Sound Transit


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.

Other Comments

  • 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.

26 Replies to “North Corridor Meeting Report”

  1. One thing I noticed for our group, and after having done these scoping meetings for ST1, is that the ‘presenters’ elected by the groups to explain what they talked about don’t always cover everything. One has to read all the commments written to get the whole story.

    When I asked about how much of the Interurban trail was encroached on, or sold off, I found it interesting that a few people were not aware that the Interurban Trail was actually a RAIL line originally.

    The info from the Shoreline meeting will be interesting.

  2. As VeloBusDriver said at the RapidRide A opening, building a dedicated busway where no such ROW exists already wouldn’t cost that much less than building a light rail line. Considering existing roads aren’t too conducive to high-capacity BRT (either stop-and-go traffic during rush hour or low speed limits), light rail would make sense.

    If they do increase east-west service, I hope SR-104 is going to be included in that. I’ve heard around that if 331 ran later, to match the 358, it’d be convenient for quite a few in the area. Of course, the 331 doesn’t serve Mountlake Terrace TC and a transfer to the 347 isn’t very convenient because of timing.

    1. I was at the meeting and made a point that there isn’t any convenient connection from SR-104 to the Mountlake Terrace TC. In fact, there is no connection from the Southwest of the TC because of Lake Ballenger and the golf course, which means all those guests have to either go far to the north or far to the east using secondary arterials in order to access the TC.

      (There’s a great connection going in the reverse direction because the freeway on ramp from the TC connects with the freeway off ramp to SR-104.)

      I suggested that in order for that station to meet it’s full potential that they should link the northbound off & on ramps to connect SR-104 to the TC. This would allow bus access – possibly even Swift extension from the Aurora Village TC to connect with the light rail – and access for park and riders. I think the cost/benefit are quite favorable.

    2. Light rail also has the advantage that it’ll connect seamlessly to Central Link and East Link. You could build a new freeway lane down to Northgate but then what? Who would pay to extend the lane south of there and widen the ship canal bridge, and how can you widen I-5 downtown where there’s a hillside on one side and skyscrapers on the other?

  3. Interurban Trail, interesting idea. I live in one of the single-family houses along the Interurban Trail. I would not mind having a rail line that close (although I’d definitely begin advocating for a station at 130th & Linden, next to Bitter Lake Park and the senior housing), provided that there is SERIOUS noise abatement, because that trail is literally right next to us and I would like to be able to sleep at night. If they paid to sound-proof my house, though, I’d be game for it. Not sure how my neighbors would react, my guess is there would be quite a lot of NIMBYs, especially if we didn’t get a station nearby. If the nearest station is at 145th or all the way over at Northgate and you live next to the line at 115th, I can see being pretty unhappy about that routing almost literally through your backyard with no actual benefit to your neighborhood. Also, if the current bike trail is lost because of the installation of rail, I think people will be pretty angry.

    But in terms of TOD, I don’t think it’s a good routing for that. Only the stretch from 130th to 145th is set up for TOD. Again, I think a stop at 130th would make more sense for TOD, but then you’ve got a big stretch between 130th & 185th with no stop. And unlike on 15th where 175th makes sense, you’d want to put the station at 185th on the west side of I-5 because of the Shoreline city hall.

    Would the power lines along the Interurban Trail create an issue for putting a rail line there? That’s the major trunk line for the area, if I’m not mistaken.

    As much as I would LOVE rail transit to come to my neighborhood, I still think 15th is the best idea and BRT along Aurora should serve us westsiders until we can get whatever rail Ballard gets to come up Holman Road and onto Greenwood.

    1. Interurban Trail and Burke-Gilman Trail, both EXCELLENT rail corridors as they were ONCE rail corridors. Imagine how COOL it’d be if the Link operated on the Interurban. Imagine the TOD potential that will be wasted with the proposed freeway line! But the NIMBYs would absolutely KILL it.

      They can put the powerlines over the corridor. San Diego Trolley does this,+ca&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=San+Diego,+California&gl=us&ei=IEG3TNzAB4Wtngfmi-yFCA&ved=0CCcQ8gEwAA&ll=32.674174,-117.112779&spn=0.007541,0.016512&z=17&layer=c&cbll=32.674174,-117.112779&panoid=ib_GfT2mLs7tA26bmko2Zw&cbp=12,170.34,,0,-14.18

      1. My concern would be, can they make that stretch of the trail work for trains AND bikes AND power lines. Those photos show you can do power lines and train, but then there’s the bikes. So if you were going to keep the bike trail and add a train, the train would be elevated, which is where the conflict with the power lines comes up, wouldn’t it?

        I still think there’s better TOD opportunity on 15th than in my neighborhood. But I would absolutely ride the light rail if they built it here.

      2. I think the construction would disrupt the trail too much to make it feasible to have bikes + pedestrians + constructions all at the same time. But if you do it in stages, impacts, while present, would be minimized.

        I don’t know how wide the interurban is up in Snoho, but if the tracks were elvated 20+ feet, you could easily have a bike lane down below. Or if it’s really wide like it is down here, you can have double tracks at the same elevation (flat, at grade) as the path.

        As for the power lines, barium.

  4. It’ll be interesting to see how CT rearranges the buses to better serve the Lynnwood Transit Center with Link arriving. The buses from the Edmonds Bowl to Lynnwood were crappy to begin with, but got worse w/ the budget cuts.

    A non-freeway route would be nice. Freeway transit lines never see the growth that off-freeway lines see. I would have second thoughts about living a block from a Link Station on I-5 even if it meant being close to the trains. I’d rather live farther from the noise and air pollution, and drive to the station.

    But nobody has any vision anymore, so ST will end up choosing the I-5 alignment.

  5. I wasn’t able to go to this, so maybe there are details I’m not aware of that would change my mind, but it still seems to me that 99 in King County is the superior route. I-5 is death to the walk shed, as is Jackson Park Golf Course to a station at 145th/15th.

    Would it be too circuitous to follow 99 in King, head east at SR-104 to I-5 for the rest of the route? Maybe with a jog closer to the center of Mountlake Terrace and back rather than the Park & Ride station at 236th?

    I’ll confess to not really understanding the 44th alternative. That seems awfully far east even if you start from 15th in King County,and I’m not sure what’s being served until you intersect with I-5 anyway. Maybe I just don’t know that area very well–but what’s the thinking?

    To be honest I’m not sure if Mountlake Terrace is such a great stop that it wouldn’t be better just to skip it entirely and find the best way to get to Lynnwood, which has massive TOD potential. I-5 has the advantage of being cheaper than 99. That seems its only advantage.

    1. I’m not entirely sure following Aurora from Northgate to Aurora Village TC would make sense. RapidRide E will already be covering that leg. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but redundant service isn’t a good way to be cost-effective.

      Then again, RapidRide A and Link will share a few more stations eventually, so maybe it’ll work.

      1. The 99 corridor is the only one north of Seattle that has anything even remotely resembling density. Any argument that RapidRide is good enough vs. LRT to have it covered is depressing. By all accounts Swift is vastly superior to RapidRide and even it is poor compared to Link.

        It makes me sad that a spruced up 358 will be the best we see in that area while we run trains down a freeway.

    2. I would tend to agree about the Mountlake Terrace P&R not having much potential for TOD. If the goal is to put in a station with a big parking garage so people can drive to the station, then that is a logical location because it already has a big parking garage. If the goal is for people to get off the train there and go see something (stores, theaters, etc.) then it makes no sense to put the station at the P&R. I think ST figures in the suburbs people want to P&R, so they’re putting the stations next to giant parking lots with good freeway access. I hope that in King County, they’ll focus more on TOD potential and bus connections instead of relying on P&R people.

      1. That’s ultimately my problem with the North Link alignment. I agree that it’s nice to serve existing P&R demand if it’s on the way, but to me it’s not a compelling reason by itself to site a station. I’d rather provide opportunities for people to live and work near stations so they don’t need to use parking lots. Freeway stations will never provide those opportunities.

        I also see 99 as having potential to eventually extend north toward Everett, and south as an alternate line in Seattle, and possibly to connect to a Ballard line (that would hook northeast through 99 along the way to Northgate.) Long term it seems to do more to build the network. I also think a Lake City/Bothell Way line is needed long term, which argues against 15th because that would cannibalize ridership. The long term network is more important than capturing the current commuting ridership from park and rides.

    3. Also, I don’t think the golf course is an issue at 15th & 145th. At I-5 and 145th, yes, but I think there’s room for TOD at 15th.

    4. I’ve been wavering. First I liked Aurora, then Aurora switching to I-5 at Aurora Village, then 15th/44th, then I-5. But I need to see more of the comparative costs and city-supported TOD commitments before I’ll be sure.

      Aurora routing in King County would bring people quickly into and out of the area, something that the 358/RapidRide do poorly. Aurora Village is a major destination, and Shoreline CC could be brought in with a connector bus. A lot of people have destinations somewhat near 130th/145th and 175th/185th. The Greenwood area wouldn’t have any direct stations but it’s a short RapidRide to 130th if you’re going north. “Something” later could provide rail or Swift from downtown to 130th.

      I-5’s main advantage is travel time, and perhaps cheapness. Trains can run at full speed on I-5 but may be limited on the other streets even if it’s elevated. I realize this is TOD anathema, but what the north end needs is all-day express service that the initial proposal provides, and every minute counts in that function. The TOD revolution will occur at Swift and RapidRide stops in this area, assuming a future bus network both N-S and E-W connecting to Link stations. But it needs a regional spine to get quickly to Seattle and Everett at all times, and Link can do this better and more frequently than ST Express.

  6. A little bird w/ a red maple leaf on its tail tells me that the CBSA miraculously found CDN$800K to inspect the evening northbound Cascades train for another year.

  7. I just got a reply on TOD in Lynnwood from Kevin Garrett, a project manager in the city’s planning department. The highrise district is bounded by 194th SW, 48th W, and I-5. This will be the City Center. It’s roughly 7.5 superblocks which are currently strip malls but will be office, retail, and housing. Of that, the City Center Core is between 36th and 44th, and 194th and I-5. That’s just under a mile from Alderwood Mall. The city’s studies have concluded that two platforms are needed to adequately serve both the Transit Center commuters and the Core pedestrians. I think he means two ends of a single station, like Othello and Myrtle Streets. The distance from platform to the Core would be approximately 0.6 miles. Again, this is just the city’s desire, not something ST has agreed to. Zoning documents for the City Center are available.

    Separately, Lynnwood is working on a plan for Highway 99 that proposes mixed-use transit-oriented “nodes” at the Swift stations. The website for that project is here. The area under consideration is from 216th to 148th. I.e., stations 216th, 200th/196th, 176th, and 148th.

    Some people at the meeting referred to a “Lynnwood community center”. Garrett confirmed it’s really a recreation center at 44th/188th, which is being renovated. It will serve in many ways as a community center but is not officially called that.

    I must congratulate Lynnwood for being proactive on this. While a certain other city is trying to keep trains away from businesses and homes, Lynnwood is embracing Link and Swift and is planning appropriate developments around them.

  8. I-5 originally seemed like “the choice” to me, but then I thought: who does it appeal to? Southbound: to UW, downtown Seattle, perhaps to downtown Bellevue, or if you want to take a chance (given the high unreliability of Link in the downtown tunnel and the Rainier Valley), to the airport, but what would be the draw(s) northbound, other than to commute back home (for those to which that applies)? Then, I know that N. 145th station would be a terrible location. The N. 147th park and ride is undersized, there’s little room for anything more, and the east/west feeder lines are non-existent. N. 155th would offer street parking and a peak-only cross-town feeder. N. 185th has a stadium parking lot that might serve a dual use, and an all-day cross-town feeder line, as does Mountlake Terrace. 15th NE has a trio of small business districts that would get enhanced with rail, but aren’t presently a destination. To get that, one would have to go to 99. Don’t be fooled: Rapid Ride on Aurora won’t be rapid: with 12 stops in the 3 miles of Shoreline, it won’t do much more than a 358 and won’t be anything close to Swift’s quality. It will have a different payment scheme, for one. Pay on board for cash, not for others, the latter depending on whether there is an ORCA card reader at their station or not. Light rail near SR 99, however, much as I’d hate having anything else torn up when it’s already been – or is being torn up, offers intriguing destinations: at N 155th, Central Market, WSDOT (a regional employer), and Shoreline Community College; at N. 185th, Shoreline’s town center; at 205th, Costco; at 220th, Premera/Blue Cross (regional employer). The latter two also might be in proximity to connections to Swift for those traveling further north. Following the Interurban Trail might facilitate this type of routing, providing reasons for traveling northbound outside of afternoon peak, although there are hurdles as mentioned.

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