesn’t feel like a city-wide, much less region-wide, system.  (One of the great losses of Seattle was the public’s failure to fund region-wide rapid-transit, notably back in 1968 and ’70.)  Plans now call for a multi-billion-dollar expansion to be put to a vote in the next year that would extend light-tail to the other side of Lake Washington (hello, Microsoft) and anchors to the north and south by 2023.

Vancouver will be watching.