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Sound Transit 3’s politics require a delicate dance between keeping subarea dollars local and funding the most productive and popular projects. Some subareas are long on projects and short on funds (Snohomish County, and to a much lesser extent Seattle), while others are relatively flush with cash but lean on popular projects (East King County, and to a lesser extent Pierce County). Like a fragile ecosystem held in a tenuous equilibrium of competing needs, small disturbances can jeopardize the whole endeavor. Indeed, without strong advocacy now, the City of Kirkland may be endangering ST3.

Kirkland’s situation is peculiar. Its downtown is difficult to serve under the best circumstances, its alluring historic rail right-of-way (the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, or CKC) barely misses the heart of the city, and its designated growth center (Totem Lake) is a growth center much more in name than reality. The city government’s strongest support has been for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the CKC, arguing that the flexibility of BRT would make it easier to serve multiple destination pairs, such as both Totem Lake and Downtown Kirkland.

As a technical matter, they have a point, but politically it has been a complete non-starter. Residents adjacent to the trail have argued loudly and often against any type of transit in the corridor (though their greatest ire has been reserved for buses), despite the corridor’s undisputed legal status as a transportation corridor and whose (lovely) non-motorized trail is hardly historic, opening barely over a year ago. Meanwhile, Sound Transit wants rail, believing the Eastside’s high revenues would make it an odd choice to dilute transit quality, or its self-identified brand, by settling for buses. Take note of just how peculiar this is. The organized residents are saying they want nothing, the Kirkland City Council wants millions spent on buses, while Sound Transit and regional stakeholders want to give them billions in trains.

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In addition to the effective organizing of the Save Our Trail group, a draft Kirkland council memo describes a March 1 meeting in which Dow Constantine and Boardmembers Balducci, Butler, and Marchione lobbied Kirkland to drop BRT and support light rail instead. Kirkland is apparently holding firm, and in response the draft threatens to actively oppose ST3 if light rail is included against its wishes:

The wrong transit is worse than no transit on the CKC at this time. If light rail on the Cross Kirkland Corridor is included in the ST3 package, Kirkland would have to oppose the ballot measure. (Page 13)

Eager to avoid conflict and apparently unwilling to endure another East Link experience, the Board appears ready to take the path of least resistance.  STB has learned from two independent sources that the Draft System Plan may include no transit on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, and possibly no investment at all within central Kirkland.

This impasse threatens the entire ST3 project. We need Eastside votes and decent Eastside projects, and Sound Transit now faces a very unappealing calculus: give in to Kirkland’s BRT dreams and enrage an active and effective Save Our Trail group, go with light rail and add Kirkland’s active opposition, or omit Central Kirkland entirely from ST3. Each of these would cost significant Eastside ‘yes’ votes, and each could potentially sink the ballot measure.

If Central Kirkland is left out, the Eastside may be left with just I-405 BRT and an East Link extension from Overlake to Redmond, hardly a get-out-the-vote project list. Furthermore, Issaquah still wants rail, opening up strained scenarios for a short stub line from, say, Wilburton to Eastgate or Issaquah. Such a dilution would render an already low-ridership line even more questionable on the merits, and possibly a liability at the ballot box.

So what to do? First and foremost, the Sound Transit Board needs to hear from more pro-transit advocates with a stake in Eastside transit. With the Kirkland City Council and Save Our Trail playing two different types of hardball, it is no wonder Sound Transit may be seeking an out. But if you believe, as I do, that I-405 BRT is insufficient and that rail on the Cross Kirkland Corridor is necessary both for mobility and for a successful ballot measure, let them hear from you. Email the entire Sound Transit Board, or email Eastside Boardmembers Balducci, Butler, and Marchione. Tell them you want new rail connectivity to Kirkland, and that you don’t want intra-Eastside politics to jeopardize Ballard, West Seattle, or a second Downtown Transit Tunnel. Without us, the green shirts will be all they’ll see.

On Monday, I’ll propose a grand bargain that provides light rail to Downtown Kirkland, promises extraordinary trail mitigation along the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, and preserves 75% of the Eastside Rail Corridor as an exclusive non-motorized trail in perpetuity. Stay tuned.

98 Replies to “Kirkland and Sound Transit Struggling to Agree on ST3”

  1. Why doesn’t ST just offer a big bag of money to Kirkland, like they did to Tukwila to keep LRT on Hwy 99 to the airport. $50,000,000 if I remember correctly was the going rate in the 90’s but I never got a peak beyond the draw strings.
    Oh wait, that didn’t work, the ST spend 100’s of millions on the circumnavigation route up the gulch with no stops.

    1. Don’t forget that the elevated route is faster than the surface route would have been, and Tukwila shot itself in the foot by losing the Southcenter station that a surface alignment would have had. Or that the “Southcenter” station would have been across the freeway from the mall, a 10+-minute pedestrian-hostile walk to the nearest entrance, and everything else in the Southcenter area was far beyond that.

    2. As the CIty Manager for the City of Kirkland, I wanted to point out that Zach’s article completely missed “the Kirkland Compromise” that was included in the draft letter to the Sound Transit Board following the staff memo. Kirkland supported ST’s 1 and 2 and the City Council wants to support the ST3 measure. The Council has been working for 9 months to find a win-win solution..The City Council has continued to advocate for transit even though that decision has been very controversial in Kirkland. It is critical to the economic viability of both Kirkland and the region that more transit solutions are created. But according to Sound Transit, the CKC light rail segment will only carry 5000 riders by 2040. Metro’s Route 255 carries more than that in Kirkland today. The City Council supports BRT because it can be built faster, cheaper, is more flexible and the expressway can be used by Metro buses to significantly increase ridership. But Sound Transit has said no to BRT so Kirkland is proposing a compromise. It is vital to Kirkland and the region that high capacity transit options be preserved on the entire Eastside Rail Corridor, and not just the CKC. If ST does not fund anything on the CKC, there is a very real risk that transit will never come to the Eastside Rail Corridor. Therefore the City will be asking that Sound Transit reserve the CKC for future transit by building the full CKC Master Plan trail in the right location now. One key purpose of Sound Transit is to get cars off the road. The permanent trail will provide thousands of bicycles and pedestrians direct access to Sound Transit stations in Kirkland (Kingsgate P&R) and Bellevue (Wilburton light rail station). From Totem Lake to the South Kirkland Park & Ride Sound Transit should relocate and rebuild the Interim Trail as a permanent Regional Trail, according to the CKC Master Plan vision. Sound Transit should also reserve a transit envelope of at least 30 feet for future transit. From the South Kirkland Park & Ride to Wilburton Station in Bellevue, the Regional Trail should be constructed according to King County’s Regional Trail Plan, while also dedicating space for future transit. The total cost of these investments would be approximately 250 million dollars or less.

      This compromise provides significant CKC/ERC investments for Kirkland and Bellevue residents to support. It constructs the trails in the right place, so they will never be diminished by future transit. It creates a “quick win” transit alternative for bike commuters to ST stations while waiting for future transit investments. It preserves the railbanked status of both the CKC and the Eastside Rail Corridor while permanently dedicating future transit space on both segments. It postpones the transit mode decision to future ballot measures and allows time for Sound Transit and the Kirkland community to determine the best mode together. It provides funding to design the agreed-upon transit mode and to achieve a Record of Decision for the future. Finally, the compromise saves Sound Transit significant money in the ST3 ballot measure by avoiding the need to fund a 1.5 billion dollar light rail line today. Kirkland is hoping that building permanent trail access to Sound Transit stations while dedicating the future transit envelope is a solution that all sides can support.

      1. What you are saying, Kurt, is that the rest of the Eastside gets squat because Kirkland can’t make up their mind. This hurts the now in lacking that line, and hurts the future, since a future connection to Woodinville, or other places, will need the Kirkland connection. It gives Kirkland and the rest of the eastside a transit package with massive investments everywhere but the eastside.

      2. The compromise proposal forgets that ST is effectively a tax increase on citizens and businesses in the City of Kirkland. Without any immediate return on investment, perhaps it would be best for the City to just actively oppose ST3 since it would bring nothing but higher taxes.

        It is very disappointing to see that the ST board is ignoring common sense. Mayor Butler seems to be laser focused on his intent on building LRT from Issaquah to Totem Lake. I personally think his proposal is terrible. It does not provide connectivity options for commuters like the option of taking a one-seat ride from totem lake to Seattle or from Issaquah to Seattle.

        As a rider of the 255 I am a huge fan of the BRT proposal from the city as it makes so much sense and would serve the city and provides the flexibility to serve the region so well. I’m looking forward to seeing my assumptions be confirmed by the results from the BRT studies that the City commissioned.

      3. What’s in the Kool Aid they serve at Kirkland City Hall? I think Kirkland residents mostly want light rail. “Sound Transit might get some money, therefore I deserve that money for my pet project” is not going to work no matter how many manifestos are written. They’re hiring consultants straight out of the monorail episode of the Simpsons.

  2. Looking forward to seeing your proposal on Monday! One comment, I sincerely hope it interlines light rail from S Bellevue to Wiliburton. A good number of letters to ST mentioned this same thing.

    It fully preserves the ERC south of NE 8th, and is a MUCH better service pattern (makes Issaquah -> Seattle viable on light rail, which would be a joke via Wiliburton.) We just need someone to kill this FUD that it’s impossible to cross under 405 (the lie that we can’t cross the slough had already been beaten to death).

    1. +1 for interlining.

      Although that makes it not much of a grand bargain because ST is opposed to it, since ST is afraid of environmentalist lawsuits. I wonder if the Sierra Club (which supports the slough routing) can take on those other environmentalists so ST doesn’t have to face them alone.

      1. Agreed…plus WSDOT is doing a lot more damage to wetlands on the 520 project than a guideway supported by spaced columns would do at I-90. (I know, I know…”war on cars,” mwahahaha.)

    2. +1
      I love rail, but let’s start build rail that isn’t substantially slower than the buses they replace, like we have been this whole time. (Particularly to the south)

  3. The wrong transit is worse than no transit on the CKC at this time.

    Wow! What a brave and thoughtful thing to say. I wish Seattle reps felt that way about West Seattle rail.

    If I understand this fight correctly, it is not about rail versus bus exactly, it is about open versus closed. A completely closed BRT system would be opposed as well. The problem is that this is a “free” corridor, that is an a good location, but not a great one. It doesn’t work that well as a closed system. It doesn’t come that close to that many destinations, which means you are talking about multiple transfers. This won’t be that popular. Running trains is expensive (more expensive than running buses) so now you are talking about a very infrequently running system. That isn’t good.

    On the other hand, an open BRT system would be able to connect to a lot more areas, and keep going to destinations that are a lot more popular. For folks along this corridor, it would mean much higher ridership.

    Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I assume this is what Kirkland is thinking. If so, the situation seems quite similar to West Seattle. Kirkland wants BRT because it figures that at the end of the day, it will result in a transit system that not only costs less to build, but provides better results.

    1. An open design is a huge asset, especially in this corridor. Is it possible to build light rail that also allows buses to run on the ROW, opening the corridor to other routes? Downtown transit tunnel does this

    2. @RossB. It’s both. The Board intends to build light rail in the corridor. They won’t consider BRT, open or closed.

      Kirkland sees several problems with this. Rail has impacts to the trail uses that are greater than those of BRT. Diminished accessibility and cross-ability (because the rail line would be extensively fenced), some noise issues. One doesn’t have to be one of the say-no-to-everything homeowners to see those impacts as a problem.

      At the same time, Rail gets 5000 riders in 2040 for $1.5 billion. It misses downtown Kirkland. It has that lousy connection experience at Wilburton. It loses all the advantages of open BRT in flexibly serving the City.

      Conceptually, there might be ways around some of this. There could be a better alignment, and trail mitigations.

      But until Sound Transit puts something on the table that is smarter than this, Kirkland looks and asks: what is the point? The trail impacts aren’t as bad as the save-our-trail peeps pretend, but they’re not zero either. And the upside(!) is a rail line that serves the city very poorly.

      1. There are some inaccuracies here. LRT impacts to the corridor would arguably be fewer than with bus, at least environmentally. The cross section would be narrower by several feet. The noise levels would be lower than buses. And there would be no emissions. There would be no ability to cross the brt guideway or the rail guideway apart from stations and perhaps grade crossings, so that’s a distinction without a difference.

        Rail is certainly more expensive than a two lane road for buses. But it offers faster travel time and higher capacity between hubs than bus. So, trade offs abound.

        (As an aside, it appears to me that Kirkland has greatly understand the costs of BRT, especially the operating costs, and overstated ridership. They’ve assumed King County will re-route all their Kirkland service into the ERC to achieve head ways comparable the DSTT frequencies. This has two problems. First, it would mean a bus every two minutes or maybe one minute if you include both directions, which would be a massive environmental impact to the corridor. Second, these buses would largely be underutilized, because they would have been re-routed from other nearby travel corridors, leaving those riders using them now without transit. Which is not really a realistic policy outcome, so, their version of BRT would more likely carry fewer riders than rail due to longer travel times and lower capacity.)

        This is a policy issue. ST and the region have committed to rail. Link is connecting three east side cities to a network (Mercer island, Bellevue and Redmond) that includes several other cities and regional destinations (Seattle, UW, Shoreline, Lynnwood, Tukwila, Seatac, Federal Way, Kent, etc). ST3 is looking at connecting the other two large east side cities to that network (Kirkland and Issaquah). Kirkland appears not to want the connection. Issaquah clearly does want the connection. Will we look back in 25 years and think of Kirkland as the Georgetown of the Northwest, foregoing a chance to be on the network the same way a major DC neighborhood eschewed the Metro back in the 1970s?

        Totem Lake may be a center in name only. Issaquah is too. But if rail is built, that situation will change rapidly, within just a few business cycles. Kirkland has to decide if they want to be part of that network or not. This isn’t really about ST, it’s about Kirkland and how city leadership is engaging its citizens in a conversation about the future.

        They could decide no to rail, and live with 10-minute BRT on 405. By the time they see ST4 come around, they’d likely see the cities around them growing up while they remain largely the same. And maybe that’s what they want. But by then I think it’s a safe bet that the trail remains too, and the opportunity to ever use the corridor for transit will have passéd forever. Tough call.

  4. There is a 4th option. Fund a new bus route (alongside the existing route 535) that connects downtown Kirkland directly with downtown Bellevue and Totem Lake, without intermediate stops. This way, you serve downtown Kirkland, you keep the trail a quite place for walking and biking, and you avoid slowing down all the thru-riders by forcing them onto the CKC instead of I-405.

    While getting between downtown Kirkland and I-405 may be problem, this is something that ST could use it’s pot gold to improve. For instance, direct access ramps between 85th St. and the I-405 ETL lanes could be built, as could bus lanes on 85th itself.

      1. Unfortunately, Mike, now that marijuana is legal (I hate word “cannabis because it’s bad enough the stuff smells like broccoli burned onto the bottom of a pan without thinking about dog food too) both profits, and therefore taxes, have plummeted.

        For 1960’s people- who’d at their present age would have been old for WWI veterans in the ’60’s, a dope dealer was a cool dude with a leather hat, leather bell-bottom pants, and shades. Not some kind cheerful old pharmacist.

        I suspect there are quiet meetings including industry lobbyists, legislators, police narcotics squads, and high school student government people to investigate making espresso a controlled substance instead.

        Since increasing education has gotten lottery sales plummeting worse than marijuana, it’s right for the kids to help save their schools.

        For gang fights between espresso lords, JBLM has been working on a full-automatic whip cream gun, but since it’s classified, we’re being told that ISIS will cave to air attacks with 500 pound cakes. The little plastic couple on top is against the Geneva Convention, but war, like accidentally eating plastic, is hell.

        So the (Acapulco) gold market has collapsed. But if things go as planned, there’ll be a pot of…well, it’s colored like coffee! Coffee! Like Coffee! For transit.

        Mark

    1. Bus lanes on 85th would be amazing, along with decent bus service, protected bike lanes, and massive redevelopment. And a road diet. Connection to 405 BRT wouldn’t even be necessary.

    2. I like both of those ideas. I think they make a lot of sense.

      I think Sound Transit has a fundamental problem that is largely due to its structure. It was designed from the beginning to bring regional rail to the area. There a number of problems that have resulted from this structure, many of them caused by the fact that they don’t operate the buses. There is an undue emphasis on single, very expensive projects serving a small corridor, versus a larger transit network.

      If Metro was tasked to come up with capital projects as well as service improvements, it would come up with exactly the type of projects you mentioned. Spend a bit on a few choke points (used by a bunch of buses) and add a few routes. Community Transit would do the same. A regional organization that is not focused on “completing the spine” would do the same. But Sound Transit seems more interested in building large, not very cost effective light rail lines — or bus service that mimics them — then making dozens of improvements that would improve all transit in the area.

      This is a very good example of this. ST would operate at most one bus there, and while that bus would be reasonably popular, it probably wouldn’t justify the expense of new ramps (or bus lanes). But Metro would operate other (complementary) bus service. It is difficult for ST to propose projects that improve local bus service, because that really isn’t part of their mandate.

      1. Arteries and capillaries, Ross. Sound Transit is supposed to run a regional system. Blue and white buses like the 550 will carry trains of the same color when the intended rail lines are built out.

        The reason the DSTT runs like it has gangrene is that it’s always needed heart paddles applied to the rear ends of the people who immediately abandoned the installed signalling systems and also added bus fare boxes to existing delays.

        And if strong high capacity lines are wasteful, maybe our freeways should be put back to the original size and capacity of Highway 99 in its 1930’s glory days. LINK no only handles blizzards at 60 mph, but ignores fish truck spills that stall a region.

        Any inter-agency aggravations like DSTT ops don’t need both of them either further separated or combined, tempting as both are. What’s necessary is for both of their personnel to act like they’re the same agency.

        Mark Dublin

  5. Looking forward to seeing your proposal.

    The biggest problem I see with the light rail proposal is that, with only three stops, it really doesn’t serve Kirkland any better than 405 BRT. There’s a stop at Totem Lake, which, as you said, is not a destination yet. There’s a stop at 112th St, which is even more of a pipe dream, and there aren’t any people there now to vote for it. There’s a stop 1/3 mile and a hill from downtown Kirkland. And there’s a stop at the South Kirkland P&R, which doesn’t serve Kirkland, but P&R commuters. Why would anyone want to sacrifice the trail for that?

    Kirkland’s BRT proposal had more stops that would serve more people in Kirkland. Houghton, for example, would get both that walkable neighborhood and Google. There ought to be a stop at about 60th to serve Northwest College (up a steep hill). There are light industrial areas on 7th that could be upzoned and served with transit the same way as 112th.

    The Eastside is a sprawly place with some walkable nodes. Nobody has a vision for what a transit network should look like out here. It’s hard to build useful transit without that.

  6. Streetcar on the Trail:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/25729293585/in/dateposted-public/

    Streetcar in Downtown Kirkland
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/25703349986/in/dateposted-public/

    Bus REALLY RAPID Transit:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPhhbF0Ms7g

    I wonder if video pictures and videos like these at public meetings would make for more better informed discussion. I know ST3 program won’t have to use anything of mine from flickr. Whose “delete” instructions are done by same firm Metro uses for passenger information. Help.

    But attributions in order for the Adelaide busway footage. Australia already has a world famous song about grand theft sheep which is not really their national anthem.

    But since the marsupial references in the YouTube link won’t resonate here, maybe will give us the rights so we can add the last verse onto ours. Would be so great to see schoolchildren and also politicians with US flags on their lapels reverently singing it with their hands over their hearts!

    Mark

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D-LmRNdQiQ

      My bad again. Too much YouTube because I don’t have a TV.

      Though would be good to see flag-wearing politicians reverently saluting the Adelaide busways. Which probably play the above kangaroo control song on their PA systems. Last verse and all.

      But our own National Anthem was set to the music of a song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”, maybe its lyrics should be changed to the original. Look them up on Wikipedia.

      Children can still sing it too, because they’ll know what our Founding Fathers would have put on their coach PA’s. But will have to take some really boring college courses to learn about the advocacy of alcohol abuse and other things Ben Franklin really did.

      Mark

      1. Boy, am I ever embarrassed, Ian. That’s exactly what the HKL (Helsinki Transit) guys I talked to in 2007 told me! Wonder if there’s any On-Topic to get the pub-car in here?

        Maybe we an use it for leverage. Tell Kirkland that if they don’t want rail on the trail, Fremont has tracks in the bridge that could carry streetcars again. With a trail under the bridge. Brewery will give us a filling station up the track along Leary. Couple distilleries.

        Up to you, Kirkland. Bet nobody ever heard of a pub bus. Though maybe London has a double-decker one. If Kirkland doesn’t want on their trail, maybe CT will take it.

        Also hope Finnish intelligence never finds out I saw the new car on display at the “Cable Factory” in 2012 and never mentioned it. Is it on the tracks now? Specs said it’ll handle the HKL tracks just fine. Are they building those trains in Finland?

        Excellent example of what or own transit systems should do. Last time I mentioned it on Metro property, was told we weren’t either a research or a design agency. Bus dashboards used to have a slot for a buggy whip too. And parking lanes got cleaned with flat shovels.

        Wonderful pic, Ian. Did you put that on flickr? BTW. The HKL prototype I saw had their seats on raised platforms. Interesting to know how they’d create standing room.

        Mark

      2. There are two in operation now: 401 and 402. 403 just arrived in Helsinki a few weeks ago and I saw it out on a couple test runs recently. They work great on the narrow gauge here, but they sway back and forth a bit at higher speeds, kind of like a boat. Anyway, they’re building them en masse now, so the whole fleet should be coming over the next few years.

        The vehicles are built at the Transtech factory about 500km north of Helsinki and shipped down on freight cars. Transtech was recently bought out by Škoda, but all the operations and manufacturing are still done in Finland.

        The Raidejokeri light rail line which is currently in planning will probably use longer versions of the same model as well. The vehicles have great potential, but the seating layout is basically the same as the Variotrams, i.e. not very sensible for any core services. The seat blocks (mostly 4×4 facing each other) are on raised platforms, so the only standing room is in the narrow aisles and the empty space around the doors, which is usually taken up by baby strollers. I’d love to see a similar layout with half the seats.

        I didn’t take the picture, I just found it online. Anyway, would be great to see the pub tram concept make it to the US in some form. :)

  7. I’m surprised that no one had bought up the BART segment in South San Francisco. It was originally a rail corridor, conceptualized to be in an open trench and finally built as lidded with a trail on top to keep the neighborhoods happy.

    It may sound expensive but given the topography impacts on design and right-of-way needs for any other alignment, it may be the cheapest for Kirkland.

    1. Does Kirkland want more than what Edmonds has to settle for?

      (Edmonds Beacon – BNSF’s demands narrow options for rail crossing alternatives)

  8. I think the key for the city of Kirkland is an open design, so that the KCK can be accessed by downtown and Northwest Kirkland, and so that routes can run across the 520 to UW in addition to Bellevue.

    If ST is committed to rail, then the engineers will just have to design a line that serves rail & buses, with some of the stops being bus only. Seems very technically feasible, and again this blog keeps hinting that East King as “money to burn.”

    Bus routes on 85th don’t pencil out from a cost benefit – it’s over $100M for bus lanes on 85th plus the freeway station. But if that’s the necessary “bribe” to get Kirkland on board, it’s at least a genuine investment in infrastructure, so it’s not a waste. If ST is balking at the cost, maybe they can go halvies with WDOT or King County. I think Snohomish is doing something similar – trying to get Sound Transit to pay half the cost of widening some bridges to create bus-only lanes. Within the current political environment, this seems like a reasonable solution.

    1. It’s not $100M for bus lanes on 85th. They’d be really cheap, in fact. They really need to tame 85th by repurposing a car lane for buses. Taking more right of way and making the street wider is not the answer. 85th is already terrible and would be less pleasant and less safe if wider.

      I’ll grant that the chances of that happening are really small, but I bet people said the same thing in Amsterdam in 1970.

      1. @AJ
        You’re letting reality affect your judgement regarding the taking of a GP lane on 85th ;) The $260M for a flyover or direct access ramp though makes some sense when you realize that that cloverleaf needs to be completely redone anyway. A free merge only works with free flowing traffic. Those days are long gone on NE 85th and the land that design takes up is simply too valuable to allow it to remain as is. When it was designed in the 60’s it was forward looking. Of course Redmond at that time had exactly one traffic signal.

      2. If 85th is a major east-west corridor, let’s not waste it on mostly empty metal boxes!

        Seriously, I know the chances of taking a lane on 85th are super slim, but here, if in no other comment thread anywhere else, there should be some agreement that it would be awesome :) How much better would the 85th corridor be if it were designed for the people going TO it rather than the people going THROUGH it?

  9. I’ll repeat, rail on the CKC is the stupidest idea ST has ever tried to foist on the public. Kirkland ridership is nowhere close to the volume that supports rail. And it never will be because it’s geographically constrained, essentially built out, and connects to nowhere.

    This perverted idea of squandering money to buy votes is going to fail. ST3 shines the spotlight on how poor non-existent planning is for the eastside. Just say NO. I’m confident that sans ST3 the money to finish East Link to Redmond will miraculously appear; just as the funding for planning it has.

    1. Why I’m keeping onto the streetcars, Bernie. I think they’ll be a good fit for the trail, and also able to swing off on street track for Downtown Kirkland. Cars can carry ST colors- like Tacoma LINK. And like EastLINK, be operated by KCM drivers. Same arrangement as with SLU and FHS.

      So let’s keep mode questions separated from governing agency. If this line is built right, it’ll see more than one change of “Governance.” Let’s hope the one 30 years in the future won’t damage as important a project as the one about that far in the past did.

      Mark

      1. Why I’m keeping onto the streetcars, Bernie. I think they’ll be a good fit for the trail

        A solution in search of a problem. A zip line is about the only thing that would be a good fit for the trail. Why is it so hard to understand that there is barely enough ridership to justify the buses in DT Kirkland? And don’t try the old, “in 20 years” crap because DT is already built up. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more.
        News flash, just because there’s an abandon rail line it does not mean it makes sense to turn it into a transit corridor. That seems to be the fundamental disconnect.

      2. If we’re talking streetcar, seems like a better fit might be to run it along Lake Street / Lake Washington. Juanita – downtown Kirkland – downtown Bellevue. Misses Google which is unfortunate but if done right might improve the pedestrian experience along Lake Street as well as being a lot more direct in it’s travel.

        If street cars are pedestrian extenders, Lake Street’s a good place to extend the walkability of Kirkland South and of Bellevue north.

  10. Downtown Kirkland has a somewhat similar problem as lower Fremont. A walkable core, but a small one, and a high-rent one. The simple surface rail options (at-grade along Westlake and Leary, ERC) are either congested or in the wrong place. The major highways are bypasses. The expense of subway tunnels is hard to justify (there are higher regional priorities, and they can be served more effectively without tunneling under Fremont or Kirkland).

    So… how about some real urban rail techniques? Build as if we really cared about making mass transit work at a budget that let us achieve real coverage? Anyone? Use off-street ROW where it’s in the right place (maybe Westlake, parts of the ERC); build an elevated structure over congested areas where you want to go (Fremont Bridge and approaches; downtown Kirkland); do some median running where necessary (maybe going under the Ballard Bridge). I’m sure everyone would have opinions about elevated segments in particular, but nobody really wants to tear down the Chicago L or even the Monorail in precious, delicate Seattle, generations on.

    1. The problem with DT Kirkland light rail is it has no place to go. There is nothing from there that is on the way to/from. Alone the TC is a nice bus stop and transfer point. It would be great if there was enough demand to justify a few more buses going at a reasonable frequency to somewhere beside S. Kirkland P&R but… where there? The fact is that outside of peak it’s darn hard to even justify the bus service that exists. Bus only lanes on NE 85th? WHAT A JOKE! The 235 goes only as far as 124th. The 248 is the only bus that uses the whole stretch and it’s 1/2 hourly.
      There’s a difference between a transit activist and a transit zealot. So far ST3 is heavy on zealots. Mostly uninformed and disinterested in eastside transportation but simply believing that if everyone gets a choo choo SanTa3 will pass.

      1. Right, 85th isn’t much of a transit corridor, as it includes a viaduct without sidewalks and a full cloverleaf interchange, and is quite the stroad east of there. The frequent service is down on Old Redmond Road. Maybe Metro would reorient it around 85th for a 405 BRT-based future. But I’m not a huge believer in that future…

        Obviously heading north from Kirkland TC you’d want to go up Market Street, through Juanita Village, and downtown Bothell. All these places are built-up in the sense that you can’t really jam any more cars through, but not in any other sense. I’m not saying that putting this on rails is an ST3 project — there isn’t political will on the eastside to approve all the other changes necessary for this to work. The City of Kirkland can’t look past some 1960s planning ideal that says the interchange of 405 and 124th should be the center for its future growth!

        Putting down stations and buildings next to freeways, though, is not going to get us where we need to be. This region has implemented more freeway-based transit than many, and it’s proven quite popular by the standards of newer American cities because it’s fast. It at least works for some long trips, which slow transit just doesn’t. But the potential is limited by the way the freeway, the interchanges, the feeder roads, and the parking situations decimate local mobility. It guarantees a lot of people just aren’t going to have convenient access, even within the system’s nominal corridors. So we’ve got to look first to the non-freeway-destroyed places, and think about them as destiny, not history.

      2. The frequent service is down on Old Redmond Road

        Only one line there (245 ) and only on the eastside does 15 minutes count as frequent. It doesn’t go to DT Redmond but turns on 148th and goes to Crossroads. Why it continues to do that with RR-B is hard to fathom.

      3. There are lots of places where 15 minutes counts as frequent. Seattle and Portland, for example. 15-minute service is much more useful than half hour service. It wasn’t that long ago that the 245 was only half-hourly. 245 and RR-B are interlined on 156th, providing very frequent service between Crossroads and Microsoft. This isn’t a bad thing. They both go elsewhere on the ends.

        I really hope they don’t change the route of the 245 to run down 85th. Some of the most heavily used bus stops in Kirkland are in Bridle Trails, and it would miss Houghton. In a 405 BRT future, we’d need a new frequent bus line between downtown Redmond and downtown Kirkland on 85th, and a lot more along the way to make it worthwhile.

      4. Some of the most heavily used bus stops in Kirkland are in Bridle Trails

        That seals it. I’m not voting for ST3 unless we get light rail to Bridle Trails.

      5. Will ST allow horses on trains? Will horses be scared of the trains? How long until the horses accept trains as no big deal?

    2. I get what you are saying Al, but the differences between Fremont and Kirkland are so large that I feel like I need to point them out. To begin with, there is a big difference in population density in the areas that surround the more popular (e. g. famous) sections. Go just about any direction from lower Fremont (including upper Fremont) and you will run into a lot more people than in Kirkland. You can see this in the census data. It is really hard to find a census block anywhere near Fremont that isn’t above 10,000 people per square mile (except for one that include lots of water). On the other hand, not a single block reaches that level in Kirkland — you have to go to Redmond or Juanita to find pockets of density approaching that of the areas surrounding lower Fremont.

      Converting the Burke Gilman to a mass transit line would be very unpopular, but it would certainly carry way more than 5,000 people a day. Because, again, like just about every route in the area, it cuts through (and connects) to dense areas. Ballard/Fremont/UW/Downtown. Now that’s a corridor. On the other, the ERC would get people to Bellevue, and that’s about it. Nothing wrong with that, but it lacks other destinations.

      Unlike a Burke Gilman surface (or elevated) subway, I don’t see the value of connecting bus service on the ERC. Unlike the Burke, the ERC has a freeway that parallels the transit route. This pretty much kills half (if not more) of your connecting service. If you have to cross the freeway to get to your connecting transit line, then why not just get on the freeway, and head to your eventual destination (especially since there is only one)? For the most part, the ERC is simply too close and too similar to the freeway. It is best in Kirkland, as it manages to be quite a ways from the freeway. But Kirkland is too narrow. By the time it widens, the ERC is right by the freeway. So sending buses from Juanita, or Bel-Red road to the ERC is pretty silly (the buses should just go on the freeway or connect to Link). The ERC simply won’t carry that many people. It has very little opportunity to work with connecting buses, and doesn’t have much in the way of direct service. While spending a little for open BRT might make some sense, spending a bunch on rail is big waste of money.

      1. The value of the CKC over 405 is that CKC can give a bus direct access to 520 heading west without needing to navigate the 520-405 interchange, and direct ROW access to downtown Bellevue without interacting with either 520 or 405. The ability to serve both destinations is a huge benefit.

        Further, buses coming from north of downtown Kirkland can be coming from Finn Hill / Juanita in addition to Totem Lake. I suppose if we go all-in on I405 as our transit solutions, we’ll be able to route buses from Finn Hill straight to 405 … but 405 isn’t a true ROW like CKC, and all the 405 solutions assume WDOT can maintain good flow on 405 … given the fracas with the managed HOV lanes, I’m not comfortable putting all of my East King north-south transit eggs in that basket.

      2. but 405 isn’t a true ROW like CKC

        Irrelevant. From Kirkland TC to S. Kirkland P&R the CKC runs between the two routes taken by current bus routes. The 234/235 takes ~8 minutes and the 255/540 takes ~10. The small time savings the CKC would offer is mostly because it neatly misses all of the place buses pick up passengers. Buses running on 405 today would lose time diverting to the CKC. If the merge to 520 becomes a huge problem then that can be fixed for much less than creating a new busway with a much greater public benefit.

      3. The density/distance difference is very real, but not quite real enough to tunnel under Fremont. The difference is enough that the Fremont L would make sense to build tomorrow with current land use and the Kirkland L would depend on the city and people of Kirkland committing to growth in places along the line where there isn’t room for more cars. That would be a fifty-year commitment. The idea of Kirkland making a fifty-year commitment is laughable, but that’s not a Kirkland problem, that’s an all-of-us problem. Bellevue made the (stupid) commitment to accommodate every car possible for about fifty years (so did downtown Seattle). We can’t even commit to the simplest, most obvious things: to stop expanding freeways that are killing us and parking that’s choking urban mobility.

      4. “Bellevue made the (stupid) commitment to accommodate every car possible for about fifty years (so did downtown Seattle).”

        Well, not exactly. Traffic engineers do know that new pavement/lanes have a capacity lifespan, based on growth. For instance, the 4 lanes that WSDOT was planning back in ~2000 (the I-405 Corridor Program), was understood to have a ‘congestion relief’ effect only until about 2025. (with the assumption that the plan was already funded and constructed by now).

        So it would be more accurate to say that Bellevue’s is an ongoing commitment, along with all the other municipalities that see road/intersection ‘improvements’ (widening) as the solution to traffic congestion. My old stomping grounds of Canyon Park in Bothell for instance.

  11. This is an absurd situation. Subarea equity is fine when it comes to spending money locally, but forcing every area to have the same tax rate is just absurd.

    It makes no sense to push for projects on the east side so that we can spend money; we’re going to end up with piles of low ridership routes dragging the whole system down. It makes equally little sense to deny Seattle projects that it would gladly tax itself for, so that it can have the same tax rate as a bunch of places that don’t particularly want or need transit.

    Why on earth should Ballard to UW be contingent on finding projects the east side doesn’t want, and convincing pierce and snohomish counties that high capacity transit works for their low-density population?

    1. Why on earth should Ballard to UW be contingent on finding projects the east side doesn’t want, and convincing pierce and snohomish counties that high capacity transit works for their low-density population?

      Honestly? Because Pierce and Snohomish County stakeholders are convinced that light rail is critical to the future of their cities, and 20+ years ago convinced their legislators to tie Seattle’s progress to regional votes.

      1. Fiar – I get that there is a reason history has brought us here, and I don’t mean that pierce and snohomish counties shouldn’t be interested in transit.

        But that per capita (or more precisely, per unit of economic activity) spending on transit should be equal, across places with very different transit needs, is, to my eye, a strange and unfortunate outcome.

        Different places have different opportunities and different needs in terms of transit – as such, it would make all kinds of sense to let them have different tax rates.

        I wonder if there are many other examples of this kind of scheme. It’s kind of like if instead of having a federal government and state governments, we had only a federal government, but it had to spend its money in each state as much as it raised in that state, and with the same tax rates for all states.

      2. Well put Martin, well put.

        It’s time Seattlites realized regional rail is a GOOD thing for Seattle. Seattle cannot afford to house all its employers’ employees, much less handle that load + the tourist & business travel load. That’s where regional transit matters, period.

        Thanks.

      3. Let’s hope that over the last 20 years they’ve figured out that times change. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone assumed Seattle would shrink (or at least level off) while the suburbs grew at a record clip. The opposite has happened. Seattle is growing (in absolute number) more than all the surrounding suburban cities combined. The second fastest (in absolute number) is Bellevue. In other words, the dense areas are getting denser. This is good for transit, but only if we take advantage of it.

        Sending rail farther north than Northgate makes a lot of sense. Northgate makes a terrible terminus (as we shall see in a few years). I wouldn’t have sent the train as far north as they sent it, but what’s done is done. What is crazy is to think that suburban areas will get much out of sending it farther north, away from the city. You have diminishing returns. Lynnwood (and the other stations) can serve all of Snohomish County really well. Those in Lynnwood, as well as Everett benefit immensely. But extend this out to Everett, and there is no benefit to Lynnwood, and even the benefit to Everett is marginal. This is because Lynnwood is a very good terminus. There is easy access from the freeway HOV lanes, and a huge park and ride. There really isn’t a network effect — it is the opposite.

        Just as there is diminishing returns on the north end, there is for the east side. At least there could be, if things were designed a bit better. Someone on Kirkland should be able to quickly get to Montlake, and then take the train either direction (and a connecting train to Ballard). Extending rail out 520 really wouldn’t get you much, except a savings in service hours (if that). Either way there would be nothing in the way of direct service (very few people live close to the freeway). You still need to get from the neighborhoods to the bus or rail stop, and if that is close to the freeway, that is no easy task.

        Which is why the biggest problem is not subarea equity, but the ridiculous notion that light rail (or even a handful of BRT routes) is the answer to every problem. The suburban corridors simply need to eliminate the bottlenecks. This usually involves spending money on freeway ramps or making roads wider.

      4. Seattle is growing (in absolute number) more than all the surrounding suburban cities combined.

        Not really true. Since the 2010 census Seattle has added an estimated 59,700 whereas the rest of King County outside of Seattle has grown by 89,000. And virtually all of the population growth is now in incorporated areas. This isn’t even counting Lynnwood and other cities in Snohomish County. But your points regarding why high capacity transit vs suburban needs are spot on. If ST focused a ballot initiative on just providing reliable express buses via improved HOV lanes they’d get not just transit supporters but a large cross section of suburban voters.

      5. “This usually involves spending money on freeway ramps or making roads wider.”

        Why didn’t you just say so in the first place? Why all this quasi-transit support?

        Wait until the roads take up as much real estate as possible, congestion is the shits, and we’ve spent billions upon billions of dollars, and never have to justify the expense.

        I guess more pavement is the actual answer to every problem.

      6. Joe is totally right – even if Seattle becomes an Urbanist’s dream and grows housing stock like crazy, for Seattle to be healthy, it needs have vibrant suburbs. Transits moves people in AND out of Seattle. Don’t forget the reverse commute – lots of people love to live in Seattle but work elsewhere; those people need transit to get out of Seattle every day just as much as commuters coming into Seattle. Seattle’s downtown will always be the 800 pound gorilla in the region, but investments like East Link will allow Seattle’s residential neighborhoods to flourish.

      7. “Let’s hope that over the last 20 years they’ve figured out that times change. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone assumed Seattle would shrink (or at least level off) while the suburbs grew at a record clip.”

        It was more than twenty years ago that Seattle’s population bottomed out; it was almost forty years ago. A reasonable estimator in the mid 2000s would have seen Seattle’s population gradually increasing, although not as fast as the suburban explosion. The reversal occurred in the 2008 recession, when inner-city areas kept their property values while the exurbs did not. Would-be buyers turned into renters, the condo market evaporated, and after a couple years of mass vacancies the apartment market returned and became stronger than it was. The house market slowly followed. The subsequent spike in house prices is not a return to the fast clip of 2005, but a symptom of extremely low inventory: people are keeping their houses and not moving like they used to. And if we were on the edge of a housing shortage, it takes only a small change in supply to have a big effect on prices, like oil was before the supply glut/international recession.

  12. oh surprise, opposition from self-serving retired nimby geezer homeowners who don’t commute and probably wont live to see the 20 year plan-design-construct cycle

    1. I resemble that remark. So… what has you convinced that in 20 years us old geezers won’t be replaced with the next generation of NIMBY geezers that still won’t need this new fangled light rail your precious young heart desires?

  13. Solution – build light rail, but someplace else.

    Start at downtown Bellevue and follow Bellevue Way, which becomes Lake Washington blvd, into downtown Kirkland, continue north on Market St, then turn east on 124th to Totem Lake. This portion should probably be elevated. From there, if budget allows, improve the tracks where they still exist and continue on the Eastside Rail Corridor to Woodinville (thus addressing Woodinville “don’t forget about us” letter), while maintaining the existing freight service. This uses the infrastructure where people actually want it used, and actually serves the heart of downtown Kirkland.

    1. Kirkland will be even less amenable to an elevated line along its waterfront than it will to a surface line along the CKC. I know, I know; how much opposition would that be!?!?!?!?!?

  14. The City of Kirkland is correct on all points. ST should learn to use all of the tools in its transit box.

    Set aside mode for a moment. Transit on the CKC should be frequent, two-all-day, provide stations at transfer points, connect pedestrian centers with East Link, and be electric traction and quiet. Further, it should provide the goldilocks level of capacity; not too much with extra capital cost; not too little.

    So, electric trolleybus BRT seems the correct choice.

    If the lower cost approach to the CKC frees up funds in the East King County subarea, additional service frequency could be provided elsewhere. There are many worthy projects. The I-405 BRT could have more frequency; the SR-522 BRT could have more frequency or it could also be electrified. Sammamish could have a regional express route between Redmond and the Mercer Island Link station. ST could fund a frequent route on Mercer Island rather than a garage.

    It is the notion of Link in Issaquah that seems flawed: quite costly and finding few pedestrians. Issaquah could have great transit with a center access ramp at SR-900 to and from the west and frequent bus service to and from Mercer Island Link. ST should take advantage of the ramps Sound Move provided at 142nd Place SE (and the ones in Federal Way at South 317th Street as well).

      1. Only reason I’d pick streetcars- South Lake Union size- for the trail and a street spur into Kirkland CBD- is that these cars fit pedestrian areas more comfortably than do buses. However powered.

        But at the wheel of an artic trolleybus all through DSTT construction, I always thought it would have been a good idea to prepare for EastLINK by getting the trackway and stations in place so that, like the DSTT, trains could more quickly replace the buses on the same right of way.

        Including catenary , and barriers keeping out everything but buses and emergency vehicles.
        But was told by the engineers that, in 1983 at least, a trolleybus couldn’t do much past 40mph.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPhhbF0Ms7g

        Wonder why the Australians didn’t electrify the Adelaide busway? Could use “third rail” like BART. Better electrical contact, and no fear of having wire come down or poles dewired either speed or wind.

        Long-term, problem with buses, however fast, and however clear the right of way is that they can’t be coupled. At 60 mph, meaning a long stretch of lane between buses. With rail, all that space can be filled with passenger seats and aisles.

        I’m putting this in so nobody will have to scroll back. It illustrates my sense that for the Trail and other pedestrian areas, for local service, fueled or electrified, busways don’t fit. With reserved lanes along 405, different story. But because of the following-distance problem, you’ll have to lay out the line for eventual conversion to rail.

        Mark Dublin

    1. (real question) – what’s the advantage of putting in an electric trolley bus, vs. just paving bus-lanes and running an electric bus, like the fancy new plug-in ones?

  15. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/25719065076/

    Three ambiguous elements of a complicated country on Mannerheim Blvd, Downtown Helsinki. A car at close quarters with a problematic streetcar, both a block or from a statue of Marshal Mannerheim. About whom Finns have strong disagreements, depending on what happened to their own families in the 1918 civil war.

    Also noticed that there are air-raid shelter notices on every subway entrance. Very curious if the Finns in general and the HKL transit in particular are making some extra preparations re: current events along that border.

    Speaking of which, I’m curious as to whether Seattle Subway has ever even thought about emergency usefulness. In addition to, and long overdue, our freeway system that was so intended and is now totally useless for that.

    I’ve used pics of our Skoda cars to illustrate their use in public pedestrian areas, like Kirkland and both its city center, and trail. They’ve got a good reputation, don’t they? Had to use pics of cars in the settings I needed.

    But based on what you’ve seen of the whole streetcar system in Helsinki, do you think I’m right about cars of this caliber for local service in the corridor under discussion? In Norway, Sweden, and Finland, what impressed me most about streetcar transit is its comfortable relationship with pedestrians.

    From what you see of street railway in Helsinki, what do you think about using it in Kirkland?

    Mark Dublin

  16. Here’s what I’m not seeing in this post or in any of the comments (possibly save Martin’s glancing reference): why this is damaging to ST3 and how damaging? There’s a lot of people on the east side, and not all in Kirkland. Would a good BRT solution off the trail kill that many votes? Tell me how many votes you expect from Kirkland and how many you expect would be turned off by a lack of LRT that the Kirkland elected pols don’t even want.

    You can’t assume all of Kirkland would vote against it. How many would? How many votes would you need to gain elsewhere to make up for that? How many votes could you salvage by giving them something they actually want?

    Seattle Subway loves to claim that this or that poor-ROI suburban rail project is politically necessary, but they never seem to actually articulate why, other than waving their hands at it. Show me your assumptions on these numbers.

    1. You understand all of these things, right?

      1. A larger package on the Eastside means a larger package in Seattle. Inversely, scaling the project back on the Eastside means scaling back everywhere.

      2. No one is claiming that the rail line ST has studied so far is great. Seattle Subway has been calling for them to re-do their study work to make it better for nearly two years.

      3. There is an article coming out tomorrow that advocates for better rail for the Eastside – a line that will be better for all the stakeholders involved. Transit advocates, ERC critics, etc.

      4. If advocates don’t get closer to being on the same page and get loud, this problem could contaminate the entire ST3 deal due to the politics of scaling back. A 15 year plan would mean potentially unacceptable trade offs in Seattle and elsewhere.

      5. The voting issue isn’t just about Kirkland – it’s about the entire Eastside. The Eastside needs to see something that they think is of value. 405 BRT does not cut it. ST’s polling had it rated as the least important Eastside project, by Eastsiders, by a wide margin.

      1. Zach’s proposal is better than anything ST has come up with in several ways, though it has some meaningful tradeoffs of its own. As Keith points out, there have been other ideas for better Eastside rail alignments, none of which have ever been endorsed by the ST Board.

        Let’s start by acknowledging that this, or some truncated version thereof, is what’s on the table right now. We agree, at least, that the current rail proposal is a low-ridership mess. It shouldn’t take a grand bargain to get Sound Transit to start thinking about how to make it better. That should have been the default agenda from the first day of planning.

        All the ‘better rail’ ideas start from the same premise: We have a huge pile of money to burn on the Eastside, and we must burn it so that we can do useful stuff in other places (or in some cases, burn other piles of money). And the only acceptable match to light the pile of money is a train, whether or not that’s the right solution in a particular time and place.

        Kirkland looked at the ST proposal and rightly questioned where ST’s 5K rider a day train (in 2040) is worth either the impacts to the City’s great multimodal corridor, or the $1.5B it would cost.

        Good transit planning doesn’t start by looking at a pile of money. Or figuring how to build something expensive on one side of the lake to build something useful on the other.

      2. A definition of “good transit planning” seems pretty abstract for a process pretty far into concrete tradeoffs between interest groups. The alternative to ST3 is not a smart planner in a political vacuum.

        I’m not the type to get mad that a transit line is a little bit better than it has to be. That said, there’s too much critical stuff at stake to do anything but maximize the vote.

        If it’s BRT, fine. If it’s rail, great. If it’s sending East King money to Seattle, where it’ll do a lot of good, or Snohomish, where the projects, will be much appreciated, that’s certainly fine with me.

        I trust the ST board more than just about anyone else to figure out what is going to pass.

      3. Two additions Dan.

        1) No other alignments have ever been studied by ST staff. Therefore there has never been an opportunity for an alternative to be considered or weighed in any meaningful way by the board or anyone else. The ST studied alignment doesn’t even offer a 1 seat ride to DT Bellevue. How can we extrapolate anything meaningful from the work they have done so far? We are in agreement that the line proposed is insufficient in every way.

        2) Good transit planning does not occur in a vacuum. If we could just get a big pile of regional money and then let transit planners figure out what to do we would have a very different system. This option exists nowhere in the US. You can’t hand wave past the regional politics. This vote is the last chance to make a regional system happen – the last bite of the apple for decades. We need to think on the scale of the next 40 years, not the next 10.

      4. You understand you addressed none of this in the post, right? You understand you’re flogging transit inside baseball to randos on facebook who are still asking why there’s no parking garage at husky station?

        1. Yes, a smaller package on the east side means a smaller package everywhere. So what does that mean in East King? Is Bellevue happy with their share? Is Issaquah? Is Redmond? Why does Kirkland get a veto point in your view?

        2. Okay – so what? So we all, including the residents of Kirkland, agree that the LRT being proposed is bad? How does this affect the post or the call to action, whatever that is (I honestly can’t tell – “email your electeds and tell them that something’s gotta give and there will be a sweet blog post on Monday, trust me”?)

        3. Did you guys read a book telling you how to do this? Seriously, I think you have a macro. Every single time I’ve seen a complaint or question about something SS is advocating, I’ve seen the complainer get told “look, all will be revealed in a week or a month or next quarter when we revise our plan.” If you’ve got something to say, then say it. If you’re not ready to say it, that’s totally understandable – good ideas like Zach’s take time. So, be quiet about it until you have something to talk about.

        4. WHAT PAGE DO YOU WANT US ON? Stop telling me and the world to get on board with a plan that you haven’t told us the details of yet.

        5. Yes, that’s what I’m asking for. Do you have better ideas for the other big cities? Are they going to vote against this en masse, do you think? Or could we afford to make them happy, but take 30% yes in Kirkland. I have no idea. You’re asking people to trust that you are advocating plans that you know aren’t great, because you understand the politics. So give explaining it a try.

        You understand all of these things, right?

      5. KP. Sorry if our message was confusing. Saturday’s post is background on a post that will be up today.

        We talk to lots of different people at lots of different understanding levels.

        Our message re: Kirkland is extremely simple. There will be a post today with a better light rail plan and we want our supporters to support it and reach out to local politicians and tell them they support it.

    2. “Seattle Subway loves to claim that this or that poor-ROI suburban rail project is politically necessary, but they never seem to actually articulate why, other than waving their hands at it. Show me your assumptions on these numbers.

      Well, I don’t know about Seattle Subway’s source, but when I was on the I-405 Corridor Program’s Citizens Committee, I was able to review the public opinion survey WSDOT conducted (1999) of 1200 citizens living in the corridor.

      I was even looking through my paper documents last night (well, at least the ones in the house. I have a few boxes of paperwork in the garage, too – but I don’t have that much time), for the results of the survey.

      Right now I can only give you an overview from memory, but the survey asked numerous questions such as “Do you think congestion is a problem?”, etc.

      The standard 4 replies: Strongly Disagree-Disagree/Agree-Strongly Agree

      When they collected the results (and broke down the responses to a basic percent of agreement/disagreement), they found that (and this if from memory, until I can dig up the document), that ~80% of those surveyed were in agreement with “Do you think congestion is a problem?” , and “Do you think there should be more lanes on I-405?”

      What I thought interesting was that roughly 70-75% of those surveyed were in agreement with this question: “Do you think rail should be part of the solution?”.

      Whatever method Seattle Subway is using (and no, I’m not involved with them), they are correct in their read of what the public wants on the eastside.

  17. Building rail along the CKC or along 405 seem to be options under consideration, with those opposed pushing for BRT. I think rail in either option would be fine–CKC seems to be drawing NIMBY opposition, from people claiming that the trail is some kind of precious wilderness path through wetlands–IT IS NOT. I live about a block from it and let me tell you, it is a gravel/dirt, pitted, often muddy trail that passes through the mostly ugly, industrial backside of Kirkland. It’s good for mountain bikes and joggers, when it’s not muddy, and that’s about it. There was rail on it for decades, and bringing rail back would not be some kind of crazy inappropriate usage. Where was all the opposition when the dinner trains utilized it? If the 405 route is chosen instead, why not make it elevated, along the middle, with overpass stations fed by park-n-rides every few miles? that would avoid the whole land-grab/land-usage squabble, no?

    1. “Where was all the opposition when the dinner trains utilized it? “

      There was no public venue for them to voice their opposition until the I-405 Corridor Program back in 1999-2001.
      The Kennydale Neighborhood Association, along with the City of Renton got consideration of the ERC kicked out of the analysis process back then.

      That’s about the earliest I’m aware of.

      Rail can serve the dual purpose of local and commuter service, if the local service has developable land around the stations.
      That’s where the Sound Transit board is screwing up with Lynnwood Link in caving to the local municipalities (Shoreline) by keeping the alignment on the freeway ROW.

      Adding the cost of elevated, and eliminating the walkshed is the WRONG way to go.

      That’s why at-grade rail on the ERC is the best value. Create the park-and-rides at the places where the car-sewers already are, next to the freeway. Create the local walkable stations where it diverges enough, and is closer to the already developed areas.

      The infill at the local stations will occur once the region wakes up to the value of the service.

      Unless the region uses the myopic 10 year planning cycle.

    2. “I live about a block from it and let me tell you, it is a gravel/dirt, pitted, often muddy trail that passes through the mostly ugly, industrial backside of Kirkland.”

      North of Kirkland Ave may be industrial, but the south part is an oasis of wilderness, and the middle part south of 68th is full of McMansions like the one in the picture. I don’t know about mud since I’ve only seen it in dry weather.

  18. Development on the Eastside is totally car-driven at present. Discussions of I-405 and I-90 alignments are based on the notion that development will always be car-driven. It’s true that there isn’t much vision for anything different, but there is some. There is a downtown Bellevue and there are new plans around some of the eastside light rail stations, especially Overlake, that could create some vibrant competition for Kirkland and might benefit more from LRT (since it more of a blank slate, and future density will be higher). If Kirkland doesn’t want the money, don’t give it to them. Use it to improve the connection to downtown Bellevue, where enormous new developments will generate far more transit riders.

    I have no doubt that there will be light rail to Kirkland and onward eventually, but I don’t see the hurry, if they don’t want it now. Use the money to build where it is wanted, in Bellevue.

    1. Sound Transit should make use of their easement to build rail to Woodinville, where they do want it.

    2. The Eastside is gradually shifting from a houses-for-everyone model to half the people in urban centers. The geographical center and values have already started to shift with downtown Bellevue and Redmond, and the emerging urban centers in Bel-Red and Overlake will continue this, as will (if they materialize) Totem Lake and southwest Issaquah. Another example is northeast Issaquah (the 554’s area between the TC and I-90), which has tons of apartments and the houses are supririsingly close together for an outer suburb: so it’s dense-ish but completely unwalkable. That may be the Eastside’s first generation of density, and the Spring District will be the second generation. We can hope that the second generation will be more walkable than the first. If the Eastside eventually reaches a point that half the population is multifamily, then it will be like Seattle is now, and its further development may be like Seattle’s near future. That gives some level of hope.

  19. So this might have been mentioned elsewhere in the comment thread (sorry if so) – but has there been any thought in having a BRT line that does both 405 and CKC? Instead of the stop at 85th st, have the bus exit 405 at Totem Lake, run along CKC as proposed w/ various stops, and then hop back on 405 in downtown Bellevue and continue towards Renton, etc.

    This doesn’t address some of the political concerns that Zach is bringing up in this post, but it seems to achieve all of the goals of both 405 BRT and transit on CKC in a single project.

    1. two considerations: the I-405 BRT line and the CKC line serve different markets: cross county and intra county; the transit on the CKC needs to be electric and quiet. mixing the two degrades both.

      1. Aye, but that’s not how the “High Capital” 405 is designed, with stops like 85th. But yes, if the vision of 405 BRT has nearly no stops between Bothel & downtown Bellevue (so that North King & Snohomish can have rapid transit to Bellevue), then diverting to CKC would be disadvantageous.

  20. As the CIty Manager for the City of Kirkland, I wanted to point out that Zach’s article completely missed “the Kirkland Compromise” that was included in the draft letter to the Sound Transit Board following the staff memo. Kirkand supported ST’s 1 and 2 and the City Council wants to support the ST3 measure. The Council has been working for 9 months to find a win-win solution..The City Council has continued to advocate for transit even though that decision has been very controversial in Kirkland. It is critical to the economic viability of both Kirkland and the region that more transit solutions are created. But according to Sound Transit, the CKC light rail segment will only carry 5000 riders by 2040. Metro’s Route 255 carries more than that in Kirkland today. The City Council supports BRT because it can be built faster, cheaper, is more flexible and the expressway can be used by Metro buses to significantly increase ridership. But Sound Transit has said no to BRT so Kirkland is proposing a compromise. It is vital to Kirkland and the region that high capacity transit options be preserved on the entire Eastside Rail Corridor, and not just the CKC. If ST does not fund anything on the CKC, there is a very real risk that transit will never come to the Eastside Rail Corridor. Therefore the City will be asking that Sound Transit reserve the CKC for future transit by building the full CKC Master Plan trail in the right location now. One key purpose of Sound Transit is to get cars off the road. The permanent trail will provide thousands of bicycles and pedestrians direct access to Sound Transit stations in Kirkland (Kingsgate P&R) and Bellevue (Wilburton light rail station). From Totem Lake to the South Kirkland Park & Ride Sound Transit should relocate and rebuild the Interim Trail as a permanent Regional Trail, according to the CKC Master Plan vision. Sound Transit should also reserve a transit envelope of at least 30 feet for future transit. From the South Kirkland Park & Ride to Wilburton Station in Bellevue, the Regional Trail should be constructed according to King County’s Regional Trail Plan, while also dedicating space for future transit. The total cost of these investments would be approximately 250 million dollars or less.

    This compromise provides significant CKC/ERC investments for Kirkland and Bellevue residents to support. It constructs the trails in the right place, so they will never be diminished by future transit. It creates a “quick win” transit alternative for bike commuters to ST stations while waiting for future transit investments. It preserves the railbanked status of both the CKC and the Eastside Rail Corridor while permanently dedicating future transit space on both segments. It postpones the transit mode decision to future ballot measures and allows time for Sound Transit and the Kirkland community to determine the best mode together. It provides funding to design the agreed-upon transit mode and to achieve a Record of Decision for the future. Finally, the compromise saves Sound Transit significant money in the ST3 ballot measure by avoiding the need to fund a 1.5 billion dollar light rail line today. Kirkland is hoping that building permanent trail access to Sound Transit stations while dedicating the future transit envelope is a solution that all sides can support.

    1. Hi Kurt,

      Thanks for adding some additional insight here.

      I can understand how you would reach the conclusion you came to given the extremely poor rail option that was presented.

      The option that will be presented on STB this morning will have an order of magnitude better ridership for a marginal additional capital investment.

      We hope you’ll join us in urging Sound Transit to give the option presented serious consideration and provide the ST board and the City of Kirkland a better understanding of the full range of options.

    2. I applaud the Kirkland City Council standing up to ST regarding rail. Agree that it doesn’t make sense for the reasons mentioned (high cost, low ridership, no flexibility, lack of meaningful stops, not “Kirkland,” etc). However, I think Sound Transit has better things to do with $250M than build trails. The CKC gets nothing on ST3 and frankly, I think the Kirkland residents would be ok with it.

    3. Kurt,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on this thread. I, and I think I can speak for most of this Blog’s readership here, truly appreciate your engagement.

      I love the idea of physically setting aside the transit ROW on CKC while building a permanent trail, without or without transit being put in now, thereby reserving that ROW. A great solution that defers the decision on transit mode while still keeping options open & minimizing investment that will have to be “dug-up” a few years later.

  21. The Eastside isn’t anti-rail. They’re just anti-rail that does any of the following:

    1. makes noise
    2. moves too fast
    3. moves too slow
    4. Compromises between fast and slow too much
    5. hurts feelings
    6. costs money

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