Northgate Integrated Bus-Rail

On Monday I posted about the major players who have been pushing for a 600-900 stall shared use garage. Today I’ll post specifically about why King County likes the idea, and the fundmental policy discussion we should be having.

King County TOD

Northgate is slated to become the region’s premier transit-oriented development (TOD) center, and King County’s current P&R is at the center of the plan. Northgate TOD has been in the work for several years, but as I wrote on Monday, through the Growing Transit Communities partnership, the publicly funded part of TOD is in high gear. The City is anticipating 2,500 new households and 4,200 new jobs in Northgate, and King County wants to use its current surface parking lots to catalyze other development at Northgate and finance the reconstruction of the Transit Center.

King County sees an off-site structured parking garage, which would be achieved with the 600-900 stall shared use garage, as an important first step in giving the county flexibility in moving forward with TOD. Ron Posthuma said the 600-900 garage would allow the county to move forward with its first 414 units during station construction, allowing TOD to be on the ground when North Link opens. Following this King County could continue to move forward with redeveloping its remaining surface parking lots.

Past examples of King County P&R “TOD” has historically been a mix of affordable housing and market rate housing plopped on top of ugly structured parking, killing activity around the buildings and and leading to conflicts between bus movements and P&R or resident access to parking. Ron Posthuma said that King County see a shared use parking garage as a win for King County because this removed the need to accommodate replacement parking on County owned land, and relocation of P&R access away from transit center will give Metro more flexibility in building a high quality bus-rail transit center.

Access and P&R Replacement Policy

While most of the debate around parking at Northgate is about the number of stalls, it’s really is a proxy policy debate about how to prioritize access improvements to transit, how to best manage P&R supply, and whether or not P&R supply must be maintained when TOD is built on a agency’s property. All of these questions are, in my opinion, far from settled, with the status quo essentially lining up with what Sound Transit has thus far proposed at Northgate.

The Sound Transit Board has been grappling with the first policy question for the last few months, with relation to Sounder access. A study due out later this year, the Sounder Station Access Study, analyzes and ranks a host of capital station access improvements for all modes. While the tiff between Paula Hammond and Julia Patters was the most reported aspect of the recent ST Board retreat, a significant policy precedent was set, with Sound Transit funding the soon to be discontinued PT 497 shuttle service. This is the only situation in which Sound Transit has thus far funded non-capital station access improvements. Sound Transit has also studied implementing paid parking but has thus far put off implementation, instead opting for increased enforcement and management.

The last policy question, whether P&R capacity should be maintained when building TOD on agency land, is one that, with regards to Northgate, needs to be addressed by the King County Council and Sound Transit together. All of Ron Poshuma’s remarks assume that in the short term, parking should be maintained, and that essentially is the Council’s informal policy guidance. The Council and Sound Transit need a clearer policy on this issue.

In the medium-to-long term I think many, including those working on the 600-900 parking garage, believe that station parking capacity at Northgate should decrease. The question is how to transition to less parking in a way that is responsible, politically viable, allows funding of non-motorized projects and ensures that TOD is not delayed. Shared parking, especially in areas where increased TOD complement the parking demand patters of a P&R, such as Northgate, is one way to do that. Assuming King County does not exercise its ability to extend its current leases, parking capacity will be reduced from 1,219 in 2021 to 939 in 2016 and 589 in 2046. If Sound Transit signs a shorter term lease with Simon Properties for the 600-900 stall garage, all King County and Sound Transit owned P&R supply could be eliminated by 2046.

Overall, these are policy issues that needs to be addressed, not as a one off issue, but part of a intentional policy decision. This had not been done and this is why there is so  much angst about it.

The author has been involved in the Sound Station Access Study as a employee of a sub-consultant on the project team.

28 Replies to “The Northgate 900 – King County TOD and Access, P&R Policy”

    1. Sorry about that. Grammar and spelling are not my forte in hastily written posts.

    1. Agreed. I don’t think Metro should have signed a ~40 year lease for the parking. I hope they tried to get less.

  1. Note there’s a ~120 stall WSDOT lot on a sliver of land by the freeway there, which I don’t think is included in Adam’s totals. That might well be P&R indefinitely into the future.

  2. Are there any schematics of how buses will get there to and from Northgate Way, or from the south for that matter?

    1. I don’t know if there is. I know they are looking at having buses circulate clockwise around the western part of the TOD site, as opposed to the current flipped North/South flow they currently use.

    2. Even with a reduction in parking and increased TOD the street grid in this area will be too packed for buses to efficiently serve Northgate station and this neighborhood. ST, Metro and KC need to look at the idea of a 100th st. I-5 overpass for transit cycle and ped. only. We have to get east-west transit off of Northgate way. If the city and county think all of this TOD development can happen with just the link station they are wrong.

      1. The more I look at it. Maybe this 100th street I-5 crossing should be a tunnel under the freeway. Done correctly much of it could be of the cheaper cut and cover variety. It could be done to coincide with the eventual replacement of the freeway roadbed….

      2. Fil I think in a ideal world this would be on the table. I have personally thought about this before as well. But the fact that even a ped bridge is a stretch really shows how little people are thinking “outside the box”.

      3. A 100th underpass there would interfere with the existing approach to the cut/cover express lane ramp.

      4. While a tunnel might work ok for buses, it would be awful for pedestrians. A dark tunnel is a lot less safe than a well-lit bridge.

      5. @asdf
        There’s no reason a tunnel can’t be well-lit and safe.

        A ped underpass tunnel near my house is (1) very wide, (2) well lit and painted white (and kept very clean), (3) has very shallow access stairways with bike ramps and elevators, (4) has mirrors at every corner, and a bunch of closed-circuit video cameras and monitors, allowing one to see the entire tunnel from any number of locations (and presumably also available to some security company somewhere), (5) technically private, so I presume they could evict any bums they find living there.

        None of this seems like rocket-science, just common sense and attention to detail.

        Going further than that, a high-traffic tunnel can have small retail of various sorts, making it even safer and more popular.

        I guess an equivalent bridge maybe feels little safer, but I’m not really whether it is all that much safer…

  3. Am I wrong that there still won’t be any direct bus ramps to or from I-5 in either direction? Even a freeway station with an elevator and a bridge, like at Mountlake Terrace would help. Given such access at Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, this one really should be a no-brainer.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Keeping in mind that this will only be a terminus for Link for a short time I think it’s much more important to concentrate on east west connections. The flyer stop at Totem Lake was $77.5 million dollars. That’s about double the cost of the parking structure even if they build out 900 stalls.

    2. Those ramps may be obsolete with Link. They’re designed to facilitate a quick stop in passing. But which buses will be passing through on I-5 if the expresses are truncated at that station or at another station further north? The 511 will be obsolete with Link. If the 510 continues going all the way to downtown, it will presumably not stop at Mountlake Terrace because it’s not doing so now and ST as resisted the attempts to convert all 510s to 512s.

      I was thinking about how to make an Edmonds express bus transfer conveniently to Link at Mountlake Terrace. It’s a long walk from the bus bays to the flyer stops (and presumable location of the Link station). The buses could go through the flyer stops but it would be some tricky maneuvering: they’d have to enter the freeway at 220th and exit at 244th, which means they’d somehow have to get to 220th quickly. And 220th has been proposed as another Link station, which could possibly have a bus bay closer to the platform. So I’m not sure if buses can realistically “terminate” at the flyer stops.

  4. Are there any plans to construct east-west connections to the station in such a way so as not to impose 20 minute delays for anyone who just wants to go from Lake City to Greenwood?

    1. Don’t know about the 20 min. delay, seems a bit of hyperbola, but it does seem like neighborhood connections should be the long term emphasis with respect to capital spending in lieu of a flyer stop type freeway connection.

    2. Bus 75 weekdays westbound: 3:15pm — Lake City Way & 125th, 3:45pm — Aurora & 105th. This is what I’ve been complaining about for months. It’s due to all those turns in the middle, the traffic on Northgate Way, and the 5-minute layover at the TC. Redirecting the 75 to go straight west on 125th/130th past a 130th Link station would significantly improve east-west connectivity in the far part of the city.

  5. I can see the argument against park & ride garages – especially when TOD is being planned. Whatever the technicalities prking garages are a bad idea. Northgate should become a model for TOD – I know it’s hard for people to imagine that with the mall next door with acres of parking surrounding the mall. When you look ata google map of the area you mostly see parking lots in that neighborhood, and that seems unlikely to change.

    The idea that we should subsidize parking for a small percent of riders doesn’t really make good financial sense. What we could do is recognize that many people need to drive to transit and figure out how to connect those car dependent people to rapid transit. I wonder if there could be a zone around Northgate that would allow private parking for a fee and a private shuttle bus to connect those drivers to rail.

    1. The idea that we should subsidize parking for a small percent of riders doesn’t really make good financial sense.

      Stop. That’s it, right there. Why is it done? To buy votes of course. Politics doesn’t make financial sense. KC Metro is built around the premise of wasting 80 cents on suburban transit to recover 20 cents of their tax dollars to subsidize urban transit. OK, I just made up those statistics but the general premise is Seattle transit can’t survive without suburban subsidy. That’s a fact. And suburban transit will never pencil out. Worse, it’s subsidized sprawl in it’s current arrangement.

  6. Looking toward a future of dramatically higher gas prices and a shrinking middle class, we should be planning for many fewer cars and an escalating demand for transit. Sound Transit parking garages have been a horrible waste of money when suburbanites should be driving shorter distances to more outlying park-n-rides, then taking buses to the major transit hubs. Within a decade many of these suburbanites will be forced to “one less car” and shorter commutes, even more so in the Northgate area. Already more and more young people in Seattle are simply going carless, and per capita driving is dropping everywhere.

  7. A moving sidewalk for a pedestrian section of a bike/ped bridge across I-5 would be great. Too bad that, as part of this project, a way to get southbound buses to the transit center can’t be accomodated, i.e. to drop off their passengers at Link, which would allow those buses to terminate there vs. having to continue to the UW or downtown Seattle. I could even see some kind of parking structure that went over part of I-5 perhaps. At the very least, the city needs to install decent sidewalks south to 92nd, as it’s hazardous to walk there under present conditions, particularly in inclement weather.

    1. Northgate is only a very temporary Link terminus. It doesn’t make sense to invest big money when bus routes will be terminated farther north only a few years later.

Comments are closed.