South Kirkland TOD Concept

A few months ago, we reported on the development of the South Kirkland P&R as a site for transit-oriented development (TOD).  The county council recently approved the objectives and principles of the plan in accordance to agreements made with both the City of Bellevue and City of Kirkland.  From the county’s press release:

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to the approved mutual objectives and principles of agreement for the planned development of the South Kirkland Park-and-Ride, an integration of residential, business, retail and transit uses.

$7.2 million in state and federal grants have been secured for the project. The same plan was approved by the Bellevue and Kirkland city councils back in January. The Council and the Executive are expected to take further action later this year. The scheduled completion date is October 2014.

Current plans call for mixed-income units, an addition of 250 parking stalls to the existing lot, and a potential pedestrian connection to the BNSF right-of-way, which is in the works to become a trail.  The expansion in parking is thanks to an expected increase in cross-lake transit demand once 520 tolling begins.

The project seems to be a vast improvement over the existing park-and-ride though there doesn’t seem to be much accommodation for a large retail component.  Nonetheless, the provision of all-day service to Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, and Overlake along with a regional trail connection is likely to be a plus for anyone who ends up living there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what transpires.

46 Replies to “County Council Approves Objectives for S. Kirkland TOD”

  1. Bah. Park and rides. The sprawl creators of the transit world. Not many will want to stay around and shop because creating car-scaled spaces makes sure you won’t have good human-scaled spaces. At least tell me they’re going to charge for parking.

  2. Should an apartment building built over a P&R really be called TOD? I’m going to coin the term micro-TOD for it. This is a very small area that’s boxed in by a freeway on one side and steep hills on another. There’s no opportunity for growth. There is no retail within walking distance. I think this proposed project is shortsighted. In about a dozen years, just a mile away, a real TOD project will be developed along the bell-red corridor. That’s where the focus should be. Build an apartment at the South Kirkland P&R, but don’t call it TOD.

    1. I’m going to remember this next time you think a freeway alignment for rail is a good idea. :)

    2. I don’t care if it’s called TOD or not as long as it brings some improvement to this unwalkable single-family no-man’s land. A convenience store would be a minimum addition, however.

      1. Sorry, not single family. I forgot that some of the buildings around are isolated larger-than-normal condos.

  3. If you were scratching your head like I was, wondering how we get a net increase of 250 parking spaces when you plop down two buildings in what is now about 1/3 of the parking lot, look at the plan at and you’ll see the buildings are 3 levels of parking garage topped by 4 levels of residences. OK, now I get it. It looks like the buildings would be in Kirkland, and the BNSF pedestrian connection would be in Bellevue.

    1. Having parking garage on the surface with residential above it is a bad idea, too. It eliminates the ability of the residential (and where’s the retail?) to interact with the surface around it. These units should go in downtown Kirkland or Seattle, in an urban core, where these people can walk and interact with the environment around them.

      1. At first blush I’d point to Overlake Park & Ride as a prime example of this being a bad idea. I think of that as a failure but maybe somebody else has something positive to say about that project?

  4. Whose big idea was it to have the buses pull off of the street and circle around in the parking lot? It doesn’t save anyone much time getting to the bus stop, and adds a few minutes to the travel time for each bus that goes through the lot.

    We need a moratorium on loop-de-loop off-street stops, starting right here.

    1. I absolutely agree. It’s especially bad designing the stops so a northbound bus can get stuck behind a southbound bus loading a wheelchair. Furthermore, having both directions stop at the same place makes it much easier to get on the wrong bus if you’re not careful.

      I don’t understand what the reason is for having the buses go off the street and into the transit center, rather than just stopping on 108th. At Overlake TC, the 230 and 245 go straight down 156 and nobody complains. It should be the same here. If crossing the street is a problem, the money saved in service hours should make a signalized crosswalk easily pay for itself. If lack of space for a waiting area in the northbound direction is a problem, well, if we’re rebuilding the area anyway, why not widen the sidewalk at the same time?

      Also, making the buses detour in a loop-de-loop has a direct effect on parking availability, as it shifts the time calculations of people living further up the 255 route in favor of driving to the P&R, rather than simply walking to a bus stop closer to home.

  5. A corner store should work at this location, selling coffee in the morning and milk in the evening, etc. Otherwise it doesn’t look like a retail location.

    Hopefully they’ll keep adding housing and putting that surface parking into garages, in a phase 2.

    I forget where the 520 bike trail starts, but it’s somewhere in that area. The current phase of 520 improvements and the future bridge will all improve bike links.

    Park-n-rides aren’t very high on the transit food chain, but they do capture the types of suburbia that are hard to serve with buses. The west half of older Kirkland is easier to serve than a lot of the areas around it. In fact, park-n-rides can help us focus on trunk lines rather than locals that wind through curvy back streets.

    1. But they make it easier and cheaper to live very far from your job. What’s currently limiting our sprawl is the long, painfully boring stuck-in-traffic drives from the furthest suburbs to urban jobs where you have to pay for parking. Being able to park for free and hop on light rail after a long drive from even-further suburbs opens up the next ring of wilderness for development.

      1. How many people have you ever met who live in a distant suburb because there’s a P&R there or they can drive to Sounder, and would otherwise live closer in? I’ve never met anybody like that. The kind of people who prefer to live further out will do so no matter what, and if there’s no P&R they’ll drive the whole way, not move to another house. I highly doubt many people will be moving from Bonney Lake after Pierce Transit eliminates its buses there.

        Light rail is different. By definition the places light rail is put are targets for greater density, so the region is defining these as “core suburbs” it’s making a long-term commitment to. By putting light rail in an area, the region is saying it wants people to move there.

      2. ^Only if zoning regulations are significantly relaxed around the stations to allow such density. If Seattle is having such a hard time (Beacon Hill, Roosevelt, etc) I can’t imagine the suburbs having an easier go.

        I can just imagine the uproar around upzoning around the S. Bellevue P&R for example. LOL

    2. There is currently a gap of about a mile or so on Northup Way between 108th Ave and where the 520 trail starts. During this stretch, Northup Way has the combination of heavy traffic, and no bike lane or shoulder. Fortunately, the speed of the car traffic isn’t too bad, making the street bikable for an experience cyclist, but can be a bit overwhelming for a novice. I sometimes commute to work this way and when 520 is a parking lot, I have to squeeze past the long line of cars going 3 mph down Northup Way. This can be a bit intersting at times.

      There is a little-known detour on back roads that bypasses the Northup Way segment. It’s more isolated from traffic, but adds about a mile of horizontal distance, plus a couple hundred feet or so of vertical climbing. If they can ever turn the railroad tracks into a bike trail, that would be a huge improvement over the current situation.

      Similarly, I would like to see more pedestrian crossings of the railroad tracks north of South Kirkland P&R. Having the streets dead-end at the tracks may have made since when those tracks actually had trains running on them, but now it’s pointless. Why does this matter to transit? If we had good pedestrian crossings over the railroad tracks, we could axe the 230, which makes a very expensive detour into the P&R as it travels between Bellevue and Kirkland, and redistribute the service hours into a more frequent 234 and 255. But, as things stand today, we’re almost forced to run the 230 to avoid cutting off the communities west of the railroad tracks.

  6. This development is a poster child for how tax subsides cause bad decision making. City of Kirkland and ARCH want to pocket millions in 520 mitigation funds. A more sensible thing to do is a land swap or sale and build a parking structure with street level retail on the WSDOT property at 108th and Northup adjacent to the freeway. This project is even worse than Overlake Village.

    1. Bernie,

      Could you explain how 520 mitigation funds got diverted into this capital project?

      1. I really don’t know the backroom details of the politics but when there’s a 4 billion dollar project 7 million falls through the cracks pretty easily. As I understand it, which is just from City of Kirkland’s staff explanation at an open house the money is to increase parking capacity to cover what’s expected to be an up tick in bus ridership. The money is supposed to be seed money to attract developers that will build both parking for the commercial and residential as well as increase the overall parking for transit in exchange for the development rights. $7 million isn’t enough to build much of a parking structure by itself. But so far the only interest seems to be ARCH which is essentially a government funded not for profit.

  7. The same plan was approved by the Bellevue and Kirkland city councils back in January.

    I don’t thing that’s really true. Bellevue has decided to sit this one out claiming staff is too busy with the shoreline management actions (standard excuse for everything it seems). The diagonal line in the picture is actually the city limits with Bellevue controlling the east half of the P&R and Kirkland the West. The corner of the building shown crossing the line would not be permitted by Bellevue. This P&R is already over capacity. Building this while there is additional demand from 520 construction and tolling is lunacy. Where is the interim parking going to be during construction and how much time will that add to every route?

  8. Frankly, I think this is an awful location for TOD and a P&R. P&R’s should be adjacent to the freeway so that they can benefit from the frequent service there (think Eastgate, Brickyard). P&R’s that aren’t freeway adjacent (think Overlake Village) get very poor service. There will be plenty of empty space to the south side of 520 here, if the P&R was there all of the East-West service on 520 could stop at a freeway station. However, there is no plan for a freeway station, or to relocate the P&R.

    And as for TOD there isn’t anything in the vicinity (yet) to really support a large community. There is like a restaurant, a gas station and a couple hotels, but I would not characterize that as much support. If they want to revitalize the south krikland area, I would like to see a comprehensive plan, rather than just building a couple apartment building on a parking lot.

    1. S Kirkland gets aal-day frequent service from the 255. Unlike Overlake it is easily accessible from 520 coming from the east and will have direct access ramps going to the west. It’s right next to a future bike trail/rail corridor and the 520 regional trail to Redmond/Seattle.

      Brickyard has no frequent service won’t likely get it anytime soon unless the I-405 BRT plan becomes a reality. Houghton has very little service left because buses bypass it to save time.

      1. There’s eight routes that serve Brick Yard and only four that serve S. Kirkland. From Brickyard you can get to Seattle, Bellevue and Lynwood. South Kirkland you can get to Seattle and the UW but everywhere else takes a gods age. On off access at S. Kirkland sucks because it’s so far from the freeway and because the ramps are so close to the 520/405 interchange (and the 124th exit screws it up on the other side of 405. I’d rather see money spent on flyer stops to make Houghton useful than multistory parking at S. Kirkland that’s going to have almost zero net benefit at a cost of millions. And it’s really in a lousy location from the standpoint of being a major peak hour traffic generator (like S. Bellevue).

      2. Do you know how OTC got built the way it did? Did they consider the cost of building direct access ramps and balk? Or were they not concerned, since at the time, it was the end of the line?

        In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that such a major transit point is so poorly designed…

      3. Even worse is that the rebuilding of OTC for East Link doesn’t change the bus connections to SR520 and 156th. The location of the bus bays inside the TC moves, but it doesn’t get any faster to get to them.

      4. I’ve grown to like the way OTC is built because, there, buses, by and large, understand the concept of stopping on the street near the transit center, without wasting time going into the transit center. (The 545 on weekday afternoons is a notorious exception to this).

        For example, the 230 and 245 stop along 156th and the 542 and Eastbound 545 stop only at the freeway station. As of this week, the Microsoft Connector has also begun stopping at the freeway stations on morning trips, saving a ton of time. And the recent completion of the 36th St. bridge makes it now possible to get from main campus to the westbound freeway stop without waiting for the stoplights on 40th St.

        Continuing this trend, one item on my wish list is a pedestrian bridge over 520 connecting the north part of OTC to the westbound freeway station and the commons. This bridge would make the 545’s OTC detour really look stupid, as a slow walk across the bridge would get from OTC to the westbound freeway station in the same amount of time as it takes the bus to get there by going through all the stoplights. (Even in the current situation, you can catch a westbound bus at the freeway station you just missed at OTC if you run, and the only reason you even have to run is because the traffic lights are horribly timed for pedestrians).

        This would strengthen the case to make the 545’s OTC detour go away, and the saved service hours over several years could easily make the bridge pay for itself.

      5. Eric: If the only useful parts of the transit center are the off-ramp from 520 and the two stops on 156th, then what was the point of building the rest of it?

  9. Sometimes perfect is the enemy of good.

    What’s wrong with more housing in this neighborhood? Transit connections are excellent, access to freeways is excellent. In this highly suburbanized environment there are still a couple of restaurants within walking distance.

    If one were to truly build a TOD in this neighborhood…what would the first project built look like?

    Maybe like this?

    1. This is hardly perfect, nor even very good. It’s more of a case of two bad tastes that taste bad together.

      The more-housing bit is fine, as far as it goes. But there are some serious problems with the location and the concept. For one, it’s in the middle of a pedestrian desert. The connectivity of the walking routes is awful, and apart from the aforementioned Keg and Burgermaster, there’s nowhere to walk to, and slapping a large apartment building with one space per unit in there isn’t likely to change that.

      It’s also a lousy place to put a bus transfer center. Others have noted that a bus wastes a lot of operating time turning into the facility and then returning to the route. Multiply that by the number of buses using the facility per day it’s a lot of time and a lot of money wasted.

      Of course, it’s not a bad parking lot, if you’re into that. The new housing and parking garages will just add a whole lot of housing for people with cars next to an existing parking lot–which, it’s fair to assume, will continue to be free to users, and thus subsidized by county transit funds.

      If you’ve got an argument for how spending $7.2 million in public funds on 250 parking spaces is a benefit for transit, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I propose that the City and Metro cease referring to this as “transit-oriented.” It’s parking-oriented development, plain and simple.

    2. We’re going to have to come up with a new acronym for ridiculous proposals like this, that don’t seem to have been designed by either pedestrians or bus riders.

      TRD: Transit-Ruining Development

    3. BA +1

      This project builds a little bit of the city in S. Kirkland. Step by step over time, the entire property could be filled with mixed-income mixed-use urban buildings, and the park-n-ride concept phased out in favor of more effective transit. This project is within the inner suburban area, which should recive the bulk of new population as opposed to exurbs under GMA. The area could become walkable and retail-filled eventually.

      In the meantime, a few hundred suburban apartment dwellers will be more likely to ride transit to downtown Seattle or the UW, than if they rented at another complex somewhere else on the eastside.

    4. A similar development occupying a similar amount of land (if S Kirk P&R is built out) is also along the 255’s route. It’s called Juanita Village. It’s not a P&R and the underground parking is well hidden. It does look jarring with a cluster of 4-5 storey mixed use apartment buildings plopped in the middle of suburbia but it’s supposed to be the center of the Juanita neighborhood. I walked over there and was surprised to see the amount of street level activity inside the block. There are restaurants and a few other shops.

  10. I used to work across the street from this park and ride and take the 522 from U. District to get there. This will be a huge improvement, even though far from ideal.

    The boon will be for bicyclists, I think. Very close to this location is a restaurant (Keg), Convenience store (Shell), fast food (Burgermaster), hotel, and businesses. Within easy cycling distance is all of the Kirkland waterfront area and the Houghton (sp?) area, with grocery stores and restaurants.

  11. I could care less how you attack me, but that area is close to the old Northern Pacific line. Through Bellevue. To Woodinville. To Renton. To Snohomish. What a total waste of a corridor. Now, attack me. PLEASE!

      1. I think a bike trail is a much better use of the rail line than commuter/light rail. Here are some reasons:

        1) The tracks are currently in a very decrepit shape. Any rail service on that line would require completely rebuilding the tracks, so there’s no costs savings to keeping the corridor for rail.

        2) The BNSF railroad tracks are, by and large, single-tracked. Unless you acquire more land for an adjacent track (very expensive), any rail service you run on those tracks is constrained to be single-directional. This greatly limits its usefulness.

        3) The walkshed along the tracks is just not enough for a rail line to get enough ridership to justify the costs. Put a bike trail there and it can get a lot of use even with a limited walkshed, as there are lots of homes and businesses within easy biking distnace of the ROW.

        4) Biking in the Kirkland area is currently limited to streets with substantial car traffic. Works ok for experienced cyclists, but novice cyclists are left with nowhere to go where they can feel safe, which discourages them from getting into biking. A trail would do wonders to improve the bicycle connectivity of the region, especially for people that don’t feel comfortable riding alongside cars.

        5) If the railroad tracks turn into a bike trail, you can provide pedestrian connections across the trail via streets the currently dead-end there. If the railroad tracks resumed train service, however, you couldn’t do this without expensive crossing gates. This would negatively effect the pedestrian connectivity of the region, which forces metro to run duplicative service on each side of the tracks, as it does with routes 230 and 234.

      2. Although it would be expensive to rebuild the tracks, it would still be much cheaper to take advantage of existing ROW and grades (even if you have to acquire additional ROW–which you’ll have to do no matter what corridor you choose). The BNSF tracks hit a few of the major points N-S on the Eastside; I imagine stops at Downtown Renton, The Landing (interline with East Link to serve S. Bellevue, SE8th, DT bellevue, Hospitol), then S. Kirkland, Carillon Point, Houghton (the Google offices are right by the tracks), Downtown Kirkland, Totem Lake, would all get reasonable ridership. The BNSF alignment is better than a potential 405 BRT which essentially completely skips Kirkland and goes through a forest there instead.

        As for bike access in the region, there are tons of bike lanes in Kirkland. I’m by no means an experienced cyclist, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in the bike lanes. In fact, there are bike lanes on both 108th AND Lk Wa Blvd that go directly in parallel to where this trail would be going.

      3. Except it goes near all of those places, but doesn’t actually touch them. The “Downtown Bellevue” stop would be at Whole Foods, “Downtown Kirkland” in the surrounding neighborhoods.

  12. I cannot see why anyone would want to live there. Other that the obvious short walk to the bus, there is nothing to make this a desirable place to live. I see this a huge failure. Money could be used for better projects.

    1. There are quite a few fuddie duddies around here that like living in the burbs. I know it is difficult to understand as a city dweller, but “those people” like the perceived safe cocooned homogeneous environment far away from the social, cultural and political diversity of the city.

      Hell, many of those people would still drive rather than exhaust themselves walking to the bus.

    2. But Chad N has a point. There are suburbanites who value living near transit, but don’t want to or can’t afford to live in downtown Kirkland or downtown Bellevue or Crossroads. They will be more likely to choose these apartments than your average car-loving suburbanite, who has the entire Eastside to choose from.

      1. South Kirkland P&R is kinda like the Olsen-Meyer P&R, except flatter. It’s surrounded by unwalkable obstructions before reaching any other civilization. Only people with cars will find it livable. That will use up a significant chunk of the parking. Imagine what that $7.2 million could do if it were actually spent on transit.

  13. This makes brilliant sense. Clustering commercial services right near the park and rides. Kent Station did this and it’s extremely successful (though I wish there were more new retail on the Northbound side of the tracks).

    1. Kent Station is much more bustling than this will ever be, unless the entire area gets rebuilt someday. The surrounding buildings are all 30-40 years old. “Garden city” multistory office buildings spaced widely apart, and a very small number of restaurants also spaced widely, and the gas station. If you’ve ever seen a Burgermaster, imagine four of them side by side and four around the corner, and you’ll get an idea of the density. Come to think of it, maybe you’d like to move to south Kirkland? :) You can happily spend ten minutes walking around the corner to last building, meditating on the delightful low-density environment around you, and the “modern” freeway on the other side of the street.

  14. I have to agree with the general sentiment of all the previous posts. This is a terrible place for TOD. TOD should be located in a place where there is a reasonable walkable neighborhood with the necessary amenities for life. There are few residences near here and essentially no retail – certainly nothing approaching a grocery. Nor are there parks or schools in walking distance.

    It isn’t even really a great location for a P&R because the on/off to the freeway is awkward at best. It’s also a disappointment that the new HOV ramps are only one-way, as it precludes a route like the 545 making a stop here, or perhaps a future all-day route that comes fromo Seattle and goes north on 405 to serve Houghton-Totem Lake-Brickyard/Woodinville.

    It seems like the only reason this is being proposed is that the ground under the P&R is publicly owned. I agree with others that it would be more impactful to shift the development to a place with more residential amenities.

    1. This isn’t a Wallace Properties development, is it? If you want to see why this is not TOD at all, drop by Arrowhead Gardens, a Wallace Properties development next to the Olsen-Meyer P&R. The poor residents are stranded on weekends because they can’t walk to the nearest bus stop, and the cost of having the buses pull into the bus stop there is too much for Metro on weekends. Most of the residents take advantage of the free parking and drive anyway, since there is nothing within walking distance that can be reached safely.

      South Kirkland is a reinvention of this flat tire.

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