Northgate Station, still under construction

Northgate Link is slowly inching its way towards completion, still scheduled for June 2021, but a substantial amount of progress can be seen from street level. This photo tour will hopefully be the beginning of a semi-regular series to track construction progress on Link’s extensions, for the benefit of readers who aren’t up for a long journey to the future stations or don’t continually refresh the construction cameras every few minutes.

If you’d like to do your own photowalk near light rail construction, I’ll be offering tips and my recommendations for good views. As a general precaution, always stay in open public areas, keep your hands off fences, and listen to on-site workers to avoid misunderstandings. Photographers with large cameras tend to make people nervous, so you may run into occasional conflicts, but often people are open to a little small-talk if you aren’t acting suspiciously.

Let’s begin with Northgate Station, which will still have a significant amount of nearby construction after 2021, thanks to the kickoff for Lynnwood Link. Luckily, the station also has a lot of easy-to-reach viewpoints with diverse angles, which can leave photographers spoilt for choice.

Northgate station construction, April 2018

A photographer doesn’t need to stray too far from the transit center to get some nice views of the station. Walk to the south end and you should be able to see the new mezzanine and platform past the often-open contractor gate.

Northgate station construction, April 2018

Northgate station construction, April 2018

If you wanted to see eye to eye with the future platform, look no further than the Metro-leased parking garage at the north end of the transit center. The stairs have a great view of the station, the new parking garage, and the entire elevated guideway.

Northgate station construction, April 2018

A quick walk through the Northgate Mall and out onto yet another parking garage brings up another great angle, especially if you have a capable zoom lens. The piles of construction materials and miscellaneous junk makes for an interesting foreground, so don’t forget to include everything.

Northgate station construction, April 2018

Northgate station construction, April 2018

My favorite Northgate view is actually the furthest of them all, the NE 92nd Street overpass, which can be reached by a short uphill walk/bike ride or bus trip. The view is relatively unobstructed and comes with a great view of the Seattle skyline (and I-5 traffic) if you turn around. You’ll need to bring a zoom lens for a good picture, but you can easily line up a shot with the Link viaduct that will carry trains over 1st Avenue.

Roosevelt Station viewing portals, May 2018

Roosevelt station construction, April 2018

Roosevelt Station construction, May 2018

Roosevelt Station sits opposite from Northgate in several ways: the freeway is set further away, there’s plenty of people milling around, and there’s not much choice for sidewalk gawkers. The sole view for this station is from the cutouts in the station wall, which are sometimes blocked and scratched up, so do move around your camera lens and look for a relatively “clean” spot.

Roosevelt Station fence removal, May 2018

Luckily, the wall is being demolished this month while work on the entrances inches slowly up and over street level. Soon enough, we’ll be seeing vents and signs spring up from atop the backfilled lot (and future TOD), just like Capitol Hill Station.

U District Station construction, May 2018

Like Roosevelt Station, our final stop is a constrained and busy one. The only good public view of U District Station comes from a pair of dirty windows that require photographers to squeeze between a parked car and a concrete barrier. The view isn’t much to write about, thanks to the lateral supports that will make up the station’s ceiling (and perhaps the foundation for a 20-story office tower).

U District Station construction, May 2018

There is, however, another way: If you can convince (or bribe) a UW student or alumni into bringing you on a tour of UW Tower, there’s plenty of offices and meeting spaces with their own overhead views of the station box. Just make sure to bring a camera with a quiet shutter and a black t-shirt to avoid the glare issues like the photo above.

And that’s about all you can see out of Northgate Link from above ground. Through June 18, Sound Transit is offering a tour of U District Station to the winners of a contest involving Instagram selfies and shopping at local businesses. In years past, they also offered public tours of the University Link tunnel and we’ll be the first to let you know about that opportunity (if it happens). Until then, there’s just over 1,000 days until Northgate Link’s baseline opening date of June 2021, which could be moved up with some luck. Later in the week, I’ll be bringing a photo tour of East Link, where construction is finally firing up all over the line and public views are much easier to come by.

46 Replies to “A Photo Tour of Northgate Link”

  1. It’s not clear from the pictures, but the Sound Transit website confirms that the station will be located just east of 1st Ave., with entrances on both sides of 103rd St., so walking between the station and Northgate Mall will not require waiting for multiple stoplights, as I was afraid would be the case.

    1. Cool — great to hear. Hopefully the mall will see more employment and/or housing, as well as improved pedestrian access. If it was easy to walk diagonally through the mall, then I could see more people walking to the station, instead of hopping on a bus. That would give people a nice option, while easing the loads there (making the buses run faster). My guess is most people will take a connecting bus, but making it easier (and more pleasant) could result in more people walking to and from the station.

      1. Hopefully soon, there will be no mall, and no need to walk diagonally through it. Break that beast up into a street grid and zone it to 60 stories.

      2. Depends where people are trying to go to. In the case of Target, I doubt the bus would be faster than walking by the time you add up the waiting, riding, and waiting for the light to cross 5th Ave. at Northgate Way, after you finally get off the bus.

        The distance and flatness would also make the trip great for bikeshare – if there existed a safe and comfortable place to ride a bike. Currently, you have a choice between a 4-lane road with nothing but sharrows, or riding through the parking lot, where the cars are slower, but constantly turning and backing out of parking spaces. If only they bothered to carve out a few feet for bikes in all that pavement.

  2. Tip: IIRC, UW Tacoma and Bothell students are also allowed into UW Tower, so you don’t have to limit yourself to trying to bribe UW Seattle students.

  3. Thanks for the update, pictures and photographic tips. Cool to see the pictures from the old Safeco building (where I used to work).

    This is very exciting — it will change the way people view their neighborhood. From Northgate it will be great to be able to get downtown in 15 minutes, even in the evening (when it takes forever now). But the more dramatic change, in my opinion, will be the other connections. U-District in five minutes, Capitol Hill in a bit over ten. Faster than driving, even at noon, and just fast in general. This little extension — only three stops — will provide for the biggest improvement in neighborhood to neighborhood mobility in my lifetime. There will be a lot of trips made that never involve downtown, and just about all of them will be much faster then before. I can’t wait.

    1. I agree! It will be a profound change to mobility in all of North Seattle. I don’t think that many have fully realized how fast the travel times will be — even for non-commute trips. Things like UW students shopping at Northgate, Capitol Hill residents wanting a healthy Green Lake stroll, and people attending sporting events and performances Downtown will be very quick and reliable. A couple will be able to leave their home in Laurelhurst at 7:20 pm, park on the street near a station, and ride Link with plenty of time to reliably make the 8:00 PM curtain call.

      It’s why I’m convinced that — over time — Metro will be increasingly pressured to better feed Link from all over north-east and north-central Seattle. With only 36 months left to opening day, I’m wondering when the restructuring discussions will begin — and how quickly residents will see the advantages of the reduced transit travel times, short Link wait times and better reliability compared to what Metro buses offer today.

    2. I remember taking the express bus from 145th to downtown before the bus tunnel was built, and how cool it was when the bus tunnel cane on line and made it all better.

      This new line will be better than that! It will be awesome. It almost makes me wish I still lived in north Seattle.

    3. Capitol Hill and UW riders were already stunned at the travel time from those two to Westlake. It’s one thing to know it in the abstract and another thing to experience, and especially to compare it to the previous bus service. And there’s huge pent-up demand for better access from northeast Seattle, which if you live on the 62, 75, or 372 requires a time-consuming transfer or intermediate bus between those routes and UW Station.

      And if you’re going from UW Station to the eastbound 62, good luck trying to transfer via any of the 45, 67, 71, 73, 372, 65, or 75: the bus often reaches the 65th stop just in time to see the 62 pass before you can get to its stop, so you have to wait for the next one and there’s no bench or shelter east of Roosevelt so you have to stand the entire time, and then the next 62 is sometimes ten minutes late on top of that. Going the other direction is usually better, with only a 5-10 minute wait for any of these routes and always a shelter.

    4. I can’t wait, either. I live on Capitol Hill, work in Wallingford, far enough east to walk to the station that will open at 43rd and Brooklyn. I really look forward to shopping at Northgate, something I avoid now (who wants to wait on I-5?) I also look forward not having to rent a bike share to get between my office and the Link to get downtown.

    5. I think that the SeaTac connection will also be popular. I could see how many north of the Ship Canal will no longer get rides to or from Seatac. I-5 can often be a nightmare between Northgate and Downtown — and cabs are expensive. The distance is also far enough for folks that driving to Seatac can often take longer than Link will.

      …. And when North Seattle residents understand how the line split and complicated platform level changes after 2035 will affect them, they’ll lobby hard for a level platform transfer at SODO or a blended operations scenario between the Link trains headed to West Seattle and Seatac. I think many people see this looming hassle but it has yet to reach the elected officials currently in charge. Maybe the Port needs to make noise about this?

      1. >> I think that the SeaTac connection will also be popular.

        Yeah, ridership might even go up :)

        Seriously though, I don’t think it will see a big jump. There just aren’t that many people going from the airport to more distant northern neighborhoods. Capitol Hill and UW are now the second and fourth most popular stations in our system, and yet ridership from their addition was not enough to make up for the folks who now prefer parking at Angle Lake. Ridership actually went down at SeaTac.

        My guess is workers were already using Link. Many of them probably live relatively close to the airport. If my career involved the airport I would find a nice house in Rainier Valley and catch the express train to work every day. If I preferred the suburbs, I would live closer. I doubt I would choose to live in Northgate.

        Some occasional travelers were probably using Link as well, even if it involved a transfer. I think there were very few people who decided to change from being dropped off (or catching a cab) to using Link. So, yeah, probably a few people, but nothing like the number of people who live close to Northgate who will decide that visiting Capitol Hill — spontaneously — makes sense. Anecdotally, my wife and I, who live relatively close to Northgate have both talked about how we plan on visiting Capitol Hill a lot more often, but neither of us have talked about how much easier it will be to get to the airport (we might use Link, we might not).

        Most business travelers are headed downtown. If your meeting involves a trip to Fremont, my guess is you take a cab and just deal with the traffic. It is quite likely that we have seen the high water mark for SeaTac (give or take). That would be in line with most cities, which have OK airport ridership, but not great. The Vancouver Airport stop, despite being fairly close to the rest of the city, and being part of a very popular transit system, fails to crack the top 20 in terms of ridership (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyTrain_(Vancouver)#/media/File:Vancouver_SkyTrain_Map.svg).

        >> And when North Seattle residents understand how the line split and complicated platform level changes after 2035 will affect them, they’ll lobby hard for a level platform transfer at SODO or a blended operations scenario between the Link trains headed to West Seattle and Seatac.

        Yeah, I agree. Has that even been decided? Last I heard they were simply thinking about it. But this is a big deal. Not only for trips to the airport, but trips from the UW to Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill. It certainly isn’t what was discussed — talk about bait and switch. I still remember the signs in front of the UW station (although I don’t remember the numbers). It said something like “Downtown 6 minutes, SeaTac 36 minutes”. But now the sign has to say “SeaTac 40 minutes (give or take, depending on time of day and how long it takes you to transfer and how often the other train is running)”. The point being, one of the selling points of Link *for north end riders* is the connection to the airport. I may think that is silly, but other people would disagree. With all due respect to West Seattle, it just isn’t a good trade. There are way more people in Rainier Valley and places south than there are in West Seattle. More to the point, it wasn’t what was planned. The whole idea of “The Spine” was a subway from Everett to Tacoma. They never said “with a transfer somewhere”.

        What if you just bought one of the last remaining affordable condos in Seattle (in Rainier Valley) thinking that you have a nice one seat ride to your job at the UW, only to find that eventually it will involve a transfer. Wouldn’t you be a bit upset?

        It might make sense from a management standpoint, but it doesn’t make sense for riders. The UW line will be way more popular than the Ballard line. The Rainier Valley line will be way more popular than the West Seattle line. It makes sense to tie the two most popular lines together, to minimize transfers. It is weird and almost laughable that ST has basically said, after years of dreaming about a spine, “hey, how are we supposed to operate this thing?”.

      2. It occurs to me that our elected leaders are simultaneously building and severing a spine, and don’t seem to care about if the severed spine is ever fused together well.

      3. Al, VERY few people will ever ride from Tacoma to Everett, or even Highline to Mountlake Terrace. So “severing The Spine” operationally is only a problem if ST persists in denying riders of the parallel south end lines a single-platform or an “over-under” not “side-by-side and up/down”, transfer at SoDo in order to “protect” riders on the existing line from construction delays while tying it together.

        We’ve both written at length about this. We have differed in the details but agree that the current plan of “next-to-each-other-one-elevated-one-at-grade” is the Worst of All Possible Worlds” for an in-direction transfer there.

        But as a practical matter it is only important for South End to UW trips. There will be relatively few longer Green-to-Red trips.

      4. “>> I think that the SeaTac connection will also be popular.

        Yeah, ridership might even go up :)

        Seriously though, I don’t think it will see a big jump. There just aren’t that many people going from the airport to more distant northern neighborhoods.”

        There is a lot of pent-up demand for just that trip, trust me.
        Especially from those who are being asked to be the taxi.

        And don’t discount the upper-east-side to airport trips, either.

    6. Yes, it’s really going to reshape the geography of the city, like folding a map to bring different places impossibly close together. It’s a shame they put the “UW” station down the hill and across Montlake, but in 2021 that mistake will be pretty well forgotten. Most students and faculty will have a much shorter commute by riding to U District instead and walking across. It’s also a more interesting walk, with human-scale architecture and ample coffee/food places along the way if you’re early for class, rather than the endless-feeling slog up the featureless boulevard of Rainier Vista. Plus if ST decides to buy reliable escalators for a change, people will definitely prefer that over the uncertainty of UW Station.

      It’ll be interesting to see how much of UW’s ridership shifts to that station.

      1. >> It’ll be interesting to see how much of UW’s ridership shifts to that station.

        Yes indeed. I agree, the UW station is flawed (for all the reasons mentioned). But it will still be preferred if you are headed to the hospital or lower campus in general. I could also see someone just taking the first station they get to, which means riders from the south would continue to use it. I tend to be that way — I want to get out of there, even if it costs me a couple minutes.

        It will be interesting to see the numbers. On the one hand, you will likely have a fair number of people from the south who will keep going, and take the next stop, especially if it is much closer to their destination (or origin). On the other hand, you have increased ridership from the north caused by the three decent stops connected to that end of campus. Even a one stop ride is fairly reasonable — if someone in the big UW tower needs to talk to someone in the hospital, that is a good way to get there.

        Bus transfers will alter things as well. A lot of people will switch from the UW transfer to the U-District transfer. But even that is hard to gauge. Ridership on the 49 and 70 is pretty high, so I think most of the people who are transferring come from the northeast. Depending on how things get restructured, they may continue to use the UW station. For example, I assume that folks from U-Village will head to that station if they want to go downtown (until the 44 becomes RapidRide, which may take a while). Likewise with people who work at Children’s.

        Overall, it looks like a wash to me. It wouldn’t surprise me if the numbers for the UW Station remain roughly where they are today, even though the folks who ride it will come from different places.

      2. “Ridership on the 49 and 70 is pretty high”

        … because of the gap between UW Station and the northern U-District, bus transfers on Stevens Way, and bus transfers on Campus Parkway.

      3. @Mike — Yeah, right — but what is your point? There aren’t that many people riding Link from the northern end of the U-District — it really doesn’t matter why. The point being that while there will be some people who will switch stations (and thus decrease ridership at UW Station in much the same way SeaTac ridership went down) we probably won’t see a huge number of people switching. We will see plenty who switch from buses, but not that many who switch from UW Station to U-District Station. I think the three new stations (and the trips from them) will more than make up for that. But that is just a theory, time will tell.

      4. I’ll be curious if many UW students ride to the U-District Station but then ride home from the UW station. Walking uphill can be a disincentive for students.

        ST usually only reports entries, so the switching data may not fully be obvious after the 2021 opening.

  4. Is ST now projecting that Northgate Link will open in June 2021? They used to project the opening as September 2021 with 5-6 months of float.

    1. They still have the float and 9 months of testing and the opening as 9-24-21. I think ST will play it safe and not project any change in the timeline until it is clearer or an issue comes up where the public can read a sped up timeline as good news and not schedule padding.

  5. ST has cams on each station for NG Link. Does anyone know if they also have cams on East Link? I’m a little less aware of the current state of construction on East Link, so cams would be. Ice.

    1. I treated myself to a general East Link drive-by visit yesterday.

      Things are actually well under way across most of the route! Pillars are going in, and some support beams are in place. The general track and station locations are now fairly obvious along much of the route. It’s fairly clear where the line is going at this point. I-90 even has several concrete bases in the center, ready for the light rail power poles.

      The section between South Bellevue Station and SE 8th, as well as the section between 130th and 140th appear to be the least furthest along — but these appear to involve fewer structures so that’s probably ok.

      The development work around the 120th station in the Spring District also looks pretty amazing. Unlike Mercer Island and South Bellevue (aka Nimby-lands), this will probably be a welcome urban addition to the corridor and region pretty much when the line opens.

      Probably the most disappointing thing to me is how badly Wilburton Station will interface with pedestrian circulation near I-405 and NE 8th St. The area is surrounded by parking lots, private property fenses, wide street crossings, and heavily travelled intersections with long waits to walk across streets.

      1. they should rename wilburton the ‘Whole Foods Station’ and get sone sponsorship money from anazon for the naming rights.

      2. I heard talk of a pedestrian bridge for the ERC over 8th St. If it happens, it will solve a lot of problems connecting the Link station to the retail stores to the South.

      3. I think the crossing will be one of those down-up-down situations (or up-down-up going the opposite way).

        You know … like Mt Baker’s pedestrian crossing.

      4. Roosevelt is also the Whole Foods Station.

        Actually, in 3 years you can hit every Seattle Daiso on the spine: Roosevelt, Westlake, ID.

      5. When Northgate Link was planned Roosevelt was the only Whole Foods in Seattle, so I for one would have gone to Roosevelt all the time because of it. But now there’s a Whole Foods in the Denny Triangle which will also have a Link station, and one announced on First Hill.

        Still, Roosevelt is the place for stereo shops. And I think it has a good variety of things for its size.

      6. Yeah, I think for my money, Roosevelt is going to be surprisingly busy. Northgate is closer for me, but Roosevelt will be the place where I can complete my errands. Especially if a miracle happens: a Lake City Way rapid ride.

      7. When ST3 Link is fully built out, we’ll have at least three Link stations within a block of a Whole Foods store (Roosevelt/65th, Westlake/Denny, and 8th/116th over in Bellevue).

        In addition, the Whole Foods stores at Interbay and SE Redmond won’t be too far from a Link station either.

  6. There was a recent article about a potential complete redesign of Northgate Mall with new housing and office high rises.

    That new Sound Transit parking garage is going to stick out like a big mistake if the redesign moves forward. Its really a shame that these new parking garages are anchoring the new rapid transit stations. The planning really should emphasize TOD 100%.

    1. I agree, Milbrae BART station has a 10 story parking garage and no apartments nearby, and guess what, everyone drives to get there!!! At the very least there should have housing on top of those garages.

    2. The parking garage currently under construction is mitigation for lost parking due to Link and the repurposing of KC Metro land for TOD. Supposedly total available parking actually goes down even with the new garage.

      1. Yeah, the community actually wanted less parking, but I guess there is a federal law about replacing the parking.

      2. Some of the spaces are contractually obligated to the mall tenants, so if they weren’t replaced the tenants would sue the mall ,and the mall would sue Sound Transit.

        The rest of the spaces are at ST’s discretion. ST did a license-plate survey and found that most of the cars in the P&R are from the neighborhoods east and west of Northgate, so it asked those areas whether they wanted a bigger P&R or better bus/bike/ped access to the station. 75% of them said the latter, perhaps the first time a community has asked for less parking rather than more. So as I understand it the garage is smaller than it would have been. What the community specifically asked for was more feeders from Licton Springs and Maple Leaf, and a good bike path and sidewalks to the station.

  7. I wonder what kind of Northgate pics you can get from the top floor of the Hampton Inn and Suites.

  8. Note: the lateral supports at U-Dist Station are only temporary. They will be removed once the concrete work gets up to ground level. Same as the (now removed) corner bracing at Roosevelt Station.

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