Link light rail car moving north

The University of Washington won't be the Link's final northbound stop anymore.

Remember all those light rail extension projects? The ones that promised to ease office commutes when that meant more than wandering from the coffee maker to the couch?

Well, one of them will wrap up around the time some workers may be returning to offices. On October 2, the Link will add three more stops north of the University of Washington: one in the U District, one in Roosevelt, and one that rises above Northgate Mall. In an announcement last Friday, Sound Transit touted a 14-minute trip from Northgate to downtown, which will be tough for I-5 lane-hoppers and pelotons of programmers to beat, even with a full wait between trains.

The 4.3-mile Northgate Link extension is one of many slated light rail additions as Seattle tries to retrofit a major transit system to a city that grew more rapidly than just about any other during the 2010s. Light rail ridership rose along with the population; by 2019, the Link carried about 80,000 riders per day.

But with Covid-19 came a dive in public transit trips, and office spaces emptied out. Downtown hasn't been this vacant in a very long time. Amazon recently promised a return to an "office-centric culture" in early fall, and Google and Facebook have limited back-to-office plans in the city's core too. Whether those big-tech commitments will attract smaller employers to snatch up leases in the city's core remains to be seen. Many workers want some version of a hybrid schedule, which might put a dent in ORCA card sales.

Still, others can benefit from a northbound commute to Northgate. Nordstrom Rack and Bed Bath and Beyond outposts now share the grounds with the Seattle Kraken's headquarters and training facility. While rich NHL players might not be toting their hockey bags on the train, other team employees can certainly make use of it.

Voters approved the Northgate Link extension way back in 2008. Other additions are projected to bring the train to the Eastside in 2023 and Lynnwood and Federal Way in 2024. For an overview of those routes, click here