A Peek Inside the Northgate Link Light Rail Station

In contrast with U District and Roosevelt Stations, Northgate Station is elevated. (Photo by the author)

Yesterday, we showed you inside U District Station, and now here’s Northgate. On October 2nd, Northgate Station will become the northern terminus of Sound Transit’s 1 Line for three years until the Lynnwood Link extension opens. Serving Seattle’s northernmost urban center, Northgate Station’s new transit bays and bus-only lanes will serve riders from points north as Sound Transit and Community Transit terminate buses here, providing riders an alternative to the ever-present slowdown on I-5 north of the Ship Canal.

With travel times between Westlake and Northgate of just 13 minutes, the time savings for riders currently taking buses along the corridor will be tremendous. Here’s a sneak peak inside the station, which will see its first in-service train depart for Angle Lake at 4:51am on Saturday, October 2nd.

The south station entrance will be the primary entrance most riders at this station will use. This entrance opens out onto the primary station plaza and will be close to most direct bus connections. Twin escalators carry passengers here but there is also a stairway available.

Two escalators and a stairway at a light rail station entrance
Most riders will enter and exit through this south station entrance. (Photo by the author)

Northgate Station has a mezzanine level, which is where the ticket vending machines are located and where the proof-of-payment area begins. There is some seating available in this area, outside the fare paid zone. There are also public restrooms available on the mezzanine!

Station mezzanine with ticket vending machines and seating
Need to load your ORCA card? You’ll do that on the mezzanine. (Photo by the author)

The mezzanine is also where the John Lewis Memorial bike and pedestrian bridge connects to the station. That bridge, a Seattle Department of Transportation project, will open to the public at 10:00am on the morning of October 2nd.

Metal gate with a pedestrian bridge beyond
People arriving from across I-5 on the new bike and pedestrian bridge will enter directly at the mezzaine level. (Photo by the author)

Following the main twin escalators up to the platform level, riders will board trains on both sides from a center platform, with the main station escalators bringing riders into roughly the middle of the platform.

Station platform with a train
Riders will catch all trains from the center platform on the upper level. (Photo by the author)

There is another escalator at the north end of the platform, but only one. It was set to bring riders up when I toured the station, so most riders disembarking will end up directed to the main escalators if they don’t opt for the stairs.

Escalator and stairway
The north station pathway is also an option for people heading to the parking garage north of the station. (Photo by the author)

On the south end of the platform is a public stairway that provides great views of trains arriving and departing the station on either side.

Stairway between train tracks
Check out the southern stairway for great views of arriving and departing trains. (Photo by the author)

Outside the station, bus stops are well-integrated into the station vicinity, in contrast with stations like UW’s “Husky Stadium” Station. Riders will only have to go a short distance between bus stops and station escalators, and bus-only lanes will ensure traffic is mostly clear for them.

Bus shelter next to transit corridor
Riders will catch buses steps from the station entrance. (Photo by the author)

Northgate, Roosevelt, and U District Stations open in just nine days. Make sure to check out our guide to the entire light rail extension and watch for more coverage to come.

Train arriving at a station
Northgate Station will be a game changer for transit north of the Ship Canal. (Photo by the author)

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the blog since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. In December 2020, Ryan started a three-month stint as editor of Seattle Bike Blog.

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Edward Brocklehurst

Elevated platforms with no elevators?

Sandy K.

For next time: add some art! A little disappointed to see the complete disregard for building on native land or highlighting Washington’s artistically talented residents.


They should put up a huge billboard at Northgate station, visible from I-5, that just says “Downtown in 13 Minutes.” And similar messages in big letters on the sides of the trains.

Brian N.

Think it’s an interesting idea to put up realtime signage on I5 S a mile-ish away from the Northgate exit that says something like:

Downtown via Northgate Station Light Rail 14 min
Downtown via I5 S 22 min (or whatever it is at the moment)

It’d inform the commuter they have an option ahead and give them data to make a decision on what is the most convenient for them. There’s a similar sign at the I5 N/I405 interchange for travel times to Bellevue via I405 vs I5 N/I90.

Last edited 28 days ago by Brian N.

Interesting idea, but there is a big catch. The number of drivers per day that will be able to spontaneously exit I-5 at Northgate and switch to Link is fundamentally limited by the number of parking spaces at the station, which is not that much.

That’s not to say that such a sign would be completely useless. It might nudge some people into considering Link another day, even if it’s too late to switch over on the same day. Even if you’re still talking about relatively small numbers of people, changing the electronically display on a sign is free, so there’s essentially no downside.

This is not to argue that Sound Transit should have built Northgate Link with a 50,000-stall parking garage monstrosity. It would have cost an enormous amount of money, both total and per-parking space, and such a huge capacity would quickly become obsolete the instant Lynnwood Link opened, just three years later.