Here in the Puget Sound region we are blessed with hundreds of miles of regional bike trails, from the paved non-motorized highway of the Burke-Gilman Trail to the smooth dirt of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. But nearly without exception, our trails are a series of disparate pieces. They peter out in random places, their right-of-way subsumed by some long ago development, or they are constructed in torturous phases, waiting for further crumbs to fall from the appropriations table.
But what if they all connected, every last one of them? What if they offered a comprehensive network from Anacortes to Enumclaw, and from Gig Harbor to the Columbia River? We’re closer to this vision than you might think. To qualify, each trail segment could be paved or soft-surface, but the important thing would be to remove discontinuity, detours, or sections in busy traffic.
I’ve put together a draft* of a highly stylized map that weaves together each of the disparate strands into something resembling a seamless network. Fully built, this would be a national gem of a trail system, stretching 915 miles across coastal wetlands, river valleys, mountain passes, pastoral landscapes, and bustling urban corridors.
Cascade Line: Did you know that just 3 miles separate us from a continuous 180-mile trail from Golden Gardens to the Columbia River? Only three (expensive) pieces remain: the endlessly litiguous Burke-Gilman Missing Link, the closed trestle connecting the end of the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail to Old Snoqualmie, and the closed (but still standing) Renslow Bridge over I-90 between Ellensburg and Vantage.
Foothills Line: From the Stillaguamish River Valley in Darrington to the desert near Vantage, we’re just 32 miles short of a 230-mile trail, with gaps from Oso-Arlington and Snohomish-Duvall.
Interurban Line: How about a bike version of the Everett-Tacoma spine? On the “Interurban Line”, we’re just missing the stretches from Bitter Lake-Downtown Seattle, Algona-Milton, and Fife-Tacoma. A spur along the Green River Trail adds variety, and three short connections (Pacific-Sumner Meadows, Sumner-Alderton, and South Prairie-Buckley) are all that stand between a continuous path from Everett to Enumclaw.
Northern Pacific Line: So close yet so far. This line imagines a continuous trail from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal all the way to Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend. Much of it is either built or in planning, namely the Centennial Trail from Skagit County to Snohomish, the Eastside Rail Corridor from Totem Lake to South Kirkland, and the Cedar River Trail from Renton to Maple Valley. But much remains for this trail to become a reality, including Anacortes to Arlington, Snohomish to Woodinville (planning on hold), an upgrade to the signed Lake Washington Loop route from South Kirkland to Renton, and an unlikely reopening and trail conversion of the Milwaukee Road in the Cedar River watershed.
Lake Washington Line: Imagine if Bicycle Sundays were Bicycle Everydays. From the UW Link Station and the planned Arboretum Trail, imagine a full-time connection down Lake Washington Blvd to Renton, where the line could intersect with the Northern Pacific Line.
Central Line: This line is almost done! From Downtown Seattle to Issaquah Highlands, we just need a better connection from Downtown the the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and a (planned) upgrade of stretches near Eastgate and Newport Way.
Eastside Line: From Seattle to Redmond, we’re also well on our way. We’re less than two years away from a continuous path from Redmond to Montlake over 520. A smart connection between the 520 bridge and Eastlake, along with the planned upgrade to Eastlake itself in the Bicycle Master Plan, will give us a bike-friendly technology corridor unlike any other.
Elliott Bay Line: Again, what if you could ride from Golden Gardens to Fauntleroy along Elliott Bay traffic-free? With some attention paid to the connection between Shilshole and the Interbay Trail (either over the Locks or via an upgraded Ballard Bridge), and upgraded bike facilities between Alki and Fauntleroy, this trail could be fully realized.
Tahoma Line: The Tacoma Narrows and Commencement Bay offer some of the most underrated riding in the region. With upgrades between Downtown Tacoma to Puyallup, you could ride continuously from Gig Harbor or Point Defiance to Enumclaw through the Puyallup and Carbon River valleys.
Vashon Line: This is one so lightly trafficked that maybe it doesn’t even need upgrades, but I thought it warranted inclusion due to the awesomeness of the bike and ferry loops it enables. My favorite lazy day loop is the Vashon Water Taxi, a ride down the island, the Tahlequah-Point Defiance ferry, a ride from Ruston to Tacoma along Commencement Bay, and then Sounder home.
Soos Creek Line: A short spur off the Lake Washington and Northern Pacific Lines, this connects the Cedar River up into the highlands of Fairwood and Kent East Hill, allowing for a continuous ride down the underrated linear Soos Creek Park.
Here is another map roughly showing the disconnectedness of our current network. What do you think it would take to fill it in? Who wants to help get behind a movement to do it?
*This first draft likely has many errors, omissions, or other problems. Please let me know what I’ve missed!
90 Replies to “A Vision for a Comprehensive Regional Bike Trail Network”
This is SO terrific, Zach
This is vision.
It’s impressive that so much has been built… and yet every single route has key gaps in it. This is a *plan*, which is what was lacking before.
At least Pierce County is working on connecting the Foothills Trail through to Buckley and hopefully to Enumclaw. From what I’ve heard, this will definitely include replacing the downed bridge.
What would really make the day would be for the foothills trail to extend further to the southeast to the Carbon River entrance of Mt. Rainier. This would open up all sorts of bike/hike camping opportunities. The carbon river road is already a walk/bike trail past the ranger station, due to a past washout, and if you keep going, you can connect to all the major park trails, including the Wonderland Trail.
There is a branch of the the trail that gets all the way to Melmont, but it’s below the Fairfax Bridge (the main road) by quite a bit.
I just rode out to the National Park entrance last Sunday, and if they just improved the part from South Prairie to this trail entrance, it’d significantly improve the ride as there wouldn’t be any steep hill climbing in traffic (the shoulder vanishes in inconvenient places). Traffic past there is light, and is extremely light on NDFR 78 past the split SR-165 takes to Mowich Lake.
Great map Zach, and great idea too. This is really achievable and makes a lot of sense to complete and with elections just around the corner, a nice talking point for candidates looking for some fresh material.
[edit function] Zach, not Zack
Absolutely great. Send this to Harrell and watch him squirm over all the blanks in the CD/Rainier Valley area, one of the most dangerous areas to bike in Seattle…
A little further afield, a couple of state senators cozy with local landowners are trying to close a 135-mile section of the John Wayne trail and give the land to adjacent owners.
Yeah, typos won’t always save us.
Even scarier is what else slipped through the capital budget that wasn’t held-up because of typos.
I recently biked the John Wayne from North Bend to Spokane, including the portion east of vantage that was proposed for closure and saved by a typo. I oppose closure, and while the trail is rough going, it is a resource that if improved with water access and pit toilets and tent pads could be a fantastic resource for tourism and really help the economies of the little towns along 200 miles of central and eastern Washington.Completing the link from Seattle to Spokane and Idaho and Montana would be a huge step in a trail network that someday could be a cross country non-motorized trail system to rival those of Europe in grandeur and usability.
Excellent idea! The other day I was just looking at the pedestrian overpass in the eastgate area of Bellevue and wishing our region had more of them. Perhaps more could be built to connect bike trails that are near each other, like the Cascade and Eastside trails are near the UW. BTW, I don’t think it was you, but someone spelled misspelled Northup on the map key. (Northrup Connector?).
Just a thought … Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t have more ped/bike overpasses is that we overbuild them these days, and they end up costing $25 million dollars, like Northgate’s will cost, and $20 million for the OTC ped/bike bridge. If we went back and built them like the Eastgate style: Simple, conservative in design, small … then we’d be much more likely to build them, and have more of them.
That sounds very appealing, but I’ve looked at the designs for the OTC and Northgate bridges, and they don’t seem substantially overbuilt. It makes me wonder, how much did the Eastgate bridge actually cost in current dollars? If it’s really less, what’re the concrete differences between them?
Here’s the Eastgate ped/bike bridge in Bellevue. It continues on for a ways beyond the trees to the left. I’m not sure how much it would cost to build it today, but looking at it, it would have to cost a fraction of the Northgate and OTC style.
Here’s the planned OTC bridge. At first glance, it looks basically like the Eastgate bridge plus a roof. If there’re really any efficiencies to be won here, I’m totally with you – but I don’t think we can make any real contrasts here without figures for the Eastgate bridge’s cost.
My understanding is that modern bike/ped bridges have a lower maximum gradient on ramps, which does make them more expensive (more concrete, more land needed). But that’s in service of disability accommodation, so I think it’s both legally and morally non-negotiable.
There’s nothing wrong with discussing costs, Sam, but for the future, another approach to them is in order. Up to now, both hiking and bike trails have been thought of in the negative, with emphasis on no cars.
But recalling an espresso cafe with a brief life in the loft building a few blocks from Fred Meyer, directly on the bike trail along Leary, I really wonder if our bike transportation system could develop and economy attached to it.
We’re starting to see commercial deliveries carried on chain drive equipment. So very much like, and maybe part, the light-industrial street rail program I’d like to see, and exactly like automobiles have always done, bike travel could support a lot of its own infrastructure by its own efforts.
Thanks for the thought, Sam.
Love the idea but first you need to get all the multiple agencies together (start with SDOT, King County, Port of Seattle, WSDOT, UW…) and come to a consensus on trail standards such as width, signage, road crossings, pedestrian/bike interaction, etc. Right now the trails segments you have shown as “complete” are a hodgepodge of different types of facilities with absolutely no consistency.
In addition there needs to be a dedicated maintenance fund for all of these trails as the status-quo is to build them, let them fall into complete disrepair, and pursue expensive replacements rather than cheaper routine maintenance.
This is actually a start because it gives an overall vision, a concrete reason to standardize and coordinate and maintain.
You’re quite right about the status quo, and the need for a standard trail maintenance budget.
What’s the route between downtown and “Duwamish Jct”? When I bike north from E. Marginal Way on that little bike path, it dumps me onto Alaskan Way before long. I suppose you can cut up Yesler fairly safely to 2nd Ave there, but I’d call that a currently missing link. It seems like a prime place to have a bike path, right along the waterfront/under Alaskan Way.
I’m guessing ‘Downtown’ there is actually the waterfront, as the ‘detour’ trail along Alaskan Way is mostly continuous, or at least was before the tunnel/viaduct mess.
So the destination is itself several blocks long, with no bike path or lane? Not sure what was there “before the current [2.5-year] mess” but last time I tried to bike north to Pike street 2 months ago, I was forced into the street from Yesler to Pike, or 8 blocks, which I’d call basically the length of downtown. As a consequence, I concluded that was a bad bike route and stopped trying.
Much like the UW BGT mess, it really grinds my gears how a local authority can take what everyone thought was a nice complete bike route (which apparently used to exist on the waterfront), and just wreck it it for 2+ years.
If we don’t replace the seawall that nice complete bike route will fall into the sea, along with the first couple blocks of the waterfront.
Part of that problem is 99 construction, I think. Isn’t the area by the ferry terminal still a mess?
It’s a well-known “Well Duh-uh!” that I look at the removal of the Waterfront streetcar line from project plans as something that deserves to be avenged.
Not only because of the insult to a friend of mine who helped build Seattle. But more for the design statement that the new Waterfront will be the KIND of place that works best with golf-carts for public transit.
Pay attention, Sam. Relaxing, outdoor exercise, and looking at beautiful scenery are things city people really need. Entertainment, ditto- though we need anti-suck laws with some teeth.
But since we’re essentially rebuilding an entire part of the city, it’s important that these activities be underlain and powered by the working economy that used to let salt-water ports earn a Foundation-free living.
Like the one the Viaduct replaced- but this time safe and healthy for people, as well as kinder to horses. We’re not talking refineries and steel mills. But manufacturing furniture, lighting fixtures, and bicycles themselves- as well as the breweries, coffee roasters, and distillers already coming in…
Recalling port cities past, I think close quarters with today’s new industries will make the relaxation part a lot more appealing and visitor-attractive than the standard boutique-bordered field of plazas.
So instead of grieving for streetcars past, I’m thinking about a future on the model of a historic past when electric locomotives pulled freight on same tracks as streetcars.
Interlaced with a bicycle-technology transportation network, with both systems specifically designed to be places people can not only not get run over or poisoned, but really like to live and work.
Original PR posters for the Waterfront project had visuals of the real project area as a ring around Elliott Bay. Providing plenty of space and earning enough money that there will be both funds and substations to restore street rail to the Central Waterfront. When interests entrenched there beg for it because somebody else got it first.
So I’d seriously like to see the bicycle program start working to develop the same order of supporting economy that the automobile industry did. Result will not only be better trails to ride.
Great map. Looks like nyc’s mta map. Thanks
Much more like Beck’s London tube map. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_map
OK, my comments are about the map, not the substance of your proposal.
My first thought was that this is very pretty map, but it doesn’t look like a bike map. Nor does it look like a road map. It looks like a transit map. The circles are big, with emphasis placed on their name (a label is clearly associated with each circle). It took me a while to figure out that you are simply designating distances between points. Fair enough. Quite often (with road maps) this is done with little tic marks. But circles are fine. Green Trails maps, for example, use circles (instead of tic marks) to designate distance between points. But they don’t emphasize the label. Quite often there is none, as it is often obvious (e. g. a lake, a pass or a trail intersection). There are exceptions (and this map should have a few) but I would consider that approach. In short, simplify.
I would reduce the number of circles. For example, Fremont to UW Station has two circles in between. I wouldn’t have any. It isn’t too difficult to figure out the rough distance to a destination in between there, and you would probably be just as accurate as the map.
By simplifying the map, you avoid having to write at an angle. This makes it much easier to read. You remove a lot of the clutter. The “UW Station” label is horizontal, and it becomes obvious what it is referring to. Obviously you would keep the circles that are at intersections. But if the segments between intersections aren’t large (say, over five miles) then I would just get rid of the circles and labels in between them. This makes it a lot easier to calculate mileage (the whole point of the circles in the first place). For example, looping around Lake Union would involve adding four numbers, not eight.
For longer segments, I would aim for around 3 to 5 miles between circles . So, for example, the Interurban Line looks fairly good, but I would get rid of the Alderwood Mall as well as the Greenwood circles.
By removing a lot of the circles, you can remove a lot of the labels. Some labels should remain, of course, but they become simplified and more general. For example, “Westlake Marina” just becomes “Westlake” (with no associated circle). “Interbay Yard” just becomes Interbay. You are designating an area, not the distance to a particular destination.
The other change I would make is to try and incorporate topography. From Fremont to Phinney may be less than two miles, but it is a very tough two miles. Most of these routes are fairly flat. If it isn’t, then it might be a good idea to mark it on the map (i. e. just mark the steep sections). I’ve seen bike maps with symbols for steep (>) and very steep (>>). Thus they mark both the slope as well as the direction of the slope.
Of course, since you are only listing about a dozen routes, you could simply give a topographic profile of each route. This is very common with hiking books (e. g. http://www.redwoodhikes.com/BigBasin/StoSprofilepreview.gif). The labels shown on the map should also be in the profile. When you read the map and compare it to the profile, you would get a very good idea of what you are getting yourself into.
Another transit-map-inspired thing that may not be appropriate for a bike network is the lines themselves, which routinely overlap for long distances (something transit lines do but roads and trails don’t) and don’t always consistently follow what most people would think of as continuous trails. (Thinking here of what happens in Issaquah, where the Central line veers off the I-90 trail into downtown while the Cascade line picks up the I-90 trail off of the Lake Sammamish trail.) I get that this is a transit blog, but the road network metaphor really is more appropriate than the transit metaphor.
(Side note: Have you ever actually biked the connection from downtown Issaquah back to the I-90 trail and the highlands? If you’re thinking of taking the path by the east side of the high school, it connects to the I-90/Sunset Way interchange along a pretty steep path that might actually have steps and that I actually missed my first time hiking it. Then it connects to the I-90 trail east of where the trail to the Highlands splits off, so you have to double back and basically turn all the way around twice, unless you want to go further east and hike through the forest of Grand Ridge Park to Central Park. Maybe the Cascade trail should go through downtown Issaquah while the Central line stays on the I-90 trail?)
I think I’ve got the solution to this problem. For bike trails and electric rail, a link to the “Satellite” mode in Mapquest, with future plans “photoshopped” in so they look realistic. Including bikes and riders, and streetcars and LRV’s.
For Bus Rapid Transit, use colored lines on the map. But most important of all, when lines are actually complete, paint the pavement in the correct colors, and also circles on the ground all the way around the stations.
Then paint all the buses the correct color for their line. Meantime…great job, Zach. Though chemistry, as we speak, is probably already inventing bike paint whose color and pattern can be controlled from an iPhone.
Go to: email@example.com. But watch out for hackers!
I find for planning maps, and this applies to transit fantasies as well, it is usually better to show things on a more detailed map. For planning, it really matters exactly where things go.
I’d call it an experiment to see how well a subway-map model works for bike trails. It’s appealing in some ways, and it’s worth refining.
The multi-line overlap was surprising at first, but it may make sense if there are major destinations at the ends. Still, the Soos Creek trail shows that a spur is immediately recognizable as “Just turn at the junction and continue on your way, no need for a through line”. The overlap between Renton and Maple Valley may make more sense because that is what subways do: they join for a highest-ridership segment and then diverge to different destinations. Again it depends on what the natural ends of each trail are, which is a judgment call.
The grid rule still applies, and trail hierarchies. Most people would say the primary trails are the BGT/Sammamish River, Mountains To Sound, and Interurban. So they should be favored when there are multiple possibilities. Mountains to Sound says “mountains”, so the “Central” trail should take the Beverley segment. The “Cascades” trail can have two short branches, one to the Issaquah Highlands and the other to Snoqualmie. Is there no trail from the Issaquah Highands to Redmond? That seems like a loss. There are small trails in the in-between area. The “Interurban” trail is famous for going from Everett to Tacoma, so it should do so. Is it possible to connect Puyallup and Sumner directly? Then the “Tahoma” trail could connect The Gig and Pt Defiance to Buckley with a stub branch to Sumner and Algona, and the “Interurban” trail could go to Tacoma Dome. (I don’t know what the Interurban did in Tacoma. In Everett I saw it terminated at Colby & Pacific.)
The main problem is it doesn’t reflect the relative effort of riding each segment. In a train network you simply sit on the train between stations, but in a bicycle network it’s all human-powered pedaling. The miles between each station is a start. I don’t think the station metaphor is right for a continuous network, so I would replace the hollow station circles with solid black dots. That would indicate more “just a location” rather than “the only exit points”. I would also make the overlapping segments different, perhaps a rectangle around the entire overlap rather than station ovals, indicating that you can “transfer” anywhere along the overlap. I would use ovals only at T’s.
Incline markers are very important for users.
The way the lines are stylized like transit lines is sort confusing to me… and encourages omission of stuff like the South Ship Canal Trail and North Creek Trail, that doesn’t fit into a particular regional “line”. I don’t think transit lines make a great analog for roads or trails. Some of the geographic distortions are weird — the Sammamish River Trail really goes more north-south past the “winery district”, which probably needs to be farther east on the map. The Interurban North… has important parts that don’t go straight north-south.
The Interurban North is a greenway as far south as… 77th maybe? I’d count that, as any trail through that street network would likely be worse. The most likely connection that gets you out of arterial traffic (and onto a gentler hill) south of there would also include diversion to a proposed greenway: either west to 6th Ave W or east through Woodland Park and down Woodland Park Ave (this one needs more work).
For the Interurban “Line” south of downtown I’d follow the planned Airport Way PBL, which supposedly should be built as far as Georgetown in a few years.
In general there are too many empty spaces… that don’t distinguish between the spaces that need some local route completion (much of Seattle), spaces that lack any semblance of local routes (many denser parts of Snohomish County, South King County, Bellevue), and spaces filled with truly impassable obstacles (the Issaquah Alps). Those are vitally important distinctions! Some of these should be filled with “lines” that would be regionally important in their own right. Edmonds-Lynnwood-Canyon Park (via 524)-Bothell would have a lot more to do with comprehensiveness of the regional network than Anacortes, Vahson, or Black Diamond. There are actually existing efforts to connect up the Des Moines Creek Trail through Burien, SeaTac, Tukwila, and Renton.
This is really cool and shows a different perspective than the King County bike map. That map shows a lot of colored lines on streets that aren’t really bike trails and many are not pleasant to ride on. This one shows that there are a lot of holes in our system.
I keep hearing that the Renton to Des Moines trail (Lake to Sound trail L2S) is coming soon but haven’t seen official project status on it for a while. If so, it would connect Renton to the Interurban which looks like 20 miles on this map. Some of these lines need to be squished together a bit to make it a little more reasonable on some of the distances.
Why is the Burke Gilman/Sammamish River trail on the missing list? As far as I know, 8th NW to somewhere past Marymoor Park (east entrance) is open, with the exception of the UW construction which will be done in a year, and the part in Woodinville where it dumps into a single-family street for a few blocks.
The Burke/Sammamish is the best way to get to the Grand Opening of McMenamin’s in Bothell on Thursday.
The bottom map shows trails that *do* exist. Or is it something else that’s confusing you?
Never mind. I was inconsistently looking at do and don’t.
why is it so unlikely to get access through the Cedar River watershed? Is this a water security issue? Surely that is surmountable even with post 9/11 paranoia – the route is in place, and it’s below the resevoir proper, so security should be very managable. Who should be prodded on this (which agenices). Each time I ride either side of that it just burns me you can’t get through when it’s so logical and so possible and so wonderful in result. If there is a person or group with whom I could work to this end, please email me.
Read Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift”. She starts out by describing the rural water district pump house that serves her house and maybe six others. National Security Administration required and paid for a huge security perimeter and fence to be established around the thing.
Your first task is going to be to restore sensibility to this whole post 9-11 fear all and lockup everything mentality. Good luck with that.
When I took a walk down the lower Interurban Trail from Auburn Station to the end in Pacific, intending to go east along the White River trail, there was a wall blocking the trail and park. I assumed it was flood preparations.
If you went down Third Ave in Pacific from the end of the Interurban, yes, that big green barrier is a flood wall to keep the White River from overflowing into residential areas until after some levy removal work on the east bank is completed. There’s no trail along that portion of the White River anyway, King County Flood Control doesn’t like trails in flood storage property.
But there is a connection of sorts southbound. Take that left at the end of the Interurban, then take a right at Pacific City Hall, and follow the road south to Stewart Road. (Which is a mess right now because of construction, but it’s passable.)
Take a left on Stewart Road, over the railroad tracks and past the narrow bridge, and the Sumner Link Trail is on your right.
From what I understand, the Cedar River Watershed is completely off-limits except for very specific circumstances (employees doing their thing, tours) and always has been, to maximize the quality of the water harvested from it by allowing it to be untouched by human activity as much as possible. Running a public trail through there would risk polluting the water through things trail users might not even think about doing. What would the prospects be of a trail paralleling SR 18 from Maple Valley to Snoqualmie?
Not only has it always been that way (and always should be), even when the Milwaukee Road traversed it the trains were obligated to close and lock the bathrooms for the duration of their time in the watershed. Back then of course the waste was simply dumped onto the tracks.
It’s also about as pristine a location as remains in the Washington Cascades for animal life because of the extremely limited human presence. The watershed should remain off-limits in perpetuity.
I would love to see a trail along SR-18. There is a great existing trail along the Snoqualmie Parkway between Railroad and 96th that would be your starting point.
On the Railroad end, it connects to Centennial trail (which was recently rebuilt) into downtown Snoqualmie and whose logical extension would be a connection to the Preston-Snoqualmie trail (if the trestle can be reopened/rebuilt), and across the bridge to the falls and the currently under construction Tokul Road roundabout. This gives nice connections to both the “Cascades” and “Foothills” trails.
On the other end, the paved portion of the trail ends and the dirt portion of the trail turns away from the parkway near 96th st. It would seem a relatively simple job to extend this the extra half mile to the I-90/SR-18 interchange.
This is where soon it will be important to keep an eye on things. I think there was $150 million included in the transportation package for the start of rebuilding this interchange, with the eventual plans to include a whole series of new ramps, flyovers and a pair of traffic circles, all connecting to a rebuilt 4 lane SR-18. See proposal map at the following link: http://www.livingsnoqualmie.com/good-news-for-i-90sr-18-improvement-project-house-adds-to-transportation-package/
There is a long way to go on the overall project, but I think I’ve read that the initial $150 million is intended for planning, designing, and building a flyover from westbound I-90 to Westbound SR-18, along with other planning and designing of the overall interchange. It is going to be important to stay ahead of this one, ensuring that pedestrian/bike access is maintained with the new interchange design. As well as advocating for a trail paralleling SR-18 when they get around to widening it.
Lest anyone underestimate the transit implications:
At TriMet’s Lents / Foster station there are several people per trip on bus route 10 that transfer to MAX, even though Harold Street is about 1/4 mile from the MAX station. The bike path provides an easy, straight, safe, uninstructed by most auto traffic (cross Harold but that’s it) route between the two.
The new Park Avenue station has far more people walking to it from the surrounding neighborhood than I expected to see, but the station was built next to a bike path that provides a good walking route. Despite the fact the station is at Park Avenue, I have yet to see anyone get to the station using that narrow, dangerous death trap with no shoulder, bike path, sidewalk, or even gravel suggestion of a safe refuge.
Results are definitely mixed, with some stations having lots of use of parallel bike paths to get there, while others have nearly none.
Ha. uninstructed = unobstructed.
Auto correct did nasty things on this one. Among other things it attempted to turn walkshed into “ax head”.
Oh, yeah, and lest you think TriMet is unuslly progressive about such things, they also created this catastrophe of planning:
The map leaves a lot to be desired. It is set up like a transit map, and the bottom line is that having multiple “lines” overlap where only one trail exists, just does not make sense for a cyclist or pedestrian. Also, naming is inconsistent with what actually exists. Interurban does not “split” for a few miles in the valley. No, the Green River Trail, which is separately named, branches off of it. Same at the south end of it. The Interurban follows the old Interurban train line and the branch to the southeast is the “Sumner Link” or “White River Trail”. It has absolutely nothing to do with Interurban, other than that there is a goal to connect them someday soon. The one thing that I do like about the graphic is its simplicity. If we could get accurate trail names identified (it may require more colors and/or actual labels), it does a good job of simply identifying where the routes go and associated mileage. (I also like the previous commenter’s suggestion to identify hills, although that adds to the complexity of the map, so it could go either way.)
FYI, grant applications are out on a number of trail segments and are in the pipeline for funding in the next few years. A lot of these small agencies (Fife, Milton, Sumner, Pacific, Algona, Enumclaw, Edgewood, Buckley, etc) do not have the tax base to build all of these amenities without outside funding. As far as maintenance goes, the same can be said for the smaller agencies. City of Auburn’s previous mayor made a big fuss about how state and federal grants exist to build all kinds of new facilities but no grants are out there for routine maintenance, and that the past decade of Initiatives (sponsored by an unnamed psudo-politician) has made it extremely difficult for cities to impose taxes to pay for maintenance. So… as a previous commenter has pointed out, we need to have a funding mechanism for maintenance rather than letting things go into disrepair, so write to your representatives in Olympia.
Thanks, Zach for taking the time to create these two graphics. I know that it takes a lot of time work and research to create these things. Please take my criticism as suggestions for improvement. I am confident that version 2 will be an improvement over this draft. Well done for a first stab.
What part of the Wilapa Hills trail (Raymond to Chehalis) has a substantial tax base? Even the two biggest cities at each end are far from prosperous. Place like Lebam have several houses, a store, and not much else. Both cities at each end, however, have a decent vision for tourist and local trail use. The state did/does too, but sadly that vision was cut short by the State Parks must Pay Their Own Way mandate from the state legislature.
A little update on one of those small-jurisdiction gaps — in Pacific, construction is expected yet this fall on the new trail segment on the north side of the Stewart Road / 8th St road project, which will *almost* connect to the Sumner Link Trail. (The remaining gap will be roughly the section from the railroad through the bridge over the White River — both are very expensive crossings to upgrade, but the plans are there if funding ever becomes available.)
The Legislature this year also funded extension of the Interurban south from where it currently ends in Pacific, to reach that new Stewart Road trail. Within the next year or two, most of the gap between the Interurban and Sumner Link Trail will be closed, making the remaining gap even more attractive for grant funding.
Josh, this is great news!
It gets better. Here’s what Sumner has to say in its grant proposal for replacing the bridge on the White River:
“The 10.5 foot walk on the north side of the proposed bridge will connect the regional trail system to provide an uninterrupted, non-motorized corridor from Tukwila to Mount Rainier.”
Tukwila to Mount Rainier. (Since Sumner expects to have its other trail gaps filled before the bridge is fixed.) Now that’s something to get excited about!
“naming is inconsistent with what actually exists”
That is a point. I think it needs to defer more to the names and endpoints that have been established in people’s minds with much work over the past thirty years. But it’s OK to “extend” a trail in a natural grid direction, or use the name to absorb a short connecting branch, which could then be called “X Trail, Junction Branch”.
I did the map this way for 2 reasons: for fun, and to show what we lack currently and what network effects might be achieved with visionary planning. The choice to go transit-style was deliberate to emphasize connections between trails, but I wouldn’t pretend this map is a good navigational aid unless you already know our trails well. I took to renaming everything so that we wouldn’t see our trails as discrete segments with their current names, but as lines that integrate with everything around them. I took deliberate liberties, but I know that in practice the current names would be retained. The important thing is that the connections be built.
Hey, that also looks like a half decent train system!
Any reason the Chief Sealth trail isn’t included?
The Bike Master Plans calls for filling in its gaps and connecting it to both the I-90 trail and the trail in SODO:
A couple things come to mind…
1. By any definition the Chief Sealth Trail isn’t really a regional one. Despite its moderate length and continuity, its elevation profile prevents it from being a route you’d typically want to follow for very long. Even the BMP’s map, which operates on a significantly smaller scale, calls it a local connector. This map, to an even greater degree, focuses on longer routes. (FWIW, I think the quality and ubiquity of shorter routes contributes more to a city’s bike network than the length of long ones, and the Chief Sealth Trail provides several high-quality short connections, but this map seems to be about the long routes.)
2. The BMP is… a very aspirational document. Neither the trail along the east edge of I-5 nor the bridge over I-5 to SODO have much more to them than this one map, and a little thought to general plausibility and need (i.e. the elevation profile and clearance over the freeway aren’t totally insane, the necessary land may be available for some price, we sorely need more/better walk/bike routes across I-5 on the south end). If either is built by 2035 I’ll be mildly surprised; if both are I’ll be shocked.
Honestly, just space. In the next update I’ll include it as a spur to the Lake Washington Line, from Rainier Beach to Rizal Park. I wanted to get this first draft out there for comments before doing more work on it. And you all have given me plenty! :)
The Chief Sealth Trail does not (and would not if expanded) go directly to Rainier Beach, nor Rizal Park.
This is one of the areas where the transit map analogy fails. Road maps handle “branching”, intersections, and varying levels of quality in ways that are much closer to what a bike network map needs.
It could connect on the north end if the switchback is built between Rizal Park and Royal Brougham. And I think a Henderson PBL could make the connection at Rainier Beach, as the section of the Chief Sealth trail south of Henderson is steep, short, and almost entirely unused.
A switchback over the I-90/I-5 interchange? Not even the BMP map (which shows a lot of pie-in-the-sky stuff) doesn’t show that! If you want to get from the Chief Sealth Trail to Rizal Park you don’t go down into SODO then back up, you stay up on Beacon Hill. By the greenway, or the BMP-proposed Beacon Ave PBL (which is considerably less pie-in-the-sky than a lot of stuff in the BMP, and actually considered a major route therein).
And if you draw it like a road map instead of a subway map the need to assign it to some major “line” goes away, and it can be drawn where it actually runs (to Beacon Hill today, maybe down to SODO to connect with a trail through there in the future). This is something the BMP map actually does a great job of: explicitly calling out prominence (it handles quality by insisting, as part of its vision, that all the prominent routes meet quality standards — your map does this also, and it’s a good choice for this sort of map, designed to state a vision rather than aid navigation). The subway map style wastes the important property of line color on something meaningless and has no other variation in style. Should the Chief Sealth Trail be drawn on a bike map of Seattle? Sure! Its high quality alone qualifies it for maps of Seattle’s current bike trails, at least. But its prominence should be somewhat less than that of the BGT, and somewhat greater than that of the route out to Ellensburg, which will always be far less prominent (and probably also of lesser quality)!
This map exposes one of the problems of our bike trails (really, a problem with all transit and transportation around Puget Sound).
The lack of East-West routes!
Note that big gourd looking space in South King County, served only by the Soos Creek spur.
That’s my neighborhood.
To get to that spur, or to travel to the “mainline” of the Interurban or Green River Trails involves hair raising rides in heavy traffic. In the case of going from East Hill to Kent Valley I would say breakneck.
Once downtown in Kent, the only real choice for pleasant riding is North-South. Continuing on involves more interaction with heavy traffic. And of course there are the hills.
No, just “connecting” the lines isn’t a total solution. We really need a complete redesign and addition of many more trails. And not just trails, but housing, jobs, business. For example, I would like to see more “bike-centric” neighborhoods, built along corridors such as the Interurban. The stretch from Algona to Kent, in my opinion, instead of being weeds and industrial wasteland (with some nice marshes) should also contain many more apartment complexes bordering the bike lane. This would provide living that is bike centric, but also has access to car highways and rail corridors like Sounder and future LINK stations.
I too find east-west in Kent pretty hair-raising, despite the James St bike lanes
Yes, convert Kent to Davis California — http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/aug/03/davis-california-the-american-city-which-fell-in-love-with-the-bicycle
Haha, wow, this map is so out of scale it’s funny looking at it.
Anyways, since the trail system extends so far east, I wonder why it doesn’t go farther past Gig Harbor, maybe into Kitsap County or Key Peninsula.
I only extended it that far east because the trail already exists all the way to the Columbia River. There’s nothing beyond Gig Harbor yet, and nothing to connect to, unless I included the entire Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Discovery Trail, which is probably worth doing.
A couple of small corrections:
From the Anacortes Ferry Terminal east is complete about 1/2 mile +/- a bit.
The segment from Chittenden Locks south to a point on Government Way is basically complete. The bridge over the BNSF is fragile, and the very minor roads to the north and south so little auto traffic the only real obstruction is crossing the somewhat busy road at Commodore Park.
The Eliott Bay Marina to Interbay Trail segment is more complex than shown, with the marina at the end of a branch trail, and no real way to access it from the southern end of Magnolia without going through the Magnolia Bridge staircase tangle.
I’m not sure, but Zach may want to continue the Elliott Bay Trail through the railroad grade and possibly Interbay to connect with the Ship Canal Trail near Fisherman’s Terminal, then extend it along Commodore Way to the Locks.
From the text, Zach is flexible on whether this involves the locks or the Ballard Bridge. This is sort of a weird ambiguity, since the population center of Ballard is between the two, so it affects directness for a lot of people. Anyway, as he draws the route from the locks to Golden Gardens as complete, he clearly means for this point to be north of the ship canal. Whether the route south/east of there involves the BGT Missing Link or walking across the locks, it is not a bike trail for a single meter south/east of this point.
The simplification of the Elliot Bay route is reasonable — yes, the actual cruise ship terminal is at the end of a stub trail, but you get to the stub trail from the route. Who cares about biking to a cruise ship terminal anyway? It’s just a random waypoint because there ain’t much else around.
Got excited about this map and then noticed it was bike trails and not rail.
Just imagining what could have been had we left all the rails in place and been able to run DMU’s on all these old lines. Every town would be connected by rail already.
Sure, except that these lines don’t follow today’s travel patterns and therefore most of the “stations” indicated are places very few people ever need to be on foot.
Couple of nitpicks:
1. What you call “Tahoma Trail” is what is called “Foothills Trail” today, which will reach from Tacoma to Enumclaw and Carbonado (two spurs).
2. No one, and I mean probably not even the Feds refer to the Locks as “Chittenden Locks”. Everyone refers to them as the Ballard Locks.
2a. I’m a bit bias on this, but how does Ballard not even have a dot on the map? Phinney, Greenwood and even Bitter Lake have a dot. Hell, Allentown even has a dot.
Doesn’t the Renslow Bridge go into a military training center?
There’s an almost totally unknown but surprisingly viable hidden/non-trail east-west link in North King County. A few corrections and upgrades and it could be a useful link. It follows Ballinger Way from Burke-Gilman/SR522 through Lake Forest Park, merges onto the sidewalks of SR104, which get you safely under I-5, and continues through to the trailhead at Meridian Avenue North. From there, the Interurban is a trivial reach. It’d be a north-end connector of real value. The Ballinger Way portion is already pretty much a trail now, and should just get a little widening. I started going to class at Shoreline that way as soon as they built the sidewalk underneath I-5, and it’d be a great way to connect Interurban and Burke-Gilman/Cascade.
At that point, crossing all those driveway entrances and cloverleaf ramps on foot, we might as well call the sidewalks of Rainier and Aurora “trails”. Unless “corrections and upgrades” means a wholesale change in the urban form of the strip malls and demolition of the cloverleafs. All of which I’d support, but are beyond the scope of bike network completion.
I’d take Perkins Way to 185th or 195th six days a week and twice on Sunday… the climb gets really steep toward the top, but there’s really no other way to these (substantially saner) I-5 crossings. And that’s not a trail in any sense, just a fairly low-traffic road.
As a linking element, I see a lot of potential value here. There are _damned_ few ways crossing east to west on the north end, but this is one, _and_ it links two major existing trails at points that actually exist right now, _and_ it’s far less hilly than the alternatives. There is literally nothing more bikeable to link BGT and Interurban without going down to, I dunno, _Ravenna_. (Yes, seriously, 65th or 70th is the first place south of Lake Forest Park that the lakeside hillclimbs get less than obscene. And yes, there are other routes, I’ve biked Perkins myself, it’s a brutal climb compared to this. And I’ve been near-missed more on Perkins more often than on 104, strip malls and all.)
Honestly, there is no fixing Perkins. The topology means there just isn’t. _This_, by contrast, _can_ be fixed. (And without ripping out the strip malls, yes. You cannot do this right now, but with a few changes you could link 22nd Avenue NE to a behind-the-shopping-centre corridor that’s already there, and bypass the whole mess without adding more than about a block of distance. The cloverleaf is a bigger problem, but at least it’s already passible now, unlike so many other locations. It could be sorted with a few undercrossings, ala Burke Gilman in Kenmore. I’m not saying it’s free; I’m saying it’s closer to doable than most people who haven’t bike-commuted the route realise.)
I mean, okay, if you don’t want to call it a “trail,” if it’s too ugly for that or something, fine. Call it a “linking bike route,” whatever. But trails-qua-trails have a lot more utility if you can actually get to them, and it would not be that hard to upgrade this potential linking corridor’s usability.
It’s certainly no more difficult than breaking out entirely new trail.
So… the things that need to be fixed:
1. Widen the path and give it an appropriate surface.
2. Get the route out of the driveways. Maybe by Forest Park Drive (if the grade is reasonable, I’ve never tried it), which would also need improvements or some new ROW.
3. Eliminate the left turn from WB 104 to the I-5 HOV ramp.
The remaining bad part is that you have to cross over 104 again to avoid crossing a double-lane ramp. That’s better than having to cross the double-lane ramp (Rainier/I-90, I-5/164th, 405/NE 8th). But at that point, waiting for the light after crossing all those ramps… I’m going to start looking for any non-interchange crossing.
(And so if I’m looking at how to connect the Burke to the Interurban… I’d rather figure out how to get 195th connected. Maybe the hills don’t work for that. Maybe there’s a way to tunnel under the interchange south of it. A bike trail network shouldn’t feel like a middle finger in the face for biking, and that’s what basically all the I-5 interchanges are.)
(Sorry. You’ve actually convinced me that this should definitely be in the “vision”, since you’re absolutely right about how the topology works out heading west from the Burke. The awfulness of I-5’s interchanges just pisses me off sometimes, as I used to have to cross I-5/164th regularly…)
I’m not sure that I would consider downtown Tacoma to Ruston to be completely completed just yet. I’ve walked the entire way from downtown Tacoma along the waterfront to the new development at Point Ruston.
From Old Tacoma (roughly McCarver & Ruston Way ) northwest to Point Ruston is very good.
From Old Tacoma to Thea’s Park (S 4th & Shuster) is pretty bad. The traffic is fast, the sidewalk is very narrow, and there is no bike lane at all. At least, if you are talking about getting there along the water level route.
From Thea’s Park to downtown Tacoma there are fits and starts of a waterfront walkway but nothing that goes all the way through and nothing resembling a bike path along Dock Street. Where it exists the waterfront walkway is kind of nice, but where it doesn’t exist the conditions are not especially encouraging.
I’d love to see some sort of elevated bike path + pedestrian walkway + Tacoma Streetcar extension above the BNSF main line to Old Tacoma. I think Old Tacoma has enough old style density it might make a good bus transfer point and feeder point from the central area of the peninsula. With the grain elevator, the hillside, and the merchant marine vessels where they are there really isn’t much of anywhere to put a bike path / multi-use path through there unless you go up the hill somewhere. Schuster Parkway and the railroad take up all possible land through there. Between the grain elevator and the Merchant Marine vessels you might get away with a floating walkway sort of like Portland’s East Bank Esplanade.
….but I don’t expect such a thing to happen within my lifetime.
I’d say that the Schuster walkway is, admittedly pretty bad. I always feel bad for the pedestrians along there. The solution is pretty simple. Convert the 6-foot sidewalk to a 12 foot sidewalk. I don’t propose a planter strip, because the City of Tacoma wouldn’t bother to maintain it anyways. You can dream all you want about a path up on the hillside. That’s been done before, actually, and the trails all fell into disrepair and now exist as a homeless camp in the woods. A 12-foot sidewalk along the curb provides peds and bikes with the same buffer as they would have with an 8-foot path and 4-foot planter, but gives the City the benefit of not having to do maintenance.
1. Don’t forget the existing trail from Mt Vernon to Concrete.
2. South King County commuters would benefit from a Rail-with-trail from Starfire to Renton.
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