Kirkland residents and workers, and anyone else interested in the future of mobility in Kirkland, should attend the City of Kirkland’s ST3 open house tomorrow night (Thursday, Nov. 19). The open house is at the Kirkland Performance Center in downtown Kirkland, one short block from Kirkland Transit Center, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Frequent Metro bus routes 234/235, 245, and 255, as well as other routes 236, 238, 248, and 540, all serve the location, with one-seat service from throughout the north Eastside as well as downtown Seattle.
Attending this meeting is critical because the city of Kirkland needs to hear support for rapid transit service along the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) between Bellevue and Totem Lake, which is the only realistic option for fast and frequent transit that will serve Kirkland communities. Full background below the jump.
One of the key open questions in planning for the upcoming ST3 ballot measure is what projects, if any, will be built on the Eastside north of Bellevue. Sound Transit is considering three projects in its ST3 planning:
- E-06: Bus rapid transit in dedicated right-of-way along the ERC between Bellevue and Totem Lake, likely with a deviation to serve downtown Kirkland
- E-02: Bus rapid transit along I-405, including stops at Bellevue, Totem Lake, and Bothell
- E-03: Light rail between Issaquah and Totem Lake, using the ERC between Bellevue and Totem Lake
These projects vary radically in how effectively they would serve Kirkland residents. I-405 BRT, an excellent project for residents of other cities like Bothell and Renton, barely serves Kirkland at all. It totally skips South Kirkland, Houghton, and downtown, and has only a faraway freeway station to serve Totem Lake. The ERC alternatives would both serve South Kirkland and Houghton, with BRT possibly serving the heart of downtown and light rail stopping within about 1/4 mile of downtown. Both ERC alternatives would also serve the center of Totem Lake and allow for easy bus transfers to neighborhoods such as Bridle Trails, Rose Hill, and Juanita, none of which would significantly benefit from I-405 BRT. ERC BRT could further allow for use of the ERC by buses serving non-ERC neighborhoods, such as a revised version of the current 255 from Juanita. Both ERC alternatives would include a permanent bicycle and pedestrian trail along the ERC to replace the current interim gravel trail.
Use of the ERC, though, has proven controversial among residents near the corridor. Some residents fear loss of the quiet atmosphere of the current interim trail, and others object to frequent buses or trains running adjacent to their property. These residents have argued for I-405 BRT as an alternative, or even running frequent bus service along congested local streets such as 108th Ave NE in Houghton and 98th/100th Ave NE in Juanita. But none of the alternatives advocated by these residents would significantly improve transit in Kirkland. I-405 BRT, as noted above, does not serve Kirkland in any meaningful way. Even if stops were added at NE 85th and NE 70th — which Sound Transit and WSDOT have found to be unrealistically costly, and not included in any plans — the stops would be unwalkably far from the major ridership centers in South Kirkland, downtown, and Totem Lake. Service along local streets would continue to be slow and uncompetitive with driving, particularly at peak hour when there is heavy congestion among most of the streets accessible to buses.
Please show up tomorrow, and show your support for rapid transit in Kirkland!
Full disclosure: I’m a Kirkland resident, in the Central Houghton/Everest area. ERC rapid transit would most likely include a stop within three blocks of my residence, which I’d use all the time.