Something else debuted this month alongside three new Link stations. Can you guess what it was? No? Surprise: it was Sound Transit’s first parking garage inside the Seattle city limits.


Now, the official position of Seattle Transit Blog is that building parking garages near train stations is generally not the best use of taxpayer money (sometime obscenely wasteful, in fact). But of course Sound Transit, the board, and probably a healthy chunk of the electorate disagrees with us here, so ST continues to build parking garages, making gradual steps to even charge for their usage.

So ideally you should walk, bike, bus or roll to the station. But let’s say you’ve decided to take a car, because, say, an unscrupulous real estate agent sold you a house with “close to light rail” in the description when in fact the nearest station was 40 minutes away via an infrequent bus line.

Whatever your reasons, you’ll find several parking garages and lots in the immediate vicinity of the station.

  • The Metro Park & Ride (one corner of which is slated to become affordable housing, after much back and forth)
  • Thornton Place (the movie theater)
  • Northgate Mall (first two levels)
  • And a brand new Sound Transit-built garage, which we have written about going back nearly a decade.

Most of the lots are free to park. Just don’t park in mall parking. The exception is Sound Transit’s, which charges $15 but only on the top floor, attempting to ensure at least some weekday availability for commuters.

Speaking of which, there’s something humorous (to me, at least) about the signage, which refers to all riders as “commuters.” Sound Transit’s singular focus on work trips as the main reason one might ride public transit trickles all the way down to the wayfinding department, apparently.

When I visited, during a Husky game, one of the Northgate lots was selling Husky game parking. Maybe car-storage next to a train station is worth paying for after all?

91 Replies to “How to park at Northgate Station”

  1. The exception is Sound Transit’s, which charges $15 but only on the top floor, attempting to ensure at least some weekday availability for commuters.

    Minor nit: The top floor, or “rooftop deck,” of the parking garage that Sound Transit built is under the control of the mall. All of the signage relating to paying for parking on that level matches the rest of the signs the mall operator put up around their property.

    I think this happened as an exchange for Sound Transit building that garage on a surface parking lot that previously belonged to the mall. Notice how there’s no elevator access from inside the garage to the rooftop of the garage.

    The problem is, people are getting mad thinking that Sound Transit is “gouging” them because the garage looks like it is Sound Transit’s but the decision to charge and how much to charge for parking belongs to the mall.

    1. Has anyone else noticed that there’s not a coffee shop, snack store or newspaper store within a mile of the Northgate lite rail station? Commuters can’t sip a cup of coffee as we wait for trains unless we briour own.

      1. What are you talking about? There’s Jewel Box right there at Thornton Place, and also Target, Starbucks, and two gas stations within a 15-minute walk.

      2. There isn’t in any of the stations. We’ve tried to get ST to allow them and design them into the station layout.

        The alternatives some have suggested are OK for longer waits, but not if you have only fifteen minutes.

      3. Good. You shouldn’t be removing your mask on public transit (or in stations) for the foreseeable future anyway.

  2. A correction, the top floor of the garage isn’t Sound Transit’s, it’s private property belonging to Simon Property Group. They are the ones charging $15, and confusingly, they’ve renamed the property Northgate Station as well. Neither ST or Metro charge for any parking at Northgate currently, but they will at some point.

  3. If we want to reduce the need to drive and park at Northgate, it would help if the feeder bus from the northwest took a more direct path. The 345’s detour into the hospital parking lot, in particular, is appalling. The configuration is so bad, people actually delay the bus while they fumble around for their wallets to pay for parking.

    Metro’s responsibility is to provide general transportation. If the hospital wants a special shuttle between their front door and Link, they should operate it and pay for it out of their own funds.

    1. The 345 does what it does because that’s historically been a coverage route largely serving the needs of the people who live in the senior living facilities positioned along Greenwood and the large Four Freedoms House. Many of those facilities take low income vouchers and other rental assistance programs. The loop through the hospital is to help the older passengers get to medical appointments.

      It’s probable this need has changed and Metro should delete the hospital loop. In my entirely anecdotal experience, it has changed as I haven’t seen more than one or two people use the hospital loop per, say, a week of riding in the last couple of years. That’s a big change from the mid 2010s where half of the bus would be people going to or from the hospital.

    2. I’m hoping that Metro can streamline the 345 when Link is extended to Lynnwood. Perhaps a new coverage route from Northgate that served the hospital perhaps using 1st NE and Northgate Way to Meridian, then continues on 115th to Aurora, north on Aurora to 125th, west on 125th to cover the Broadview portion of the Route 28, then east on 145th to the Shoreline South Station.

      Some funding for this could come from eliminating the Route 28 trips that continue north of Carkeek Park.

  4. Frank, yes, STB has been correct on parking. The Seattle comp plan says we should not have commuter parking inside the city. But no elected official seemed to attempt to amend the Link record of decision that included parking at Northgate. The high cost of parking seems to violate the ST access policy that considers cost-effectiveness. The hypothetical travel shed with infrequent service is actually hard to find. In the peak periods, routes 345, 346, 347, and 348 now run every 20 minutes and every 10 on their coincident segments; routes 20, 40, 67, and 75 operate every 10 to 15 minutes.

    asdf2: the Northwest Hospital saga dates to the 90s and a grant funded shuttle, Route 318. When its funding ended, Route 302 was revised to serve NW and Four Freedoms. Route 345 replaced Route 302 in fall 2003. Years later, after NW built some sidewalks and a parking garage, the concept of ending the NW deviation was floated. Both FF and NW ran campaigns to retain the deviation. In ridership terms alone, the deviation does not make sense, but folks are considering equity and those with less mobility. The Haller Lake pathway does not have that merit. A better network may be provided with Lynnwood Link. A bit later, the NE 130th Street Link station could help significantly.

    other hospitals like to use belts and suspenders. Consider Seattle Children’s. They have routes 31-32, 65, and 75 on three different U District pathways and they have private shuttles.

    1. If Four Freedoms and the hospital agree to pool their money together to fund a private shuttle providing door to door service between their destinations and Northgate station, I have no problem with that. It’s their money after all.

      But, a transit system needs to focus on general transportation, which means connecting the Bitter Lake area to the rest of the region. People will not ride feeder buses for their daily commute if they are asked to sit through time sucking detours, twice a day, every single day. They will instead demand parking, so they can drive the direct route that they wished their bus would take.

      I guess, I’d you’re going all the way downtown, you can avoid the detour by just hopping on the E line. But, if you’re going byo Capital Hill or UW, connecting to Link further north should save a lot of time. This is what the driving consideration should be.

      Those tiny number of hospital patients who can’t walk a short distance can take a taxi. If there’s enough of them, the hospital can run a shuttle, but something so special purpose should be funded with hospital money, not transit money. Considering how inflated health care prices are in this country, and how much money so-called non-profit hospitals spend on their CEO, they can certainly afford it.

      1. Hospital-to-rail shuttles are very common across the US. Just do an online search for “Hospital rail shuttles” and see most major urban areas represented. It’s so common that I almost expect them!

        Of course, There are laws limiting private shuttles from using public transit centers. I expect ongoing discussions about this. Of course, hospitals serve a societal need so denying hospital shuttles access would be bad optics and arguably bad public policy.

        I could see a private lot owner near Northgate renting out square feet for shuttle loading or layovers.

      2. I have no objection to a hospital shuttle using Northgate transit center. If Microsoft was able to run its private shuttles inside Overlake transit center, I’m sure they could find a way.

      3. And the Dungeness Line and Straight Shot buses from the Olympic Penninsula emphasize their stops at or connections to First Hill and Edmonds hospitals.

      4. Avoiding the detour to Four Freedoms would save a tiny amount of money, and lose a lot of riders. It would probably cost the agency money just in the loss of fare revenue alone. The big problem is that Metro doesn’t have enough money to runs buses like the 345 and 346 frequently.

        But lets say they focused on making the 345 faster. That means:

        1) Avoid the detour to Four Freedoms.
        2) Avoid the detour through the hospital.
        3) Have the bus turn on Northgate Way and then 1st, to get to the station faster.

        All that would be great, and make that connection much faster. Except you’ve lost about 25% of your riders (maybe more) and it still isn’t that fast. You’ve saved some time, which means that theoretically you could run the bus faster. But from a practical standpoint, it would be difficult. The buses are no longer paired, and you really haven’t save that much time. Maybe you could run the 345 twenty minutes in the middle of the day, but some pairs (e. g. the college to the hospital) have gotten worse. Overall it doesn’t seem worth it, and it is quite possible that you would see a drop in ridership.
        Even if you did all that (avoid the detour to Four Freedoms and the hospital while using Northgate Way and 1st) it still doesn’t save enough for you to run that bus frequently. Nor is it especially fast. You’ve got to get around Haller Lake, which takes a while.

        You are way better off waiting until the station at 130th is built, when a lot of those problems solve themselves. The 75 take over service along 130th and Greenwood, essentially killing off the 345. Folks in Bitter Lake have a much faster, much more frequent connection to Link.

        At that point, Four Freedoms should be served by a half-hour DART route. I have been playing around with that idea for a while. It is 946 on this map: It makes all the little detours, so that other buses don’t have to. This means Four Freedoms, the front door of the hospital, and DSHS at the college (all appropriate places for a DART route). It also serves Broadview, so that those folks have all-day service. Using Aurora makes it easier to serve the hospital, while picking up some folks along Aurora headed to Northgate. If the bus ran every half hour, it could retain some of the combined 15 minute service running opposite the 346.

        Anyway, that is all in the future, as it should be. It also doesn’t get to the main point, which is that bus service is more than adequate to Northgate. Of course it could be better, but there is little reason for people to drive to the station. Even if you don’t live close to a frequent bus, you can park somewhere else and catch it. In many cases it would require less driving (although it would take longer). I understand why people drive — it saves them time, and doesn’t cost anything. It is as if they offered me free beer. Of course I’ll drink it, even though I am perfectly capable of paying for my own.

      5. The E is 45 minutes from Aurora Village to Westlake. If you’re starting between 160th and 85th, the time is 25-35 minutes. It’s long enough to make you wish Link were on Aurora, but not so long it’s always a bad option.

      6. The E is 45 minutes from Aurora Village to Westlake. If you’re starting between 160th and 85th, the time is 25-35 minutes. It’s long enough to make you wish Link were on Aurora, but not so long it’s always a bad option.

        I agree. The farther south you go, the less it makes sense to cut over to Link, unless you are headed somewhere other than downtown. Of course a lot of people are (headed to the UW, mainly, but Roosevelt, Northgate and Capitol Hill as well).

        In the long run, a lot of the challenge will be cutting over. I expect buses cutting over at 185th, 175th, 160th/155th, 130th and 85th. That still leaves several gaps on Aurora in King County, which means either a three-seat ride to places like the UW, or people just doing what they do now (taking the E and riding a bus over).

        Given the expected frequency of many of the north end buses, that is probably to be expected. The Swift, E, 65, 75, 85 are all reasonably frequent, but other buses in the area (especially up north) won’t be. So even if you were to alter, say, the 348 to go down Aurora before cutting over, it wouldn’t run frequent enough to be worth it. People will just have to get used to making three seat rides, or stick with their existing (slower) trips.

        The big thing that needs to happen is convincing Snohomish County to run Swift on Aurora between the county line and 185th (with bus stops along the way). This would be faster, and get more riders. Metro should chip in some money if they have to, since it would cover a significant section of Aurora quite nicely. That far north, it is definitely worth the transfer, even if you are headed downtown.

      7. For example, I would want a bus from Shoreline North station to Aurora Village (for Costco) and 185th & Aurora (for Sky Nursery, Fred Meyer, and the ice rink my friend had hockey matches at). I went to all of them when I lived in the U-District, and would if I lived elsewhere in North Seattle. From Capitol Hill where I live now the only one I go to is Sky Nursery, because there aren’t a lot of nurseries in Seattle on transit, much less big ones.

        Nurseries: City People’s at 28th & Madison (small, the 11 is infrequent on weekends). Swanson’s at 100th & 15th Ave NW (a long walk from the D or 28). The one on Renton MLK (gone). Something on the C maybe (haven’t tried). The nursery on south Bellevue Way (haven’t tried). Molbak’s in Woodinville (haven’t been to, Woodinville is hard to get to, and I don’t know how close it is to a bus stop). Are there any other good nurseries in Seattle on transit?

      8. @Mike,
        You could take any bus to Woodinville and go to Molbaks. There’s also Bellevue Nursery right on Bellevue Way.

      9. Oops, missed the last part of your comment. Molbaks is an easy walk from the P&R but all the buses (except maybe the 522) go right past it before turning through the shopping center. Transit is definitely preferred on a Weekend because the parking lot is a mad house!

      10. Molbak’s is on the main street there in Woodinville. I am almost positive it’s on a bus route.

        If you like nurseries it’s worth the trip.

    2. Re: the NE 130th Street station, transit and pedestrian facilities are going to need to be radically altered in that area by Metro and the city, and even perhaps up-zoning for higher density as Shoreline has done nearby the NE 145th Street Station in order to make it much more than a driving destination (presuming that a parking lot will be built there, even).

      I also wonder how much city funding is being chipped in for station, Metro, and commuter facilities of the station itself.

      1. I’m pretty sure there won’t be parking at 130th. In any event, the majority of riders are expected to arrive by bus. SDOT is going to make improvements, but I wouldn’t say anything radical is needed. Here is a good summary of the plans: Here is a more in depth look at things:

  5. ST has stated that the Lynnwood Extension opening will have 3790 more parking spaces for riders to use, and it should open in three years. When that happens, Northgate parking demand will fall considerably. Parking rules here are important now — but it seems like this is a short-term discussion about parking management.

    In that context, I expect the station area to morph from a suburban intercept station to a more urban neighborhood. The people who park at Northgate after 2024 will generally not be going to Link. I expect that the parking spaces that Link riders take in 2022 will be replaced by local trip makers.

    1. I hope that is the case, but I can’t imagine the parking spaces at this station ever staying empty when the price is $0. We will have to make an affirmative decision (over vehement protests, no doubt) to reallocate the space now reserved for parking.

      1. I agree. The main reason people use the parking is because it is free. It is the same reason they use the parking at Roosevelt. Provide free parking at the 45th station, and people would use that too. Why take a feeder bus, when you can just drive to the station?

    2. It will become a more urban neighborhood as the mall apartment buildings are built. It already is becoming an urban neighborhood, given Thornton Creek and the library and community center and the recent apartments on 5th. It’s just one with too-large superblocks and large parking lots. So it’s like, er, Los Angeles.

      1. I suspect that there will always be demand for parking spaces from those who live in Lake City or northern Greenwood and maybe Crown Hill who wish to ride Link.

        Some of this is subject to change in future decades, I suppose, as more branches of Link are built and become operational.

      2. The nature of the neighborhood has nothing to do with it. There is free parking at the Roosevelt Station, under I-5, and all those spaces get used. The neighborhood doesn’t need parking, but if you are going to provide it, people will use it. This would happen if they had a park and ride at Capitol Hill.

        Why take a shuttle bus, when you can drive? Unless the entire region gets rid of cars (or they do something radical, like actually charge to park there) those spots will be used.

      3. While parking near Link may be free so are feeder buses. So people choose to drive and park rather than take a feeder bus for other reasons. safety, convenience, time of trip, kids, shopping afterwards, transfers, etc.

        If the feeder bus costs the same and is equally as safe, convenient and fast I imagine fewer folks would drive to Link. . But even in fairly dense Seattle that isn’t the case. Especially safety.

        If those who participated didn’t want park and rides fair enough (although those who participated on the Eastside demanded park and rides, yet their completion was extended even though the subarea has the funds). Someone who wants or needs to drive can drive to their ultimate destination. At the same time, if Simon determined it valued the car customer over the transit customer fair enough. It’s their mall.

        A common argument is Metro’s lack of funding prevents the kind of coverage and frequency to match the safety and convenience of driving to Link, so the decision is to charge for parking, which to me seems to miss the entire point.

        Will Metro ever have the budget to provide real coverage and frequency for feeder buses, even in the relatively dense but single family neighborhoods in N. Seattle? I doubt it. So let’s rezone those neighborhoods, instead of once again addressing the root cause.

        What are the alternatives if there are no park and rides? To me they look like take slow, less safe and less convenient feeder buses to Link, or drive to your ultimate destination. Each person can make their own choice, and will, based on what best meets their needs, because there is nothing moral about the choices.

        Some may be adamant about forcing folks onto transit by eliminating the alternatives (including charging for park and rides which only harms the folks who take transit because they can’t afford to park downtown) to substantiate its enormous public subsidies, but generally when you try and force someone to do something that is not the best solution for them the market creates alternatives: Uber, WFH, driving.

        Make transit better and more folks will take it. Link from NG to downtown Seattle during heavy peak congestion (except to SLU and First Hill) looks like it could be faster and more convenient than driving to downtown, except you have to get to Link, and not need to carry anything. Still round trip on Link will only save you about $5/day over driving and parking downtown, and will be more expensive if you charge for park and rides.

        The market almost always finds an alternative to a service folks don’t like.

      4. “I suspect that there will always be demand for parking spaces from those who live in Lake City or northern Greenwood and maybe Crown Hill who wish to ride Link.”

        There’s always demand from certain kinds of people. For years there were calls for P&Rs on MLK for people living in the eastern part of the valley and south of Rainier Beach station. Especially when the 50 was less than initially planned (it may have had a different number), and when it was particularly low during the recessions. These calls have diminished as people have gradually tried or accepted Link or realize it’s not going to happen. Seattle policy is against new P&Rs. Northgate was already a P&R, and the station location was chosen largely because of that and assuming Link would have a P&R there.

        Northgate was the most unusual station because when ST/Metro asked the community whether it wanted a larger P&R or better bus/bike/ped access, 75% of the feedback was for the latter. A survey showed most cars were owned by people west and east of the station (e.g., Licton Springs, Maple Leaf). Many respondents said they only reason they drove to the P&R was that bus feeders were skeletal or absent and there was no safe path to bike or walk.

        This is in contrast to the other stations with P&Rs, where the community always wants a larger garage. (130th in Bellevue doesn’t count because there was little community there when the decision was made, and the surface lot is just an interim use until development reaches the area.)

      5. “So people choose to drive and park rather than take a feeder bus for other reasons. safety, convenience, time of trip, kids, shopping afterwards, transfers, etc.”

        The purpose of P&Rs is for people who really have no feeder bus option, their feeder doesn’t run evenings or weekends, or they’re too disabled to walk to a bus stop but not disabled enough to qualify for Access. if they’re merely driving by choice, they may want that, but that’s not a sufficient reason for taxpayers to subsidize their parking. Especially when P&Rs are a much less efficient use of funds than additional feeder buses.

        And the majority of riders can’t use P&Rs because there are only enough parking spaces for a fraction of them. Especially when most of the cars are 9-5 commuters and there’s no midday turnover. Building enough P&R spaces for everyone would require four times bigger garages, which would take much more land, displace more walking uses, and cost four times as much as the original garage.

        Metro has been expanding last-mile taxis (Via et al) for station access, so that’s a middle ground between feeders and larger P&Rs. These are inefficient from a fiscal standpoint too, but less so than larger P&Rs and people driving to them. The best alternative would be frequent coverage routes, even if they only get five people per hour.

      6. When parking is free and unlimited, you induce people to drive for the most trivial of reasons. You’ll have people who live right next to a feeder bus that runs every 5 minutes and barely stops driving just to save up to 5 minutes waiting for the bus. Or because they’re too lazy to even notice that their feeder bus exists (why bother even going online and looking up bus routes when you have free parking). You’ll also have people who live a 5-minute walk from the station driving to the station because they’re too lazy to walk 5 minutes – including people who are able-bodied and perfectly capable of doing the walk. Without a price on parking, there is no way to ensure parking for those that really need it without paying for all of that extra parking for those that don’t. Building 5000 parking spaces for people that are simply lazy so that the 500 or so people that really need those spaces can depend on finding one is extraordinarily expensive and inefficient.

        Ultimately, the debt service payments on the loan to build the parking garage come out of operating funds to run feeder service.

        And, no, you can’t just say if-we-just-build-enough-parking-we-don’t-need-feeder-service, as feeder service does many things that parking stalls do not. For instance, they serve people who don’t have cars, or people who share cars with family members that need them during the day. Feeder buses also provide last-mile service to people riding the reverse direction, while parking stalls can only provide first-mile service, never last mile (*). Feeder buses also serve people who are traveling in the direction of the station who aren’t actually riding the train at all. For example, someone who lives in Lake City can ride the 75 to go shop at Target without ever getting on the train. Feeder buses can also get their service ramped up much more quickly than building more parking. And they don’t create an ugly eyesore next to the station like parking structures do.

        (*) I suppose you could in theory pay for an extra car just to sit at the station all night, but that’s extremely expensive, and it might get towed for violating the commuter parking policy.

      7. (*) It’s probably too niche for policy to ever account for that, but I have wonder about those types of reverse commuters and if the public garage operators (ST, KCM, etc) could adjust for this. Let’s say you live in Seattle and teach at Odle Middle School. Maybe you have a permit that says, “thou shall not be in the P&R between 7am and 4pm,” so you just have to get to your car at the Spring District before 7am and drive to the school to teach, freeing up space for a commuter, and then at the end of the day you drive back to the station to take Link home.

        “Ultimately, the debt service payments on the loan to build the parking garage come out of operating funds to run feeder service.” Technically, that’s not how it works at ST. The debt service for capital projects, garages or otherwise, will crowd out future capital projects. In theory money is fungible, but ST and KCM policy is to delay/defer capital and maintenance spend, not operations, to conserve the marginal dollar when the budget runs into a constraint, such as ST’s debit covenants. Operations only gets cut when there is a macroeconomic event like a recession.

      8. “Let’s say you live in Seattle and teach at Odle Middle School. Maybe you have a permit that says, “thou shall not be in the P&R between 7am and 4pm,” so you just have to get to your car at the Spring District before 7am and drive to the school to teach, freeing up space for a commuter, and then at the end of the day you drive back to the station to take Link home.”

        Even if such a permit existed, in order to make practical use of it, you would need two cars. One to store at the park and ride overnight for last mile work trips, one to keep at home for all no work trips. Cars are expensive beasts, and buying a second car for this purpose is almost certainly more expensive than simply buying one car, driving it all the way, and not riding transit at all.

        Even then, you’ve still not the issue that your car is sitting in the parking lot all day, in violation of the permit, any weekday you’re not working. That means, even on your vacation days, you’re still forced to commute most of the way to work, at 7 AM, just to move your extra car. In practice, this just doesn’t work.

        Overnight bike parking at stations can work for last mile travel (assuming the theft issue can be solved), but only because bikes are much smaller and cheaper vehicles than cars are. Tons of people do this in cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. But, cars are just too big and too expensive to be used that way.

      9. The theoretical person lives in Seattle. Why would they need a 2nd car? They can drive to school Monday morning and Friday evening.

      10. I see; yes, if you don’t need the car on weekday evenings, that can work. That kind of reminds me of somebody I knew awhile back who commuted from Belltown to Microsoft. To avoid paying for parking at home, he’d drive to the office on Monday, then ride the bus home, leaving his car there overnight. On Friday, he’d take the car home, arriving after parking meters shut down for the night (at the time, 6 pm, it’s later now). Saturday, if not hiking in the mountains, he’d pay a few dollars to park all day in a paid surface lot nearby. Sunday, he’d park for free on the street. Monday, he’d drive to work again and repeat the cycle.

        This continued for a few months until, eventually, corporate security found out what he was doing and told him to stop. Company policy generally prohibited overnight parking on campus, except when necessary for business purposes.

  6. It is easy to put in rules with pricing by time of day to discourage commuters from parking at Northgate. A garage owner either closes off a lot until 10 or puts a paid parking attendant at the entrance for a 5 or 6 hour shift (like 4 am to 10 am), for example.

    What I think will be challenging is how to regulate student parking for UW. It would be tempting for a student to use Northgate parking, ride light rail in just a few minutes to UW, walk to class — and reverse the trip once class has ended. If the student is part-time (afternoon or evening) on campus and needs a vehicle to get to and from work, this strategy becomes particularly attractive. The time a space would be in use is about that of going to a movie or playing in a community hockey league.

    The nice feature about parking management is that it can be adaptable. The several Northgate area garage owners will hopefully have a unified strategy. Otherwise, varied parking rules will result in lots of volatility in pricing and demand as each one responds to demand and what their neighbors are doing. Plus, students are likely to quickly convey advice to each other on how to park around there as quickly (where spaces are) and cheaply as possible so it becomes an ongoing cat-and-mouse game.

    I see parking here as a market-driven choice. Outside of organizing all of the parking owners in an organized way, I’m not really seeing the ability or will for local government to set rules in place. Instead, I think of this area as a parking case study to monitor mostly out of curiosity.

    1. Why discourage commuters, and why regulate parking for UW students? If parking space is available and they want to use it then let them. ST wouldn’t have built the parking if they didn’t want people using it.

      If the lot gets full then it gets full, and anyone shut out of parking simply continues on in their car instead of parking and catching a train.

      It’s the bargain ST struck when opting to build these garages that don’t scale.

      1. “ Why discourage commuters, and why regulate parking for UW students?”

        Because tenants rent space anticipating free parking for customers. If commuters or students are taking up spaces, there isn’t room for customers to park.

      2. ahh.. you’re worried about people using the mall parking to ride LINK, instead of using the designated park and ride, or parking garage parking. got it. thanks

      3. It’s not just assuming; their lease contracts include a certain amount of parking provided by the mall.

  7. Frank,

    I know it is popular around here to blame ST for everything, but blaming ST for the parking fee on the top floor of the new garage is way off mark. That top floor is not under control of ST, it is under control of the mall, and Simon basically sets the policy for its use and collects any fees.

    Basically ST wanted to build a garage, and ST wanted to avoid litigation, so they partnered with Simon to replace an existing surface lot in exchange for giving Simon control of the roof top parking. Basically Simon got their surface parking back, and ST got the lower levels of new parking, and neither party ended up in court.

    Not a bad compromise, and it avoided messy lawyer stuff, but it did add to parking. So if you view all parking as bad, then maybe you could blame ST for that. But I think that, in its extreme, is probably a fringe view.

    And remember, the main KC lot is still scheduled for redevelopment – future parking capacity is still a bit of a TBD.

    Additionally, ST’s agreement with Simon just follows the precedent set by Metro with the old parking garage. That garage always had some parking set aside for commuters, although I can’t remember the details (HOV on certain floors until 10:00 maybe?).

    Also, the old Metro surface lots on the west side of 1st Ave NE should be opening up in he next week or so.

    It should also be noted that much of the reason that local neighborhood activists opposed the garage had little to do with enlightened urbanism or support for TOD. Quite the contrary, it was NIMBYism. Basically they were fighting the garage based on that old cudgel of “traffic”. Many of the same residents also have fought against height increases at Northgate on the same basis.

    1. The station’s construction displaced mall parking spaces, and ST had to rebuild replacements because they’re obligated to mall tenants in their lease contracts. If ST didn’t replace them the tenants would sue Simon and Simon would sue ST. If ST chose to build a garage rather than a surface lot for those spaces, well, isn’t that a good thing in an emerging urban area? Otherwise we’d be bitching about the surface lot (and we wouldn’t be bitchin’).

      1. @MO,

        Oh, I’m sure that no matter what ST did, someone would find some reason to bitch at them about something.

        And I’m sure that if ST didn’t do something for parking, the amount of bitching from the “ST built LR with no parking? How’s anyone supposed to use it?! It’s just social engineering! Cut their budget! Because…..Freedom!” crowd would far outweigh the shouting from the “But parking is a waste” crowd.

        Unfortunately we live in a car dominated society, and ST can’t just change that by snapping their fingers.

      2. And I’m sure that if ST didn’t do something for parking, the amount of bitching from the “ST built LR with no parking? How’s anyone supposed to use it?! It’s just social engineering! Cut their budget! Because…..Freedom!” crowd would far outweigh the shouting from the “But parking is a waste” crowd.

        Nonsense. The community spoke out against parking. No one wanted the additional parking. They didn’t add new parking at any other city station, so the only reason they added it here was to avoid the litigation. That’s it. You can blame Simon, or blame ST for not wanting to fight things in court, but there was absolutely no public support for parking.

  8. Part of transit expansion is bringing in ridership. Despite popular or unpopular opinion, having a garage for those at the edge of the city (where northgate is located) is essential to increasing ridership here. Furthermore, having clear signage is just as important. This is critical to address as the rest of the link line goes into suburbs at every direction. If parking isn’t there and clear, don’t expect suburbanites to use the rail.

    1. A garage can’t increase ridership much because it has a limited number of spaces. Even a 1000-space garage serves only a small fraction of riders because the rest can’t fit in it even if they wanted to. That’s especially the case when the spaces are filled with 9-5 commuters so there’s no midday turnover.

    2. Shane: no. Consider cost-effectiveness. The funds needed for garage construction would attract more riders if used for bus service frequency and less waiting. The land needed for garages would be better used for multifamily housing next to frequent transit.

    3. It’s not about attracting riders. It’s all about attracting voters to say yes. Without parking you don’t get enough suburban votes to pass the ST# ballot measure. It doesn’t have to make sense; it just has to pass.

      1. A more charitable spin is a parking garage can attract a higher number of unique visitors. A frequent bus route might have higher annual ridership, but it will mostly be the same daily passengers. A garage can be an effective way to provide access for a larger number of occasional riders, which in turns broaden political support.

        Whether it’s better that 100 people ride transit every day (3,650 annual ridership) or 1,000 people ride transit twice a year (2,000 annual ridership) is a statement of values. I think it’s reasonable that a minority of ST’s investment in station access is to reach those occasional riders.

      2. Yeah, I think you’re on to something. One reason people vote for P&R lots is they figure someone else will use it and their commute will be congestion free. Of course it doesn’t work that way but it still gets votes. Then there’s the people that figure I’ll use it a few times a year to go to sporting events or the airport so sure, I’ll vote yes. Ridership wise though I expect you’d get far more bang for the buck with bus service even if it’s peak only Express routes. Structured parking is stupid expensive and operational cost is far from free. If it’s surface parking like 130th in Bellevue that’s a whole different story than building structured parking. I’d be willing to bet that if you replaced the East Link garage at Marymoor with satellite lots and bus service to Sahalee, Fall City, Bear Creek, et al you’d be numbers and $$$ ahead. And once you build a parking garage that land use is locked in forever.

      3. Bernie, you make a common mistake, especially when it comes to East King Co.: feeder buses are not first/last mile access. It is doorstep to feeder bus and back that is first/last mile access. Few live within walking distance of a Link station.

        I don’t think many folks really considered the fact they would have to take a bus to catch a train. To many that seems counterintuitive. Why spend billions on Link if you still have to take a feeder bus? Just stay in the one seat bus.

        Or drive directly to a park and ride that serves Link.

        Metro is 80% subsidized by general tax revenue. But you have to get to it, and the bus/train has to be more convenient and faster than their old one seat bus ride or Link is a failure. This idea riders will add a transfer for the good of transit is unrealistic.

        The other option to park and rides is micro transit, but that means transit pays for the vehicle and driver unlike a park and ride. That is basically what ST promised Kenmore when it extended the park and rides, unless you can think of some other first/last mile access to replace park and rides.

        I don’t know why transit fans are so afraid of park and rides at Link. If Link riders prefer a park and ride to a feeder bus so what? How else are many — especially in East King Co. —?going to get to a feeder bus anyway. By a slow bus crawling through cul-de-sacs to take you to another bus that will take you to Link? Bicycles? Expensive micro transit? No, by driving, so what is the issue of having them drive to a park and ride that serves Link if that is what most prefer?

        Don’t forget even when you get there Link’s spread out stations leave many a long walk to their ultimate destination.

        The problem for transit is there are options. WFH. Subsidized parking. Uber. Driving directly to a park and ride that serves Link. Private shuttles. Or continuing express buses like Lake City, the 630, and one seat (actually two when you count the drive to the park and ride) express buses from Issaquah to Seattle.

        When you factor in lost farebox recovery from many of these options park and rides look pretty economical. And as you note suburbia will determine whether future transit levies pass, and ST will never meet its operational cost estimates. At that point your only options are to raise fares or reduce frequency and coverage.

      4. Daniel, it’s only counterintuitive to people who haven’t lived in the city with great transit. It’s like complaining that roundabouts are counterintuitive; people will figure it out, just like the do everywhere else in the world.

        Some parts of East King are indeed cul-de-sac land and will never been well served by bus. Those people will use an P&R or bike/roll to transit, and perhaps in the future there will be cost-effective microtransit. But much of East King is good enough grid when it comes to arterials, and the vast majority of the population growth on the east side (within the ST territory) is occurring within the walkshed of good transit, so the % share of people unable to access transit will steadily decrease.

        Bernie, that’s my point … your more “bang for the buck” assumes ‘bang’ is total ridership. That’s a very good metric for good transit, but it’s not the only way to measure transit quality.

        For SE Redmond specifically, I disagree; surface satellite lots would be a more cost effective way to provide peak commuter access, but unless Sammamish’s land use changes, on evenings and weekends I do think the single structured parking garage will be more cost effective long term than running several local routes at high frequency, and running those routes in Sammamish at local frequencies will result in lower transit ridership. ST should certainly charge for commuter parking, but off peak the best thing for ridership is to let people park for free.

        In contrast, at a station like 145th or 185th in Shoreline, feeder bus service is clearly more cost effective than a structured garage, but that is because Shoreline is denser (and will be much denser), has a traditional grid, and has the demand to support frequent routes.

        Perhaps when we have true driverless shuttles, it will become more cost effect to run frequent microtransit scaled to the off peak demand of a place like Sammamish or Fall City, but I think that’s far enough out I don’t mind building structure parking in the 2020s.

      5. Satellite Park and Ride lots are going to be used by people commuting which is still that vast majority of transit use once you get outside of Seattle. Some people wouldn’t use it to go to sporting events if they had a two seat ride but that’s offset by people having a P&R closer to home and one they know won’t be full when they get there. One of the real beauties of satellite lots is they can be leased from places like churches which is a win all around vs building structured parking. At least with Ngate it sounds like they are charging something like market rate. That needs to be extended to all the garages to offset the insane cost of building and maintaining them. Also with Ngate it’s going to get used a lot more than just the typical one car per stall for 10 hours a day and then virtually empty evenings and weekends. Better would have been a 40 story building which requires a foundation structure that essentially provides an underground parking garage for free.

      6. “commuting which is still that vast majority of transit use once you get outside of Seattle. ” Right, which is why a SE Redmond garage might be justified because the ridership east and south of the station is so anemic on nights and weekends that it is cheaper to just build a single garage than to operate a mostly empty bus feeder network all day.

        But for Northgate or Bothell, there is enough ridership to run a good bus network all day.

        ” Better would have been a 40 story building which requires a foundation structure that essentially provides an underground parking garage for free. ” … I don’t think that’s how foundations work? An underground garage is more expensive than an above grade grade.

    4. Despite popular or unpopular opinion, having a garage for those at the edge of the city (where northgate is located) is essential to increasing ridership here.

      Nonsense. It is quite likely that the garage decreases ridership in the long run. Yes, you gain a few riders who would otherwise drive to their destination, but you lose more riders. If they built apartments or an office, you would get riders. Riders who now drive to the station shift to using connecting bus service. This leads to more frequent bus service, and even more riders (the virtuous frequency-ridership cycle). Traffic around the station is reduced, allowing the buses to run faster, again making transit more popular. Riders find the neighborhood park and ride lots more convenient, and with better shuttle service, more than adequate.

      What you are talking about is only true of low-density stops, with little hope of good connecting bus service or frequent trains. That simply isn’t the case for any of the Seattle stations. The extra riders who arrive by car are a mere blip, and won’t help Link in the least. Keeping those cars in the neighborhood (and the riders on connecting buses) is far more likely to lead to better ridership on the train.

      1. The ‘nonsense’ is the statement that Northgate is at the edge of a city. The municipal boundary is irrelevant; Northgate is deep within the city. Perhaps at the actual edge of a city (SE Redmond? Lakewood? Issaquah Highlands?) it would be justified, but ST rarely builds Link that far.

  9. My wish for Northgate is a garage for longer term parking (instead of just daily parking). I would pay to park there so I could take the light rail to the airport instead of driving all the way to Sea-Tac for airport parking. (Northgate is about 5.5 miles south from where I live.)

      1. It would be wonderful! I had a family member drop me off and pick me up so I could ride the train to the airport and back, which is fine, as long as someone is available. Or I could have tried Uber or Lyft, I guess. Didn’t want to contend with taking luggage onto a bus. But I found out the light rail trains don’t really have much luggage storage either. Luckily, I just had a small carry on….

    1. I suspect you can get such a thing from a private operator. Or take a shuttle/Uber to NG Station and ride LR from there.

      But at 5.5 miles north of Northgate, in 2.28 years you are going to be sitting pretty when the MLT Station opens! That will be perfect for you.

      1. I know…I can hardly wait! Every time I cross over I-5 on 185th Street, I can see the light rail construction, plus the construction on the station. Some people live REALLY close to the future station. But it’s 0.8 miles from my house. Could walk to it as long as the weather isn’t too awful! :)

  10. I generally agree that parking lots near Link in the city are a bad idea, but as someone who lives in Bothell, I think it’s sensible to have parking at the end-of-the-line station (currently Northgate). If I’m going into the city, there’s no “walk to Link” option for me. It’s either “drive to the parking lot at the end of the line and take the train in” or “drive all the way in and pay for parking.” With the right frequencies, bus plus Link might work, but if there’s one place that should cater to parking, it’s stations at the end of the line.

    But I’d be fine with phasing out that parking for other uses, or charging more to manage demand, as stations open further along the line. The real issue is that at some point, connecting bus service is iffy enough that it’s good to give people an option to concentrate them on the most frequent service.

    1. Or, in Bothell, drive to the Bothell or Kenmore P&R and take the 522 and Link, and eventually Stride 3 a shorter distance and Link. That doesn’t work as well in other areas as it does in Bothell, but the 522 and Stride 3 are strong routes and express-level routes.

      1. Exactly. The idea that people should be able to drive right to the station is the problem, not that cars are involved in their commute. Satellite Park and Ride lots are fine. They increase ridership on the feeder buses. This creates better frequency on the feeder buses, which leads to more people walking to the feeder buses. It is a natural evolution, that has taken place around this very station. The 41 used to be all about the parking. There was not one, but two big parking lots. Eventually the second parking lot was replaced with a park, and even the main parking lot became less and less important. Small parking lots further away were still used, but most of the people walked to bus stops.

        The same thing is slowly happening north of Lake Washington. There are still huge park and ride lots, but there is also a lot of development around them. Other buses feed those areas. A lot of people still drive to where they can catch a bus, but their drive is a lot shorter. It would be nuts to drive from Bothell to I-5 to catch the train, and yet park and ride lots at the station encourage that.

    2. Doesn’t necessarily have to be at the ‘end’ of the line (SE Redmond functions as the terminal parking catchment for East Link as the 2nd to last station), but yes it often makes sense to provide parking for those who live beyond the line or otherwise have poor access to stations.

      The rub with Northgate is it will be the terminus for less than 3 years, so ‘end of line’ parking would only make sense for a short period of time. The parking situation will be more coherent with Lynnwood Link and Bothell’s Stride line are both in operation.

  11. Do not use the first two floors of the Northgate Mall garage, indeed. Northgate Mall “commuter” parking on the first two floors is a bit misleading. The spots are marked with orange with “commuter” park and ride signs. I guess it’s a park and ride in the sense that they won’t tow you for leaving the mall, but it has a 3 hour max which makes it useless for actual commuting–and they do ticket for exceeding the 3 hours.

    1. Does anyone know more about this? Are the signs misleading, did the person misunderstand clear signs, or did the officer write a ticket in an area they shouldn’t?

  12. One point related to parking that nobody has mentioned this far is ADA parking, which , in my opinion, is much easier to justify at transit stations than general parking.

    Each wheelchair user who drives to the station instead of riding a feeder bus is doing a service to every other passenger who rides that feeder bus.

  13. My first ride from Northgate to downtown was on a Friday evening. I was meeting my sister to go to dinner and a concert. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be waiting for the 75 at the station late at night and walking home in the dark, so I drove — arrived around 4:30 and there were plenty of empty parking spaces on the street level of the ST parking garage. I chose a spot near the exit at 5th avenue, walked up the stairs and was on the train in 5 minutes. On the way back I was able to get on a train that arrived as I was going down the escalator. Whole trip from downtown to my front door off Sand Point Way only took about 35 minutes.

    Used it again a few days ago for a specialist appointment at Harborview. This time I took the bus and it took a little over an hour each way. I’ll probably continue to use the bus for daytime travel, but drive and park at the station for evening outings.

  14. I parked on floor 1 of the mall parking garage for the Kraken game. The map shows floor 1 and 2 of that garage as park and ride, and I parked right in front of a sign saying it was for park and ride. When we returned from the game I had a $25 ticket for not advance paying…

    1. Does anybody know more about this? Are the signs misleading, or did the driver or ticket writer not comply with them?

    2. Weird, my ticket was actually for exceeding 3 hours. Same penalty: $25 plus $5 “convenience fee” to pay online. Fair enough, since in retrospect the posted rate outside of the garage is $25 for 3 hours–I honestly felt little remorse in paying it. I also had not advance paid, assuming the well-marked park and ride spots were exempt from the parking fees and time limit, as Sound Transit and King County websites seem to suggest. IMHO it would be sufficient if the ST and KC websites noted that “Fees and time limits may apply, pay attention to posted signage,” and posted at the garage that “Fees and time limits apply to park and ride spots.”

  15. Regarding Sound Transit’s “wayfinding” prowess, I was struck at Sound Transit’s promotional system map at the new stations.

    Even though several listed Seattle neighborhoods were accurately identified on the map (many of which aren’t very close to the 1-Line), the Rainier Valley was rather obviously way-lost. Yes, Columbia City is noted on the map, but the map wouldn’t help anyone get to its actual stop.

    And, by badly mis-locating Columbia City, Rainier Beach was entirely erased. Not really a surprise, since local ST way-finding maps at the Rainier Beach Station shows nearby streets that don’t even exist.

    Pardon me for getting the distinct feeling that Sound Transit might wish that Rainier Beach didn’t really exist.

  16. During the Seahawks game on Monday, we were gouged like $20 to park in the garage there. It is confusing if any free parking exists at the Northgate light rail. I saw other signs reflecting $15 parking.

    Does any free parking actually exist now near the light rail station?

    1. ParkAndFine had a similar problem above. It’s unclear what the real situation is, whether the public outreach is promising free parking in the same spaces that security guards are writing tickets in.

    2. FWIW, right now the only parking that I currently trust to be actually free for park and ride is B1-B4 in the Northgate Station Garage (NOT the roof deck), and the surface lot across from the old transit center. Both of which fill up pretty early in the morning, and presumably prior to events too. I figure, it was good while it lasted for those first 1-2 weeks, but I’ll take the 871/810 or use one of the lots in SnoCo, and it’ll still be worth it to pay the $15-20 at Northgate if I’m going to an event in Town.

  17. Every park and ride lot will be popular. I’m sure people would have loved park and ride lots in Rainier Valley, or Roosevelt, but they didn’t build them. Oh wait, there is a park and ride lot at Roosevelt — it has been there for years. But I’m sure there are people who wish it was bigger.

    On the other hand, ST would rather spend their money on something else. There are bound to be mixed feelings, but in general, Seattle representatives and the Seattle communities would rather see the money spent on something else. Northgate Station is no different. The community came out and opposed it. There is nothing special about its location that makes it more appropriate for a giant parking garage than any other place in Seattle.

    Why then, did they build one? As Lazarus pointed out above, it was all about Simon threatening litigation. That’s it. That is the only reason there is a big parking garage. This is about a private real estate company shaking down a public agency, and forcing it to build a park and ride lot most don’t want. ST had other alternatives, but they could easily have been worse.

  18. Park and rides are a double edged sword. They can increase ridership, which can increase transit funding and provide better frequency. This is very important for tiny, struggling transit systems. But this effect is minimized when you have a robust system (like that in Northgate, or every other station in Seattle). Relatively few people drive to the station. Most walk, or take the bus. From a real estate perspective, it is a popular area, with relatively high zoning limits that could easily be met. Thus it is quite possible that if they simply allowed someone to build something there (like an office building or an apartment) you would get a lot more riders.

    There is a point where a park and ride lot at the station no matter makes sense. We are well beyond that point at Northgate, and every other Seattle station. We will be beyond that point for many of the inner-suburban stations. Most riders will either walk, or take connecting buses.

    But the same general rule applies for those connecting buses. Small park and ride lots can increase the ridership on buses, which in turn increase the frequency. These neighborhood lots allow riders to make shorter drives. For example, this is a small park and ride lot on 125th, on the edge of Lake City: It used to connect to the 41, which took riders downtown. Now it connects to the 75, which takes riders to Children’s Hospital, the UW, and of course Link. With both the 75 and the old 41, riders could save a little time by driving closer to Northgate. But if the bus is frequent, it isn’t worth it. Given the general state of our system, a rider at this park and ride is much better than a rider at the big park and ride by Northgate. Extra park and ride users won’t alter the way that Link operates. But it could lead to better frequency on the 75. This in turn would lead to more riders on both Link and the bus.

    Which is why the Northgate Park and Ride lot is such a bad project. It is highly likely that it will decrease Link ridership, as well as Metro ridership. It is likely to lead to worse service overall. Of course the effect subtle, but it still exists. It treats the station as if it is a distant, low density suburban stop, connected to the rest of the system with infrequent and unpopular feeder buses. This clearly isn’t the case.

    But what’s done is done. The next step should be obvious: charge market rates, and put the money into better transit service. That means more buses and perhaps more small neighborhood park and ride lots like the one in Lake City. These aren’t major, expensive projects, but merely leasing agreements with houses of worship that largely have empty lots every weekday.

    It isn’t just Northgate, either. The Green Lake Park and Ride is a short walk away from the Roosevelt Link Station. Buses carrying thousands of riders a day run close to the lot. There are 411 spots, almost as many as ST operates at Northgate. They could be eliminated completely, and ridership on Link, or any of those buses would hardly change. Yet that is still a large parking lot, worth quite a bit of money. The stops are extremely valuable, but the agency is essentially giving them away for free. It sits underneath the freeway, and can’t easily be developed. But Metro (which runs that lot) should charge money to park there.

    It doesn’t make sense for Metro or ST to charge to park at all of their park and rides. But it does make sense for them to charge at Northgate, Roosevelt, and several other locations.

    1. There is another negative effect of large park and ride lots, that I forgot to mention: Traffic. Hundreds of cars descend on an area that would otherwise have very few. There aren’t that many people going to the movies, or having a beer at The Watershed. Aljoya gets visitors, but many arrive by transit. The existence of free, convenient parking attracts drivers, and nothing else. This slows down the buses, which carry way more people. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the buses all ran in exclusive lanes, but they don’t, as it would be difficult to pull off there.

      This is another reason why ST (in this case) should charge aggressively to park there. People driving there are costing transit riders time, and costing public agencies money. Charging more during rush hour would be reasonable just as a congestion fee.

  19. We were also quite confused about the supposedly free parking at the Northgate Mall Garage, for last Monday’s Seahawk game. Everything I’ve read indicated free parking on Levels 1 and 2. But….the security person at the entrance told us to park anywhere we want…and that we needed to pay $20. Also a big event parking – $20- sign next to him. Very unclear and inconsistent messaging and signage re: free commuter parking in that garage.

  20. “an unscrupulous real estate agent sold you a house with “close to light rail” in the description”

    Or anything that was remotely near frequent transit was astronomically priced, so driving distance with no direct access to transit was all we could afford. C*****, we don’t all work for Microsoft and Amazon!

  21. Building parking garages near transit stations is not the best use of taxpayer money… but neither is other spending that transit agencies go overboard on, such as excessive public relations spending-ST is well above Metro and most other agencies combined, for instance-and on layers of management-check out the organization charts of these entities from their transit development plans-and should be called out for that questionable spending as well vs. getting a free pass under the guise of “if it’s a transit agency, all of their spending must be good.” We need watchdogs in this realm, too, unafraid of pushing back, so that riders get the most benefits possible in terms of service, well lit and frequent shelters, and other amenities. There are plenty of examples of misconduct in public officials, who are humans with largely unbridled power who are influenced by campaign contributors, they are not saints.

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