As far as bureaucratic processes go, the winnowing of light-rail routes into Lynnwood went pretty well.
Members of the Sound Transit board of directors listened to vocal locals and voted unanimously not to displace residences along 200th Street SW and Cedar Valley Road — and not to disturb the damp quietude of Scriber Creek Park.
After the vote, one empowered citizen told Herald reporter Bill Sheets, “It feels wonderful to be able to make a difference.”
Nobody wants to quibble with a happy ending. But this decision was made somewhat easier by the fact that the Lynnwood route won’t take commuters anywhere but to their parked cars. There is only a modest assortment of businesses, housing and amenities convenient to the park-and-ride lot.
The Lynnwood stop, an expanse of asphalt just west of I-5, represents a stopgap part of a bigger strategy.
The first phases of Sound Transit’s northern light-rail plan reflect a simple assumption: On work days, a lot of people from Snohomish County want to travel south into Seattle. And if light-rail helps several hundred people conveniently achieve this goal, then we’ll have several hundred happier people and several hundred fewer cars jamming and smogging up the highway.
Long-term ambitions for the commuter line, however, need to be greater than this.
National Public Radio correspondent David Schaper recently reported that “reverse commutes” are increasingly congested in some cities, as urbanites struggle to reach jobs in thriving suburbs. In Chicago, for instance, train ridership on the reverse commute is up 64 percent over the past decade.
This cannot be a chicken-or-the-egg proposition. It should be about the chicken and the egg.
Northbound ridership will increase as King County residents find more reasons — jobs, college programs, leisure options — to venture into Snohomish County. And businesses and schools and entertainment venues will flourish as light rail makes the area more accessible.
So, the Lynnwood park-and-ride lot cannot be the end of the line. Sound Transit must realize that the light-rail line needs to reach downtown Everett (the hub for bus service to the entire county) and — to be forward thinking — all the way up to the nascent WSU-Everett campus.
This reality is reflected in the priorities outlined by Paul Roberts, an Everett city council member who sits on the Sound Transit board. It is fine to consider additional light-rail stops in North Seattle and Mountlake Terrace. But they can wait, he said. For now, the imperative is to use available money to push the line further north.
Next stop, Lynnwood. Some day, Everett.