One reason to favor BRT is that the nearest proposed light rail station would be 0.5 miles from downtown and surrounded by low-density uses.

On Tuesday evening, the Kirkland City Council approved a letter to the Sound Transit Board offering a compromise to resolve the impasse over transit on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor (CKC). The letter (significantly revised from the draft Zach reported on Saturday) seeks an investment in trail access from Kirkland to the Wilburton Link Station and Kingsgate BRT station. These trails would be designed to accommodate transit, carefully signaling the integration of transit and other uses on the corridor. At the same time, ST3 would fund planning and development for high-capacity transit on the corridor, leading to a record of decision for transit in the next regional package.

The “Kirkland Compromise” includes:

  • A Regional Trail connection from Sound Transit’s Totem Lake terminus to Sound Transit’s Wilburton Station in Bellevue along the CKC and ERC. This would be a fully developed permanent trail built to the specifications of the Cross-Kirkland Corridor Master Plan in Kirkland and King County’s ERC Regional Trail Master Plan in Bellevue.
  • Trail planning aligned with transit planning to clearly define a future transit envelope in the CKC and ERC in Bellevue. Planning the trail and transit together ensure the trail would not be disrupted in the future.
  • Design money allocated for transit design on the CKC/ERC to achieve a record of decision.
  • BRT on I-405 to include an inline station at NE 85th along with transit service directly connecting downtown Kirkland to Redmond along NE 85th in exclusive lanes.

The Compromise commits all parties to future transit on the CKC, even if delayed (Kirkland reiterates its preference for BRT on the Corridor in ST3). It accelerates development of Kirkland’s primary walking and biking corridor, and advances access for walk/bike to I-405 BRT at Kingsgate and East Link at Wilburton.

Placing the proposal in context, Kirkland emphasizes its longstanding support for expanded transit options in Kirkland and for light rail expansion regionally. Kirkland’s analysis of its own needs sought to maximize transit ridership. That led to their proposal for a flexible BRT corridor which could serve far more riders than a single-line BRT or rail service alone, and at far lower cost or impact to adjacent trails than the light rail option.

Kirkland argued for the flexibility of an open bus corridor that could have served many more journeys than a single rail or BRT line.

Sound Transit has resisted BRT in Kirkland. BRT options were not included in the draft priority list in 2015, so the public was never invited to comment. At Kirkland’s urging, it was added to the final priority list. When BRT again faced resistance, Kirkland suggested another compromise “LRT with flexibility” which would have funded rail, but allowed BRT if study found it was more effective.

At the same time, there are concerns about the effect of rail on the CKC. Home owners along the trail organized as “Save Our Trail” opposing any transit in the corridor. The Council resisted their often extreme rhetoric. But there are real issues too. Rails would reduce accessibility and cross-ability of the trail because the tracks would be extensively fenced. A trail that is difficult to access would hamper other goals of improving walking and biking access. Less accessible rail stations would require more parking because of their distance from denser ridership centers. There are concerns about the visual impacts of catenary and pylons.

Sound Transit Board members recently informed Kirkland they would only consider light rail. With fewer than 5,000 riders in 2040, Kirkland sees light rail as inadequate to its transit needs, and simultaneously too impactful to the City’s popular trail and goals of developing walkable/bikeable connections. The rail ridership would be a fraction of Kirkland’s transit ridership in 2040; fewer even than ride Metro 255 in Kirkland today.

Kirkland offered its latest compromise as a way to keep alive plans for future transit on the corridor while improving non-motorized transportation in the nearer term.

Relative to Kirkland’s earlier hopes for better transit, the current impasse is a disappointment. But the compromise at least promises much-improved connections to Redmond, and affirms the corridor will have transit, though on an uncertain timetable.

Coordination of trail construction and transit planning ought to mitigate the risk a future transit proposal will be viewed as incompatible. On the other hand, if permanent trails are built absent planning for transit, they are likely to become even more entrenched obstacles to future rail or BRT. Building permanent trails around an agreed transit envelope, and reaching a record of decision on a transit alignment, are key to a future consensus. For Sound Transit, the Kirkland Compromise offers an opportunity to fund politically popular trails and to improve access to stations. The trails, and associated planning for transit, would cost $250 million vs $1.4 billion for light rail, or about half that for BRT.

Sound Transit’s legal authority to build trails may yet be a sticking point to a deal. Kirkland sees trails terminating at Sound Transit stations as multi-modal access to transit, within Sound Transit’s authority and indeed a stated priority for ST3. In a letter Tuesday, Sound Transit’s General Counsel Desmond Brown suggested Sound Transit views the trails as mitigation, so that they could only be built concurrently with transit. Kirkland’s response (attached to the letter to the Board) points out Sound Transit had considered this trail as access, and thereby authorized, as recently as last year.

Kirkland’s letter closes in reiterating that they see BRT on the CKC as the ‘best and most cost effective transit mode’. The City remains open to funding high capacity transit without selecting a mode. If neither of these suggestions is possible, Kirkland would support the ST3 package if it includes the Kirkland Compromise. If none find favor with the Board, or if the latter is not legally possible, the City is looking to Sound Transit to provide alternatives. Discussions are expected to continue over the next several days.

160 Replies to “Kirkland’s Compromise ST3 Offer”

  1. Here’s what I’m trying to understand: why, with Kirkland’s extensive waterfront, would they not prioritize public use of the waterfront and development of a waterfront trail with interim connections on public streets/sidewalks? I guess the minute number of people with enough wealth to own waterfront property really do wield that much power. (I have the same question about Seattle/Burke Gilman/Lake Washington waterfront.)

    1. They are! They’ve been planning on significantly widening the sidewalk along the waterfront—I first saw the plans for that about a year ago.

      There’s also already a small meandering trail that runs directly along the water.

      1. Finally found reference to it on the city website—they’re calling it the Lake Washington Promenade and they’re trying to open it up to public comment this year.

  2. I wrote the Kirkland City Council on Tuesday to express my support for transit in Kirkland and disappointment over the missed opportunity with ST3. BUT, I do think the Council has done a good job with what they’ve been given. The Sound Transit plan for light rail on the CKC is truly half-ass, and arguably Sound Transit really messed up this opportunity, not the city of Kirkland.

    One thing I’ve always wondered—how much more expensive is it to do ‘cut and cover’ compared to putting light rail above ground on the CKC? Are costs that much higher? Anyone have a sense of that?

    1. Agreed. Sound Transit’s light rail plans for Kirkland are well worth opposing in one way or another. $1.4B for a train with zero useful stops in Kirkland!

      Totem Lake will be connected to 405 BRT. Connecting it to the rest of Kirkland on the CKC is worthwhile, if there are other useful stops in Kirkland

      112th St is light industrial, I assume would be redeveloped, but nothing there now.

      “Downtown” is a half mile and a big hill from downtown, in the middle of low-density expensive view homes. (I’ll note that this is actually significantly better for *my* family than an actual downtown station because it’s much closer, already partway up the hill, and we wouldn’t need to bike downtown.)

      Then the train would run straight through the center of Google and right past the Houghton neighborhood without stopping.

      South Kirkland P&R serves only P&R commuters and the apartment building right there as there is nothing else within walking distance.

      Sound Transit needs to come back with worthwhile proposal for Kirkland. A train with those stops is not worth the impacts to the trail or worth the money to be spent on it. We might as well dig a big pit and throw our money in it.

      1. Michelle, as I understand the proposal for the local train line along the trail I think the size and scale of the trains is a good deal smaller than the LINK cars.

        These area about the same size as the South Lake Union streetcars in Seattle. What does everybody think about using them for the trail?

        Mark Dublin

      2. Mark,

        I don’t know where you get this idea. ST’s version is for full-on Link because it goes all the way to Issaquah. Inekon-style “modern streetcars” — or any other current European extended “tram” are far too slow for an eleven-mile line.

        Zach’s version is even more specifically “Link” because it would host trains running all the way from Lynnwood via UW and downtown Seattle. The is currently no proposal on the table for “streetcars” in Kirkland even if it might be a nice idea.

    2. I have seen the following cost/mile thrown around on this blog. $50 million for surface, $200 million for elevated and Cut & Cover tunnel, & $400 million for Tunnel boring. More information can be found here. ( Cut and Cover stations are also significantly cheaper than deep tunnel bored stations as they are much closer to the surface.

      However, a cost associated with Cut & cover is utility relocation and street disruptions. I think a cut&cover tunnel on the CKC or other similar open Right of Ways would be significantly cheaper as there would be minimal utility relocation (perhaps telephone/electrical poles) and no street mitigation to start/stop construction. Heck, Sound Transit could just make it a trench, and let the cities cap it with a cover if visual aesthetics is that important to them. I’d like to see that studied at least.

      1. “a cut&cover tunnel on the CKC or other similar open Right of Ways would be significantly cheaper as there would be minimal utility relocation (perhaps telephone/electrical poles) and no street mitigation to start/stop construction. Heck, Sound Transit could just make it a trench, and let the cities cap it with a cover if visual aesthetics is that important to them. I’d like to see that studied at least.”


      2. I’ve read that the CKC contains a good number of utilities – transit is not the only thing that benefits from an open corridor running through all of Kirkland. Relocating them may not be simple.

      3. Correct – it’s an existing PSE ROW, so there would be utility relocation … but that may occur with surface construction, also? PSE may support burying wires at the same time the tunnel is built?

        I do like the idea of ST paying for the trench construction & building a minimal cover, and then Kirkland can move in and build trails & all the fun stuff in the CKC master plan. I think SeaStrap is right in that the open right of way will make it much cheaper than a typical cut & cover on an active roadway.

      4. Cut & cover would solve both the problem of speed, aesthetics [1], and pedestrian access to the trail. ST should at least study it and get a price for comparison.

        [1] I would call a train, tracks, and/or trolley wire an aesthetic amenity, but I realize a large chunk of the population has the opposite view.

      5. There are also a pipeline or two in the corridor, supplying JetA to Sea-Tac and maybe gasoline to other distribution points from the refineries up north.

      6. I would agree that it would be cheaper, unless there is some PSE or other pipeline in the way. Cabling is pretty cheap to move.

        I would also note that cut-and-cover would be more direct than a circuitous surface route, particularly if it’s aerial like above 405 and all of its ramps. Surface routes in this area would also require more right-of-way.

        It’s just one more example of how badly the planning efforts were done!

      7. I found a document from King county detailing ownership of the CKC, and besides rail there is the PSE utility easement and an underground wastewater easement (the Eastside interceptor) for parts of the CKC (the document says along, under, or adjacent to the CKC) . I have a feeling that will be difficult to move.

        The other complication of burying this route (apart from cost) is the difficulty of constructing a new station. If Kirkland keeps growing, additional stations will be necessary. On the ground, this is something Kirkland itself could probably pay for. If it’s underground, that requires much more land acquisition, etc…

      8. It’s not practical to build along the west edge of the corridor, even on the surface, because that’s where the utilities are (the interceptor sewer line is the big one that nobody wants to move). But as long as one stays away from the west, the utilities aren’t an issue.

      9. Cascade Water Alliance also has an easement for a water main to supply the eastside from Lake Tapps should Seattle City Water decide that they no longer have the capacity to continue with the current arrangement. That seemed like a real possibility when the Alliance was created but since then Seattle has said they will continue to supply water for the foreseeable future. None the less, that easement controls development unless vacated.

  3. At his point, I get the sense that ST will either come back with a better rail plan or punt on Kirkland HCT all together.

    Kirkland wants to keep pretending Totem Lake is where their growth will happen, unlike Redmond and Issaquah who have planned for growth where people might actually want to be.

    No one is building a fancy trail for wealthy NIMBYs and pretending it’s part of Sound Transit’s mission.

    1. Amen! If they don’t want light rail and are making threats, give it to a city that wants it.

    2. The no-transit-on-the-CRC advocates would have a more effective threat if they promised to deliver lots of votes in favor of ST3 if no transit gets built beside the trail. As it is, they look likely to vote No regardless of whether transit gets built along the trail. That’s not a very effective strategy.

      Their support for BRT on I-405 looks as strong as the ETA’s support for BRT instead of Link. Did they do anything to discourage the state’s decision to get rid of off-peak I-405 bus lanes (a decision which renders I-405 BRT essentially impossible)?

  4. Demanding a quarter billion dollars for a trail from the state’s only dedicated high capacity transit finding is now a “compromise” with a capital C. I see what you did there, Kirkland.

    1. Tukwila got a bunch of goodies out of Sound Transit when Central Link was built including a new fire truck.

      There are worse things than getting Sound Transit to put $250 million into facilities for non-motorized transport. Especially as they do provide station access.

      1. “There are worse things than getting Sound Transit to put $250 million into facilities for non-motorized transport. Especially as they do provide station access.”

        Exactly. Top notch bike trail access to a fast, frequent and reliable train? That is something you can market.

      2. Of course there are “worse things.” But just because a minority people will use the trail to access rail doesn’t mean that that is Sound Transit’s mandate. I *don’t* think ST should be the regional trail builder, especially when the county and cities are determined to build a trail whether there’s a new transit line or not. The cities all know ST has deep pockets and it’s just one more awful way to dilute the investments in actual transit projects we could make in other places.

      3. Given that buying off municipalities is common practice for ST, this is the best version of that. It’s great bike/ped access – I just hope they build a pile of bike lockers. As a means of serving low-density eastside neighborhoods, bikes are a heck of a lot better than park and rides.

  5. I don’t like the Kirkland Compromise. I don’t want them to grade a transitway on the trail until there are real funded plans to put transit there. If we change our minds in 20 years and decide to turn 108th transit-only, I’d rather have a lower-impact trail on the CKC.

    ST needs to come back with a good transit plan for Kirkland that we can all get excited about.

    1. Michelle, if Kirkland got a low-investment trail, and nothing else from ST3, would you vote for ST3?

      1. My answer will approximate Michelle’s, but maybe she will chime in later with differences.

        The short answer is that I don’t know. Trail progress is good, but no transit during ST3 is pretty bad. I’m wary of leaving the discussion for later. ST seems intent on plans that don’t actually serve Kirkland usefully, and I’m not optimistic enough to trust that they will change.

        Although I’m in danger of going off-topic, I’ll say that factors outside of Kirkland will definitely influence my vote. East Link is a plus. All of the proposed parking and the highway alignments are a big minus because I think they feed the overall car-centric design of the region. I think this then drags Kirkland in the wrong direction. (Note that I’m not arguing that Kirkland is doing well in this area, but I have some level of hope there.) There are also things in Seattle that will influence me, but they are not relevant to this thread.

    2. SeaStrap is right – the comprise specifically commits Kirkland & ST to trasnit on the CKC, not on 108th. So in theory the decision on route gets made now, and it is simply the decision on mode of transit that is deferred.

  6. This whole mess is because of the stupid idea to put light rail on the CKC. What it spotlights are, save for 405, there are no masses to provide mass transit for in or through Kirkland. A Yuge road widening (7 lanes) between Kirkland and Redmond for a bus that runs every 30 minutes. Good grief!

    Building bike trails is clearly not regional mass transit. What Kirkland is asking for isn’t even regional. Bellevue can get a bike trail because ST is building a MF in Bel-Red. And that section of the trail actually does connect S. Kirkland P&R with East Link.

    What I’d rather see studied is the construction of direct HOV access vs a flyover stop at NE 85th including the option for a 1/2 diamond with access only to the north. I know that sounds odd when typically 1/2 access is only down when it points toward Seattle but the natural transit connections to Seattle from both DT Kirkland and DT Redmond don’t go via 405 to 520.

    1. Transit lanes require only two lanes, not seven. And the 30-minute bus does not indicate lack of demand between Kirkland and Redmond, it just indicates the skeletal state of existing bus service and forcing people to the slower Old Redmond Road if they don’t want to wait for a half-hourly bus. The whole point of this ERC exercise is to provide a frequent/fast connection between downtown Kirkland and Bellevue, and the same would be true for Kirkland and Redmond: the anchors of an Eastside transit network.

      1. I don’t think Bernie is saying you need to add 7 lanes, he’s saying that 85th St will become 7 lanes. Right now it’s 4 or 5 lanes in that area (2 GP each direction + center turn/median). Add transit lanes and you get 7. For a city street in a suburb that’s a pretty significant size (Bothell Way/522 is the same size). On the other hand, it’s jammed much of the time (even weekends) so adding transit, rebuilding the interchange, etc… all really needs to be done.

      2. It’s a highway; that’s why it’s so many lanes. The highway was there before most of the houses were.

      3. It is no longer officially a highway, though Kirkland still mostly treats it as one. On the other hand, they’ve talked about redevelopment with businesses at the street instead of behind parking (sorry, can’t find the doc now). If they want to leave it in the current form, then widening it will take it from a miserable place to slightly worse. If they want to make it attractive, then they need to get a lot of the cars out. Converting existing lanes to bus lanes would help with that. I’m not optimistic.

    2. I don’t get the fickleness of this audience. People complain all over the place that light rail costs too much and takes too long to build. They point at examples from other cities where it is done cheaper and faster, namely Denver. Salt Lake, California, etc. In most of those cases, rail is built on flat terrian using old railroad rights of way.

      And in the ONE place in this region where that is possible — using a former freight railroad to build transit — and Sound Transit actually owns the rights to provide that service, people freak out and say oh god what a horrible idea. You can’t have it both ways folks.

      1. It’s a horrible idea because it doesn’t go anywhere people want to go. And the chances of substantial TOD are minimal given property valuations along the trail. Why spend money on a project no one will use.

  7. In terms of trail impacts, it’s hard to see how a bus belching diesel exhaust and emitting diesel noise is better than an electric train, regardless of track crossing issues.

    I cross train tracks, both light rail and streetcar, with my bike nearly every day. It’s not exactly jumping Devil’s Canyon.

    1. Isn’t the oft cited service speed for BRT on CKC a measly 30 or 35mph? If that’s the case an open bus corridor is doubly pointless, diesel bus pollution aside. Except for local access it would actually be slower than just staying on 405 as long as WSDOT can deliver 45MPH in the HOV lane. I will say though if you wait 20 years and battery technology continues to evolve there maybe effective electric buses at that point for service on the corridor.

      Hopefully the inline BRT @ 85th includes a full rebuild of the interchange. The Totem Lake Freeway station is terrible, it’s hard to access with almost no people living around it, and if your handicapped it’s a total no go. But above all it’s just dangerous, with people having to cross at least two major 4 – 5 lane streets and one or two highway off/on ramps just to get to it.

    2. Martin, shouldn’t the proper comparison be between electric trains & electric buses? If it’s a bus-lane, Kirkland will surely agitate for electric buses on both ST and KCM routes that use the CKC.

      1. The main point of BRT is that it be an open system, so that riders can continue on 520, etc without a transfer. This precludes trolley buses, although I suppose it could be battery-powered buses.

    1. “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
      —Thomas Jefferson

  8. What do people 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 least take a look at this option.

    By the way, I drove past the Totem Lake mall earlier this week and demolition has definitely started. The place was completely fenced with backhoe’s going to town.

    1. It’s a creative idea. What’s on Willows Road now? Last time I took the bus there it was an office park and emptiness. Is there a possibility of TOD along it? My biggest concern is that a Bellevue-Redmond-Kirkland routing seems to contradict regional trip patterns. It gets both Bellevue and Kirkland to Redmond, but if you’re going from Kirkland to Seattle or Kirkland to Renton it’s a big detour, so how much will the grade-separated speed make up for that?

    2. Can you say “out of direction”? In the first place Willows Road does not go to Totem Lake, it runs by it a half mile to the east. Yes, there is the ERC right of way available to make the connection, but there’s about a 75 foot elevation distance between the two tracks where NE 124th crosses Willows. The “direct” route just north of Physio-Control would require a Tukwila-like elevated structure starting somewhere around 116th and running “right in front” of the Physio-Control building. Making them “not happy”.

      So, you’d probably have to make the level change north of NE 124th and end up with a “double fishhook” getting from Totem Lake to anywhere beyond downtown Redmond. It would be well over twice as far to downtown Bellevue as I-405 is. While it would appear to be an opportunity to have “real” Light Rail out in the boonies you just know that ST would insist on elevating the damn thing all the way “to ensure reliability of East Link core services”. That’s a lot of money for not much genuine benefit.

      It looks to me like the Eastside has already “voted” their priorities for ST3 when they went to war on the Express Toll Lanes. Karma’s a bitch, Eastsiders, and she doesn’t like you.

  9. The Compromise commits all parties to future transit on the CKC, even if delayed (Kirkland reiterates its preference for BRT on the Corridor in ST3).

    “All parties”? Did the Save Our Trail folks somehow promise that ‘future’ transit wouldn’t attract the same protests? Because unless that’s somehow assured, then future politicians could cave to NIMBYs in exactly the same way that the current ones are. That would make this pure surrender to Save Our Trail, not a “compromise.”

    1. That’s the reason Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon’s idea is a great one. Extend Eastlink past downtown Redmond, up Willows Road to Totem Lake, avoiding the CKC altogether. If Totem Lake is the designated future urban growth center for Kirkland – that makes sense.

      1. Politicians make terrible transit planners. Sending Link that way puts our minimum $150M/mile train on a rather windy, out-of-the-way route past golf courses and farm land, plus a steep hill climb to a freeway interchange. Just thinking where people are coming from and where they’re going, it’s not a great line for those traveling north-south along the East Side.

        Putting rail on the CKC, a rail corridor until over a year ago, has the advantage of serious north-ward expansion to Lynnwood without any weird 5-10 minute deviations.

      2. >> Politicians make terrible transit planners.

        Yep, that is why Sound Transit is a mess. Missing stations, bad stations with no connection to the neighborhood or buses, ridiculous light rail lines, etc. Oh well.

    2. They’ll be back. They know they won the hardest round this time and they can easily do it again when it’s much easier. Come ST4 when the trail is nearly a decade old, transit integration even with an “agreement” will be a very politically touchy subject and open to all sorts of environmental issues.

      Just imagine how difficult it’d be to do anything non-trail related on the Gilman. Now imagine putting rail on “the East Side’s Burke Gilman Trail”. The terrible headlines write themselves.

      1. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, as the Burke Gilman doesn’t have a transit set-aside.

        Maybe it would be helpful to have signs every half-mile marking the set-aside as “future site of HCT in Kirkland!” with a friendly sign. I think if the current CKC trail had a bunch of signs saying “temporary trail, future trail to be built in 20XX” or something like that, people would have freak out less when they suddenly realized their lovely trail was going to be torn up. When I read many of the complaints about how we are going to lose all this beautiful green-space, people simply didn’t realize that those nice trees were sitting on land that was left temporarily fallow.

        I went to the big presentation in DT Kirkland where the Save our Trails group was objecting to Kirkland BRT on CKC proposal, and people we saying things like, “I can’t believe you would spring this upon us” and “the CKC is sacred space” … to his credit the City Manager kept stressing that this was nothing new and all this was agreed upon and vetted in a master plan that was several years old. People were angry because they were surprised, and frankly I think that’s a failure on the part of the Kirkland city government to effectively communicate to their own citizens about what they were planning to do with the CKC until right now when people suddenly started paying attention.

        People get upset when you take away something they thought they had. If you effectively communicate that transit is coming, people will internalize it and won’t be up in arms next cycle.

      2. “Come ST4 when the trail is nearly a decade old”

        We can’t count on when ST4 will be, or even if. “A decade old” means 2026 or 2030. By then people will have opinions about ST2 which finished in 2023, and ST3 where “something” will be underway, and the region will have more new residents and businesses and perhaps different travel patterns and different attitudes. We can’t predict what those would be, because if we tried to predict the current situation in 2006 or 1996 we’d probably be wrong. All we can say is that the ST2 projects will tend to channel trips and work/home locations toward its corridors, and we can hope that it will be a large effect rather than a small one, but we can’t say for sure until the time comes.

      3. “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
        —George Washington

    3. “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
      —Thomas Jefferson

  10. This seems more logical than forcing light rail into a corridor where there isn’t much demand. Like RapidRide development of bus lines that actually serve population centers as a precursor to future light rail when the demand exists makes a lot of sense. It also frees up time and energy for efforts in areas where more demand exists, though due to sub-area equity it will unfortunately not free up much money.

    One would hope that someday when the network is more extensive subarea equity gets diminished. Due to expansion of the network within Seattle (for instance) actually providing more access to those areas for people in East King and other subareas.

    1. That’s the reason Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon’s idea is a great one. Extend Eastlink past downtown Redmond, up Willows Road to Totem Lake, avoiding the CKC altogether. If Totem Lake is the designated future urban growth center for Kirkland – that makes sense. People in Kirkland can be happy they got light rail and their share of sub-area funds. At the same time, light rail advocates throughout the region won’t be angry with Kirkland for potentially derailing ST3.

      1. To quote Jarrett Walker: “if you can see cows from your transit vehicle, you’ve gone too far.”

        As a regionally-concerned person desiring the best overall network connectivity outside our little fiefdoms, we shouldn’t be particularly concerned with the shortsightedness of some NIMBYs. Extending Link adjacent to farm lanes to make a loud, wealthy, well-connected minority happy is madness while the rest of us have to deal with the region-wide consequences of car-related problems. They can deal with some electric trains.

      2. Burt — IMO rail from Totem Lake to Redmond is a terrible idea. The only problem it solves is removing NIMBYs from the equation—while failing to actually transport anybody somewhere useful.

      3. Does it remove NIMBYs from the equation? Again, those farms. I haven’t been on Willows Road recently but I have been on the 224 from Duvall, and the description sounds similar.

    2. Thank you for focusing upon facts. First, Kirkland is unlike other parts of the transit plan. It contains 10+ Natural Growth Protection Environments (Wetlands) that will be permanently altered and potentially destroyed by the Sound Transit plan. I’m shocked by the intellectual hypocrisy of those promoting transit in the name of global warming and the ignorance of or cavalier attitude towards this environmental disaster. Moreover, this section of the former BNSF rail is narrow with precarious curves. The amount of construction required to place rail with overhead electric wires, with or without bike and walking paths, will exceed the $1.5 billion dollars — and remember, the system will move 5,000 people per day (and if you doubt that, ride the train to SEATAC….alone). Second, whether the citizens of Kirkland successfully oppose having other parts of King County impose something upon them or not, it is the right of the people to be heard. ST3 may well pass with light rail through Kirkland, but that does not mean it is best for Kirkland. Calling people names — wealthy NIMBYs — is divisive, and the first sign of tyranny. The brown shirts in Germany or the early Bolsheviks in Russia also used name-calling to separate out their targeted enemy. Class warfare is against property rights and freedom of speech. Those that oppose hate crimes need to stop and recognize what the emotional and intellectual origins of class warfare really are. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our great nation and each citizen therein, must maintain a steadfast connection between authority and accountability. It is easy to “spend other people’s money.” It is easy to benefit from another’s loss. But with rights come obligations — that is the foundation of contractual law, and the Constitution, both federal and state, is a social contract. Beginning with the belief that you “know the heart and intent” of another is both folly and dangerous. Listening and respecting other opinions is the best means to grow personally and to begin to forge a positive, and mutually agreeable outcome.

      1. It will be a question of if “The Needs of the Few Outweigh the Needs of the Many”

        The ERC is a public corridor, and it becomes a question of defining the weight of the opinions of ALL segments of the public who would benefit.

        I look forward to shedding light on who the players are in this political process.
        Thank you for your input, Jeffrey.

        From the information I am familiar with, I am of the opinion that an electrified passenger rail line along the whole corridor would be the perfect compromise.

      2. Good God, this comment — accusing us of being “divisive” and name-calling, and then calling us Nazis.

        ride the train to SEATAC….alone

        HAH HAH way to go Mr. out of touch. I ride that train every day.

        Here’s a tip: if you don’t want to be labeled a NIMBY, don’t propose that vital infrastructure go somewhere other than next to your house.

  11. Eds: please fact-check your contributing authors. This statement is plainly false:

    “Sound Transit has resisted BRT in Kirkland. BRT options were not included in the draft priority list in 2015, so the public was never invited to comment. At Kirkland’s urging, it was added to the final priority list.”

    ST included an HCT study of the east side in ST2. That study looked at rail and BRT at a high level in the 405 and ERC corridors. The Long Range Plan was updated by the board to show HCT in the ERC and 405 to keep all options available. The draft project list included BRT on 405 and LRT in the ERC. The public was invited to comment on all of the above, and whatever else suited their fancy. The final sentence in that passage undermines the preceding ones: BRT on ERC was included at the city’s urging, which indicates – shockingly! – ST listened to the city. ST is poised to spend hundreds of millions, or more, on BRT serving the east side. Looking at the travel time and ridership #s it appears they proposed the version that serves more regional markets and delivers better performance.

    Recreating history through misleading and false statements does not help your readers sort through these issues.

      1. Um, no. I am conflating nothing. ST2 –> LRP –> ST3 project list; there is a common thread of ST looking at BRT all the way along this continuum.

        You wrote ST is resisting BRT in Kirkland and did not give the public a chance to comment. These statements are plainly not true. That’s on you, the journalist, who bears responsibility for providing accurate information to
        your readers.

        There are two BRT ideas on the table serving Kirkland. By my count there are about 10 BRT stations serving Kirkland under consideration between the two corridors. The public is all over this. How that constitutes “resisting BRT” defies logic.

        What’s going on here is that the city has bungled its conversation with its citizens about transit in the rail corridor, empowering the nimbys to resist any transit at all. The likely effect of all this is to push the conversation back toward BRT on 405 and how that can serve Kirkland. Good thing ST has a lot of options on the table.

    1. The “BRT” possible on the CKC is NOT “regional” in scope. A top speed of 35 miles per hour is perfectly acceptable for trips originating or terminating along the strip of land between NE 8th and NE 124th west of I-405 that it serves directly, but it is too slow for buses coming from Lynnwood or even Bothell. The regional buses must stay on I-405 and the fight for 24/7/365 bus priority in the ET lanes continued.

      And besides, does anyone really think that as Martin noted buses “belching diesel exhaust” would be any more welcome on the CKC than electric trains? Not likely.

      Perhaps ProTerra or another manufacturer will start making articulated battery buses with honkin’ big packs which would be suitable for a modest “Open BRT” system serving the same strip of land west of I-405 extended to the north as far as Bothell and Kenmore, but for now such buses do not exist.

      No, the only mode practical at this time for the CKC is a facility modeled on Boston’s “Riverside” Green Line branch, which was the old New York Central passenger line to downtown Boston. The Riverside line runs with relatively low speeds requiring only mid-track fencing i la MLK, and allowing frequent “zig-zag” pedestrian crossings with frequent stops to encourage walk-up access. “Tram” cars sharing the physical envelope and electrical package of Link cars would allow interlining with East Link through the downtown Bellevue stations and tunnel. Kinki-Sharyo makes “trams” which meet those requirements.

      While Zach’s proposal to “split East Link” and disconnect the ends of “Kirkland-Issaquah” makes a lot of sense from an operational point of view, Link-sized four car vehicles running north of Bellevue would be seriously out of scale and, frankly, overkill for the ridership. Relatively low-speed tram vehicles are much more appropriate both for the ridership and the environment.

      The problem is that there is nowhere on the “other side” of downtown Bellevue where such a “tram” would make sense and attract ridership and that offers a reasonable right of way. The low speeds make it impractical for service all the way to Issaquah, and anyway Zach’s “U-shaped” line (Redmond-Overlake-Bellevue CBD-Eastgate-Issaquah (suitably modified to serve Factoria directly) is a much better match for home-to-work trips in the East Side. Few people want to go between anywhere east of Factoria and Kirkland and very likely never will.

      So really, since ST has never evidenced a liking for BRT in the CKC because of the low speeds, downtown Kirkland is about to be orphaned from regional transit access other than a crossing Kirkland-Redmond line via NE 85th. People living there can thank the folks along the trail for their isolation. I hope they’ll be knocking on doors to thank them personally.

      1. Oops, for got to close the bold after “frequent”. If one of the editors happens on this post, would you please add it? Thank you.

      2. Can someone point to an external link that supports the 35 mph speed limit? I hear that a lot on this blog but I’m concerned it’s just rumor

      3. “Can someone point to an external link that supports the 35 mph speed limit?”

        Look at MLK. Link is restricted to the speed of the adjacent car lanes. The powers that be may allow it to go slightly higher, especially if the road goes down to 25 mph as part of the mayor’s citiwide “zero accidents” campaign, but it’s never going to be 40 or 50. Meanwhile grade-separated segments can go up to 55 mph like freeways do.

  12. I’ve said it once I’ll say it 100 times – BRT on 405 between Totem lake and Bellevue is a massive waste of money and political capital. It bypasses all of the key destinations : downtown Kirkland, Google / Houghton and S Kirkland P+R. Look at the 85th st exit – the only things that’s within a quarter mile are a taco time, a car dealership, and a uhaul place. Even with TOD, most of the prime space is taken up with the interchange.

    Plus without a S Kirkland station there is no way to even transfer to SR 520 service – which breaks N/S and E/W transferbility.

    Let’s think of this as one holistic solution where all N/S service is on one corridor, not one mediocre corridor and another truly awful corridor.

    1. @Stephen,

      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. Willows Road is already established, going past mostly corporate parks so you don’t have the quaint 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. From Totem Lake, you could also build north to Woodinville/Bothell and eventually connect with up the Lynnwood line at say Alderwood Mall or Ash Way P&R.

      If it were at least a ST3 candidate project option, I would think 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.”

      1. If San Jose’s light rail system has any lessons to teach, it’s building next to corporate parks set far back from the roadway and any transit stations is a bad idea.

        Look at Google Maps. The entire west side of Willow’s Road is a tree-covered hill while the east side is half golf courses and farm land, and the other half very low-density corporate office parks which is difficult to serve by any transit. And Link still has to get up the hill around 124th.

        Back-of-napkin, a 1-seat ride from Totem Lake via Willow to Downtown Bellevue (13.2 miles) would take 25-30 minutes and Downtown Sea about 50 min. Totem Lake via CKC to Bellevue (~8 miles) would be about 15 and Sea about 35 min. It makes more sense to connect regional growth centers with the straightest line possible, like our freeways and the CKC already do, to reduce travel times for all riders and make the network more appealing to potential users. Sending people on a multi-mile deviation through farmland costs real time and money on every train.

      2. The entire west side of Willow’s Road is a tree-covered hill

        All along that tree covered hill are major employers; Physio, Rocket Reasearch (or what ever they are now), etc.

      3. @Mike. Sure via Willows Rd would take longer to DT Bellevue or DT Seattle but at least it’s a 1 seat ride and that saves time. It’s a lot better than the 2 seat ride that ST is proposing via CKC with a transfer at Wilburton Station and the Seattle Subway plan doesn’t even go up to the Totem Lake urban growth center. Willows Rd would be the pass through and not necessarily to pick up passengers. I think it would face less opposition than going down the CKC through Houghton.

      4. Sound Transit right now is proposing infrastructure and not necessarily routing. It might not be possible for a Totem Lake-Everett line to function due to it’s tremendous length (hence splitting the spine). Zach had a great post on Monday considering both routing and infrastructure and I suggest reading it.

        Assuming trains will be running every 8 minutes on both lines, the average transfer time adds 4 minutes while the extra 5 miles of running would add 15 minutes to a Totem Lake-Downtown trip. So, it’d still be faster even with a transfer between trains at Bellevue; saving riders time every day (I bet a lot of people would transfer to save 20+ min/day). And this assumes a CKC line wouldn’t be routed to Downtown Seattle as described in Zach’s plan.

        The problem with rail non-stop rail is it decreases network connections and overall usefulness while wasting access to a very expensive transportation asset. There’s a ton of people west of Willows it could serve but can’t for various reasons. We missed a few opportunities for Link access between Rainier Beach and Tukwila, for example, and we’re going to pay a lot to put one back in.

      5. Taking Willows Road to Totem Lake is a terrible idea because Totem Lake as a growth center is a terrible idea.

        Big-time growth in Totem Lake is a terrible enough idea that its success might be a worse result of the years and millions of dollars spent promoting it than its failure.

        We need to grow in non-freeway-destroyed places.

    2. “the only things that’s within a quarter mile are a taco time, a car dealership, and a uhaul place”

      Kirkland could do something about that, like upzoning. Maybe it already has and it won’t be a taco time in twenty years.

      1. Gotta agree with Stephen, BRT on 405, and especially for the purposes of a stop at 85th street is nuts. Who is going to ride to/from there? The density and development potential there is weak compared to downtown Kirkland and upzoning near 85th street won’t fix the fact that nobody wants to live next to a freeway.

      2. There’s a lot that Kirkland can’t do, certainly just by upzoning. At least the freeway interchange is WSDOT jurisdiction, and it’s both an enormous barrier to pedestrian mobility and a large hole in the urban fabric. It wouldn’t surprise me if the sidewalk-less viaduct over the train tracks was WSDOT jurisdiction, too, but even if it’s City of Kirkland, that’s expensive to fix and even if fixed you’re not going to have buildings fronting the viaduct or its approaches.

        The 405/85th interchange is exactly the sort of place we shouldn’t focus future development.

      3. There are at least three elements to the NE 85th idea.
        (1) A connection from downtown Kirkland to I-405 BRT.
        (2) A connection from Redmond to I-405 BRT.
        (3) Downtown Kirkland to Downtown Redmond

        (1) gets all the attention, but it’s probably the least consequential piece, because it’s somewhat out-of-direction. It’s also redundant if you have transit on the CKC. The travel times are nothing special; what you make up on the freeway, you’ve lost on the transfer and circuitousness. I had a negative analysis of that in an article last year. OTOH, make the connection timed with exclusive bus lanes into Kirkland and it starts to look better.

        (2) is useful because it’s a better transit route from Redmond to points north. As such, more of interest to Redmond than Kirkland, but it’s been on Redmond’s radar screen for a while.

        (3) could be an exclusive busway all the way Kirkland-Redmond. That’s not as big a travel market as Kirkland-Bellevue or Kirkland-Seattle, but it’s meaningful nonetheless. NE 85th is a linear corridor with a lot of potential. The freeway proximity is a killer at one end because there are so many cars funneled in, but there’s a lot you could do with NE 85th once a block or two off the highway. It’s wide enough to take lanes for transit. Zoning is supportive; the market hasn’t been there for redevelopment until recently though activity is picking up near the top of the hill.

        In short, NE 85th is certainly a secondary goal in the Kirkland transit world, hence the attention properly directed toward the CKC. But there’s a lot to like about the idea.

      4. Where exactly is this potential along 85th?

        West of the interchange there’s little opportunity for anything facing or even intersecting 85th, as it’s carried by a viaduct over the ERC and a large embankment, both lacking sidewalks (both 85th and the former rail line really chop up the street network for pedestrians in this area; the trail has improved things somewhat, but further improvements may take longer).

        East of the interchange what’s the potential for? Big boxes? Megablock apartment complexes with two parking spaces per unit? It’s hard to imagine an 85th that’s not a chore to walk down, and the nearby local pedestrian connectivity is bleak. Building that up takes planning effort and money, not just loose height limits. A “stroad” like 85th can carry a popular transit route. Aurora does. But Aurora is usually surrounded by a tighter street network and much more density in the surrounding blocks.

    3. Stephen,

      There is no alternative to BRT on I-405, although in fact it’s not really “Bus Rapid Transit” it’s “Express Buses With Flyer Stops”. That’s because there will be essentially no walk-up ridership since I-405 is a car sewer of epic proportions.

      That said, even Kirkland’s government is hip enough to realize that running regional buses bound for Bellevue down the CKC at 35 mph with several stops is a non-starter. This is a plan for Kirkland and Kirkland only, except for the slight possibility of buses to UW from southeast Bellevue using the corridor as far as SR520. Left unstated of course is how they get up to 520 from the ERC; it’s only two blocks to I-405 and the interchange between the two highways pretty much rules out any ramps to the ERC.

      So in reality, though ST might be the “Angel Investor” who builds the concrete busway, the operator for the blue, green and yellow lines listed in Kirkland’s proposal is very likely to be King County Metro. Some argument that Downtown Seattle-Kirkland-Bothell is (sort of) a “regional” route, the other three are already being run by KCM, albeit much more slowly.

      1. I thought more about it and expect that the proposal is not for a direct connection to SR520 but rather that buses headed across 520 would exit the ERC/CKC at South Kirkland and use surface streets to get to the 108th NE ramps. That’s not what the schematic shows, but it makes the most sense.

    4. The map shows ERC BRT in parallel with 405 BRT, not replacing it. So it would be like a “local loop”, of which the most important part is Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake. The line to Juanita raises my eyebrows but it does reflect an existing bus route (234) so there’s a precedent.

      Of course, the problem still arises that if this is going to be a limited-stop corridor, it can’t replace the 234/235/255 for in-between stops, while if it does have the stops (which the parties aren’t proposing) it won’t be fast enough for regional Bellevue-Kirkland-and-beyond transit.

      1. Anything to Juanita will have to be RapidRide quality; there’s no room for transit lanes.

  13. Sound Transit is really good at picking sub-optimal corridors for transit (Interbay, surface through MLK, Tukwila). Why should Kirkland be any different?

    1. Back then, Tukwila fought Sound Transit on an SR99-to-Boeing Access Road (ish) routing so ST went with I-5. Choosing surface on MLK was the difference between building Link and not building Link, and it only adds 2-3 minutes. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have things different, but the money didn’t exist 15 years ago in the dark days.

      As for Interbay, somebody has to make Expedia happy.

      1. Interbay is all about the lower cost of the alignment compared to tunneling under Queen Anne Hill.

      2. I like Interbay, I think it’s superior to tunneling all the way under QA hill even before the cost savings. There is way more room for dense housing around Dravus going up Magnolia hill. While the top of QA hill is lovely & I go there frequently, it’s a very narrow corridor before it goes to single family homes. If the line is going to go from Lower Queen Anne / Seattle Center to Ballard, going to interbay makes sense from Both a cost and a station location perspective. I would support it even without Expedia.

      3. “There is way more room for dense housing around Dravus going up Magnolia hill.”

        Did Magnolia approve of that when I wasn’t looking? The TOD expectations are a little bit right at Dravis & 15th, not much more. Also, regarding Magnolia generally, it made a deal with the city to not upzone the interior in exchange for leaving it out of enhanced transit plans. It’s similar to Madison Park: the city backed off from upzones there but in return it won’t get more transit except when it suits the city/Metro’s operational convenience or pity.

      4. Not only are the corridors sub-optimal, but so are the places where they initially assumed stations on the Eastside. Most alternatives skip the middle of Factoria, skip Google’s Kirkland campus and Downtown Kirkland, skip directly on the Bellevue College campus, and on and on..

    2. More precisely, Sound Transit is extremely reticent to build light rail through a neighborhood that doesn’t want it because of “impacts”. The only exception is Enatai/Surrey Downs.

      1. Yes, and how much better would Georgetown be today if they hadn’t fought Metro 40 years ago?

      2. @Mike Orr, Georgetown in DC, not our Georgetown. A really great part of town that is a pain to get to and is somewhat of a hike from the nearest Metro stop because 40 years ago Georgetown residents feared having their own stop on the Red or Orange line would bring an unwanted element.

        The meta point is that when we let each little neighborhood dictate the path of transit without regard for the greater good or future generations, crappy alignments ensue. I know we’ve rehashed Queen Anne vs Interbay many times, but I just can’t. Let. It. Go.

        If there is another upside to Interbay besides cost and risk, what is it? Otherwise I think we owe to future Seattleites to do the heavy lifting and build quality rail that goes where there are people.

    3. The ultimate problem is Kirkland’s geography: for a train coming from I-90 or 520 Kirkland is on the way to Bellevue or Redmond, it’s in its own unique direction different from either of them. If Bothell were larger then it would be a must-serve destination that Kirkland would be on the way to. The predominent Eastside transit patterns are east-west but Kirkland’s geography requires a north-south line to get to it. (Assuming the Sand Point-Kirkland crossing is not feasable at present.) On top of that, the existing unencumbered right of way (405) bypasses downtown Kirkland, which is good in some ways but it makes it harder to connect Kirkland to the regional transit network. The ERC gets closer but it will be limited to 25-30mph due to the cross streets, trail, and adjacent houses, and it still doesn’t get to downtown Kirkland. These are the fundamental reasons it’s difficult to get a good transit line through Kirkland, so it’s not just ST’s stupidity; nobody else has come up with anything really good either. And we can’t just write off Kirkland because it’s one of the largest cities on the Eastside and people have to be able to get in and out of it on transit without it taking all day.

      1. Why can’t “we” “write it off”? For all the geographical reasons you stated, it is just about unreachable without a subway, and there’s really only Google which is a destination anywhere within Kirkland west of I-405.

        By the way, you said “on the way” when I think you means “out of the way”. If you have edit privileges you might want to change that.

      2. We can’t write it off because it’s one of the three largest cities in the Eastside, so riders need to get to it. If you write it off, it ends up impacting innocent people who are part of the region’s public-transit responsibility. If it were a small rich residential-only town like Medina it wouldn’t matter as much, but you’re talking about cutting off one of the Eastside’s principal cities.

        Kirkland is “out of the way” of a Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond line. It’s “on the way” of a theoretical Bellevue-Bothell line of some sort.

      3. Mike,

        There’s no way to go north from downtown Kirkland except the CKC and then switching to the I-405 ROW north of the Hospital. Now maybe if ST broke it’s bad habit and “designed for the future” in downtown Kirkland it might make the difference, but the region is going to have to do a LOT of growing to make Light Rail from Bellevue to Bothell pencil out in your lifetime.

        I don’t know how old you are, but I expect you’re younger than I am (70), so it certainly won’t in mine.

  14. What do people think about this fight between the city and ST regarding mitigation vs. access? And did Kirkland really try last year to put terms into legislation so that ST $ could be used for trails?

  15. The CPSRTA needs to stop, take a breather, lean back, then come back with something that is guaranteed to fail at the polls.

    It’s so bad that they’ve got Tim Eyman pissed off.

    Stop, drop the Kinky Technology overbuild fetish, learn from Portland how to build human-size LRT, and come back with a plan that costs more like 1.3bn, not 13bn.

    1. Tim Eyman has been pissed off for decades; that’s how he makes money.

      Portland’s system is nice and all, but it really suffers today from being cheaply built. MAX ridership has been declining while reliability and on-time performance has really dropped (cough cough Steel Bridge cough). Portland’s system at best can handle 7.5-minute headways while we’re looking at three minutes to possibly even 90 second headways. Our system costs a lot because it’s more heavy-rail/metro built to move large volumes of people. Although, the downside here is we’re stuck using a Kinky baseball bat when a MAX stick will do.

      And we all call it Sound Transit, not CPSRTA.

      1. I know everyone calls it Sound Transit or ST as I tend to refer to it. There’s a subtle reason why I referred to it as its government name instead of brand.

        Oddly I don’t remember saying “then come back with something that is guaranteed to fail at the polls.” I was meaning to suggest that a lean proposal would pass, this uberbuild plan is a nonstarter.

        Tim avoided Sound Transit for a very long time. The fact that he’s jumped out of the legislative 2/3rds woodwork tells me something’s up.

        Having graduated from The Evergreen State College, I understand just a little bit about social justice and equality. I also capture a bit of the millennial beautiful people movement. That being said, I believe wholeheartedly that lively debate is important, including from those who state a pragmatic view.

        I would love nothing better than to have a comprehensive LRT network, with high platform conversion as deemed necessary. Electrified Sounder. Cascade Corridor High Speed Rail. But the reality is that our taxation system is horribly out of balance, and results in what we have at Sound Transit. Tons of taxation authority, but no legal means to bank against it, because of its enabling legislation (poison pill that everyone accepted requiring spend as receive, no loans).

      2. Sound Transit. Tons of taxation authority, but no legal means to bank against it, because of its enabling legislation (poison pill that everyone accepted requiring spend as receive, no loans).

        That’s just flat out wrong. ST issues bonds to fund construction. Under Joni Earl they adopted a policy of 50/50 debt financing to cash flow in order to achieve the highest possible credit rating and lowest interest rates.

      3. Portland’s system at best can handle 7.5-minute headways

        Peak period, the combined blue, green and red lines in the surface along NE Holladay Street are about 15 trains per hour per direction, or averaging about one every 4 minutes. During certain times there are trains every 2 minutes. When the yellow line joins them at the Steele Bridge it adds another 6 trains per direction or so at the peak period. Thankfully there is nowhere that all lines share the same platform.

        By far the biggest issue isn’t that it was put on the surface, but that it was put on the surface in the USA, where it is desirable to adopt a traffic light pattern that delays several hundred train passengers so that a dozen or so drivers can get through the traffic lights faster.

        Under these conditions, grade separation is definitely the way to go.

    2. What kind of transit system would Tim Eyman support? The answer is either “None” or “A privately-funded one”. A privately-funded one would connect the wealthiest neighborhoods peak hours and do nothing else.

      1. Eyman is a nihilistic opportunistic (fill in the blanks here) individual.

        But he has so far with the exception of 695(which didn’t even effect ST, they’d promised the MVET for ST1 buildout) and 745 (which would have completely gutted public transit in the state of washington), ignored ST until his most recent initiative, which most say was sparked by 405 Express Tolls. I personally abhor the express tolls, as it goes against my altruistic sense.

      2. 695 does affect ST ongoing, even if it couldn’t override existing bond obligations. The ST3 authority includes only a small amount of MVET at a fixed rate per car. Without 695 the legislature might have granted move MVET and less sales tax, and a variable-rate MVET (charging a higher rate to more expensive or newer or fuel-inefficient cars).

      3. @Brian The express tolls help manage traffic effectively and speed up bus passengers’ commutes, through. It’s better to have an ORCA-LIFT like reduced or free toll for lower-income people.

    3. Whether Portland is a mass transit model we ought to emulate is debatable – they’ve done some pretty awesome things (guided network, quantity of light rail), and have some serious long term limitations (headways, lack of grade separation leading to unreliability).

      But the other question is whether we can build Portland’s system. We can make the choice to follow freeways like them, but our options for other at-grade rail are way more limited than Portland’s; not only do we have density that makes taking road space much more politically challenging, but also we have way more hills. Trains don’t like hills.

      If we decide to emulate Portland in building cheaply, we’ll be restricted to building in a few north-south corridors (because the hills run north-south) that are flat enough. The most enviable thing about MAX is how much of the city it covers and the connectivity that provides; this isn’t an option for Seattle. If we kept to Portland’s budget, we’d have the Rainier Valley, the CKC, Bel-red, the Freeway aligned parts of Link, but nothing to connect them.

      The necessity of very expensive stretches of rail, is, in my opinion, the reason we took so much longer to build a much less extensive system; we’re more different from Portland geographically than we are politically.

      The question, since we can’t build a cheap and extensive system like theirs, is how much we should spend on the segments that can be built cheaply.

      1. MAX is faster than the buses it replaced and/or runs parallel to.

        If the goal is to build a light rail line that deals with close in areas that have overcrowded buses and make bus service hours available to more productive uses, then MAX works.

        Furthermore, because TriMet’s source of income is the payroll tax, there are those in the organization that view TriMet’s customers as being the businesses that are taxed, and not the actual riders. Thus, the system is heavy on services aimed at commuting hours and those needing to get to work but not owning a car.

        If Link to Everett were built in Portland, Portland would have a light rail line going to Woodburn and crossing vast areas of farmland in the process, and would be approximately 20 miles outside TriMet’s district boundary.

        So, it is two rather different reasons for using light rail.

      2. I’m with Glenn. MAX is a great system. It doubtless needs a subway downtown, because Portland’s square blocks make anything more than a two car train impossible. But with that caveat it does very heavy lifting at the peak hours. The city would grind to a halt rapidly without it.

      3. They think that somewhere around 1/3 of all Banfield Freeway (I-84 between about NE 122nd and I-5) commuters are on MAX.

        The passenger growth rate on MAX could probably still be close to the 15% that Link is getting, if zoning here weren’t such a mess.

        Which brings us back to Kirkland. If you take a look at even remote Skytrain stations, you can find 20 floor buildings being built close to the station, while all around them is a sea of single family homes. I’m guessing that if light rail arrives in Kirkland, they could probably get that type of result too.

        I’m guessing, however, they are more likely to follow Portland’s poor example and keep almost everything along the light rail corridor as single family housing.

      4. Oh, and I wouldn’t necessarily say “MAX is a great system”. There are issues and TriMet knows there are issues. There are plans to put money into rebuilding track in a few places next year to resolve some of those issues.

        However, if criticism about MAX is to be made in relationship to what should or shouldn’t be done in Puget Sound, it is best to know what actually is going on here and what those issues are with MAX.

        7.5 minute train frequency certainly isn’t one of those issues. It isn’t one of those issues even though the line runs along Holladay Street and crosses at grade a freeway exit ramp and highway 99, which is essentially 8 lanes through there (two one way streets of four lanes each). Slow? Absolutely. Too many stations? Probably.

        Train frequency at peak period? I can stand on the platform at Rose Quarter at peak period and see three different trains coming my direction over that 10 block stretch.

        Hollywood Transit Center?
        Blue Line to Hillsboro: 6:06 am
        Green Line to PSU: 6:08
        Blue Line to Hillsboro: 6:11am
        Blue Line to Hillsboro: 6:16am
        Red Line to Beaverton or downtown Portland: 6:19
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:21am
        Green Line to PSU: 6:26
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:31am
        Red Line to Beaverton or downtown Portland: 6:34
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:37am
        Green Line to PSU: 6:38
        Green Line to PSU: 6:41
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:42am
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:46am
        Red Line to Beaverton or downtown Portland: 6:49
        Green Line to PSU: 6:56
        Blue Line to Hillsboro:6:52am

        That’s an average of a train every 3.5 minutes, and they still have to have empty space for all the trains on the yellow / orange line (except one of the two green line trains that are spaced close together is likely one green line train that turns into an orange line train and then becomes a yellow line train, so minus one yellow line train for that one). After 6:59 am the red line from the airport goes up to four trains an hour as well.

        SoundTransit may only be able to handle trains every 6 minutes on the Rainier Valley line because of traffic light issues there, but the MAX line along NE Holladay Street certainly isn’t constrained to that.

  16. This is a secular failure of recent ST transit corridor planning.

    The problem goes back to the way that the ST3 corridor studies were handled. They were defined in the ST2 ballot and not developed through an updated study of travel needs. They involved lots of engineering feasibility and a little chat with a few elected officials and some token public meetings, but they did not they amount of good, multi-modal planning that should have been done. Why? The intent by ST was solely to raise money in ST3 to build and not to build a good consensus on what is best for the region.

    Sure, there are some ST3 concepts that are obvious like building the spine or getting to Ballard — but that kind of general regional consensus does not exist on the Eastside except to finish the light rail to Downtown Redmond.

    Kirkland is especially wormy. The terrain, available right-of-way, existing residential nature of the potential routes, awkward siting of several existing park-and-ride facilities and multiple travel needs (regional, local) in every direction all combine to create an environment where we can’t draw an obvious high-generating ridership line and have most people embrace it because they sense that they will benefit; the current transit choices from Kirkland are not horrible.

    In this setting, ST chose to be more limiting in creating options to study last year — only BRT on 405, only LRT on CRC. No mixing of modes. No systems consensus on how they integrate into the region. No serious consideration of other modes, other alignments or even choosing an end point and agree that reaching there is most important.

    So now, we have Kirkland City Council reacting by a grassroots movement to do something different. Who can blame them? ST has done a very awful job at their latest rounds of study to build any Eastside grassroots support. It’s time to point the finger at the overall ST problem: The board is so eager to go to the voters in 2016 for the spine and Ballard that they have not done the terribly needed process to take two or three years to study and build support on a future Eastside corridor strategy!

    As tempting as it is to propose a multitude of different transit capital approaches, the basic fact remains that:
    – no alternative to date is an optimum strategy
    – no consensus exists on what to do, and only what not to do
    – even if there was a systems proposal put on the table now, there is not enough time to gel it into something that is optimum for riders and operations and popular for local and regional residents

    Let’s be adult about this. Let’s first admit that ST planning has spectacularly failed in this instance. Once we admit that, let’s keep the solutions as broad as possible — but we need some sort of clear objective on what travel need we’re trying to address. If it’s 405 for regional traffic, lets admit that and put the ST3 money on the ballot to solve that without defining a mode or corridor. If it’s creating local connections or direct connections to Bellevue or Seattle, let’s say this without flushing out an alternative mode and corridor for the ballot. If it’s to reach Totem Lake or Downtown Kirkland or both, let’s say this without defining a mode or corridor.

    The other thing that we may need to consider: the potential that we would have better success with ST3 if it waits until 2018 or 2020 once a more effective planning process has been fully executed. The ST3 vote for 2016 feels like a group shotgun wedding for the entire region when not everyone is ready to step up to the altar. I’m not ready to completely agree that this is best but I’m close.

    1. Well this thing is happening in 2016 ready or not. Totally agree that this has been botched by ST. Add this to the fundamental problem ST has with regard to governance and structure, and we have an agency that can’t seem to plan its way out of a wet paper bag. Great at project execution, terrible at route planning and vision.

      And if Kirkland is punted until ST4, I’m not sure it’s the deal breaker that Seattle Subway wants us to believe. I’ve said it before: better to deliver less projects but of high quality (and cost probably) than to deliver a hundred miles of garbage out of a desire to reach every sub-area ASAP.

    2. “we have Kirkland City Council reacting by a grassroots movement to do something different.”

      I think they’re separate: Kirkland had its concerns before the neighborhood group was formed, and Kirkland is not endorsing the neighborhood’s recommendation citing greater citywide needs.

      “we need some sort of clear objective on what travel need we’re trying to address…”

      Yes. We need to start with identifying the travel needs: who going from where to where and when? Most people don’t just travel between stations; they have ultimate destinations, and different levels of urgency for the trip. The transit solution needs to address the widest cross-section of these, and not just default to, “People are going north-south so let’s put a line on the freeway.” That works for cars because cars are individual and can always go from ultimate origin to ultimate destination. But that’s not how transit works; e.g., it makes a difference whether LRT goes to Bellevue Transit Center or transfers at Wilburton, and what’s in the Wilburton station area.

      Unfortunately that same issue goes all the way to ST’s initial network proposal. It should have started with identified trip needs, and been a comprehensive plan coordinating regional and local transit with the other agencies, and laid out a long-term network with defined phases (to allow voting for a bit at a time, while still knowing what the next two phases would bring).

      1. I agree. Kirkland City Council’s concerns are not the same as those of the homeowners on the trail. Kirkland’s BRT proposals came out before the opposition really was started, and the opposition opposes all useful transit.

        I also agree that we need a vision for a transit network on the Eastside that we can work toward. We also need the land use planning and parking policies to support it. Right now there’s little reason not to drive with plentiful parking at both ends of the trip.

  17. If Kirkland wants open BRT in there, let’s give it to them. I don’t understand why ST is against BRT in the CKC and pro pseudo-BRT on the 405 express lanes. Preference for light rail isn’t worth all this alienation.

    If East King needs more dollars spent in order to balance more worthy projects in Seattle proper, then let’s put them to an elevated connection to Southcenter, Downtown Renton, and the Boeing plant there. Connecting the Renton plant makes so much more sense than Paine Field in terms of employment density within walking distance of a station.

    1. The eastside will have approx $6B in ST3 projects even without anything on the CKC. That’s enough of their fair share of subarea funds.

    2. An elevated busway across the vast Southcenter parking sea would be a great use of funds. Since buses all travel east-west to access the Center it would work for buses from all points of the compass.

      But, Southcenter is in South King, which has more projects than its revenues can fund. Renton is in East King and could sure make good use of some money, but only if the City is willing to upzone the Old Downtown.


    Michelle and Everybody else:

    One train is small and green. That’s what I think should go on the trail and maybe, a loop down to the transit center- not the whole line, but having, like every third train switch off the mainline. For me that’s a streetcar.

    The other one classes as light rail. Though like an engineer friend of mine says, we’ve got “The heavy side of light rail. I’d never support this on the trail, and I doubt I’m alone.


    1. I don’t actually care what the mode is: bus, streetcar, light rail, whatever. The current ST proposal has zero useful stops and a big impact to the trail. If ST comes back with a proposal that actually connects Kirkland to the region with useful transit, it doesn’t matter what vehicle they use. Your small, green train certainly looks like a better fit they decide they must have a train.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly. The new Kirkland proposal has two “provisional” stops which would help, but ST’s LRT proposal is ridiculously devoid of stops.

  19. As a daily rider of the 255 and a user of the Cross Kirkland Corridor, I am certain that neither of them needs anywhere near this level of investment.

    Kirkland’s transit system could be improved hugely by TSP, Queue Jumps, Bus Lanes where needed, and removing the detour into the South Kirkland P&R. Any investment beyond that is simply a waste of money, considering how low the transit ridership in Kirkland is.

    Similarly, the Cross Kirkland Corridor also sees a fairly low number of people using it. Even on a nice sunny weekend, the trail is nowhere near crowded. It therefore also needs no more investment, at least in Kirkland.

    For ST3, the only investments that I think necessary are:
    1. Extending East Link to Downtown Redmond
    2. Improving the Montlake/UW transfer for 520 buses
    3. TSP, Queue Jumps, Bus Lanes, and other similar cheap bus improvements throughout the area

    While I realize that would not be anywhere near enough investment for ST3 because of Sound Transit’s funding structure, I think that is really all that is needed for the Eastside

    1. Kirkland’s transit system could be improved hugely by TSP, Queue Jumps, Bus Lanes where needed, and removing the detour into the South Kirkland P&R. Any investment beyond that is simply a waste of money, considering how low the transit ridership in Kirkland is.

      This is all very true and puts the ST CKC rail proposal right up there with the King County foot ferry boondoggle. Obviously a case of too much money and too little to do with it.

      All the things mentioned are not part of what ST was formed for or will ever spend money on. The only do big expensive projects or begrudgingly fund bus service hours. About the best use of money Kirkland can hope for is 405 improvements. They already got the Totem Lake direct access ramps and flyer stop.

      Montlake improvements to terminate buses at Husky Station would be well worth spending money on. Technically that’s a Seattle project but I don’t think there’d be much opposition to using eastside funding. The other big ticket item ST could fund on 520 is finishing the center running HOV lane all the way to Overlake TC.

      1. The parking lot next to Husky Link Station really needs to turn into a transit center, equipped with bus bays and layover space, so all the buses headed across 520 can eventually terminate there. I realize the UW value’s the area for its “premium” parking spaces and the high prices it yields, but the value of a transit center being there is so high, ST could simply outbid the existing parkers and give the UW an offer that gives them more for their money.

        Even if the need for locals buses to terminate at the UW Station is temporary, the need for 520 buses to terminate there is permanent, and worth the cost of constructing permanent infrastructure.

  20. As a daily rider of the 255 and a user of the Cross Kirkland Corridor, I am certain that neither of them needs anywhere near this level of investment.

    Kirkland’s transit system could be improved hugely by TSP, Queue Jumps, Bus Lanes where needed, and removing the detour into the South Kirkland P&R. Any investment beyond that is simply a waste of money, considering how low the transit ridership in Kirkland is.

    Similarly, the Cross Kirkland Corridor also sees a fairly low number of people using it. Even on a nice sunny weekend, the trail is nowhere near crowded. It therefore also needs no more investment.

    For ST3, the only investments that I think necessary are:
    1. Extending East Link to Downtown Redmond
    2. Improving the Montlake/UW transfer for 520 buses
    3. TSP, Queue Jumps, Bus Lanes, and other similar cheap bus improvements throughout the area

    While I realize that would not be anywhere near enough investment for ST3 because of Sound Transit’s funding structure, I think that is really all that is needed for the Eastside

    1. Nigel,

      How did you get around the “double posting” robot?

      You may be correct, but a BRT line does not need to be enormously expensive. It’s a simple roadway without large shoulders or a median. That means about 24 feet of thick concrete with relatively little grading required. There will be some, yes, where the right of way is wider than the actual trackway today. I can’t imagine that the fully realized busway would cost more than a half billion dollars.

      1. Anandakos,
        I’m not sure exactly, I didn’t mean to double post. My internet cut out in the middle of posting, so it must have had something to do that.

        Yes, I realize BRT can be built more cheaply than light rail, but its still 500 million dollars for something that won’t really be especially useful (limited walkshed, not much TOD, steep hills, low population density) Imagine what that money could do for Seattle.

      2. Sure; I get that it could be much more productively spent in Seattle. But it isn’t available to Seattle. Kirkland is building out the downtown area and the lakefront. In a dozen years Lake Street/Lake Washington Blvd will be a bumper to bumper crawl, which means that State and Sixth/108th will also be bumper to bumper crawls. All three streets have undergone road diets with bike lanes and a center left turn lane; there’s no room for transit priority. Even queue jumps.

        The buses will be stuck in the middle of it.

        I’m not fool enough to think that a core HCT line can come through that mess; the neighbors don’t want trains with fences (though in truth fencing isn’t needed except at the edge of the ROW, where it probably is mostly already present), especially Link sized honkers. Buses running 35 can stop pretty quickly if a kid runs out into the busway; certainly much faster than a train, even with the track brakes slammed hard. ,

        So using this right of way for most of the route between Totem Lake and Bellevue makes sense. Yes, there’s the question of how to get into downtown Kirkland; if a conversion to rail is ever made ST will have to “go big” and dig a tunnel.

        But there is a sneaky way into downtown Kirkland. Exit the CKC where it crosses Sixth Street South and go north to Kirkland Way. There is an “exclusion zone” about four car lengths in the middle of the street which opposes a southbound left turn bay to the north of Kirkland Way. That exclusion zone could become a bus-only left turn bay and cars would not have lost anything they currently have.

        A light would need to be placed at the intersection of course, so that the buses could run through without stopping. I’d give the northbounds complete pre-emption there.

        Then run down Kirkland Way to State, go through the TC, turn right on Central Way and return to the CKC at the curve. This keeps the BRT buses out of the horrible environment for transferring at I-405. There’s even the possibility of using the CKC between Sixth Street South and Central Way for “through” buses bypassing the mess on I-405. Through express buses would stop at Google but folks headed for other places would take the “local” BRT. I hope that all the stops listed on the Kirkland proposal and maybe one or two more for good measure would be adopted. For instance, a pair at Sixth Avenue South and Kirkland Way would draw from the big development just to the north and the cluster of apartments around it.

    2. From what I’ve seen, I have to agree. Outside of peak-of-the-peak, the 255’s route down 108th is really not even all that congested. Even peak-of-the-peak, you’re talking about a 5 minute delay to cross the light at 68th St., not something worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars over. Outside of rush hour, the transit market between Bellevue and Kirkland is very limited – the CKC, today, actually carries more walkers per hour than the 234 and 235 do riders per hour, along the same corridor.

      In theory, you could “force” the CKC BRT to get riders by restructuring the SR-520 service where the 255 goes away and the 542 deviates into South Kirkland P&R to replace it. I recall even seeing some “master plans” somewhere proposing this idea. In reality, a scheme like this would be terrible for both Kirkland riders and Redmond riders by adding needless time to everybody’s trips – an extra transfer (for the Kirkland case), or an extra deviation (for the Redmond case).

      While this kind of route consolidation scheme could, in theory, enable higher frequency, we already have enough service hours today to operate both the 255 and 542 with frequent enough service, as separate routes – especially if the completion of EastLink allows the 542 to completely replace the 545.

      If faster Kirkland->Bellevue commuter service is desired during rush hour, just run peak-hour express bus a bus down 405 between the two destinations, without all the intermediate stops. No 100-million-dollar+ investment, no trail disruption, and no impact on existing transit riders.

      1. It may be only the “peak-of-the-peak” this year, but in 2026 that peak-of-the-peak will be breakdown and the middle of the day will be congested as well. Remember that all those yuppies who live in downtown Kirkland are going to retire in the next ten years; nobody but mid-to-upper managers can afford to live there, and they have a pretty darn nice lifestyle. They aren’t going to want to move, but they will be using the bus during the middle of the day.

  21. An all-Eastside LRT line that doesn’t serve downtown Bellevue, downtown Kirkland, or downtown Redmond is a stupid idea, and might be the dumbest light rail line in the world. Zach’s idea to have it terminate in downtown Kirkland is good though. But the line as proposed is idiotic and would be a massive waste of money.

  22. We need to clear up a misconception about the Save Our Trail people. There are 2,200 petition signors against transit on the trail. There are multiple organizations including the Eastside Audubon Society, the Puget Sound Anglers others. These organizations have many thousands of members. The statement that Save Our Trail is a bunch of rich people who live near the trail is very wrong. There is support from all around the Puget Sound region because transit on the trail is a very bad idea. Few people know there are salmon runs in the streams impacted by the proposed transit, There are smelt in the streams running into the lake. Hatchery programs currently are in three streams in the impact area of the trail. There are good reasons to oppose transit on the trail.

    1. And there are good reasons to support transit on the ERC.

      If there is a very open public discourse on the merits of transit and trail vs. trail only,
      and the proposal that the Sound Transit board puts forward mitigates, and should even improve, the salmon habitat situation,

      then the groups that oppose the transit portion would go along with whatever gets passed by the vote of the people.

      and forgo the lawsuits.

      1. Mr. Cusick. Please do not forget the law says avoidance trumps mitigation. If there is an alternative to the project requiring mitigation, like the buses on 405 instead of transit on the trail, the law requires the alternative project to be selected. The irony is that Kirkland’s own laws preclude development of transit on the trail and it looks like the Kirkland City Council is only now acknowledging the problems that transit on the trail presents. Lawsuits are likely if transit on the trail goes forward because the laws discourage mitigation in favor the existing environment. As for the open public discourse, I submit there has been plenty of public discourse and there is likely to be more. The more discourse the better. It will only serve to educate the public on the many profound problems presented by transit on the trail and the legal principles supporting the No Transit on the Trail position.

      2. Mr. Dennis.

        Unfortunately, the Save-Our-Trail folks were too busy to stay long at last week’s Council meeting. So you all missed the Council staff presentation when it was carefully explained that the alleged environmental issues were a load of bunk.

        That’s my paraphrase, not theirs. But you can read the extensive analysis on the Council website. Thanks for caring so much about the fish, even the ones that don’t exist.

      3. The more discourse the better.

        The “Seattle process” in a nutshell. Limitless discourse is NOT a good thing.

      4. I-405 is not an “alternative” to the CKC. It serves different transit markets, and the markets it does serve, it does poorly.

        – Lower reliability due to restrictions on tolling, and susceptibility to accidents on I-405.
        – Further distance from activity centers in Kirkland.
        – No interface with the South Kirkland P&R hub.

        If we put transit only on I-405, we’re going to require “mitigation” — starting with kicking cars out of the I-405 HOT lanes entirely.

      5. “As for the open public discourse, I submit there has been plenty of public discourse and there is likely to be more.”

        Having been involved with the transportation development on the I-405 Corridor since 1999, I will have to respectfully disagree.

        There has be very little public discourse on how these decisions came about. It was not only my concern but even the concern of the I-405 Corridor Program – Public Outreach staff that local news media coverage was almost non-existent, save for the Eastside Journal.

        But I do hope there is much more.

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