Seattle City Council Member (and Sound Transit Board Member) Richard Conlin was cited as a source in the comments on my last post about the currently-circulating rumors of a “back room deal” for a 900-stall parking garage at Northgate. I asked him for comment about this, and here’s what he had to say:
ST has not made a decision on this, there are several options under consideration. Not sure why I was cited as a source! There are some 900 spaces being displaced, half from Metro and half from the Mall, the question is what is the right approach to mitigating this. ST is required to provide mitigation, but exactly what mix of parking and other access options is still under discussion.
Let’s zoom in a little bit on what Conlin is saying, because I’ve covered this all at great length, but it’s evident from the comments on my previous post that many people are sounding off before they have bothered to educate themselves about what’s going on here; perhaps a summary will help. There are four pieces to the parking puzzle at Northgate:
- Temporary Displacement of Private Parking: 462 stalls. For several years during construction, ST will need to use a substantial part of the Northgate Mall property for construction of North Link. ST is legally required to provide compensation to the owners for loss of those parking spaces, compensation which could take the form of replacement parking, or cash — potentially lots of cash, while still incurring legal hazards. This has nothing to do with the Federal Transit Administration or the North Link Record of Decision, or whether you or anyone else thinks there ought to be parking structures at Northgate, this is a consequence of widely-applicable law related to the power of eminent domain. See this post for all the details.
- Permanent Displacement of Private Parking: 64 spaces. Some of the tail track and other supports for the North Link guideway will be located on private property, resulting a permanent loss of spaces. For exactly the same reason as in (1), ST needs a permanent solution for this displaced parking.
- Temporary Displacement of Transit P&R capacity: 428 spaces. Under the terms of the North Link ROD, ST must provide “best effort” mitigation for P&R capacity lost during construction. This could be improved bus service (either direct to downtown, or connecting service to Northgate), pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements, satellite parking lots with shuttles, or (theoretically) more structure parking. I personally think it’s highly unlikely ST would choose to build additional structure parking to meet this requirement, because such parking is around $30,000 a space for ST to construct, making other potential options rather cheaper, in addition to much more politically palatable.
- Permanent Displacement of Transit P&R capacity: 117 spaces. Under the same ROD, ST has committed to the FTA to provide one-for-one replacement of all P&R stalls permanently displaced by the project; if the ST board were so inclined, it could petition FTA to remove this requirement*. This is the only place where policy arguments about pedestrian vs. car infrastructure at Northgate could reasonably be put in play, but is somewhat moot due to the much more stringent constraints imposed by the requirements in (1), which militate much more strongly towards building a larger structure. In other words, if ST just builds a 460 space garage to mitigate temporary parking loss at the Northgate Mall, that same structure would more than suffice to offset the permanent loss in P&R capacity after construction is complete.
The “900-stall garage” rumor presumably arises from the belief — which, to my knowledge, nobody has provided evidence for, and which Conlin and ST Spokesman Bruce Gray have explicitly denied — that a fix is in for ST to solve both problems (1) and (3) by building structure parking (462 + 428 = 890).
Whatever you think about the future of Northgate; even if, like me, you are horrified to see scarce transit dollars spent on “free” structure parking, and you think those millions could be spent in any number of better ways, if your comments fail to acknowledge and attempt to address the reality of Sound Transit’s legal obligations (as I’ve summarized above, as best I understand them), they are pointless, irrelevant, and a waste of everyone’s time.
* There would be a pretty good factual basis for such a petition, as the North Link ROD predates the ST2 ballot measure that extended the formal scope of the North Link project to Northgate; the initial scope under the Sound Move measure was only to 45th St, and had no P&R displacement.
UPDATE 5/26: Shortly after I published this, Spokesman Bruce Gray and Board Member Richard Conlin wrote to me with clarifications.
This is a good article. One nuance that I would clarify. While no decision has been made a 900 stall garage is one of the options in the mix. With st serving 15000 riders compared to metros current 5000 there is a rationale which includes replacing mall parking that can be used for tod and or supporting future tod on metro property that will want some parking. Of course if it is supporting other development it would not be solely financed by st. And I have never seen the 40 million dollar figure and don’t know where that came from.
Just saw your latest post about Northgate. Good stuff. Staff will have all the details for the Board tomorrow. A 600-900 stall shared use/cost (with Northgate mall) garage is an option they will be discussing as part of an idea approach to turn about seven acres of parking into about an acre of parking – freeing up the other six for TOD. Costs are a big unknown but it’s safe to say the $40M number that’s been tossed about would be a non starter. Also interesting ideas about long-term use of the garage as transit’s share of getting people to the station increases exponentially. Tomorrow will be a good starting point for an informed discussion over the next month or so.