There’s a lot of good information in Seattle Transit Blog’s recent two-part series on the proposed (and much maligned) Northgate Station parking garage (part 1, part 2). If you are interested in the background on the issue and what kinds of hurtles we need to overcome in order to avoid spending $15 million in transit funds on a 400-stall parking garage, be sure to give them a read.
However, the point that really jumped out to me was this:
The P&R utilization map shows that most riders using the Northgate P&Rs appear to live in Seattle, not far from the station, with the highest concentrations of users roughly in a rectangle from Haller Lake to Pinehurst.
Wait, that area is 1.5 miles or less from the Park and Ride: That is within easy walking and biking distance!
But, of course, biking and walking infrastructure around Northgate Mall is among the worst in the city. No wonder people drive a mile to get to the Park and Ride.
By some twisted rule, Sound Transit is seriously considering spending $15 million on a 500-stall garage to replace 117 displaced parking spots when some much cheaper investments to make the area easier and safer for the current parkers to walk or bike instead could easily make 117 (and more!) of those car trips disappear entirely.
And I’m not just talking about the brilliant and much-needed walking and biking bridge across I-5 (see maps above). For a couple hundred thousand dollars, we could build world-class, family-friendly biking and walking routes connecting Nothgate Station to Pinehurst and Haller Lake. On top of that, these changes would dramatically increase the walking and biking customer base for Northgate Mall — all while saving about $14 million (that’s a pretty good chunk of the walk/bike bridge costs, BTW).
I have heard a lot of complaints about Northgate Mall in my time in Seattle, but a lack of parking has never been one of them. By targeting our precious dollars where they can most effectively solve the area’s core problems, we can create a more family-friendly and economically viable Northgate.
UPDATE: To help illustrate the immense amount of parking already in the area, from Google Maps:
Also, I failed to address the issue of paying compensation for lost private parking during construction. However, I wonder if adding on-street parking to Northgate Way and 5th Ave NE has been looked at. This would help improve the pedestrian environment and address those parking concerns at the same time (and if they do a parking-separated cycle track, it could address bike access issues, as well).
UPDATE #2: More food for thought on on-street parking: Northgate has huge traffic volumes (~32,000) and might be a tough case for on-street parking. However, 5th Ave NE south of Northgate Way sees fewer than 23,000 vehicles per day, which falls within the city’s goal for streets with a three-lane configuration (it is currently five lanes). The city’s traffic volumes map does not show data for 1st Ave NE, but that street could also be a candidate for on-street parking. This would dramatically reduce collisions, provide many (hundreds?) new parking spots and improve the walking environment. I’m not sure if bike lanes would fit, but it’s possible (I’ll leave that up to traffic engineers to figure out).