Seattle Transit Blog: Biggest group of Northgate parkers are within easy bike/walk distance

Image from Cascade Bicycle Club

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).

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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10 Responses to Seattle Transit Blog: Biggest group of Northgate parkers are within easy bike/walk distance

  1. merlin says:

    Cool post, Tom! What a thought – added on-street parking (car parking that is) as a way to promote bicycling and walking. I just felt a few neurons short-circuit as the light came on!

  2. Gary says:

    Hi Tom,
    The google aerial view actually shows that the parking is “necessary” because that lot is about 3/4th full and it’s probably not a Saturday.

    What is more telling is that a view from outside the mall, shows that without a car, you can’t get from the West side of I-5 to the mall safely.

    And that even if you did ride or walk from one of those neighborhoods to the East, after you left the quieter residential streets you get to traverse a 1/4mile of really bad walking in the parking lot. And I’ve walked parking lots, they are seriously not safe as drivers are not looking for either bicycles or pedestrians.

    In other words, Northgate as designed is not people friendly.

  3. Michael Snyder says:

    There is already an enormous amount of surface parking in this area and just because a place isn’t currently pedestrian-friendly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make incremental improvements for pedestrians.

    Zooming out just a bit, you can see that North Seattle Community College and the Northwest Outpatient Medical Center both have ample un-used parking when the Northgate Mall parking lot is relatively filled.

    Also note that that Northgate Mall parking garage and the Target parking garage were also nearly empty on the top levels (seen in the google satellite view) even when the surface parking lots were relatively full.

    Note that different zoom levels show you images from different days or times.

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  8. Max says:

    I live within a 2 miles of Northgate and sometimes ride my bike through the neighborhood – I would hope as part of the whole light rails expansion the City prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the area – I *always* see other bicycle riders and there are actually a ton of pedestrians in the area as well despite the horrible conditions for people who aren’t in a car. If there was better infrastructure it would make a huge difference.

  9. Cary says:

    Parking improvements definitely do need to be addressed at every North Seattle Mall. A walking and biking bridge would be a great addition to help alleviate the heavy traffic.

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