Same trains, new names.
Same trains, new names. Courtesy of Sound Transit

It has come to my attention that Sound Transit is asking the public to help rename University Street Station. Why? Because we now have University of Washington Station, and we will soon have U District Station. That's too many U-type stations. Now that Sound Transit controls the downtown stations, they can and should change the name of the least descriptive U-type station in order to prevent any confusion.

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If I had my way, obviously I'd rename the stop The Stranger Station: Seattle's Only Station. But the regional transit authority has given us a list of names to choose from, and we must pick from that list. Here it is:

Two location-based options:

Seneca Street
Midtown

Three culturally-based options:

Arts District
Downtown Arts District
Symphony

One landmark-based option:

Benaroya Hall

By process of elimination, the answer is Symphony.

Since we've named most other stops after neighborhoods, "Midtown" would at first seem like the best choice. But I don't call that part of downtown "Midtown" because nobody else calls that part of downtown "Midtown," and I'm not going to start. We don't live in New York, and we can't pretend our way into living in New York by naming a light rail station after a well-known Manhattan neighborhood. If we insist on pretending as if we live in New York, then we should at least demand rent control.

University Street Station was previously named for a street, so going with Seneca Street is attractive for those who like continuity. But the station dumps you out onto other streets, too, and none of the surrounding stations are named for streets, so it's not really helpful as a locator. I can never remember that acronym about Jesus creating Seattle's downtown streets without calling Knute Berger or my aunt, so it's hard to place myself in a specific area when I think of Seneca. (I've never called Knute Berger in my life.) And emotionally, I don't really associate Seneca with downtown. I associate it with Town Hall. Long story short, we're not doing Seneca.

"Arts District" is confusing. The largest (longest?) art walk and most of the galleries are in Pioneer Square. The specificity of "Downtown Arts District" anticipates this critique, and I can see the nearby large art institutions (Benaroya Hall, Seattle Arts Museum, The Fifth Ave Theatre) as constituting an "arts district," but, still, the phrase "Downtown Arts District" feels too long and clunky. I imagine we'd inevitably shorten it to the "DAD" stop, which would be kinda fun.

I kinda like Benaroya Hall! One of the station's exits leads riders to an elevator that dumps them off inside Benaroya Hall. The name "Benaroya" is sonorous, and it sounds even better when you know that the people who financed the construction of the place were named Jack and Becky Benaroya.

But "Symphony" is quicker, and the sibilant "Symphony Station" sounds better than Benaroya Hall. Stranger staffer Jasmyne Keimig says "Symphony" would be a good counterweight to "Stadium," both sonically and semantically, and I agree that a counterpoint to the divisiveness of stadiums is exactly what we need in these divisive times. ("The arts, people!!!!! Wake up!!!!" Jasmyne adds.) Plus, sometimes the Seattle Symphony pipes music outside of its doors, which you can kinda hear en route to the train. The name also evokes the clang and bang of the human symphony that greets riders no matter what exit they use to get them where they need to go.

So we're going with Symphony. That's the move.

Support The Stranger

Tell Sound Transit to name the station Symphony online. Or go tell them in person on the mezzanine of the University Street Station on the following dates:

September 12, 3 p.m.–6 p.m. (That's today!)
September 17, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
September 26, 6 a.m.–10 a.m.
September 28, 2 p.m.–6 p.m.