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Naming Light Rail Stations Not As Simple As It Seems

Amy Radil

And the winners are: "Capitol Hill," "University of Washington" and "U District." Those are the proposed names for the new light rail stations currently under construction in Seattle. They were chosen after lots of hearings and public input. But Sound Transit says Seattle could still end up with a "university" surplus.


According to Sound Transit, the existing stops on the Link light rail line were given names along the way, without much of a formal process. Earlier this year the agency adopted guidelines that future station names be brief, easy to remember, reflective of the neighborhood, and — one more thing — that they avoid words used in existing station names.

But the word that keeps coming up a lot is "university." That's what makes this hard.

Sound Transit is proposing to name one station "University of Washington" and another one "U District." Spokesman Bruce Gray says they abbreviated it to avoid using that word yet again.

Gray: "But even with that we still have the University of Washington station near Husky Stadium. And then to further complicate things you've got the University Street station that's part of the downtown Seattle transit tunnel."

Sound Transit solicited public opinion on the station names. Nine public meetings, 6,500 emails and 700 surveys later, they've got their slate of names. The board is scheduled to formally adopt them later this month.

A majority of people surveyed favored the name "U District" over that station's temporary name, "Brooklyn." And a lot of people suggested changing the name of the University Street station downtown to something else, like Benaroya or Symphony Station. But Gray says that's not up to Sound Transit.

Gray: "The problem we run into there is that facility is owned by King County Metro. And King County Metro would need to be the ones to take the steps to rename that if they wanted to. That's something that I know our board members who are on the King County Council are interested in."

Those board members include Pete von Reichbauer. He jokingly suggested naming one of the stations after former UW quarterback Jake Locker to resolve the confusion.

The University Street name reflects the early roots of the University of Washington. The campus was first established downtown, then moved north to its current location in 1895.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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