Kirkland May Buy Eastside BNSF Segment

Eastside BNSF Trail for Purchase (Seattle Times)

[Update 12/14 The city council voted unanimously to acquire the corridor despite some concerns about how to fund that purchase.]

The Seattle Times reports that tonight starting at 6 pm the Kirkland City Council will determine whether to buy a 5 and 3/4 mile segment of the Eastside BNSF rail corridor stretching from the South Kirkland P&R at 108th Ave NE to 132nd Ave NE, less than a block away from where Bradley Nakatani was killed while riding his bike last Friday.

The corridor is currently owned by the Port of Seattle, with ownership transitioning to King County sometime next year. However, due to King County’s ongoing financial tightness, ownership by the City of Kirkland would likely lead to faster development of a multi-use trail in the corridor. This type of agreement is not without precedent. In 2002 Juanita Beach Park was transfer from the ownership of King County (which had close the park in 2001 due to lack of funding) to Kirkland, which has since spent millions of dollar on improving the park. Purchase of the BNSF trail by Kirkland would likely allow Kirkland to do the same thing.

While no official plans for how the corridor would be developed have been made, it will certainly involved a multi-use trail of some sort and could include transit along some or all of the corridor in the future. As part of the purchase agreement Sound Transit will have a standing easement on the corridor for future high capacity transit, which will be negotiate between the City of Kirkland and Sound Transit when plans for transit service are developed. The corridor would need to conform to the national Raibanking standards that often makes development of transit in the corridor more expensive than many might think.

In my opinion this corridor is a game changer for bicycling in Kirkland, especially between SR-520 (and the future regional trail across the bridge), Downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake. The trail will provide a flat, high-quality north/south spine, which it currently lacks, and could eventually tie well into the Burke Gilman trail on the north, and the future Bell-Red corridor TOD on the south. For transit the corridor has potential although not as much since the corridor skirts the eastern edge of downtown Kirkland, requiring any future transit on the corridor to leave it to serve downtown. The corridor could however greatly improve the connection between Downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake via transit, which are the cities designated growth centers and important transit demand generators.

Council study packet here. The council meeting starts at 6:00, with consideration of the agreement at 7:30. The video stream can be viewed here.




Comments

  1. Bruce Nourish says:

    Anyone know the width of the ROW? I bet a guided busway would be a great fit here, if the ROW is wide enough to fit it in alongside the trail. Rail on 520 presumably won’t happen ’til the bridge is replaced again (50+ years?) so bus seems to be the right mode to focus on for Kirkland connections.

    It’ll certainly be a boon for biking, even if that’s all that ends up on there.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says:

      No idea, although it certainly is less space constrained than many other rails to trail corridors I have seen. Nothing like the Burke in Fremont/Ballard. A lot of this is mostly because there is single family housing around most of the trail. The corridor is single tracked along this whole length.

    • Andrew Smith says:

      More like 520 years.

    • The ROW is 100′ in most places, but it’s narower in some places. That doesn’t count any encroachment, which has probably taken place.

      The best use would be as a rail corridor.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        A rail corridor to where? The 255 is the most obvious route to use this corridor and it very unlikely to see rail across SR-520 even in the next 20 years.

      • You can use King County’s mapping tool iMAP to see property lines and all kinds of other things.

      • “A rail corridor to where?”

        Bothell – Kirkland – Bellevue – Renton, connecting to the Renton-Burien line and Renton-Kent line.

      • Agreed. And even if we only got rail to Woodinville from Renton and Bellevue it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a center of freeway link from Woodinville to Ash Way P&R. Having a rail link down the east side that would cross East Link would give us a lot of options.

    • It’s 100′ wide the entire length. That said there are places where the ROW has been encroached on (which means court battles) and, for instance through most of Kirkland, where the geography would make it difficult to have anything much wider than a 12 foot wide level path. There’s no way in hell that Kirkland will ever allow this to be anything more than a bike path. No big deal though since the Redmond spur is the logical place to extend commuter rail in the (distant) future.

    • Christopher Stefan says:

      It really isn’t a stretch to imagine a branch off of East Link heading North to Kirkland and Totem Lake on the rail corridor. East link is already using the ROW between NE 6th and NE 16th with a storage track extending further North.

      I think this is much more likely than rail across 520.

      As for turning the corridor into a busway that isn’t a bad idea, but I suspect the costs would prove to be similar to just building light rail in the corridor.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        The thing is the ridership in Kirkland is heavily oriented towards the UW and Seattle via 520, not to downtown Bellevue.

      • Christopher Stefan says:

        Just because current transit service from Kirkland to Downtown Seattle travels via 520 doesn’t mean rail would have to. After all East Link serves Overlake and most drivers and transit riders get to and from Seattle via 520 and not I-90.

        The only way Kirkland sees rail transit in any of our lifetimes is as a branch of East Link.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        @Christopher Stefan

        If transit services goes from Kirkland via Bellevue/I-90 I highly doubt that routing would result in significant travel time savings over service via SR-520. Also Kirkland doesn’t really have the demand to support Link levels of investment, and I say that as someone that grew up in Kirkland and would love Kirkland to get that type of investment. It just doesn’t pencil out, at least not now.

        The final reason why I think service from Kirkland needs to stay on SR-520 is because in the long term, I think all-day transit service from Kirkland to Seattle should probably terminate or pass through the U-district with a transfer to Link to get downtown (or other major destinations like Northgate or Cap Hill). This would consolidate demand from Kirkland to Seattle into a single route and justify very high levels of service as well as that highest level of BRT treatments (such as a BNSF busway) that would not be possible/justifiable otherwise.

        So my take on Kirkland’s prospects of Kirkland getting rail in the long term is fairly bleak, and I think its more realistic and beneficial to try to push something like LA’s Orange Line rather that a rail collection just because it is rail.

      • Exactly. Link does nothing for anybody north of Bellevue. Given that it’s technically impossible to cross the Mercer Slough and get to Issaquah I-90 was a bad choice.

      • Bruce Nourish says:

        As Bernie is hinting, this is just another example of why East Link would have better served the Eastside on 520. You would have stops at Yarrow Point, and South Kirkland P&R and then on to downtown Bellevue. I don’t think I’d put rail to Kirkland, even if we had rail on 520 — the 255/256 have much less ridership than the 550; similarly the 540 is far weaker than the 271. Kirkland would be well served by an improved 255 terminating at SKP&R, supplemented during the weekday by a frequent, freeway running express connecting the transit centers on 405.

        I think you guys have talked me out of the busway idea, it’s probably not worth it if clearing out the ROW would require vast amounts of litigation.

      • Also your comment about it impossible for Link to go to Issaquah is patently false. The op-ed you are referring to merely says it’s impossible to leverage the B7 alignment for the Issaquah line since you either have to tunnel under or build a bridge over 405, and given the grade changes you couldn’t use the B7 alignment for that.

        However, with no B7 you can easily tunnel under or go over 405 (well, at least tunneling is easy, a bridge would be really high).

      • As Bernie is hinting, this is just another example of why East Link would have better served the Eastside on 520. You would have stops at Yarrow Point

        Yarrow Point?!? We’re talking about a stop that probably has 100 boardings a *day*, in an area that has zero upzone potential for the rest of eternity. In what way could a stop there possibly be worth it? I wouldn’t even build a stop there if it were free, just for the travel time impact.

      • None of us would live long enough to see East Link completed if it were being routed along 520.

  2. Does the right-of-way connect all the way up to the Samammish river trail at the north end? Once 520 is finished, that would be the last leg of an amazing bike path loop around the north half of Lake Washington.

    • http://www.eastsidetrailadvocates.org/ has a map of the corridor and possible future extensions.

    • I thought 520 was finished. Doesn’t it just continue as Avondale Road? Is there really a need for a freeway that far out? (He says with trepidation, fearing that exurban development is extensive enough that they would like a freeway there.)

      • I’m pretty sure LWC was refferring to the other end of 520 and the rebuild between I-405 and I-5. At the east end, the 520 bike trail ends at W. Lake Sammamish Parkway, but with an easy connection to the Sammamish River Trail and the Bear Creek Trail.

  3. Unfortunately since it was a “freight” line, the city grew up trying to avoid being next to it. After all who wants to live/shop/work next to a freight line? Unless you need heavy stuff shipped to or from you.

    So as a corridor for moving people, it sucks. It has the right grade, because it was made to move heavy freight, but it was a single track, low volume track, hence few crossing guards.

    This piece of land will be better as a bicycle/pedestrian corridor. For a bicyclist to ride a 1/2 mile to a mile, perpendicular to this route is no big deal. For a person riding a bus, then walking, it’s too far for most folks to bother.

    • “Unfortunately since it was a “freight” line, the city grew up trying to avoid being next to it. After all who wants to live/shop/work next to a freight line? Unless you need heavy stuff shipped to or from you.”

      Kirkland grew up where it is because Peter Kirk wanted it on Lake Washington. Read the history here.

  4. Looks like Redmond already has their piece with a plan in place.

    http://www.redmond-reporter.com/news/96919199.html

  5. Jim Cusick says:

    Tearing up the tracks would prove how shortsighted this region is.

    This is a viable commuter rail corridor, which can be brought online quickly, at a low cost, and upgraded to the standards in the Sound Transit analysis as ridership warrants.

    No bicycle trail built at the expense of the rail line.

    And while we’re at it, WSDOT needs to replace the track over 405 sure the Wilburton Tunnel was. At WSDOTs expense.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says:

      Sound Transit study says:

      • Operating passenger/commuter rail on the corridor is feasible but significant capital improvements are needed to achieve higher speeds and improve the safety of the track, structures, and roadway crossings.
      • The corridor has the potential for significant transit ridership connecting the regional growth centers of Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland/Totem Lake and Redmond, with as many as 6,000 trips per day.
      • The capital cost estimate for passenger rail is within the range for other lines in the US. However, the costs are at the high end of that range because of the condition of the corridor and its current lack of safety and communication systems.
      • A pedestrian/bike trail could fit within the existing right-of-way throughout much of the corridor. In some locations, property acquisition would be needed.
      • The estimated capital cost for a fully improved pedestrian/bike trail parallel to the rail line ranges from $297 million to $432 million, depending on the width of the trail.
      • The capital cost of passenger rail on the entire corridor is estimated at between $1.0 and $1.3 billion.

      In my opinion this is hardly a slam dunk for commuter rail.
      http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/projects/planning/FLY_East%20BNSF_Feas_0109.pdf

      • Jim Cusick says:

        Then you need to read this study by Cascadia.

      • Miles Bader says:

        Wait, $432,000,000 for a 5-mile-long bike trail…?

        Oh, wait… America…

      • AKA Sound Transit needs to apply their gold plating to everything.

        Four other similar, ex-freight-to-DMU commuter service:

        San Diego-area DMU, 22 miles, $477 million, $21 million/mile
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprinter_(North_County_Transit_District)

        Portland WES, 14.7 miles, $166 million, $11.2 million/mile
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westside_Express_Service

        Austin MetroRail, 32 miles, $105 million, $3.2 million/mile
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_MetroRail

        Ottowa O-Train, 5 miles, ~$25 million, $5 million/mile
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-Train

        This proposed project: $32 million/mile.

      • Miles Bader says:

        Certainly for the costs given above for rail, they should be able to do a deep-bored subway, and save the cost of land-acquisition… :]

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        Jim I don’t put much stock in feasibility studies done by someone other than engineering firms or the agencies that will actually be responsible for building them. Independent studies of this nature usually are wildly optimist and poorly informed by facts that would make it into more detailed and robust studies done by professional engineering firms.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        @Miles Bader

        No. That is for the entire study corridor of the ST document which is 34 miles long and a 7 mile spur (I don’t know if it was included or not).

      • There’s no doubt that the Cascadia study was wildly optimistic, but it’s also true that the PSRC study was pessimistic and gold-plated.

      • The corridor has the potential for significant transit ridership connecting the regional growth centers of Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland/Totem Lake and Redmond,

        Not really. To get to Redmond you have to go to Woodinville first. Money that would be much better spent extending East Link the couple of miles it falls short because ST’s too impatient to wait a few years. Kirkland would make Bellevue’s objections to neighborhood impacts appear non-existant. They’ve already declared part of the ROW to be a green belt and the tracks on the slopes overlooking Lake Washington have more lawyers per mile than the hard fought Lake Sammamish ROW from Redmond to Issaquah. Once freight stopped running it was game over.

      • Christopher Stefan says:

        Bernie,
        If Kirkland wants rail transit they are going to have to accept at least partial re-use of the BNSF corridor. While you’d have to leave the alignment to serve downtown Kirkland it would have the least overall impact of any possible corridor other than 405 (which has the same problem of needing to leave the alignment in order to serve Downtown Kirkland).

        I don’t doubt there may be NIMBY difficulties doing so much as even building a trail there. However you often don’t know how much of a food fight you’ll get until the ball really gets rolling for a project.

        South Kirkland has relatively high transit usage for such a well to do area, they may not object to rail transit so much as you might think.

      • Jim I don’t put much stock in feasibility studies done by someone other than engineering firms or the agencies that will actually be responsible for building them. Independent studies of this nature usually are wildly optimist and poorly informed by facts that would make it into more detailed and robust studies done by professional engineering firms.

        Adam,
        Did you read the report? I don’t see why you throw a blanket statement like that on this report. Their consultant was a BNSF Division Manager. If anything, I’d trust an experienced railroader’s perspective, especially since his recommendations follow the more robust construction of a heavy freight railroad.

        Here’s the main point:

        If the tracks are torn up, they’ll NEVER go back in. Period.

        In fact, in my recent discussion with an ST staff member about use of the old Interurban line at an ST North Corridor meeting, and as noted on page S-15 in Sound Transit’s North Corridor Transit Project ALTERNATIVE ANALYSIS REPORT, putting rail back in a former railroad ROW is summarily dismissed.

        The Woodinville Subdivision has even less encroachment issues than the Interurban line over on Hwy 99.

        What’s keeping commuter rail off the Woodinville Sub is pure politics of Nimbyism.

        Consideration of this was taken out of the analysis of the I-405 Corridor Program merely by the City of Renton and the Kennydale Neighborhood Association’s request.

        The first PSRC Commuter Rail study lacked one important feature: ridership numbers.

        Sound Transit’s analysis was able to put these numbers in, and it would have been interesting to see that put through the same Cost/Benefit analysis as LRT and ‘BRT’ was for the I-405 program. LRT was costed as $4.5 Billion, and the build out of the ‘BRT’ system was $1.5 Billion (HOV to HOV access faclities).

        Speaking of C/B analysis, what was done when analyzing the use of the corridor as only a bike trail? Where are the ridership number?

        Note that anyone supporting a continued use of the rail corridor, including commuter rail, has never suggested not having an adjacent trail.

        My own ‘back of the napkin’ analysis using information from Sound Transit, both written and unwritten, was about half of the Cascadia report. However, that’s for a bare bones startup system, using the current single track/siding configuration, and Tukwila style stations.

        My analysis you should consider the optimistic one.

        There’s no reason to take those rails out. Save for some of the slow-order sections, the rail/roadbed supports 30 mph running.

        That’s not a high-speed, 6,000 rider/day system, and that’s specifically my point, it doesn’t have to start that way.

        Small increments will get us there. If these local municipalities kill this corridor ‘with a thousand cuts’, then this just proves that the PNW is incapable of forward thinking.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        @Jim Cusick

        Yeah I skimmed it and didn’t find any reason to believe it any more. I simply don’t trust “estimates” done by individuals because these types of estimates include so many assumptions that are impossible for readers to confirm or dismiss. In the absence of multiple reviewers and when estimates are done by “boosters” I have a very hard time believing them. That is just my professional experience as someone who actually works in the transportation engineering field.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        “Yeah I skimmed it and didn’t find any reason to believe it any more. I simply don’t trust “estimates” done by individuals because these types of estimates include so many assumptions that are impossible for readers to confirm or dismiss. In the absence of multiple reviewers and when estimates are done by “boosters” I have a very hard time believing them. That is just my professional experience as someone who actually works in the transportation engineering field.

        The Cascadia report points out the omissions in the PSRC/ST report, and where they see discrepencies with actual railroad experiences. If anything, the PSRC reports are the documents needing multiple reviewers, and I mean that in a positive way.

        This rail corridor hasn’t received the true vetting it deserves.

        I’m still trying to put my finger on why, since the most visible reason is the combination of a lack of balls/ovum by the Sound Transit board (and all my friends down at ST know I still love them) to keep pushing this thing forward, and the fight from the NIMBY’s along the ROW.

        That doesn’t make the conclusion any more palatable, because it’s either the fault of the Mafia, or regional incompetence at grand level.

        Their project estimates are argueably valid for the system they envision, the issue then becomes one of scope and timing. Are their system requirements needed now? Can service be provided now that doesn’t require the immediate investment of that scale, which screws up the c/b numbers, by the way.

        And it isn’t wise to dismiss other professional opinions as mere ‘boosters’, Adam (or as Ben did in a post a few years ago about this same subject – ‘foamers’).

        Sound Transit dropped the ball when they cut the $50 million.

        This region will have punted it out of play if Kirkland succeeds (with help already from WSDOT) in pulling up the tracks.

      • “If Kirkland wants rail transit”

        That’s one of the questions, does Kirkland want rail transit? Does it want it enough to help ST overcome the disadvantages of Kirkland’s location? Light rail is being built on I-90 to Bellevue. A northern line is more likely to go to Lake City and Bothell than to 520 and Kirkland, or a new bridge/tunnel and Kirkland. The Bothell line could bend back to Kirkland but it would be a long detour; it would more likely extend to Woodinville instead. An Eastside north-south line would be more natural, but it may not attract enough riders until the Eastside densifies significantly. So Kirkland may just have to suffer with a north-south bus and a 520-Kirkland bus. That’s partly Kirkland’s own doing. It could have made the 520 corridor and the area north of it more walkable to attract more transit.

    • If only it weren’t single-tracked, and on the wrong side of 405 in Bellevue…

      • It’s only ‘on the wrong side’ because when they were building the line origially, they were trying to go down 112th through Bellevue. However, the pilings they were driving kept disappearing into the marshland in the area where I-90 now runs south of Bellevue.

        Going east kept them on dry footing.

      • Scott Stidell says:

        I work in a tower on the east side of DT Bellevue currently, and it’s less than a 10-minute walk to the ROW from here, even including the horrible, horrible pedestrian crossing of 405 at NE 8th. I assume a DT Bellevue station would be located in about that area. The only drawback I see is that reopening the line would take away my shortcut to Uwajimaya on the ROW! ;)

        I agree with Jim however; RR ROW in urban areas is too valuable to give up. It should be made clear, at the minimum, that HCT is likely to occur sooner rather than later on this line. Even running DMUs as soon as feasible might show decent demand right off the bat. There are many instances of rail/trail working well together and even improving the surrounding areas; the line from Perth to Fremantle in Australia has a beautiful linear park along much of its length, complete with very well-used trail. It certainly must have been an improvement over what was previously there.

  6. “As part of the purchase agreement Sound Transit will have a standing easement on the corridor for future high capacity transit, which will be negotiate between the City of Kirkland and Sound Transit when plans for transit service are developed.”

    Ironic. Some of us were saying that this rail corridor would work for a certain train line. Something about the B7 alignment…

    • Christopher Stefan says:

      AP,
      Nobody said the entire BNSF corridor was useless for transit, just that for the B segment in Bellevue other alignments made more sense. Note that East Link will be using the rail corridor between NE 6th and NE 15th with a storage track extending further North in the corridor from 15th.

      • BNSF didn’t make sense in Bellevue because it was four blocks east of the “preferred” routing. I don’t see how it would make sense in Kirkland, as it’s at least four blocks east of downtown Kirkland.

        However, I never said “useless”, I said “ironic”. In the end, Sound Transit will do whatever it damn well pleases.

      • B7 was also more expensive, traversed a sensitive greenbelt area, and would have replaced a marginal transfer station with an even worse one. The Kirkland ROW has different relative factors.

        For a line going from Kirkland to Bellevue, BNSF is a great location. It would have to leave the ROW for the Kirkland station, but that’s the same as Bellevue. The ROW conveniently allows for a station at the South Kirkland P&R, which doesn’t have the redevelopment constraints South Bellevue does. There are underused parcels within walking distance on 108th and Northup Way which could be redeveloped. Both streets are easier to walk across than Bellevue Way.

        For a line going from Kirkland to Seattle, BNSF is “four blocks out of the way”. But the only alternative is Lake Washington Boulevard, which is a non-starter because of the expensive view homes and waterfront promenade, not to mention the narrowness of the street and its existing congestion — the same reason Link couldn’t go on Rainier.

    • I don’t see anything ironic either. ST just has an easement in case part of the ROW turns out to be useful, sounds like good planning to me.

    • This is pretty boiler plate. The BNSF ROW passes under I-405 just north of 116th and this part of the ROW may in the future be part of an HOV access or some sort of shuttle to the Kingsgate P&R. It may never be part of anything but you just put that into the negotiations because it really doesn’t cost anything. What this ROW is quickly becoming is a utility corridor. Water, power, sewers, etc are all queuing up to use it. If ST “owns” rights it can rent or sell that ROW in the future.

  7. This is wonderful news, and I can’t wait to see the trail get built.

    A bike trail is absolutely the proper use here. In addition to providing very important connections between Bellevue, Kirkland, and Woodinville which are not very bicycle-friendly today, this trail will also be extremely important for East/West traffic. Why? The only connection between the 520 bike trail east of the 405 and the soon-to-be-completed 520 bike trail west of 405 without a long detour is a horrible section of Northup Way that has extremely heavy car traffic, no bike lane, shoulder or even a sidewalk. And the parking lots of adjacent business go right up against the roadway, so there is absolutely no way to build a bike lane or sidewalk without leaving those businesses up in arms about the city trying to take their parking away.

    The solution? In this segment, Northup Way actually runs northwest->southeast and the railroad tracks also run northwest->southeast, nearly parallel to Northup Way. If we could get the tracks paved as a multi-use trail, this section would make a wonderful Northup Way bypass route for east-west traffic. It would fill in the missing link and make the entire corridor nicely connected. And since the land is already abandoned anyway, there shouldn’t be any significant opposition from local interests.

    I agree with Adam that transit just doesn’t fit here. With a corridor only really wide enough for a single track, the best you could do would be to install single-direction-peak-only commuter rail that would go to the Boeing facility in Renton and benefit no one would didn’t work at that facility. This would be a real shame, as a bicycle route would benefit the entire corridor, not just people working for Boeing. Yes, the quality of transit on the 405 corridor today could use a lot of improvement, but I think that problem is better solved by making improvements to 405 to allow buses to run more efficiently. In particular, we need a combination of real HOV/HOT lanes that keep buses moving reliably, and freeway stations around Bellevue and Kirkland, allowing ***one*** bus route to serve the entire corridor from Lynnwood to Renton, without being bogged down by local street traffic.

    • Christopher Stefan says:

      For most of the corridor there is enough room for both two light rail tracks and a multi-use trail. While I believe you are correct that the BNSF ROW really doesn’t make sense as a commuter rail corridor that doesn’t mean that portions aren’t useful for future Link expansion.

      East Link will use the BNSF ROW between NE 6th and NE 15th plus a storage track North of NE 15th. It would seem to make sense to use parts of the the BNSF ROW to extend Link to Kirkland and Totem Lake should we ever decide to.

    • Bellevue is widening Northup and WSDOT really doesn’t have a clue about connecting the 520 bike trail. Using the BNSF would be great but since it’s been in limbo for so long (still a court case pending against the Port of Seattle purchase?) it wasn’t included in any of the plans; which all suck.

      • I saw a widening of Northup on Bellevue’s long wish list with no clue as to how to pay for it. If it happens, I’ll believe it when I see it.

        And if “widening” merely means adding another car lane, while still leaving the street without a bike line or sidewalk, I am going to be pretty pissed.

  8. Elliott C. Smith says:

    I grew up in Kirkland, and was told 10 years ago by the city manager at that time that the corridor would never host commuter rail AND bike lanes. This was because the City felt it would be impossible to insure such a combined use corridor, and the liability of potential bicycle/train accidents was too great. The city was open, I was told, to the idea of rail OR bicycle use, but not both.

    That was a decade ago, and under a different city manager. But, that was the position they shared with me in 2001 or thereabouts.

  9. Using the corridor for any transit is a dead issue as long as ST is in business. It’s the ‘Whack-a-mole’ project.
    Every time a idea comes up about it, they Whack it (too expensive – no riders, yada, yada, yada). The $50 million ST2 money to partner with someone was just a PR thing in the runup to the election. Then it got Whacked.
    Am I bitter a 100′ ROW along side a congested I-405 corridor is lost forever?
    Your fucking-A right I am. Our region has been led down a gold plated path by some developers and engineering firms, and using the politicians as their fools on an errand.

    • What assumptions from the Sound Transit model that said there wouldn’t be riders were wrong?

      • Stand next to 405 any time night or day, along any stretch of it.
        Those are people trying to get from A to B.
        Tell me without giggling too much, there are few riders along that corridor.

      • So you think the ridership numbers for light rail along I-5 are wildly optimistic, but rail along 405 is a great investment. Why, because one is part of Sound Transit’s plan and the other isn’t?

      • Well, let’s put it this way Zed. 16,500 boardings from Lynnwood TC is more than all of downtown Seattle stops combined, plus the major International Airport currently using Link. Should I be the least tiny bit curious if the numbers are BS? Sure, it can generate a lot of boardings by building a huge ass garage, and multiple bays to transfer fully loaded buses at the tune of 1 per minute, but that’s just more BS.
        Put your critical thinking cap on and you’ll agree.
        OTOH, all the hand wringing in the world over what a few wealthy landowner/squatters along the Eastside rail corridor will do, makes ST shy about rocking any boats along there. Instead, their consultant reports a Cadillac line will cost X, and only generate Y riders, therefore it’s a no starter. The corridor has effectively been abandoned because it’s cut at Willburton and ST is getting a chunk in Bellevue with no provision for extensions. Otherwise you’d see a wye junction stub going SB where Link will cross over 405. It’s not there, and never will be. Just like the promised wye to extend Link into the Green River Valley someday. Still waiting for that one to magically appear.

      • MIke: the point is that you’re comparing apples and oranges.

        During commute times, the SOV ridership between Snohomish County and downtown Seattle is massive.

        To use your own words: Stand next to I-5 and tell me there are few riders along that corridor.

        To use more of your own words: The total number of boardings at all stops along I-405 is 0. Clearly, any prediction that usage will increase is BS.

        If these comparisons sound silly, it’s because they are! You simply can’t look at SOV ridership and extrapolate *anything* about potential transit ridership.

        The real question is, how many of those riders — in either case — will switch to a train if it becomes available?

        Simply due to the land use patterns in Seattle and the Eastside, it stands to reason that a line that stops in downtown Seattle is likely to attract more commuters than one that doesn’t. The number of jobs within a 1/4 mile walk of any of the downtown Link stations is probably 10 times greater than the number of jobs within a 1/4 mile walk of a stop along 405.

        Most people who commute from a low-density suburban home to a low-density suburban office park will drive. That’s okay, it’s what you’d expect, and it’s silly for us to spend massive amounts of money trying to change that.

      • 16,500 daily boardings a Lynnwood TC? Ummmmm, source? And there’s no way in hell that LTC sees more boardings than all of downtown Seattle.

        Of course you can extrapolate ridership from SOV traffic. How on earth do you think these corridors are identified? SOV traffic helps identify where people are going to and from.

        It’s impossible to answer that “how many will switch” question. Link is still below original estimates (before ST re-cooked the books), and other lines around the nation are seeing double the predicted ridership. I bet North Link will be one of those well-above-projected lines, same with this project, but only time can really answer.

      • Of course you can extrapolate ridership from SOV traffic. How on earth do you think these corridors are identified? SOV traffic helps identify where people are going to and from.

        Only in one direction.

        If you have an empty highway, then it’s obvious that you don’t want to build a rail line there. But if you have a full highway, it’s not obvious that you do.

        But anyway, that’s completely irrelevant. The original claim was that rail along 405 would make sense, but that rail along 5 would not. But there are more person-trips via automobile on 5 than on 405, *and* there are more person-trips via transit on 5 than on 405. If rail on 405 is good, then so is rail on 5; if rail on 5 is bad, then so is rail on 405.

      • Sound Transit isn’t the only agency that has studied rail along 405 and found the ridership numbers to be lacking. It’s been studied by Metro, the PSRC, the pre-Sound Transit RTA, WSDOT, and the Discovery Institute.

        You complain about the need to build park-and-rides and provide feeder buses to support the North Corridor light rail Mike, do you think rail along 405 would work without those?

      • Christopher Stefan says:

        MIke,
        While there isn’t a wye pointing SB where East Link crosses 405 (hint, this isn’t where you’d want to tie into a N/S line in any case) there is a junction for a storage track where the East Link alignment enters/leaves the BNSF ROW at the Bel-Red corridor. It is perfect for a branch heading to S. Kirkland P&R, Kirkland, and Totem Lake. Who knows, maybe it will only ever be a storage track but maybe it is pointing to a future link extension.

        Mike B,
        I’m probably responsible for the 16,500 2030 Lynnwood TC Link boardings per day number.

        I took the individual between station ridership numbers from the ST NCT scoping document. To get station boardings/alightings I subtracted the estimated ridership on adjacent segments from each other. To turn that into boardings I divided the result by 2.

        Yes 16,500 2030 boardings per day Sounds really damn high to me for Lynnwood TC. But that is what ST is claiming and part of what they are using to justify the I-5 alignment vs. the SR-99 alignment. They also claim the 160th & Aurora station will see only 700 boardings per day even though there is a Community College 1/2 mile to the West.

    • Who says it’s lost forever?

      • I’d like to see a place where the tracks returned to service. So far I’ve only seen the opposite.

      • Wasn’t the first San Diego Trolley line built on an abandoned SD&AE ROW? The Trinity Railway Express was built along an abandoned Rock Island ROW. I’m sure there are other examples.

      • BigDonLives says:

        Bwahahaha, with the Cascade Bike Mafia, try ripping out an urban bike trail once it is built.

    • Sound Transit demands gold plating for everything. Nothing can be simply built. IMO the blame lies squarely w/ them because it doesn’t fit into their new Link image so, as you say, it gets whacked by unrealistic expectations.

      The best way to do this is request the proposal from an engineering firm with some requirements outlaid by the client that intentionally skew the numbers. Then the client can say “look, the engineering firm studied it and the plan doesn’t work”. It’s rather common, honestly.

    • Christopher Stefan says:

      It is a bit rash to assume none of the Woodinville sub will ever get used for transit. In fact a short section in Bellevue will be used for East Link and a storage track. The plan for downtown Redmond (probably the next phase of expansion after ST2) is to use a section of the ROW from Marymoor to Redmond Town Center.

      Between Bellevue and Totem Lake there are many opportunities to use the BNSF ROW should Link or a busway ever be built out in that direction.

      • Some of it might get used in the distant future but not to Kirkland and Totem Lake. First is the fact that the ROW completely misses DT Kirkland, second is double track along the steep hillside in a high end residential neighborhood will never fly. Although it would be fun to watch Kirkland squirm if it was one of their neighborhoods being steamrollered. Totem Lake will likely grow to be a regional jobs center but a Link alignment on the old BNSF ROW wouldn’t serve any of the demand. Nobody is going to want to go from DT Seattle to M.I. then up to Bellevue and then use the coast route to get to Totem Lake when the freeway can get you there in half the time. The expense of a spur route from Woodinville would be silly as well because there isn’t any all day demand. Plus it has a number of grade crossing and goes through a protected natural area. DMUs for commuter rail from Snohomish may have had a chance but that ship has sailed. It’s a bike corridor and will be a damn fine one at that.

    • Using it for transit was really a push. Using it for freight and peak commuter use might have been something less than disastrous. To really make it work would require that our politically correct elected official started realizing that the Weyerhaeuser cardboard packaging plant, the Coke-a-Cola bottling plant and Safeway distribution facility would thrive with a rail connection. We could have built an industrial base. But no, a developer can come in and convince the City Council that the future is all about TOD.

  10. Keep the tracks(and upgrade them to a light rail type), and build a bike path alongside. As someone earlier said, once the tracks are gone we’re doomed in trying to get them back.

  11. Unfortunately, I believe I was on one of the last passenger trains to cross that line. A Northern Pacific Casey Jones excursion in June 1967. The train went all the way to North Bend. I doubt we wil ever see a train on that line again, except perhaps the salvage train ripping up the tracks.

  12. yes, the ROW is about 100 feet wide. but key issues are the several bridges that would have to widened to carry multiple modes and the topogrphy; on many segments, the rail bed is the only level place and there are steep grades on either side. so, the significant capital cost is leveling and wider bridges. it is relatively cheap to build either a trail or a rail use; it is relatively costly to build both. I recall a $600 million estimate.

    the new funds in the area are being used up on east Link.

    as Adam states, it would be great for cycling; it would also be great for transit. raising the funds to do both is the key barrier. for transit, a key issue would be noise. both DMU and diesel bus are pretty intrusive to the adjoining single family housing and may generate opposition. EMU or electric trolleybus would be much quieter, but have the capital cost of the overhead. that overhead may be worthwhile if 15-minute two-way headway is provided. The ST-PSRC study looked at one-way peak service. in transit design, service frequency and connectivity are key. The BNSF ROW gets quite close to several markets: downtown Kirkland, Totem Lake, downtown Woodinville, the wineries, South Kirkland, hospital district, and downtown Bellevue. it would be worth doing well. note that many LRT networks have used abandoned freight lines as their starting points. with careful scheduling, two-way service with passing only at stations could probably be accomplished with significant lengths of single track or busway. to operate multiple modes safely, barriers would probably be needed.

  13. Hi Adam, this is Xueling, remember me? Just stop by to say hello. I really enjoyed reading your blogs about public transit! Hope to have a chance to catch up with you… Well, best wishes! Say hello to your Dad too!

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  1. [...] Adam Parast at Seattle Transit Blog has more on the corridor purchase, and even calls a trial along the corridor would be a “game [...]

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