Northgate Pedestrian Bridge Concept
Northgate Pedestrian Bridge Concept

When we last left the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge project, it had failed to qualify for a $15M federal grant, putting $10M in local matching funds in jeopardy. Before Christmas, Mike O’Brien and Larry Phillips sent their fellow Sound Transit board members a note asking them to ignore the next deadline for federal grands in 2015 and instead simply commit to finding the funding for the project.

You can read Tim Bond’s previous coverage of the bridge project for more details on the design options.

The pedestrian bridge is an excellent project and it would be a damn shame if Northgate station opened without it, so kudos to O’Brien and Phillips for making the ask to their fellow board members. The bridge would serve 7,000 trips per day. To put that in context, Northgate Station is expected to have 15,000 daily riders by 2030. The bridge would drastically transform the transit options for North Seattle Community College and the surrounding neighborhood.

Sound Transit has the money, with U-Link and North Link coming in under budget. The board just has to authorize the expenditure. Given that the agency’s recently-updated system access policy calls for considering pedestrian and bike access at stations, the bridge should be a no-brainer. If Sound Transit is going to continue to site stations directly adjacent to I-5, then it ought to do everything it can to make non-motorized access as pain-free as possible.  Let’s build this bridge.

139 Replies to “Keeping the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge Alive”

  1. Please, ST board, build this bridge. It’s the least you can do to make up for the otherwise-terrible Northgate station placement.

    1. Please don’t build it. Please be thrifty with our money. Reckless spending is how government gets into revenue trouble. Then they need to lay people off, cut service, raise taxes, etc. Let’s avoid a future crisis by being conservative with our hard-earned money.

      1. “…the otherwise-terrible Northgate station placement.” Really?

        At the existing transit center and bus island? Check.
        Adjacent to existing and future TOD sites? Check.
        Walk- & bike-accessible to surrounding single-family neighborhoods? Check.
        Adjacent to the north end’s largest retail employment center? Check.
        Proximate to a college? Check.
        Walk-accessible to a large concentration of medical/professional commercial space? Check.
        Road- and freeway-accessible for intermodal transfers? Check.

        Yes, absolutely HORRIBLE station placement.

      2. Uh, it’s inside the half-mile walk circle? Isn’t that sorta the point of having a ped bridge?

      3. Right – isn’t that what Kyle is advocating for? To improve this station placement by making that half mile circle possible? Without the bridge, the college is not a half mile away.

      4. kpt: exactly. Without the bridge, there is practically zero walkshed to the Northgate station. It’s located in the ass end of a parking lot, adjacent to a freeway. You can send all the buses you want to the transit center; that does not mitigate the terrible surroundings.

      5. *and* we spend a ton of money each year by routing several bus routes by the college, across 92nd and over to Northgate in order to provide that basic connection, at significant travel time cost to Northgate-destined through-riders.

    2. rob, buses would still have to be routed by the college even after a pedestrian bridge is built. Those buses are coming from places, and students want to be dropped off and picked up by the college, then those buses need to continue on to the NTC. A pedestrian bridge won’t change that.

      1. Not so much. The pressure to divert routes to serve the college will be much less after the bridge is built. The only route where the natural path goes near the college is the 16.

        I could see metro keeping at least some service on Meridian once the bridge is built but not to the level it is currently.

      2. Chris, let me try to explain this to you with an example of one specific route. Let’s take the route 345, for example. In the morning, a great many NSCC students board the bus in the north end to take it to the college. The bus travels by the college, then comes around back to the NTC. Even if the bridge is built, it will still keep this alignment, since the majority of passengers are going to the college. Are you suggesting the 345 would turn left before the college, on Northgate Way, and then proceed to the TC, making the students walk over the pedestrian bridge to the college? And what do you think will happen when they get complaints from disabled students? Metro changed the route 249 this last service change to loop around the Overlake P&R instead of staying on 152nd because disabled people in the apts over the P&R complained about having to walk 100 feet to the road! There is no way Metro will take routes away from college if the bridge is built.

      3. Sam,

        Do you have any data on where the majority of passengers on the 345 are going? I’d expect most of them would be going to the transit center, not the college, and that it would only increase when Link is built. That’s even more the case on the 40, which takes a long deviation to reach the college.

        Also, did Metro ever state why they were deviating the 249? I’ve often wondered that, as I used to take that route sometimes.

      4. William, let me answer your question with a question. Let’s say you are the King of Metro, and the pedestrian bridge has just been built. Give me specific examples of how you would change the five routes that currently go past NSCC on College Way N.

      5. That’s a fair question, though totally unrelated to mine. I was asking about actual data regarding current usage, which your previous comment had assumed without giving any source.

      6. William, do you really need a source for me saying a lot of students take buses to get to NSCC? Are you trolling me?

      7. The overwhelming majority of the 40 riders on that part of the route are headed to Northgate as destination or transfer point, and not to the college.

      8. Of course I don’t require a source for that, Sam. What I require a source for is that a lot of people aren’t taking buses to get to Northgate TC, or that ridership to the college is much greater than ridership to Northgate TC.

  2. Between the City and Sound Transit we need to make sure the bridge is at least under construction by the time Northgate Station opens.

    The good news is I believe every neighborhood council near Northgate has endorsed the bridge as have at least two of the announced District 5 Council candidates.

    We’re really stupid as a city and a region if we drop the ball on this.

    1. Gotta love that ward politics. The anti-rail extremists won’t be able to find a candidate in that district willing to oppose the bridge, because it is such a no-brainer. (This is a delicious irony, given who led the districiting initiative.)

      1. if any candidate in any other district tries to bash North Seattle for getting a fancy pedestrian bridge, I think that will bring a quick end to any such nit-witted campaign.

      2. I don’t know about the other neighborhood councils but the one in Maple Leaf isn’t anti-transit at all. They’ve even been supportive of increased density in the Northgate Urban Center. Where the disconnect comes (similar to Roosevelt) is while the do support some upzoning and increased density elsewhere in the neighborhood they don’t want nearly as much as density advocates would have them accept.

        To paint every neighborhood group or activist who says “whoa, wait a minute!” about a specific project, a proposed upzone, or an update to the neighborhood plan as a bunch of NIMBY’s isn’t helpful. Most groups and people are actually reasonable and when they have objections it is useful to listen and try to figure out what they are really saying.

        While there are plenty of people in Seattle who wish to preserve single-family land use as much as possible or who even want to slow or stop new development. I don’t think this goes quite as deep as some here seem to think (or as the leaders on the other side seem to think). The anti-transit “war on cars” crowd is a vocal minority. They may think they are the majority, but when push comes to shove they discover that is not the case.

      3. I’m not talking about neighborhood councils. I’m talking about the small group of people who led the districting initiative. At least one of them threatened to oppose Seattle Proposition 1 last year if it contained money to fund the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge. He isn’t even a neighborhood leader. He just allies with them when it serves his purposes. If ST doesn’t vote to fund the bridge, he may be the single person most responsible for killing this piece of necessary pedestrian infrastructure.

        Another one of the leaders of that group has been fighting tooth and nail to keep RapidRide from having full-time bus lanes And another has been using every legal trick in the book to keep the deadly Missing Link in the Burke-Gilman Trail in place.

        Anyway, I’ve drifted from topic. My point of irony is that districting may just help get the pedestrian bridge built..

      4. Worst blunder of all is running East Link down 112th instead of Bellevue Way to avoid the cost of tunneling under DT Bellevue, then deciding to jaunt into a tunnel under DT Bellevue anyway, only to pop back out into an outdoor station on 112th.

        Honestly, it’s mindblowingly stupid.

      5. It was basically a requirement by Bellevue to go underground in front of City Hall, and lack of interest by Bellevue in a Bellevue Way alignment. Bellevue didn’t 100% demand the tunnel or prohibit Bellevue Way, but it strongly asked ST to look for cost-cutting measures in other parts of Bellevue to pay for part of the tunnel, and Bellevue directly paid for the rest of it. Bellevue also had the power to deny construction permits and write their details, which ST could override only at the risk of a long and expensive lawsuit.

      6. The Bellevue Way alignment was the most expensive due to the need for significant tunneling under downtown Bellevue. It was projected to cost ~$500 million more than the selected alignment, and after the downturn in 2008 this alignment became unaffordable.

      7. What frustrates me isn’t only that the tunnel is completely pointless, but it’s actually worse than just continuing up 112th. The curves will slow the train down along the entire line, and for what? ST should have scrapped the tunnel the moment they realized they couldn’t even afford an entrance on the other side of 110th. Instead we’ll just keep moving forward with the tunnel due to shear inertia, come hell and high water. I seriously don’t understand how anyone can think a tunnel is a good idea at this point.

      8. At what point does the compromise to the compromise to the compromise become so stupid and useless that you need to go back to the drawing board?

        This is a basic test of an agency’s ability to pursue useful outcomes in the face of the compounding pressures of frugality, NIMBY hostility, and design cluelessness.

        Sound Transit’s work, with asinine outcomes at almost every station of every segment, from Mt. Baker to UW to First Hill to Bellevue, exposes them as fundamentally incapable of attaining effective results in the face of the slightest pressure.

        It’s embarrasing, inexcusable, and ultimately will lead to the total failure of Seattle’s attempted remaking as anything other than an auto-supremacist, vaguely greenwashed West Coast idiocracy.

  3. I agree. This bridge will have a major positive impact to the neighborhood. 7,000 people per day is a lot of people. I know the bridge is expensive, but so is bus service. Just to get people from one side to the other every time a train goes by would be extremely expensive. This bridge will pay for itself in added mobility many times over.

    1. Oh I’ll bet it will. I’m not even from Seattle & I see the value in what a bridge like this brings to both the transit system & the neighborhood.

    1. Um, what do you mean? The Link station is going to be where the current transit center is. While the transit center isn’t right at a mall entrance it is a fairly short walk to the mall.

    2. Sorry – not from Seattle.

      If the link station is at the mall transit center, that’s great. The bridge can only help with increasing mobility.

    3. @SEAN — Yeah, you can see where the transit center is on most any map. It is just south of 103rd, between 1st and 3rd. The Northgate Mall is just north of there. The movie theater is just east of there. There are big apartment buildings a few blocks away, as well as lots of medical offices. When all is said and done, I think the Northgate Mall (which is what Northgate is famous for) will play a very small part in the success of the Northgate Station. It will be all those apartment buildings as well as the medical (and other) offices.

      On the other side you have North Seattle College. What used to be a community college now offers four year degrees. Like all similar colleges, I expect it to grow (and there is plenty of available room to grow). Like the other side, you have lots of apartments and (primarily) medical offices over these as well. This is why the bridge makes so much sense. With it, people can get to a lot of places quite easily. Without it, folks will have to take another bus, or they just give up and drive.

    4. Maybe the mall can play a bigger role if they tear it down and rebuild the street grid in its place.

    5. Thanks for the help Ross B, but unfortunately I’m visually challenged. The backround info you gave above was important to understand the greater picture.

      Thanks again.

    6. @Kyle — I doubt they will tear down the mall, and add back the street grid, but at some point it is likely to change dramatically. Malls are interesting. People assume (I know I did) that they are huge retail centers. They aren’t. The biggest mall in Puget Sound is peanuts compared to downtown Seattle. Northgate is nothing compared to Ballard. The University Village (a mall) is tiny (from a retail standpoint) compared to “the ave”. This seems crazy until you look at an area from the air. Northgate mall seems huge when you walk around in it, but the land is about half parking lot. The owners make nothing from that parking, it is just the cost of dong business. Meanwhile, even a city like Seattle, which has relatively wide streets, has nowhere near that ratio of land dedicated to cars in the retail core. Stores like Macy’s, which back in the day certainly expected their customer’s to drive, build big structures to store the cars, and charge for parking.

      So basically, a mall like this only makes sense when land is cheap. Well, land isn’t cheap anymore. It certainly won’t be cheap once the station gets there. Even now, you can see the difference with “Northgate North”. It is mall, containing a Target as well as other “big box” stores. But the parking lot, as well as the stores are vertical. It went in more recently, and the owners wanted to make the most out of the property.

      There are a number of things that could happen for the Northgate area, but I think you will see a lot more buildings like that. The tenants won’t allow the owners to get rid of the parking, but I would expect a lot more parking garages, with retail and apartments above or next to them. For example, I could easily see a six story apartment building being added across from the library (across 5th). This would be right across the street from a nice little park and the library as well as amenities in every direction.

      I could easily see it go two ways. Either the owners decide to do something grand and ambitious, or it simply evolves to be like the areas across the street (lots of six story buildings with apartments and retail). I think many of these ideas would be a huge improvement: http://www.theurbanist.org/2014/11/03/10-ways-northgate-mall-could-become-downtown-northgate/

      No matter what, though, it is likely to change. I can’t imagine it will look like it does now in ten years.

    7. Kyle S,

      Simon owner of Northgate has done redevelopments sort of what you describe. Outside NYC there was a mall in Nanuet & it was redeveloped into an outdoor lifestyle project. They could do the same thing there, but on a larger scale since there’s the acreage to do so.

    8. RossB,

      I expect over time Northgate and the area around it will begin to resemble Bel Square and the adjacent blocks at worst.

      At best we may see a massive redevelopment of the mall property into a mixed use center with retail, office, and residential uses.

    9. I doubt they’ll just tear down the existing structure and start fresh, because it’s a quite large and valuable structure. What they might do (and would be foolish not to do at some point) is replace most of the surface parking with new structures, a combination of parking garages to keep the mall parking about as big as it currently is, and new business and/or residential structures in the extra land.

      Who knows, maybe once the Link station goes in more people will take transit to the mall and they’ll be able to get away with reducing the overall parking capacity, even as the number of businesses on the property increases.

    10. “Will this bridge & Link station serve Northgate Mall?”

      That depends on what the mall owner does in response to the station. The parking garage will be replaced (the mall tenant contracts promise a minimum number of parking spaces), and Simon could build a better pedestrian path from the station mezzanine to the mall as part of it.

      As for the mall block itself, many things are possible. The easiest would be to build things in the parking lots, as University Village has done. There’s tons of room for housing, and a wider variety of retail, or other things. Southcenter and environs is much larger than Northgate, so does Northgate want to remain so small and has-been? The current two-story mall, typical of 1960s values, wastes a lot of space (i.e., it could fit more in the footprint). However, I must congratulate Simon for the new arcade ceiling, which is artistic and brings light in. That may be worth keeping.

    11. “The Link station is going to be where the current transit center is.”

      The Link station is going to be over 103rd, so slightly north of the TC, with a south entrance to the TC and a north entrance to the mall block. The stations are two blocks long to accommodate 4-car trains.

  4. I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that the Wallingford crossing should be considered part of general improvements for Sound Transit. I think it would be an excellent bridge, but I think that has little to do with light rail. I think the bridge is more like the Thomas Street Bridge (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/thomasoverpass.htm). It would provide a convenient, pleasant way to walk between neighborhoods. It is surprising how much this can cut down on traffic. Someone will walk several blocks (or bike) if it is pleasant, but hop in their car if it isn’t. The area where the bridge would be built is relatively flat, which also makes a huge difference, and would add to the bridge’s popularity.

    On the other hand, while the Northgate bridge would make sense even without Sound Transit, it really is essential with Sound Transit. Just in transit service hours saved it pays for itself. The biggest destination in the area is across the freeway, and given current trends, it will continue to increase in importance. Both sides of the freeway are seeing more people and more destinations. It is crazy for everyone to have to “go around”. Most of them won’t, they will simply drive. Eventually 92nd would get as crowded as Northgate Way (it gets pretty slow at rush hour right now as it is) which is why a bridge makes so much sense.

  5. Link has made a number of choices that could plausibly be called penny wise and pound foolish, but not building this bridge would be among the very worst of them.

    1. Link has made a number of choices that could plausibly be called penny wise and pound foolish, but not building this bridge would be among the very worst of them.

      And what might those be… curious

      1. Every elevated or tunnel station that was built without a center platform, every major station that was built without three platforms (the Spanish solution, in which passengers depart one set of doors while others board through the other set of doors) — but especially ID Station where riders will be transferring between lines, building at-grade crossing traffic to save capital costs (which comes with an expectable pedestrian death toll and creates the need to have operators on board), leaving infill stations to be built later on lines already in service, leaving out a ventilation shaft in U-Link because the property owner above that shaft has deep pockets and hates ST, and, oh yeah, charging FIVE FREAKIN’ DOLLARS TO GET AN ORCA CARD, when ST *wants* riders to get and use that card. (Okay, that last one isn’t a capital decision, but it does seem to be an intractably undoable mistake that is costing a lot more in operational slowdowns than the revenue from the card fee.)

        Failure to accept the low-income ORCA on ST Express is in a lower category, since that is not a capital expenditure decision, and can be changed at any time. But if it leads to lots of low-income riders perceiving ST as the transit system for the other half, and not voting for ST3, it could become a very costly decision, capital-wise. It will also cost ridership in the meantime. FWIW.

      2. The infill stations are very frustrating. Graham should be added now. 125th is a better than most of the stations north of there, but it is still up in the air. Meanwhile we are hard at work spending huge amounts of money building rail to Angle Lake. But we might get both of those stations someday, unlike First Hill (although, in Sound Transit’s defense, the digging issues might have been problematic)

        The ventilation shaft is a huge blunder. But again, that may be rectified. If not, then it is insane to think that Sound Transit threw away the possibility of much higher frequency (which is very good in general) but especially when they are concerned about too many trains through the core of our system, or crush loading at the U-District. This is the stated reason why they say we need a second line from Ballard to downtown. Otherwise, you would just split the line at the UW, with half the trains heading north, and the other heading west. It is pretty hard to argue that “you can’t do that, because the system can’t handle it”, then turn around and say the system is hamstrung because they didn’t want to add a ventilation shaft. That just doesn’t make sense.

        Of course, it is quite likely that Link never considered rail eventually going from Ballard to the UW, so that will have problems anyway. It wouldn’t surprise me. But that leads to my candidate for biggest short sighted decision made by Link:

        They never build a station at the intersection of highway 520 and Link. They never allowed for an infill station either. Adding a station now would require building a new tunnel. To think that everyone who goes back and forth along 520 has to spend an extra fifteen minutes getting from the bus stop to the train station is nuts. Many of those folks think a light rail line makes sense. I don’t. But I sure as hell think they shouldn’t have to get off the bus, go up the stairs, walk along a busy street, across a bridge, then go down the stairs to the train.

      3. RossB,

        ST should probably eventually build Graham St., but the urgency is simply not high. There is a glut of buildable land in the Rainier Valley, there’s very low-density use there now, and there are no buses on Graham St.

        The ventilation shaft, as far as I can tell, is an urban legend. Story to follow.

        Both First Hill and SR520/Montlake are regrettable, but the technical issues are clearly daunting and may have been insurmountable in context.

      4. “it is quite likely that Link never considered rail eventually going from Ballard to the UW”

        They knew it might come but they didn’t plan for it. U-District station should have been designed with a punch-out to a future cross platform, or a stub for a rail junction (Y), or both. When I asked ST staff at an open house about that, he said it was premature to plan it or spend money on it because the other line hadn’t been voter-approved yet or its alignment chosen. (He pointed to the Pacific Street/520 alternative as one that might bypass the station.) Of course now it has been studied (a 45th station looks most likely), but not to the detail of how the transferring would work.

      5. Ross,

        Since the montlake flyer station is also going away, the lack of a link station at 520 seems to be a combination of bad for ridership calls by WSDOT, Metro, ST, and the Montlake neighborhood.

      6. The Montlake neighborhood has a low number of potential riders compared to UW Station, U-District Station, Capitol Hil Stationl, Redmond-downtown trips, or Kirkland-downtown trips, Redmond-UW trips, and Bellevue-UW trips (but maybe not Kirkland-UW trips). It would probably have less ridership on the south side than Roosevelt Station, and on the north side it’s a rather long walk to the UW campus, and extremely unpleasant if the walkway is open to the freeway.

      7. Sound Transit only does corridor planning, but network planning is more critical to making sensible route and interface choices. Unfortunately network planning will always show that a more compact urban system will perform dramatically better than a long-distance freeway-oriented spine, and since that doesn’t fit with the political structure that’s held the suburb-heavy board together it can’t be done. “We can’t look at planning ahead for likely interfaces until they’re funded” is a truly lame response!

      8. This.

        Planning ahead for future and intermodal connections, envisioning a set of service outcomes beyond the list of 3 “nodes” on the present easel… this is how all worthwhile transit endeavors in the history of the world have progressed.

        What Sound Transit is saying here is, “We know we’re never going to be very good at anything, and we can’t be bothered to care.”

      9. That famous Upton Sinclair quote, so often abused, seems to wholly apply to ST planners and to many others in the realm of Puget Sound land use planning and politicking: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    2. Well, siting a station in the parking lot of the first suburban mall in America would be #1 on my list.

      This train should have avoided I-5 and giant parking lots at all costs; at least when it comes to placement in-city.

      1. The station may be there for decades longer than the surface parking lots will be.When the parking lots were built, the formula was to have more than enough space for the biggest shopping day of the year. The south lot was empty even in the Christmas season, at least since the garage was built if not earlier, and has since been redeveloped into Thornton Place and the Thornton Creek “open space”. Northgate is a designated urban center, and the surrounding neighborhoods want to keep upzones away from themselves and dump them onto the urban center, so the trend is toward redeveloping the remaining parking lots, not away from it.

  6. Wait, $15 million grant… +10M in matching funds?? 25 million dollars for a pedestrian bridge? What’s this bridge made of, solid gold? Or antimatter? Maybe it was a good thing it didn’t qualify. I wonder how much per square foot that works out to be. I also wonder how many service hours on Metro 25 million can fund.

    1. Check out the materials from the open house. it’s a huge bridge. Due to the nature of the site it requires a rather long ramp to get up to the necessary height to clear I-5.

      1. Construction cost of the Space Needle in 1962: $4,500,000.
        That amount adjusted to 2014 dollars: $35.2 million.

        If this bridge costs 25 million to build versus the space needle which would cost 35.2 million, I think we can do better. A huge ramp? Ever heard of stairs? And let’s throw in an elevator for people who can’t use stairs. I’ll bet it would still cost less than this super long ramp.

        But think about it, the cost is downright insane.

      2. And at 7,000 people a day the bridge has far more use than the SLUT, which cost nearly twice that to build.

        I do agree that it seems horribly expensive for a pedestrian bridge on the surface. Vancouver, WA threw together a very complicated and long bridge over I-205 for much less than that. However, while cheap to build, as best as I can tell almost nobody uses the thing. Building something cheaply but in a way that makes it so that it doesn’t attract or prove useful to those that live near it also winds up being a waste of money.

      3. This is kind of silly. What is the space needle, but a vertical brdige with two small buildings? (And I doubt the $35M includes the additional fo the second, mezzanine building that came much later than the original strucutre).

        The space needle is 605 feet tall. The ped bridge is 1800-2200 linear feet, but without the building. So, really, $25M vs $35M seems fairly apt. And does the Space Needle see more than 7000 users a day?

      4. Needless to say, a “vertical bridge” is not a horizontal bridge. Gravity affects it differently for instance. If the bridge cracks while somebody is walking above 65 mph moving cars, guess what happens.

      5. Elevators are surprisingly expensive, and require much more ongoing maintenance than a ramp. A ramp is also much better for people on bikes, since you don’t have to wait for it.

    2. Alternately, Seattle can take a lesson from Bellevue and build a station on both sides of the freeway (ref BTC and Hospital Stations). .

      1. … and still manage to miss most of the walkshed that the stations were conceptually designed to serve. But that has more to do with a minority of the Bellevue City Council intent on sabotaging Link, than with Sound Transit.

      2. Good point William. Perhaps a ziggy zaggy spine-line (TM) up I-5 so everyone gets a station on both sides of the freeway would be better.
        I just love freeway alignments with their 1/4 mile swaths of nothingness, bordered by cul-de-sac backyards, golf courses, cemeteries, and an occasional mall or park and ride.

      3. mic: you missed Bellevue’s largest retail and business district west of one of the stations, as well as the preexisting transit center that is also there. So that station has little do do with 405,.

        The other station has less justification but it also is not about being on the other side of the freeway. It’s about being a short walk from the hospital and medical clinics, especially since patients tend to have mobility difficulties. And about the presumed growing commercial district there.

        It may look like “one station on 112th, another on 116th, it sure looks like both sides of the freeway”. But if the freeway weren’t there, the stations wouldn’t be consolidated into one. Instead the Bellevue TC station would probably be a bit further west, so they’d be further apart. (In other words, the incentive to push the station east toward the freeway wouldn’t exist, so the primary factor would be even station spacing through downtown.)

    3. The problem is those service hours cost you every year where the bridge is a one-time expense.

      1. Without an elevator, the Really Long Ramp would be ADA-compliance window-dressing for people in wheelchairs. How much would it cost to add and maintain an elevator?

  7. If this bridge isn’t built – given all its support and common sense – it will be proof that the board cares more about subarea politics than it does about transit.

    On the other hand, even a small token financial participation by all the many parties benefitted (the mall, community college, apartment owner, group health, as well as WSDOT, Seattle and Metro) would make it much harder to argue against.

    1. This is a good point. More funding partners (or at least a bigger commitment from the city) would make a stronger grant application and be more fair. It’s easy to make the case that this will fuel ridership, but the many benefits to people traveling between neighborhoods west and Northgate businesses, medical facilities, the college, etc. make it a little tenuous for the ST Board to support paying the full cost.

    2. Subarea Equity puts a ceiling on North King’s proportional budget. North King has a lot of expensive desires, primarily three potential subways and a second DSTT. The Northgate bridge, Graham Station, and 130th Station have to fit into that budget — or not. It has little to do with “subarea politics”, which would mean shifting money out of North King, or into North King, or capping the budget due to suburban tax-haters. If the budget is capped, North King would just have to decide its highest priorities among the above projects — the same thing it’s doing now, just at a more restricted level. The other subareas won’t force North King to explicitly delete the bridge first.

      (The converse is also true. If North King doesn’t want the other subareas micromanaging its priorities, then it also has to defer to them about Link to Tacoma and Federal Way and Everett. Without subarea equity, we can imagine a “transit best practices” board that builds all Seattle lines before venturing to Tacoma or Everett, but we can also imagine a “BART-like” board that builds “The Spine” first and may or may not get around to Seattle’s additional lines later.)

      1. You are proving my point that subarea distribution works against good system planning. I believe we already have your scenario in play. Given the high cost of getting through built-up urban neighborhoods I’m not holding my breath that a network can built in Seattle without getting a disproportionate share of funding (which is one rationale for a strong federal role in transit funding). And Seattle *should* get a disproportional share of capital funds because it has dramatically higher transit demand. King County finally settled on performance as the driver to investment and Sound Transit should too.

      2. Link goes through the entire east half of the city on the long side, and connects most of the highest-ridership activity centers. BART goes through a quarter of San Francisco. If we had BART it would go from downtown to Bellevue and Redmond, and from Bellevue north to Everett and south to Renton – SeaTac – Tacoma, while north Seattle and south Seattle would have nothing.

      3. The first line would have opened in the 1970s, and the other lines would all be running now, except I forgot the Tacoma extension wouldn’t exist because Pierce County voted down annexation to the ST district, so it was truncated at Federal Way. But thirty years later they decided they wanted it after all, and now Pierce Transit is building the extension.

      4. Oh, come on!

        Of all the contortions you’ve resorted to lately, in your misguided defense of The Dumb Way We Do Everything™ (also known as Making Every Fucking Error BART Has Ever Made™), this is the one that brings your closest to your own intestines.

        BART’s sole, woefully inadequate in-city segment doesn’t skirt around the Dogpatch or Bayview as you imply. It plows right through the highest-demand corridor of the population-weighted middle.

        And hell, at least BART stops twice in The Mission — the most extensive swath of uninterrupted urbanity through which it passes — which is more than you can say for Link the its 3.5-mile express tunnel northward out of downtown Seattle.

        If anything, BART’s in-city segment provides better connective access to other urban places than Link will. But only because’s Link’s bar is so unbelievably fucking low. The point is that still isn’t remotely good enough, because so much of the city remains laborious or just plain inaccessible as a direct result of the “Milpitas Uber Alles” attitude.

        Fool the suburbia-obsessed 1970s once, shame on a terrible era in transit planning. Fool a supposedly-more-enlightened era again, shame on anyone stupid enough to buy it.

  8. Having something connecting the station and North Seattle College is a no-brainer, especially given all the bus service hours that get spent sending several bus routes around the long way to serve the college. But for the cost of this bridge, I’m curious how much a gondola connecting the station, North Seattle College, and the medical office complex on Meridian, would cost.

    It looks likely there will be money left over from U-Link construction. This seems like a top priority (even higher than adding a station at 130th).for North King County subarea funding.

    It should be ready when the station opens. The idea of putting aside infill stations and other connecting infrastructure that will require shutting down the train for construction, in order to complete the spine, seems like an exercise in having the infill infrastructure never happen. If we don’t fund this now, will it be part of ST3? If not ST3, will there be an ST4? If the “spine” to Everett is already complete, would Snohomish ever vote for another ST package?

    Things like the Northgate Station pedestrian bridge, 130th St Station, Graham St Station, and the center platform in ID Station, should be built the first time, not after the train is already in service past those points. (Or in the case of the center platform, it ought to be built when ID Station is shut down for East Link track reconfiguration, but ST won’t even cost it out.)

    Anyway, ST has the money to build the bridge, it fits ST policy, and it nearly doubles the walkshed/rideshed of the station. Build it now!

    1. I thought about a gondola, too. I think it would cost more, though. I think it would have an advantage though, when people talk about truncating service. It makes sense, for example, for the Metro 40 to end at the college, as opposed to the transit center. If you ride the gondola, it is actually faster. But if you walk, it is about the same (which means some people will want the 40 to continue to the transit center).

      But that ignores the cost of running the gondola. A bridge just sits there, and costs basically nothing to maintain. If you charge for the gondola, then a lot fewer people would use it. If you don’t, then it costs a lot to run. The distance isn’t so big that a gondola would save a huge amount of time, either.

      Then you also have the problem of crush loading a gondola. Ideally you locate a gondola in little bit away from the station, so that riders can spread themselves out before they get to the gondola (the way that riders do at an escalator). You also want to locate the gondola in an area where there are lots of people making that trip anyway (and it isn’t dependent on the light rail). That is true for the Capitol Hill to South Lake Union gondola, but less so for this one. While there are plenty of people that would benefit from a gondola even if light rail didn’t arrive here, I doubt the numbers would be big enough to justify it. On the the other hand, the Capitol Hill to South Lake Union gondola makes sense even if we didn’t have light rail.

    2. Also, while I fully support this bridge and think it is very important, I think the station at 125th/130th is a lot more important. The 125th station saves a Lake City rider at least five minutes a day. That is bus time, too, which means it could be added back into service. Since Lake City isn’t that far away, that means you can have buses that are as frequent as the light rail at no additional cost. The same is true for Bitterlake. The fact that it is true for both of those areas opens up the possibility of new runs connecting the two areas (areas that are not easily connected right now). For example, at no additional cost over the current system (in time or service) I think you could run the 522 buses all the way to Bitterlake. That would connect 522 to Link and Aurora. That is a huge increase in mobility for the region, and much bigger than this bridge.

      1. OK, how does the bridge compare with the big parking garage ST wants to build adjacent to the Northgate station then? Do we like the idea of attracting cars into dense activity centers to they can take a bus to Seattle? Is that a decision the Seattle/Shoreline subarea can take up?

      2. ST doesn’t “want” to build it. It “has” to rebuild the garage it to preserve the parking spaces contractually promised to the mall tenants, or the tenants will sue the mall and the mall will sue ST. It’s adding a moderate amount of parking for train riders, but it has already determined that most of the P&R users live east and west of the station, and 3/4 of them have asked for bus/ped/bike improvements instead of a larger P&R.

    3. The suburban extensions won’t necessarily require shutting down Link. Northgate and SeaTac have stub tracks beyond the terminus, and I’m sure Lynnwood and KDM and Redmond will too. The main interruption risk is internal track changes: the Intl Dist junctions and whatever happens to Westlake Station. As for surface stations, maybe most of them can be built without touching the track, and the trains can just slow down for worker safety. The Northgate bridge may just require closing off a corner of the mezzanine without interrupting the station function, as happens in many construction projects. And for 130th we should make sure ST includes a deferred station interface, whatever that means (maybe a wider floor on the guideway).

  9. My picture of things is that the proposed bridge is relatively expensive because I5 is at a high elevation there, and the bridge has to get over it, requiring long ramps. I’m sure this has been discussed and explained somewhere, but what would make a (presumably cheaper) tunnel impractical? (Please forgive me for using the T word – too soon?)

    1. I asked a rep about that at a Northgate Station open house, and he said that the construction of the I-5 berm, plus the many utility lines and pipes inside it, would make a tunnel impracticable and expensive. (Besides, he added, a tunnel would be considered less safe than a bridge.)

    2. The bridge goes across at an angle I think, so it’s longer than just straight across. The station is north of 103rd and the college walkway is at 100th. North of 100th is some kind of wetland I think. And pedestrians will want the shortest distance between the west and east entrances, which means straight between them but angled over the freeway.

  10. How much usage will the pedestrian bridge get when NSCC isn’t in session? On the weekends, holidays, the summer, etc?

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the community around the west end of the proposed pedestrian bridge filled with a lot of disabled and elderly residents who won’t even be able to make use of the bridge?

      1. Yes, Sam, that bridge will be unusable to millions of blades of grass and a few tons of asphalt. Next time, try google instead of mapquest.

    2. There is more than just the college over there. There are apartments, clinics, etc. It also would serve as a pretty good bicycle connector for the larger area. There is a lot of support for the bridge from the community, well beyond students and faculty. Oh, and the bridge will be ADA compliant, so your concerns about folks in wheel chairs being able to use it are unfounded.

    3. There’s a hospital on the west side, medical clinics, office buildings, apartments, and future growth. Hospitals receive a lot of able-bodied staff and visitors, as well as patients on preliminary appointments and follow-up checks. Many people in wheelchairs and walkers will take a vehicle to the station just because of the door-to-door distance, never mind the bridge configuration. But there are tens of thousands of students, workers, residents, and bike riders who would benefit from the bridge. And even people not taking Link: those walking/biking from the west side to the mall or library or eastern office buildings. Their needs were ignored in the 1960s when “Nobody Walks in LA”, but our culture/values/expectations have changed since then.

  11. If Microsoft had to contribute half to get the proposed $33 million dollar Redmond pedestrian bridge built, why should this bridge get built without a lot of private funding?

    1. Because the Microsoft bridge will overwhelmingly favor one employer, while the Northgate bridge will favor numerous employers, institutions, and residents?

      Or, maybe, because Microsoft volunteered?

    2. Because Northgate is now an urban center, and the bridge will help make the west side part of it.

  12. I can’t stress enough how important this bridge is to Northgate. This isn’t just about a train station, its about reconnecting communities and providing safe pedestrian access across the freeway.

    Currently the Northgate Way crossing is too busy to consider safe for daily use. In order to get to the other side, one must cross two arteral sized streets and two freewau on/off ramps. Depending on which side of the street you choose, this is either a partially unprotected crossing or a combination of two poorly timed crossing lights that leaves pedestrians trapped between an arterial sized roadway and a freeway ramp. Dashing across against the light is frequent because of this.

    Many people who live on just the other side of the freeway will drive over just because it feels unsafe and unreasonable to do otherwise.

    This bridge would help a lot more people out of their cars and increase pedestrian activity on both sides of the freeway.

    It will not complete the process of making Northgate more of a place for people, but it would be a very important first step.

  13. Regarding Northgate Mall, Simon Property Group is a profit-making enterprise.They have to know they are sitting on an increasingly-valuable piece of land. At the same time, traditional mall concepts are dying. JCPenney closed 40 stores today. Northgate is not going to dead-mall status, but it isn’t exactly thriving like U-Village. One of the best ways to defend a mall against online shopping is to get more people to live directly next to the mall.

    I would not be surprised if the east-side parking lots bordering 5th Ave NE are developed into a mixed-use project, especially if Simon can attract a grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Google Maps shows almost no cars in the SE corner of the Mall parking lot. Notice also that Simon redesigned the west-side parking lot with plantings and a new parking layout a few years ago. I’m not sure if they’ve done that for the east side (I never enter the mall on that side), but it doesn’t look that way from Google Maps. That could be another sign that the east lot is not going to stay in its current form much longer.

    1. Yeah, as I said above, that would make a lot of sense. The east side has lots of people, a little park, a playground, a library and lots of people walking around. It just makes sense for a new apartment building. Like most of the six story buildings in the area, there will be parking underneath, so the mall customers don’t have to worry about that going away. A Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods would be really popular, in my opinion (especially the former).

    2. Simon Malls surely knows this; they don’t need us to tell them. But there’s a saying about McDonald’s, that it’s not really a hamburger restaurant but a french-fries restaurant because there’s more profit in fries. Or maybe a cheese restaurant because there’s even more profit in cheese slices. Or a soft-drink restaurant because the ultimate profit is in sugar water. But really they’re a real-estate holding company because they have parcels in prime locations that will eventually become much more profitible than the standalone restaurants. The same thing with Northgate Mall and its current configuration.

  14. ST should up its contribution, but the City of Seattle should also do so, either as part of Bridging the Gap up for renewal soon, or perhaps that and a contribution from the new parks authority.

    1. I agree. I wonder if folks are playing a negotiation game behind the scenes (you pay for it, no you pay for it).

  15. I think the bridge is a good idea. I do however think that there are many station access issues that need to be addressed beyond this one.

    1. A few months ago, an STB post discussed the awful elevation changes at Mt Baker station. The whole overpass and escalator design needs to be revisited.

    3. A better access into and out of SeaTac is badly needed. It’s embarrassing to make visitors and residents to walk through an exposed parking garage with bags. It’s like saying “Welcome to Seattle, if you’re hearty enough to get here.”

    3. Other heavily-used stations need down escalators. This is especially true for the IDS, which is where travelers from the Eastside will transfer to get to the airport with their luggage. The need is for all of the DSTT.

    As Link expands and matures, there will be many station access issues that will need discussion. It would probably be helpful if there was a regional committee on station access, rather than a committee set up for each station individually. After all, any rider must use at least 2 stations!

    2.

    1. The SeaTac connection could easily be fixed up if the PoS would actually invest some money in that walkway. From the looks of it PoS spent next to nothing setting up the access, although in PoS world that’s probably $5MM for “consultants.”

      Glass walls on the airport side would cut down on the wind. Resurfacing the walkway with a smooth surface to reduce the rolling resistance for wheeled suitcases would also be nice. I don’t think we need moving walkways – they take up a lot of space and increase operating costs. When broken, which seems to happen fairly often at other airports I visit, they are annoying obstacles. Even when they are operating, they force everyone into a single or double file line limited by how slowly the person in front of you is moving.

      Down escalators – let’s hope. Why they are missing is mystifying given the massive size of the DSTT stations. We have huge concourses, huge platforms, extremely high ceilings, and horrible escalator access.

      1. I would agree, Alex, that the walkway corridor could be made much more user friendly for not much money. I’m not a ventilation expert on parking garages, but merely figuring out a way to enclose the walkway for even half of the distance would be great!

      2. If the PoS wanted to, they could have just made ST dump the light-rail passengers in the back of the parking garage and have everybody walk through aisles of parked cars to get to the terminal, in order to squeeze in a few $26/day parking spaces out of what is now the walkway.

        In many ways, we should be grateful for what we have. It is also nice to get a little bit of fresh air between the train and the terminal – when you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, it’s the last whiff of fresh air you’re going to get for a long time. Anybody who rides the train is going to be dressed for the walk anyway, if nothing else, for the waiting and walking on the other side. And the walkway is, at least, sheltered from the rain.

      3. I think the Port mumbled something about redeveloping the garage and adding a building someday, and improving the walkway then. But really, they should just add windows and moving sidewalks; those are minimal basic furnishings.

      4. Come to think of it, I think the building was a hotel, and the walkway would be incorporated into the hotel’s interior, next to the lobby or something.

      1. Not at platform level because the ORCA readers and TVMs are on the lower level, and a bridge to the southbound platform would have to cross the tracks or go over them. If it goes over them, there would be stairs, so no better than going down the escalator to the surface. ST could add entrances with just ORCA readers as at SeaTac station, but crossing the tracks is a bigger issue.

      2. Denying a pedestrian connection because it’s missing an Orca reader or a TVM is a rather minor cost when building a walkway that will run in the millions of dollars. It’s like building a billion dollar rail system and not putting in a walkway to double the number of riders who can easily walk there (hence the point of this post)!

        That has me wondering if the reason that there isn’t a commitment to the Northgate pedestrian bridge has to do with TVMs and Orca readers.

    2. Two of those issues are in a different subarea from Northgate. For better or worse, that makes them irrelevant to the discussion.

      1. The relevance is merely that we handle all of our station access issues on a case-by-base basis rather than have a systemwide approach. We end up having to spend lots of effort to get even small projects designed and funded. A simple, small line item in ST3 for station access improvements AND an effective discussion on what is needed by a variety of station users could be an important element to improve things.

  16. I am not sure ST has the money from savings at ULink. It’s been years since I read the contracts, but I recall that there are restrictions as to what excess funds can be used for. I wonder if a pedestrian bridge would qualify?

    1. It would surely qualify as part of the station. All stations are presumed to require access amenities and art.

      1. Make it like the AmGen helix bridge or the Vsncouver (Wa) Land Bridge so it qualifies for the art monies from the project.

      2. From the visualization in the post, it looks like it has architectural elements that would qualify STart money.

  17. Northgate Station is the primary station and transfer point between 45th and 145th 205th Lynnwood. Northgate is also the only urban center in said area. Those right there are two reasons for a ped/bike bridge. Because Northgate Station is so critical in the network, we should heavily weight finishing its access vs spending the same money on other lines or stations. If Roosevelt Station wants a bridge to Greenlake, maybe that can wait until the other lines are funded. But if Northgate Station wants a bridge that will substantially increase its ridership and tie together the urban center, then that should be one of ST3’s top priorities.

      1. It was a fake feature request for comparision. Nobody has asked for a bridge at Roosevelt Station.

  18. If this bridge gets built, please please please have ramps AND stairs. I get that ramps are needed for ADA but all of the pedestrians that will use this every day for years deserve the shortest and most direct path across the freeway.

    1. Plus the Northgate Bridge will probably be more useful to bikes than to peds and so ramps are needed.

  19. Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but if the bridge is adjacent to the station, would a simpler elevator + stairs solution be possible to shrink the bridge’s cost and footprint while still getting to the necessary elevation and complying with ADA? I’m thinking basically of the bridge over International Boulevard at Sea-Tac, just about 6x longer (.25 miles instead of .04 miles)

    1. That won’t work for bikes (see reality based commute’s comment above). Stairs don’t accommodate bikes and the capacity of elevators doesn’t work for bikes. Unlike the Sea-Tac facility, there will be times when this bridge would be in very heavy use (basically, as trains from both north and south drop off at Northgate just at the start of the workday and academic day at North Seattle College) and both stairs and an elevator have more difficulty accommodating such crowds (see the crossing over the tracks by CenturyLink).

      1. Endless zig-zags aren’t fun for bikes either, and the ones in the rendering look like they would force a dismount regardless.

        Make the elevator(s) large, and you solve the bike problem. Lycra warriors who refuse ever to remove butt from seat will happily spend extra distance detouring to 92nd, which pedestrians and casual cyclists and the mobility-impaired cannot so readily do.

    2. You can also half-and-half it.

      There are probably already going to be elevators at the station; replace them with extra-large elevators and extend them up another story and you have provided elevator access to the bridge at that end. It costs the same amount to maintain an elevator with three stops as an elevator with two stops.

      On the west end, where there are not planned to be any elevators, it may make more sense to just have ramps and save the cost of elevator maintenance. And there’s also more room for the ramps to be straight rather than switch-backed on the west side.

  20. I’ve always advocated for this, short of moving the Link station on the other side of the freeway, which wouldn’t make any sense. However, in light of what happened this a.m. on 92nd, as well as pedestrians chucking things and the weather, I’d suggest a cover and a screen over the walkway. Since there is an incline and a decline, I am concerned for disabled folks getting across this bridge. From a (ironically) safety perspective, a “moving sidewalk” probably doesn’t make sense – and it’s expensive, too (though, at Sea-Tac, where it’s a flat surface, they should’ve installed them). I supposed that most of these passengers will need to take the bus to the other side, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, for the trip is probably shorter than loading and unloading in some cases. While I’m dreaming, too bad there can’t be sidewalk improvements along 5th NE while we’re at it, those more for the able-bodied, given the elevation changes..

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