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Originally published Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM

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Light-rail parking lot doesn't match residents' vision for Northgate

A large parking garage at the Northgate light-rail station prioritizes auto users at the expense of the residents who would bus, walk or bike to the station, write two residents of the neighborhood.

Special to The Times

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THE construction of the Link light-rail station at Northgate is a unique opportunity to transform a 1950s auto-dominated neighborhood into a community where everyone has the freedom to choose how to get where they need to go.

As community leaders in the Pinehurst neighborhood near Northgate, we've been involved in the public-outreach process planning the future of Northgate. We have listened to what our neighbors hope to see. Their message is consistent: They want investments that transform Northgate into a community where it's easy and safe to walk, bike and take transit to get around.

Thursday, the Sound Transit Board Capital Committee meets to discuss future investments in how people will get to the Northgate light-rail station. Their decisions will determine whether we become a community where our neighbors have the freedom to choose how they get to light rail.

According to Sound Transit, 70 percent of people use transit, feet or bikes to get to the Northgate transit center. That's projected to rise to 92 percent in 2030.

We've spoken with many of our neighbors and an astonishing number have told us that they wish it were safer for them to walk or bike to the transit center. One neighbor wants to walk what would be a five-minute trek to the station. But since it doesn't feel safe, he drives.

Northgate is adjacent to Interstate 5 at the base of one of the highest hills in Seattle. Steep hills discourage people from bicycling. Many streets around the station don't have sidewalks. We need improvements that will get more people to use light rail. We were hopeful Sound Transit would propose an access plan for the light-rail station that would make it safer and easier for our neighbors to get to the station without driving.

Instead, Sound Transit is considering building a large parking garage. This is an option that prioritizes a small minority of users at the expense of the overwhelming majority. It doesn't align with our residents' vision for the future of the neighborhood.

A $40 million, 900-stall parking garage would benefit only 8 percent of its users. Less than $2 million would be spent improving how the other 92 percent will get there. Even worse, Sound Transit developed this proposal without public involvement.

After hundreds of our neighbors wrote Sound Transit in protest, the agency hastily scheduled a public meeting on the proposal. More than 100 citizens attended the meeting and everyone who spoke voiced concerns with the proposal.

We recognize that Sound Transit has legal obligations to mitigate parking displaced during construction, but this garage will create a permanent blight to solve a temporary problem. No other light-rail stations in Seattle have a parking garage.

Our community needs a pedestrian bridge over I-5 connecting Northgate station with North Seattle Community College and the Licton Springs neighborhood, sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhoods, better bus service and family-friendly bicycle paths.

Sound Transit needs to take a balanced approach and invest in transit, walking and bicycle options for our station.

Renee Staton, left, is a 14-year Pinehurst resident, mother, car commuter and accountant. Eric Youngblut is an 11-year Pinehurst resident, father, bicycle and transit commuter and software developer.

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