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Next stop: A less confusing name for downtown Seattle's light rail station

caption: University Street Station will have a new name by January, 2020, according to Sound Transit.
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University Street Station will have a new name by January, 2020, according to Sound Transit.
KUOW Photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Your time is nigh, University Street Station.

Savor your last, somewhat confusing, days under your current, somewhat befuddling, name: Sound Transit is eyeing a successor.

The goal is to distinguish the Downtown Seattle-located University Street Station from the University of Washington Station, located at Husky Stadium, and the University District Station, which will open at Brooklyn Avenue NE and NE 45th Street in 2021.

Sound Transit is still working out the details of a name change, according to spokesperson David Jackson.

But sorry, you can't submit your own monikers.

The agency is going over their own ideas for new names first, following the agency’s official “Naming Policy” (Resolution No. R2012-02, for those of you following along at home).

Sound Transit policy mandates that names “reflect the nature of the environment” (such as neighborhoods and landmarks), be snappy, avoid similar and pre-existing names, and “avoid commercial references.”

Sound Transit will have something for you to comment on in a few weeks, by mid-September.

Expect a final decision by the agency’s board in January.

The University Street Station got its original name before it hosted trains, as part of the King County Metro bus tunnel, according to Jackson.

Some long-time locals on the station platform Wednesday morning didn’t have any personal problems with the current name.

“I don’t think it’s confusing, because although the spots have similar names, they’re all associated with super different areas,” rider Luci Campau said. “If you know anything about Seattle, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell the difference.”

She’s fine with the change, though, since the name confuses others, she said.

The need for a new name is apparent for those without a firm orientation to Seattle street names.

John Powers was visiting from Washington, D.C. and got off at University street station on his way to see the fish and flowers at Pike Place Market.

His hotel gave him a colorful paper map and directions, but he said, once he got on the train, he had second thoughts.

“I was a little confused in terms of whether I needed to go to the end of the line,” Powers said. “But then I saw that there’s the sign for University Street, and I figured this was the one I needed to get off at.”

Lynnwood resident Yujin Lee was similarly confused and didn’t realize she was miles away from the University of Washington.

I ran into her on the station platform where she had stepped off the train for a minute with a large rolling suitcase on her way to the airport.

“Wait, I don’t know exactly what’s around here. Are we close to UW?” Lee asked me. “I came from UW. But, is it a stop after UW?”

To avoid such confusion, some riders suggested a more representative name instead.

“Maybe they could have a name that’s associated with Benaroya Hall or Pike Place or one of the monuments around here,” Campau said.

“Maybe waterfront station. That might work,” rider Jason Trinkle said.

Jordan Johnson, riding Light Rail during a day on the town with her mom, brainstormed names that could evoke more curiosity than the simple location of a landmark.

“Something that entices more adventure and venturing out,” Johnson said.

Names related to Pacific Northwest nature, Puget Sound, and orcas, for example.

“Even if they do change the name, I hope it’s something nice and not something kind of boring,” she said.

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