Here’s the remainder of our conversation from last week (Part 1). I should correct one thing. In Part I, I remarked that the ST2 plan did not include funding for an I-405 light rail study, pretty much ruling it out for ST3. Since then, ST has posted an updated plan that shows an I-405 study included.

JJ: I don’t have massive opinions one way or the other, but the BSNF Eastside corridor doesn’t really seem to connect the areas that need to be connected. Perhaps part of that right-of-way can be used for a future ST plan. If some company or manicupality can find a way to use the ST2 matching funds and it works, that’d be great. But I don’t think anyone can do it, and that money will go to 405 bus service.

ST3 would be smart to address N-S travel on the Eastside, and not head out to Issaquah.

AS: Clearwire has 1000 in its campus (as of January they had 200 OPEN positions ) Bungie has 107 (according to their website) and Monolith is now Warner Brother’s Seattle area hub (my brother-in-law is a VP there) and has about 400 employees.

According to the workspaces site MS has 221 employees in Redmond Town Center.

I don’t want to argue about this anymore, but both Houghton and downtown kirkland are a short walk away from where BNSF goes through Kirkland.

JJ: I should note that Renton <=> Bellevue is much worse than Bellevue <=> Kirkland, in my experience.

BS: Monolith hasn’t really grown that I know of. Here’s a source that they had 100 at the time I moved to Sony, and I haven’t heard that they’ve picked up any more:
(link to Seattle Times article)

Indeed, Bungie has more than 40. I guess they hired more.

Regardless, it’s pointless. Five hundred people who live along the line in Seattle or downtown Bellevue will take rail and then transfer at Overlake Hospital to get to work. Five thousand (actually, Redmond extension was more like seven thousand) will board at two downtown Redmond stops to come to MS and DT Bellevue. There are a tiny number of people who would be able to access the Kirkland line, except at the S. Kirkland park and ride, which is already full.

BS: Indeed, and that’s where the BNSF line is being severed anyway. Most of those people aren’t coming from Renton anyway, they’re coming from Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Tacoma, etc.

AS: Absolutely, I-405 is a disaster right there. I’m going to throw up another flame-inspiring thought: none of these extensions – BNSF or Redmond – will work without more park-and-ride spots.

JJ: BNSF, absolutely, since it doesn’t hit core areas.

In terms of Link, Downtown Redmond near the Redmond TC is not the type of area where you build a massive park and ride structure like brad is fawning for. Those streets aren’t designed to handle a lot of traffic — many one-ways, all are small. Extend the line to the Whole Foods area, and now we’re talking. Even some of the plans from ST2 that went closer to Marymoor would be more compatible with parking (currently light industrial areas).

The thing about Downtown Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue is that these are undoubtedly auto-dependent suburb downtowns (less so with Bellevue), but they are not typical suburb sprawl that would be totally compatible with large park & rides that belong more toward the fringes of the system.

BS: I’d recommend terminating at Bear Creek, yes, near Whole Foods. One DT Redmond stop, then a terminator with a park and ride to be a catch-all for Union Hill Road and East Lake Sammamish. My original point about DT Redmond is that it will grow in response to a light rail station -it’s upzoned, something DT Kirkland likely won’t be.

Both DT Kirkland and DT Redmond are similar, yes. But BNSF doesn’t go to DT Kirkland – it goes to a suburb of a suburb, and you have to transfer to get there.

MD: I think Ben makes a good point about commuters from Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, etc. Luckily, we have a commuter rail line to serve them that intersects with Eastside rail at Tukwila.

It’s certainly true that it’ll be expensive to replace the crossings on the southern half of the line. The question is, though, expensive compared to what? Building light rail on that corridor, using whatever optimal right-of-way you come up with, is going to be considerably more expensive.

I don’t see buses as a good long term solution. First, the HOV lanes are probably going to fill up soon. Secondly, 405 is unique in not really having a parallel arterial when there’s an accident and the highway goes to pot. Third, buses have the same old capacity, reliability, and quality-of-ride issues you have everywhere else. It’s not a good technology for regional backbones, as we’ve argued before.

BS: Martin, the city of Renton has made it crystal clear that they will not be reactivating the track through their downtown. Yes, there’s all this need. There isn’t all this money. That’s why it waits for ST3 to start saving money, and ST4 for construction.

Remember, it’s not the buses or the trains, it’s the right of way. I know you guys want there to be some kind of easy eastside solution, but there isn’t. You get through Renton, and then you have to deal with all the crossings kids use near the water, and the Wilburton Tunnel replacement, and the fact that people don’t want to ride a train across the trestle (yes, that’s an issue), and then you’re east of downtown bellevue, so your transfers don’t look good.

The problem with this line is less that it’s impossible, and more that its tiny ridership would deal a devastating blow to the image of transit. That is why these generally anti-transit people support it!

BB: Ben,

Just FYI, the Boeing Turn still goes through Downtown Renton. BNSF rebuilt all of the bridges on the route and also laid new 132lb rail between the BNSF mainline and to Renton Boeing.

The City of Renton’s has changed it’s position recently after public outcry for not being a part of the transportation solution of having some sort of rail system, especially since it runs right through Downtown Renton.

At this point, I would have to say while DMU’s would be excellent, light-rail should be the preferred options. If you want to kick it up a notch, Siemens has a Diesel LRV… Yes, Diesel Light-Rail.

The total build out (with the way I did it with a few BNSF engineers) came out to just alittle over $650 million dollars for a complete and nearly full double track corridor, some grade crossing seperations, new quad gates with wayside horn so trains don’t blow through the crossings and 132lb rail. If it was to be a light-rail corridor, 115lb rail could be used and that money saved from the rail could provide a connection closer into Downtown Bellevue. It doesn’t need to physically go INTO Bellevue but following along 112th Avenue SE would be the best solution. The only way this would work is at the Wilburton Tunnel and have it bank left (as your heading Northbound) to 112th Ave SE. It would be best to cut it back over of the same routing of Link with a “ramp” down to the BNSF mainline.

This COULD realistically be a prevision for Eastside Link if sometime like this was to happen.

Ok, enough day dreaming.

MD: I should correct my point at the beginning of this thread: the latest update to the Sound Transit 2 map has an I-405 HCT line as one to be studied, so there is a chance it might show up in ST3, instead of 4 as I suggested earlier.

18 Replies to “Eastside Commuter Roundtable (Part 2 of 2)”

  1. It seems like it’s workable with some tweaks. Maybe a spur into a tunnel for downtown Kirkland? Maybe a streetcar from Kirkland to Redmond along Central Way/Redmond Way with a stop at this line?

    And is the line in Bellevue close to an East Link station? Seems like it would be a quick transfer to get to downtown, Seattle, or Redmond.

    One benefit to having the stations a bit further out is that the possibility for increased density around the stations seems higher.

  2. And you guys wonder why there are all these eastsiders pushing Bus Rapid Transit.

    Light rail is a great technology and it really works well in some corridors, but it may not be the best solution for every corridor imaginable. A lot of the eastside is highly dispersed. No one single corridor is going to do it. If there was one single corridor, or if they had the density to justify rail on 3 or 4 seprate corridors, then that would be one thing, but has it not occurred to you all that the people of the eastside would actually be better served with a transit system that was adapted to their land use patterns rather than trying to shoehorn them into a rail based solution?

  3. All of this talk about how the Eastside BNSF line doesn’t go to the population centers seems kind of funny for two reasons.

    First, 40 years ago those ‘population centers’ weren’t there. There’s nothing logical or ‘natural’ about their location, they all developed because of boondoggle road spending and developers like Freeman and Scott. When I delivered mail on the Bel-Red road the Safeway distribution center wasn’t there, or, at best, only a gleam in Safeway’s eye. The Bellevue City Hall has moved twice since then! The population centers of 2050 will have been built where the transit goes.

    And secondly, that’s why you put the new transit corridor where the old corridor isn’t. That’s a major reason Link runs up MLK Way S- to reach a new market and use cheaper land for ROW and stations.

    As for the idea that the Eastside is “highly dispersed” and they should get transit “adapted to their land use patterns”- No. The Eastside of today was built for the private automobile. Some people will continue to own cars, others will move to walking or bicycling distance of bus stops.

    The simple fact is that we used to walk 3/4 of a mile to catch the schoolbus, but today the schoolbus stops at the end of each driveway. People simply wouldn’t ride buses that wandered all over the Eastside- it would be quicker to walk. Been there, done that.

    1. You’re advocating what would be called an “adaptive land use” position. Essentially, that you just build the train and land use patterns will catch up to it later. This is in contrast to the “adaptive transit” position which attempts to target transit investments to existing land use patterns. I was suggesting the latter with regards to the Eastside for the following reasons:

      1.) I’m not convinced the people of the Eastside want to fundamentally change their land use patterns and even less certain that they want to vote for higher taxes in order to pay for changing their land use patterns.

      2.) Adaptive land use is primarily a tool for shaping future growth rather than serving the existing population. This works great if the existing population is happy with the status quo and wants to protect it from increased congestion by funneling all the new people into TODs. Of course some will move themselves, but most will not. I also don’t believe this is the case on the Eastside. Traffic is a nightmare with todays population.

      3.) Adaptive land use spurs additional growth. Once again I’m not sure that the Eastside wants any additional growth. Surely I could be wrong here, but why build a transit system designed to spur growth if the policy position is to force most of the new growth outside the existing cities anyway?

      The point is that the transit mode that is built should match the intended land use patterns. In Washington state as of right now, land use policy is made at the local level, not at the regional level. As such, the structure of the regional transit system should either follow the local will regarding intended land use, or we should take land use policy out of the hands of cities and put it in the hands of a regional government. Pick either one.

  4. Amen Catowner

    There are plenty of areas along the BNSF corridor that could have high density along transit nodes in the next 20 years with proper zoning.

  5. Land Use:
    Renton will change and grow dramatically in the next decade as the ex-Boeing land is redeveloped. Expect major commercial development there as the Eastside gets too expensive. It’s close to everything (much closer to SeaTac than downtown or the Eastside) and is on the lake.

    DMU’s vs Light Rail:
    It’s about startup cost. DMU’s don’t need expensive electrification to run; capacity can be increased as demand requires it. Think of it as rail, with fewer stops and higher speeds attained between stations than a LRT or a subway system.
    BTW: I-405 went through the Wilburton Tunnel, not the tracks. A simple bridge will allow the tracks to go over the soon to be widened 405.

    Yes, people can actually walk – up to a mile with ease. I know it’s hard to imagine, but they do this all over the country when commuting. I really can’t understand why this seems to be such an issue on a pro-transit website.
    Of course what would happen is buses would be run on circulator loops from the stations, to allow connections to be made with ease, once the demand is there.

  6. I still want to say that if you look at google maps here, that is very close to downtown kirkland – closer than Westlake Station is to belltown, about 1200 feet – and right next to where the Google Campus is going to be.

    That is as close to Downtown Kirkland as you need to get.

    1. Track also runs right by this area –

      “Seattle developer buys former Safeway property in Bellevue
      By Amy Martinez
      Seattle Times business reporter
      October 12, 2006

      A large swath of underdeveloped land near downtown Bellevue has a buyer.

      Wright Runstad & Co. of Seattle said it signed a contract this week to buy the 36-acre property near Interstate 405 and state Route 520 from Safeway…”

  7. the BNSF Eastside line is close to downtown Kirkland and it goes though Totem Lake, their designated urban center.

    the BNSF Eastside line is next to the Wright Runstad development site and Ovelake Hospital.

    an elevated wye could connect the line with the Bellevue Transit Center.

    the long distance transit trips oriented to downtown Bellevue can be carried well on express buses in the HOV lanes (e.g., Snohomish County and South King). ST and WSDOT have already built the NE 6th Street center access ramps.

    two-way all-day transit service on the BNSF could be the transit spine for intra Eastside trips, whether DMU or LRT was used. The right of way is key. It will be easier to toll the limited access highways than the arterials.

    the main objective is the extend the range of pedestrians. service on the BNSF would do that. service is more cost effective than parkiing stalls.

    JJ asserted that Bellevue is less auto dependent than downtown Kirkland and Redmond. Not sure that is so. Overall, Kirkland is denser than Bellevue. All three downtowns have pretty complete street and sidewalk grids. All three will continue to densify. Bellevue wants to add more ramps to I-405. Their arterials will choke with traffic.

    before counting your ST3 lines, please note that East Link needs an affriimative vote on ST2 and about 12 years of planning and construction.

    1. I meant Downtown Bellevue vs. Downtown Redmond/Kirkland. I would rather live in Downtown Bellevue without a car than in those other areas, since the Bellevue TC is right there and there are actually a ton of jobs in the area. Downtown Redmond in particular has far more housing than jobs.

      Bellevue as a whole is less dense than Kirkland, though, yeah. I think focusing on the downtown revitalization of these cities should be a priority for transit since its a known priority for the local governments.

  8. We need to remember that the projected regional growth of population by 2050 is about a million.

    That’s a ton of new housing that needs to be provided. But the region can’t afford to build that housing using the wasteful methods of suburbia. Roads, sewage plants, water mains, power supplies, public services- all of these are immensely more expensive in low density communities.

    It’s not a question about people moving from suburban homes to condos, although everyone in my parents generation has in fact done that as they got older, it’s a question of where do we build the new units needed for expected growth.

    And the answer seems pretty obvious to me- build the new housing where the train goes. After all, it’s not like they’re going to one day decide to simply run the train down another street. [Cue Chorus: That’s why transit stimulates development, and development seeks out transit.]

  9. And as for the idea that land use decisions are local. What a crock.

    Where the state opens the mighty purse and builds a road development happens. The people in Gig Harbor and Port Orchard fought that second Narrows Bridge to the bitter end, but the fix was in.

    That’s how all those highways on the Eastside got built. There was no need for them. When I was a kid we’d go out cruisin’ on the 405 and you could go for minutes without seeing another car- at 9 at night. I used to drop my girl off in Renton, drive back to Bellevue, and see maybe 20 other cars at 11 PM.

    Land developers and local political gangs pay big to get their guys in the statehouse and tilt the playing field towards roads into undeveloped land. Everyone else can march around with a few signs if it makes them feel any better.


  10. “the Redmond TC is not the type of area where you build a massive park and ride structure like brad is fawning for.”

    Uh, I’ve NEVER wanted a PnR at Redmond TC. In fact, I’ve repeatedly argued against any PnR there. It’s a black hole for anyone other than those within walking distance, which is why the Redmond extension would be a boondoggle. If I never have to go into downtown Redmond again, that’s fine with me.

    “The problem with this line is less that it’s impossible, and more that its tiny ridership would deal a devastating blow to the image of transit. That is why these generally anti-transit people support it!”

    God forbid we actually build pro-actively. In most cities on the 405 corridor, the only remaining developable tracts of land are along the Eastside Rail Corridor.

    As has been already said, if the theme of “if you build it, they will come” was a good reason for running Link thru Rainier Valley, then it should also be a reasonable means to support getting trains on the Eastside Corridor sooner rather later.


    1. Brad, I actually didn’t think this would be published so I’m sorry if that sounded like a personal attack. I wanted to put a face to that thought and I’m sure it read as incredibly rude.

      What I was referring to is this conversation from March:

      It seems like you may have shifted your position:

      By refusing to expand the PnRs at Redmond and Bear Creek, you are increasing the likelihood that I won’t find a space and will opt to drive instead.

      If you were just saying, then I can accept that.

      Anyway, as I alluded to before, I think a DMU on this line isn’t the best idea. The ROW should be preserved and used for a future light rail line. The line should deviate from the BNSF corridor to hit Downtown Bellevue, and connect Downtown Renton to Downtown Kirkland.

      If ST3 could go from Overlake to Bear Creek, and from Renton to Kirkland, the Eastside would have an excellent transit network. (You can go slightly south of Renton and build some of those massive P&R’s to facilitate long-distance ridership.) I think getting Renton-Bellevue commuters into trains is one of the easiest ways to encourage density on the Eastside since that corridor is just miserable to drive on.

      The cost of this has not been studied at all, but will likely be considered in ST2.

  11. No, of course, no personal attacks here. Right. I’ll spare you the cut-and-paste job of the vitriol tossed my way by you guys in past months.

    Regardless, yeah, recent developments have put me squarely AGAINST the Redmond TC park and ride.

    First, the Redmond TC seems to be the political holy grail of local pols to rally support for EastLink and the extension of same three decades from now.

    Second, I’ve actually been down there in past weeks. It’s more of a nightmare than ever. Building a garage, and then selling half the land there pretty much kills any opportunity to do anything with that space in the future. Fine. They can have it. Putting a park-and-ride (or a transit center) in the middle of a neighborhood surrounded by 2 lane roads and requires countless turns is stupid, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from transit planners here.

    Bear Creek-Overlake-Seattle is a much more elegant routing than anything running thru Redmond TC. Bear Creek offers more service options to more voters than the Redmond TC which was maxed out 10 years ago. And Bear Creek has more employment centers within a mile than does Redmond TC. And Bear Creek has space and available land. And Bear Creek is much closer to other transit corridors (202, 520, Avondale, Union Hill, Novelty Hill, E Lake Samm Rd, Eastside Rail Corridor).

    What do I really care, actually. I’ll be in my 60s before Link reaches Redmond TC anyway. In my lifetime, bus will ALWAYS be the better alternative for most of us on the Eastside.

    Like I said, god forbid we’d actually try to get ahead of the situation.

  12. You’re right, we should have got ahead of things tens of years ago. I think that’s all the more reason to begin today, but in the interm we can’t ignore how vital bus service is.

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