Tomorrow Richard Conlin will present his proposed Northgate access strategy at the Sound Transit Capital Committee. Between Sound Transit, the City of Seattle, King County and grants his proposal would fund $10 million dollars for pedestrian and bike improvements, $20 million dollars for a pedestrian and bike bridge over I-5 and $12-15 million dollars for a 450 stall shared-use parking garage. At least $10 million dollars of the $42-45 million dollars has not been identified at this point.

Boiled down his proposal essentially diverts funds away from the additional 150-450 parking stalls that ST proposal included, to pedestrian and bicycle improvements. From my understanding King County has been counting on these additional stalls to begin the conversion of County land to TOD. How this change affects these plans is unclear to me at this time, but if the County Council has the wherewithal to move forward with TOD without replacing parking this is a great move. If not, this change could put King County’s TOD ambitions up in the air.

Press release below:

Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin proposes Northgate access strategy
Matches pedestrian and bicycle access strategies with replacement parking facility

Seattle – Sound Transit Board Member and Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin will propose a coordinated access strategy for the Northgate Link Light Rail Station at the Sound Transit Capital Committee on Thursday, June 14, 1:30 p.m. at 401 South Jackson Street. The proposal will commit Sound Transit to:

  • Match up to $5 million in City investments in bicycle and pedestrian facilities around the Northgate station;
  • Commit up to $5 million as a 25 percent share in a bicycle/pedestrian bridge between the Northgate station and North Seattle Community College;
  • Agree that Sound Transit will fund park-and-ride facilities including a new 450 stall parking garage, preferably shared use. Private funding could be used to provide additional parking garage stalls and potentially free existing surface parking for future development.

“A coordinated access strategy is critical to making light rail work and to realizing the vision of the Northgate Urban Center and enhancing the neighborhoods around Northgate,” Conlin stated. “We can accomplish so much more by recognizing that all modes of access are necessary in order to prevent gridlock and ensure that transit and urban development work together.”

The proposal includes Sound Transit being credited against the sum for any required mitigation imposed as part of permitting and other City regulations, and includes actions that Sound Transit has already engaged in to design the station to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

Under the Conlin proposal, Sound Transit would be committing up to $10 million for pedestrian and bicycle facilities along with approximately $12 to $15 million for Transit’s share of parking garage construction. The proposed investments would be funded within Sound Transit’s budget for North Link. These investments, in turn, will leverage other public and private funding.

The City of Seattle would have to commit $5 million to bicycle and pedestrian facilities, an amount that is consistent with the City’s long-range plans for this area. A consortium of entities would have to be brought together to fund the remaining 75 percent of the pedestrian bridge.

“If the Sound Transit Board agrees to this proposal, and the other funding partners join the commitment, we will be able to invest $10 million in pedestrian and bicycle facilities and up to $20 million for the pedestrian bridge over I-5,” Conlin noted. “I am confident that the City would invest $10 million, and we will ask our regional partners to come up with the other $10 million.”

Projected public investment in access to the Northgate station:

Pedestrian/Bicycle facilities $10 million
Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge across I-5 $20 million
Parking garage $12-15 million
Total: $42-45 million

Sources of funds:

Sound Transit up to $22-25 million
City of Seattle up to $10 million
Other potential partners:

    King County
    State of Washington
    and grant dollars
up to $10 million

73 Replies to “Richard Conlin to Propose Northgate Access Strategy”

  1. I’m sorry – but until Metro or the City decides to put in more east-west service that is not two miles apart, I will continue to use the park-and-ride at Northgate. Oh – and if more service does ever get put in, not everything needs to go by the college. Northgate Way isn’t that bad…

    1. Northgate Way is pretty hellacious in the evenings. But I agree that not everything needs to go through the college loop.

    2. Speaking as someone who lives on Ashworth, just a couple doors up from Northgate way- it’s a screaming nightmare a great deal of the time. It’s out of the way for NSCC and while the sidewalks are decent, there’s no asphalt for cyclists (the street is so busy, you couldn’t reasonably spare any) which means they’re forced onto sidewalks, which is suboptimal.

      The bus loop down to NSCC is irritating, but the wonderful thing about the ped bridge is that you could get rid of most of those loops and most bus traffic and re-route it over to the transit center, because it’d be a wonderfully short walk from the campus.

    3. until Metro or the City decides to put in more east-west service that is not two miles apart

      Gotta call you on that one. E/W service in this area is spaced at rough 1 mile intervals (85th, 105th/Northgate, 130th/125th, 145th).

      The only real gap in e/w service is on the west side of the freeway, between Northgate and 75th. And in that area, there’s 1/4 mile N/S service, which will take you directly to Roosevelt station (when it opens), assuming Metro doesn’t decide to divert ALL of them to hit Northgate, which they very well might – we all know that at a minimum the 70-series routes are going to undergo a massive transformation before Northgate station opens.

      To provide denser e/w service in that gap, we’d need to start building new arterials through quiet, low-density neighborhoods.

      If the P&R is scrapped, local bus service will be enhanced to make up for it. Sound Transit is legally required to mitigate the lost parking, either with new parking, additional bus service, or some other creative project.

      1. @Lack Therof That isn’t what he is saying. He is saying transit service traveling from east to west and west to east is bad… which it is. Besides the 44 and 48 there is essentially no good east-west service.

      2. There is also the 41. The long term strategy is to put in a station at 125th/130th. Then make the 41 just keep going (to Bitter Lake). Make that bus go back and forth every five minutes or so. This provides quick, easy service from Lake City with no extra cost (the 41 spends most of its time getting to downtown, and most of its remaining time getting from 125th to Northgate). The Northgate station will not be a feeder station. It will serve the neighborhood, which will consist of big apartment buildings, big medical buildings and a small college. Its pretty easy to predict both of these trends, just as it was pretty easy to see that South Lake Union would transform itself from a neighborhood consisting of warehouses and warehouse stores into a high tech center with lots of apartments.

      3. Perhaps 2 miles is a slight exaggeration, however it is 25 blocks between one of those easst-west corridors. My point is that I can use the park-and-ride and be on a bus going downtown in the same amount of time it would take for me to just walk to one of the east-west corridors (I live 12 blocks from one and 13 blocks from the other).

        I am pleased that the changes this September will make the service on 105th more consistent in that instead of four buses an hour (two routes every 30 minutes), service will be one route every 15 minutes.

        The other complaint that I mentioned is the round-about way to get across the freeway. Not including the 16, there are eight trips an hour that run between NSCC and Northgate Transit Center. The deviation to use N 92nd is over a mile (13 blocks from Northgate Way to 92nd and then 8 blocks from 92nd to 100th) and I sometimes question whether the deviation is necessary for all the buses for a traffic issue that lasts for a few hours a day. At the times I go to and from work, Northgate Way is not that bad. Afterall, the 41 uses Northgate Way to get to I-5.

    4. The 75 is bad. 9 minutes from Magnuson Park to Lake City (the longest distance). 10-15 minutes from Lake City to Northgate TC. 10 minutes from Northgate TC to Aurora. That makes it 25 minutes from Lake City to Aurora, and 45 minutes from Sand Point to Aurora. Part of that is so many turns, and part of it is the traffic on Northgate Way. If the 75 used Northgate Way between the TC and Meridian, it would be even worse — see the 16 which takes 10 minutes (!) to loop around Northgate Way from NSCC to the TC.

      J Reddoch’s comment is perfectly right: most of the cars in the P&R are from the local neighborhoods, and many of them would switch to transit/bike/walking if the access routes were made better.

      1. Absolutely. I love the idea of east-west service on 125th/130th, but it doesn’t currently exist. You can go from Greenwood to Meridian (if you don’t mind a detour to the nursing home on the way) and you can go from 15th NE to Lake City Way, but that’s it. To go from Greenwood to Lake City requires a transfer at Northgate (it takes a half-hour to get to Northgate on the 345) or at Aurora and 105th (hello Cracktown–I mean, it’s not as bad as 85th, but it’s not exactly a place where I feel super safe waiting for a bus).

        And what is this bus service on 145th of which you speak? You mean the peak-only 304? Or the 347 that only runs on the east side of the freeway?

        Also, the service on 85th on the west side of the freeway is the 48, which does not continue to the east side of the freeway.

        From 85th to Market/46th/45th is an east-west wasteland.

        I think part of the problem is, the arterials east-west aren’t great either–they get horribly clogged. So where do you put bus service without it getting tied up in traffic, when we have no political will for transit lanes?

    1. Agreed. I don’t honestly think that the NSCC bus diversion actually costs much in the way of service hours, compared to the alternative: slogging through the freeway interchange. Especially considering the high utilization of those NSCC stops.

  2. It’s nice to see a local government coming to the table with something other than threats.

  3. Great idea on the pedestrian bridge from the station to NSCC Library (1/2 mi walk)
    Bad idea on previous post for pedestrian bridge from BTC to Overlake Hospital (also a 1/2 mile walk)
    Go figure?

      1. @Zed, got your sarcasm and perhaps responded at the wrong level. OTOH, it exposes how many people didn’t get it. East Link on whole is marginal at best. So marginal stations are important. Someday they may, probably will, look like genius. But in the short term somebody has to pay the bills.

    1. Yeah, the only small difference is East Link has to cross 405 and go right past Overlake Medical Center on the existing BNSF ROW and North Link remains on the other side of I-5. But yeah, almost identical; except for the diametrical differences.

      1. True, but just because you can put a station somewhere doesn’t mean you should. The point is that 1/2 mile is an appropriate distance for people to walk to a light rail station <= 10 min walk.

        On the other hand, it's wholly inappropriate to have rail spacing OTC -> Downtown Bellevue -> S.Bellevue -> Mercer -> Rainier -> IntlDistrict. With 1 possible infill station at Overlake Village and spring district each, if and only if they are built with some certain minimum density.

      2. Stephen the 1/2 mile between BTC and Whole foods is an extremely unpleasant walk. It isn’t just pedestrian unfriendly, it is downright pedestrian hostile. This is especially disappointing considering the NE 8th crossing of 405 was very recently rebuilt.

        However, building a better pedestrian connection between BTC and the East side of 405 combined with a station between 112th and 114th would allow you to combine two stations into one and swap the tunnel on 110th for an elevated segment along 112th.

        The downside would be the loss of ridership due to a smaller station walk shed compared to a station under 110th near BTC and a station behind Whole Foods.

        Supposedly the City of Bellevue wants to extend NE 6th across 405 and the BNSF ROW. Hopefully they make the resulting street and crossing of 405 much more pedestrian and bike friendly than NE 8th or even NE 10th or NE 4th.

    2. Why would you need a bridge to Overlake from BTC? There’s already two bridges to choose from (I would choose 10th, given the option).

      And aren’t we building a station at Overlake? Hospital station? Or did I miss it when that got axed?

      1. We are building Hospital station. Some comments the past few days have suggested scrapping it, or scrapping the BTC station.

  4. I agree that the ped. bridge has value but to really change things you need a transit crossing of I-5 at 100th. We need an east west connection for the station that doesn’t rely on Northgate way….a billion dollar rail line deserves significant east west transit investment….

    1. A new vehicle crossing of I-5 would be obscenely expensive, running into the hundreds of millions at a minimum. We’re struggling to find cash for a simple pedestrian crossing.

      Not meaning to dis the idea, but you have to recognize that there is no possible way it could ever be funded by any of the involved agencies.

      1. It would not be hundreds of millions of dollars. NE 128th St included a flyer stops, lowering of I-405, and a 6 lane bridge and cost $80 million. (

        Regardless of this one project specifically, no one, not even Metro, is thinking about the long term bus integration with Link and the associated capital investments necessary to make the smart system design changes possible. Just look at SR-520 and Montlake.

      2. Considering there is already a bridge over I-5 at 92nd I don’t really see the need for one at 100th, especially since it serves the same drivers (and transit routes) a crossing at 100th would.

        Given that I-5 is on an elevated berm at 100th, the below-grade express lane ramps, and the marsh on the West side of the highway constructing a vehicle crossing here would be especially difficult and expensive for little value.

        A pedestrian bridge solves 90% of the problem with less cost.

      3. A 100th transit bridge would allow for a bus on 100th from 3rd NW (Holman Road) to 17th NE (and theoretically to Lake City Way and 40th NE if two other gaps were filled). That would go right through the middle of this underserved area that’s driving to the P&R. Parts of 100th are narrow and steep, so a circulator van may be better than a full-sized bus, but that should be sufficient for the neighborhood (?).

        Nevertheless, a transit bridge is way out of the question if we’re having trouble paying for a pedestrian bridge at 1/4 or 1/5 the cost.

        The existing 92nd bridge is a long way around for pedestrians. It adds 20 minutes (!) to the walk from the TC to NSCC compared to a new ped bridge, and 17-ish minutes compared to a 100th transit/ped bridge. 92nd is no big deal to bicycles and cars, but for peds it makes the difference between walkable and unwalkable.

    2. The ENTIRE CITY needs a significant east/west investment. How shall I count the ways? 85th or 100th, 45th, Denny, Yesler, McClelland — and that’s just a start!

  5. This shows how little I know about engineering, but I’m surprised a pedestrain bridge costs $20 million to construct. I think it’s good idea, but obviously a pedestrian bridge alone can’t overcome the reduced walkshed that results when you build a pedestrian-oriented light rail facility in the shadow of a freeway.
    That battle has come and gone, but it’s too bad Sound Transit continues to plan new construction in freeway right of ways.

    1. So where the hell should Sound Transit have put the Northgate station instead? Carkeek park?

      If you are planning a North/South rail alignment that serves the UW it would seem really silly to bypass Northgate.

    1. Can’t be done. As we’ve heard time and again, there’s no way transit oriented development can be done without providing free parking.

      1. And so, without free parking, downtown will follow the predictions of JB into the dustbin of history.

      2. Also, a month ago, we were being told emphatically that there was no funding for a pedestrian bridge, so accept reality and build a 900-stall parking garage. Funny how a little public participation can change the laws of transit planning.

      3. The new park and ride lot next to the Beacon Hill station provided by El Centro de la Raza is open. Seems to have about 70 or so spaces. When I saw it yesterday about 3pm, it was nearly full. They charge $5 for a days parking.

      4. Now there’s some TOD. They’re able to turn a $5 profit on each $6 subsidy per boarding. Awesome business model!

  6. I find it interesting that it takes a politician to come up with this plan when in the face of strong requests for it at the community meetings, the ideas were pushed back by ST staff. e.g. Staff said nice idea, here’s what it might look like, but not our responsibility to build it and by implication, not part of our mitigation strategy.

    All of what the Council-Member has proposed could have been ST staff’s recommendations if they had the mandate. What is it going to take so that these values are internalized on the part of ST staff?

    1. ST staff follows a chain of command. The ST Board is above them in that chain. Changing policy direction means board action.

    2. It’s a welcome change, and the process is exactly what should happen. ST staff make a less-than-ideal proposal that assumes P&R stalls are an unmoveable requirement. The vast majority of Northgateites are IMBY and say no, we want ped/bicycle/bus access instead! (I was really surprised at this, because usually outside Capitol Hill and the U-district, people demand more P&Rs, not less.) Conlin, an ST board member, responds with a compromise proposal that clears a path for the ped bridge. Only an official, government-sponsored proposal can force ST and King County to rethink their assumptions, and Conlin has done that.

      I’m not 100% convinced of this proposal but it’s a good alternative to have. And maybe King County should rethink whether immediate TOD on the surface lots is really more important than a ped bridge and access improvements. Maybe the surface parking can remain a bit longer (10 years), as part of a to-be-determined conversion deal that doesn’t involve a 900-stall garage.

      My focus throughout Link is to improve existing transit access without shutting out future potential TOD. It’s a mistake to focus solely on future development.

      1. My take: any proposal which gets the pedestrian bridge is going to be worth it. That highway is a huge barrier, and crossing it will open up a lot of opportunities.

      2. I don’t get why it’s so surprising that neighborhoods like Northgate, Mapleleaf, Pinehurst, Lakecity, etc (all neighborhoods with moderately young people living in them) would want more ped access. The ped access around the northside of city can be shit in places, no one bothered building sidewalks and everyone parks their 3+ cars on the streets(if only we could fine people for parking on the street instead of in their driveway).

        Old people and people who feel privileged are the people who want more P&R access. Whats the point of taking a bus if you have to DRIVE(KEY WORD) to it first? These people will just drive the entire distance to their locations instead.

        Also when we talk about a Ped-bridge at 100th does anyone ever think about ped-underpass? How hard would it be to bore a small tunnel under I-5 at 100th that connects directly to NSCC? Certainly shouldn’t cost 20mil.

      3. The reason that P&Rs exist is that many people *do* want to drive to a bus. Why would they do that? Lots of reasons:

        – They don’t need to drive in traffic (which can be stressful).
        – They don’t need to park downtown (which can be expensive).
        – The bus can use HOV lanes.

        I tend to agree with you that Metro overserves suburban commutes and underprovides point-to-point urban service. But P&Rs do have a real market.

  7. From my experience, Sound Transit middle management is both spineless and unimaginative. To be good foot soldiers is the highest aspiration. So, every time they propose something sub-optimal, rather than listening to criticism, constructively working towards another path, and then educating their leaders on why that new idea has merit, they obstruct and obfuscate until the discussion is raised over their heads. I chalk it up to poor organizational management from above, but please, for lack of a better phrase, grow a pair.

  8. I think your assumption that the funds for Conlin’s proposal mean no larger parking garage are not true. They are based upon the bloated figures per stall ($30-40K) that many cite. If the mall owners build the garage the price can be much cheaper. The current JC Penney shared use garage was built for around $10K a stall.

    If the larger garage is not built, King County can’t move forward with TOD until the line opens because they still need the parking to serve current customers. Remember that lost ridership means another budget hit to Metro.

    1. You make the same bold assumption that Metro staff made that every parking spot removed will mean lost ridership, rather than people switching to a slightly-less convenient option, such as carpooling, biking or a less-frequent bus. Yes, I suppose, some will be lost, but I don’t think it will be one-for-one.

      What made my jaw drop is your claim that lost ridership (presumably on the 41) will be a hit to Metro’s budget. I’m pretty sure the 41, just like every other Metro route, is a money-losing venture.

      There are other reasons not to want ridership to drop on the 41, but expense to Metro just isn’t one of them.

      1. The reason that 75% of the people currently parking at Northgate are from within a three-mile radius is that feeder buses can’t make their commute as quick and easy. If you live in Pinehurst or Maple Leaf and have to walk several blocks to a feeder bus on the nearest arterial that has 15 minute frequencies at best, wait and catch that bus, then wait and catch a bus to downtown…well then, most will just say screw that.

        I personally would perhaps do that, but many with kids or busy schedules simply won’t and will return to their cars.

        What makes my jaw drop is your understanding of Metro finances. True, all buses don’t cover their expenses. But Metro’s budget depends on fares for about a quarter of their income. So, lost ridership equals lost funding. Simple math.

      2. Without looking at any data I would actually venture a guess that the 41 is cost neutral if not profitable actually.

      3. The 41 is an express. Express buses tend to have poor fare recovery.

        At least in 2009 when they actually put fare recovery ratios in the annual report, the 41 can’t even manage 40%, even on the trips that terminate at Northgate.

        The 41 is scheduled super-frequently during peak with trips only 4 minutes apart. If ridership did fall significantly, there’s plenty of room to save money by deleting trips.

      4. If ridership goes down on the 41, Metro will simply cut peak runs, and thereby make a profit off of losing ridership.

      5. The other parts of why 75% of the spots are used up by local residents are (1) the lack of a quick non-SOV connection to neighborhoods on the other side of the freeway; and (2) the parking is free! Charge, and a lot of the spots will be freed up. Ridership on the 41 might even go up as people who could walk, bike, or carpool are given a financial incentive to do so, leaving space for commuters coming from further away. That parking revenue won’t hurt Metro’s bottom line, either.

      6. The 41 is one of the most packed buses I ride. What I don’t get is why Metro doesn’t make the 41 a NGTC-Downtown only bus, while making a new bus line that runs NGTC-Lakecity loop? Two buses on the new route could shuttle people from NGTC to Lake City every 15 mins, while the deticated 41’s(# of buses need is unknown to me) could be moving massive amounts of people to and from downtown.

    2. I strongly support TOD, but think Metro is on drugs if they think they are going to get a windfall from that property. All economic studies done on Northgate land values are contrary to what Metro is currently thinking.

    3. I’d much rather see the holding pattern of surface lots — they can always be sold to developers, remember? — than see a garage built that will bias the access mode share for decades to come.

      Other than selling the land to developers, I’m not sure what else is needed for King Co to “move forward with TOD.” There’s no P in TOD.

      1. BART built new P&Rs. In this case the P&Rs are 30+ years old and the neighborhood has already said it wants to move beyond them. Do you think residents will fall in love with the P&Rs more after Link opens? I doubt it.

      2. @Mike it isn’t about the neighborhood wanting something or not. Its about the county having the will to piss of hundreds of P&R users by eliminating their parking.

      3. Interesting point that it’s a King County P&R inside the City of Seattle. But King County is ~2 million people. What political strangle hold can a few hundred P&R users have?

    4. You’re mixing up numbers. The total cost of a stall, and the cost a transit agency have to pay per stall in a shared use garage are different. You won’t see project costs drop by over 70% just because it’s financed by a private agency.

  9. I’m hoping they do something really cool with the bike-ped bridge across I-5. The Northgate area is where you first feel like you are “in” Seattle and something that makes a statement about that would be great.

      1. Yes, a north GATE! The ped bridge can be a quasi-gate across the freeway. That would be something vaguely like the monuments in other cities.

        Moscow Gate, St Petersburg. (The boulevard goes around it.)

    1. Uhhhhhhhhhg whats with all the bridge ideas, why do we have to shuttle people UP AND OVER I-5 when it would be easier to shuttle us UNDER I-5.

      Build a bridge over a raised Interstate, hurrrrrr sounds like a good idea to me.

  10. I’ve been really impressed with Conlin lately. He really nailed the nuances of the Roosevelt situation. The city dropped the ball and pissed people off needlessly. If it had been handled better we would have gotten the rezone without all the fuss (remember, the Roosevelt neighborhood wanted the station there).

    He really understood the value of the station at 125th/130th (and commented so on this blog). 125th/130th will serve the greater neighborhood, not Northgate. 125th/130th will have feeder buses, traveling on those roads, which are much faster than the Northgate area (which doesn’t even cross the freeway close to the station). This means that you could run a bus every five minutes or so, from Lake City to Bitter Lake and it will get you to the train station very quickly. As a side benefit, you could get from Lake City to Aurora much faster.

    Finally, he really gets the feeling about Northgate. It isn’t a feeder station, or a terminus. It is simply a station in an awkward spot (geographically) next to lots of big buildings. Soon, there will be many more big buildings. Right now, there is a college, a major shopping center, a few apartment buildings and medical offices. If you know anything about future growth in this city, you know that the apartment buildings and medical offices will grow like crazy. Simply put, most of the people who use the station will be coming or going from places nearby. Those of us who live in surrounding neighborhoods will take buses to the north or the south.

    1. +1 on the part about the station at 130th. The schedule for building up the Lynnwood extension is not that many years after Northgate Station opens. If there is a station built at 130th, AND they put in good bus connections to the station, then they won’t need those P&R spaces at Northgate for long. Of course those are still two big if’s.

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