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There’s a lot of uproar in Kirkland against buses on the trail. But the uproar is a red herring that distracts us from the real question: what locations in our city should be connected by rapid transit? Only after identifying those points should we consider which routes best connect them.

To identify those points, first consider that rapid transit stations are best supported by a large number of residents, employees, and customers; likewise, these urban villages need rapid transit to thrive. The key a thriving city–and a successful rapid transit system–is to identify and connect the areas which are (or are well positioned to become) urban villages. In Kirkland, this likely would include (from north to south, based on the Kirkland Zoning Map):

  • Evergreen Hospital & Totem Lake Malls
  • Totem Lake Business District
  • Rose Hill Business District
  • Downtown Kirkland
  • Houghton/Google
  • Carillon Point
  • Yarrow Bay Business District

405 only connects Totem Lake and Rose Hill, but is an inadequate corridor for rapid transit on its own. Likewise, the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) fails to connect Downtown Kirkland, the Rose Hill Commercial District, and Evergreen Hospital (being at least a 15 minute walk from all of these). Neither 405 nor CKC adequately connects Kirkland’s urban villages on its own.

Instead, we should identify a primary line that connects most of Kirkland’s urban villages, and which opportunistically uses existing rights-of-way such as I-405, the CKC, or other streets, as appropriate.

Urban villages that are not easily served by the primary line–such as Lake Washington Institute of Technology and the Juanita Commercial District–should be connected with high frequency transit service such that transfers are reasonably easy. This could be done with busways, streetcars, or automated elevated people movers of various sorts.

I’ve drafted an alternative which blends the CKC and 405 BRT routing ( into a single line which connects most of our urban villages, as well as a connector for those away from the main line, and some routing alternatives. This ‘hybrid alternative’ brings together the best of both options, giving us a chance to build a rapid transit system that best serves all of Kirkland’s urban villages.

5 Replies to “Rapid transit that fits Kirkland”

  1. Rodney, I don’t know who you’re hoping to convince with this proposal, but Jeebus, it has the worst of both previous plans: it “ruins” the south end of the CKC AND it gets stuck in the horrible mess at 85th and I-405.

    As James Carville would say, “This dog won’t hunt.”

    By saying this I’m not advocating either the I-405 “BRT” system (LOL that buses running in middle-of-the-freeway lanes can be “bus rapid transit” in any meaningful sense of the word). Nor am I advocating the all-CKC idea; there really is a lot to be said for keeping it a trail. But if the CKC is going to be used at all, use all of it. Keeping a rump of the trail through the least populated part of the city is not a meaningful amelioration.

    1. Ideally we’d avoid 85th by taking the direct-access bypass I’ve proposed at 87th/90th.

      On the south end, there’s the option of using 108th instead of the CKC; here are a few options for that:
      (1) Two-way center bus lane where buses have to move into traffic to pass each other.
      (2) Reversible center bus lane that is switched based on the direction of congestion.
      (3) The bike lanes could be combined to provide the opposite-direction bus lane (since the CKC is a reasonable alternate route, especially if sidewalks were augmented slightly to a consistent width that could reasonably support local bike access, as is common with sidewalk design in Europe).

      But the bottom line is that we should prioritize the locales that need rapid transit before deciding its route.

    2. Keeping a rump of the trail through the least populated part of the city is not a meaningful amelioration.

      Copy that. It doesn’t serve Carillon Point or Yarrow Bay. It never can; the RR is way up a step hill from the water. FWIW Yarrow Bay is as close to zero ridership as you can get and Carillon Point is at best in the dozens per day range. Both are already served by the 234/235. There’s no advantage to using the CKC to connect Houghton/Google with S. Kirkland P&R. The 255 and 540 already do this with combined quick frequent service. There’s more demand on 108th than along the waterfront but it’s still just a dribble which would become a drip eliminating the other stops that are served on 108th.
      It’s the other end of the CKC that might have some bite. The trail as a pedestrian/cycle route effectively ends at 116th. Beyond there is hobo junction. Getting through the intersection of 124th & 124th is a no go. Creatting a bus only access that gets from Totem Lake over to the 116th & 116th area (aka Parmac) could, with some reroutes, provide useful bus access through that conjested area and be done in conjuction with extending the trail grade separrated across 124th. For this project to really fly you’d have to get buy in from the new owners/developers of the Totem Lake Mall property. Done right this segment could provide the only reasonable transit and non-motorized connection between the two sides of I-405.

  2. Where does it go beyond Kirkland? I used to work up there. As the working guy in Kirkland, I couldn’t and never will be able to bring myself to pay the outrageous rents/real estate prices for a home in a glorified suburbia, at least not on the modest salary that I was being paid. That being said, does this thing connect, somehow, to Bellevue Transit Center, so bums like myself can commute up there from lower-class suburbs like Renton, Kent, and Auburn? Or is this just a stand-alone streetcar? As far as the distance from the route/stops to the urban villages, Cross Kirkland Corridor is VERY close to downtown Kirkland, where the railroad crosses South 6th Street. It’s also pretty darned close to Totem Lake and Evergreen Hospital where the tracks cross NE 124th St by the Motel 6 and Denny’s (just 4 blocks to the hospital at NE 128th St if you built a direct sidewalk). Heck, extend it one more stop so you can do some drinking at Chateau, Januik, and Red Hook. Yes, you need to walk. Most transit users get accustomed to walking short distances. The buildout for those urban villages will just need to happen in the direction of the railroad tracks, so future versions of Office Space can be located closer to the stops.

  3. I-405 from Totem Lake Flyer Station to 85th is just fine since the re-stripe to make HOV3+/HOT lanes.The biggest problem is the access at NE85th but that’s only an issue in one direction at peak commute. I’ve ridden the 255 from Kirkland TC to Totem Lake via I-405 northbound in the morning. It’s a fast route that should be added to revenue service. If they can somehow reduce the layover from 15 minutes to say 5 back tracking as far as 124th would be faster than the current route. Building direct access at NE 85th would be an expensive proposition. Demand is such that it’s really only necessary in one direction in the morning but opposite in the evening and I don’t know that there’s any way to save much of the cost by making it reversible. So, going big and building another Flyer Stop is really the only thing that makes sense. With the number of bus routes already on I-405 a transfer point, elevators – the whole shebang would make center access ramps a nice to have but not a necessity. Going that route there also needs to be some work done to improve transfers at Totem Lake where the current P&R, Flyer Stop and TC all act as though they have no relationship to each other. Lots of bus routes go through that area but transferring from one to another is always a minimum 15 minute headache. Improving access there is something that needs to get done regardless!

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