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Last year, communities along the 522 corridor formed a coalition to get a project on this November’s ST3 ballot. The coalition became known as 522 Transit Now. The coalition requested three projects: Bus rapid transit along highway 522 and NE 145th Street to connect to the future light rail station there, a study for future light rail along the corridor, and structured parking along the 522 corridor to accommodate new ridership. Sound Transit grouped the bus rapid transit line and parking into one project, which is now a candidate project for ST3. The light rail study is a separate project, but also a candidate for ST3.

The request for more parking has raised some eyebrows among the transit community, but parking isn’t the only thing that will get people to ride the new bus line. Development is also on the way (or, in some cases, already here). Bothell, Kenmore and Shoreline have all put increased focus on creating better spaces for people on foot, on bikes, or on transit.

Bothell may be most well-known for new mixed-use development, as the process began long before 522 Transit Now existed. Progress was obvious to anyone traveling through central Bothell, with new mixed-use development being constructed along the confluence of highways 522 and 527 in the past few years. Development isn’t limited to just this area: last summer, the city of Bothell adopted the Imagine Bothell comprehensive plan, which among other things will target Canyon Park for mixed-use zoning. Canyon Park is planned as the southern terminus of a second Swift BRT line,

Shoreline’s work for TOD has largely been focused around the 185th Street station, for which they adopted an ambitious zoning plan last year. More recently, the city has begun focusing on 145th. The initial plan is to make 145th a more multi-modal corridor. It’s currently dominated by car traffic, with very little biking and walking taking place due in part to substandard facilities (and the fact that 145th can be a very intimidating place to be if you’re not in a car). Planning is still ongoing and there is an open house tomorrow for those interested in attending. Outside of 145th, the plan is also to redevelop Aurora Square into a mixed-use area including housing, retail, office, hotel and entertainment space. Transit is the centerpiece of all these proposals.

In Kenmore, the city created its first Transit-Oriented Development district, with the city council voting for the measure in October. The new district follows the northern side of Highway 522 between 73rd Avenue NE to the west and the city limit to the east, just beyond 83rd Avenue NE. The goal of the district is to create a concentration of pedestrian-oriented mixed-used development supported by and supporting multi-modal transportation, including high-capacity transportation. More information on the district can be found here.

Under the plan, developers will have the option to develop under new TOD standards instead of existing standards. Current standards call for 48 dwelling units per acre and can range from 1.2 to 2.0 parking spaces per unit (though these are slightly lower near downtown), but TOD standards could change this to up to 150 units per acre and 0.6 to 1.0 parking space per unit. A developer must also provide affordable housing for income-eligible households for a minimum of 50 years. Ideally, new development will create a walkable community that stretches all the way from the Kenmore Park and Ride to the city limit.

You can’t really talk about Kenmore without also mentioning the Burke-Gilman trail, which bisects the city from east to west parallel to 522. The city is hoping to increase job growth immediately adjacent to the trail (the Kenmore Business Incubator on the corner of 522 and 73rd Avenue has been in place for a few years now). More focus on job growth could allow more people to get to work in Kenmore on their bicycles, in addition to more people using it to access new TOD development north of the highway. And most interestingly, the city is considering switching existing level of service traffic standards to a multi-modal level of service that includes people walking, biking, and riding the bus. They would use mobility units rather than strict levels of automobile numbers.

A final thing worth noting is that the push for this TOD district actually predates the 522 Transit Now effort – the proposal has been around for several years. The city is expected to continue pushing for TOD regardless of the outcome of ST3.

One big advantage that the 522 / 145th St. BRT project has is the fact that it’s not situated along a limited access highway and therefore has more potential for development. The cities along the corridor have recognized this and have made tangible steps to taking advantage of it. We may not yet know the status of this BRT project, but regardless of the outcome, the cities along the northern edge of King County are putting the effort into becoming places where the car is not the only option.

Thanks to Kenmore Senior Planner Lauri Anderson for answering my questions for this article

17 Replies to “Transit-Oriented Development in North King County”

  1. Was it a conscious decision not to engage the City of Seattle in the proposal, or did they try and were snubbed?

    It seems like it would have been a win-win to bring Seattle into the discussions and create an integrated plan that included the needs of those on the 145th corridor and, most urgently, the needs of Lake City.

    The way this went down seems unnecessarily contentious, and adversarial, and frankly has me rooting against it.

    1. I believe the decision to push for 145th was because that was the only location that made sense from the perspective of the north shore cities. I think going through Lake City would be a feasible option if we were for sure getting a 130th Street station. As it is, going through Lake City would mean the BRT line would either have to go to Northgate, Roosevelt or just continue downtown, and I’m not sure the trade-offs for those destinations are worth it – they would either be significantly slower than 145th, or would be at best a marginal improvement over the 522 bus line.

      I don’t know if anybody in 522 Transit Now or Lake City / Seattle approached each other, I’m not aware of any such interaction – keeping in mind I’m just a volunteer and don’t see all the interactions that happen.

    2. Is Billruben talking about 130th Station or about Seattle’s interest in 145th Street? Seattle and Shoreline have been discussing 145th. It looks like Shoreline is much more concerned about it since it’s closer to its city center and a larger percent of the city, while Seattle has many other neighborhood priorities and 145th has always been the outskirts. So it looks like Shoreline is heading toward annexing the south side of 145th and Seattle walking away from it; then Shoreline can build a neighborhood on both sides.

      1. I don’t follow you Mike. 145th is not really the outskirts, as far as Seattle is concerned. If Shoreline wants to annex the road so that it can make it wider it is because they are interested in making traffic flow better for their own residents, not because they want to grow the neighborhood on both sides. Seattle has already grown the neighborhood on their side, and the difference between the population density on one side or the other is striking. You can see the city line on the census map — lots of people in Seattle, very few in Shoreline.

        My guess is that Shoreline wants the BRT for several reasons. First, some of its residents (from the north) could use it. Second, it reduces the pressure on the park and ride (which Shoreline residents are drooling over as we speak, I’m sure). Third, it reduces the amount of traffic a bit on 145th (or at least they hope it does). I’m sure this is a major concern right now, not only for the people stuck in it, but the people who live close to it. When things just aren’t moving, people explore the side streets. But you can’t really go on the side streets in Seattle, the golf course stops you. I’m sure there are folks who go up and around (in Shoreline) to try and get there. Then there are a bunch of people who will go up to 185th (especially those coming from Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Bothell). So the more effective the bus is, the fewer out of city residents use Shoreline’s streets. Of course, it may also be a sincere attempt by Shoreline to help the other cities build something that will benefit everyone (even though it only helps Shoreline a bit).

      2. Right at Lake City Way it’s dense for two blocks. West of that it’s single-family houses on the outskirts of any neighborhood.

      3. That’s not really true, but either way, that is a pointless distinction. West of 24th in Ballard it is all single family houses, except for the stretch along Market. So what?

        If anything, Lake City is different in that the apartments stretch for several blocks away from the main arterial. You go a block off of 45th or Phinney in most places.and all you see is houses. There is a reason why the census block bordering 145th and Lake City Way is the most densely populated one north of the 45th: there are apartments on 140th, 143rd and 32nd. They are tucked in there, not obvious to see, but they are there. That gives that area just enough “heft” to make up for the lack of housing on Lake City Way itself (on that stretch)

        Meanwhile, further south, the density stretches a lot farther than a couple blocks. It’s not hard to see from an aerial or street view. It extends down to around 120th, east to 35th, and west to 27th. From the air you can see lots of apartments, but some aren’t obvious (old construction makes them look a little like big houses). For example, here is 123rd and 33rd: https://goo.gl/maps/wf5LmJoBBHH2. There are apartments in every direction (you can even go farther east and find them). Here is 26th, north of 125th:
        https://goo.gl/maps/TicpDDJNQEQ2 There are houses, but they are clearly outnumbered by apartments. You can draw a pretty big area with lots of apartments. It certainly gets skinnier as you get north, but as mentioned, that area is wide enough to be very high density.

        If you draw such an area, and look at it from the air, you can see the places where they are in the process of adding apartments (or have already added them). It is pretty obvious to see areas where they can be added in the future. Many of these are on the main strip, but a lot of them aren’t (e. g. it’s just a matter of time before this lot gets developed into an apartment — https://goo.gl/maps/V312eseJiSM2). That is a lot sitting in front of an apartment (that just so happens to be more than two blocks west of Lake City Way).

        From a population standpoint, Lake City is the third biggest area north of the ship canal (behind the UW and Ballard). Bigger than Northgate, bigger than Phinney or Greenwood, even bigger than Roosevelt (although if you count east Green Lake as part of Roosevelt it would come close). I don’t think the city has ignored it, it just doesn’t know what to do. As it stands now, there is very good bus service from Lake City to the rest of the city. It just isn’t that fast. That’s why the city leaders have fought hard to get the station at NE 130th. But without it, they really can’t push for one corridor or the other.

        But the idea that “Shoreline is heading toward annexing the south side of 145th and Seattle walking away from it; then Shoreline can build a neighborhood on both sides” is ludicrous. There is no way in hell Seattle is going to give up one inch of land to Shoreline, unless you count the edges of the street. It is also crazy to think that Shoreline will magically build new high density neighborhoods, while Seattle preserves itself in amber. First of all, I really don’t get why people get so excited when a small area gets upzoned. All that will do is eventually get that little area up to where the other areas already are. That is what is crazy — Maybe Shoreline changes its zoning; in forty years that neighborhood will be as dense as Lake City is now. What will happen to Lake City? It will have way more people (because, of course, it allows such growth now).

        At most Shoreline will simply take over 145th (the street) itself. Shoreline may upzone the area north of 145th, so that it can try and catch and catch up with the area to the south, but I doubt it. It was hard enough allowing growth next to the station, which is next to I-5! You want to tell someone who lives on a quiet place like this: https://goo.gl/maps/yWq4FN6W8ru that he will soon be living next to an apartment? Good luck with that. Dude, its Shoreline!

        At most they will change the zoning to allow more growth along 145th itself, which would result in a very minor increase in density at best (for all I know it is allowed right now anyway). There already are apartments (on both sides) up to 28th. There are apartments (on both sides) from about 20th to 12th (with the exception of a few houses that are probably zoned for apartments right now, as they are businesses). On the Seattle side, you have Jackson Park. Between 25th and 22nd there are churches on the Shoreline side (and I doubt they are eager to move). There really is very little land along 145th that could be developed beyond what is likely allowed right now (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/iSh5FnDsNWn — that is Seattle, by the way, no need to annex to bustling Shoreline).

        If Shoreline does anything, it will be about the street — nothing more, nothing less. It will likely do things that are designed solely to move traffic better. Some of that will be for the purposes of transit, some of it not. But either way it will be done with single family home owners (who drive) in mind, since that makes up the vast majority of Shoreline residents (and will for the next fifty years).

  2. Hooray north shore cities for their TOD planning! It doesn’t negate that to say that if they had been at this point ten or twenty years earlier, the ST2 discussions would have been different and 522 LRT/BRT might be closer, and they could have channeled some of the real estate bubble money into their TOD. But at least they’re doing it now.

    As for the 145th P&R, it’s a bit unclear who it’s for and how much it relates to the north shore cities. Its original reason for inclusion was probably inertia: there’s an existing P&R there, and it seemed logical in 2006 that people would drive from Lake Forest Park and Kenmore to the station. That was when 522 LRT was far in the long-term-or-never future and 522 BRT wasn’t considered yet. Now, if BRT is coming, how many northshoreites will still drive to the station? How many do we want to accommodate?

    I know it’s impractical to get from the houses in the hills to 522 without driving, but ideally they would drive to the Kenmore or Bothell P&Rs rather than 145th P&R. So maybe those P&Rs should be expanded instead? That doesn’t help Lake Forest Park which has no P&R, and it would be silly for them to drive five miles out-of-direction to Kenmore P&R. But they can just as easily drive north to Mountlake Terrace P&R, and probably would. But then that leaves Shoreline and Seattle residents, who would probably most use 145th P&R.

    When ST considered the same issue for Northgate P&R, it used Metro’s survey of where the cars were registered, and it turned out most of them come from west and east of Northgate rather than from I-5. So ST asked those residents whether they wanted a bigger P&R, and 3/4 of them said no. They didn’t want to drive to the P&R but the lack of frequent feeders and sidewalks and safe bike paths made them feel they had to. So they wanted more feeder buses and ped/bike paths rather than the P&R. So most of the garage capacity that will be replaced is because of the mall: it promised a certain amount of parking to its merchants, so if ST eliminates those parking spaces, the merchants can sue the mall and ST.

    I can’t see Shoreline being as non-driving as Maple Leaf or Licton Springs. But it shows that if Shoreline and Metro provide really good non-SOV access to 14th Station, it could get at least partway to the Northgate experience. As to how much 522 BRT would dampen the demand for northshoreites to drive to the station, that’s something northshore transit fans should look into, and publicize it if its large, or start talking to residents about how to get the transit share up if it’s small.

  3. I was wondering why 522 Transit Now didn’t bring the City of Seattle in as a partner to present an integrated transit vision, given the 522 goes right through Seattle, and Seattle owns most of 145th, and Lake City needs some sort of long-term transit plan.

    1. I think the answer was given up above:

      1) They don’t care about Lake City. This shows an approach that is very much focused on a standard commute pattern. I’m sure if you talked to people who run shops along 522 (outside the city) they might have a different attitude (e. g. Lake City to Kenmore Cameras is a nice, easy bus ride). Likewise if you talked to folks at UW/Bothell. But absent concerns about connecting the various parts of the region, folks in Kenmore, Bothell and Lake Forest Park just want the shortest distance to Link, and that is 145th.

      2) Sound Transit still hasn’t officially committed to NE 130th.

      3) Seattle is doing its own thing (spending a bunch of money on various corridors).

      4) Because ST hasn’t officially committed to NE 130th, the Lake City planning has stalled. Corridor 6 goes through Ballard to Northgate: http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/17214000/BRT-Corridor-Maps.006.png. But should it continue to Lake City? Should it skip Northgate and go to Lake City more directly (via NE 130th). That saves a huge amount of distance and a lot of twists and turns. But it only makes sense if there is a station at NE 130th.

      In other words, SDOT is the big player in the area, but they are waiting for ST, and ST is taking its own sweet time about the whole thing (for who knows what reason).

      1. I don’t think Corridor 6 has anything to do with 130th Station. It’s just more of the traditional thinking that Lake City is too small and isolated for a RapidRide line. Or it may be simply because of a limited budget; they’d have to truncate another line to afford it. Even without 130th Station it would make sense to extend the corridor to 125th & Lake City Way, so it can’t be because of the station.

      2. Lake City is not “too small and isolated”. It is bigger than Northgate. It is less isolated than Northgate, which is separates from the west by a freeway and the east by a very big hill. Both prevent any sort of logical grid in the area — east/west routes have to “go around”. Lake City, on the other hand, is where major corridors converge. Look at the transit map (http://seattletransitmap.com/app/) and see all those different buses going there, without making a major detour. The only reason buses go to the Northgate transit center is because of the transit center itself and the future station (which is the same reason that the buses go to SoDo). This makes it different than, say, the Bellevue TC, which is right in the heart of Bellevue. Without the transit center, the 40 would just keep going along Northgate Way and then up Lake City Way. That is not a bad choice right now (especially after the restructure, when more buses go along Northgate Way) but it would be silly once Link gets to Northgate.

        That really is the issue. The Link stations have distorted everything. If the Link station was on Northgate Way, you wouldn’t have that big gap (between 92nd and 145th) where no buses cross. As it stands now, the 40 really is useless from a grid standpoint. 92nd is just an enormous detour, with lots of turns and traffic. Put aside Lake City for a second and just consider Northgate. Let’s say you want to get from Northgate Way and Roosevelt to Northgate Way and Aurora. That detour costs you a tremendous amount of time. It is competitive to just walk (either the whole way, or over to Meridian and catch the 40 as it comes back from 92nd). That is without traffic. No amount of BRT treatment will ever make up for that. It is just a lot of extra distance, and a lot of extra turns. This means that if you take another bus, then want to transfer, it becomes extremely difficult. The 40 is really only used for those with loads of extra time on their hands, or people going right along the route.

        But a 40 that went to Lake City via 130th would be great from a grid perspective. It is really easy to see lots of trips in the area that would make sense, even if you need to take two or three buses. The route itself wouldn’t be much longer than the current route. Coverage would be decent as well — it would skip Northgate, but make up for it by covering a lot of fairly dense areas (Pinehurst, Bitter Lake and north Greenwood). Overall, it would be comparable in terms of density per mile (or per minute).

        But unless there is a station there, it wouldn’t connect with Link. That is huge. It is pretty hard to justify a major investment in a bus corridor that doesn’t connect with the train, even though it goes right under it.

        That’s really the conundrum. Without a station at NE 130th, and chance of a functioning grid is probably gone. You just extend the 40 (Corridor 6) out to Lake City. Those trying to get from one side of the north end to the other just do what they’ve always done (ride buses for a very long time or drive).

        This is why the station is critical for corridor planning purposes. Without it, it is highly likely that Corridor 6 (the 40) gets extended to Lake City. With it, it is highly likely that there will be some sort of Bitter Lake to Lake City Corridor (even if it operates separately from Corridor 6).

    2. As for what the future holds, I wouldn’t worry about it. Lake City is not “on the way”, it is the main deal. It has higher density than the areas north of the city and will continue to have higher density (kudos to those other areas for changing your zoning to allow more growth — Lake City did that a long time ago). It is also where numerous corridors converge, making it a logical spot for transit (way better than Northgate, for example).

      So this means that the city will likely build its own BRT line, as soon as ST makes it official, and says there will be a station at NE 130th. What that BRT route will do exactly is anyone’s guess. But I think it is a safe bet that it will go to (and end at) 145th. Density really drops off after that (and besides, that is the city border). That would mean that it would connect to the BRT line that is the subject of this post (which I would call the North Shore BRT).

      A BRT line through Lake City (from 145th to 125th) would turn and go to the station at NE 130th. At that point, it would keep going (of course). What it does after that is anyone’s guess. There are a bunch of possibilities. One is to just keep it short, and end at Greenwood and 130th. This would be a high performance line. It would have way more riders per hour than the North Shore BRT. It would connect to way more bus lines (providing a key link to way more trips) and go through much more densely populated areas (with room for as much, if not more growth). This means that it could run a lot more frequently.

      But this could also extend south, and simply connect to the 40 (or Corridor 6 as shown). That would provide a lot more one seat rides, and provide faster trips for more people to Link. Even as far south as Northgate Way it would make sense to take this north (fewer turns). That would connect various parts of Greenwood to Lake City as well as to Ballard, which has tons of people. No matter which way this is done, this could easily be a very popular BRT line, which means that you could see high all day frequency on it.

      This would mean that while it would connect to this other BRT line, it would obviously be superior to it. While the North Shore BRT might run frequently during rush hour, it obviously isn’t designed to do much else, and it won’t. This means it would run less frequently than the Lake City to Bitter Lake (and beyond?) BRT line. So don’t feel like Lake City is missing out. It is quite likely that at some point, Lake City will be glad it isn’t dragged down by an inferior system.

      1. I like your optimism, but I don’t share it. I am betting it’s greater than 50-50, that Lake City is again just an afterthought, and we see a significant degradation in service compared to the soon to be lost 522.

        Lake City is poor and has little voice. What little money and political clout there is is near the water, not near any current or future transit. They drive or sit in their rocking chairs enjoying the view.

        I’m guessing the likeliest outcome is a slow-boat to Northgate, and a doubling of transit time to both downtown and UW to and from Lake City.

      2. Just another reason there should absolutely, positively not be two lines.

        It simply makes sense for the region, in terms of money, synergy, simplicity – everything.

        It’s stupid, selfish and short-sighted for the north of the lake to ignore Lake City.

        It makes me angry partly because it may end up hurting them in addition to Lake City. Whereas if they collaborated on leveraging all the ridership, it would be cheaper, more efficient, and everyone would have better, cheaper transit.

        Stupid stupid stupid.

  4. >> BRT implies 15-minute frequent all day

    I suppose, although my guess is that folks would be OK with midday and evening frequency of 20 minutes as long as they get high frequency during rush hour.

    >> otherwise it’s not BRT, just ST Express

    No, not really. The main thing people want is an end to congestion. That is where the money will be spent. Off board payment is a nice bonus as well and really separates it from the express. This will make a lot of stops along the way, even though lots of people won’t be going from, say, Bothell to Lake Forest Park. But with each stop being really fast, it isn’t that big of a deal, and it has fewer people clamoring for an express that skips those stops. Mainly, though, if you asked anyone supporting this what “BRT” means, they would say something like “just like light rail — very fast”, with no mention of frequency.

    In any event, no matter what the numbers, I stand by my statement. Just about any BRT line from Lake City to Bitter Lake would have higher frequency than a line from 145th to Bothell.

    For example, i notice that no one has suggested this go all the way to the Greenwood Avenue. That seems like an obvious thing for a BRT line (assuming it is frequent). The big advantage of a line that runs frequently is that it can serve a connector. But it is obvious that neither the value as a connector or frequency is a high priority. But a line from Lake City to Bitter Lake would be the opposite. Not only would it go through a much more dense area — way more dense per minute of service, thus making high frequency a much better value — it would serve as a big connector for the region.

  5. First lets talk about density on arterials. Density belongs where buses and pedestrians can operate efficiently. If you have a lot of pedestrians on the arterial, you end up with crosswalks at the intersections which means more frequent traffic lights and slower cycles. What is the slowest part of Lake City Way, its the density around downtown LC. Look at Northgate Way with the new density right across the sidewalk from the arterial. Anybody want to talk BRT routes on Northgate Way? The Northshore tri-cities should be gettting a garage each to spread out the traffic and get people in from the hillsides. We should work on the idea that people will live with 1 bus to the rail station and the bus ride should be shorter than a half hour (from pickup to drop off) and frequent. Start adding a second seat or inefficient routes into the hillsides we start generating more cars.

    Second lets talk the 145th station. Shoreline was asleep at the wheel and our friends at ST weren’t much better. We get a station at 145th, it coexists with the 145th interchange because the rails are elevated. The current design has buses entering the station from 5th Ave NE using a new traffic light at 148th. The bus rejoins 5th Ave at an uncontrolled driveway and has to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get to the left turn lane back to the Northshore/Tricities. Those traffic lights and travel time in the station areas can easily add up to more than 6 minutes, just to drop off commuters. We have a long term rail station that can’t handle the initial bus route and any other routes that get added are hundred of feet away from the street side stops. Having buses turn around at 5th Avenue is a poor operational choice, especially if Shoreline puts a bunch of density feeding into 5th Avenue.

    Lets move the station over 145th with door to door service on the east and west 145th traffic. Run the Northshore bus over to Aurora and up to a park and ride at 192nd and Aurora (which is already BRT). This also adds transfers to and from Metro Rapid Ride and CT Swift and goes through downtown Shoreline. This builds a much stronger ST3 option where voters in Shoreline may actually see some benefit. A single seat bus from 192/Aurora to Bothell with a rail connection in the middle really pushes an East/West solution.

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