Light rail is making its way north, and the neighborhoods around Mariner and Ash Way Park and Rides in unincorporated Snohomish County are in its path. Nestled between Lynnwood and Everett, this area is already among Snohomish County’s densest, and it represents a big opportunity for further transit-oriented development. Snohomish County is soliciting feedback in an online survey to pick station locations and figure out what should be built near it. There’s also an open house from 5pm to 7pm July 25th at Oak Heights Elementary for people seeking to give feedback and discuss the project in person.
The county is presenting two options each for Mariner Station and Ash Way Station. Both hug the I-5 corridor, which does inhibit their walksheds and development opportunities. However, plenty of opportunity still exists, and even more will present themselves when this plan culminates in a Subarea Plan with upzones and is adopted into the Comprehensive Plan. The station at SR-99 and Airport Road is provisional, but Snohomish County should also be planning that subarea like the others so it’s ready when the provisional station is added–and because even if it’s not, it’s worthy of urbanizing since it’s already at the intersection of the Swift Green Line and Blue Line, Community Transit’s two bus rapid transit lines.
The survey includes a description of transit-oriented development (TOD) that suggests that mixed-use buildings ten stories high or more (some areas already permit this level of density) are envisioned with an eighth mile of the station–along with a plaza or open space to act as a community focal point. Snohomish County described mostly residential midrise buildings in the next eighth mile out, while low-rise up to six stories are assigned between a quarter mile and a half mile out.
Changes farther than half a mile out are not mentioned but would be wise since these areas would still have great access to Link, and relatively restrictive single-family zoning would stifle opportunities for more people to benefit. One option is zoning for more missing middle housing like fourplexes and small apartment buildings in more peripheral areas beyond a half mile out. Upzones could be focused near bus stops feeding the Link stations. Following Lynnwood Link’s opening in 2024, Community Transit plans to boost local bus service by redeploying hours away from one-way suburban express service, making it easy to reach Lynnwood Link stations.
For Mariner Station, both options are west of I-5, but the 130th Street option strikes me as having the edge thanks to superior station access via a pedestrian overpass over I-5, which links to the newly created 130th Street. That said, a hybrid option may also be possible that keeps the overpass even with a station farther to the north, which would be closer to existing Swift Green Line bus service on 128th Street SW and saving buses the need to deviate from the corridor. Mariner Station will also include an additional 500 parking stalls.
For Ash Way Station, the east of I-5 option offers superior transit-oriented development (TOD) potential and station access, and the park-and-ride screens the station from the freeway. Wedging the station between the parking structure and I-5, as the other option would do, would make for both less TOD and a less pleasant station. No net gain in parking is proposed since 1,019 spaces already exist here. By 2024, the Swift Orange Line will run right by the station site and provide a frequent crosstown connection to it. Both options would route the bus line across a new bridge to bring the rapid service closer and construct a new direct access ramp for local bus service and high occupancy commuters. The Interurban Trail runs along the east side of I-5 and could easily interface with the station in the East of I-5 option providing excellent access for people walking, rolling, and biking.
Details of the station options are laid out below. The stations are scheduled to arrive with Everett Link extension in 2036–although theoretically they could arrive sooner if the project were to be split into two phases.
Mariner Station 8th Avenue W Option
Mariner 130th Street Option
Ash Way Park & Ride Option
Ash Way East of I-5
Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.