Cascade Bicycle Club is currently running a blog post under the title “A backroom deal for Northgate that’s bad for bicycling“, which reads in part:

What we do know is that Sound Transit reached a backroom deal to build a parking garage without any public involvement, none. A backroom deal that a prominent neighborhood leader described as “repulsive and offensive,” because it was reached without any consultation with the community and does not align with anyone’s vision for the future of the neighborhood

The total cost and size of the garage is, with even more vague sourcing, claimed to be $40 million and 900 stalls. I asked Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray for comment on this:

Much of the discussion and information swirling about future Northgate station area plans appears unencumbered by facts. We look forward to hosting a robust, well-informed discussion about all of the options at Thursday’s Board meeting.

As I’ve documented at great length, Sound Transit will probably end up building a parking structure of some size at Northgate, to mitigate temporary parking displacement on adjacent commercial property. That temporary displacement amounts to about 460 spaces. I have no idea where “900 stalls” came from.

There is a Sound Transit board meeting scheduled to discuss this issue at 1:30 PM Thursday in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom at Union Station. We expect to get more facts on this situation then, if not before.

52 Replies to “That “900-stall parking garage” at Northgate”

  1. I don’t really care all that much about the parking as long as it doesn’t preclude TOD. But if you take the best TOD potential around there and put a bunch of crappy parking, that is a very bad result.

    1. The people I’ve spoken to at ST have stated that any parking structures they build at Northgate will have ground-floor retail and support midrise/highrise overbuilding as offices.

      1. Cool, where’s the public proposal? Because it sounds like exactly the kind of thing that requires public meetings, like the rest of the station has had for years.

      2. Exactly. Why can I comment on what artwork they put into the stations but not about the parking?

    2. Cascade’s beef is centered around the cost of providing that parking crowding out a pedestrian bridge or other non-automobile centric projects. Frankly, I don’t care if they build parking as long as they start to charge *something* to at least partially defray the costs of providing that parking and encourage other mode choices when possible.

      We have to stop building all of this “free” parking and focus the limited resources we have on the biggest bang for the buck. Spending $5-$8 per day over a 30 year timeframe to allow people to warehouse their cars at Northgate will crowd out other options.

      I look forward to more facts though…

      1. We all look forward to more facts. So far, all we have is a bunch of inside discussion – without a public process.

      2. In business*, if you can’t make a project pay for itself in 7 years, don’t even bother asking for the dough (* varies with the biz).
        So, $45,000 per stall, over 7 years you’d need to charge $25/day, with 100% occupancy to pencil out.
        As long as all those motorists are willing to pay for it, build the damn thing, otherwise, let them find there own parking spot.

      3. Voters approved light rail. I don’t remember this parking garage in the package we voted to fund.

      4. Part of Sound Transit’s mission is to get cars off of the road so some park and rides, possibly even quite expensive ones, are reasonable. That said, at some point we have to start putting a price on parking and provide alternatives.

      5. If you don’t charge *anything* you often get severe overuse. I, of course, live in an old Northeastern city, where “free parking” is relatively abnormal; parking meters have been present for generations, parking garages all charge hourly, etc.

        The difference between “totally free” and “a dollar a day” for parking is pretty substantial in terms of usage. Startlingly so.

  2. Press hard on the size of the future garage (if any…). Get a commitment that it WON’T be nearly 900 spaces.

    If they can’t/won’t, then we know the rumors are undoubtedly true.

  3. Let’s say there is a 900-car parking garage lurking about, and let’s even say that Sound Transit really has to create 460 replacement spaces.

    900 surface parking spaces is about six acres of asphalt. If Sound Transit can leverage their replacement requirement to create a six-story parking garage and shrink this land devoted to surface parking at Northgate down to a acre, and free up five acres for more intense development – I’d think that’s worth considering.

  4. I think there may be some confusion going around due to parallel planning efforts. In addition to Sound Transit’s North Link, KC Metro is working on a “Catalyst Project” in Northgate as part of the Growing Transit Communities project. With regards to that I think KC Metro is looking at a larger garage than ST is looking at because they want to consolidate all of their surface parking into a single shared parking structure, allowing them to redevelop the surface parking lots. I’m not 100% sure about this, because the presentation I saw that talked about this was at hour 3 and I didn’t take good notes.

  5. [deleted, ad hominem, ot, whining, and off sides]

    (Okay, so I actually typed that myself and just wanted to get in on the fun.

    On Topic:

    Any parking garage should: a) Be far enough way from the Station to allow TOD around. Anyone here traveled much on MARTA in Atlanta? Those outlying stations where you have to walk through an empty parking garage to get out are pretty scary at night. b) Come about with some land swap with Northgate mall. We build a parking garage that we split with you (you needing it more on weekends and in the evening, we during the day) you give us some of your current parking lot for TOD.

    Win, win no?

    1. Those are both good ideas. I think your “A” absolutely has to be done. The bus station is already scary enough at night.

  6. Based on a figure of $16,158 per parking stall* a 460 stall parking garage would cost $7.4 million to construct. Still a lot of money that could be used towards station area improvements designed to make it easier to walk and bike to the station.

    *http://www.vtpi.org/tca/tca0504.pdf

    1. No way can structured multistory parking be built for $16k per stall. Government projects in King County consistently come in between $35-45k in current year dollars. And I think you’d be hard pressed to find any at the low end of that scale. Two words; Pacific Place.

  7. I think ST should put P&R facilities at the suburban stations, but not the ones in the city. I know the area around Northgate currently looks a little like a suburb, but it’s not. And it’s already trending towards being more urban in nature with the newish development there. So I think it should be treated like a city station, not a suburban one, and not build parking there. I mean, it’s not like they’d install a brand new parking lot at the Brooklyn station or the Roosevelt station. I get the rules on temporary mitigation, but it seems like an awful waste of money to install a giant garage just because of a temporary need. Would the bridge leading to NSCC and its large lot count for the mitigation requirement? Also, this is the first I’ve heard of KC Metro’s plans to turn the surface lots into a garage. I am all for that if it opens up more TOD space…

    1. This idea that P&R facilities should ONLY be at suburban stations, not within the city, is one that ST and City personnel have been pushing for a long time. At least to residents of SE Seattle. And I bought into this approach, even on days when my trip on Link takes longer than the bus because I have to walk or transfer to get on the rail.
      I feel personally decieved that ST’s approach has changed now that the rail is reaching north Seattle.

      1. Exactly. Expecting folks in the south end to walk and take the bus, but expecting north end folks to drive, that seems unfair. Not to mention counter-productive to the city’s plans for the neighborhood.

    1. Where in that piece does Conlin say the garage is 920 stalls? The only quote from him is, “we want to make sure that it be a multi-use garage, that it be really integrated with the neighborhood plan and serve the urban center.” The reported size of the garage is not attributed to any source.

    2. David, I think you misread Erica. She said the number is 920, and she was able to confirm it by asking Conlin.

      1. Maybe I did misread her, but I’d like something more concrete to confirm that Conlin (or ST in general) says there will be a 920 stall garage. An “actual potential number” that “may now be as large as 920 spaces” without a direct attribution or source is not very helpful when trying to have an informed discussion.

  8. To Matt and others who don’t remember voting on this, please look at the Northgate FEIS and Record of Decision. Parking at Northgate station was always planned and included in the ST2 cost esitmates for the North Link segment. It was discussed studied and documented for the better part of a decade.

    The station will have 15,000 boardings, versus 5,000 today. The ROD states ST must replace parking lost during construction and maintain at least 1000 spots after opening. The outcome, then, is 3x more tranist users at that location and one-third fewer parking places, with many riders arriving at this location on re-allocated ST Express service hours that previously went all the way downtown.

    The reality of transit operations is not black & white (ie, parking is either all good or all bad); it’s several shades of gray, with services attempting to serve multiple markets of riders accessing the system via multiple modes (bus, walk, bike, car, skateboard, segway, whatever). If there is not some parking to serve customers for whom a car is the best option — and there are many, notably parents w/kids — then the surrounding neighborhoods will get hammered with hide & ride. I hope folks won’t jump to knee-jerk conclusions on this. As the cliche goes, there is usually a simple solution to every problem, and usually it’s the wrong one.

  9. Northgate would not be getting a P&R if it didn’t have one already. The P&R has been a major selling point for Northgate TC over the years, so they can’t just eliminate it without generating overwhelming opposition. But if the existing P&R didn’t exist, then building a new P&R would contradict the policy of “no new P&Rs in urban/Seattle areas”. Otherwise you’d have to ask why Northgate gets a P&R when Othello and Rainier Beach don’t, even though Northgate is a largest-level urban village and they are not. So Northgate has developed a kind of dual identity, as both an urban village and a P&R destination. It’s not going to be easy to get over the latter part. And a pedestrian bridge is not “sufficient mitigation”, unfortunately, although it’s severely needed anyway.

    Re ST Express routes, that may be out of date now that the Lynnwood extension will open two years after Northgate. The routes from Snohomish will probably wait until Lynnwood and MT stations open, which would give far better service from their perspective, and would avoid the congestion at Northgate Way. The only other ST Express route is the 522, and Lake City Way is too far from Northgate station. The 522 would have to go to 130th or 145th station instead.

    That leaves various Metro peak-hour expresses, which mostly go north-south. Those would have to be replaced by east-west feeders to Northgate, 130th, 145th, or 185th stations. Because it doesn’t make sense to take a “feeder” a long way south to Northgate station when other stations are closer.

  10. Supplemental FEIS says, on page 12:

    “The revised design would affect an estimated 120 current park-and-ride spaces, which is lower than the Final SEIS estimates (166 to 306 spaces). As in the Final SEIS, a new parking structure could provide replacement spaces.”

    So, um, only 120 spaces are needed for replacement.

  11. I have an old coworker who lives stumbling distance from the 522, a 19 minute commute downtown.

    Do you know what she does? She drives to Northgate and hops on the 41. She couldn’t even explain her reasoning. It was somewhere along the lines of “why wouldn’t I?”

    We have to get people to give their choices a bit of thought. A few bucks to park would do it.

    1. Well, I wasn’t exactly “stumbling distance” to the 522, but I nearly always ended up driving to the Northgate TC because the 75 was slow (if fairly frequent during peak hours) and there was no timed connection to the 522 at 125th/Lake City Way. After missing the 522 a few times, I just decided to drive. A main reason was the frequency of the 41; it runs often enough that I never used a schedule. As has been argued here often, I was much more willing to take a high-frequency route that took a bit longer than a faster, lower-frequency route with an iffy transfer. (It was also easier to stop off for groceries, etc. on the way home.)

      I think they’ve upped the frequency on the 522 recently, which may have made me change my mind nowadays if I were still in the area. They really should; that route should be HCT someday and was supposed to be rail in the 1968 plan. Taking the 522 to a Roosevelt station transfer would be great if the 522 ran on the headways that ST would like it to.

  12. As a Cascade Bicycle Club member, I was taken aback by their request this week that I blurt out “No parking structure!” to Sound Transit like political cannon fodder. CBC, get more sophisticated, please. Research your decision to throw us into advocacy positions.

    I’m for a parking structure. Thanks to Bruce Nourish for the reality-based background pieces.

    I would not take the 920 stall number seriously at this point. It’s clear from Bruce’s synopsis that a structure is in the works. From ST’s perspective, getting the funding together for a project of this magnitude can take a front seat to communications, but I would hope for some good communication from the top in the near future or risk more knee-jerk advocacy from CBC and other stakeholders.

    Street, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements should be required. For example, bike/ped improvements to 92nd Street, Northgate Way, and traffic flow improvements to entries/egresses to and from I-5. Bus lanes could be part of this package. Bikes and peds need to be protected from cars! We need pathways to where we always go. A bridge to NSCC and/or improvements to 92nd Street are great examples of building paths where people already travel by foot and bike.

    Scale of the parking structure, given existing agreements with stakeholders, etc. In other words, build for the future but don’t overbuild. 920 seems excessive to me. Tacoma Multimodal Station is around 500 spaces, and that is a large structure. Kent Sounder station is around 500. I don’t take that 920 number seriously; they are shooting for the larger end of scope to start.

    Operating costs for a parking structure must be considered in the capital discussion. Security systems with adequate security personnel to deal with the many areas in a parking lot that are out of sight lines. People need to feel safe. Make sure Northgate Mall pays their share of it!

    Maybe I’m wrong but parking structures are usually completed after a station is built. People are assuming the other way round here. I would guess lack of parking during construction would be dealt with by writing a check to Northgate Mall for the 5 years of inconvenience, or selling them below-market spots in future TOD space.

    Think about area homes and apartments who are not adequately served by transit in the area. And those who will just plain will not get on a bus. A short drive to a parking structure, walk on the light rail system, and you are in the U-District in 10 minutes, downtown in 25 minutes. You can see the reasoning. Paid parking, I agree with that. People have to pay for what they are using. A car is expensive, and parking is part of the cost of having a car. A structure is more expensive than surface. It could be paid parking would be part of the time, or Northgate could give an hour’s free parking voucher to cover their needs. All that can be worked out.

    I don’t own a car, I’m a bicycle everywhere person, and I support a parking structure if we can get real multi-modal design in there. Specifically the walkers and bicyclists needs safe pathways (grade separated) to get where they need to go.

    Seattle is famed for putting the brakes on every idea. Not everyone can or will ride a bike everywhere like I do. I’m not a huge fan of car warehouses, but hey, I’m not the only person on this planet. Get a bigger vision, get the federal, regional, and local funding, and go for it.

  13. As many here know, the full North Link light rail line from Pine Street to Northgate is Federalized — enjoying $813 million in Federal construction funding for the first half of the line.

    Thus, Sound Transit is legally bound by the language in the 2006 Environmental Record of Decision, http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/NorthLinkROD.htm, Section 2.1.2.2, which has two bullet points for mitigating operational, long-term displacement of Northgate parking by the light rail project:

    Quote:
    * Signs will be placed at Northgate Mall to restrict use of mall parking by light rail patrons.

    * Sound Transit will provide one-to-one replacement of displaced off-street park-and-ride spaces at the Northgate transit center.
    Unquote

    There is a single bullet point in Section 3.1.2 for short-term, construction-related displacement of Northgate Transit center parking:

    Quote:
    * Sound Transit will continue to coordinate with King County Metro and others to develop measures to mitigate the loss of parking at the Northgate transit center park-and-ride during construction. Options could include additional transit service to reduce the need for patrons to drive to the transit center, or replacement parking.
    Unquote

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