Economic Competitiveness

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Efficiency, reliability & cost competitiveness

Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure investments are highly efficient when considering both land and construction costs, moving more people in a more compact right of way. By providing the equivalent of 1.7 miles of new sidewalks and 1.7 miles of protected bike lanes, the BGC will fully accommodate the peak-period increases in utilization (242% bicycle and 58% walking) anticipated by 2030 without sacrificing a single automobile travel lane, a single bus stop, or any future building sites for UW or private sector facilities.

Bicycle and pedestrian investments also deliver long-term efficiency with comparatively low and highly stable operation and maintenance costs. Bicycling and walking are energy efficient modes and the BGC connects travelers in these modes to an electrified trolley bus and light rail transit system fueled by carbon-free hydroelectric power.

The BGC will provide a highly reliable and high volume bicycle and pedestrian connection to regional education and employment centers, both directly and as a first/last mile connection to light rail and the regional bus system, unimpeded by traffic delays. Building the BGC provides time savings with a discounted present value of over $5 million (7% discount rate) in shorter travel times for bicyclists, car drivers, and transit riders over the next 20 years (nearly $9 million at a 3% discount rate).

The BGC will keep money in users’ pockets. In 2012, American households making less than $30,000 per year spent an average of 14.6% of their total expenditures, an average of $3,554.60, on costs related to the need to drive a car. Providing the public with access to safe, reliable and efficient non-motorized transportation modes and effective transit connections is the most effective way to guarantee long-term cost competitiveness.

Trail-adjacent projects

  • - SR 520 - $4.65 billion
  • - Sound Transit University Link - $1.9 billion
  • - Sound Transit North Link - $2.1 billion
  • - Montlake Triangle - $43 million
  • - Husky Stadium - $261 million
  • - University Housing - $851 million

Economic productivity of land

The BGC provides key benefits to the economic productivity of land in the UCUC, which is a hub of economic vitality, innovation and educational opportunity. The Puget Sound region and the federal government are making significant investments in infrastructure to support the area’s current success and in anticipation of future growth. The BGC connects the UW Center for Commercialization and the Startup Hall incubator to the regional transit network. In addition, it supports the UW’s transportation demand management program which has generated $1.6 billion in present value economic activity through $72 million savings in land acquisition costs that were reinvested in academic and research programming with a $22.56 to $1 economic impact.

Economic productivity of capital

The BGC is bypass surgery for a clogged artery in the beating heart of one of Washington’s greatest economic engines. This timely procedure is an investment in the vitality of the UW, which generates an annual economic impact of $9.1 billion for the state and region. For every $1 allocated to the UW, $1.48 in tax revenue and $22.56 in state economic impact are generated. Handling over $1 billion in annual research funding, the UW conducts more federal research than any other American public university.

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Skanska chose a location on the Burke-Gilman Trail for our first commercial development in Seattle – an innovative, mixed-use building that is part of the City of Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program. The tenants of our new building want to be here, in large part, because of the Burke-Gilman Trail. These businesses, including Brooks Sports, are agreeing to operate and do business differently in order to be in this unique, energy-efficient building, and integrating with the Burke-Gilman Trail is integral to that change.”

— Lisa Picard, Executive Vice President, Skanska USA Commercial Development, Inc.

Economic productivity of labor

The University Community Urban Center (UCUC) is a major employment hub. The UW is the largest employer in Seattle and third-largest in Washington. It supports nearly 70,000 jobs statewide (including 27,000 in the UCUC) in every sector of the economy. The UW is also proud to have more than 16,000 of its employees represented by nine labor unions.

Bulldog News and Cafe
Bulldog Newsstand and Café was founded in 1983 and is a cornerstone of the University District’s small business population. Along with its two owners, the business employs a small, diverse staff of people who help stock and sell printed literature along with a bustling café that has a walk-up, open air window to University Avenue.

The BGC provides a critical Ladder of Opportunity and literal pathway to the middle class in the form of access to stable, well-paying jobs and educational opportunities. In addition to world-class faculty and research staff, UW’s more than 27,000 employees include 2,700 nurses, 700 custodians, 400 building trades workers, and numerous other family-wage job classes. UW also has a diverse workforce with a third of UW employees being nonwhite, compared to 16% of the state population. Furthermore, the Tuition Exemption Program means that every job at UW comes with a free college education.

Philip Muschett
Philip Muschett, husband and father of five, accesses his family-wage UW staff position via a multimodal commute that will be hastened and simplified by the BGC and University Link light rail. Starting far south in economically distressed Tukwila, WA, Philip rides two miles to a bus stop, takes transit ten miles to downtown Seattle, and rides four more miles to the University. Starting in 2016, Philip will have the option of taking light rail almost all the way from Tukwila to work; TIGER funding for the BGC will make the last mile connection between light rail and his work possible.

The BGC, both on its own and as a critical connection to the new University of Washington Link light rail station, provides a reliable and affordable means of commuting for the over 34,000 people who work in the UCUC, enabling workers to bypass traffic delays and get to work efficiently and on time. Within just one mile of the project area, seven census tracts meet the Public Works and Economic Development Act definition of economic distress; the BGC runs directly through three of them. As a critical connection for users of the new Link light rail station, the BGC provides access to employment and education for residents of the 52 economically distressed census tracts within two miles of the Link Light Rail corridor. Over 3,000 UW employees and 4,000 UW students currently commute from these economically distressed areas.

New investments in these transportation options will provide workforce and student populations with efficient access to employment. Currently, only 77% of UCUC households have access to a private automobile (compared to 84% citywide), making area residents highly dependent on walking, biking and transit.

In the UCUC, as many as 78% of resident trips and over half of non-resident trips to neighborhood business districts utilize walking, biking and transit. Investments that support these modes benefit the vitality of small businesses.

Long-term job creation & other economic opportunities

The UCUC is an employment hub in the Puget Sound region and will continue to grow if adequate transportation investments are made.

UW has had extraordinary results promoting new business growth through the success of its research initiatives. UW’s Center for Commercialization (C4C) is one of the top five university technology transfer offices in the nation. It manages a total patent portfolio of over 2,200 issued and pending patents, with over 265 companies started by UW students and faculty using UW-developed technology. As a result, the economic impact of spin-off businesses and commercialization of research in existing companies will reach between $3.66 billion and $6.6 billion by 2020.

In Fiscal Year 2013 the UW launched 17 new start-up companies using UW-developed research technologies, making it the UW’s single most productive year for start-up formation. The start-ups span a broad range of businesses—from medical devices and therapeutics to clean technology and software. In February 2012, the C4C New Ventures Facility opened adjacent to the BGC project area on the east side of campus. The Facility is a business incubator that provides UW start-ups access to critical lab and office space, priming some of the most promising UW early-state start-ups to attract outside investment and success.

The UW is also partnering with the local entrepreneurial community to facilitate space for start-ups in the UCUC. In 2014, UW’s Condon Hall, located just off the Burke-Gilman trail on the west side of campus, became Startup Hall, a home base for early-stage companies. This public-private partnership was the brainchild of UW and entrepreneurial community leaders, the first step in a multi-year effort to transform the UCUC into a thriving entrepreneurial hub. Startup Hall will house up to 20 small, early-stage tech companies.

Chris DeVore
Seattle, ranked 4th among startup hubs worldwide by the Startup Genome, is without a doubt swimming in innovation. The relocation of TechStars and Founders Co-op to the renamed Startup-up Hall is bringing about quiet and strategic change. With doors set to open in July 2014, Start-up Hall will be a magnet for innovation in Seattle. Chris Devore, pictured here, Director of Seattle TechStars and investor/ advisor/ board member at 20+ Seattle and Bay Area startups, is one of the leaders facilitating the transformation.

The area surrounding the UW is home to hundreds of small and independent businesses and has been identified by the City of Seattle as the next neighborhood where a new hub of innovation, technology and job creation can emerge with an eye towards socioeconomic mobility. The City has worked with community and business stakeholders to develop the University District Partnership, which has been forged with unprecedented levels of community engagement and collaboration between the City, UW, Sound Transit, business owners, and residents of the UCUC. There is broad neighborhood consensus to brand and grow the UCUC as more attractive to entrepreneurs and major employers who are engaged in innovation enterprises that leverage the UW’s presence and stimulate the neighborhood and regional economic base. Employment in the business district adjacent to the UW campus grew 10% from 2011 to 2012, and the City of Seattle expects jobs in the district to nearly double by 2035. A new Urban Design Framework and new zoning are planned to support a thriving commercial district, encourage new jobs and businesses, create public space, integrate transportation, and sustain the environment.

Small / disadvantaged / veteran owned

There are hundreds of small and independently-owned businesses located in the UCUC. From new technology startup companies to hundreds of retail and restaurant businesses, many immigrants and businesses of color serve students, workers, and residents of the area. The State of Washington has certified 329 businesses in Seattle as Women’s Business Enterprises, 97 as Minority Women’s Business Enterprises and 222 as Minority Business Enterprises. There are over 5,000 veteran-owned businesses in Seattle, patronized by thousands of UW students, employees, and visitors. The BGC expands the customer base for these businesses, by providing access to the area through a safe and convenient connection to light rail, local bus routes and other neighborhoods.

Near-term job creation

In addition to supporting current and future jobs at the UW and in the UCUC, the BGC creates 463 job years, including 293 direct/indirect job-years and 170 induced job-years, based on economic analysis using IMPLAN. Job creation from the Project begins immediately, with 102 job-years generated in 2014 and 361 job-years generated in 2015.

A ladder of opportunity

The UCUC is a center of employment, education and services. The BGC, is a critical multimodal connector that allows individuals of all ages and income levels to access to and benefit from crucial educational workforce and job training opportunities.

    President Obama has called for new rating standards that evaluate institutions of higher education on accessibility, affordability, and student success.

    According to the Center on Higher Education Reform, UW is one of just 19 campuses nationwide that is accomplished on all three fronts:

  • 25% or more of students receiving the Pell grant,
  • net price less than $10,000, and
  • a six-year graduation rate of 50% or more.

These factors and the UW’s 81% graduation rate earned it the rank of second among the nineteen universities.


Guaranteeing affordable access to higher education by reducing transportation costs is a critical element in the pathway to the middle class. Workers with a Bachelor’s degree earn twice as much as non-college graduates and 45% more than those with an Associate’s degree. The UW serves over 43,000 students at the Seattle campus and is the flagship research university in the Northwest. In 2013-2014, over 8,100 UW students, nearly thirty percent of all undergraduate students, were eligible for Pell grants and nearly 5,000 UW undergraduates were the first in their family to attend college.

Students at the UW come from all over Washington state and the country. In 2013-2014, over 4,000 in-state students were from economically distressed areas, many from South Seattle neighborhoods for which the BGC will complete a direct light rail connection. An increase in the number and proportion of under‐represented minority students enrolled at UW Seattle has grown over the past several years, comprising of 13.4 percent of the 2013 freshman class, compared to 10.4 percent in 2006.

Job training and professional development

Working adults in the Seattle area seeking a career change or career advancement can choose from more than 130 certificate programs from UW Professional and Continuing Education (PCE). In 2012, over 4,200 students enrolled in professional certificate programs in more than 75 fields of study, such as Construction Management, Engineering Leadership, Health Informatics, Nonprofit Management, Scientific Computing, and Web Technology Solutions. High graduation rates (approximately 92%) for certificate programs reflect high standards in teaching, course delivery and service in these custom-built programs that address targeted needs specific to the local job market. In addition to certificate programs, PCE offers stand-alone courses for career advancement; over 14,000 working adults enrolled in courses ranging from Construction Safety to Project Management in 2012.

Services in the UCUC

There are an array of community, health, religious and social services in the UCUC, serving a variety of populations with a special emphasis on youth services. The thirty-year-old University District Food Bank serves 1,100 needy families each week.

Services for at-risk youth provide higher education advocacy and opportunity to young people struggling to overcome poverty and adversity, including academic advising, tutoring, scholarships, and career counseling; shelter and feed homeless youth and provide, employment, substance abuse counseling, and education.

Medical services in the UCUC include care at the UW Medical Center and the UW School of Dentistry, providing together over half a million patient visits per year. The UW’s many schools and colleges provide low or no cost services to disadvantaged populations. Leading examples include the UW Law Clinic which provides mediation, tax, and entrepreneurial law services to disadvantaged populations at no charge and the UW Medical Center which provides $40 million care to Medicare patients, $118 million to Medicaid patients and $40 million in uncompensated care.

UW economic impact

  • $9.1 billion total state economic impact
  • $618.1 million in revenue to state and local governments
  • $1.50 in tax revenue generated for every $1 allocated to the UW
  • $22.60 in the state economic impact for every $1 invested in the UW
  • Nearly 70,000 UW-supported jobs
  • Over 14,000 students graduate annually from the UW
  • UW receives more federal research funding than any other American public university