by RENEE STATON with the STB Editorial Board
Wednesday night at the Link Northgate station meeting, Ron Endlich of Sound Transit told the audience that they plan to weigh all the options to mitigate lost parking during and after construction at Northgate station. I, others who live in the Northgate area, and the Seattle Transit Blog editorial board urge Sound Transit to invest in a pedestrian bridge over I-5 and in increased local transit service – not a new parking garage in the middle of a Seattle urban center.
Currently, there are 1,522 Park and Ride stalls at Northgate. 428 of these stalls will be displaced during station construction, but the new station will permanently eliminate only 117 stalls. Sound Transit is currently bound by the Federal Transit Administration to replace those 117 spaces. Sound Transit could seek an exemption from the FTA – with abundant private parking and the potential for Metro to re-purpose much of their Northgate-Downtown service to feed into the station, we don’t feel forging ahead with parking replacement is a good use of transit dollars.
Instead of a parking garage, Sound Transit has other options on the table:
- A pedestrian and bike bridge over I-5 between the station area and North Seattle Community College (NSCC). This would provide station access for students, open up further parking options, and bring Licton Springs residents to the station. It is our preferred choice.
- Temporary or permanent bus service improvements, which could help guide Metro’s service hours once the station opens.
- Leasing additional Park and Ride stalls from adjacent property owners.
Northgate is an urban center. While it has been auto-oriented in the past, its future can be brighter. The Northgate Stakeholders Group and other discussions about the future of Northgate have focused on increasing the walkability and bikeabilty of the urban center.
Northgate neighbors have long asked for a bridge over I-5 connecting the transit center with NSCC and Licton Springs. King County Metro research has shown that many Licton Springs neighbors choose to drive to the Park and Ride rather than walk, as the distance around I-5 is long and transit connections are poor. Simply adding a bridge will decrease the number of residents driving to the station and increase transportation options to NSCC. In addition, at $16-20 million, the bridge should be cheaper than a parking garage, freeing up money to improve sidewalks around the station.
Scarce transit dollars would be better spent on pedestrian access that connects the Northgate community and that promotes active modes of transportation. With new parks, better sidewalks and crossings, library and community center investments, improvements to zoning and ironically, removal of parking minimums, we have already started down the right path. Building a parking garage on scarce station-adjacent land commits Northgate to a continued focus on cars and takes away space to grow an urban center. We can do better for Northgate, and we can do better for our investment in mass transit in Seattle.