Sound Transit's newest light rail station opened Saturday at Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac International Airport, to live music, dance troupes and protests.
After being chastised for spending $858,000 to promote two new rail stations in Seattle this spring, the agency threw a more modest event this time.
Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason said the agency had planned to spend $346,000 celebrating and promoting the Angle Lake light rail station, the first between Sea-Tac airport and Tacoma.
In March, Sound Transit opened light rail service to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, the first stations north of downtown Seattle, and spent $858,000 to promote the two stations, including event planning, commemorative schwag and advertising.
After some bad press, Sound Transit said it would be more frugal the next time it opened a station.
The Angle Lake opening-day budget was cut from $216,000 down to $53,000; the agency got Alaska Airlines to pay $25,000 to sponsor it. Sound Transit also lowered its budget for advertising service to Angle Lake to $75,000, down from an original ad budget of $130,000. The City of SeaTac hosted the day's "Party on the Plaza," with Sound Transit listed as one of the six sponsors.
After the big parties and promotions for the Capitol Hill and the University of Washington stations, Sound Transit also cut back its overall light rail advertising. Critics said the agency had been improperly trying to influence voters; the agency said ridership has been high enough with the two new stations that so much advertising was unnecessary.
Sound Transit will ask voters this fall to approve its plan for expanding light rail by 62 miles and making other transit improvements around a three-county region.
The $54 billion proposal is one of the biggest public-works projects in American history: more expensive, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than building the Panama Canal.
Gentrification on the line
Residents and neighbors of the Firs Mobile Home Park in SeaTac came to protest the gentrification they say is coming with light rail.
While Punjabi dancers twirled inside the Angle Lake station, protesters chanted for justice just outside.
"Que queremos? Justicia!" they chanted. "Cuándo la queremos? Ahora!"
Residents and neighbors of the mobile home park are fighting the impending loss of 70 low-income homes to gentrification. The Firs' owner-manager, Jong Park of Federal Way, plans to close it and put two hotels and an apartment building in its place.
"I'm excited about the light rail, but we all need places to live," said Lori Rock of Des Moines, who came to support the protesters.
Park has filed plans for relocating the tenants with the city of SeaTac, though he has not submitted his plans to replace the trailer park with two hotels and an apartment building to the city yet.
Park said he has offered residents $2,000 each in relocation assistance.
"I understand their situation," Park said. "Some people live there a long time."
He said the residents live there on one-year leases, which will not be renewed.
"They knew when they signed the rental agreement," he said. "It says clearly it's a one-year lease agreement."
Residents have told Park the sum is too small for most of the 280 people living there to relocate. With many of the mobile homes too old to be moved, the Tenants Union of Washington State said families will wind up homeless.
The union has sent a list of complaints and demands to Park on behalf of the residents.
Editor's Note 9/29/2016: Sound Transit did not pay for the musical performance you hear in the audio version of this story. This story has also been updated to include the role of the City of SeaTac in the opening-day events.