Drawing of Purple Line in Maryland

On Saturday I wrote about conflict between the City of Kirkland and Sound Transit on proposed transit investments in Sound Transit 3. If you’re new to this issue I suggest you read that piece before this one, but to reiterate, the basic issues are as follows. Kirkland developed a detailed Bus Rapid Transit plan for its Cross Kirkland Corridor in response to two perceived limitations of light rail, namely that a small capital package would render light rail unaffordable and that light rail was inappropriate for a rail-trail corridor that misses the heart of downtown Kirkland. The City and Sound Transit are at an impasse on the project, with Sound Transit preferring light rail given the likelihood of a larger package and because the preponderance of public comment strongly favored light rail over BRT. Kirkland has remained steadfast despite these new realities, threatening to publicly oppose the ballot measure (pages 12-13) if light rail is included. Meanwhile, citizen activism via the Save Our Trail group threatens any transit investment in the corridor, which in turn threatens the strength of Eastside projects needed to deliver a ‘yes’ vote on Sound Transit 3.

What follows is an attempt at a third way, a grand bargain that builds an appropriately scaled intra-Eastside rail line that is likelier to motivate voters, that permanently secures a world-class walking and biking trail from Woodinville to Renton, and that responds to both the concerns of the City of Kirkland and the adjacent homeowners of Save Our Trail. The following proposal isn’t perfect, but I believe it’s a good-faith triangulation of competing needs that builds a quality project while offering substantive mitigation to Kirkland residents. The proposal is in 5 parts:

1. Build a transit greenway. In trail-like settings, there is a clear aesthetic advantage to light rail. Even the quietest electric trolley buses would require at least 30′ of concrete adjacent to the trail, whereas light rail could be built in a much subtler way, with rails embedded with grass as in done in much of the world (see photo above). Admittedly, Sound Transit has built nothing remotely like this to date, but there is nothing precluding such an investment. Where sightlines are good, pedestrians could be permitted to cross freely, a major sticking point of the Save Our Trail group. Near curves, barriers, fencing, and minimum-footprint overpasses could be installed.

2. Give up on Totem Lake rail. Though historic rail right-of-way is always alluring, in low density areas it is admittedly inappropriate for high capacity transit. I propose to build rail on the Cross Kirkland Corridor only where it happens to be on the way between two major Eastside destinations. Between Bellevue and Kirkland, the Cross-Kirkland Corridor is a relatively direct connection that just so happens to be pre-existing right of way, whereas a Central Kirkland-Totem Lake line would be a solution in search of a problem, with a low density corridor marked by warehouses, second-growth woods, and other transit-hostile uses. We should build rail to Downtown Kirkland only, and allow high quality I-405 BRT to serve Totem Lake, as befits its freeway oriented character.

3. Use Totem Lake’s savings to build to Downtown Kirkland, either at-grade or preferably in a short tunnel. From just north of the Google campus, the line should turn northwest to a short terminal station in Downtown Kirkland. We could build a short 0.6 mile tunnel (the same length as Downtown Bellevue’s tunnel) to a terminal station, perhaps replacing the surface parking lot at Central Way and Lake Street.  

4. Split East Link into two lines, halve the frequency, and run a new Issaquah line to Redmond. Hear me out. Kirkland and Issaquah would be relatively weak tails in a light rail network, but splitting the service could allow us to retain core frequency without over-serving either city. Imagine two lines crossing the I-90 bridge, each running every 12 minutes. East Link continues onto Downtown Redmond, while Kirkland Link runs along the same alignment before heading north from Wilburton to Downtown Kirkland. Meanwhile, the Issaquah line runs crosses I-405 at East Main and runs through Downtown Bellevue to Redmond, supplying the Bellevue-Redmond frequency lost by splitting East Link.

The end result is a nicely elegant service pattern (see map below) that serves Kirkland and Issaquah, avoids the apparently untouchable Mercer Slough, but also retains Seattle-Bellevue service every 6 minutes, 10 trains per hour between Bellevue-Redmond, and 15 trains per hour between East Main and Wilburton. Even better, this system would cut costs by requiring 4 fewer miles of overall track, both by omitting Totem Lake and by omitting the redundant stretch of track between East Main and Wilburton east of I-405.

Eastside Rail Interlining Corrected-01

5. Dedicate the entire remaining Eastside Rail Corridor to a permanent walking and biking trail. As the political trade for permitting transit on the CKC between Wilburton and Kirkland, regional stakeholders should agree that the remaining ERC trail segments (Woodinville-Kirkland, Wilburton-East Main, and I-90 to Renton) will be permanently and exclusively preserved for people walking and biking. These segments are either rural or built along the lakeshore, precluding their effective use as high capacity transit corridors. We can present this to residents and voters as taking only the minimum transit right-of-way that we need, while preserving 75% as a exclusive trail in good faith.

Modal Diagram Eastside Rail Corridor-01

190 Replies to “A Grand Bargain for Kirkland in ST3”

  1. This is an order of magnitude better than the rail option from the ST studies. I wouldn’t be surprised if this option cut the capital cost/rider calculation to a third of the original option.

    New features:
    -Serves Kirkland, not “Kirkland”
    -Adds 1 seat rides from Kirkland to Bellevue and DT Seattle.
    -Adds a 1 seat ride from Issaquah to Bellevue and Redmond
    -Uses far less of the contentions Eastside Rail corridor
    -Service plan is a stroke of genius that means very high frequency for short hops in the Bellevue core.

    I hope advocates can get behind this and push for the best ST3 possible.

    1. This is an excellent idea, Zach, with one caveat. You are planning to miss Factoria entirely. You don’t even propose a station north of I-90.

      Better would be to continue on the ERC to just south of I-90, then curve to the east, tunnel under I-405 to the SE 38th Street ROW and a station at Factoria Blvd then on east under the green belt back to and under I-90.

      Yes, it would cost significantly more, but as you say you’ve saved a lot of money by omitting Totem Lake.

      There are plenty of folks in Issaquah or Eastgate who would ride this line to employment in Overlake rather than sitting on an all-stops bus crossing the gap on 148th. Plenty.

      The basic idea is excellent.

      1. The other caveat is that the Wilburton Trestle simply can’t be used by both modes. Fortunately, the Wilburton Park and Ride is extremely close by:

        From East Main, follow 114th ROW to Wilburton P&R (with optional station)
        From Wilburton, bridge over SB 405 and proceed in median to ERC ROW

        Still works great!

      2. Ross M,

        Of course the Wilburton Trestle can’t be used by both modes. It’s single track. And doubtless too old to support light rail trains. The light rail track would need its own structure regardless how far north it enters the ROW and how far south it exits it, if it crosses Lake Hills Boulevard.

        And Zach,

        How about a station at about NE 55th? There are a large number of apartments between the ROW and Lake Washington Boulevard and Northwest University is six blocks to the east.

      3. I agree with a NE 55th station — it’s only a 8 minute walk from the trail to Carillon Point as well. It’s up a big hill but maybe we could get an elevator built to get you up to the ROW (maybe even as a future improvement).

    2. Service plan is such a stroke of genius that it violates the laws of physics. Read my post about ten below.

      1. Corrected above to show proper train spacing that allows 6 minutes between Seattle-Bellevue on orange/blue, 10 tph between Bellevue Redmond (at 3, 9 minute intervals), and 15 tph between East Main and Wilburton at 0, 3, 6, 12, 15, 18 etc.

      2. Very clear, and having 15 tph through Bellevue is still valuable, because one or the other is going to be a minute off schedule and spread the availability a bit, even if to a random degree. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Zach – I think ST should easily support this proposal. I still maintain that the ERC should not be used at all south of Wiliburton, but instead interline at S Bellevue. That would make Issaquah -> DT trips doable via light rain. It would also mean more like 82% of the ERC could be preserved for trail only.

    The only other part I don’t like is this basically permanently excludes Totem lake. I would suggest that they build Light rail in such a way that it could connect to Totem lake in ST4. Once you’re in DT Kirkland is an 85th -> 405 routing possible? I know 85th is pretty steep, can light rail follow that grade? If so then that can eventually be used rather than ERC.

    1. From downtown Kirkland, I think the best route to Totem Lake would be north on Market, east on 124th, with a stop for Juanita.

      1. This is a very good idea — I have often gone for a jog on Market – the ROW is wide enough for MLK – style at-grade center running light rail. If you pave it with grass instead of concrete then it’ll work well.

        The best part of this is that Juanita is a big growth area and it would be great to serve that with Light rail.

      2. The Juanita area is going to plateau in it’s growth capacity soon without better mass transit there soon. 124th and 132nd are saturated, Kirkland has plans to expand 132nd both with the new interchange and selective widening of the street, but at this point you can’t get to/from 405 in a timely manner anymore.

      3. Juanita to 405 is a steep grade on any street, getting better the more north you go. 132nd is probably doable, but 116th and 124th are probably not doable at grade. Market is also difficult – the climb out of Kirkland is 6% grade I believe. 116th maxes around 13% I believe, 124th if somewhere between those two I think.

        I think getting LRT to Juanita will be difficult, particularly if you want to go to Totem Lake afterwards. The only other possibility is heading north through Brickyard or to Kenmore. Brickyard is the denser of the routes (such as it is) and very likely doable with LRT. Heading to Kenmore along the shore of Lake Washington might work, but I’m not as familiar there with the grades.

      4. An additional big challenge to 132nd would be it would be hard to go anywhere with serious rider ship cheaply once you got to the Kingsgate PR/405. The fairly sizeable hill that the Kingsgate neighborhood sits on is right on the other side so you’d have to elevate over the freeway at that point to mitigate the grade. There is much to be said for going into the Totem Lake area around 124th which gives you multiple avenues to “exit” to the North that are rail suitable depending on which is the best transit route.

        For that matter my main problem with this whole proposed routing is the high likelihood that the system would end up “dead ended” in downtown Kirkland forever hemmed in by future development without any cost effective way for ever moving north, since the station would likely be surface or elevated.

      5. I think it is worth mentioning that Juanita is by far the most densely populated part of the region (north of 520, east of 405) according to the latest census. Census blocks can be rather arbitrary, so maybe there are pockets of density in Kirkland proper, but I don’t see it. Folks talk about future density, and that is nice to imagine, but current density is likely to play as big a part in the viability of mass transit as future growth. Most places won’t grow like South Lake Union, because South Lake Union is just part of greater downtown (just like First Hill, etc.). Furthermore, mass transit is unlikely to spur growth. Rainier Beach has Link, but it still isn’t growing as fast as Ballard, First Hill or South Lake Union).

        Keep in mind, though, that while Juanita has the most densely populated census blocks in the area (a very wide area) it is nothing special. it is just one little part of town that looks a bit like what most of Seattle looks like (around 15,000 people per square mile). If mass transit can be brought there cheaply, then it might make sense. But only then.

      6. East of 405 is not Juanita, it’s Totem Lake or Rose Hill or other things. Juanita is the coastal area west of 100th and perhaps a bit further east.

      7. Sorry — I made a mistake (which is obvious when you look at the census maps). I meant WEST of I-405 (of course). Look at the two census blocks that are a darker color than any pair for miles around: http://arcg.is/250WwP6 — Juanita!

      8. That’s one tiny part of Juanita, about the size of Totem Lake. I went through there last year during Kirkland’s artist-studio tour, and it does have a bunch of apartments. It may be worth getting priority transit up there, but the rest of Juanita is low density.

      9. What Mike says. The dense part of Kirkland is downtown, not Juanita. On a census tract map, downtown appears less dense because the CBG sweeps in some near-zero population density office area between the Park and the freeway. (And the Park itself, which is a whole lot of nothing in population terms, but not in other ways). Juanita has a few large apartment buildings, but that doesn’t extend for any distance.

  3. Wow Zach! This is a really great plan. This allows for good frequencies, great trip pairs, serves people more directly, and looks like a political winner. It might even be cheaper than what ST was thinking. That’s the whole package.

  4. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m still skeptical. Kirkland to Seattle via I-90 is simply out of the way, compared to a bus down 520 – even if the bus down 520 requires a connection to U-link to reach downtown, while the I-90 route is a one-seat train ride all the way. For Kirkland->downtown Seattle, the difference might be only 5-10 minutes (depending on what end of downtown you’re headed to). For Kirkland->U-district, we’re talking more like 30-35 minutes. Since the Kirkland->Seattle transit market is not large enough to support both the I-90 train option and the 520 bus option (at least outside of peak-period, peak-direction commutes), the 520 bus would inevitably get cut, forcing any trip between Kirkland and Seattle to slog it all the way around the “U”.

    Kirkland->Bellevue has some value in and of itself, but the ridership today on the 234 and 235 simply don’t warrant a rail investment of any kind. On weekends, I have consistently observed the CKC to actually get more walkership per hour than the 234/235 ridership – even on days like last Saturday, where the weather outside wasn’t the greatest.

    While your proposed route would certainly be faster for Kirkland->Bellevue trips than the existing 234/235 (which would hopefully attract more riders), most of the time savings would come from skipping passenger stops and/or the deviation into South Kirkland P&R, rather than actually using the ERC. You could achieve the same end-to-end time savings without doing any new heavy construction and avoid all controversy with the trail by simply create a peak-hour express route from downtown Kirkland to downtown Bellevue via I-405. It should also be noted that due to limited stops and steep hills, a transit line down the CKC between Bellevue and Kirkland would not be able to replace the existing bus routes down 108th Ave. and Lake Washington Blvd. without a significant loss of coverage. For instance, it’s about a 150-foot vertical gap between the CKC and the neighborhoods east of 108th, and a 100-foot vertical grap between the CKC and Lake Washington Blvd the other direction.

    Furthermore, is the segment between South Kirkland P&R and Google of the CKC that is precisely the segment that has the most to lose aesthetically by introducing transit on the trail, and where neighborhood opposition is the greatest. I walked the trail last Saturday and practically every house adjacent to the trail had a “Save our Trail” yard sign.

    There might be opportunities to leverage the ERC for just the segment between 108th Ave. and NE 8th St. as a way to improve the speed and reliability of the existing routes 234 and 235. Such a corridor could even retain coverage to Northup Way businesses by adding a stop that connects to the buildings via the back parking lot. But even this might be more investment than the ridership on these routes justify, and the powers that be insist on retaining the deviation into South Kirkland P&R, much of the benefit of this reroute would be lost anyway.

    Overall, I think it’s best to just add a peak-hour express overlay to the Kirkland->Bellevue corridor along existing roadways, and call it a day.

    1. I don’t think adding an express overlay helps solve the long term goal of alleviating traffic. Roadways will always be congested.

      1. Nor will putting transit on the CKC solve traffic problems if no one rides it. Most people do not live along the CKC and the terrain, as asdf2 pointed out, is steep on both sides. Adding a bus route or working with Kirkland to add lanes or traffic adjustments to specific routes would be much cheaper. Not to mention that if transit is put on the CKC, I’m sure all those houses supporting saving the CKC will figure out some way to drag the process out through the legal system.

      2. I assume that extended litigation is a given, but this would be a 25 year capital program under which Sound Transit almost certainly has the legal upper hand given the railbanked status of the corridor.

      3. Frank, every time I ride BART, Iook down from a ten car standing load train and a highway packed with cars going slowly nowhere . Difference is, like Chevy Chase used to say, “We, all thousand of us, are moving, fast, and they’re not.”

        Every anti-transit thing I ever read uses same argument: transit won’t alleviate congestion. Just like a gym and an organic grocery next door won’t help sofa sports fans and fried ice-cream addicts keep fit.

        But what transit can do is make getting stuck someone’s own personal choice. So while the ribbon cutting in Lynnwood won’t instantly clear I-5, it’ll start to help alleviating congestion by making it easier precisely by allowing, not forcing” people to ride on something that moves.

        Because ever more now, city and suburban driving deprives people of the main superiority of private cars: freedom and fun. So the truth is, with transit’s help, congestion is on its way to relieve itself.

        Mark Dublin

      4. We have to stop thinking that ridership is simply transferring present service to rail. The potential is in the alignment that is served. Downtown Kirkland is a walkable, dense and serviceable community with further potential for growth. A 20-30 minute bus ride is no comparison to a grade separated train that will take a fraction of that time between destination pairs. When people realize they can reliably get from Kirkland to Bellevue in minutes with frequency, they will make use of it.

      5. @Charles — Sure. A few thousand will. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people will sit disconnected from this magical, billion dollar grid wondering when they will get a fast ride to downtown, or the U-District, or even the East Side, despite the fact that they live in a neighborhood that is much closer to the first two areas, more densely populated now and will be more densely populated for the next 100 years (if not longer).

        Kirkland is a beautiful, charming suburb, built before someone thought that cul-de-sacs were a great idea. But it will remain largely a pretty, charming suburb, without the population density, employment density, or other attractions that will make mass transit appropriate for an area. That is why the folks in Kirkland — the representatives that could easily demand the moon and probably get it — refuse to adopt this ridiculous “we will soon be Brooklyn” attitude. They know that buses make the most sense for the area because they know that it will never be Brooklyn. Hell, it will never be First Hill or even Eastlake. Light rail just doesn’t make sense there. Too expensive, too spread out — sorry, it just isn’t worth it.

    2. On thing, though. You can’t have “every six minutes” service on the blue and orange lines and “every six minutes service” on the orange and purple lines without having the blue and purple lines run nose-to-tail through Bellevue. You won’t have “four minute service”. You’ll have two trains every twelve minutes and one train every twelve minutes, six minutes from the two trains.

    3. Kirkland to Seattle via I-90 is simply out of the way, compared to a bus down 520 – even if the bus down 520 requires a connection to U-link to reach downtown, while the I-90 route is a one-seat train ride all the way.

      I should have mentioned in the post, but I’d assume full continuance of 520 transit between Redmond, Kirkland, and UW for the reasons you mentioned. But a train to Seattle would likely be compelling for Kirklanders, even if it were only time-competitive for trips to Chinatown or Pioneer Square. For Seattle, it would be the same service pattern they’ve agreed to with East Link, with no difference at all between IDS and whatever the northern terminus is. It would just have every other train go to Kirkland instead of Redmond, and a new line to Redmond to pick up the intra-Eastside slack.

      1. Difference between 520 bus and I-90 rail for a Kirkland passenger is that an inch of rush hour snow or a one car collision at the King County line or attorneys arguing over a spilled fish truck won’t stop a train.


      2. My main issue with this is that there’s no good connectivity from N-S transit to E-W in that area. If you run transit from Bellevue->Kirkland, they won’t connect to the main 520 buses, since those buses would have to divert to S Kirkland P&R, which is at least a 10 minute trip on already full buses. Personally I think we need a 520/405/ERC transfer station that a left-lane bus stop on 405 and 520 + access to ERC (whether a transit corridor or just pedestrian). That would vastly improve network connectivity across the region.

      3. A connection in downtown Bellevue to 520 cross-lake bus service wouldn’t be bad, especially eastbound if the buses would take 112th north out of downtown, which connects to the eastbound HOV direct-access ramp onto 520 at 108th.

    4. A good transit system is all about the strength of network connections within the system. There are other improvements outside the end-to-end-only market:
      Mercer Island Google/Kirkland
      Issaquah Google/Kirkland
      Issaquah Redmond
      Improved access to south Downtown Seattle from the East Side
      And some great intra-east-side trips open up with that smart service pattern.

      The downside with peak-only express service is getting riders to actually use it, particularly choice riders on the East Side. More affluent people like trains, but not buses. Then, buses are still at the mercy of traffic and slow surface streets with few feasible options available for priority treatment.

      Maybe the deal here should be: so, you want the Burke-Gilman in your back yard and the funding to do so? Ok, but we’re putting in a rail line on a couple miles of it for the region’s benefit. Oh, no rail? Ok, then no trail. Personally, as a KC and ST taxpayer, I’m cool with that bargain.

      (A side note to Zach that you’ve probably thought of, there’s an option for Redmond Kirkland service thanks to the wye at the Satellite OMF. Additionally, that could become park of a Ballard Redmond line further down the road.)

      1. Yes, Redmond-Kirkland would also be possible if OMF tracks are constructed in such a way to permit revenue service.

      2. Kirkland-Overlake-Redmond might be very popular. Lonely “old technology” Microsoft guys could ride over and court Google AI chicks with the next generation’s programming chops in mind.


        It is potentially a good idea, but only if the Kirkland line is extended north. Otherwise there isn’t much of a catchment area. I don’t see how a north extension can really happen once you leave the ROW and descend to downtown Kirkland. The tracks are oriented north/south and there isn’t a viable path to the north except for a tunnel or elevated structure. There isn’t enough development to warrant a tunnel and I think we all know what the reaction to an elevated proposal would be…..

        And it isn’t THAT terrible to transfer at Wilburton.

    5. You know your statement of “every house having a sign” on the trail raises an interesting question. Has anyone had a serious look at where exactly this groups support is coming from? Perhaps that might be something for STB’s reporter to dig into? It seems to be almost universally home owners immediately on the trail and I’ve seen no indication of support of their position from really any other group, including some very vocal environmental groups who normally would be all over that aspect of this issue.

      As a Kirkland resident I’ve written the mayor and others to express my frustration at this vary narrow representation by the group apparently being the case. It’s also been a topic of conversation on my bus a few times recently due to it’s NIMBY’ism aspect. Our subdivision abuts the CKC just a bit north of Totem Lake and we are pumped about the recent King County Plans but still hoping for transit someday extending further north.

      1. There’s a sprinkling from all over, but the intensity is mostly drawn from homeowners in the vicinity of the corridor south of 68th. North of there, there’s less energy (perhaps because homes are further set back). It’s a function of wealth and trail proximity, and South Kirkland has both.

        It’s primarily about neighborhood character, of which a local walking trail is a part, and very locale-specific. A handful of people aside, Save-Our-Trail is less concerned with other parts of the ERC or use of the trail as a transportation corridor for bikes.

      2. Yeah that was pretty much what I suspected, I grew up in that area and even 25 years ago few trains were using the rail line and when they were it was daytime only for deliveries to various businesses so people weren’t even likely home to notice the train going by in the first place.

        Hopefully someone can make a more concerted effort to point this groups narrow and self serving view out to the Council. I’ve been emailing them and the mayor about it as have a few people who ride my bus, but as we know when people agree with something that is being done they are much less likely to speak up about it.

  5. I don’t know why the Mercer Slough is untouchable. This plan with a connection at South Bellevue would be amazing.

    As it stands both this plan and a Mercer Slough crossing are worth fighting for.

    1. I don’t agree that the Slough is untouchable either, but for the sake of argument I conceded the political point.

      1. Not sure how this will affect Mercer Slough, but good caution not to tease people born in transit free 1995, instead of Chicago in 1945. On the way to a meeting in Bellevue, I was talking to a young planner.

        She asked about how the Slough figured into EastLINK. “The Devil Made Me Do It”, but I told her that all through the wetland, there were old well-established traditional Cajun muskrat-trapping villages. Who were ready to welcome the line, but asked several things in return.

        One, that every train have one rail-car section for hanging fresh pelts from the handhold. Two, that every PA announcement would be repeated in old Canadian French. (Those people really did get ethnic-cleansed by the British from Quebec, which they’d called “Acadie”. Hence, Cajun.)

        Three, Zydeco music constantly play on the PA between announcements. Four, that Bellevue transit center have at least one cafe with jambalaya, crawfish pie, and file gumbo on the menu. And along with espresso, bitter black coffee with boiled milk.

        But five, and the only sticking point, was that the Slough had to be renamed “Bayou Mercier”.
        Only reason I’m mentioning this now is that this issue could be causing a lot of problems being blamed on Kemper Freeman. Sooner or later the Loup Garou is gonna get me.

        French word for the movie one in London.


    2. The Link guideway would have to be 140′ tall to get up and over ramps WSDOT proposes for a full-buildout (including HOV/HOT) f the interchange at I-90 & I-405.

      1. No – you could tunnel underneath 405 either north of or south of I-90. The advantage of crossing south of I-90 and going under 405 is you could then have a Facoria mall station, and then jog back to I-90.

      2. Stephen, better to use the shoulder and grass freeway median in between east and westbound i90, just like judkins park station.
        This creates a merely adequate factoria station, but allows the usage of the ramps at Eastgate P&R without any ROW acquisition from i90 to issaquah.

        This could be done at the current height of the railroad bridge. No tunneling.
        street view example…

      3. Zed, to whom are you replying.

        I’ve been arguing for a long time that Factoria needs a station at 38th and Factoria Boulevard, and using the ERC ROW to underpass I-90 allows a curve to tunnel under I-405 right where SE 38th abruptly ends. Yes, it would require removal of one or possibly two houses along the west side of 120th Avenue SE as the line would curve away from the ERC ROW and descend into a tunnel under I-405.

        The bridge over I-90 would have to be replaced with a double track structure with the trail alongside the tracks.

        It would also be possible to rise up from the ROW north of I-90 and cross over first I-90 and then I-405 on a structure to an elevated station at Factoria Blvd for less money, but also less aesthetics. There is no upward elevation in the northwest quadrant of the interchange; I-405 is higher than I-90 but the southbound I-405 to westbound I-90 ramp descends from I-405 to meet the northbound I-405 to westbound I-90 ramp which has tunneled under I-90 and the main lanes of I-405. The merge of those two ramps takes place at about the same elevation as the main lanes of I-90.

        The eastbound I-90 to I-405 ramp does rise one level above I-90’s gradient and the tracks would have to rise enough to clear them, but they’re not a full level at the point the existing track crosses the interchange, only about one-third of the rise. And of course, the ERC clears that one-third of a level on a flat gradient.

        So if the light rail tracks left the existing ERC right of way just north of the crossing of the I-405 to wesbound I-90 ramp they could easily rise enough to clear the eastbound I-90 to I-405 ramp rising below them while also curving away from the ERC such that they could land in the westside rightof way of I-405 far enough from the big power support that they would pass far enough under the lines to be insulated. They’d continue rising between the power lines and the I-405 southbound on-ramp to cross the roadway at SE38th.

        Or perhaps it would be better to cross I-90 on a new bridge in this alignment, land and then diving into a tunnel to turn into SE 38th.

        Such a hybrid alignment is probably the best solution to giving Factoria its needed and deserved station.

    3. Connecting at South Main vs Willburton is still a huge plus, as it gives one-seat ride from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue. Backtracking from South Main to South Bellevue is a bummer but not as terrible as backtracking from Willburton.

      I’m with Stephen – I think adding Factoria is a huge plus. The future of development between Lake Washington & Lake Samamish is going to be these large “brownfield” sites like Factoria mall & Bel-Red. Eventually, that mall is doing be replaced by a much bigger, denser development because land prices (probably just a new mall with apartments?) – having a Factoria station will really facilitate growth in the area and allow adding hundreds of new units with access to good transit.

      1. Factoria is also zoned for growth or easily can be, so when developers run out of opportunities in the Spring District and Overlake they’ll start looking at Factoria. And Bellevue’s growth management goals require it to support Factoria as an eventual growth area.

    4. Mercer Slough is untouchable in the sense that ST has been unwilling to touch it, and we can’t get a line unless ST agrees to it. Sometimes you have to look at not just what you think is right and are willing to do, but what other people think is right and are willing to do, because your goal depends on them. We can spend a lot of energy arguing for a slough alignment and likely losing (as it appears at this moment), or we can work around the slough. It depends on how critical we think the issue is vs other Eastside issues.

      1. Mike,

        Read directly above. I think I have the answer still to give Factoria service but not cross the slough. Yes, it requires Seattle-Issaquah folks to change at East Main, rather than South Bellevue. but that’s two stations and three miles shorter than Wilburton. It’s not horrible.

    5. +1

      We need a stop at Factoria and easy connection at S Bellevue for Seattle bound riders from Issaquah. A giant freeway already crosses the slough. We can add a rail line – especially since it’s more environmentally friendly than cars.

      1. There’s a post back a couple years about why you can’t go under 405 at I-90. I can’t remember all the points, but don’t forget there is already a level of ramps UNDER I-90 already (the 405-90 ramps). Let’s say the bottom of those is 25′ below the level of I-90. Then you’re going down another 25 feet to put link in. So you’re 50 feet below the level of I-90. Plus, I think the other piece of infrastructure right there is a giant sewer line running under the railroad right of way, west of I-90 towards the slough and obviously underneath the freeway. On the other side, you have to clear Factoria Boulevard (which has a massive jet fuel pipeline under it) which is probably 25 – 30 feet lower than I-90, then get back up to the I-90 grade between there and Eastgate. I-90 is generally ascending at a pretty good clip right there. To keep a reasonable grade you have a pretty long trench, part of which starts half way across the slough. By definition, that trench is going to be below the level of Lake Washington. And that trench is going to extend all the way to Eastgate, except it can’t because the freeway is fully built out when you get to the 142nd ramps at the P&R and has a street on both sides. So the alternate is to go over, and that same post stated that the state has plans (someday) to put another stack on top of the current ramps at Factoria. Same problem with grades, you’d have to start WAY back to make it over the top of the proposed ramps and your Factoria station might be 125 or more feet in the air. I’d guess to serve Factoria you’d have to swerve north at the east edge of the slough, go under the freeway at 32nd street, past the KC transfer station and into Eastgate P&R that way. Of course this entirely misses the commercial part of Factoria. Otherwise you’ve got a very long tunnel if you go south, and a very steep hill on the east side of Factoria Boulevard with a lot of tall buildings in your way. The state really screwed up all of South Bellevue when they put that interchange there . . . I’ve often wondered whether traffic in South Bellevue would be improved if they tore I-90 out and put in a street grid. It couldn’t be any worse.

  6. Great article. Love seeing the green line extend up to Brightwater and would love to eventually see it go all the way to Mill Creek/Snohomish.

  7. I really don’t see any advantages in this plan. Yes it saves money and more of the trail. But whereas a Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake line could connect with 405 BRT and provide service into Kirkland from both points north and south as well as providing intra-Kirkland service, this plan has only two stops with service only from the south with no easy way to expand (especially if tunneled). The only people who would use this are commuters and perhaps some people going to Seattle (depending on where they’re going). I really doubt there’s much non-commuter traffic into Kirkland from Bellevue, given there’s little you can’t find in Bellevue that you could find in Kirkland.

    As for the Issaquah part, as has been discussed before, what’s the point of running a train that doesn’t even go straight into Seattle given the number of riders.

    If ST wants Eastside support, they’re not going to get it by throwing tons of money at expensive, low-ridership projects.

    1. “The only people who would use this are commuters and perhaps some people going to Seattle (depending on where they’re going). I really doubt there’s much non-commuter traffic into Kirkland from Bellevue, given there’s little you can’t find in Bellevue that you could find in Kirkland.”

      This is more a general comment on Eastside transit long-term than the particular alignment and your objection to it, but in the future “commuting” will be all-day trips from Kirkland to Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, Seattle (still the largest), etc. These people do not want to be slowed down to 234/235 or 255 speeds just to get out of Kirkland for just one part of their trip. As a corollary, they’ll have to go to a station; so this line is for people who can get to downtown Kirkland or another station easily enough; those who live at a single-family bus stop at 52nd may have to take a bus. So this is the context for the line, and we can evaluate whether this line meets that need and sufficiently justifies the ERC impacts. I’m still unsure about that. But my point is that we need to think of transit usage as it occurs in a transit-oriented metropolis, not the limited usage that occurs now with the current network and just 10-20 years after the public mood on transit options started reversing. People don’t take transit for non-work purposes because it hasn’t been there in any meaningful sense: a trip from south Kirkland to Juanita or Bellevue College or Factoria can mean a 30-60 minute wait, a bus transfer, and meandering through residential streets and stoplights.

      As for “things you can’t find in Kirkland”, there are always unique businesses and organizations where you particularly like the owner or service. People get jobs wherever they can. At times I’ve had relatives and friends living in south Kirkland, and my instinct is it’s easier to get from there to locations in Bellevue than to locations in north Kirkland, and there’s a wider variety of choices in Bellevue. So I think people would still do that at least some of the time.

  8. I agree with the posters above regarding the connection at South Bellevue. For me, it’s a deal-breaker to have the East Link connection at East Main. It basically means the Issaquah line would be worthless for anything other than intra-Eastside connections to Bellevue/Kirkland. Ridership to Seattle from Issaquah would be ignored.

    If the above were addressed and Link were instead joined up at South Bellevue, this plan makes a lot of sense.

    1. East Main is two stops and three miles better than Wilburton for Issaquah-Seattle trips. If East Main can be built at a center-platform station it’s also a cross-platform transfer instead of a level-change. I don’t know if that can happen given ST’s reluctance to allow level-crossings for revenue-service trains, but if it can be worked out, it would be much better than a change a Wilburton.

      1. The point is that the connection should be at South Bellevue, rather than downtown Bellevue or anywhere near it. Issaquah/Factoria/Lakemont to Seattle traffic shouldn’t have to route north through Downtown Bellevue.

      2. Well, yes, in an ideal world. Zach is assuming that the Slough is not crossable. There are plenty of good arguments that is not correct and at a minimum, dumb. But East Main is two stations and three miles shorter than Wilburton.

        Do you live in Eastgate or Issaquah? If so, is it really true that you would refuse to ride transit if you had to spend five minutes longer to ride? Or would you prefer to take an express bus to South Bellevue and transfer there? That would be even faster than the train via East Main.

      3. I don’t live there, but in my past life I commuted regularly from Seattle to Factoria. Yes I absolutely would refuse to route through Downtown Bellevue and would prefer a quick connection at South Bellevue… whether to light rail or to a BRT route that hits Factoria, Eastgate, and Issaquah. It’s absolutely nonsensical to build two parallel lines that close together and shut the entire I-90 corridor off from light rail to non-Eastside destinations.

        And there’s no compelling reason the slough isn’t crossable. If that was the case, it wouldn’t already be home to an 8-lane freeway, a massive freeway interchange (405/90), and tons of braided on/off ramps to the Bellevue Way exit.

        Frankly, this is the kind of “cant-do” thinking that’s increasingly leaving us with a mediocre system that skips too many key destinations because it’s “too hard” (i.e. for example, the Downtown Bellevue, UW Station, the plans for Des Moines, the Tukwila bypass route, etc. etc.).

      4. That 8-lane freeway and interchange were built before wetland preservation became a political priority, so they’re grandfathered in. Link is new infrastructure so it doesn’t have that advantage.

      5. So…the new 520 at Foster Island is what? (Other than a sacred road, of course.)

        Whether or not it’s feasible or desirable is a different matter, but a handful of single pylons supporting a guideway bears little resemblance, environmentally speaking, to the swath cut through the wetlands by the new double-existing width freeway at the Arboretum.

    2. Do we have any numbers on how many Issaquah commuters would be headed to Bellevue/Kirkland compared to Seattle? Anecdotally, having worked in Issaquah, I know that a lot of residents there work and play in Bellevue. Would one transfer to get to Seattle really turn off that many people?

      1. The issue isn’t the transfer. It’s that the transfer would be in Bellevue (at a cost of several minutes and circuitous travel) rather than in South Bellevue which is a much shorter distance and a much more natural connection point.

        An I-90/S. Bellevue line could serve both. A Wilberton line with a connection at Bellevue really only serves one market. You could theoretically serve this issue with an I-90 BRT connection to Mercer Island, but then it kind of calls into question the wisdom of building LRT in the corridor at all.

        It’s also pointless to have two parallel rail corridors (one without any proposed stops) less than 1/2 mile apart.

      2. That is a very good question. If the number is a vast majority (70% or higher) then there is a strong argument for this. My guess is it isn’t.

        Worth mentioning is that very few people would take a two seat ride from Issaquah to Seattle using this system. It would be a three seat ride, minimum. First a trip to the station in Issaquah, then a train ride, then a train ride, then at best you walk to your destination. If you are headed to an obscure, out of the way location like Belltown or First Hill, then it is a four seat ride.

    3. This is a technical issue, not a planning issue. ST set aside consideration of the slough crossing due to seismic risk that an LRT guideway could pose to the existing I-90 bridge structures. Basically they found it would by very high risk and cost-prohibitive to place structures upstream of I-90 in a migrating peat bog.


      “Mr. Dye said that Sound Transit will be required to mitigate any negative effects to the existing I-90 bridges.”

      “Responding to Councilmember Robertson, Mr. Bennett said the drilled shafts are in locations that are less affected by movement in the peat than where the piles would be located. Ms. Robertson questioned whether any new structures, using better methods, might improve the bridges’ stability. Mr. Bennett said that any movement on the peat bog is going to move the bridge, and that is not a good thing.
      Mr. Dye commented that, from an engineering perspective, a structure can be built in the slough that will perform, be safe, and carry the loads. However, it will be very expensive to do so. An additional consideration, beyond the construction impacts, is the ongoing impact of a new structure adjacent to the older I-90 structures. Responding to Councilmember Robertson, Mr. Dye said he cannot conceive of a situation in which the construction of a new structure would improve the stability of the existing bridges.”

      1. It will be very expensive is relative, when building an entire diversion line is being discussed as an alternative.

  9. Great concept! I bemoaned the missed opportunity to build the ERC up as a Snohomish-Microsoft light rail line… looks like this way, at least it helps hook that area into the major network… also good job with scheduling to enhance local Eastside service.

  10. Slightly off-topic, but should the routing of the Issaquah line be tweaked to serve Bellevue College?

      1. Google says half-mile walk, which is close than I thought. That’s why I used the word tweak, it would be a relatively small change.

    1. Sure. Also don’t take too much stock in the stations listed, as they’re representative of stops everyone would agree on. Factoria, BC, etc could definitely be included depending on the routing chosen.

    2. I always viewed the Eastgate station as serving Bellevue college just as much as the existing transit center.

      If it ends up a bit of a walk, running a shuttle service to the college around class schedule is reasonable – especially when the College wants to grow & replace some of it’s parking lots with buildings.

      1. There are gobs of Bellevue College students that catch the 554 at the freeway station today. It’s in the walkshed.

  11. Eugene’s EmX BRT has grass between it’s concrete tracks, so there is an example here in the PNW.

    How about running streetcar, similar to Tacoma?

    With Kirkland’s rezone of Totem Lake and the upcoming teardown of suburban sprawl commercial buildings and construction of mixed use development at TL, it’s worth rewarding them with some HCT transit service. The train just doesn’t need to stop between “Downtown” and Totem Lake.

    1. The bad new is that 1) Google insists on taking photos of Oregon cities in the middle of summer and 2) Eugene put grass there instead of some plants better suited to the several months of dry weather the Willamette Valley gets in summer.

      So, instead of a transit greenway, it’s more of a transit brownway, but that can be solved with the proper plants.

      1. Interesting. Tough climate, in general. Trees grow well here, but grass will turn brown in our usual summer droughts. Either you water it (which would be crazy in some years, because, uh, there is a summer drought) or you plant something else. Ground cover, perhaps? That will spread to the tracks, but that problem (like the pruning done to the trees that are on a bus run) is largely self solving. I wouldn’t mind a bunch of strawberries, but that, of course, would be a hazard (you know the young folks would pick them).

    2. Thanks for bringing this up, Brock. Eugene: https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/4173384136/in/dateposted-public/ But notice that because tires are wider than steel wheels and need a pad width of a dual, there’s less room for grass.

      But just to clarify, Zach, will your trailside train look more like this:

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/25703349986/in/dateposted-public/ Sorry, Ian, I know Helsinki’s track won’t handle these, but we’re laying our own..

      Or this:https:


      In other words, more like LINK or the South Lake Union Streetcar? I’m pretty sure two types of cars can be run same track and voltage. And both lines could definitely share communications and maintenance.

      What’s your thinking?


  12. Doing a transit greenway would ensure that the ERC trail portion gets built out completely, uniformally and with some of the most Cadillac options and connections. Sound Transit is not shy at throwing gobs of money at pedestrian improvement projects, because it’s a political win for them and the jurisdictions.

    I’ve seen master plans for the ERC, but knowing how these things work, if the ERC is hands off to rail, the trail will get built and funded piecemeal by the various jurisdictions and likely not with all the Cadillac options.

    “Where sightlines are good, pedestrians could be permitted to cross freely…” – I give that about a week after opening.

    1. Kirkland could contribute to the cost of the green ground, since without the transit line it would be paying to improve/maintain the entire width of the right of way.

      1. Kirkland would own and maintain the trail, but they likely won’t pay a cent to construct. it’s how ST projects work. On one hand, we are all sharing in the costs of an infrastructure gift that will be used almost solely by Kirkland residents; on the other it gets paid for and built as one project and gets all the political ballyhooing into one, nice package. Plus, we will all get our turn at the ST infrastructure gifts sooner or later!

      2. Bellevue is paying half of the downtown Bellevue tunnel. It would be like that. If we can make an arrangement that sufficiently benefits Kirkland, and if it settles the Kirkland – south Kirkland residents’ conflict that it’s in Kirkland’s interest to settle, then Kirkland might be willing to contribute to its favorite part of it. If comes under the adage, “If you ask for what you want, you might get it. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t.” Only in this case it would be more than just asking once, it would also take some effort to try to come to an agreement.

  13. Also, can the old Wilburton Trestle handle the load (Tho it’s not clear from your maps whether you are proposing to use it)

    1. Of course it can’t; it’s single-track. The light rail tracks would have to have their own structure. The trestle would be for the trail.

      By the way, you’d never see me biking across it. Jes’ sayin’.

  14. The essential problem of the Eastside is the transit geometry sucks for HCT. The only two locations with enough residents, employment, and commercial activity to justify rail are Downtown Bellevue and Overlake. Even then it is pretty marginal, hopefully the spring district will add some additional ridership in coming years.

    There simply aren’t that many people or jobs between Issaquah, Eastgate, South Kirkland, and Downtown Kirkland to justify the expense of rail or even high-investment freeway express or BRT. While density could be increased the only areas targeted for much expansion are downtown Bellevue, auto row, The industrial area between Bellevue and Overlake (aka spring district), Overlake, Downtown Redmond, and Totem Lake. All except the latter are on or near East link. While the Totem Lake plan allows more than is there now, it isn’t particularly dense and the hoped for investment hasn’t exactly been forthcoming from the private sector.

    Indeed you don’t really see much clamor for additional rail on the Eastside other than completing East Link to Downtown Redmond and Issaquah wanting a line to Issaquah.

    I realize there is a need to make sure every sub-area has something to “soak up” the revenue from a political POV. However whatever is built should at least be useful transit even if the ROI is horrible.

    To my mind building UW-520-East Link light rail actually makes more sense, especially combined with UW-Ballard light rail as it addresses the 520 connection problem with the spine and provides a fast route between communities north of the ship canal and the core of the Eastside.

    1. I agree with you Chris that this would be a very reasonable way to spend ST3 money. It would effectively create a way to get from Snohomish to Bellevue with a transfer around UW, reducing the demand for longer distance 405 buses. Actually, it would dovetail nicely with a Downtown Kirkland only light rail segment presented by Zach here.

    2. Except that crossing a bridge would be significantly more expensive than any of these options.

    3. @Chris — Oh wow, you had me until your last paragraph. Everything else you said was spot on. But a second light rail line (on 520) is really silly, because (as Mike said) it would be really expensive.

      Besides, it wouldn’t work that well for the reasons you mentioned. You are forcing transfers. Right now a bus can go from some place in Kirkland to 520, then Seattle. It works. But a bus to a train, to a train, to downtown Seattle? Why? That first train isn’t going to run that often. There just aren’t that many people there (in greater Kirkland). If that first train (the one in Kirkland) went to the places that were heads and shoulders above the rest of Kirkland, then it could work. But there is no place like that in Kirkland. There are very few places like that on the East Side, and Link managed to cover them all. So you are asking the vast majority of riders to transfer, in a place that isn’t very popular (e. g. South Kirkland Park and Ride) so that they can ride to Seattle, and then (probably) take another train to their destination. That is a lot of money to spend on something a lot of people won’t like.

      The big connection here is 520 to Link. The state is spending a huge amount of money to make sure that buses driving on 520 have a nice smooth path all the way into Montlake. So, fix the connection. I really don’t care how you do it. Retrofit a Montlake 520 station. Build a fast pathway to Husky Stadium. No matter how you do it, that part would have to be done for a light rail connection but if you do it via the road (and that is all you do) then it is much cheaper (by billions).

      1. And that’s what this proposal really should be – skip Totem Lake and build a great connection between 520 and ULink. Spend the billions there. Whatever it takes. That would benefit Eastside commuters far more than LRT amongst the neighborhoods of Kirkland.

  15. Regarding the Kirkland portion – this is putting lipstick on a pig. Kirkland doesn’t have the ridership density to justify the cost of rail (or BRT) on the CKC from the South Kirkland P&R to Downtown Kirkland. Now you’ve added the high capital cost of a tunnel from Google to DT Kirkland with marginal ridership upside.

    1. Chris, I think this discussion has always come to the conclusion that SR520 is the corridor that’ll take a long time to need rail.

      Also, that it’s worth looking at sending the Ballard line across its own bridge at Sand Point, the narrowest place on Lake Washington.

      Also, as present freeway conditions demonstrate, 100% of rush hour traffic is absolute proof that without some serious lane reservation, no bus can move, let alone be express.

      To me, would be worth a perfectly reasonable statement from transit that to save taxpayers millions over unmoving buses, every route will be put to surface streets through rush hour. Making strong argument for seriously reserved right of way. Re: “low investment”..see first sentence.

      And Bill, not to be repetitive, but how much demand was there for any of the Interstate highways before they were built? Except from President Eisenhower, who when he was a captain aboard a chain-drive truck convoy hub-deep in mud in Kansas, thought a Japanese beach-head on the West Coast might change the picture.

      So I think the best way to proceed is to build where it’s reasonable. But also as much as possible, build in a way that makes as few future choices impossible.


  16. It’s not grass, but TriMet is experimenting with placing “flowering, low-growing evergreen plants” between the tracks at one of the new MAX Orange Line stations. It could be a nice case study for this. http://howweroll.trimet.org/2015/09/18/making-the-max-orange-line-green/

    But, as that Greater Greater Washington article you linked to points out… you can also create a grassy busway for BRT. Here’s an example from Eugene: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beyonddc/5741136896/in/set-72157624076312140

    1. I don’t think transit’s limited to grass, but project needs a horticulturist to know what plants will most tolerate dropped oil and other roadway conditions.

      But another point, often a problem with trees back in the Eastern States: fallen leaves mixed with rain and oil make train brakes irrelevant.

      Also: note width of concrete pads for Eugene. Governed by width of dual-tire wheels needed by any bus larger than a van.


  17. “We’re going to run trains all up and down your eastside greenbelt.” Us: No. “Ok, then we’ll do you a favor. We’ll just run trains on a 25% of your greenbelt, and then also one day run trains over your Mercer Slough wetlands.” The answer is still no.

    You people claimed you wanted to concentrate density in urban areas to save nature elsewhere. We are going to keep you to that promise.

    Sam, one of the top three greenbelt corridor experts in the 425 area code, and commenter emeritus.

    1. People have to get from one urban area to another. How else do you propose they do that? Greenbelt corridor experts can think just about the corridor, but mayors and councilmembers have to think about the entire city’s needs, of which the greenbelt corridor is just one.

      1. Trains and busways can be placed anywhere and at any grade. Greenbelts can’t. And just as our ancestors protected and saved nature for us, I believe it’s our obligation to protect nature for future generations.

      2. “Anywhere” doesn’t cut it, we need specific locations. Otherwise “anywhere” ends up turning into nowhere.

      3. >> People have to get from one urban area to another. How else do you propose they do that?

        Take a bus. Kirkland reps want to run a few buses down the pathway. Others say it isn’t worth it (run it on I-405 or the local streets). Either makes more sense than running a train, given the population and employment density of the area.

    2. Somewhat transportation-related because he got into Downtown Seattle, but a savage crow chased a little coyote into the Federal building.

      And since coyotes don’t have metallic dog tags- or coyote ones either, let alone suicide vests, he legally ran into an elevator, where a coyote expert rescued him and put him in a barrel trailer for a ride to North Bend.

      From where his offspring will soon be able to ride whatever trains we put in Kirkland. And a line across Mercer Slough will carry more alligator leather than what’s on shoes. And raccoons will climb the handholds to let muskrats have more standing room on the floor.

      So the little creatures won’t have to worry about those fur trappers all over the bayou, I mean slough. Experience shows that if wildlife could vote- I’m sure they do go to meetings- they’d landslide every transit election east of the lake.


      1. TriMet built a new bridge in a river which obviously had to jump through a multitude of environment regulations, agencies, etc. I don’t see how crossing a slough would be more difficult that it would be ruled out so early.

    3. A train line over Mercer Slough is a problem, but the 12 lane freeway isn’t? Pull the other one.

    4. great, if you are so concerned about a nature corridor why not rip up I-405 and make that into a greenway, plus that will be one way to get rid of the dreaded toll

  18. I love the plan in general but there are a couple points that I have concerns about.

    First, the grade between the Google station and downtown is fairly significant. A tunnel is the best option due to the least disruption with current land uses, but that means you have to decline even further. I wonder if the Google station would have to be cut and cover to prepare for the coming grade. A technical challenge for sure but definitely an important consideration.

    Second is if the alignment can be modified to go back up tototem lake somewhere. I like the idea of going up market and East on 124th, but market isn’t that wide. Street running rail would likely necessitate takings on one or both sides of the street. Alternatively it could stay in a tunnel that distance but we quickly run into an even more expensive line. I wonder if going into downtown on Kirkland Ave would allow for going out on Central/85th. To get Totem Lake the line would have to return to the rail corridor or along 405. The former runs up against the same neighborhood opposition as before and the latter is much higher in elevation, meaning the tunnel is longer.

    1. I do think it’d have to be shallow and/or cut and cover because of the grade issues. 150′ feet in .6 miles is significant (roughly 4-5% grade) but not insurmountable by any means.

      1. First point, Zach, thanks a million for this posting and the thinking behind it. Though I do think it’d be good to clarify specs on trains, and whether you’ll be able to use, for instance, SLU-size and LINK size on same track.

        Whether you really do so in service, it’s good to know if different car can be rerouted in emergency, or anytime it needs to be moved to fill schedule or take base route.

        But to conclude, my however many days I’ve got left, they’re made. Sun’s out too, in Olympia meaning approaching desert due to Climate Change.


      2. And about tunnel. For very short headways tunnel length in question could be good investment. But if your cars are more like SLU than LINK, Kirkland Library and attached transit center might be ok with lane and signal pre-empt on streets.


  19. I love the idea of dropping Totem Lake and reinvesting that money into a tunnel to Kirkland. However, I think Permanently ceding the ERC north of 85th to Totem Lake is incredibly short sighted. Kirkland looks to be genuinely interested in upzoning at Totem Lake.

    I like Kurt Triplett’s (aka City Council?) Kirkland Compromise of not building transit but designing the permanent trail with the transit corridor intact. Can this be done on the CKC in Zach’s suggestion? So don’t build it yet, but allow for a ST4 project of extending LR from downtown Kirkland to Totem Lake. … this actually results in a better alignment, as it’ll have a tunnel to downtown Kirkland! I think in 10~15 years, when Totem Lake is actually built up, it will be much more politically feasible to extend the Light Rail into the northern half of Kirkland.

    1. I’d be ok with that, but only between Kirkland and Totem Lake…the point of ceding the Trail is to show that we’re serious about making it an amazing trail, not a transit mitigation afterthought. But north of Totem Lake and south of I-90, it should definitely be permanently non-motorized in my opinion.

      1. I see you point about permanently ceding right of way as a way to give a real concession to trail advocates, and I think it is a legit concession that both sides can be happy with – I just think the Kirkland to Totem Lake is worth fighting for to keep the ROW, especially if it’s deferred.

        North of Totem Lake, I agree. Getting to Bothell & north you can just use 405, and Woodinville is outside the service territory & doesn’t seem interested in growing the density that would make HCT worthwhile.
        South of I90 … I’m sure Renton would love use that space to connect to East King, but I’ve read the ROW gets really narrow, and it doesn’t really serve any stops that you’d miss if you just ran it along 405.

    2. Total agreement about needing to serve Totem Lake. Kirkland has made it clear they want density targeted in Totem Lake. That is one big reason. Another you better give Kirkland something they really want if they are adamant about busway over LRT, yet get LRT.

  20. The green track idea looks great! I would note that it would still have to be designed to handle a certain minimum speed to be viable and a maximum speed to be safe – and that may require a more intrusive set of design features. Luckily, an end-of-line segment would not need to be at a higher design speed.

    1. The fencing may have to have a higher barrier between the tracks and the trail then what is shown in the drawing. Also, I don’t see caternary support poles in the drawing.

  21. The twelve-minute headway segments would allow for single track segments for environmentally sensitive areas. While not ideal, it could be a viable way to approach areas like portions of the CKC or Mercer Slough – at least in the span of ST3 funding.

    1. What’s good for the environment is quality usable transit, not saving a few feet of already altered land from having a permeable railroad bed. The Sierra Club clearly gets this.

  22. For the skeptical, I’d say that a plan like the one above makes sense only if 1.) you accept that the political realities as I’ve described them are binding, and 2.) that it’s worth it to build a project anyway. If you don’t accept the former, you should feel free to agitate for superior options that involve crossing the Slough, or to fight against the winds for BRT on the technical merits. If you don’t accept the latter, you can join the city of Kirkland and Save Our Trail in asking ST to punt to the future yet build the trail portion anyway. But if you accept both premises, something like what I’ve laid out above makes good sense.

    1. As long as “punt to the future” leaves the transit ROW intact. Otherwise it’s more like lighting the football on fire and then running out of the stadium.

      1. Careful about the sports you invent, AJ. Could result in a Wisconsin fan suddenly becoming a Greek flaming cheese “Saganaki” menu item if a flaming football came through the train door and set his unique yellow foam hat on fire.

        Though curling stone filled with dynamite might be a lot more dangerous on transit, though in Canada the guys with the brooms would just have to sweep faster ’til they could get the thing through a hole in the ice.

        Stressing importance of combining international culinary,sports, and transportation studies, in a venue reachable by both SR520 and, just across Pacific Ave, LINK.


    2. Punt to the future = no transit on CKC.

      Who will pay for it? There will be no ST4. Once Pierce and Snohomish get their Link they have no reason to support further expansion and will not.

      Which is why advocates need to focus on getting the best possible ST3.

  23. I do have to question how buses would be integrated with rail stations here. I cringe at how this crosses 520 and 405 without stopping for buses on either roadway. Without great bus integration, we are back to park-and-ride as the primary way to attract new riders because there won’t be much to easily walk to at many of these stations.

    1. I see now that there will be a stop at South Kirkland for both rail and buses. Yay! I’m not sure how that would be designed – but I’ll embrace that linkage.

      Now, how could we get another one around Factoria?

    2. Yeah, I think the idea is South Kirkland becomes the key transfer point to Buses running across 520. Though you can also grab a bus that runs from DT Bellevue, but I imagine that bus will get stuck in more traffic trying to get onto 520.

      1. But, “South Kirkland” is a VERY hard to get to Park’N’Ride lot fairly far from any ramps to and from I-405. It will never be a central transfer facility.

      2. And even access from 520 isn’t great unless you substantially expand access (reconfiguringthe intersections there plus adding lanes). I’m not sure how realistic that will be given the grade, surrounding area, etc…

      3. Both South Kirkland P&R and UW Link Station would each need a bus-only direct bus connection from 520.

  24. What’s wrong with gondolas along the corridor with their stunning views of Lk Washington to the west and Cascades to the east? Air rights came with the corridor.
    Towers are the minimal footprint on the trail option with the greatest flexibility for reaching off-corridor stations, like Kirkland.
    Vote Mattmobiles ™

    1. Can we put bike racks on gondolas? :)

      I think the Save our Trail people would freak out about people in gondolas being able to see into their backyards.

    2. They’re too slow for the distance. It’s five miles between downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland. That means a one hour transit time. Nice once in a while? Sure; one of those crystal clear winter days with the Cascades and Olympics draped with snow. Yowzah!

      Every day? Not a chance.

      1. The Peak 2 Peak at Whistler speeds along at almost 17MPH – lets stick one of those between Kirkland and Bellevue!


  25. If we drop Totem Lake now, we should think about how to re-integrate it in the future. One of ST’s problems has been planning one phase at a time, which meant that for instance Kirkland and Lake City and Kenmore have no idea what level of service they’ll have, or when HCT will come, or where it will go to, or what stations it will have. I like asdf2’s idea of an express bus from Bellevue to downtown Kirkland to Totem Lake, but I would make it all day. If we build this proposal, then maybe there should be an express bus from downtown Kirkland to Totem Lake. Maybe it could be part of a more-stopping Kirkland-Woodinville bus to complement a less-stopping Lynnwood-SeaTac bus, for instance.

  26. Zach, your idea is a great one indeed! This is much cleaner than what ST3 is proposing, although I can’t say I’m in favor of splitting the Redmond frequencies to Kirkland given the uneven headways, which would only be exasperated during the off peak (ST3 shows 15 min off peak Issaquah-Kirkland). You could have different off peak alignments I suppose but it seems that adding another line makes for more complexity for the user. Being that Kirkland will likely still retain off peak direct downtown Seattle service as well wouldn’t it still make better sense to keep the connection between Kirkland and Issaquah as is? A 3-5 minute transfer doesn’t seem a very high penalty at all for continuing service to Seattle.

    1. YOU might be “exasperated” by the uneven headways but they would be “exacerbated”.

  27. This plan seems great and worth supporting.

    What about going further and including funding for the entire trail from Woodenville to Renton in ST3 (instead of just “agreeing” that the rest of the ROW would be permanently dedicated as a ped/bike trail)? That kind of project is obviously outside Sound Transit’s general scope and expertise, but it could improve general mobility in the region and, in particular, greatly improve bike/ped access to the various stations planned along the trail). It is a project that the East Side already wants and has started planning but hasn’t yet funded. Even if done up to “cadillac” standards, it seems unlikely to cost much in the grand scheme of the ST3 package, especially in light of the percentage of ST3 revenues that would be coming from East King. It also seems like it could be implemented relatively quickly and so would be the kind of “early win” that people have been asking for in the package. It could be justified for the accessibility / mobility reasons described above, and/or possibly as some kind of mitigation for rail use in the specific portions of the ROW described in Zach’s proposal. Thoughts?

    1. I doubt it would be within ST’s legal authority to designate a trail and raise money for it. In Kirkland it can be considered “mitigation for the impacts of the transit line”, but not the rest of the ERC. King and Snohomish Counties could come up with some kind of trail implementation plan, but I’m not sure how much it could integrate ST or ST3 into it. At best it could just coordinate with ST to make sure its trail plans and ST’s transit plans don’t interfere with each other.

  28. I’m not comfortable with permanently excluding transit in the rest of the ERC. That sounds like a shortsighted promise that may come to be a problem in the future. For instance, there have been floated the idea of Redmond-Woodinville-Snohomish-Everett commuter trains someday or something like that, but this would preclude that. And I’m not sure we should foreclose Bothell-Renton forever. Why should those communities give up the possibility of future transit for the convenience of Kirkland?

    We never know how things might change in the future, as population and trip patterns and jobs shift, and people’s attitudes toward transit and cars and trails change. How much of the current situation did we correctly predict in 2005, 1995, and 1985? When Amazon started offering its cloud services in the mid 2000s, who knew whether it would take off in the business world or be a dud? The only thing that’s certain is change, so we need to be ready to adapt to change, and not make ourselves dependent on a rigid structure that may become obsolete.

    What we can count on is the potential of urban centers, because they reflect the success of centuries of urban neighborhoods, and we’ve gotten the cities to designate them and channel development to them and make them relatively walkable (compared to the midcentury design). So we need some kind of frequent/fast/all-day transit between them. Whether that specifically means long-term transit on the rest of the ERC I don’t know, but the point is that nobody knows, so we should think twice about making permanent promises based on current conditions.

    One of the issues in colonial America and England in the 1700s was contracts between communities and feudal lords, where the people promised to be bound to the lord for all their descendants and future generations. Tom Paine and other Whig reformers argued that it was not the earlier generation’s right to bind the current generation, so such promises were invalid. Yet that’s the kind of promise we propose to make if we cede the rest of the ERC to be a permanent trail-only forever.

    1. Aww, but it won’t be forever. Local cities and counties always have the option of changing the purpose in the future. Building something in the right-of-way makes whatever’s there semi-permanent, but as long as it’s in public hands, it could someday be changed if these cities change their mind.

  29. I like it. :)

    A few questions:
    1. Given that east link is (right now) North Link, how does sending fewer trains across I-90 affect operations on the spine? (Isn’t that right – the east link line was supposed to be every other train between lynnwood and downtown. Half the trains would split and head east, half would continue to the airport?)
    2. Who do I email and what do I tell them, given that I’m not an east side commuter? It’s one thing for a Kirkland resident to advocate for this. It’s another for me, who doesn’t go to the east side if I can help it, to do so. I can see there being different messages/emphases between the two communities of advocacy.

    1. 1. My understanding is this just splits East Link. So from Lynnwood, half the trains would go to West Seattle, a quarter to Redmond, and a quarter to Kirkland. Obviously, if it changes the frequency of the Red Line, that would would have significant concerns in Seattle. Whereas if it merely splits East Link, then from Seattle’s perspective “Those trains were already going to the Eastside anyway”.

      2. It’s Sound Transit’s decision, so tell the ST Board and whichever boardmember(s) represent you. Also, if you ever go to the Eastside outside work, or you would if this network existed, then you have standing to comment on it. Of course ST will ultimately have to weigh most strongly what East King wants, but it should be concerned about the impact of the entire network on the entire region’s mobility.

      1. The eventual service plan should be developed by balancing loads and minimizing transfers by ST some date way into the future. I’m fine taking a wait and see approach to that. Planning the branches with switching tracks is the most important – along with proposing something appealing to voters.

  30. See how this strategy of only talking about “government mass transit” options has completely prevented anyone from even thinking about whether this makes as much sense as improving the existing “peoples mass transit system” we already have and have invested billions in and which is far from maximized or optimized!! Roads folks! I see nice big right of ways conveniently carved out for your nice fun trains. Nobody even THINKS much less says, “What if we just use those for roads, and widened some existing roads, and added some overpasses and improved intersections”. Or how about putting some of the huge resources obviously casually just blown on fun pictures and nice diagrams of cutesy trains, with all those fictional smiling passengers, and came up with some highway improvements??????? Just can’t get your brainwashed minds contorted into that much common sense!!! The reason the highways are congested is they have been deliberately ignored for 30-plus years while the War on Cars has been waged. And prior to that, expansion was obstructed by a cadre of clever litigators who held up completion of I-90 for a decade to placate Mercer Island fat cats until they got their most pricey stretch of Interstate in the country. Now you folks are doing the same thing only on an even grander scale. Shame on you. We taxpayers pay your salaries expecting you to serve ALL of us, not just the loud minority that you happen to like. Trouble is you are all too young to remember any lessons learned from the past. You think socialized transportation options are the only right answer, and any other ideas that provide free individual choices are evidence of uneducated minds who should be suppressed. We car drivers are not being proportionately served by our public servants who blatantly ignore our interests. That could be seen by some as dereliction of public duty. We demand you spend at least 60% (your very low number for our fraction of commuters, I believe it’s over 80%) of the taxpayer money on plans to improve our roads or you will have a revolution on your hands too. Sound Transit is an infinite financial black hole. No matter how much is done or spent it will never be enough, partly because the bureaucracy is has spawned is its greatest, most vocal, and thus most powerful fan. It will never consider options that would serve to reduce its size or empire. Well thought out improvements to our regular Metro bus system would be far more cost effective and productive. To make a wise choice other viable options MUST be included in any proposals such as presented above.

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Electric_Railway_Journal

        I’m afraid I’m listed somewhere as a right wing author because in 1992 I got my life’s only magazine article published in The New Electric Railway Journal, created by Paul N.
        Weyrich, who would probably have cut off Kind Louis’s head for being a communist before Robespierre and the French Revolution even got close.

        But he did think, correctly, that the President Eisenhower Federal, with a huge infusion of public money. created both the Interstate Highway system. He considered it a badly needed national defense measure.

        However, I don’t think he would have approved very much of the these roads morphing into urban-suburban systems now packed so solid that, far from national defense, they’ll be worthless death traps in either war or civil disaster.

        Weyrich probably thought the same about city/suburb Federal highways. Defense in a two front war, but never for driving to work But he also considered “heavy-rail” subway and elevated projects like most Eastern cities had to be overkill.

        He believed that electric rail based on local and express surface track was truly “conservative”. And costing taxpayers much less public money than freeways.
        In general, I really think he’d consider Seattle Transit Blog on-page with his thinking.

        As I’ve said before in these pages, I think that right now, our transit system should refuse to use taxpayers’ money to send buses into daily delays that cost a fortune in wasted fuel and drivers’ work hours. Rush hour, surface streets only. Not only savings, but faster ride. And best of all, giving anti-transit drivers exactly what they’re demanding.

        Swiftly generating the loudest and angriest demand for public transit in all of history. Win-win, don’t you think?

        I suppose answer will be to widen highways. I wonder how many people along SR520 will feel about having their back yard eminently domained. Let alone their million dollar house. Meaning that condemnation proceedings will cost more than a hundred miles of the elevated structure drivers will also demand.

        The reason the human race, let alone a country of 300 million people, has survives is the knowledge that every aspect of life needs to change with changed conditions. With the end of World War Two, to most people scattering really did promise freedom and enjoyment.

        70 years later, it’s not either incompetence, conspiracy, or bigotry to rearrange our living patterns and their transportation. It’s that the laws of physics forbid the same object, like two automobiles, to occupy the same space.

        For decades, cities promised young people a better life than farms. When people my age were kids, cities had become overcrowded and unhealthy, so people naturally moved to suburbs. And now-exactly like the two previous changes- people are increasingly demanding as changed conditions make last years’ comfort now unlivable.

        By the time the Model T arrived, thousands of horses really wished they could get out of the War on Horses that risked their lives pulling wagons. And had to watch their relatives sent to the glue factory and the dog-food industry.

        Like I also said today: a ten car subway train carrying a hundred passenger takes a thousand cars off the road. Same for the one 90 seconds behind it. Honestly, tell me one thing that’s creating more freedom to drive.

        Mark Dublin

    1. A simple look at budget expenditures and sources of taxation will tell you that in the War on Cars, we’re getting our asses kicked. We win very few battles, let alone the war.

    2. Woo-hoo, a “War on Cars” guy. An old crotchety who does not know that paragraphs are supposed to cover one topic at that.

      Everybody, let’s pile on. I’ll start.

      First, Rich, I’d remind you that you are addressing Zach Shaner who is not a public employee, but rather an employee of Seattle Transit Blog, a non-profit otherwise volunteer organization which gets its money from advertising and grants. So your ranting about pretty pictures and whatnot, while certainly a tribute to Zach’s map-making and composition skills is completely beside the point. STB can’t build any new freeways for you.

      And secondly, where exactly are you proposing those new freeways and “widen[ings]”? Please, be specific and include your home address and telephone number so that those folks who will be displaced can contact you directly to thank you. Effusively, I’m sure (though I’m not sure who would be the source of the effusion, if you get my drift).

      And finally (at least from me), I agree that improving the Metro system is a good idea. However, the folks out in the county said “No” to that but, at least last time, said “Yes” to SoundTransit. And that is what this post is about — SoundTransit service in the Eastside I-405/ERC corridor — not bus service to Alki. Which I know basically sucks except at the rush hour.

      1. My apologies to violating the limited topic restriction. I truly didn’t notice I had been jumped to this narrow community of cool aide drinkers when I clicked on a message in another FaceBook page. Yes! I can type, and actually use Facebook. I am actually fairly conversant in all the tactics used by folks like you who think you have the only right answers. Ridicule, innuendo, condescension, are all classically Machiavellian. Oh, in case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the guy that came up with your idea that the end justifies the means. I will give this 5 more minutes. Don’t belittle my ideas, like widening or expanding roads, when you seem to be able to carve out all the right of way you want without any such concerns. If you can find right of way for your warm fuzzies transit system, you could find the same right of way for use on the road system. You just arbitrarily and conveniently choose to declare it isn’t an option. BTW, who is paying for your and everyone else’s time spent on this? I’m retired and am paying for myself. And if you could please direct me to a blog that is more appropriate to a diversity of ideas on the transportation system here in Seattle, and is actually searching for the best solutions, not just trying to justify the one that is the most PC, I will be happy to move my crotchety old bony butt over there, and leave you all to your pitcher of cool-aide. And of course, the really IS a War on Cars. You all have to deny it so it stays a hidden agenda, which is so much harder to fight. But it was clearly declared over 20 years ago, and I was present.

      2. Dude, I’m retired as well. Well, mostly. I still do some ad hoc “overflow” Oracle database contracting for some younger business buddies still active at client sites. So don’t pity my boss; no one is getting cheated out of my time spent posting.

        What “right of way” is Sound Transit “carving out”? Last time I looked it was currently building primarily in tunnels within the cities of Seattle and Bellevue and would be building up on stilts or at-grade alongside freeways north of Northgate and south of Sea-Tac.

        Yes, it will be re-purposing the reversible lanes of I-90 but there is no “taking” involved. I was living in Seattle and active in transportation issues in the early 1980’s when the new bridge was built. At that time it was agreed among the City of Seattle, the City of Mercer Island, the City of Bellevue, King County, Metro and the Washington State Highway Commission (now WSDOT) that the reversible lanes were to be made available to motor traffic until such time as a rail system would be built to use them across Lake Washington. Google “I-90 Memorandum of Agreement”.

        That time is now, so there is no “taking”, merely the completion of a long-standing agreement among the various funding parties.

        As to the “War on Cars”, I’ll be glad to say that — at least insofar as commuting to work during peak periods goes — I am offended by the selfishness of at least 30% of the people using single-occupancy vehicles. Yes, I know that there are people who are artisans or sales people of some sort who have to drive around during the day. Take off 10% for those folks. And there are people who live or work or both in places not well served by transit. Take 40% for those folks. Maybe another 10% have physical limitations which make taking transit every day twice a day a serious burden. And another 10% might genuinely need to cart little Jimmie or Janie around after school and need to get there quickly

        That leaves somewhere north of 25% of people who could take transit or carpool but don’t. Just because “Fuck you!”, really. Or “I have other priorities.” Or “Can they not eat these lovely little cakes?” A Venn diagram would show a high level of coincidence between them and the people smashing faces at Trump rallies.

        And if you mean the “Tastes great” beverage, it’s “Kool-Ade”.

    3. ” If you can find right of way for your warm fuzzies transit system, you could find the same right of way for use on the road system. You just arbitrarily and conveniently choose to declare it isn’t an option.”

      Personally, I would LOVE to see a big highway plan we could all vote for.

      It would shed some light on the whole transportation issue, and would give those of like persuasion a chance to to tell everyone why more investment in highways deserves a YES vote.

      A modern version of the “Roads and Transit” ballot measures – without the Transit portion.

      You would seem the perfect person to lead that charge, AlkiRich.

    4. My good friend is visiting from Moscow this week and we’ve spent some good hours discussing the Moscow system that has 9 million riders per day, and how people get around just fine without cars for the most part. 9 mil is what our fledgling system carries in a year. They add several stations a year, whereas we add one station every several years.
      Your arguments make some sense because 80% of all our trips are made in automobiles, and simply starving our mobility by neglecting the amount of pavement is not fixing anything, much less providing alternatives to hopping out of your car onto a bus or train.
      We need all modes, as our mass transit will do a great job for a few, and nothing for most.

  31. I’m divided on the split service but I could come to support it. The highest-volume transit corridor is Seattle-Bellevue-Overlake-Redmond. Kirkland and Issaquah are both lower volume, so it would make most sense to keep East Link as-is and build Kirkland-Issaquah with Zach’s changes. “Every 12 minutes” means every 20-24 minutes off-peak, and anything longer than 10 minutes is cutting into the purpose of rapid transit.

    If we must have substandard frequency, it should be in the lower-volume segments which are Kirkland and Issaquah. Having two Redmond lines, one to Seattle and one to Issaquah, only partly makes up for it because it breaks up the high-volume corridor. It does go to all of downtown Bellevue, which is good, but it breaks up the corridor to Seattle, with only half the trains going there. We should break the corridor between a higher-volume and lower-volume segment, not between the highest-volume segments.

    The double segment is comparable in some respects to the Blue and Red Lines in Seattle, where they run together from Lynnwood to Intl Dist and then split. That gives double-frequency to the highest-volume segment between downtown and the U-District, and rewards Northgate and Lynnwood for their higher-than-average ridership the past several years, and recognizes that the Eastside and north end are culturally and economically most similar and generate the most trips between them. But Lynnwood to Intl Dist is a much longer distance than Redmond to East Main with many more destinations. What works well in Seattle and the north end may not work as well in the Eastside. So that’s something to think about.

    Another point, more favorable to this proposal, is that two lines from Redmond create a V shape which is reminiscent of an earlier 520 study (Ballard-Kirkland-Redmond and Redmond-Bellevue-Seattle), and of a maximal alternative for Madison Park (Madison-John and Madison-Madison, or Madison-John and Madison-Pine). That looks like overservice to Madison Park, but it helps the most transit trips and transit markets, and the overlap is just a mile which we shouldn’t get tied up in knots about. In contrast, The Redmond-Kirkland and Redmond-Bellevue V was weak because it would have interlined or had two close parallel lines between 120th and Redmond, and that’s not where the highest ridership volume is. ST rightly saw this and disavowed the alternative. Zach’s proposal puts the double-service differently, between Redmond and East Main, and that is where the highest ridership volume in the Eastside is.

    As for splitting East Link with one branch to Kirkland, that reminds me of BART where Pittsburgh and Dublin have full-time access to San Francisco, while Redmond to Issaquah is like the Richmond-Fremont line, where Richmonders and Fremonters have to transfer evenings and weekends. That has always seemed a bit unfair and against ridership patterns to me (ignoring SF-Berkeley and SF-Fremont-San Jose bus). It gives an extraordinary privilege to Kirkland to have a full-time one-seat ride to Seattle. And unlike Pittsburgh and Dublin, it serves only part of the ridership market (since it’s uncompetitive for Kirkland-UW and Kirkland-north Seattle, even though it nominally serves them). Of course as someone said, a guaranteed train ride may be somewhat competitive even if it takes longer, especially if it’s a one-seat ride whereas a bus trip might require transferring (again, the power of Link to Capitol Hill and Roosevelt). (And I don’t believe that ST will cut the Kirkland-UW or Redmond-UW buses, because of Link’s indirectness.)

  32. This plan is better than anything else proposed, but it still seems fundamentally misguided especially given that, unlike Issaquah, Kirkland isn’t particularly gung-ho about building rail. Kirkland is already built-out, relatively wealthy and not particularly big meaning that investing large sums of money in rail there serves neither long-term growth nor social equity nor immediate ridership. And while the Eastside (or more precisely East subarea) has a dearth of density outside the areas served by ST2, it’s possible to imagine several “brownfield” sites being developed. In particular, these sites are Redmond, Totem Lake, Woodinville, Factoria, Eastgate and Renton.

    With that in mind, the highest priority should be heavily serving Redmond with 4 to 5 stops instead of just two as currently proposed with the goal of building Redmond out to be the new Bellevue. The additional stops would either be Northwest along Willows Road or east along 76th st. Then the second highest priority should be service to Renton, as it by far has the highest potential for development in the East King Subarea. Ideally, this would be an automated elevated line between Burien and Renton via Southcenter and TIBS. It would require some South King funds but Renton has the potential for five TOD oriented stations and the full Burien/Renton line would have 8 potential TOD stations. This represents a far better regional investment than alternative East King options. After that, Factoria/Eastgate probably ranks third, as Issaquah really wants light rail and they are on the way. Then Totem Lake ranks fourth (with Woodinville fifth) as it is plausible to extend a Redmond line north to Totem Lake via Willows Road if you really wanted.

      1. This is a reasonable counter point to Renton rail. But a third bridge doesn’t really pan out until a ST4 when the westside could be connected between Sand Point and the U-district. So it makes sense to cross (or build) that bridge when we get there.

    1. The problem is the low ridership on the 560 relative to other ST Express routes. It looks like there’s less transit demand between Bellevue and Renton and SeaTac than between other places, and it persists even when service is improved, so that’s guiding transit investment away from that corridor to more low-hanging fruit. Renton may have a lot of land but do Eastsiders want to live there, and will they take transit if they do? Renton is also further away from Bellevue than the other places we’re considering (Kirkland, Redmond, Factoria), and it’s a complete sea of low-density houses in between (no opportunities for urban villages, at least in the current political environment).

      1. I don’t see how my comment has anything to do with the 560. No part of my comment claims that connecting Bellevue to Renton with rail is worth while. I claimed rail investment in Renton (as part of an East/West line to Burien) is worthwhile and far superior for the East King subarea and the region than alternatives serving Kirkland.

        If the tax package is large, East King county will “need” to have more rail projects of questionable economic value. Given that dollars need to be spent somewhere in the East King subarea, it is far better, all else being equal, to spend those dollars in Renton than in Kirkland. And since A. dollars spent in Renton are still rail dollars and B. Kirkland has minimal appetite for rail, there is no clear reason why the types of Renton rail options I noted initially aren’t even on the table or why Sound Transit is so serious about Kirkland rail when there are better alternatives.

      2. Sorry if I misunderstood your comment. Projects within Renton are more worthwhile than Bellevue-Renton rapid transit, as you point out. However, I’m also skeptical of a Burien-Renton line because RapidRide F is also underperforming, and ST’s 2014 study of a Burien-Renton line found it to be one of the most expensive and low ridership corridors. I think those those are why ST itself turned away from Burien-Renton in ST3, and Tukwila’s mayor also doesn’t ask for it anymore. (What he does ask for is a Boeing Access Road station on both Link, Sounder, and RapidRide A.) And the City of Renton asked for 405 BRT with access ramps to a south Renton transit center, and I don’t remember if it asked for a Burien-Renton line.

      3. I think the F line is a poor comparison for Burien/Renton ridership in part because the F line navigates lots of turns and a rail line would make the run in probably 1/3 of the time. But the bigger issue is growth potential. Kirkland is built out, while Renton, Tukwila and South Center aren’t. As a region we should be investing that in areas that can effectively grow around transit.

        Moreover, the Sound Transit data I have seen suggests that a Burien/Renton line would compare favorably to East Link in terms of ridership per dollar. The report linked below (from ST2 era study in 2005) suggested that such a line would attract 24,000 riders in 2030 at a cost $1 to 1.4 billion. This compares favorably to East Link’s 50,000 riders in 2030 at $3.7 billion (in similar dollars). While I didn’t run across a more recent study of rail in just that corridor (as opposed to from Seattle to Burien to Renton), there is little reason to think the fundamentals of this area have changed dramatically in the last 11 years.


      4. Renton has real problems with ridfership, and I’m not quite sure why. Demographically ti looks similar to Rainier Valley and Kent, yet those areas have some if the highest ridership in their subareas. But every time I ride the F, it gets decent ridership west of Southcenter but it shrinks to one or two or three at Renton TC and the Highlands. When I ride the 169 it’s standing room only in Kent East Hill and southern Benson, but much less in Renton, and I transfer to the 101 at the South Renton P&R and there are 3-5 people there. Or I take the 106 on a Saturday and there are only one or two people on it. Renton just seems like a vortex of non-ridership. My theory is that it’s because (1) downtown is the junction of three highways so that makes more car-oriented people live there, (2) downtown was almost completely obliterated with superblocks and big-box stores that it demoralized pedestrians and transit riders, and (3) the residential neighborhoods are so far from downtown because of hill/river/highway barriers that it’s too far to walk so people have to use a vehicle and they get used to driving.

        I like what Renton has started right by the transit center, preserving the small blocks and the little park and the performing arts center and TOD and even the parking garage. But it’s too little, and The Landing is even less. And now thay want to move the TC to the P&R. Will they make a walkable neighborhood around it?

      5. These things may be true (with the caveat that anecdotes aren’t data), but none of the options on the East Side are that great. Indeed, it’s not as though the 234/235 are high ridership lines either. Ultimately, I think the immense potential for long term growth in Renton and Tukwila and Burien outweighs the a low ceiling/low floor potential for Kirkland rail. Renton also unambiguously wins on social equity grounds, if that is worth anything.

      6. What is this growth potential in Renton? Do you mean replacing the big-box stores or incorporating them into multistory structures? Has the city of Renton shown any interest in that? Are you referring to the 1970s buildings in the Highlands?

  33. You rock, Zach. This is a great idea – I really hope ST takes a look at it.

    As a cyclist and transit wonk, I hope ST spends some of those problematically-abundant eastside dollars (I’m jokingly exaggerating with that description) to buy off opposition by funding a good hunk of trail building on the corridor. A lot of people would support that, because everybody (except privacy loving direct neighbors) loves a good recreational trail, and even indirect routes can be surprisingly useful as bike routes; I use the Burke Gilman for all kinds of north-end trips because the combination of flat and mostly grade separated means biking is time competitive with driving for a lot of destination pairs and times of day, and isn’t too hard. Continuous, flat, grade separated bike routes are amazing.

    And the one seat ride options, without any negative effect on frequency, make this really elegant. Plus improved transfers, getting to downtown Kirkland – well done Zach.

  34. This all sounds good to me except for item #5. We shouldn’t be making blind heavy handed mandates about not ever using a corridor because now a few vocal NIMBYs don’t like the sight to transit vehicles. If Totem Lake ever takes off and it is beginning to densify, light rail or a busway needs to be able to serve it. Likewise it may want to go to Renton and/or Woodinville. Quality transit service is too important to the health and mobility of this region to take this off the table for such poor reasons.

    Check out the Mattapan Ashmont High Speed Line if you want an example of a rail line that runs through a country-like residential area quite well.

  35. how is it political reality on the ST Board that it only considers Link at very high cost over ETB BRT on the exclusive ROW of the CKC? In what world does Link to Issaquah make sense? Issaquah is next to I-90 on which bus transit can go very fast. Sound Move provided the center access ramps at SE 142nd Place. ST3 could spend funds on other Eastside cities in its district: Woodinville, Bothell, Kenmore, Sammamish. does the ridership forecast demand the capacity of Link? the capacity of a four-car train on 10-minute headway is enormous: 4x200x6 = 4,800 per hour per direction. a jammed Route 550 in an hour would be 10×100 = 1,000 per direction. Link would take many years to build and provide rider benefits. Bus improvements to Sammamish, Issaquah, Woodinville, Bothell, and Kenmore could be provided in a few years. Will the ST Boardmembers be in office when ST3 Link is implemented? the plan should shift to LRT from BRT when the capacity needed demands it. otherwise, the funds can be spent better elsewhere. the CKC provides the benefits of exclusivity to either mode. the networks should not be transfer adverse as frequencies should be high and waits short.

  36. Great, great pics, Poncho. For everyone’s information, those are PCC’s. Probably best transit machine ever made. Starting with one of the toughest. And most versatile.

    Green ones have to be Boston T. Same with the yellow ones too, right. Though I remember Pittsburgh had some with different paint jobs. I seriously doubt anybody across the fence would campaign to have them removed.

    Power lawnmower would be many times more obnoxious.


  37. I live not too far away from the MAX green line Foster Road station. It has a parallel bike path. The bridge over Foster Road is a combined MAX and path bridge, so if you want you can experience MAX trains going past at nearly full speed.

    They make noise, but even six inches away and accelerating to full speed they really aren’t noticeable thanks to the BIG HUGE LOUD FREEWAY that’s 300 times the distance away and vast numbers of decibels louder.

    It would be interesting to try to find a place similar to the ERC to try to compare what noise impact light rail would have on houses and the nearby trail. About the only place I can think of would be Tualatin Hills Nature Park on the west side of Beaverton, ehere one short trail is close to the tracks. Most everywhere else has so much highway noise that MAX noise is sort of lost.

  38. Nice plan, but there’s a catch:

    “regional stakeholders should agree that the remaining ERC trail segments (Woodinville-Kirkland, Wilburton-East Main, and I-90 to Renton) will be permanently and exclusively preserved for people walking and biking”

    You can’t do this. It’s railbanked. If it’s needed for freight rail, it reverts. In order to do this, you’d have to *remove* it from railbanking, which requires an STB abandonment filing. If there are easements involved (I don’t know if there are), it will revert to adjacent landowners at that point, and then you have to buy it from them.

  39. Why is it necessary to include Kirkland if it doesn’t even want to be included? If they want to opt out, that’s their short-sightedness. (And I say this as an SF bay area transplant who saw first hand what the failure of extending BART to Marin and to the Peninsula has done to transit in those areas.) Perhaps a better plan would be to include the new downtown Bothell hub, which includes UW-Bothell, and/or extend Redmond’s line up to Woodinville, permitting Seattle-area residents to do weekend wine tasting without having to worry about drinking and driving.

    1. I forgot to note that either or both these solutions would provide access to rail lines to the large number of people living/commuting along 522, and could dramatically decrease congestion at the 522/405 intersection. Right now the transport solutions suggested completely ignore this very congested area.

  40. Love this bargain, and kicking myself (as a Norkirk resident) for missing the call to action and not attending the meeting last night. I grew up in D.C. with its fantastic subway system, and I desperately want to see that kind of easy, car-free mobility across Seattle and the Eastside. I don’t see how more buses are going to get us there, when, as the Council points out in their letter: “90 percent of people who live in Kirkland work outside of Kirkland, while 92 percent who work in Kirkland live outside of Kirkland. Dealing with commuter traffic is critical to our city. According to the consultants’ research, most Kirkland transit riders are traveling to Seattle.” So then lets build a light rail that offers a single-seat option all the way to Seattle, and not a compromise that isn’t much better than the buses we already have. It’s not surprising to me that the projections show lower ridership for the light rail than the 255 today, given the crippled plan that bypasses downtown.

    So, then to get to downtown. Zach, you suggested turning northwest from Google to a terminal station at Central Way and Lake Street. Now, I’m a total amateur on this stuff, but it seems to me you might be able to suggest a far less disruptive proposal that takes the below-grade light-rail route along the stream (?) to a terminus at Kirkland Way. I can’t tell how significant the ecological impact would be, but this stream seems to vanish in downtown Kirkland, so apart from the loss of the trees, it seems a very straightforward route to the densest part of Kirkland that would impact potentially only a handful of houses at 6th St S and 5th Pl S, plus the intersection of Kirkland Ave and Kirkland Way.

    MAP: http://bit.ly/1WrGZCb

    The station, then, would lie just south of the Kirkland Urban project (potential for a Park & Ride arrangement during the daytime?), and just east of Peter Kirk Park, the library, and Kirkland Performance Center … and right in the middle of some of Kirkland’s densest apartment and condo complexes. I’d lament forcing the Original Pancake House to move, of course (order the Dutch Baby — it’s amazing), but taking over that, the parking lot, and the old 343 Industries building would offer a one-block walk to the buses at Kirkland Transit Center on 3rd St without having to tear out the heart of the city building a tunnel. It’s just another block or two from there to the shops and restaurants on Park Lane, Lake Street, and Central Way, not to mention the Marina and the rest of the waterfront.

    That 0.3mi from the CKC at 6th St S to Peter Kirk Park and Kirkland Urban feels, to me, like it would make all the difference in the world in terms of connecting downtown Kirkland to the transit network (including making Kirkland TC to light rail transfers a viable option), yet wouldn’t require the “destruction” necessary to extend the tunnel further to the west.


  41. Zach Shaner and Keith Kyle,

    What do you think of Councilmember Toby Nixon’s plan to extend Eastlink past downtown Redmond, up Willows Road to Totem Lake avoiding the CKC altogether? If Totem Lake is the designated future growth center, giving them a LRT station makes sense and light rail advocates can be happy that “Kirkland” will provide LRT-related ‘yes’ votes. I think Seattle Subway should at the least take a look at this option. Willows Road is an established road going past mostly corporate parks so you don’t have the neighborhood issue as with the Houghton portion of the CKC. I also think the environmental constraints aren’t nearly as significant on Willows Rd. People who live in the new Totem Lake development would be able to take a short LRT ride to work at Microsoft or continue as a 1 seat ride to both DT Bellevue or DT Seattle.

    I think if it were at least a ST3 candidate project option, Kirkland residents would be in favor of it and the Save our Trail people pretty much go away since it doesn’t use the CKC. To me, that would be the “Kirkland Compromise.”

    Food for thought.

    1. Also, from Totem Lake, you could also build north to Woodinville/Bothell and eventually connect with the ST3 candidate project stations at either Alderwood Mall or Ash Way P&R.

  42. Question for Zach. I gather you are employed by STB, which I assume is Sound Transit Board(?), which is funded by everyone in the region. Please advise who your counterpart is on the DOT who advocates for drivers and roads on a level of effort at least proportional to the ratio of cars/drivers to transit riders. I think I know the answer. It’s NOBODY. The DOT and Sound Transit are highly discriminatory against cars, drivers, and thus the majority of commuters who pay the bulk of the taxes. The DOT and Sound Transit’s 2 decade old policy of rejecting cars, drivers, and roads/highways is outrageous. Zach, do you have any other ideas to propose besides cosmically huge and expensive bus and rail projects which are just basically resurrecting 100 year old concepts that were quickly abandoned when cars came on the scene? If not, it’s time you do. We drivers demand just equal time. Correctly proportional is what would be ethical, but ethics always gets trumped by legislation, doesn’t it.

    1. AlkiRich, you could try clicking “About Us” near the top of this page, in which case you’d see that this is a private nonprofit funded by advertising and donations.

      So you’ll have to take your conspiracy theories and persecution complex somewhere else.

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