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Sound Transit has an under-appreciated opportunity to build a world-class BRT on the Eastside.

Train service faces well-known geometric challenges in East King. Cities are not linearly aligned, so high quality rail service means many rail lines. But the Eastside urban centers are mostly much smaller than potential stations in Seattle, requiring large investments in either feeder bus service or park-and-rides. Either way, conspicuously high costs per rider are inevitable.

The one obvious linear corridor for rail service on the Eastside, Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond, is already mostly funded, and the line will obviously be completed to downtown Redmond in ST3. So what should be the next priority for East King?

If the goal is to build something for the cities that were left aside in ST2, that suggests Kirkland and Issaquah. So naturally, thoughts turn to a Kirkland-Issaquah rail line. But Kirkland and Issaquah are not a significant trip pair. Not even enough to warrant a Metro bus today. So it makes sense, if at all, only as a portion of a network connecting all the major Eastside cities and Seattle.

This is where the rail proposal begins to run aground. For Kirklanders, there are two dominant trip pairs, Kirkland-Bellevue and Kirkland-Seattle. Serving both well by rail means LRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor to Bellevue and also a LRT crossing of 520. Kirkland to Seattle via an East-Link connection is too roundabout to beat today’s Metro 255 service. So there has to be a 520 crossing to be competitive. But that is a LOT of rail; far more than is reasonable for a relatively small city with an underwhelming commitment to progressive land use policies.

I’ll pause here to explain why quality service in Kirkland necessarily means the ERC rather than I-405. The Corridor passes Totem Lake, Houghton, and the South Kirkland Park and ride. It also gets close to downtown. Of these centers, the 405 can only serve Totem Lake. So any solution on the 405 wouldn’t even connect Totem Lake to other Kirkland population centers. One could build feeder bus systems to freeway connection points near the 405, but this quickly turns simple trips by transit into roundabout multi-transfer affairs where speed and reliability won’t even match today’s Metro services. Crowded as the north-south arterials in Kirkland are, they at least point in the appropriate general direction. A 405-centric option requires that trips to the south and west will, for most riders, start by heading east.

405 service may make sense for cities further north and south.  It’s likely the only viable connection from Bellevue to Renton, for instance, because the ERC south of Bellevue has engineering and property issues.  It’s just a clearly second-rate option in the central part of the Eastside.

So the right way to serve the Kirkland-Seattle pair is by BRT on the Corridor.  A dedicated busway on the corridor will pass the major population centers in Kirkland, and meet the HOT lanes on the 520 to connect with Link at UW or continue to Lake Union. Either way, it’s a big step forward for transit reliability and the estimated costs are just $180-240 million. The inferior 405 option is more expensive at $340-460 million, probably because it requires those expensive left-side ramps on the 405 of which there are none between Bellevue and Totem Lake. As for rail on the 520, the costs are 10-12 times higher for one minute saved and no additional ridership.

Once a commitment to UW-Kirkland BRT is made, the rail option for Bellevue-Kirkland is so much less promising. The corridor is just big enough to accommodate both, but it’s so obviously duplicative that it won’t pass the laugh test. With a UW-Kirkland BRT line passing the South Kirkland Park and Ride, a BRT line to Bellevue is already half-built. It could continue down the ERC until it runs out of corridor near the OMSF facility at NE 12th St. At that point, it probably needs to run on surface streets to reach the transit center on 108th Ave.  But it’s a relatively short jog, and can be made better with signal priority and dedicated lanes, and include appropriate Link connections for trains to Redmond/Overlake.

So the entire Bellevue-Totem Lake corridor can be 90%+ dedicated ROW, probably the longest such corridor in the US.

If future demand warrants, the corridor could yet be converted to rail. Yes, even a bridge to Sandpoint. By then, there will have been decades for development to orient itself toward the corridor, and local politics may be more congenial.

Metro service to cities north and east of Totem Lake may be redirected their bus services onto the new BRT line, buying themselves better reliability and travel time, and further shrinking headways through Kirkland.

Any reason this wouldn’t work? One challenge is that the ERC, while closer to downtown Kirkland than the 405, isn’t quite close enough to be walkable. So transit needs to deviate somewhat from the ERC to get closer to the population center. But that’s a challenge for any mode or alignment in the city, and easier to resolve for buses on the ERC.  The east end of downtown is where most future development is likely to go, and there is time for Kirkland to aggressively build out bus lanes in the area at fairly modest cost.

What about Issaquah?  The rail/bus decision there is largely independent of what happens in Kirkland. But any ST service to Issaquah will mostly follow I-90 anyway, so the advantages of rail over bus in HOT lanes isn’t large. BRT would make an extension to Issaquah Highlands easy. Sound Transit estimates $30-40 million in additional expense vs $450-610 million for a LRT tunnel.  Rail to the Highlands is pretty far down everybody’s priority list, so Issaquah needs to carefully consider whether it wants BRT to downtown and the Highlands, or rail to downtown alone.

34 Replies to “Showcasing BRT on the Eastside.”

  1. Good ideas, although I hate to put a new road in a rail corridor. Is laying asphalt and resurfacing it every few years really less expensive than laying rails? Also, how open is the Kirkland city council to a two-lane road in the corridor?

    1. There’s openness to lower-volume transit options, but no explicit discussion of buses on the corridor. I sense they would be supportive, but I’m reading between the lines there. It just hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.

      The first thing to note is that ST3 generally isn’t getting a lot of attention in Kirkland. The City did comment on the LRP draft SEIS, but there wasn’t a very thought-through view of useful transit.

      There was some favorable commentary about street car options (and more exotic alternative modes). They liked the First Hill streetcar, and thought it offered an option for a community not big enough for Link. But their expectation is that ST will go with the 405 options. Google was told that Sound Transit would not run between their buildings in Houghton because ST had come up with a ‘better, cheaper option’. (This was how it was paraphrased by the developer of their buildings, and he didn’t recount what Google had to say about that).

      I think that expectation is based on the ERC/405 corridor studies, and I think they are misreading those studies. Running BRT in the 405 HOT lanes has a better ridership/$ metric, but it achieves those by serving a much longer corridor. It adds ridership from Lynnwood and Tukwila, but has very poor ridership from communities in the middle.

      There’s also some discomfort specifically around Commuter Rail on the Corridor. There were some comments about how downtown would only get stop at most, and it might not be worth the tradeoff of ‘trains thundering down the Corridor’.

      I think the Kirkland politics of a busway are promising. Homeowners in the single-family areas on the corridor will have mixed feelings (it beats having Sounder going through your yard, but it’s not the quiet trail that people are becoming used to). Auto commuters could be persuaded that getting buses off 108th and Lake Washington Blvd is good for them.

    2. How often would the express buses need to run?

      You could put in the BRT road equivalent of single track with passing sidings in places where the right of way is too narrow for a two lane road, so long as relatively low frequency and scheduling allows for that.

      However, aren’t HOV lanes coming to 405?

    3. Mike, here are some comments from City Manager Triplett last week (verbatim from a Q&A).

      I read him to say that he wants transit on the corridor. He’s not expecting Sound Transit to do so, so he’s looking around for alternatives. Not everything he talks about seems entirely practical, but he’s clearly not committed to keeping it trail-only either.

      “The final one is the Cross-Kirkland Corridor. So, a north-south boulevard, if you will, that goes right through the city that takes you right through all that traffic if we can make it work.

      The Corridor master plan focuses a little bit on the trail. And the trail is a great transportation capacity for those who want to bike or run. But, there’s a whole transit side to the master plan as well, that basically says, sorta here lies transit, and we haven’t quite figured out what that transit will be yet.

      And so, the master plan is built around welcoming transit on the corridor. And so then we have to work with two entities, King County Metro and Sound Transit.

      And Sound Transit sort of gets first bite at transit on the Corridor. Before Kirkland purchased the Corridor, Sound Transit already bought a transportation easement up and down the whole corridor. When we bought our section, that came with it. And so, Sound Transit gets to decide if and how they want to put transit on the corridor.

      Part of what has happened since the symposium is that we’re waiting for their process.

      And what I will tell you is the sneak preview of their process is that they have looked at the corridor, and they have basically said it’s cheaper and it moves more people to focus on bus rapid transit on the 405. And that they are not likely to propose, particularly light rail, but they are not likely to propose Sound Transit transportation on the Corridor.

      And so in my humble opinion, the day after that announcement, then I want to start over with now what can we do that is really cool from a city perspective. Working together with Metro or some of these advanced transportation technologies. Personally, my favorite is the Cross-Kirkland Skyway, I’m now calling it, which is the gondola system which’ll take us on a beautiful spectacular iconic view, zoom us down into Bellevue.

      I think we’ll have many opportunities for some pretty cool transportation on the corridor once Sound Transit makes a decision. And they’re supposed to do that in December/January of this year. Have a big sense of where they’re going. And once that happens we’ll have a sense of what Kirkland is going to do next.”

  2. The existing 108th Ave NE/6th St S, which runs right next to the corridor (and also my house), is pretty much free-flowing except occasionally on Friday afternoons. No reason to build another roadway parallel to an existing one that works pretty well for the Kirkland-Seattle trip.

    As for Bellevue-Kirkland, I think 405 BRT done the right way is the solution. The ERC doesn’t get that much closer to downtown than 405, so you are going to have a deviation either way to serve downtown. The challenge is to make that deviation absolutely painless, even at the cost of slight inconvenience for cars in the corridor. A combination of dedicated lanes on 85th/Central Way, aggressive TSP, and HOV ramps at the 85th interchange could make it so the time penalty for serving Kirkland TC compared with staying on I-405 is only 3-4 minutes.

    I want to see the ERC made into a wide bike trail with excellent road crossings and good connecting bike facilities.

    1. I seem to see bigger holdups on 108th than you do. A lot of commuters go through only at peak, so it perhaps seems worse to most commuters than it is the other 23 hours of the day.

      Development around the Houghton Business Center is very much held hostage to traffic concerns.

      Peak hour buses seem to me to run into a lot of holdups on 108th south of NE 68th, again on 6th approaching Kirkland Way, and also on State St. The latter can back up all the way to Lakeview, and it does a number on travel times for the 234/235. I don’t travel Market St often at peak times, but there’s a lot of grumbling about congestion there too.

      A diversion from the 405 to downtown Kirkland would be slow enough on the most optimistic assumptions to really hurt travel times to Totem Lake. And do we want to not serve Houghton? Seems that’s worth serving too, but now you have two diversions.

      1. I see no issues on 108th at AM peak. I’ll grant you that I usually get home after the worst of PM peak, so maybe I’m not often seeing the worst of it, but I feel that my neighbors are often making mountains out of molehills when it comes to traffic. I’ve *never* had to wait more than 2 minutes to get through the 108th/68th light even at the very worst of times.

        State Street is more of a problem, but in the ideal Eastside network no core routes would use it.

        Downtown Kirkland is a far larger ridership generator than Totem Lake, and ought to be treated as a higher priority. I also still think that with the right treatments in place a diversion from 405 to the KTC would not have a huge time penalty — it’s not a long distance at all, just one currently peppered with lots of traffic lights and stop signs. Houghton is also not a huge ridership generator and it can be served fine with a combination of a center freeway station on 405 (which, along with the downtown Kirkland access, would be part of the large 405 BRT package I would want to see in ST3) and local buses on 108th and 68th/70th.

      2. David, I’m finding the idea of catching a bus from Houghton to the 405 to connect with another bus uncompelling. I’d rather take today’s bus service to Bellevue or Seattle. Maybe if you’re going elsewhere, it’s more appealing.

        Houghton’s a lesser transit destination than downtown. But there’s a future Google workforce of 2,000, and a likely fairly significant mixed use center around NE 68th. It’s big enough that we’d like to serve it directly if it doesn’t get in the way of everybody else’s service. But a frequent connector service to the 405 is going to have very low off-peak ridership.

      3. Well, I don’t think anyone is talking about taking away Houghton’s local service. The City of Bellevue’s network vision has a 10-minute route along 108th, running between Bellevue and Kirkland, with transfers to Seattle service at S Kirkland P&R.

        But if I were headed from my place (which is one block from Houghton Center) to Bellevue, I’d much rather walk 7 minutes up the hill and catch a frequent BRT bus on 405, which would take all of 4-5 minutes to get from the freeway stop to BTC, than catch the local bus which will still make neighborhood stops. That is doubly true if the local bus is the agonizingly slow and indirect 234/235, rather than the faster route Bellevue envisioned, particularly since the 234/235 itself requires a few minutes’ walk from Houghton Center.

      4. @David, my thought is that a corridor alignment would be the spine for most transit services in Kirkland. If Sound Transit puts BRT on the 405, then I’d agree we would also want to retain most of the major routes we have today through Kirkland. Maybe 6th St rather than State, but still a recognizable version of what we already have.

        With a downtown modification, a corridor service could largely replace both the 255 and 234/235. You’d still want some other routes, (feeders from Juanita, Market St, and Rose Hill, maybe a local in South Kirkland). But you’d probably want a fairly radical restructure of Kirkland service generally.

        Not clear to me how many freeway stops ST is envisioning on 405. It gets expensive fast. I don’t really know where you’d even put one at 85th, now that the HOT lanes have taken so much more real estate. Would you still endorse 405 BRT personally if it were looping through the Houghton Park and Ride?

      5. Thanks, Dan. I’d rather have no stop at Houghton than a loop through the P&R, even though that would mean I couldn’t use the 405 BRT at all. Deviations should be reserved for major ridership centers like downtown Kirkland.

        I see your point about replacing all local service with ERC service, but I’m wondering how much faster that would really turn out to be than Bellevue’s proposed 108th BRT route.

        I realize freeway stations and center ramps get expensive, but I’m thinking of 405 BRT done the right way as the main Eastside project for ST3. That means a LOT of money (multiple billions) is available.

        I’m imagining a completely rebuilt 85th interchange which would include both center HOV/bus ramps and narrower SOV ramps on the outside, probably in a different configuration from the current cloverleaf. Alternately you could build the HOV/bus ramps as flyovers to serve NE 87th St, although then you would need to redesign that street to allow for fast bus travel.

        At Houghton I’m imagining a freeway stop looking rather like the one at Mountlake Terrace.

      6. So, truly, we’re talking about rebuilding a hell of a lot of 405, plus the interchange at 85th.

        The result, for all that money? A “nice” freeway station at Houghton, much of whose walkshed is still tied up in a P&R lot, freeway lanes, and ramps, not really a place we want to focus development, as it’s a permanent hotspot for auto pollution and has no possibility of developing a comprehensive pedestrian network. No remote possibility of reaching South Kirkland P&R, which Metro appears to be committed to as a transfer point. Maybe (maybe) you can get bus lanes on 85th between the freeway and 6th St, and maybe that’s enough — honestly, the walkable core of Kirkland needs to be expanded a bit, and Kirkland Way/6th St might be close enough.

        The ERC is really imperfect, too. It doesn’t get into downtown Kirkland because it’s a freight route. But it has some nice features:

        – It skips the stoplights near 520 and stoplights at 85th. I’ve walked and biked all the way from Bellevue to Totem Lake on the ERC at various times, and its best feature is how it skips all the really bad intersections. You can’t go 60 on the ERC, but if you go 35 reliably, avoid out-of-direction travel, and have reasonable stop spacing, that’s useful transit.
        – It encourages going stopping next to South Kirkland P&R, not going around the loop.
        – A low-key Houghton stop on the ERC would be much more attractive than an expensive Houghton stop on 405.

      7. David, Al. Sound Transit posted several corridor studies to their website yesterday, although they unfortunately have a bad link to the ERC study. I’ll surely have some updates to this post when that’s corrected and I’ve had some time to digest.

        The 405 study, however, is available and has a lot more detail than we had before. Three basic models. A1 would be a guideway paralleling I-405. That’s already been ruled out in the Level 2 evaluation. A2 runs BRT in the HOT lanes, including some ramp and center station elements that WSDOT has neither funded nor identified as “next priority projects”. A3 is a phased implementation of A2, omitting the elements that WSDOT has not signed on for.

        In Kirkland, all the options serve Totem Lake, and none include a Houghton stop. There are direct access ramps at NE 80th/85th Streets included in A1 and A2. But those will cost $384 million. I’m tempted to conclude that pricetag alone is a dealbreaker for service to downtown Kirkland, so that Totem Lake is the only likely Kirkland service on a 405 BRT.

      8. @Dan: Not surprising, really. A Houghton stop that’s accessible from center HOV lanes is too expensive for the ridership, and rebuilding 405/85th is both a big project and a highway project, and ST isn’t WSDOT’s boss. Without downtown Kirkland 405 BRT is the 532/535 through-routed with the 566. Is downtown Kirkland enough of a game changer to run frequent service on that whole long route?

        It’s tempting to say, “Let’s try to get all those drivers on 405 onto buses,” but the land use in the 405 corridor (broadly defined) doesn’t support it no matter how good the transit is. So the only transit projects worthy of major capital investment in that corridor are ones with the potential to impact land use a lot.

        And we should be honest about Totem Lake. It’s only considered a growth area because there’s lots of room in the zoning, and it’s got lots of room in the zoning for two reasons: first, because by 1960s formulas that influenced zoning ideas its freewayside location lends it lots of transportation capacity (read: lots of road lanes and parking); second, because nobody fights for restrictive zoning because nobody cares about it. If we’re talking about building for sustainability, 405 is the wrong place to build.

      9. Downtown Kirkland is the main reason for BRT. It would be like bypassing Bellevue Transit Center and stopping at Factoria instead. I guess Kirkland could move its downtown to Totem Lake, but a large part downtown Kirkland’s assets is the lake waterfront, and you can’t move that.

  3. I’m curious, how would BRT to the Issaquah Highlands be much different than the 554 today? There aren’t many improvements to be made as much of the route is on I-90 in the HOV lanes.

    1. BRT to Issaquah would mean a fully built out HOT lane(s) all the way. Today’s HOV lanes go maybe half-way? I think the HOT lanes are already in the WSDOT plan, but they might not want to follow through if there’s also a rail alignment.

      I’m not aware anybody has validated this, but my assumption is that the 554 would be truncated if there were light rail to Issaquah. It’ll likely terminate at Mercer Island in 2023, anyway, so it would make sense to just run the segment from downtown to the Highlands and Sammamish if Link extended to Issaquah.

      1. Actually, HOV lanes run from Mercer Island all the way to just before the SR 900 exit to Issaquah TC.

      2. Thanks for the correction. I always think of Issaquah downtown as Front St, which is a bit further, but still much better than half-way. (Just seems like a really long way when sitting in traffic :) )

    2. Honestly, I don’t think that BRT or light rail to the Issaquah Highlands could produce faster travel times than the current 216/218/219 expresses during peak hours, unless the express buses get stuck in congestion regularly–the current express buses are practically nonstop on fast freeways. However, the larger issue is that outside of peak hours, Issaquah Highlands-Seattle takes significantly longer because of the 554’s detour through Issaquah. It takes ~45 minutes to get from Issaquah Highlands P&R to downtown Seattle (4th/Pike) outside of peak, when the same trip during peak hours takes ~32 min on the express buses.

      The ideal solution would be to build an elevated busway through Issaquah, possibly on Gilman Blvd. That way, a single express bus could serve both Issaquah Highlands and Issaquah while maintaining competitive travel times all the way to Issaquah Highlands. Unfortunately, this would cost quite a lot, when simply running the 218 and 554 frequently all day would achieve almost the same result unless there is a lot of traffic.

      1. I’ve ridden the bus to Issaquah several times off-peak, and off-peak ridership East of Issaquah Transit Center is quite small. The area is certainly north worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars on capitol investments.

        In the short term, the biggest improvement I would like to see to the 554 would simply be running the route we have more frequently. After that would be moving the 554 into the tunnel to take advantage of the direct ramp to/from I-90 (replacing the 255), and adding a stop for the Issaquah Commons shopping center, which it already drives by anyway.

        Longer-term (post East-Link), the 554 should probably be replaced with all-day service on the 556 (just from Issaquah to U-district, since anyone headed to Northgate could just hop on Link). As an added bonus, this route could also replace the U-district->Bellevue portion of the 271 (although local service on the remaining part of the 271 would still be needed).

        Kirkland – the ERC is and should remain a trail. It is a great walking and biking facility today, and converting it into a form where people are asked to squeeze through on a 5-foot sidewalk with buses or trains zooming by is not and should not be acceptable. If we want to provide decent transit between the downtowns of Bellevue and Kirkland, we should just run express buses between them down 405, with potential incremental improvements to ramps on/off the freeway to help such buses out.

      2. I think the ERC can handle a trail and a busway. It’s 100 feet wide after all. The master plan the City of Kirkland put together for the Corridor figured transit could fit in a 30-foot ‘envelope’ on the east side of the corridor. Alongside that, they have at least one trail facility running the entire length (sometimes one all-use trail, sometimes one for bikes and one for pedestrians only).

        It’ll be less peaceful out there with a bus going by every few minutes. That’s a value judgment for every user.

      3. Couldn’t you just cut the 554 stop in downtown Issaquah and get back on the freeway to go up to IH? Downtown Issaquah isn’t dense and isn’t going to have more than a few riders ever.

      4. The 555 and 556 today use I-90 to get from Issaquah TC to Issaquah Highlands. Why do you want to deprive the residents of downtown Issaquah the only ST route that serves them directly?

      5. FWIW, the downtown Issaquah stop for the 544 has 15 boardings and 136 alightings daily and 141 boardings and 13 alightings westbound daily, according to the 2014 SIP.

  4. Great ideas. I agree that the Eastside is a good place for Sound Transit to build high-quality BRT in ST3, because of dispersed demand, large amounts of existing road right-of-ways, and lower ridership.* There are a number of specific issues though:

    Downtown Kirkland: the Eastside rail corridor is still too far from DT Kirkland to be acceptable, and running on surface streets to access DT Kirkland will make travel times for trips like Bellevue-Totem Lake uncompetitive with even current bus service. This could be mitigated with signal priority/bus lanes, but an elevated busway through DT Kirkland, connecting to the rail corridor on both ends, should be considered to maximize reliability and speed.

    Bellevue-South Bellevue: This corridor is often EXTREMELY congested during peak hours. East Link will offer a reliable, grade-separated path through much of this congestion, but I am not sure about what to do with the I-405 and Issaquah BRTs in this area. Previously I suggested designing that part of East Link to allow buses to drive on it, but unfortunately East Link does not seem designed for this. Would the BRT lines to Renton and Issaquah end at S Bellevue, forcing riders to transfer to Link to access Downtown Bellevue? Alternatively, I believe Bellevue’s TMP suggested building separate bus lanes in parts of the corridor, but that would only cover part of the corridor, and the road would have to be widened at considerable cost.

    Also, the 522 corridor would make sense for a median busway with aggressive signal priority. A bus-only connection from 520 directly to UW Link Station would be helpful as well.

  5. Regarding the ERC, I used to live in Zurich (which has bred in me a contempt for non-at grade transit), and always noted the tendency to run mixed use walk/bike trails next to the commuter rail tracks. Said trails were popular and well-used, and the trains ran at (obviously) Swiss levels of efficiency. Reading here that the rights extend to a 100ft wide corridor, this seems like a straightforward proposal, politics and funding notwithstanding.

    Does anyone have any input on this?

    1. Important ERC stuff:

      – The ERC was built for freight, not commuting; it misses the commercial cores of Bellevue and Kirkland by just enough to need non-trivial augmentations to connect these places.
      – As a freight rail corridor, the road network built to avoid it to some degree. So there are a bunch of places where the major roads are bridges over it. But it cuts through some big intersections just south of Totem Lake. There is also a place where a bridge carrying the tracks was cut off for a 405 expansion.
      – Though the corridor is 100 feet wide, some parts of it are on steep hillsides; we’ve only graded out enough flat land for the existing single track in some places, and creating enough flat land for two tracks plus the trail would require moving a lot of earth (and probably rebuilding a few of the roads that cross it). Similarly, there are several bridges that are only wide enough for a single track.

      So it’s not a straightforward proposal, really, and given both immediate surrounding land use and general trends on the eastside it would be a bit of a speculative project, worthwhile if it could effect major land use improvements.

      1. The corridor does get unworkable towards the south end, but the challenges are manageable from Bellevue to Kirkland.

        To the south, there’s a trestle at Wilburton that wouldn’t support transit. Because it’s a historic structure, there would need to be a detour there. There is also a missing overpass on the 405 that was demolished several years ago. Then as you near Renton, the sides get really steep so rail would need to be single-tracked there. (I think that likely means one bus lane if BRT). And there are a lot of ownership issues. BNSF didn’t own the railroad in some places, just a rail easement that might not even cover light rail.

        So Sound Transit is not going to use the ERC very far south of Bellevue.

        But in Bellevue and Kirkland, the slope issues are mostly minor. It does slope, but nothing that couldn’t be graded. There is an identified space issue around Lake Bellevue (near Hospital station). That seems related to how ERC service needs to share the space with East Link. Other than that, the only identified issues are a King County main sewer line under the corridor, the need for coordination with Kirkland about where they put their trail, and some groundwater management work.

        The corridor report did not flag any issues about the level crossings in Totem Lake. But that will be interesting to watch. It seems manageable, but there will be local traffic impacts.

      2. “There is an identified space issue around Lake Bellevue (near Hospital station). That seems related to how ERC service needs to share the space with East Link.”

        That’s easy, just run the ERC service on the East Link tracks. It works best if the ERC service is light rail.

  6. This observation is not meant to say “Absolutely No” to BRT in the ERC, but you will be building the LA Orange Line, and the bus will be stopping at nearly every cross-arterial. You will not be able to convince the Kirkland DOT (whatever it’s called) to give the same sort of signal priority that trains must have to buses.

    Please remember this everyone. When people bloviate that Westside MAX could have been built as a two lane busway for less money, they are probably right. However, the running time from Beaverton TC to Hatfield would be at least fifteen minutes longer because of the frequent stops for cross-arterials that would be levied by the highwaymen.

    Busways on their own rights of way will always be hampered by this reality.

    1. It seems workable to me. That said, Sound Transit should absolutely insist that Kirkland step up and make the best street solutions happen. In the corridor reports which I’ve been reading the last few days, ST staff are taking an admirably hard-nosed stance on these issues.

      There are only a handful of street crossings with meaningful traffic volumes. I count three significant ones. There a few more minor streets with very low traffic volumes that should not be problematic to have strict TSP.

      The first is in Totem Lake, where the corridor study has BRT on surface streets for the last three blocks or so before the Totem Lake Transit Center (LRT would be on elevated guideway). That might be the end of the northbound line, so there’s an argument for making some compromises there. On the other hand, current development on those blocks is so low-value that it wouldn’t be very expensive to buy up enough to make an exclusive busway work.

      The second is 6th St near downtown, where LRT is elevated over the street crossing, and BRT is level (I think). ST has not considered whether to exit the corridor here to get closer to downtown. Their representative station is on the corridor. I think it’s worth a close look at a station further up 6th, but it’s a harder place to make room for exclusive lanes.

      The last is at the South Kirkland Park and Ride (where the arterial is actually City of Bellevue). That’s a simple street crossing of 108th Ave for a Bellevue-Kirkland alignment, assuming they have the buses stop on the corridor above the parking garage and not go circling around the parking lot. For a bus from Seattle or Redmond, there’s about two blocks on shared streets for a UW-Kirkland alignment.

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