April 9, 2012

Landscape architecture students devise ideas for Rapid Ride in Ballard

City planners and Ballard residents say ideas from a group of UW landscape architecture students have expanded their thinking for Rapid Ride, the new Metro bus service coming to Ballard in September.

At a presentation in Gould Hall, students Alanagh Gannon (left) and Emily Griffith explain their design proposals for the area around the Market and Northeast 15th Street Rapid Ride station.

Julie Johnson

At a presentation in Gould Hall, students Alanagh Gannon (left) and Emily Griffith explain their design proposals for the area around the Market and Northeast 15th Street Rapid Ride station.

Associate Professor Julie M. Johnson and the 17 students in her Neighborhood Design Studio presented ideas for transit stops, greenway corridors and adjacent land uses in mid-March, having spent much of winter quarter analyzing 15th Avenue Northwest, where the Rapid Ride D Line will run, and the area around it.

Rapid Ride buses will arrive every 10 minutes during peak hours, with stations placed so buses move more, stop less. The vehicles will have low floors and three doors apiece so riders can quickly get on and off.

At a Ballard District Council meeting in mid-March, student Paul Stark listens to an attendee. He is standing in front of designs he and another student, April Prey, developed for the Northeast 75th Street Rapid Ride stop area.

Julie Johnson

At a Ballard District Council meeting in mid-March, student Paul Stark listens to an attendee. He is standing in front of designs he and another student, April Prey, developed for the Northeast 75th Street Rapid Ride stop area.

For the northernmost stop, near Carkeek Park, Johnsons students suggested better pedestrian walkways, bikeways and open space related to the stop. Farther south, at Northwest 85th Street, they proposed a hub of dining spots and connected green space made more accessible for pedestrians. At Northwest 75th Street, they suggested more public art and improvements in storm water management. At Northwest 65th near Ballard High School, the students proposed ways to better connect the neighborhood, including bike paths that lead to a Rapid Ride station and an innovative bicycle parking center. Additionally, the students studied how a possible streetcar line might connect Ballard and downtown Seattle.

To acknowledge Ballards history as a fishing village founded by Swedish immigrants, the students proposed such things as using ribs of a boat as an arch over the Market Street entrance to the commercial district.

Alanagh Gannon, a student in the class, said it challenging to work in large scales that incorporate vehicular and pedestrian routes as well as smaller ones that engage the community. “We had to work between the two scales to ensure that the design was cohesive,” Gannon said.

Another student, April Prey, said the scale of the project encouraged her to think in complex ways and provided a taste of urban planning but reinforced her interest in working on more intimate projects, particularly with special-needs people such as the elderly or handicapped.

Paul Roybal, in charge of D Line implementation for King County Metro Transit, said some of the students ideas “are definitely worth further consideration.” Depending on funding and cooperation from property owners adjacent to the bus stops, there could be art inserted into sidewalk paving, and student ideas about landscaping implemented. Roybal also likes student suggestions that crosswalks be paved with different textures or painted different colors to help both drivers and pedestrians pay attention.

“I thought that students did a good job of identifying differences among the station areas, and planned accordingly,” said Steve Cohn, a member of the Ballard District Council.