Over the last week there’s been a lot of conflicting information with regards to the 900-stall parking garage at Northgate. It started with Cascade’s blog post accusing Sound Transit (ST) of making a backroom deal to build 900 parking stalls, which ST initially denied but later recanted. This could be a reflection of the complex and evolving planning story of Northgate, but it certainly indicates that it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community.

Northgate is, in my opinion, the single most complex station in all of ST2, if not the system. While there is disagreement about how much parking is the prudent choice, from a legal, short-term, and long-term perspective, everyone involved wants to make Northgate a shinning success of Transit Oriented Development, bus-rail integration, and non-motorized access.

Thursday’s ST Board briefing slides are above. Below are highlights of my talk with Ron Posthuma, Assistant Director of KCDOT, who is King County’s lead on the Northgate TOD effort.

The Players

Through the Growing Transit Communities (GTC) program, of which STB is a member organization, King County (KC), ST and the City of Seattle DPD have been working on creating a “catalyst project” at Northgate. The idea is to open the station with a bang, bringing a critical mass to the station area so private development follows. These discussions have been occurring within the GTC program and in parallel with ST Northgate station area planning. Those not following both could certainly get the wrong impression because of this.

Additionally, according to Ron Posthuma, Simon Properties, which owns Nortghate Mall, has been a part of the discussion. Simon Properties, which will lose 451 stalls during construction and 64 permanently, is interested in the idea of a 600-900 stall shared-use garage, much like the current “SPG” (ie JCPenney) parking garage. KC Metro currently leases 280 of these stalls.

Construction of the SPG parking garage was necessary for the mall to meet its lease agreements with long term tenants. Ron said that without the SPG garage the recent expansion of the Mall to the west would have violated the lease agreements. Likewise if the Mall wants to further redevelop parking lots with shopping and TOD, additional structured parking will be required to comply with lease agreements. A shared use garage would make redevelopment of surface parking a more likely option.

Tomorrow I’ll post about King County’s take on the garage

48 Replies to “The Northgate 900 – The Players”

  1. Is the mall interested enough in a 600-900 stall garage that they would be willing to pay for most of it? Or is the garage only attractive to them because someone else (i.e. taxpayers) is paying for it?

    1. The lost parking needs to be mitigated. It sounds like due to leasing committments, it would not be an option for SPG to just take the money.

      1. I wonder if they could renegotiate those lease agreements. Maybe some stores wouldn’t mind housing near their store? It’s worth asking.

      2. The mall tenants will likely not be willing to negotiate on parking. Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom are all huge nationwide chains, who nearly exclusively operate out of suburban-style enclosed shopping malls. Note that Nordstrom and Macy’s both went so far as to have their legacy downtown stores directly connected to large parking structures with skybridges.

        “How easy/quick was it to find parking” is high on their customer satisfaction questionnaires, and they demand that their parking lots be sized for the Black Friday rush. Mall owners go so far to satisfy their parking demands as to lease off-site parking lots during the holiday season and run shuttles to it for their tenant’s employees, so that 100% of the on-site parking is available to customers.

      3. re: Lack Thereof’s comment: Nordstrom and Macy’s in downtown Seattle (and I hear this is true in other cities as well) both have Link Light Rail stations in their basements, but have not seen this stellar connection to international tourism as a plus. Just a few months ago, Nordstrom updated their website so that it is possible to find transit (including Light Rail) directions to their stores; Macy’s still offers only driving directions. I have never seen any advertising from either store mention the great ease and convenience of Light Rail or any other transportation mode other than driving. These people need to be brought into the 21st century!

      4. These people need to be brought into the 21st century!

        Or maybe you need to try running a business. How much do you spend a month at Macy’s now that it’s got such great light rail access?

  2. All we are saying … is give us a bridge.

    All we are saying … is charge for the stalls.

  3. Why is it that Portland doesn’t have these problems?

    Guess the lower population density allows for building parking lots next to stations.

    Free 24-hour parking for riders and carpoolers

    Whether you are meeting your carpool or catching the bus, MAX or WES, you can park free of charge up to 24 hours (unless otherwise posted) at these Park & Ride locations. Overnight parking is permitted, as long as your stay does not exceed 24 hours. Always lock your vehicle and do not leave valuables inside.


    1. Maybe Portland doesn’t have a blog to tell them free park and rides next to rail stations are evil? I didn’t know I was supposed to hate culdesacs until I found STB. Someone needs to educate them.

    2. E 122nd/Menlo Park Park & Ride

      12202 E Burnside St., Portland, 97216
      View map

      Parking – 612 total spaces
      442 spaces in large lot facing Burnside
      170 spaces in smaller lot at SE 124th & Ash
      Bike lockers available
      Open all days
      24-hour limit


      MAX Blue Line
      71-60th/122nd Ave

      SE Powell Blvd Park & Ride

      3618 SE 92nd Ave., Portland, 97266
      View map

      Parking – 391 total spaces
      Bike lockers available
      Open all days
      24-hour limit


      MAX Green Line

      1. Move to Portland, pal. LOL. This is Seattle. Not your beloved Kent. Christ, the one time I took the bus from Seattle to Kent, the class acts behind us were vomiting their booze infused dinners. This was in 1963. I am sure the town still sucks.

    3. Portland’s Park & Rides are where they belong: In the outer parts of the system, where local service is weak. They’re supposed to provide an interface to the system for people in areas poorly served by transit.

      Northgate P&R was on the outer edge of the system when it was built, but the neigborhood has changed around it, and it’s no longer appropriate.

      Those spaces need to be moved to a different P&R in an area where local bus service is weaker. They will have a much bigger benefit that way.

      1. The distance between the Rockwood station, with 250 parking spaces, and downtown Portland is 12 miles.

        The distance of Tigard Station, with 250 parking spaces, to downtown Portland is 8 miles.

        The distance of Northgate to downtown Seattle is 8 miles.

      2. Anybody do an analysis of who is routinely using the current park & rides, similar to the one done at the Tukwila light rail station? Do we expect Snohomish county users, users in the neighborhood using the 41, mall users, etc. If its Snohomish county, and Lynnwood Link is up and running in 2023, methinks the mall is going to get a big gimme from the taxpayer.

      3. Portland is not something to emulate. We’d be better served by looking at the mistakes San Fransisco made. Seattle’s “no new P&R” policy is something Bellevue needs to adopt post haste.

      4. Blandy:

        Distance to the city center is not what I’m concerned with. The quality and availability of local bus service is what I’m concerned with.

        Northgate Transit Center is an existing hub served by fifteen bus routes, express and local, spidering out in all directions. It is easy to get to from nearly any bus stop in the in the area, at nearly any time of the day.

        Tigard Station appears to be on the crossing of 3 routes (seems to be the point where a N/S route splits), near the edge of a 1 mile grid of milk runs. It’s easy to get to by bus only from the 2 corridors it sits on.

        I’m not entirely sure Tigard P&R is necessary, but the situation there is definitely not the same as at Northgate. There’s a much higher chance that locals will need to transfer just to get to the trunk line, and to me that can make a P&R justified. The grid system works against you in this situation, while Seattle’s hub & spoke system pays off (for a change).

      5. “Portland is not something to emulate..”


        For the past 3 years, STB commenters to a tee have said that Portland WAS something to emulate.

        Now that I actually looked up the facts, you dudes turn 180 and say the opposite.

        How can anyone trust these Forked Tongue opinions?!

      6. That’s right Blandy, we’re all the same person with only one opinion. We just like to put on different names and repeat ourselves over and over in these comment threads.

  4. The Mall seriously needs to renegotiate some of those neandrathal leases. The leases are also why they claim they cannot put anything on the 5th Ave pedestrian street. Surely the tenants can’t be that unreasonable.

    1. Surely the tenants can’t be that unreasonable.

      You’ve obviously never dealt with upper management in a retail business except as a customer.

      A 100% controlled environment is the name of the game. The only way they’ll accept something on a street is if it’s a street the mall created on it’s own and can control (see Redmond Town Center).

      1. Indeed, for decades the policy of most malls has been to “trap” people inside the mall and discourage them from leaving even to cross the street.

        This policy has actually been backfiring lately as people choose not to go to the mall at all. Some mall developers have changed with the times. Others haven’t.

  5. I keep hearing this idea for a pedestrian only bridge across I5 from NSCC to the Northgate station. What if this bridge over I-5 was on 100th st and was transit, Cycle and Ped only? What if we turned 100th st into a transit/bike through route from Holman road to 15th Ave NE? Is this crazy? It would be a great way to Faux “grade separate” transit from the gridlock that Northgate way/105th st frequently sees. It would be great way to get from Holman, Greenwood and Aurora to the northgate station. Is this a good or bad idea?

    1. It is a good idea. It is also an insanely expensive one, and there is no feasible way any of the involved agencies could pay for it. Even cheap, narrow vehicular bridges can cost 10x or more what a cheap narrow pedestrian bridge costs. The long, gentle approaches you’d need to get a vehicle bridge over I-5 could easily double or triple the costs, again. The height of the west end of this thing is going to be insane.

      Do we even have any cost estimates for the pedestrian crossing yet, now that I think about it?

      Ballparking it based on NJDOT numbers for prefab pedestrian bridges I found, a Northgate pedestrian bridge probably is going to cost around 1 mil. That’s before elevators and approaches and landscaping and whatnot (which might cost more than the bridge itself). A vehicle bridge would probably cost dozens of millions. If the budget somehow grew by that much, we could make all sorts of major changes.

      1. I think your estimate is way off. At the Sound Transit board meeting, the estimate given for the ped/bike bridge over I-5 was $20 million. King County did some preliminary design work on it already, so it’s not a totally out of the air number.

        But I didn’t hear any estimate for how many riders the bridge would generate for this cost. I’m curious to know how this would compare to the cost/rider for increased local bus service, the cost/rider of more sidewalks in the area, and the cost/rider of the proposed parking garage.

      2. The one recently built at Crystal was $8M, and was much, much longer, with parts helicoptered up on to a mountain. Of course, there would be operating costs a bridge wouldn’t have, but $12M would buy a lot of man hours.

      3. The 36th St 520 overpass was $30 million. It crosses 520 at an angle plus it’s got landscaped roundabouts and other improvements to the connecting roadways. Why would a pedestrian bridge need elevators? None of the pedestrian bridges on the eastside crossing I-405 and I-90 have anything of the sort. I don’t think any bridge is going to count toward parking mitigation.

      4. “Insanely expensive” is all in the eye of the beholder. It would seem that a multi-billion dollar light right line could justify the expense of a 50 million dollar transit link that would add significantly to usage of the Northgate station. Separating transit from congested arterials is seldom a cheap process. Link light rail runs north-south. We need to invest in ways to get people from the east and west to this line….

      5. Why would a pedestrian bridge need elevators?

        The elevation gain on the west end of this thing will be insane. Keep in mind that I-5 is up on a very tall berm in this area, so to get over we’re looking at a ~6 story climb up from street level.Last I heard the plan involved elevators for ADA access, rather than a mid-rise wheelchair ramp. It would be easier to dig a cut under the berm, but we can’t because the express lane ramp already did that.

      6. Why start at street level? If they’re going to build a multistory parking structure build the pedestrian bridge directly to the garage and make use of it’s elevators. The topo mapping on Goggle isn’t great but it looks like the rise is somewhat less than 40′.

      7. The west end, Bernie. The bridge is going to connect to the station itself on the east end.

      8. Maybe I’ve got it backward. I thought the west side of I-5 was higher than the east.

  6. Wait, the mall’s in favor of a 900 stall garage replacing the 64 permanent spots lost? How unsurprising.

    1. Duh?
      This whole parking replacement discussion misses the big picture. Look at Goggle Maps. The latest photo from noon on Friday 8/19/2011 shows most of the lots are empty.
      E. Metro lot about 200 cars in 464 spaces.
      W. Metro lot about 50 cars in 289 spaces.
      WSDOT lot is empty, out of 139 spaces.
      And NO, that date wasn’t a holiday.
      So, we’re replacing hundreds of empty spaces with hundreds of empty spaces nearer the Mall on the taxpayers dime, at a cost of millions to fulfill an agreement with FTA.

      1. If you zoom in a level, the lots are ~95% full, and who knows how many are in the garages. So much for armchair evidence gathering. If building a garage is what it takes to redevelop six acres of asphalt I’m all for it.

      2. The google image shows a Friday, and sun shadow indicates mid day. I tried zooming in to see if it brought up a different image, but nothing changed.
        So, what’s going on here? Any google map guru’s out there?

      3. Basically all of the P&R’s in Metro’s system are at or near 100% utilization. If you build a P&R space, it will be used, and you will get that rider.

        The question is really how much land are you willing to use getting those riders, and which land do you use.

        If it was up to me, we would eliminate the p&r at Northgate entirely, sell off the excess land to developers, and build an equal number of spaces at a P&R closer to the Snohomish county line, where they can do more good.

      4. Basically all of the P&R’s in Metro’s system are at or near 100% utilization.

        Not really. Last time I looked at the utilization rates it was around 70%. A few P&R lots are at 100%; South Bellevue for example. Brickyard was at 100% but I’m not sure where it’s at since they expanded. Others, like Eastgate aren’t full and some of the cars are actually students at Bellevue College poaching spaces to avoid buying a campus permit. Houghton is mostly empty. Whether they would fill 400 stalls or 900 stalls at Northgate I don’t know.

      5. “I tried zooming in to see if it brought up a different image, but nothing changed.”

        What browser are you using? Depending on what scale I look at it, the image changes, the 200ft scale image has fewer cars than the 100ft scale image.

      6. The real question is how many spaces would be filled if all the spaces had, for instance, a $1 / day charge.

  7. I don’t understand why Sound Transit won’t just study and quantify the various options to mitigating parking at Northgate. What kind of engineers make a decision without quantifying and weighing all the options?

    Also, why can’t Simon renegotiate those 60 year old lease formats? Bellevue Square and U Village clearly have different parking formats and that seems to have done them far better than Northgate has fared with their old school ways.

    1. Most likely they *can* renegotiate the leases but do not *wish* to do so.

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