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    Morning Fizz: We do not have an endless amount of money

    Caffeinated news and gossip featuring: last night's Sound Transit meeting at Northgate and Wisconsin.
    A map of Sound Transit's proposed Northgate parking garage

    A map of Sound Transit's proposed Northgate parking garage Sound Transit

    1. At a hastily-called public hearing on the proposed Northgate light rail station last night, Sound Transit staffers fielded question after question about a planned 600-to-900-stall parking garage that will cost, according to Sound Transit's own estimates, as much as $30,000 a stall but serve just 8 percent of the 15,000 people Sound Transit expects to use the Northgate station by 2030.

    Opponents of the garage handed out yellow-and-white stickers that made that point with Occupy-esque rhetoric, reading "Northgate's 92%: We deserve a fair deal!"

    Most of the questions focused on why Sound Transit had decided to build a large new parking garage while dismissing other, less-expensive options, such as a pedestrian bridge across I-5 that would link the station to North Seattle Community College.

    King County Metro deputy director Ron Posthuma said the agency plans to redeploy some of its existing bus service to help serve the light rail station, and emphasized that Sound Transit is "also interested in the 92 percent." And he noted that the new garage could include some paid parking for Northgate Mall users — not just free parking for commuters. "Sound Transit does not have an endless amount of money," he said.

    None of that was convincing, however, to the crowd who had come to object to the garage. Among them: State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), who represents the district. He questioned why Sound Transit was proposing a garage without a pedestrian bridge across I-5 — a proposal that will effectively force every light rail rider on the west side of the freeway to drive to the east side and park.

    A pedestrian bridge across the freeway, Pollet argued, "would certainly reduce the demand for those [parking] spots sooner."

    And in fact, although Sound Transit planners have dismissed a pedestrian bridge as too expensive (supporters estimate it would cost about $20 million), King County Metro's own maps show that the densest concentration of current Northgate park-and-ride users is in the neighborhoods around and to the north of Northgate Way and immediately to the west of I-5, suggesting that people are, in fact, driving across I-5 because they don't have any other alternative.

    2. The New York Times has some even-keeled analysis in advance of today's (not so?) big vote in Wisconsin.

    3. Geekwire has some fitting news: a gun enthusiast online startup is leaving its original hometown, Seattle. After two years, GunUp is relocating to South Dakota.



    Erica C. Barnett was the news editor for Seattle's online news site, PubliCola, where she covered city hall, transportation, land use, and state politics. She had also been the news editor and city hall columnist for The Stranger. In 2007, the King County Municipal League named Erica its Government Affairs Reporter of the year. She can be reached at erica.barnett@crosscut.com.

    Award-winning journalist Josh Feit founded and edited the online news site PubliCola, where he also did double duty as the state house reporter, covering the legislature in Olympia. Before that, for nine years, he was the news editor and political columnist at Seattle's alt-weekly, The Stranger. He can be reached at josh.feit@crosscut.com.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Most of the questions focused on why Sound Transit had decided to build a large new parking garage while dismissing other, less-expensive options, such as a pedestrian bridge across I-5 that would link the station to North Seattle Community College."

    600 x $30,000 = $18,000,000

    $18,000,000 < $20,000,000


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    "The New York Times has some even-keeled analysis in advance of today's (not so?) big vote in Wisconsin." Yah. The New York Times: Fair and Balanced.

    Another take on the (definitely?) big vote in Wisconsin.



    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    This is a really incomplete report on the Northgate issue. The post rightly states most of the questions focus on why Sound Transit is focusing on a parking garage instead of "other, less expensive" options. It then fails to accurately answer that key set of questions.

    To wit: ST and King County are obliged to maintain a certain amount of parking in the area under the terms of grant agreements with the Federal Government. The agencies are trying to be creative in meeting those commitments in a manner that allows ALL the publicly owned property in the immediate vicintiy of the station to be re-developed for residential & commercial use. Ergo, answer #1: to free up property for housing and ridership.

    Also, ST is proposing transit parking be developed by the private sector, on private property, and secured through lease so it can be scaled to meet future demand. Answer #2: minimize cost and maximize flexibility by doing parking through public-private partnership.

    And finally, the numbers suggest 15,000 riders will use the station. 90% of that demand can be met without parking. The data suggest 1500 stalls are actually needed, yet ST is proposing a lot less than this, 600-900. Answer #3, they are going to try to reduce estimated parking demand below what appears to be needed.

    This post seems to frame this as an either/or issue: to provide some parking at a busy station, or not. It is not that simple. Some parking will be needed and appropriate. It seems like the approach being taken is resposnsive to the area's needs as reflected by Seattle's increasing interest in residential development around rail stations.

    Nor does it explore the other side of the equation. A pedestrian bridge over I-5 to where? Another parking lot or garage over there? On whose propoerty? At what cost? Who is going to want to walk across a howling bridge over 10 lanes of I-5 in our lovely NW weather? None of these questions are actually explored.

    Crosscut seems commited to providing fair reporting of big public issues. It's not happening in this case, with the multiple Fizz posts on the topic overhwhelming reading like Cascade Bike club press releases.


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 12:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    I live in Meadowbrook. There are no buses that go directly to Northgate Mall/Transit Center. I am not going to walk there nor ride my bike up that hill to get there. The only way I am going to take light rail is if I drive there and park. If there is no parking or I have to pay for parking, then I might as well drive myself to my destination. If they want people to take light rail, then they are going to need to provide a certain amount of parking.

    The pedestrian bridge over I5 would make it easeier for students at NSCC to take the bus or light rail to campus.


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 1:21 p.m. Inappropriate

    If you don't live a walkable or busable distance away, this station is not for you. I live in Queen Anne, and have no station either. I didn't vote to fund your private parking spot. And I don't want it located in a place that could be an interesting, walkable neighborhood in the future.

    Posted Wed, Jun 6, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    But you voted to fund a private light rail system that isn't usable by you or by people that don't live within walking or bus distance from the train station?


    Posted Wed, Jun 6, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    there will be four Link stations in northeast Seattle. there will be a route between Meadowbrook and one of them.


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Or, just do what Bellevue and Sound Transit have agreed on - another station on the other side of the freeway.
    If it works out for Bellevue and the Hospital Stn at NE 8th, what the heck, it must be a great idea to have stations a few blocks apart in some areas, and none for miles in others.


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 2:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    ECB: you got your Rons mixed; Ron Posthuma is with KCDOT; Ron Endlich is with ST.


    Posted Tue, Jun 5, 5:14 p.m. Inappropriate

    I never thought I'd say this (gulp) -- I stand with Sound Transit in support of the parking garage size they want to build. In fact, it's the garage they need to build per the Environmental Record of Decision agreement with the U.S. Govt back in 2006 that is a condition of the Federal funding to date.

    Hey light rail fans, do you want Fed funding for the Lynnwood extension, or don't you? Don't screw with Uncle Sam. A Northgate garage is a papered, done deal with DC. Only the details are arguable.

    I say this as one firmly convinced that light rail will continue to be a ridership failure -- well below forecast -- as the decades go by. Road use fees (with off peak discounts) and smaller, clean electric cars will manifest. SOV car trips will stay high according to PSRC. Hydrogen-electric buses on I-5 to downtown will be faster on the automated highway than the Sound Transit trains creeping slowly under the U of W campus to avoid vibration in the labs at ground level.

    Further, I would expect whatever Northgate garage is built to hold far more vehicles than on opening day in a future where half-pint, battery-powered or fuel cell, in-town, commuting vehicles are common. Note the little Smart cars seen around town already. Stall sizes can be changed with fresh paint.

    Also, think flex-space. If some of the garage structure is not needed for vehicles of transit riders in the future, convert some of the higher decks to coffee shops or affordable housing, like, you know, transit-oriented development!


    Posted Wed, Jun 6, 11:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    Hey John,
    You mean there is no other thing that ST can build with that money other than a huge parking garage? It would seem like they could do other things to put in temporary parking while they use some of the Northgate lot and use some of the money for the pedestrian overpass everybody in the neighborhood wants.


    Posted Wed, Jun 6, 11:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    There is no Northgate "neighborhood". It's a shopping center and surrounding businesses, and the freeway, and a business park. The homes are located about a mile away.


    Posted Thu, Jun 7, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate


    One minor quibble - there is the new development at Thornton Place, and also the affordable unsubsidized apartments just across Northgate Way that developers and their New Urbanist fellow-travelers have a hankering to displace with a giant new upscale "TOD" project.

    Posted Thu, Jun 7, 7:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    There is all kinds of housing just east of the mall. The City of Seattle has set it up so that no defined neighborhood actually includes the mall. It's a 'neighborhood', if you will, unto itself. When the city wants to invite citizen participation on a revitalization plan or whatever, they invite neighborhood reps to come and join a stakeholders' group.

    No stakeholder group has been convened around the ST station, so there's no coordinated community input about what happens. The pedestrian bridge idea is gaining traction, however. Keep up the drumbeat!

    At the Monday meeting there were lots of people from the surrounding neighborhoods present. There were also lots of people from the Cascade Bicycle Club.

    Posted Fri, Jun 8, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    Come on...the only people who don't want a nice big free parking lot at a LINK station are the people who own parking lots in downtown.


    Posted Fri, Jun 8, 10:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    Living down south at Rainier Beach, with its LR station on Henderson (and NO parking lot at all)the long lines of curbside parking during the day, at times stretching for miles, attest to the obvious fact that many commuters do car-ride to the station. Me, I bum a ride.

    The only winner is SDOT who can get revenue from parking tickets.

    But, remember, even Nickels wanted all citizens (except him) to exercise by walking to the station.




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