The Emerald City’s most northern neighborhood, Northgate, often feels like its resident island of misfit toys – forgotten, detached, isolated. It is the neighborhood I have called home since returning to the Pacific Northwest after years of living in New York City and, quite honestly, that’s why I fell in love with it. It is an area that feels like the suburbs, sometimes even the country, nestled within city limits. It is a neighborhood with a unique personality of restaurants, bars, and shopping while still allowing the opportunity to have a yard where my two dogs can run around outside chasing crows. Surrounded by trees, accessible to Lake Washington, and quiet while close enough to dip your toes in Ballard or Fremont’s nightlife for an evening, to me, it’s Seattle’s best kept secret.
However, the scoffs and hesitations from my Seattle friends whenever I invited them over has not gone unnoticed over the years. “Northgate’s so far” some would say, “that’s a trek”. Maybe it has something to do with living in a city where you can ride the subway for two hours without ever leaving New York, but a fifteen-minute drive north of Downtown, and really only 30-minutes away from anything else (traffic providing of course), never seemed like that much of an excursion. What has become apparent, however, is that Northgate has built itself the reputation as being simply inaccessible to most Seattleites.
All of that changed on October 2 with the opening of Sound Transit’s Link light rail extension to its new Northgate station. Although I have been covering the story and observing its construction every time I’d catch a movie at AMC, or drive by on Interstate 5, the grand opening took place while I was out of town visiting the East Coast. Its functionality really sank in when I flew back to Seattle and remembered I could take the train straight from SeaTac Airport to Northgate without the $50 to $60 cab or ride share expense. I walked to the station from the airport’s enclosed skybridge and was home, hassle-free, in less than an hour.
Northgate Station has opened windows of opportunity for me. Suddenly the city seems more open than ever. Just the other weekend my girlfriend and I awoke on a Sunday morning with the spontaneous idea of grabbing brunch at one of our favorite spots in Capitol Hill. We walked to the light rail and within twenty minutes we were having brunch.
After brunch we spent the day strolling Broadway’s farmer’s market, and shopping for used books at Twice Sold Tales. It felt as though Capitol Hill was now in our backyard. We’ve shopped for Christmas presents at Westlake Center, attended Emerald City Comic Con at the Washington State Convention Center, eating dim sum in the International District, and squeezed between a multitude of 12th men to catch the Seahawks play at Lumen Field, all for the price of $2.25.
Before the Northgate Station, driving to downtown Seattle was a hassle. The traffic of any big city is expected but never without its stresses, and parking can be scarce and expensive. Relying on cab services, including ride shares such as Uber or Lyft, can also be pricey averaging about $30 one-way from Northgate to downtown, and often as much as $100 after events like concerts or sports games if a rider is even available.
For the first time since living in Northgate I feel like a Seattleite. I finally feel like the city has accepted its estranged North Seattle neighborhood with open arms, presenting routes to areas that before felt locked away by accessibility challenges.
Although I have known about Sound Transit’s plan of opening Northgate Station for some time, I don’t think the reality of just how convenient it really is has hit me until it opened.
Growing so accustomed to driving and cabbing around Seattle, I wasn’t even sure how much I would use it. But to my surprise, within just two months of its opening, the extension has presented itself not only as a viable, affordable, mode of getting from one location to the next, it has become my preferred method of travel.
Taking advantage of Northgate Station’s expanded public transit service has only made me look forward to years ahead as it opens to the wider Puget Sound region. Soon residents of Snohomish County with the Lynnwood transit center opening in 2024 will have the same accessibility and present “Snohomies” and Seattleites a similar opportunity to explore new surrounding areas.
Big things are coming to Puget Sound-area transportation, and the success of Northgate Station is just a glimpse.
To learn more about Sound Transit’s expansion click here.