Community Transit and Sound Transit are considering rerouting some buses to the Northgate light rail station when it opens in 2021 rather taking passengers into Seattle. (Lizz Giordano / Herald File)

Community Transit and Sound Transit are considering rerouting some buses to the Northgate light rail station when it opens in 2021 rather taking passengers into Seattle. (Lizz Giordano / Herald File)

Our bus routes could terminate at Northgate as soon as 2021

Under a tentative proposal, commuters would have the option to transfer to light rail trains.

EVERETT — Snohomish County commuters could start riding light rail years before the Lynnwood Link extension opens in 2024.

A new proposal by Community Transit and Sound Transit would reroute some buses to Northgate Station starting in 2021, when the extension to north Seattle is set to open. There passengers would transfer to light rail for a reliable six-minute ride to the U District Station, according to Martin Munguia, a spokesperson for Community Transit.

Giving up a one-seat bus ride and transferring to light rail would likely be faster during peak times, Munguia said. But it also would give passengers a more reliable trip by getting them out of the fickle traffic that plagues I-5.

Potential changes include terminating all Sound Transit express routes that run along I-5 into Seattle — buses 510, 511, 512, 513 — at Northgate, along with Community Transit routes 810, 821, 855, 860, 871 and 880, which currently run to the University of Washington campus.

The transfer could save passengers between 10 and 15 minutes on trips to UW — depending on where rides originate — and even more when heading to downtown Seattle, Munguia said.

Buses that now sit stuck in freeway congestion would be freed up, allowing the agencies to add more bus trips midday and in the afternoon.

While it’s too early for exact numbers, the agency estimates the change could add upwards of a dozen more northbound trips, which would add about 25% more service.

Predicted typical wait times to transfer between buses and light rail at Northgate range from 3 to 7 minutes, with the reverse — from light rail to buses — 3 to 15 minutes.

Under the proposal, the 400 series bus routes would continue to run into downtown Seattle.

This is just a preview of what’s to come. Starting in 2024, when the Lynnwood Link extension opens, riders will have no choice but to transfer to light rail. The transit agencies will instead focus on integrating buses into the Link system, rather than taking riders all the way into Seattle.

An online open house on the proposed changes is available until Dec. 31 at The agencies want to hear what’s more important to riders — a faster or more reliable trip?

A refined plan will be presented in the spring, including how saved bus hours would be reinvested. A final decision is expected by summer.

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