SeaTac, WA looks to make the most of three light rail stations with an "Implementing TOD" workshop

The Angle Lake light rail station under construction in SeaTac, WA. A recent workshop looked at the potential for new development around this and two other stations. Photo by SounderBruce via Flickr.

On October 6 and 7, Smart Growth America traveled to SeaTac, WA to help the city figure out how to make the most of three light rail stations with an Implementing Transit-Oriented Development 101 workshop.

The City of SeaTac has already adopted area plans for each of its SeaTac Airport, Tukwila International Boulevard, and soon-to-open Angle Lake light rail stations. “In 2016, with the opening of the Angle Lake Station, the City will have three light rail station areas, each with its own distinct attributes, opportunities and challenges,” said Todd Cutts, SeaTac City Manager. “The expert assistance from Smart Growth America will help guide the transformation of these areas and support the community in shaping them into active, interesting, and healthy places.”

Smart Growth America came to help the City discuss how best to stimulate transit-oriented development (TOD) in the three station areas, particularly how to balance the needs of commuters traveling by car to the stations with those of nearby residents and businesses.

“Smart Growth America is committed to providing training to help local leaders keep cities and towns livable, vibrant places,” said John Robert Smith, Smart Growth America’s Senior Policy Advisor. “This workshop provided the community with an opportunity to learn more about leveraging transit investment to realize SeaTac’s goals for the future.”

On October 6, Smith and Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics, held an open public forum for SeaTac-area residents. They presented on how communities across the country are using transit-oriented development strategies, and how SeaTac could realize similar benefits. Questions were taken from those in attendance.

The following day, Smart Growth America’s staff and a group of area stakeholders representing the City of SeaTac, the City of Renton, Sound Transit, local business leaders, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, came together for a more focused session. After a more detailed presentation on SeaTac and TOD, attendees divided into small focus groups based on the three station areas. Groups discussed the envisioned plan for each station area, what specific strategies would make that vision successful, perceived barriers to that vision, and potential action items to reach the vision.

Several commonalities were woven throughout vision statements and the necessary aspects to succeed in achieving those visions. The groups stated a desire for mixed-use, commercial development that would attract employers as well as creating welcoming public spaces for residents and travelers alike.

Attendees also identified common barriers and action items. Across station areas, accessibility issues and the current state of development codes were identified as inhibitors to station area visions. However, interest from local landowners and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were identified as major opportunities for the projects. Stakeholders proposed working with the Airport and major property owners to acquire property, improve services and pedestrian access, communally clarify a vision of the area, and encourage TOD planning on the airport and surrounding property.

At the end of the second day, attendees noted a number of big picture takeaways that may help frame SeaTac’s work going forward. First, that public perception of the station areas will determine whether travelers or residents will actually use these areas to their fullest. And second, that willingness and commitment from major landowners to be invested partners in the project was one of the most exciting opportunities of the workshop moving forward.

You can learn more about this workshop in the materials below. Progress reports from the SeaTac project will be posted here in the future.

Workshop materials:

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