By Jay Arnold

Kirkland Councilmember Jay Arnold (King County photo)
Kirkland Councilmember Jay Arnold (King County photo)

Later this afternoon, the Sound Transit Board will begin to define the ST3 package by determining their priority project list (PPL). As the project list gets narrowed, Sound Transit board members have an opportunity to be responsive to feedback from open houses and community outreach, provide meaningful transportation options for areas of dramatic growth, and create an ST3 package that has the best chance to be successful at the ballot in 2016.

Kirkland is in the middle of this dramatic growth. With over 82,000 residents, we are a smart-growth city that has already planned for transit-oriented development. Over the past decade, we have zoned for dense commercial and residential development, and are now seeing explosive growth with thousands of new multi-family units in the pipeline and thousands of new high-tech jobs in our downtown and Totem Lake urban center. Now, we need the transit.

Sound Transit’s draft priority project list (updated 6/9)  includes bus rapid transit (BRT) from Lynnwood to SeaTac along the I-405 corridor. This recognizes the need to connect cities among the Eastside and provides nearby access to East Link rail in Bellevue. The BRT leverages expansion of HOV/managed access lanes on I-405, direct access ramps in Renton, Bellevue and Kirkland, and existing park and rides adjacent to I-405. In Kirkland, Sound Transit envisions park & ride expansion and potential garage construction at Houghton Park & Ride, Kirkland downtown and Totem Lake.

The I-405 BRT line can be vastly improved by taking advantage of opportunities to eliminate the car-dependent focus for the last mile. Instead of just connecting cities on a map, Sound Transit should connect places using the Eastside Rail Corridor and allow more riders to get directly to their destinations.

In Kirkland, Bus Rapid Transit along the corridor would:

  • Directly serve employment centers: In Kirkland today, over 18,000 jobs are within a half-mile walking distance of the corridor. BRT on the corridor would provide ability for folks to take transit directly to work. A great example is Google’s Kirkland campus (which is doubling in size, with new buildings to open this fall), which is bisected by the corridor. Their expansions and improvements anticipate and support future service.
  • Connect between activity centers: Instead of connecting highway exit ramps, using the Eastside Rail Corridor connects Totem Lake, Kirkland’s designed urban center, Kirkland downtown (whose growth may soon qualify it for an urban center designation), South Kirkland Park & Ride, and light rail in Bellevue (with the hospital station at NE 8th Street).
  • Integrate transit with biking and walking: Kirkland has developed an interim trail for the segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor that we own (the “Cross Kirkland Corridor”) and envision a multi-use corridor with transit, cycling, and pedestrians. The right of way is over 100 feet wide and our master plan illustrates how all modes can be accommodated, dedicating a 30-foot transit envelope. Kirkland is a willing partner in working with Sound Transit on a BRT expressway on the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
  • Support transit oriented development: Efforts that Kirkland is doing such as the TOD at the South Kirkland Park & Ride (with both market-rate and affordable housing) and residential suites (our version of “apodments”) in our downtown work because they are adjacent to frequent bus routes today. With pending redevelopment and planned growth in Totem Lake, downtown, and business centers along the corridor, Sound Transit has the opportunity to support this development as it is happening, not waiting for the next transit package.

Instead of forcing folks to drive their cars to new Sound Transit parking facilities near Interstate 405 (causing more congestion on city streets), why not provide ways to connect directly to activity centers along the corridor (and eliminate vehicle trips)?

Our analysis shows BRT on the corridor in Kirkland tops other proposed projects using Sound Transit’s own ridership projections and scoring criteria.

Sound Transit already owns an easement along the corridor. Sound Transit’s long range plan envisions light rail on the corridor between Totem Lake, Bellevue and connecting along I-90 to Issaquah. Constrained finances will likely limit ST3 to only planning and design funding for this light rail segment. But we cannot wait 20 to 30 years for ST4 to build any transit along the Eastside Rail Corridor. Sound Transit needs to build BRT now and can convert to light rail in the future, following the model where RapidRide lines in Seattle will convert to light rail in ST3.

Sound Transit 3 should take advantage of the Eastside Rail Corridor and use it for Bus Rapid Transit.

Kirkland Councilmember Jay Arnold represents Kirkland on the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Advisory Council and the Puget Sound Regional Council Transit Oriented Development Advisory Committee. His comments above reflect his own position and do not necessarily reflect the positions of other council members or city staff.

136 Replies to “ST3 Should Include BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor”

  1. Les, would you rather we spent nothing on gathering the information we need to make correct decisions in the future, including what we need to spend, and what we don’t?

    Until the decision that becomes mandatory has to be made too fast for any rational outcome? Something about looking and leaping…?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’m not referencing the preliminary work, i’m referencing the “build BRT now and can convert to light rail in the future,”.

      1. A very wasteful approach. Building true BRT isn’t cheap, so if we build BRT on the ERC we really should build it only if we intend to keep it BRT for at least the next 30 years or so.

        It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There will be a lot of push back against running diesel buses on the ERC. But I’ve about given up on the Eastside anyhow…….

      2. The biggest cost is acquiring the right of way from private landowners or tunneling. ST has the right of way, so those costs are zero. Building a rail-convertable busway is the same thing as the DSTT or WSTT only on the surface. If future rail is anticipated in the design, it can avoid rail-incompatible features that would have to be expensively replaced.

      3. Hybrid buses and natural gas buses exist. Battery-electric buses may be feasable in this timeframe. Trolleybuses wouldn’t be outrageous either, especially since light rail would need wire anyway. And I hear there’s a guy in south King County with ideas for hydrogen buses….

      4. I just wish they wouldn’t jerk us around and say that we can get our lego set out and easily reconfigure it for LR when the time comes. I guess it makes a good sales pitch though.

      5. What Mike said.

        This is really the way that just about any type of system progresses. Build a gravel road, then a paved road. Then build overpasses. Was it a waste to build the gravel road? Of course not, it enabled everything else. Build a small hospital and then add the wings to it. Almost all hospitals are built this way, even though it is obvious that the whole thing could have been built more efficiently if it was built huge to begin with. Businesses operate this way as well. Borrow some money and start small. If you are successful, then go public (which means borrowing a bunch more money) and pay off your initial investors (often at very high rates). Even medicine works this way. Try the conservative treatment for a while before you do an MRI. If you don’t respond to the treatment, then go with the more expensive option.

        In all these cases you “wasted” a small amount of money. If you had only build everything at a grand scale to begin with, then you would have saved those pennies. But given the high cost and lag time to actually build things, it really isn’t much of a waste. Far from it. The HOV lanes have paid for themselves many times over even though many of them will become obsolete soon (as light rail is built). In this case, this is a much better deal, because as Mike explained, the work done on this project will feed right into the next project, if it is ever every is needed.

      6. I garbled that last sentence. Let me try again:

        In this case, this is a much better deal, because as Mike explained, the work done on this project will feed right into the next project, if it is ever needed.

      7. It’s also the way Amtrak Cascades is working. It started as a little line. Gradually runs were added and track-improvement projects were initiated. The state’s long-term goal is 110 mph to Portland on dedicated passenger tracks. And maybe theoretical high-speed rail after that. If the state had started with “110 mph or bust!”, it wouldn’t have gotten off the ground because it would have cost too much, the ridership market was unproven, and we would have spent years/decades without Cascades until/if the super-duper service was finished. That’s what Florida did with HSR, and as a result it doesn’t have anything like Cascades running. Then you have right-wing governors who can cancel long-term plans at a single stroke, and divert the money saved for it to another pet project. (Like New Jersey.) If Cascades were running, he couldn’t divert the money already spent on it, and there too much would be popular demand to keep it running and improve it as originally envisioned.

      8. Mike Orr, if it is such a simple transition from BRT to LR then why not build LR in the first place? I looked up cost between the two in the studies to date but couldn’t find anything. What is the breakdown and what exactly is reusable? I know the buses won’t be nor the platforms nor ticketing machines, ie, things that make BRT BRT.

      9. Mike Orr, “It’s also the way Amtrak Cascades”. If your going to use Amtrak as a reference then you have to reference NEC, a HSR wannabe stuck in a “BRTish shell”. Too bad they didn’t go all out when they added the 110 mph line because now they can’t afford to put in true HSR. Get it right the first time!

      10. You don’t have to close down the entire hospital to open a new wing. I seriously doubt that Arnold has buy-off from all of the trail supporters to put 55 mph buses on this corridor and somehow maintain all the “character zones” in the trail plan.

      11. les:

        If Amtrak Cascades had been built right from the beginning, there would still be hassles at the budget level in the state legislature. Sure, it would be nice to build stuff right the first time.

        However, this is the USA. Only highways here have the level of budget required to build them decades ahead of capacity. Pretty much any other project, transportation related or not, becomes a political football.

        California attempted to build HSR right, but it is still mostly stuck in the courtroom and battles over it are fought every election.

        BRT done right can be converted to light rail. This is one of the reasons Eugene’s EmX is not fully paved in places: it’s easier to rip out.

        Furthermore, there isn’t enough money or development to justify light rail all the way to Issaquah, and maybe there never will be. That, however, is where this line is supposed to wind up.

      12. Les: irrelevant. “Amtrak” Cascades was designed by WSDOT; it has nothing to do with the Northeast Corridor. The lack of northeast HSR decades ago is more like our failure to approve the Sound Move subway in 1972, when the feds would have paid for most of it. I don’t know what the northeast HSR plan would have looked like because it was never designed; maybe it would have used 110 mph as an interim step; maybe not. And “can’t afford” isn’t really true. For nationally-significant infrastructure like the Northeast Corridor, Congress could get money from the Fed at historically-low interest rates, or repeal some corporate tax breaks, and it would have plenty of money. That’s how every other industrialized country funds their infrastructure, and they’re aghast that we let ours rot with band-aids. The country that once had the most extensive railroad network in the world and built the interstate highways can’t get around to maintaining its bridges and is falling behind on high-speed rail. A national rail plan could go beyond the Northeast Corridor and also give grants for things like Cascades, which is clearly a regionally-significant (multi-state) corridor.

      13. Once again.

        Light Rail.

        It’s supposed to be so cheap and fast to implement that it is nearly the equivalent of using buses.

        The tri-modal styles of LINK (tunnel, elevated, surface) should allow a less dense, more open area like the Eastside to roll out miles of rail without having to resort to the intermediary step of BRT.

      14. Mike Orr, you’re giving faulty logic. On the one-hand you are saying that BRT is a better choice then LR because it is cheaper. But then on the other hand you’re saying that LR is a cheap transition from BRT because all the LR cost are incurred in a BRT setup. How does this make any sense?

      15. I think we agree on one thing, Les, though my focus is a little different.

        As former operating personnel, I always hated seeing enormous amounts of consulting money spent on a transit system consisting of a rainbow of stripes and dots for fifty years before it carried passenger one.

        So to me, a transitway structured out for highest future speed needed for its particular location, but operable by buses in the meantime, is an excellent solution.

        And even better, the concrete between the grooved rails can be colored pink or chartreuse can have its color poured into the mix. Same with station architecture.

        With consulting done by consortium of region’s kindergarteners. Ask any five year old whether they’d rather take their consulting fees in stock options or ice cream.

        Mark Dublin

      16. The only busways which have been converted to light rail, *anywhere*, are the Seattle Downtown Transit Tunnel (costing a lot to retrofit) and Ottawa’s busway (costing even more to retrofit). Pittsburgh’s East Busway needs to be converted but hasn’t been, and LA’s Orange Line needs to be converted but hasn’t been.

        Do not build busways on rail corridors, and do not build “brand new” busways. Just don’t do it.

        Your decent choices are:
        (1) Bus *lanes* (no cars allowed), on the road
        (2) Streetcar + bus lanes (no cars allowed), on the road
        (3) Streetcar lanes (no cars allowed), on the road
        (4) Rail routes off the road, no buses or cars allowed.

      17. I’m gonna point out again that *buses need wider right-of-way than trains*, and *buses beat up the roadbed more than trains* which means that busways invariably end up costing more than railways. While being less popular, of course.


        If you’ve already got an asphalt/concrete roadbed, bus lanes are a reasonable thing to paint on it. But building busways fresh is whackadoodle.

      18. That makes sense, Nathaniel, in and of itself. But what about when you’re building a busway to connect to an existing roadbed further along the same route – such as SR520?

  2. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with this one. Even if a busway were built on the ERC, between safety concerns, noise concerns (the ERC directly abuts many people’s back yards), and tight curves, any buses running on it would likely be limited to 30 mph.

    Granted, I-405 at present is a total mess, but when the express toll lanes open, the tolls are supposed to be set to guarantee movement at 45 mph. Between a straighter route and faster speeds, buses could get from Totem Lake to downtown Bellevue at least twice as quickly along 405 as along the ERC.

    The 255 already provides local service between South Kirkland P&R and Totem Lake. The big transit item that is missing on the I-405 corridor around Kirkland is an express stop somewhere in the vacinity of 70th/85th St. This can be accomplished with a new Freeway Station. The last-mile problem can be significantly mitigated by simply building new pedestrian paths to access the station from neighborhood streets in all directions, rather than dumping everybody on a 3-foot sidewalk immediately abutting speeding cars.

    And, contrary to what you suggest, building a busway on the cross-Kirkland Trail would impact the quality of trail significantly. Lots of greenery along the trail would have to be cleared and replaced with concrete. Lots of informal points for accessing and crossing the trail would have to be fenced off in the name of safety. The trail itself would likely end up getting narrowed and probably closed completely for several years of construction. Then, there’s the noise impact. The cross-Kirkland trail, as it stands today, is one of the few places in the city where you can go out for a stroll and not have to listen to the constant noise of passing cars and trucks. Run buses along it and the quiet disappears. The noise would also have a real impact on people’s homes adjacent to the trail as well.

    The trail is a wonderful asset for non-motorized forms of transportation. But buses should stick to the streets and the freeway.

    1. All of the point you make by-in-large also apply to LRT. Kirkland has already made the decision that the CKC is for transit. There are both US and international examples of BRT along old, narrow raulroad rights of way without all of the issues you’re painted.

      1. This is a lie. Kirkland has not made this decision. The only provision on the trail is for freight use only. I was in a meeting where a City Council member was making the claim the trail was for transit only to be corrected by a citizen with the correct information. Embarrassing for sure. Who’s for putting rail/Bus on the Burke Gillman Trail next? Same thing. 405 is the correct place for this service.

      2. Here are the facts from the CKC master plan vision document. indomt know how you call that a lie.

        “Connect to transit today, home to transit in
        the future
        The Cross Kirkland Corridor originated as a significant transportation corridor and it is to continue in that capacity, albeit with modernized modes of transit. The cargo trains of before are to be replaced by non-motorized transportation (walking, biking, etc.) connecting to transit today. The corridor will also be planned to welcome potential future light rail or bus rapid transit service.”

    2. Rubbish!
      “between safety concerns, noise concerns (the ERC directly abuts many people’s back yards), and tight curves, any buses running on it would likely be limited to 30 mph.”
      What tight curves? (radius please), Seems like freight trains went klickity clack along there just a few years ago which if memory serves me correctly are louder than modern buses – or maybe one of Bailo’s Hydrogen buses. Yeash. I’m surprised you didn’t throw in the steep grades, mountains and rivers too.

      1. You really think you could have buses (or trains) zooming at 60 mph through at-grade street crossings right behind people’s backyards? It’s not going to happen. Trains down MLK are limited to 35 mph, and the MLK railroad crossings have much better sightlines than what the ERC would have.

        You also can’t ignore the fact that the curves alone make the total distance between Totem Lake and NE 8th St. nearly double the distance along I-405. There is no way a bus down the ERC could serve as a viable replacement for the 535.

        The noise from the freight trains that used to go there wasn’t such a big deal because:
        1) It wasn’t the linear park it is today (much fewer people around)
        2) The trains didn’t run all that often.

      2. Fact Check of asdf2 claims: Totem Lk to NE th is 6.8 mi on the ERC, and 6.3 on I-405 – NOT double.
        The tightest turn radius is near NE 85th, which is a mind numbing 1/4 mi radius for about 80 degrees – something like 15 times larger than minimum radius required for LRT’s. Oh the horror of that one turn.
        Next you’ll want to throw in all the grade crossings. Care to count them?

      3. You really think you could have buses (or trains) zooming at 60 mph through at-grade street crossings right behind people’s backyards?

        Why not? Other than Link limits train speeds to 55 mph. BNSF seems to do this all the time on its main line through Kent.

        ML King isn’t an ex-railroad.

      4. I have to agree with asdf2 here (maybe not in facts, but in spirit). If I was a homeowner on the ERC, I would have serious issues with even a 30mph line operating most of the day in my backyard. At a minimum, I’d want some kind of protections. And ST will agree, because they don’t want to run over a kid who wanders onto the track from his/her parents’ backyard. Many of those houses are expensive, and those people probably will have money to get lawyers.

        And then I’m really curious about the environmental impact of the ERC – there are wetlands areas around there. The trail right now just follows the old tracks. If you use the whole ROW, you’re going to have to mitigate the damage, and that’s going to be another problem.

        As for double the distance, it’s not. But it would double the time between 128th and Bellevue because of the slower speed needed to deal with the trail/tracks. ST would have to make a commitment to continue express 405 service and not try to divert it over the ERC to keep many people happy.

      5. Unless you’re advocating for slower service, I don’t see (much) more than 30 mph being approved for LRT/BRT going through people’s backyards and crossing at-grade streets with (often) poor visibility and running along its entire length next to a pedestrian/bike path. You’re not going to convince people who live there that this is a good idea of you completely ignore them.

    3. Why is 30 MPH considered slow? Is this an express, with miles and miles between each station? If not, then it makes little difference. The whole point of this is to serve areas close to the ERC, not to serve as a major bypass.

      1. 30 MPH as max speed is slow if you compare it to 405 BRT, where 45mph is supposed to be the minimum. One worry I have is if ST decides to stop running the 532/535 south of Totem Lake and tells everyone to transfer to LR at the Totem Lake stop or if the buses continue on the ERC from Totem Lake. That will slow things down substantially.

      2. sorry to be so frequent here today, but the false premises are rampant this morning.
        45 mph is the current law minimum speed on all HOV lanes during the peak hour. Laws don’t make it so, or at least the Transportation Commission has ignored that for years now. Sure, charging 10 bucks a trip will help, but traffic accidents are have immunity when blocking freeway lanes are concerned. $1000 per trip will be just as slow.

      3. Sure, it’s not going to be perfect. But it will be better than it is now. And it’s not like the ERC will be immune from issues. What about a car that breaks down at a crossing? Or a tree that falls on the ROW?

      4. How far are we talking about, and how many stops? Twenty miles, with three miles between each stop? Then yes, absolutely — top speed matters. Five miles with half mile spacing? The difference between 35 MPH and 55 MPH is less than a minute. Sorry — you can do the math if you want.

        The only reason a different routing would be substantially faster is because it wouldn’t stop as often, to pick up passengers. Of course there would be less ridership (because it wouldn’t stop as often to pick up passengers).

      5. RossB, the thing is that it’s not a straight, five mile ride. Let’s add up the differences. South of Totem lake 532/535 has to transfer to the ERC (5 min), maintain (at best) a 30 mph average speed (14 min) and then transfer from the ERC to Bellevue TC (5 min at best). This is a 25 min ride from Totem Lake to Bellevue TC. Now add in the DT Kirkland Diversion everyone wants, and the 25 min ride turns into a 35 min ride at best.

        A 405 routing takes (assuming 45 mph) 10-12 min to get to Bellevue TC. That’s three times faster. On top of that, the 532/535 is completely packed during peak times and it’s not unheard of for them to leave passengers at Bellevue TC (evening) or Totem Lake (morning) due to overcrowding. You can convince me that service should be combined off-peak, but peak routes need to be independent. And this compares worst case speeds for 405 with best case for ERC. Add in traffic in Kirkland, and you probably add another 10-15 minutes to each trip.

        I have no particular issue with the ERC for local, Kirkland service. It’s probably the best solution (not that it’s a great solution, but it’s the best we have). But it does not replace express bus service from Totem Lake to Bellevue.

  3. I have to complement CM Arnold for his forward thinking article here this morning. YES, the ERC is a gem in so many ways, connecting the existing and future dots with tons more potential than mining another lane or two out of the I-405 car sewer can ever provide.
    My vision of ERC from 20 years ago included a scale model of the S.Kirkland P&R having a multi level garage with the top floor at track even out the walk up hill. The PSE site is perfectly situated to accept TOD and a city circulator to reach many locations, and Totem Lk is seeing that development on both sides of the freeway. YES, lots to like about this.
    My biggest concern was the City Council wouldn’t have the stomach to tell ERC backyard encroachers that the land isn’t theirs for the garden or trash pile, but will be used for something useful = like a transit corridor.
    I’d prefer to build something like Marin County did north of San Francisco, installing new rail lines at grade alongside the new ped/bike pathway. RDC’s should pencil out, considering few grade crossings, shallow curves and grades, and anchor cities along the entire route. HEY Folks, there’s a reason I-405 is SO Fricking Wide, there are lots of trips being made along the corridor. I’d like to see some of them being moved by rail, but would reluctantly settle for BRT, knowing the busway would have to come out to afix rails to it later. Concrete roadway anyone? Design for rail, run buses till the RDC’s arrive.
    I hope the ST Board can see this vision also, and thanks Jay for your efforts to make this happen.

    1. There’s nothing forward thinking about it. It’s trading one HOV lane that isn’t near anything (405) for slightly faster busway that isn’t near anything. Why? So people who chose to live in Lynwood will get to Bellevue a few minutes quicker? That’s worth ruining a greenbelt? “Hey, 405’s a sewer, so let’s spread some of that sewer around!” That’s not progress. And that’s not a solution to anything. If the the HOV lanes are broken, let’s fix them.

      1. No, it’s adding a corridor serving Kirkland, because I-405 does not currently serve Kirkland and neither ST nor WSDOT is interested in making it serve Kirkland.

        The Metro bus route most closely analogous to an ERC route is Route 235. It is currently scheduled to run between 34 and 50 minutes between Bellevue and Totem Lake depending on time of day. The ERC could cut that by half or so (a bit less at night, a bit more at peak hour) while serving all the same destinations except Rose Hill.

      2. 405 does serve Kirkland. It’s called a two seat ride. Just like one day the 255 and 540 will serve Seattle by having eastsiders get off at UW and catch a train downtown.

        And as an environmentalist, I think it’s incredibly shortsighted to run buses down a rare and ever shrinking greenspace all in the name of shaving a few minutes off a commuter’s trip.

        There’s a saying. If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. And I think one of the problems with this blog is that because you all are so focused on transit, you lose sight of the bigger picture and other, more important issues. I.E. “There’s a super long greenspace. Let’s put some buses on it!”

        So yes, in terms of preserving greenspace for centuries to come, when not only 405 will be a sewer, but so will everything around it, it’s incredibly shortsighted to not to protect every inch of greenspace that we can.

        And to the people who have a high tech bias who say “we must serve Google at all costs!” Where’s that passion for serving employment centers when it comes to Boeing?

      3. I live in South Kirkland. How do you suggest I use I-405? Ride to Evergreen Hospital and then spend 25 minutes riding most of the way back on the local bus?

        ERC BRT would have a stop right next to my house.

        Again, 405 has nothing for anyone between Bellevue Transit Center and NE 130th, and would have to be reconstructed at a cost of (apparently) billions to fix that.

      4. Other than looking into peoples backyards (some better than others), I see nothing about a linear park that a larger space doesn’t do better. Habit for wildlife requires buffers from people, dogs, etc, which 25′ of blackberry bushes for 5 miles along the ERC offers little. Turn that same 6 acres of land into a small park, and you ‘may’ do some good, while waving the green flag.

    2. Mike,
      The city has been very consistent from our active transportation plan, ERC interest statement, acquisition of the corridor, and Cross Kirkland Corridor master plan ( that Kirkland is interested in transit. It represents our only new north-south capacity for transportation as we grow in our urban centers. Council discussion when we adopted the master plan discussed how we could make the transit focus *stronger*, anticipating pressure to not change anything once we opened the interim trail.

      I appreciate the challenge, but my colleagues and I have been clear in our intentions. The master plan illustrates some concepts on how we can make this a good experience for all.

      Jay Arnold
      Kirkland City Council

    3. David, my overall point is that utilizing the ERC to speed up the commute or for front door service isn’t worth the loss of half the greenbelt. I’m saying that even though there’s room for both a bike/ped trail and BRT, I’d prefer saving reserving it all for bikes and peds, like the Sam River Trail or the Burke Gilman. Greenspace is too scarce a thing to give it away, because once we do, we’ll never get it back.

      1. OK, but you haven’t answered how you would improve transit in Kirkland. You’re not going to get Kirkland voters to vote for ST3 if your only answer is “I-405 BRT that skips Kirkland.”

      2. 1) Don’t take green space for transit. You’ll never get it back.

        2) Improve how? Name one glaring, crippling problem Kirkland transit has.

      3. Er… really?

        Slow and infrequent service everywhere. But especially in the corridor connecting Totem Lake, downtown Kirkland, and Bellevue. Lines run half-hourly along indirect routes for the most part and trips take much longer than driving. Totem Lake is a nightmare to get to.

        Traffic congestion delays buses on a number of streets, including State, 6th, Central Way, and NE 124th.

        Core service between Kirkland and Seattle is severely overcrowded at peak of peak.

        There is basically no night service except for an outbound trip or two from Seattle.

        There is no connection between Juanita and Bothell, growing centers five-ish minutes apart by car that both hope to get more urban.

        Kirkland is a car suburb that’s just starting to urbanize. Of course its transit has lots of issues. But voters will vote to improve it if actual improvement is on the table.

      4. I think the biggest problem Kirkland has is that there are too many pockets of higher density with poor connections (car or transit) between them and from them to other cities. I’m guessing the three biggest ones are DT Kirkland,Juanita, and Houghton and I doubt there’s any room to expand streets between them even to add a bus lane. Nor is there really any room to expand service from them to 405 and if you wanted to do that, you’d need to expand service on three streets: 116th, 85th, and 70th. And I haven’t even mentioned Totem Lake which is supposed to be where all the growth is happening, but at least it can be serviced from 405 with minimal issues (if you don’t want to go to anywhere else in Kirkland).

        I personally think the ERC will help Kirkland transit for the areas it does hit. Not so much Juanita, but if you can go from three high density pockets with no service to one, that would be a good thing.

      5. Juanita can benefit a lot from connections using the corridor – it would bypass a lot of the bottlenecks between Juanita and Bellevue, or Juanita and Seattle.

        But I hope Kirkland will also make the capital investments to move Metro buses from Juanita more efficiently down Market.

      6. David, putting buses on the ERC won’t solve most of the “problems” you listed. I live on the eastside, and I get down to Kirkland a few times a week. I think the transit service is very good. I never have a problem getting around. But I think unlike a lot of you, I have patience, and I don’t become annoyed if we get stuck in a little traffic. It’s part of life. Bring a book or some music.

        David, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are very good at complaining about things and finding fault. Is there anything you do like about transit on the eastside and esp in Kirkland? Can you say anything positive?

      7. Sam, maybe if you join forces with the people who tell me I’m an apologist and bootlicker for Metro, it will cancel out. You asked me to name problems, and I did. I complain because transit is not competitive with driving, and realistically I still use my car for intra-Eastside trips not involving downtown Kirkland or downtown Bellevue.

        What works well about Kirkland transit? The 255 (Juanita and South Kirkland parts) is a good frequent corridor at hours when it’s reliable, and opens up a lot of options with Evergreen Point and Montlake transfers. The 234/235 common corridor is a good local corridor within Kirkland, although it’s too slow if you’re riding it to Bellevue or Totem Lake. The 248 is a route that should have been there for years, although it needs frequency. The 245 is a good connection to Microsoft, at least eastbound where it doesn’t get stuck in BC and Crossroads traffic.

        The best thing about Eastside transit is RapidRide B, which doesn’t serve Kirkland.

    4. Wow, that’s funny, when I am on it the areas between peoples back yards and the trail are marked off as environmentally sensitive areas. Signed and fences put up by the city everywhere. You don’t propose putting rail or bus service in this area do you? Trail isn’t wide enough otherwise to have bi-directional lanes.

  4. No buses and no trains on the Eastside Walking and Bicycle Corridor. With traffic and people encroaching on nature, we have to preserve greenspace whenever we can. This is a rare opportunity to do just that. So on this idea, the minuses far outweigh the pluses of keeping it a bus and train-free greenbelt.

    +1 Yes, I am plus one’ing my own comment.

  5. South Kirkland resident here. I live one block from the Google campus and the ERC.

    In an ideal world, I’d rather have much-improved I-405 BRT than the ERC. But that’s not happening. Both WSDOT and ST have made crystal-clear that they are not willing to spend the money to make I-405 serve Kirkland. Doing so would require all of the following:

    – center freeway stops at 70th, 85th, and north of 116th
    – a fast, reliable transit pathway between I-405 and the Kirkland Transit Center

    In the real world, I-405 BRT will do absolutely nothing for Kirkland except provide a solitary freeway stop near Evergreen Hospital, which isn’t even a reasonable walking distance from most of Totem Lake.

    So I agree; BRT on the ERC would be very valuable to Kirkland.

    Let’s not get hung up about whether the BRT could or should be converted to LRT. The population density and demand to support LRT are just not there in Kirkland and won’t be for a long time, especially because LRT can’t branch out from the ERC to serve destinations like Juanita or downtown Redmond. Analysis of the ERC should consider it as a BRT corridor.

    I really like the ERC as a ped/bike corridor, but a good BRT option would be worth making pedestrians and bikes share the corridor with transit.

    1. And ERC BRT will also do nothing for Kirkland. Just like 405, for most of its length, it isn’t adjacent to anything.

      1. That part is incorrect. It runs through the heart of South Kirkland and through the Google campus, allows an easy deviation to downtown (if it’s BRT and not LRT!), and can serve both the south end and the heart of Totem Lake, with good access to the new planned developments there. It misses Rose Hill, but hits a whole lot more of developed Kirkland than 405 as currently planned. I could imagine it having any or all of the following stops:

        – Bellevue TC
        – Hospital Station
        – Northup Way (in conjunction with the City of Bellevue’s redevelopment project there)
        – S Kirkland P&R
        – NE 55 St/Carillon Point
        – NS NE 68 St/Google
        – Downtown Kirkland (via deviation)
        – 18th Ave (to serve Kirkland MS)
        – NE 116 St (west of I-405)
        – NE 124 St

        As a rail corridor, it’s got huge problems. As a BRT corridor, it makes a lot more sense.

      2. I actually agree that with a deviation into DT Kirkland, the ERC makes a lot of sense as Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake BRT. The problem is how to deviate to DT Kirkland. From prior discussions, there’s no way to build BAT lanes into DT Kirkland. General traffic would be a disaster, since that’s where most of the congestion is and that 1 mile segment would take longer than the rest of the ERC. A tunnel is extremely expensive.

        So how do we make the deviation work?

      3. “So how do we make the deviation work?”

        The ambitious answer (but less ambitious than a tunnel) would be:

        1) Build bus ROW along the north edge of the Google campus and then make State between there and KTC a bus-priority street.
        2) Construct bus lanes along Central Way
        3) Build two ramps from Central Way back down to the ERC

        That’s a big lift. Realistically buses will have to use 6th St S, Kirkland Ave, and 7th Ave, connecting to ERC at existing grade crossings. The big problem is northbound on 6th St S approaching Kirkland Ave. Signal treatments will have to focus on keeping it clear even at the cost of some delay for cars on other streets.

  6. I must say, I’ve been impressed with what the East King subarea has been saying, and this is just another example. The folks in charge seem to have good, reasonable, well thought out ideas. Not necessarily flashy, but the sort of thing that makes a huge difference in the lives of someone trying to get from one place to the other. So far, they seem to have the best ideas for their area (and that includes my city of Seattle).

    I think if ST3 passes, it will be because of ideas like this. If it fails, then I think the county (if given funding authority) could do some really good work by involving officials like Mr. Arnold in building out the transit network.

  7. I find this funny that STB is now all about BRT on the eastside rail corridor while 3-5 five years ago completely against any form of light rail or just converting what was the existing railway to an actual full blown rail corridor because of all sorts of lame reasons – Its too far from where people are, no one will walk that far to a station, there would be too many lawsuits against it from the homeowners whose properties abut the corridor, etc etc. Now all those reasons are now out the window apparently.

    Go back and read all the articles arguing against any form of transit on this corridor. The whole thing should have used from the get go and been preserved for this sort of thing, but no, we let WSDOT segment the thing off from any useful full blown corridor by tearing down the links.

    1. I remember those conversations, being ridiculed for thinking an unused rail corridor was worth much going from nowhere to nowhere, with nothing in between. That’s what I405 is for, eh?

      1. Sound Transit’s studies of I-405 BRT vs ERC were what was showing poor ridership. Indeed if you look at the ERC as a whole most of where it runs is nowhere near where anyone lives.

        Kirkland is the exception, not the rule. In Kirkland the ERC actually runs a lot closer to where people actually live than I-405.

        Unfortunately, neither go to downtown Kirkland…

      2. … which, as mentioned above, would be trivial to serve with BRT (and difficult to impossible to serve with light rail).

      3. Nathanael, I’m going to go out on a limb and hypothesize you’ve never been to Kirkland? That you’re not familiar with the street grid that couldn’t possibly support light rail? Or aware that there’s no affordable way to get the train to many of the major ridership centers like downtown?

        And also unaware that a train can’t even serve ridership to Seattle, which is 2.5x the ridership to Bellevue? Whereas a BRT corridor could serve both destinations?

      1. Nice theory; I’ve never, ever seen it be true in practice.

        In practice, replace your BRT corridor with an LRT route and you get 10% – 20% more ridership, lower operating costs, and lower maintenance costs. But the BRT fanatics never stop…

  8. BRT on the existing 255 corridor is much better than BRT on the ERC.

    That being said, BRT on the ERC is much better than BRT on 405.

    If my options were to build on 405 or ERC, I would definitely choose ERC. But people need to understand that between Central Way and Totem lake there’s _nothing_ by ERC. On the other hand, the 255 corridor serves both the Market neighborhood, and Juanita, as well as a large amount of multifamily housing between Juanita and Totem lake.

    Market street already has enough space for BAT lanes (right now it’s just on-street parking). I really wish that Kirkland would ask for the best possible thing, rather than a half solution.

    1. How do you propose to put BRT on the existing 255 corridor? There is no room for bus lanes along the part of it most affected by traffic congestion (108 Ave NE).

      1. The 255 corridor between Central Way and Totem Lake. ERC makes sense from SR 520 -> Central Way because that actually hits the primary ridership generators (S Kirkland P&R, Google Campus). The problem is north of Central way the ERC is literally in the middle of a forest.

      1. To deviate to downtown Kirkland without a new set of exit ramps, 405 buses would have to use the general traffic lanes to access the NE 85th exit, completely defeating any notion of “BRT.”

      2. Where could 405 BRT divert to Downtown Kirkland? Over what roads? With what traffic conditions? At what speeds? Would that be faster than the ERC?

    1. And Downtown Kirkland isn’t even a regional growth center. People need to stop deluding themselves and actually look at what trail plus BRT or LRT would look like in this corridor. There’s a lot that would need to change and no elected official seems willing to admit that there are actual hard choices and tradeoffs to be made.

      1. With mutli-family residential booming in Kirkland downtown, Google’s campus expansion (opening later this year) and Parkplace redevelopment downtown (beginning in 2016), we are close to meeting the criteria for downtown also being a designated urban center today. It is something the city is considering.

        Jay Arnold
        Kirkland City Council

      2. Now we just have to get Ballard/Fremont and Lake City added too. The problem apparently is that their job numbers fall below the county’s formula, ironically since they have a better balance of jobs and housing. So we’d like the suburban cities’ help in this, to either fix the formula or give them an exception. It’s insane that Totem Lake and Issaquah can be urban centers when Ballard/Fremont and Lake City can’t, and it’s warping our regional transit planning.

    2. No, it’s a good thing that the ERC with a high speed busway doesn’t run through downtown Kirkland. It would ruin downtown Kirkland.

  9. Or Sound Transit can go big and build rail to Kirkland in ST3. Preferably rail that serves Kirkland better than the ERC.

    BRT issues:

    1. BRT is not a downpayment on rail. It’s a separate investment.

    2. BRT inevitably gets watered down/the ERC doesnt really serve Kirkland. See: Rapid Ride.

    3. BRT does not vote. Experiment – go outside your office to 10 random people. First ask them if they want rail to Kirkland. For those that say yes (guess: about 8/10) ask them what BRT stands for (guess: about 2/8.)

    In the upside, the Eastside should be able to successfully push ST for a major rail investment in ST3. Seattle Subway invites you to join that effort.

    1. Seriously, Keith. A bus that gets me where I’m going beats a train that won’t any day. That’ll vote just fine.

      An uncertain promise of a train in ST4 or ST5 will not vote better than BRT in ST3.

      I appreciate Seattle Subway’s advocacy for better rail solutions. But there’s ample evidence that Sound Transit will not pursue any rail solution between Bellevue and Kirkland in ST3, far less the higher-quality higher-priced LRT you’ve recommended. There is no “go big”.

      1. Dan: Going big is most definitely in play gaining momentum – including a better version of Eastside rail. Past signals or not.

        I agree that we shouldnt be planning for the distant chance of ST4 and should make the most of ST3. I also agree that busses and bus improvements are very much a part of any robust transit network.

        We disagree only on what is possible in ST3 and I would say broadly disagree on what the Eastside will vote for.

      2. What’s leading you to think better eastside rail is still in play? That sounds great, but I haven’t seen any signs of it.

      3. William: We’ve been speaking to local politicians and ST Staff.

        Side note: Phoenix just passed a huge/long term plan in an off-cycle election. It is entirely possible.

      4. I have to emphasize again that you can build light rail without going whole-hog over-the-top gold-plated. Seattle’s “Light Rail” is practically a subway everywhere except MLK. MLK is similar to the typical section of a light rail line. But light rail lines can go down to South Lake Union Streetcar level for a few blocks, and sometimes do.

        For a more realistic (but still quite high-end) example of “light rail”, look at the NJ RiverLine, which runs in streets and alleys in downtown Camden, along a freight line for most of its length, and then on exclusive tracks next to streets in Trenton.

    2. Whatever method we choose. It should actually go to downtown Kirkland, not around the edges. Useful transit takes you places not almost to places.

    3. “1. BRT is not a downpayment on rail. It’s a separate investment.” Keith, please apply this logic to bus tunnels too. Sincerely, someone who really wants to be a Subway supporter but isn’t quite there. :)

      1. James – The WSTT is very much our plan B. Check out our response to SDOT from last week for an update on what we think DT should look like in ST3. :).

    4. Come on Keith. You are smarter than that. Let’s see:

      1. BRT is not a downpayment on rail. It’s a separate investment.

      Nonsense. The bus tunnel (now transit tunnel) through downtown Seattle could be considered the biggest investment in BRT this city ever made. Buses ran with off board payment and were grade separated. This would be very similar, whether it was closed or open. By the way, the tunnel is by far the most productive part of our light rail system to date, since trips through downtown make up the bulk of ridership.

      2. BRT inevitably gets watered down/the ERC doesnt really serve Kirkland. See: Rapid Ride.

      You could say the same thing about light rail. Rather than four stops between the UW and downtown (arguably the most important section in the state) there is one. One!. If that isn’t watered down, I don’t know what is. Oh, and look at the bus tunnel again (sorry, transit tunnel). In what way is it watered down?

      3. BRT does not vote. Experiment – go outside your office to 10 random people. First ask them if they want rail to Kirkland. For those that say yes (guess: about 8/10) ask them what BRT stands for (guess: about 2/8.)

      Please cite the study that says that light rail is necessarily more popular than express buses. All we have is anecdotal evidence, and so far, it favors the opposite (first ST vote failed because of too much rail. Second vote passed with less rail and more bus service). To paraphrase this article,, there was just enough rail in Seattle for voters to favor it, and just enough express service in the suburbs for voters there to favor it.

      If your strongest argument for LRT over BRT (in a particular area) is that voters are stupid, and won’t understand that a better project can be built, I don’t think you have much of a case.

      There are areas where BRT makes sense. There are areas where LRT makes sense. Figuring out which areas are appropriate for each technology is what we should do. Mr. Arnold did a great job, in this case, and should be applauded for his work.

      1. I completely agree that ERC BRT has great value for Kirkland,

        But if the plan is to route all 405-buses to ERC then the riders from Lynnwood, Everett and Bothell will definitely see increased travel times to Bellevue (except maybe when there is an accident on 405). Considering the time it will take for the bus to leave the freeway at 128th, get onto the busway at Totem Lake, make all the stops in Kirkland and leave the riders at Wilburton Station requiring them to transfer to East Link for one station, I don’t see how in its current proposed form this will be consistently faster than directly riding 532/535 (or its BRT equivalent) to BTC.

        While I support BRT on ERC for Kirkland, I think it should be supplemented by low-cost improvements on 405 ( possibly converting one of the new express lanes as bus-only) to benefit riders from north of Kirkland.

      2. @Kedar.

        My personal recommendation would be to include a transfer point at Totem Lake so that riders on I-405 BRT could get to the ERC service. Those who just want to get to Bellevue would continue on via I-405.

        There are some interesting benefits to having I-405 BRT go via the ERC. Access to Kirkland and certain places in north Bellevue. Access to SR 520 service. But on balance, I expect it makes more sense to have both corridors. Let the Totem Lake transfer point take care of those who need to get to the ERC service.

      3. @Dan

        i agree. If the proposed growth in Kirkland pans out, a sizeable number of people will want to get there from further north A transfer point at Totem Lake will help people travelling from north and even from south, especially if Totem Lake does go on to become a big employment center.

      4. Ross: Thanks for the compliment. :)

        1). I was just referring to BRT in the ERC. I was the first draft author of the WSTT, FWIW.

        2). Rail requires effort and vigilance by stakeholders and advocates up front to get it right. BRT tends to lose parts of that first round and requires an ongoing effort to battle the forces that want whatever ROW BRT is able to secure.

        3). ST2 in 2007 lost because of the roads part. That’s an uncontroversial opinion. The most recent chance to vote on busses that the Eastside had – Prop 1 last year – buses lost by nearly 20 points.

        I’m not saying they are stupid. I’m just saying your opinions are a bit boutique (as are mine) and that the Eastside has demonstrated a strong preference for rail via their voting patern.

      5. As far as BRT vs. LRT, has anyone lived next to an active rail or bus route to understand how each one sounds?

        I think the neighbors of the ERC would wonder.

        I know I prefer Electrified rail as a neighbor.

      6. I’ve lived next to an active bus route coming every ten minutes well into the night. It wasn’t too bad – noticeable, yes, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

      7. OK, look, I’ve read literally dozens of studies on rail bias. You don’t have to take my word for it, you can Google them yourself; the rail bias starts at 10% and is higher in some areas and at some times.

        Philadelphia replaced 40-year-old street-running trolleys on bad track with brand new air conditioned buses at the height of the automobile mania and saw an immediate large *drop* in ridership, well beyond the drop already happening. That’s perhaps the most dramatic example.

        Replacing bus service with identical trolley service routinely bumps ridership back up by about 10%.

        Anyone who’s claiming that buses are “as popular as rail” is just wrong, and needs to do their research.

      8. “There are areas where BRT makes sense. There are areas where LRT makes sense. Figuring out which areas are appropriate for each technology is what we should do.”

        Yes. If you have large arterials with existing pavement to put bus lanes on, BRT makes sense. If you have an off-road partially grade separated rail corridor, LRT makes sense. Geez, people, it’s not really complicated.

  10. SoundTransit does have an easement, but it is not for BRT – it is for freight rail. They would need to pay surrounding landowners more money to use ERC as a BRT corridor.

    1. Jason, that’s not correct. Sound Transit’s easement in the Kirkland area is for high-capacity transit. Either BRT or LRT.

      What you’re thinking of is the portion of the rail corridor between Bellevue and Renton. There were some areas along there (particularly Kennydale, I think) where BNSF did not own the ROW but merely had a freight rail easement. So when the ERC was acquired, the County ended up with a mess of legal claims. The homeowners have claimed that the freight easement that did exist can not be used for transit (untested in court as far as I know, but probably correct).

      But irrelevant to Kirkland/Bellevue in any case. The City of Kirkland has fee simple ownership of all of the relevant portion of the corridor within its city limits. The portion in Bellevue is owned by Sound Transit (around Wilburton station), or the City of Bellevue and King County (elsewhere).

      1. It’s not a “freight rail” easement — it’s a “rail” easement.

        The county can use it for passenger rail transit. But almost certainly not for buses.

      2. Nathanael, go back and read my comment. ST has a transit easement in the Kirkland area – good for passenger rail and bus alike.

        The freight easement issue is in the Renton area, and not relevant to this discussion. Nobody is suggesting running transit on the former rail corridor to Renton.

      3. To explain more fully, the original 19th century easements were for running a railroad — passenger and/or freight. They didn’t have an artificial distinction between “freight railroad” and “passenger railroad” back then. It’s well-established that you can run a passenger-only railroad on one of those easements, no freight required. It’s also established that that railroad doesn’t have to be a big FRA-regulated railroad like Sounder, it can be mass transit. It’s still rails.

  11. My favorite line in this piece: “Instead of just connecting cities on a map, Sound Transit should connect places…”

  12. There is unfortunately a tendency to describe everything with rubber tires and a strategy to make speeds faster as BRT. It’s common for elected officials to throw out the term “BRT” for everything from arterial transit signal priority and limited-stop buses to traditional express bus service and median freeway stops. I’m growing to really dislike the term. It leads to lots of confusion about operating speeds, vehicle design, paid boarding areas, branding, station spacing and all sorts of other operational details. Many of the discussion comments indicate some obvious concerns because of this vagueness. Different people have completely different visions of what BRT is and how it should work.

    The proposal here is more specifically for a “busway segment”. The word “busway” is not presented by the author. Thankfully, several posters use the term.

    There are many “BRT” projects in the ST3 list, yet they would all have very different operational characteristics.

    I suggest that anytime that “BRT” gets used, it should have an adjective associated with it — arterial BRT, BAT lane BRT, high-speed busway BRT, exclusive BRT street, freeway BRT, etc. This discussion is about a proposed ??-mph ERC Busway BRT.

    1. I agree. I reluctantly used the term when promoting West Seattle BRT. It was just a lot easier to write than “West Seattle bus improvements”. That being said, I do feel, at the very least, that West Seattle BRT does pass the sniff test. A busway would be added, such that much of the shared corridor would be grade separated (making it Open BRT). Off board payment and level boarding is a must through there, and easily accomplished. So I don’t think it is a stretch to call it Open BRT, even though the main accomplishment is miles and miles of busway through an urban environment (with appropriate stop spacing).

      By the way, as much as people (justifiably) hate on RapidRide, it really only misses one piece of the BRT equation. Unfortunately, it is the most important piece. Who cares if you can board really quickly if the bus is stuck in traffic? In that sense, you are absolutely correct — the most important part is the grade separation, not the other parts.

      As far as this project is concerned, I really don’t care what it is called. But if you want to compare it to light rail, then I think it is fair to call it BRT. Either it follows the same path or it deviates (and thus becomes Open BRT). Either way, it can serve the same number of stops (if not more) and travel at the same speed, making it as much BRT as a rail line is “light rail” (as opposed to a “streetcar”).

      1. I politely suggest calling your concept “West Seattle Busway BRT”. Mere “West Seattle BRT” comes off sounding like it’s just RapidRide because the term is so vague.

    2. I strongly agree. BRT is a useless marketing term which causes nothing but trouble.

      Busways… well, I think building busways is a terrible, terrible idea. Every time I’ve seen a busway built, it should have been a rail line. Bus *lanes* are another matter entirely; bus lanes are great.

      But by the time you’re into the sort of volumes where you would consider a full-fat bus*way*, you need the capacity of rail.

      1. The distinction here is that a bus lane is on a road which carries cars in other lanes. A busway is going off somewhere completely separate from the road.

      2. Except, you’re assuming the volumes at the particular point where we’re building a busway are present over the whole corridor. The advantage of the West Seattle Busway would be that a half-dozen routes could all use it on their combined segment, whereas with rail, the same buses would need to run parallel or the vast majority of passengers would have to transfer.

  13. As a resident of Bothell, I’d like to hear what impact ERC L/BRT will have on 405 express buses. Will ST commit to continue running the 532/535 on 405? Or will they divert them to the ERC? People use 405 buses because its faster than driving themselves. The 405 express lanes will (hopefully) make that even more true. But any diversion to Kirkland will make that not true any longer, no matter how well you do it. If you consider ERC as only a way to provide transit to Kirkland and Totem Lake, it may make sense. But if you consider it the only transit link along the 405 corridor (in that area), many people will be unhappy with it.

  14. I’ll reiterate what I said in the editorial post, which no one made any comments on: The ST3 PPL already has *light rail* in the ERC as a project! Why on earth would Kirkland, or STB, or anyone else want to discount their assessment that’s in favor of light rail? The letter suggests that we should spend tons of money now to build BRT and then spend even more later to upgrade it to LRT. With the current speed at which sound transit is building out projects, it will likely be until 2040 to get the BRT finished, and another 20 years to convert to LRT (complete guesses for years). So why not skip the first step, jump straight to building light rail?

    With the way that BRT is built in this region, I honestly believe that it’s no better than express buses. LRT will be vastly superior to BRT, hands down. We shouldn’t build out an inferior mode of transport now, we should build out the superior method now.

    1. I’m not sure why you think it would be inferior. It is simply a matter of picking the best tool for the job. Kirkland is not that heavily populated (given its charms, I’m surprised at how sparsely populated it is) nor is it a major job center (there are some jobs, just not a huge number). In short, if they build light rail, not that many people would ride it. This means that a train would run less often (given the higher operating costs, it doesn’t make sense to run the vehicle half full). So BRT would simply run more often.

      Then you have the fact that BRT can deviate easily from the ERC. It can go to downtown Kirkland (and back) without much hassle. The buses simply drive down the road. Call this Open BRT, or call the ERC a busway — I don’t care — but it works. So, basically, you could have a train run rarely and not serve that many people, or you could have a bus run a lot more often, and serve the most important spots in Kirkland. It seems like the latter makes a lot more sense.

      Now, if someday Kirkland becomes like South Lake Union, then by all means, convert the busway into a rail way. But until then, this will do nicely.

      1. If Kirkland is as busy as the guest poster thinks it is, it should have LRT now.

        If it’s half as busy, it should have LRT now.

        If it’s a quarter as busy… it shouldn’t have a busway.

        If the roads are so empty and uncrowded that the buses can “simply drive down the road” to Kirkland without getting delayed, then *you don’t need or want a busway*.

        If the roads are congested and busy so that you need a busway, *then you have enough traffic that you need a light rail streetcar*.

      2. If you can’t fill a bus, then by all means don’t run a train.
        If you can fill a bus every 15 minutes, but not two buses, then you can’t justify an off-road busway.
        If you can fill enough buses to justify a busway, you need rail.

        I don’t know why people can’t figure this out. Every single busway which has ever been built, worldwide, has ended up with one of two results:
        (a) it was overbuilt: they would have been better off with buses on bus lanes on the road
        (b) it was underbuilt: they needed the capacity of light rail.

        There just is no niche for busways. Several cities have found this out the hard way, including Seattle and Ottawa (on the underbuilt side), and LA and Pittsburgh (on both the underbuilt and the overbuilt sides, on different lines).

  15. My gut tells me from Kirkland’s perspective, this is mostly about wanting to please Google. But since I don’t get stars in my eyes when high tech comes to town, I’d tell ’em, Boeing doesn’t have light rail or BRT, and neither does Starbucks or Amazon, so tiny little Google, even after it “doubles in size,” can do without it, as well.

    God, I hope this politician doesn’t get his wish. People need tranquil, quiet green spaces in their community. Generations from now , when Kirkland is crammed with more development, people will have wished people like him fought to save the greenbelt instead of taking part of it for transit.

    1. Er… Starbucks and Amazon both have light rail (in very different forms), and Amazon’s about to get BRT.

  16. BRT will be studied along the ERC over the next few months (ST E6), so step one done. I hope Kirkland Council can show a united front and get Bellevue to fully support this over the I-405 corridor. Your work is cut out for you CM Arnold. I wish you well.
    BTW, ST will have lots of experience gluing rails to concrete when I-90 gets going. Be sure the same technique can be applied to the busway concrete and have them put in the proper grounding system for rails from the git-go, else we learned nothing from the DSTT fiasco.

  17. I am still bummed that BNSF, WSDOT, the Port, and the local cities managed to destroy a valuable freight rail corridor — the ERC was the only surviving rail route west of the Cascades which isn’t falling into the ocean. Next time the coastal corridor is covered in mudslides, or when the sea level rises to wash it out completely, you’re going to wish that the ERC was present *as a freight rail corridor*.

    What’s really gross is that the ERC was railbanked specifically to preserve it, and it’s been chopped apart, bridges removed, dismantled anyway. This isn’t how railbanking is supposed to work.

  18. The trail is far too valuable a commodity to destroy with transit. The rail line was rarely ever used, but the trail has plenty of families and joggers, walkers and bicyclists. Keep transit in the transit corridor of I405. Let green, clean and lean prosper…don’t destroy everything of healthful joy for more transit through neighborhoods, schools, wetlands that will be a crowning jewel for generations to come.

    1. “The trail is far too valuable a commodity to destroy with transit.”

      This should be chiseled in stone,
      or at least the concrete blocks Kirkland has put up on the ROW.

  19. This sounds like a great idea it would certainly be faster and cheaper than using 405 and it keeps the rail corridor from being lost to non transit purposes which would be a huge mistake.

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