Sound Transit

We didn’t attend the first public outreach session for “North Corridor HCT” (Northgate to Lynnwood), but the materials are online, in both a workshop page and the project document library.

In spite of collapsing revenues 2023 remains the target completion date, albeit at-risk. The use of the term “High Capacity Transit” instead of “light rail” is explained in the context of federal law:

The North Corridor HCT project relies on receiving federal assistance to complete the project. In order to qualify for federal grants, Sound Transit must complete an Alternatives Analysis (AA). This requires examination of reasonable alternatives to meet the needs of the corridor and will help Sound Transit identify a preferred transit mode and route. The Sound Transit 2 Plan assumed a fully elevated light rail line from Northgate Station to the Lynnwood Transit Center with four new stations north of Northgate as shown on the map but Sound Transit is now beginning detailed work with the public to define which alternatives to examine in the AA.

Federal funding is key to keeping this project affordable, and is especially important as Sound Transit responds to impacts of the current economic recession that have reduced projected revenues by about 25 percent through 2023 and have created schedule risks for this project.

Of crucial interest to many, a State Route 99 alignment remains within scope of the project.

The alternatives will be evaluated for suitability to the stated project objectives, benefits, cost-effectiveness, financial feasibility, and equity across incomes and races. The precise alternatives have not been established, but there will almost certainly be at least one kind of light rail option, a BRT option, and a no-build option.

Comments, especially on where the stations should be, are due by October 27th to, by phone at (206) 689-4904, or online here. The next workshop is tomorrow at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th Street SW, from 6 to 8:30pm.

59 Replies to “North Link Scoping Documents”

  1. I would rather pay more or wait longer and get something good, than try to scrape something together and in the end get something that is only half-assed.

    1. Could be both. The one thing about opening them one at a time is you need to build more crossovers, which costs a bit more. On the flip side more crossovers make the system more redundant when something goes wrong.

      1. I also think ST and transit advocates here underestimate the political significance of opening as many stations as soon as is feasible. It’s key to have as much new service in place as possible before going back to the voters for billions more dollars—which is why, for example, putting ST3 on the ballot before 2016 seems troublesome.

      2. Brooklyn and Roosevelt stations are designed with crossovers to allow for incremental expansion.

        I think the plan for East Link is to build a minimum operable segment into Bellevue, and then have potential incremental expansion.

  2. I think that regardless of the route used … it is important that SWIFT stop at least one of the Link stations. It would be a shame if it kept its route ending at Aurora Village and didn’t connect to this system.

    1. Won’t it connect to the system via RapidRide Line E?

      For a direct connection, CT could beef up service on the 130. It runs between Aurora TC, Mountlake Terrace TC, and Lynnwood TC, all of which will be served by some form of rapid transit in the future.

    2. Perhaps CT could extend the route to a station at N 185th St (if the freeway alignment is used).

      1. The other option would be for Swift to head east from Aurora Village Transit Center to I5, head one exit north and hit the Mount Lake Terrace transit center.

      2. I think they broke the link that allows someone to enter I-5 northbound and exit at 236th St SW.

    3. Also, they’ve talked about the possibility of new Swift lines in the future; they could have one along the 201/202 routing connecting to Lynnwood TC, and another one across from Lynnwood TC to Edmonds or something like that.

  3. Although I’m not saying it would be better, it would be at least interesting to see how the light rail expansion would compare to BRT from Northgate to Everett.

    1. I would think the ramp to and from the HOV lanes would be expensive. What changes to the HOV-lane would you make to ensure at least 45 miles per hour?

  4. “there will almost certainly be at least one kind of light rail option, a BRT option, and a no-build option.”

    Martin – well it’s all fine and good to have BRT and “no build” as stalking horses for the New Starts grant process, but we all know those aren’t acceptable. We voted for light rail MODE SPECIFIED for North Link. That train’s left the station! You might want to make that clear so nobody’s confused; there are no modal alternatives. The people have spoken, and we’re not retreading that path!!!!

    1. @ Kyle D.

      Um, don’t you think the engineers know which side of their bread has been buttered?

  5. Put it on 99… no worthwhile development will occur in such close proximity to the interstate. Granted speed will be impacted if it’s run at grade on 99, but at least the line would connect people to retail corridors as opposed to mostly nothing along the interstate.

    1. The SWIFT is working fine along 99, does 99 really need a train – running at grade – as well? If the train is running at-grade, it doesn’t have much of advantage over the SWIFT bus.

      1. SWIFT serves only the 99 corridor, whereas Link serves, well, a whole lot more. This Link extension (SnoLink?) needs to serve more than just park-and-ride lots along the freeway. Those facilities will never grow into Urban Centers. If it serves only freeway park-and-rides, it’s just a glorified commuter express bus route.

        Where are the urban centers and urban villages planned by the local jurisdictions? Those must be accounted for in Sound Transit’s routing decisions.

      2. In terms of federal grants, ST can’t include future TOD expansion in its ridership projections because it may not happen. It can only include TOD that already exists. Some cities build “transit-ready” TOD to encourage a subway line to come to them; e.g., Reston Town Center in Virginia. Locally, Burien has made a (smaller) effort. But separately of course, ST is telling the cities that the stations would be most productive if TOD is built around them.

    2. I think Link would be elevated like on south 99. It would provide the missing rapid transit in Shoreline. In Snohomish it would replace Swift, and CT could reuse the money to put Swift in other corridors or increase local frequency: Edmonds – Mountlake Terrace (220th or 244th), Edmonds – Lynnwood (196th), Casino Road, Everett – Mukilteo. Or to restore Sunday service.

      1. I think it will be elevate if it runs on SR-99, it is in the south end, I don’t however think it will replace Swift.

        I would like to see an option that looks at running it along 99 from the general vicinity of NE 130th to 220th st sw, at which point it can easily cut back over to I-5 and connect to Lynwood P&R.

        It would probably be 1-2 minutes slower (99 would be around ~1.25 miles longer). From a TOD perspective it would be much better than I-5 but it also makes it harder for people on the east of I-5 to access it. I hope the EIS really fleshes out some of these tradeoffs.

      2. I can’t see three services on Aurora: rapid Link with a few stops, slightly slower Swift with a few more stops, and the local bus.

      3. I love the idea of light rail coming to Aurora in general and my neighborhood in particular, but I am still with the folks who think it makes sense to run it along 15th instead.

  6. AA analysis aside, if Mr. Rossi boots Patty out of office, it’s pretty clear the direction light rail will take in the next 6 years.
    1. Patty’s clout as Chair of Transportation is gone, along with FTA favors,
    2. Dino’s plan for 8 lanes everywhere, and rob ST to pay for a bunch of it moves front and center. There goes your matching funds.
    Dino’s transportation plan is here: (

    1. Hopefully Rossi is a bad dream. But if he tries to build 8 lanes everywhere, he’ll quickly find he doesn’t have enough money with the recession and deficit. The support for transit will increase, not decrease, over the years as fuel and materials become more expensive.

  7. If the light-rail route didn’t follow the freeway, there might just be some Federal Money coming their way. But because the route is confined to the freeway’s route, there is no opportunity for TOD to creat built-up neighborhoods.

    1. The feds haven’t dismissed a freeway routing out of hand; otherwise ST would not be pursuing it. The Rainier Valley routing was to get brownie points for serving a poor/minority neighborhood. There is no equivalent in the north end. The north end’s biggest problem is severe congestion commuting, so I think the feds will look at that most.

      1. I haven’t studied the demographics in detail, but I think it’s fair to describe the Aurora corridor, for one, as economically diverse.

        Aurora Village, around the county line, is the southern terminus of Swift today. It is proposed to be the northern terminus of Metro RapidRide Line E:

        It would seem very odd (and not very swift/rapid) for those services not to link to Link. Swift and/or RapidRide could be extended to meet a Link station, or a Link station (or several) could be built on Aurora somewhere. I think North Link ought to at least touch Aurora somewhere or for a stretch, even if it doesn’t travel all the way along it. A North Link alignment adjacent to I-5 for may be preferable for some particular stretch as well.

        The trickiest part is probably getting between I-5 and Aurora, given topography and current land use.

      2. Tricky yes, but no more so than going up I-5. Serving existing dense urban development on 99 is far better than trying create urban centers along I-5, plus RapidRide and Swift would evolve into a higher order of mass transit.
        here’s a doable route:
        Northgate TC, up the hill along the south edge of Evergreen/Washilli Cemetery to 99, then follow the existing interurban ROW to Lynnwood TC.
        Intermediate stations at 130th, 175th, 200th, and 220th.

      3. Kaleci: I’m not up on my history of the Interurban on the northend. Where’s Groveland?

  8. I was there, 6 of 7 focus groups of the general public thought a light rail line running up I-5 was the best mode and route. There is no easy way to get from Nothgate to 99 without condemning a bunch of houses, plus most people wanted to get back to the newly expanded Montlake P&R. We also asked for service to Aldergate Mall not just the Lynwood transit center. Granted this route doesn’t have much TOD potential, but it is the fastest connection for Everett (in SoundTransit 3).

    Sound Transit’s spokesman said that the 2023 date is in jeopardy because their revenues are down 25%.

    1. Mountlake Terrace P&R, and Alderwood Mall, that is…

      I don’t think it’s been determined that houses would have to be condemned to make that connection. There are probably options on public rights of way. As for whether they pencil out in other ways, that remains to be determined as well.

    2. “There is no easy way to get from Nothgate to 99 without condemning a bunch of houses”

      “I don’t think it’s been determined that houses would have to be condemned to make that connection.”

      This is exactly why we need both corridors in the EIS, so we can see how many houses would be condemned and the comparative cost of the two lines. If I-5 is significantly cheaper and and we can complete the line a year or more faster, it would be worth just doing it. We can always improve Aurora later. Many cities have parallel subway lines as usage and congestion increase over the years. And even just putting Swift in King County would make a noticeable improvement in the meantime. Either Metro or ST could do that.

      The idea of extending Swift and Rapid Ride to at least one Link station makes sense. I assume Mountlake Terrace would be most likely because it’s closest to Aurora Village and 205th has the highest speed limit.

      1. It would be quite possible to get from Northgate to Aurora in the existing right-of-way. From Northgate, the rails would follow I-5 north to Roosevelt Way and head northwest along the diagonal. Roosevelt Way in that stretch is mostly superfluous. If the tracks are elevated, a few dead-ends could be maintained for access to all houses.

        I don’t expect this to happen, however. I’m sure my fellow Haller Lake residents will scream about the noise issue.

  9. Since I can’t attend any meetings, I filled out Sound Transit’s survey and submitted a comment (also posted here). I believe an all-elevated SR 99 routing provides better service to the neighborhoods (i.e. more residents and services within the walksheds of each station), but high speeds need to be maintained for the line to be time-effective to Everett. I was encouraged that ST’s survey specifically requested feedback regarding a 99 alignment.

  10. No one has mentioned this yet.

    The Lynnwood City Center Plan calls for immense densification. The model is downtown Bellevue.

    It is by far the largest TOD opportunity in the corridor. Nothing else comes close.

  11. As I’ve said before, I think a better alignment than the Freeway or Hwy 99 would be along 15th. An Aurora routing would take it a ways out of the way, adversely impacting travel times to the northern suburbs, which really need a fast connection, and TOD has less potential along a wide highway than along 15th. If it goes on 15th, it could just take Northgate Way, Roosevelt, and Pinehurst to the north of Northgate Station, then stop at 125th, in the middle of the Pinehurst neighborhood with easy connections to Lake City and great TOD potential right around the station; at 145th in the Jackson Park neighborhood, again with TOD potential right around the station; and at 175th, in North City, with TOD potential up and down the street for several blocks, before joining back up with I-5 at the terminus of 15th Ave just south of Mountlake Terrace.
    I believe this option would have the best TOD potential while still preserving good travel times to Lynnwood and points north in the future. The main issue is that it would probably cost more, what with the elevated guideway and stations in the street. I wonder… could they recoup some of that cost by having the elevated stations just off to the side of the street, then selling development rights to encase them in an apartment building or something? That’d be awesome… I can think of one place in Vancouver where an elevated station is on the third floor of a skyscraper.

    1. I like this idea. I hadn’t heard it before. 15th has a lot of potential for TOD.

      Back to Everett – are people really going to commute via light rail from Everett? Wouldn’t heavy rail (sounder) make much more sense?

      You have to have a coherent vision of what you want from light rail. It can’t be all things, and I think envisioning people taking light rail from Everett is unrealistic.

      1. The problem with the Sounder north line is two-fold, and both contribute to why it has never gotten the level of ridership the south line does.

        The first, of course, is that it doesn’t run where the people are. For most of the population south of downtown Everett, it is quicker to take a bus to Seattle than to get first over to the rail line down by the water.

        The other fact is the lack of speed on the north line. Due to the rail line following the shoreline, and therefore curving back and forth, there are not many segments straight enough for the Sounder to maintain any significant speed level. For this reason, with the limited stops that are planned for Link north of Northgate, I think that Link might actually end up being a faster trip than the 1 hour the Sounder takes from Seattle to Everett. If the North Link is entirely grade-separated, and can maintain 55 mph between stations, it is entirely possible the Seattle-Everett trip might only be 45 minutes or maybe less.

      2. I suppose that might be true, but before we start duplicating rail offerings between low-ridership destinations, perhaps we should consider offering even a single line to areas closer and more likely to use them. I’m thinking a spur from the Roosevelt station up Lake City up to Bothell would get a lot more ridership than duplicating an already served and under-utilized route.

        Maybe drop a massive park and ride near UW-Bothell to collect all those who are regretting their torturous commute for the far-flung new developments up routes 9/522/527 in Maltby/Monroe-land.

        Plus this would give the rapidly densifying Lake City a reason/motivation to continue to develop.

      3. Once ST3 gets link to Everett, does it make sence to countinue Sounder North?, or would we be better served by replacing Sounder North with a pair of dedicated (ST) bus line from the Mukilteo to an Alderwood Mall area Link station, and Edmonds to the Mount Lake Terrace Link Station?

        I like a 99 route as opposed to I5, this would also leave open the possability for a later branch line from Northgate to Bothell via Lake city (possiably connecting to an Eastside Norht-South Mainline), if the line went down I5, I think it would limit the posability of the second north branch line.

      4. They would need to substantially improve the cross-town bus connections to get people from Edmonds to a light rail line in Lynnwood. I used to live on the Edmonds/Lynnwood border, about halfway between downtown Edmonds and the Lynnwood Transit Center, and I work downtown. The cross-town bus service between Edmonds and Lynnwood was not that fast, and I often found it faster to take the commuter bus from my neighborhood to downtown Seattle, than to take the train and then hop a bus up the hill. If my husband was willing to pick me up at the train, then that was MUCH faster, but the local bus that runs from downtown Edmonds up the hill takes forever. Also, CT seemed unable/unwilling to time the bus to match the Sounder’s schedule, so I often watched a bus pulling away as the train was pulling into the station. (I really hope they’ve fixed that in the ensuing years.)

        If you are a commuter on a set schedule that never changes, then Sounder probably works for you. If you don’t commute during regular commuting hours, or if you need the flexibility to get home quickly (like, if your kid starts puking at daycare), or if you work at Northgate instead of downtown Seattle, then Sounder is not a good option and light rail is more attractive. I think if I lived in Everett, I’d be more likely to take the Sounder to work if I knew that I could get home mid-day on the light rail if something came up.

      5. I don’t know about 45 minutes between Everett and Seattle. The interurban took 70 minutes and hit speeds of near 60 miles an hour. Of course it took about 25 to 30 minutes just to get to 85th Street.

      6. It will probably take about the same amount of time to get from Everett to Downtown on Sounder as it will on Link. However, Sounder only goes a few times per day, while Link would go very frequently. Also, Link would allow commuters from Everett to reach Lynnwood, Northgate, the U District, and Capitol Hill, along with other destinations, that Sounder does not. Sounder still has a place, though; I think by the time we’re extending Link to Everett, we should be extending Sounder North to Marysville. Also, Sounder serves Mukilteo and Edmonds, giving them a much faster commute to Seattle than they could get from a bus-to-Link connection, and it could serve a future Point Wells development. It’d be great if Mukilteo and Edmonds worked on getting more development in their Downtowns too.

      7. ST says 28 minutes from Westlake to Lynnwood via the current freeway alignment. So 45 minutes to Everett is possible, or at worst 60 minutes. The 510 takes 49 minutes (Saturday morning) to 69 minutes (5pm) from Westlake to Everett. The 511 took 25 minutes tonight from Lynnwood to Westlake (9:20pm). So Link really is as fast as ST Express, or maybe five minutes slower. After Link is finished, the 510 could be converted to a nonstop directly from downtown Everett to downtown Seattle, and that could bring the time down to 30-40 minutes.

      8. What’s the “Norman 194 correction factor”? SeaTac was promised at 32 minutes and it ended up 37? So add 5 minutes to those estimates if you’re pessimistic.

    2. I included 15th in my feedback to ST. I’m not convinced it’s a good idea but it deserves an EIS comparison. 15th is (presumably) more expensive than I-5 and has only a little TOD potential due to the large adjacent institutions (Lakeside School). If I-5 is chosen, the extra money could be saved for other Aurora improvements, or even for planning a second line on Aurora.

      1. I think you mean Fircrest, not Lakeside (which is on the west side of I-5, on a corridor that wouldn’t make sense for TOD). Fircrecst would be in between the 145th and 185th stations, so, not right at any of the proposed station locations, which is where the majority of the TOD would occur, wouldn’t it? So I don’t see Fircrest being a barrier to TOD on that route.

    3. If snaking the tracks through Northgate and Pinehurst is too expensive, an elevated line cutting between the links at Jackson Park would be possible (and interesting). Then there could still be a station at 15th and 145th. Would anyone but a few golfers care if a couple fairways are shortened?

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