by MIKE ORR
I attended Sound Transit’s North Corridor public workshop in Lynnwood on Tuesday. ST divided us into focus groups to discuss (1) which are the most important transit “access points” (stop locations) in the area; (2) what routing would best serve them, keeping in mind that not all points can have stations; and (3) is light rail the best mode for this corridor? Federal grants require a mode-neutral EIS that covers all high-capacity transit (HCT) alternatives; i.e., bus and rail.
Most people focused on commuting to Seattle or to the airport. Nobody mentioned intra-area trips. They see Swift and RapidRide as adequate for that. I-5 is clogged and they need something better. They like light rail better than a bus solution, and they especially like the airport station even though it’ll take an hour from Lynnwood. That’s better than fighting traffic, and much better than their existing bus service (two transfers and two hours to get to the airport).
I brought up reverse trips; as someone who lives in Seattle and comes to Snohomish County mainly to attend evening and weekend events, I think it’s important the route should support off-peak and contra-peak trips.
There are basically three route choices: I-5, Aurora/99, and 15th NE/44th W. However, mixing corridors would also yield some intriguing possibilities. For instance, Aurora in King County seems to have more pedestrian/TOD potential than 99 in Snohomish, so maybe Aurora + I-5 would be best. Or 15th + I-5 or 15th + 99. 44th gets closer to the center of Mountlake Terrace. The Mountlake Terrace station is not very accessible from the main part of Mountlake Terrace; only two small roads connect them.
More after the jump…
Our focus group de facto favored 15th; that’s where most of our “access point” dots ended up. People said 15th/145th and 15th/175th have growth potential. The main attraction on 99 is the colleges, but both Edmonds CC and Shoreline CC are a few blocks west of the highway, a less-than-ideal situation for a station. The Lynnwood Transit Center is a way better destination than 99/196th, and there isn’t much else on 99 in Snohomish to justify a station, just car dealerships and oceans of parking. That could change with heavy TOD commitment from Lynnwood, but Lynnwood has another plan.
Most of the other groups preferred I-5 because of the presumed speed and existing right of way. ST says the I-5 route will take 28 minutes from the Lynnwood Transit Center to Westlake. The ST rep cautioned that the I-5 route isn’t dead-cheap. It’s one of the oldest sections of I-5, and modifying anything on it would force current building codes to apply, so you’d have to improve the adjacent bits of roadway.
The attendees loved Swift. One person said we don’t need rail on Aurora/99 because Swift and RapidRide work, and why mess with something that works, especially if you’ve made a recent investment in it. (Of course RapidRide Aurora does not exist yet, it’s just the 358, but that’s how they’re talking.)
Lynnwood wants to turn the Transit Center area into another downtown Bellevue. There are already several important attractions with more coming. Some people were concerned that a Transit Center station would be too far south, on the periphery of the action rather than in the middle. They suggested moving the station to Alderwood Mall or to the future highrise area, or to have a second station at the mall.
- If the route moves to Aurora/99, what would the P&Rs do? There’s no room on 99 for P&Rs without displacing existing businesses.
- A few people said 175th would make a better station location than 185th, because of more growth potential and better access from the east. It would also space the stations out more evenly.
- A couple of people suggested deleting the 145th station if money is tight, because it has the least potential. One suggested deleting both 145th and 185th, and running fewer trains off-peak (e.g., half-hourly). But another suggested adding a station at 220th, which is an “employment area”. I think 155th was another station suggestion. But somebody pointed out that adding stations would increase the eventual travel time to Everett.
- One person suggested a bike path under an elevated line. Others pointed out that the Interurban Trail is already a bike path, and it’s adjacent to Aurora. It runs from Lynnwood to at least Northgate, with a couple gaps near Aurora Village. I asked about putting the line on the trail ROW, as somebody had suggested. The ST rep said it’s possible but the trail runs between single-family houses, who might object.
- Several groups emphasized that frequent east-west buses are vital, because some access points will inevitably be away from stations.
ST plans to complete the EIS by 2012 and then apply for federal grants.
The next and final workshop will be held 6 pm tonight at the Shoreline Conference Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE.