Get fucked, Amazon. On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board of Directors did their job and picked what’s best for transit riders instead of doing favors for big business. 

Last July, the board picked a spot on 7th Avenue and Harrison Street next to Aurora as their preferred alternative for the future South Lake Union station, a stop on the Ballard Line that is expected to open in 2039. But then, citing concerns about traffic, Vulcan Real Estate and Amazon asked the board to consider shifting the station a few blocks west, closer to the Seattle Center. 

According to a memo from Sound Transit staff, the suggestion from big business would decrease ridership by about 2%, or about 3,000 people per day. The project would also need to go through environmental review, causing a delay of up to two years. Because of inflation, a month of delay means $50 million in added costs, so switching courses at this point would add up to between $500 million and more than $1 billion, as staff said in their memo. Ultimately, staff recommended the board “take no action, maintain the current preferred alternative, and not carry the potential new alternative into environmental review.” 

Transit advocates got a little nervous about this proposal because Mayor Bruce Harrell, a powerful player on the board, would side with Amazon. So Seattle Subway asked supporters of well-connected transit to send an open letter to the board. 

“You are faced with a pivotal decision today,” Seattle Subway’s letter opened. “What is more important to you: building a world class transit system that delivers on your promise to voters, or doing Amazon a favor?”

The advocates pointed out the inconsistency in switching the preferred alternative. Meeting after meeting, dozens of elders from the Chinatown-International District (CID) sat before the board and demanded the agency build the new CID station on 4th Avenue instead of on the less-connected North and South placement. Instead, the board chose the North and South placement as its preferred alternative, arguing that the 4th Avenue version would cost more. But now, Amazon and Vulcan waltz in and suddenly money’s not an issue? 

But, to the somewhat confused delight of transit riders, Harrell gave Amazon and Vulcan the same cold shoulder he gives to the CID elders when they want expensive things. In the meeting, Harrell ultimately sided with the staff at Sound Transit. He said that while the corporate plan was feasible, he would not motion to carry it to an environmental review because he could not ignore the price associated with delays. 

No one on the board fought him. He’s the freaking Mayor of Seattle. 

While urbanists can put a tick on their side of the scoreboard, transit riders will continue to advocate for the 4th Ave regional hub in the CID instead of the North/South placement that anti-displacement advocates lobbied for and the board ultimately favored. Brien Chew from Transit Equity for All told The Stranger that there’s hope yet for the better-connected station because it is still going through environmental review. 

"Sound Transit must prioritize transit riders in all of their decisions," A Seattle Subway spokesperson said in a statement to The Stranger, "They did that today by preserving connections between Link and Rapid Ride. We hope that they prioritize transit riders again by building a consolidated transit hub in the CID —- the approach a responsible transit agency would take to serve transit riders and connect our region."