I signed the recent letter to Sound Transit, letting them know that they were steaming ahead with the analysis of options for Northgate without sufficient public review. Many of these options seem to be in conflict with the neighborhood and Seattle’s goals to create a walkable, livable city, especially around Link, where it’s easily possible to walk, bike, and ride transit to all your needs. They agreed that there hasn’t been enough public involvement, and scheduled a public meeting to get feedback (information below). It’s very likely that a parking garage will happen here, but we can and should improve it.
In the long term, we need to solve this approach – parking garages in the city are almost never a great use of space, or of our public dollars – especially not incredibly limited transit dollars that can otherwise be used to expand service faster. Private developers build more than enough parking, and the market should be allowed to solve parking issues in places where we have great transit.
But for the moment, it may be that the best choice available to us is indeed to turn 7 acres of parking into a 1 acre garage – but only with strong public review, and only in concert with many other improvements that ensure Northgate has the ability to become a walkable neighborhood later. These are some of those improvements – things we need to ensure happen to make sure that the garage doesn’t just make the area even more car-only than it already is:
- First, we should price this parking. Make it, perhaps, the same cost as a trip on Link, and take ORCA so users can simply transfer. That way, people going to the mall use mall parking, and people riding transit don’t pay any more than they already do.
- We should also split up the giant Metro parcel. Allowing the 6 acres to be developed as a single project will create another behemoth like Thornton Place, which brings no one to the sidewalks around it and has largely created merely another car destination. Smaller parcels would allow for a mixture of architecture and uses, and for smaller, more innovative developers to have a chance to bid on the sites.
- We should be sure that Metro and Sound Transit vacate the Simon and Thornton Place parking garages currently shared for park and ride facilities. Because the station area will have no minimum parking requirements, new development will have an opportunity to share parking with these existing structures so they don’t have to build their own. This will help encourage more pedestrian-oriented development on both the current park and ride site, while offering the flexibility to financiers to show that there are parking options through contract if necessary. This is one of the best opportunities to see human-oriented development in Seattle outside of our usual walkable neighborhoods.
- Finally, we should commit funds to a pedestrian overpass to get North Seattle Community College into walking distance, allowing them to grow without having to build new parking – and in concert with that, we should build sidewalks and make space for bike lanes around the station. We have to commit to all modes, as the vast majority of Northgate Station’s users aren’t going to be driving there.
It’s not that bad of an idea to combine a lot of surface parking into a garage – until we have really serious mass transit, we’re not going to see fewer people drive to Northgate Station, we’re just going to see most of the new users come on buses, bicycles and their feet. But we must ensure that we set up the area to be developed for humans in the coming years – not as it has been so far, for cars.
The best way to ensure these things right now is to follow through on the public meeting the neighborhood has asked for – make these demands there! Since the aforementioned letter was sent, Sound Transit has scheduled a meeting on June 4th, at 6pm, at Olympic View Elementary, a few blocks south of the mall. Check out Sound Transit’s ideas, and if you agree with me, say “hey, we want some of these things in writing before we accept another parking garage in our neighborhood.” With your help, we can make Seattle better!