Seattle’s Northgate Link light rail extension officially opens for rid…

Seattle residents now have more traffic-free, reliable transit options: the long-awaited Northgate Link light rail extension officially opened for service Saturday morning.

With 4.3 miles of new tracks and stations in Northgate, Roosevelt and the U District, the new extension will connect Northgate to downtown Seattle’s Westlake stop in just 14 minutes. Trains will run every eight minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes on most weekends and middays.

The new extension is expected to see 41,000 to 49,000 daily riders by 2022, according to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) projections. Local leaders are hoping the new transit option will be transformational and mirror North Seattle’s rapid growth in the last decade.

“You are never going to get stuck in ship canal traffic again,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine when announcing the stop openings in April. “It’s a continuous 8-mile subway tunnel from here all the way to Chinatown-International District.”

In addition to the sleek new stations, the John Lewis Memorial Bridge (Northgate Pedestrian and Bike Bridge) is also opening Saturday. The 1,900-foot-long structure will connect the Northgate Sound Transit light rail stop to North Seattle College, providing a safe passage over Interstate 5.

From where to park to how to connect to bus routes, keep reading for everything you need to know about the new Northgate Link extension.

Where is parking?

Those coming from the north and looking to avoid traffic jams on Interstate 5 can park at the Northgate stop Garage, which offers 447 free stalls and nine ADA stalls. The parking is first-come, first-served on the first three levels, while the fourth level is reserved for carpool and solo driver permit parking.

Other nearby parking options for the Northgate stop are obtainable at the Northgate Mall Garage, Thornton Place Garage and Metro park-and-ride lot.

Several blocks near the new Roosevelt stop have been converted to paid parking, and the city has also additional loading zones near the U District stop.

New U-District stop set to open this fall.

Sound Transit

How will bus service change?

King County Metro will also adjust bus routes with its fall service change beginning Saturday. Riders, especially those in North Seattle, should be prepared for major changes as six new routes will be additional while already more will be deleted.

Service will rise to nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels, according to King County Metro, although 18 routes nevertheless keep suspended due to low ridership. Riders are promoted to use Metro’s trip planner to see what transit options are obtainable.

Changes are also coming to Snohomish County Community Transit bus sets with the new Link extension and fall service changes, which will go into effect Oct. 2-4. Three Sound Transit bus routes (511, 512, 513) will now connect to the light rail at the Northgate stop and no longer serve the U District, University of Washington and downtown Seattle.

Community Transit riders can use the county’s trip planner service to see what transit options are obtainable.

Why did line names change?

Along with the new stations, riders should be ready to use the new names, numbers and colors of lines. The Link light rail — which now runs between Angle Lake and Northgate — is called the 1 Line, colored green on maps. The Tacoma Link is also now the T Line, colored orange. The Sounder North is now named the N Line, and Sounder South is named the S Line, both colored light blue.

The changes mirror a new branding initiative from Sound Transit as more and more lines are set to open in the upcoming years.

New Roosevelt stop set to open this fall.

Sound Transit

What’s next for Sound Transit?

While the opening of the Northgate expansion marks a major meaningful development for transit in the vicinity, the next few years will also see huge service expansions. Set to open sometime in 2023, the East Link extension will bring a total of ten new stations and 40 miles of tracks to Judkins Park, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond.

The Federal Way extension is then expected to open in 2024, bringing service south by Angle Lake, Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way. The Lynnwood extension is also expected to open that year, serving four new stations including two in Shoreline, one in Mountlake Terrace, and one at the Lynnwood City Center.

Another two stations will also open in 2024 in Redmond, connecting the downtown retail chief and Marymoor Village near Marymoor Park. Once completed, the travel time between Redmond and downtown Seattle’s Westlake stop will be approximately 45 minutes.

Project schedules for ST3 — a voter approved ballot measure that would add 62 new miles of light rail with stations serving additional areas in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — underwent a realignment course of action in August due to rising real estate and construction costs in the vicinity.

Several Seattle projects received accelerated timelines as part of the realignment, with the estimated completion date of the 130th Street stop moving from 2036 to 2025. The completion date for both the Graham Street and Boeing Access Road also jumped from 2036 to 2031.

Other projects saw delays in their timelines. The board voted to delay several parking projects, including one at Lake Forest Park Town Center for bus-rapid transit customers. The Ballard stop is also delayed until 2039 instead of the voter-approved 2035.

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