By Meghan Hall
Like the rest of the Puget Sound, the City of Lynnwood has seen its population grow significantly over the past few years, as Seattle and other surrounding suburbs continue to develop. Lynnwood’s position just north of Seattle has made it a community of commuters making access to transportation increasingly important. As Lynnwood evaluates its growth, its need for diverse physical transportation modes has become increasingly important. In an effort to come up with innovative solutions, the City of Lynnwood has partnered with the NW Innovation Resource Center to participate in the Amazon Catalyst Program. The contest, which kicked off in June, asked residents to submit their ideas regarding transportation in Lynnwood. For winning proposals, there is up to $10,000 in prizes.
“The idea was to try to get some representative cities from this region to participate in what we hoped was just the first Amazon Catalyst competition in the area,” explained Lara Merriam-Smith, program manager with the NW Innovation Resource Center. “We hope that there will be more afterwards…[but] themes were conversations between the cities, mayors and the NW Innovation Resource Center about some of the areas that have pressing issues that we think the competition can help with.”
Lynnwood’s location at the convergence of Interstate 5, Interstate 405 and State Route 525, makes it easily accessible for residents traveling to downtown Seattle, the Eastside, North end and other destinations such as Paine Field. Additionally, the Lynnwood City Center Station and Lynnwood Link light rail station are expected to open in 2023, making transportation a critical economic driver for the City of Lynnwood. According to Julie Moore, the communications and public affairs officer for the City of Lynnwood, Lynnwood’s current full-time population is about 38,000, but can increase to as many as 90,000 during the day and depending on the season.
Lynnwood has also been designated as a Regional Growth Center and a transportation hub for South Snohomish County. Because of this, Lynnwood elected to move forward with transportation as its theme for the Amazon Catalyst contest.
“We are just kind of at the crossroads of transportation, and we have been for decades,” said Moore. “We want to embrace that. Lynnwood is the place you drive through to get where you’re going…How do we really enhance transportation for people to get where they need to go for business, for pleasure or for living?”
Lynnwood opened the contest in June, and residents have until the end of July to submit their ideas. Any resident over the age of 18 can participate. There aren’t too many restrictions on how residents can proceed, but solutions do need to be viable, unique and have the potential to create true impact. Additionally, added Moore, Lynnwood is hoping its residents focus on solutions that center around multi-modal and public transportation infrastructure, as opposed to the single-occupancy vehicle. Questions posed by the City of Lynnwood to residents include the best ways to integrate rapid transit solutions into existing infrastructure, mitigating land use requirements, and the implementation of data collection and virtual reality to aid in future decision making.
“How are people thinking differently to solve these problems instead of recycling the same solutions over and over again?” asked Merriam-Smith.
While concepts do need to be viable in the future, Merriam-Smith emphasized that at this stage, participants only need to submit their ideas, as opposed to an entire business plan with steps on how to take action.
“What is unique about this competition is it is just about the ideas,” said Merriam-Smith. “IT is just about that first tier to get an idea on paper; it doesn’t have to go all of the way. It really gives people who just have ideas about how to fix things, an opportunity to voice that.”
Submissions will be evaluated by the NW Innovation Resource Center. First prize will receive $5,000, while the second and third place winners will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. Overall, Moore stated that the City of Lynnwood is excited to see the outcome of the competition and the ideas produced.
“Lynnwood knows we’ve got a lot of very smart, bright individuals living here,” said Moore. “We have people with an entrepreneurial spirit, and we’re just very excited to see what great ideas people come up with.”