Cross Kirkland Corridor - 15

[UPDATE: In a development inconvenient for my thesis, Save Our Trails utterly rejected the compromise proposal today, for reasons good and bad.]

If the numerous corridor studies have shown anything, it’s that a small transit capital investment in transit for Kirkland wouldn’t be a disaster for the region. Projected ridership just isn’t that high. Despite interest group pressure, Sound Transit hasn’t shown any interest in a studying the investments in dedicated right-of-way that might make Kirkland service a game-changer.

The proposed Kirkland “compromise” would have only modest transit investment in Kirkland: I-405 BRT with an added stop near downtown; and a useful, but not game-changing, BRT connection to Redmond. Omitting the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) wouldn’t destroy the vision of a region connected by high-quality transit. Or rather, it won’t if doesn’t cost votes in Kirkland that bring the package below 50%. There are enough cities desperate for improvements that Sound Transit ought to find a place to spend the CKC money to yield more votes elsewhere. Indeed, even a popular Kirkland package that also spurs organized opposition from trail neighbors may yield fewer votes than the alternatives.

This is particularly the case if voters in Redmond, Bellevue, and Issaquah, who presumably would get a big investment in ST3, don’t develop an “Eastside” identity that gets prickly when “their” dollars leave East King County to help out in the 522 corridor, South Sounder, Ballard/UW, Burien, or somewhere else productive.

In truth, I’m relaxed about whatever outcome occurs in Kirkland for the reasons above. The bus advocates have some good points and the rail advocates have some good points, and the real difference between them is whether or not Sound Transit can create a good rail alignment instead of the current one. “Save Our Trail”‘s position is understandable, though (in my view) disastrous for Kirkland as a whole. I believe the Kirkland City Council sincerely thinks BRT on this corridor is best for Kirkland, and I sympathize with the idea that it’s technically superior to the current rail concept. But let’s call this newest Kirkland “compromise” what it is: not a compromise, but a plan that essentially gives “Save Our Trail” exactly what it wants: no transit on the CKC. If that weren’t enough, ST would spend $200m on trail improvements rather than high-quality transit. Whatever the merits of this as an access project, it’s also yet another carrot for trail neighbors.

The Kirkland City Council hopes planning money will commit the region to build transit there. Regardless, no funding for construction effectively kicks CKC transit into the long grass. Whether there will even be a regional ST4 package someday is a subject for another post, but the exact political forces that have changed the CKC debate from bus-rail to transit-or-not will be present the next time around. There’s no way to commit a grassroots movement to support transit at a specific point in the future, or future leaders to execute a plan that today’s leaders do not. Residents along the trail will have the exact same incentives they do today, future residents will not feel bound by deals made in 2016, and the trail will have been vehicle-free for decades instead of months. Limiting investment in Kirkland may or may not be the right thing to do, but deferring transit on the CKC is likely killing it forever.

86 Replies to “Proposed Kirkland “Compromise” a Bad Deal for Transit”

  1. the trail will have been vehicle-free for decades instead of months.

    Lacking an effective argument fall back on hyperbola.

    1. The trail will be a year old sometime this year or earlier, so that’s 1/10 of a decade. The earliest an ST4 vote could be is 2020, and I don’t believe it could realistically be before 2024 or 2028, both because ST3 whatever its size won’t be tiny and because the ST1/2/3 bonds will be maxed out until ST3 finishes some large projects in the 2020s or 2030s. So you’re looking at one decade or two before an ST4 CKC line starts, and possibly three decades or for before it finishes.

      1. WSDOT removed the Wilburton tunnel in the summer of 2008 severing the line 91 months ago. BNSF kicked out The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train in 2007. Most people would call that years or “the better part of a decade”. But hey, it seems like just last month that “vehicles” were whizzing up and down the Woodinville subdivision.

    2. “Lacking an effective argument fall back on hyperbola.”

      I think the math backs up his argument nicely.

  2. ST should complete the spine and then from here on out allocate funds independent of district wants, ie, give the east side their billions and let them decide what is best. Let their respective voters decide and not hold the rest of Seattle hostage. if Kirkland wants transit to Bellevue, UW, Redmond, down CKC or where ever it is up to them. Whether it is BRT, LR or bicycles it is their choice. Likewise with Ballard, WS and etc. Give Ballard and others their 3 billion and if they feel it best to spend it on a tunnel or LR to UW so be it. I think this would handle equity best. Sure ST should put certain restrictions based on integration principles but ST shouldn’t be a dictatorship and districts shouldn’t hold other districts hostage.

    1. No, if you just give subareas capital dollars they will pick projects independent of the long-term operating obligations… and that could have big implications for the whole Link system. You need people from other areas to help pick projects that are regionally useful and not just a permanent money suck.

      1. You need to read entire comment. “ST should put certain restrictions based on integration principles”. Also districts can apply for grants to fill in gaps.

    2. I don’t quite understand what les means. ST’s responsibility is to build a transit network, not to dole out gifts to those who want them. And they aren’t really gifts like a grant would be, because the entire ST district is voting to pay for them. I’m not sure if les is talking about giving subareas a budget to spend on anything, or smaller sub-subarea units (Ballard, UW, Redmond, …). Smaller areas would require drawing boundaries and lead to political conflict. Subarea budgets, well, that’s not much different than ST is doing now, or what the stricter interpretation of subarea equity requires. Except that ST estimates subarea budgets based on each subarea’s revenue rather than the same amount for each subarea. Also $3 billion may or may not be enough for Ballard-UW or Ballard-downtown, and it certainly isn’t enough for all of Seattle’s needs or even some of Seattle’s needs. ST has a responsibility to weigh how projects contribute to or detract from the entire network, entire subarea, and the region’s mobility needs.

      1. “Smaller areas would require drawing boundaries and lead to political conflict” Political conflict exist already so not sure of your point here. Also, I never said $3 billion to Ballard is it for Seattle. I also never said that 3 Billion is all Ballard-downtown needs. I also never said to detract from network. I did say that equity needs to be served and that district should have more say on what get implemented and when.

      2. By district you mean subarea? I usually hear of the ST district as one, and subareas as subareas.

    3. Couple of problems with your thinking on neighborhood autonomy. One, does this mean that Market Street has to end at around, say, 8th Avenue NW, where people can pay admission to the staircase going up to Phinney Ridge?

      Also: Who is going to set the boundaries of a neighborhood, or any other entity? National borders are invisible from, like, roof of a second-story building. Bet: in fifty years, King County will be the quaint old-town of the Greater West Coast.


    1. Also, look at the picture above and try to imagine where a busway could be squeezed in without destroying the natural environment.

      1. Yes, all transit development should be delayed if there are enough bushes and shrubs that would need to be cleared to make t happen.


        I wonder if anybody has shown pictures of exactly this type of rail vehicle to anybody in Kirkland.

        Especially if response was: Paint it red and run the tracks to Hell. I’d still want to know why and if anybody could suggest a route.

        And in spades for STB. Because for everyone justifiably opposed to something exactly as massively intrusive as a busway of light rail of same size, I think I’ve got a much-used electric rail vehicle that will work just fine.

        So at least let’s get some ideas on why it won’t.


      3. You mean you look at this photo of a transit right of way with temporary trail along its edge …. it’s a transitway all along. Putting trail on it was obviously a massive mistake.

      4. Busways are probably wider than two-track rail lines, and need a lot of concrete. For local speeds and loads, rail lines can also be single-tracked.

    2. Well, here’s a perfect example. Near, I think, Centralia, the Cascades goes through Vader. Though whether it was revered as Darth’s birthplace and hence became the capital of the Evil Galactic empire, or Darth is going to evolve from Henry Kissenger, we don’t know ’til next sequel.

      Therefore, there may have been, or may be, that we didn’t need either SR 520 or a Sand Point Bridge, because subareas are too hard to do space time warps with, so the whole anything leaving Kirkland can just come up in Vader.

      Problem solved. And don’t forget to turn on The Force tomorrow morning. OK?


  3. Martin made a good point in the podcast, that the residents of Kirkland are not clamoring for light rail or fast BRT, which is the opposite of Ballard, 45th, Friends of 130th Station, Everett, Tacoma, or Federal Way [1]. I still believe Kirkland needs good regional transit (we can’t “write it off” as I said in another article), but the most eager areas should get projects first when entire cities are ho-hum about it, and we haven’t seen any eager Kirklanders except possibly the three or four on STB.

    [1] Federal Way was earlier very insistent on light rail, but its current support of an I-5 alignment that would serve fewer of its residents sounds to me like a lesser commitment.

    1. I am not sure if allocating projects based on whose clamoring the loudest is a good idea. If subarea equity is being done away with, funds should be diverted to high quality projects. If East King funds are diverted they should be for projects like UW – Ballard or Metro 8 Subway which actually have the best value for dollar. The value of completing the Spine is as arguable as transit on CRC (though slightly better) If Tacoma and Everett want the spine, it should be with their own money.

      1. There needs to be a balance between which cities/neighborhoods want something badly and where the network needs high-quality projects. Ballard-UW scores high on both. Kirkland scores moderate on need but low on local desire. Everett and Paine scores low on need but high on local desire. So maybe we should defer investment in Kirkland to some other projects that score higher on both.

    2. While they aren’t clamoring for it I’m also not sure that opposition to using CKC in Kirkland for Mass Transit is quite as high as we’d think. SOT is just very well organized and very well funded being backed largely from one of the wealthiest areas of the city outside of the lakeside areas themselves.

      One thing I’ve noticed is that while extensive it appears Kirkland’s outreach program was flawed. It was focused on community groups and organizations, absolutely nothing was done to engage with transit riders/users unless they found out as a by product of work with the other groups. For example after talking to the major and a city staffer I found out that not a single flyer or poster was put at any major transit facility in the city. This likely means a core constituency may have been largely ignored.

    3. People may not be clamoring, but according to the city’s surveys, people in Kirkland want alternatives to driving everywhere. Right now the alternatives are all so poor that the only people using them are those with lots of motivation to do so, be it due to finances, physical ability, or philosophy.

      1. What do they support that would really improve their mobility? The second part is what we’ve been trying to answer without success, so if they come up with an idea it would help.

      2. I really don’t know. I personally think that really prioritizing pedestrians and bikes would go a long way. Not so many people are walking distance to a good transit stop or grocery store, but most are biking distance. The arterials are barriers and need to be tamed. So far people walking and biking are afterthoughts around here and left to fend for ourselves. Also, the only real incentive not to drive is the traffic – there’s plentiful free parking just about everywhere on the eastside – and the buses sit in the same traffic.

        I really, really think that what the Eastside needs is unified land use and transportation planning to make it easy to get around without a car. Kirkland can’t do it alone – people in Kirkland go to Redmond, Bellevue, Seattle – it needs to be regional. There are parts of the eastside that are never going to be easy to serve with transit… and now my kids are calling.

      3. Yes, no question we need a Move Kirkland. More than that, we need the city to make it clear that pedestrians have priority, because right now walking anywhere is a battle.

        I came back to write about who these Kirkland people are who say they want alternatives to driving. We all have our logical inconsistencies, and these situations I describe are not unique to Kirkland.

        Most of our friends in Kirkland are three-plus-child, two-car, Microsoft families living in single-family homes with yards, and nothing within walking distance but the elementary school. They all support transit – indeed most lived in walkable locations in the past and took transit. They all currently drive everywhere because the alternatives are a hassle and take longer than driving. They live 1/3 mile from a half-hourly bus that winds through Kirkland (the 238, for example) not going to any destinations they actually care about. And a mile from the nearest grocery store, which is on an intersection of arterials and completely hostile to anybody not in a car. When asked if they want more transit in Kirkland, they’d say sure, of course, but until it is easier than driving, and enough easier to make it worth changing their habits, they won’t actually use it.

        Now, it is completely unrealistic to have a frequent transit line within 1/4 mile of every house in our low-density sprawl, so I don’t know what the real answer is. I’d like to see transit that people can get excited about, that would be worth biking to get there if you’re not close enough to walk, but then we’re back to needing better bike facilities (and if ST can build parking garages, I’d really like to see them also build PBLs). Above all, we need more family-scale housing in the walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods that we do have.

      4. For those Microsoft families, the answer is to move to an urban village, and support Kirkland’s Totem Lake plans. Luckily they could afford a condo in Redmond or Seattle if they wanted. But they would probably say there are no 3+ bedroom condos available, and not many 2 bedroom, and anyway they want a house.

        In that case the answer is Bailovilles: small-lot, gridded-street neighborhoods like Wallingford in the suburbs. But Kirkland would object to tearing down low-density housing for it. That brings us to New Urbanist developments like the Issaquah Highlands, Redmond Ridge, and Snoqualmie Ridge. They have the right kind of housing and commercial districts, but are too far out of the way to have frequent transit, and that has attracted drivers-only to them. So we’d need a place like that closer in. And Kirkland has a place it’s developing called Totem Lake. So they could put it there. But I’m afraid it might be too low density for there given the demand for multifamily housing in urban villages, and we wouldn’t want row houses or small-lot houses to displace that. But maybe there’s enough space to put the houses on the edge of Totem Lake. Or Kirkland could, gasp, upzone a larger area around Totem Lake for them.

      5. Absolutely, upzoning around the higher density areas for family-scale housing is exactly what is needed, and not just in Totem Lake: Bridle Trails, downtown, Juanita, Houghton, even 85th. Redmond and Bellevue need to do the same. It’s not like Seattle has solved the problem either. Every additional family we can house here in Kirkland is one fewer family driving into and through Kirkland from Bothell.

        My house shouldn’t be a house. My street should have row houses or small apartment buildings, but there are houses here, so I will happily live in one of them in my walkable-enough neighborhood, right on the 245 and biking distance to downtown Kirkland and Redmond. Not so many of my neighbors take full advantage of the location in the same way, sadly.

  4. The CKC, despite being a rare linear corridor, just isn’t great for connecting residential and employment centers on the east side. I could envision lots of RapidRide-level service in Kirkland doing a much better job than the CRC if Kirkland will work with Metro to design the streets to accommodate it. It would be nice to serve Kirkland with rail but if they can’r reach consensus on true HCT, they would be better served for the foreseeable future banking on bus service in dedicated lanes at pinch points that reaches Redmond and Bellevue, and feeds Link. The idea that BRT would have little impact on the trail is fantasy, and this Save our Trail group has deep pockets and a lot of time on their hands. It would be a real shame to have an East Link/Bellevue- level fight over a few thousand measly boardings.

    1. It’s also worth looking at why this is. Other cities built their city centers around train stations, as you can see in Cologne, Duesseldorf, Liege, etc. Our own Kent and Auburn are like this, although the station areas haven’t been quite kept up as a meeting place. But the ERC is a half mile east of downtown Bellevue and Kirkland. That may be because it was solely an auxiliary freight line; I don’t know if it ever had passengers since they usually took ferries across the lake. So it may be an unusual rail corridor. But the fact that Bellevue’s city center is not at NE 8th & 116th, and Kirkland’s city center is not at Kirkland Ave and the rail crossing is why using the ERC is so problematic. (As for Renton, I don’t know where the ERC goes there or how close to downtown.)

  5. “There are enough cities desperate for improvements that Sound Transit ought to find a place to spend the CKC money to yield more votes elsewhere. Indeed, even a popular Kirkland package that also spurs organized opposition from trail neighbors may yield fewer votes than the alternatives.”

    At risk of being cynical, it really comes down this. There are more meritorious projects on the Eastside that can also yield more votes. How about instead we deliver a one-stop ride from Issaquah to Seattle with stops at BCC and Factoria?

  6. 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. It isn’t a perfect route and neither are the routes proposed by Sound Transit or Seattle Subway, and look at where we are today with this CKC mess.

    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. Do these future Totem Lake residents mostly want to go to Redmond and Overlake? Why? What if a greater number of them want to go to Bellevue or Seattle but the travel time caused by the Redmond detour depresses ridership?

      1. It seems to me that any possibility of light rail to Kirkland via the CKC is dead or almost dead. So the question is does Kirkland want to see another route or do they not want light rail at all?

      2. LRT to Totem Lake via Redmond would be significantly slower than the 252/257/311 are to Seattle on all but the most awful traffic days. And once the new SR-520 bridge and west side project opens those buses will become a little bit more reliable. Especially if the reversible off ramps into the express lanes are ever built in the city. I certainly wouldn’t ride it on a regular basis.

      3. There’s a difference between symbolically serving Kirkland (two miles north of downtown, and three miles north of Houghton), and actually serving Kirkland. It would serve a part of northern Kirkland, and it may have some merit if Totem Lake does become a large urban center. But it would lead Totem Lakers away from downtown Kirkland, away from their own city, to spend time in other cities. That happens to be an example of what’s wrong with the suburbs: their downtowns were emptied out and made irrelevant as the roads, jobs, and shopping centers bypassed them. The solution is returning to the traditional town structure, where downtowns are the focus, and neighborhoods are real work/shop/play/transit units rather than just the names of residential-only developments. I’m not saying we should put all that on Kirkland, because Kirkland’s unique geography and its policy of focusing growth in Totem Lake leads to some particular challenges, but in general the “strong towns” movement is the way to fix suburbs and cities too.

    2. Thank you for that post. It really encapsulates the thinking behind ST, and the general thinking behind light rail in general in this region. It explains why, after spending an enormous sum, it is unlikely that a very high percentage of people will take transit.

      Extend Eastlink past downtown Redmond, up Willows Road to Totem Lake.

      At best that gives a small segment of people in Kirkland a fast ride to Redmond. Even if Totem Lake expands like crazy, not that many people are likely to ride that train. This means the train won’t run that often. It might have some value for a transfer spot to 405 (Lynnwood to Totem Lake to Redmond) except if the train doesn’t run that often, that transfer is pretty nasty. You could achieve the same thing, of course, with buses. That would cost a lot less (to build and operate) and thus would allow for increased frequency. It would also allow for longer bus rides (e. g. Bothell to Redmond, Lynnwood to Redmond). This would mean that some riders would have one less transfer.

      A train would connect to the rest of Link, of course, but a straight shot bus on I-405 would be a lot faster to downtown Bellevue. So would a bus on the ERC. For most of the region, taking this train from Totem Lake would be silly. For example in Juanita (the most densely populated area west of 405 and north of 520) it would be much faster to take a bus directly to downtown Bellevue. It just wouldn’t be a very good project.

      People in Kirkland can be happy they got light rail

      That’s the line I find most amusing. Most people in Kirkland would not benefit from this line at all. The only reason I can think they would be “happy they got light rail”, is if they really have no idea what light rail is good for. It isn’t an amusement park. But I’m afraid this idea is all too common. “West Seattle will get light rail” or “Ballard will get light rail”. No one has said it, but you could easily make the claim that “The Central Area got light rail”. Yeah, sure, Capitol Hill is part of the Central Area, but if you are standing in First Hill, or Garfield High School, you really didn’t get much. Even the folks on Totem Lake wouldn’t get much out of this idea. A fast ride to Redmond would be nice, but my guess is way more people are interested in a fast ride to Seattle or downtown Bellevue, and this wouldn’t provide it.

    3. Sounds like Kirkland doesn’t want light rail at all, to be honest. I think the Willows Rd concept is pretty weak, the area’s underpopulated and it takes the long way. I see cut-and-cover on 108th Ave as the best option for alternate routing, but the hills are a problem there, so maybe not feasible.

      1. Whatever the merits or otherwise of Mr. Nixon’s proposal (I don’t like it, FWIW), it is not the position of the Kirkland City Council. Toby Nixon has a very particular set of views on transit issues.

        I doubt it’s particularly loved by Save-Our-Trail either. They love it as an alternative to transit on ‘their’ trail, because it has the great merit of being miles away on somebody else’s trail. But that’s the only basis for their support.

      2. Donde, I think some sort of solution via 108th Ave NE should be looked at as it’s pretty much a straight line between the South Kirkland P&R and the proposed LRT station on 6th St S. Maybe cut/cover, maybe tunnel. It would be an alternative to the Sound Transit elevated rail proposal on the CKC through Houghton.

      3. Technical merits aside (and a 108th tunnel smells like a lot of money), 108th Ave buys you zero support from Save-Our-Trail.

        They want absolutely nothing near them, not buses, not trains. Not paved trails, as they made clear this morning. Make the trail wider or better and people who don’t live in the neighborhood might want to use it.

      4. Dan – What does this have to do with save our trail? I never mentioned them. The City of Kirkland wants BRT on CKC, Sound Transit wants LRT on CKC. I’m just thinking out loud and throwing around other LRT routes that perhaps the City would entertain.

  7. So, I want to get this straight. Please correct me if I have something wrong.

    1) Kirkland hired consultants to do their own analysis for transit improvements. They came up with this:

    2) Sound Transit basically rejected that idea, preferring rail on the ERC.

    3) Kirkland elected officials didn’t like that proposal, so they said, in a letter, that they would oppose ST3 if it had rail on the ERC.

    4) Kirkland has since proposed this compromise.

    Is that right? What am I missing?

    Looking at all of the rail proposals (including those to Issaquah) and comparing them to Kirkland’s BRT proposal, the BRT not only looks cheaper, but better. A lot better. More frequent and covering more areas. A few things worth mentioning:

    1) Kirkland does not have much in the way of population density. The only two census blocks in the region that have even moderate density are in Juanita:

    2) The ERC goes through a very sparsely populated area north of 520.

    3) Light rail from Kirkland to Issaquah is unlikely to have many walk-up passengers.

    4) Since trains from Issaquah would not go to downtown Seattle, a trip from a typical Issaquah home to downtown Seattle would require two transfers (first ride a bus to the station, then take a train, then take another train).

    5) The main benefit of an Issaquah rail line would be for people headed to Bellevue from Issaquah. As of the latest data, less than 300 people make that trip on the 555/556 — See appendix on this:

    6) What is true of Kirkland is true of Issaquah. There isn’t huge demand for Kirkland to Bellevue transit service — at least not big enough to justify light rail, even if it happened to go right by the most densely populated part of Kirkland (which this will not).

    I can’t but think that the Kirkland consultants are right. Open BRT makes sense for the area.

    1. 1-3 and 1-3) In other words, we should take a low-budget offer from a peripherally-located city when they make it. :)

      6) Is not quite accurate. Issaquah may have a similar ridership profile as Kirkland (although I’d argue less, because Kirkland’s downtown is a tourist/recreation attraction, and Kirkland has institutions other Eastsiders go to), but Issaquah really wants Link and Kirkland doesn’t so that makes them different.

      We could look at the cost of an Issaquah-Bellevue line (which I don’t have offhand), and if it’s not too much (if there are no tunnels), it can be the least-used segment that gets the regional deal done, and it would have the potential for extension later.

      1. Mike,

        I would agree that chopping the north 1/3 of Totem Lake-Issaquah off is a good idea. But only with the caveat that it uses the dowtown Bellevue tunnel as Zach proposed and then continues on at least to Overlake. And, I continue to think that serving Factoria directly is an important element of such a line. As I proposed in the comments to his post ( it can be done. A change at East Main saves two stops and two and about two miles of travel, so it would be acceptable for off-peak service.

        Unfortunately so far as Kirkland is concerned, it looks ever more like “we” are going to have “to write them off”. A transfer station in the noisy, dark Hell under the NE 85th over-crossing will be a nightmare nobody will use.

        The “alternative” to use NE 68th/NE 70th that SOT proposed is pretty weak though certainly more pleasant for riders. It’s not completely unusable east of I-405 during off-peak times, though it could never be considered “Bus Rapid Transit” because there is no room for queue jumps. But those roads get seriously congested at the peaks when the capacity is needed.

        It does serve Google on the west side of I-405, but it runs into the traffic kerfuffle at State Street and NE68th on the way to downtown Kirkland. Overall, it’s out of the way for most Redmond-Kirkland travel.


        There is no room on 108th NE for any kind of BRT treatment. No ROOM! And nobody is going to be willing to pay for a subway through Kirkland.

    2. BRT, sure, but maybe not on CKC. 108th Av runs next to NW U and close to Google. So put a line with stops at Totem Lake, Juanita, Kirkland, Google, NW U, Spring District, and peak hour service continuing to Seattle

    3. @Mike — Good point about item number 6. I should have said “what is true for Issaquah is true of Kirkland, although not to the same degree”. But I really don’t care what “Issaquah wants”. Did Issaquah also hire an outside transit consultant, or did Issaquah just say “Hey, light rail would be cool”. A couple billion dollars (thanks Dan) for ridership that will struggle to get into the five digits, and provide little benefit to those who ride it is not a good value.

      It is obvious that ST has a bizarre infatuation with expensive, inappropriate light rail lines. When cities endorse such lunacy (as Issaquah has) they are made most welcome. When a city bothers to do its homework, and comes to the logical conclusion that there are better ways to spend the money — projects that will save way more people way more time — there is conflict.

      1. It is obvious that ST has a bizarre infatuation with expensive, inappropriate light rail lines. When cities endorse such lunacy (as Issaquah has) they are made most welcome.

        Keep in mind that Sound Transit is just a legal entity. It is people on the Sound Transit Board that make decisions. Here’s a Clue, “the Butler did it”.

  8. The ST3 process is like going to a grocery store en masse with a shopping list of random items and enabling any of the mass to veto buying an item. Meanwhile, there has been a weak meal planning process in the first place so many of the items are more junk food then they contain nutritional value (ridership and aggregate travel time savings).

    It’s really hard to change the list and put something else in the basket now that the store closing time is approaching fast. Major business community pressure might change things – or perhaps other Kirkland neighborhood groups could push back, but I don’t think that they will.

    On the other hand, Eastgate and Issaquah folk probably feel an unspoken happiness now that the I-90 corridor becomes next in line (although its utility is quite debatable).

  9. Could the “compromise” include language that if transit is not deployed on the CKC within, say, 20 years, the city of Kirkland has to pay back all the money spent on trail development?

    That gives a nice stick to Kirkland for the City Council to say it’s residents in 10 years when “ST4” is being debated, to be like “Hey, we can built a light rail / BRT, or we cough up $200M for a trail we already have.” And if at that point the citizens of Kirkland decide that they would rather have the trail with no transit, that is their prerogative.

    If ultimately no HCT is built, Kirkland gets a lovely trail that was paid for by Kirkland, not by it’s neighbors.
    Tthe fact that Kirkland borrowed money from Sound Transit for 20 years to build the trail becomes a quirk of Eastside history

  10. The fundamental issue is that rail to Kirkland is a solution in search of a problem. Kirkland is built out and not particularly dense and while Totem Lake might have density at some point it’s a big stretch given the topography and land use in the area. And it’s not obvious why Sound Transit’s position on Kirkland is a political winner given some of the opposition in the area.

    Meanwhile you have another east subarea city in Renton where rail has already been studied (as part of a Burien-Tukwila-Renton line) and where rail is projected to have much better ridership per unit cost than Kirkland. Moreover, this area already has an existing railroad right of way, several plausible areas for major development, and the opportunity to build six* reasonably located stations in the East King subarea. If Sound Transit is adamant about building rail, it should build rail in Renton where it actually makes sense from a ridership and regional growth perspective.

    *In my view the six stations from east to west are: Renton Landing, N 3rd st. and Houser Way, S 4th st. and Burrnet Ave, S 7th st. and Rainier Ave, Lind Ave and 21st st.**, and Tukwila Sounder Station. Of course, at minimum, the line would have continue west with at least stops at Southcenter and TIBS.

    **contingent on development opportunities in the area

    1. Burien-Renton has an existing railroad right of way? I know the ERC goes down to Renton somewhere but I don’t know where, or where it goes after that. How much of it could be used by a Burien-Renton line?

      1. Looking at my windows maps, there is an existing rail line that runs from the main line by the Dwamish to the landing,looping through Renton. You’d want to deviate from the line at points, but it’s a start.

        No idea if it’s an active line, might be used to move freight for Boeing?

      2. On the rail corridor in Renton you could probably use 2.2 miles out of the 6.5 miles between the Landing and TIBS. However, I think that the line is still in use by Boeing, so it may be infeasible or difficult to use. But even so, there are other reasonable alternatives for serving Renton that don’t require using the railroad ROW.

        Pages 12-13 of this Sound Transit document map and detail how that rail corridor could be integrated into a Renton-Burien line.

      3. There is an active freight line (er, as of two years ago) in Renton that moves freight to Boeing. Not sure if that’s the line you’re looking at, but I’ve been blocked by the train trying to get out of downtown Renton.

      4. The NP line which forms the ERC used to run directly north-south through downtown Renton on Burnett, crossing the still-existing Milwaukee tracks along Houser Way. I think when I-405 was built Renton took the opportunity to get that track out the heart of the city by using a Milwaukee spur along Houser Way North as the new “main line” for eastside rail service. I think they had to extend it a little up to north of Park Street.

        You can see the obvious “history” in the center parking on Burnett and that odd diagonal “Burnett Place” which connects the greenbelt trail south of the Sammamish River to Burnett. That’s the old railroad right of way. North of the Sammamish the wide greenbelt and parking between Logan and Burnett are the right of way. Logan crossed over to the east side of the tracks north of NE Sixth and the right of way continued next to it to the current end of track next to Plant 12.

        South of Houser Way the line continued due south a couple of blocks and then curved west to run directly north of Grady Way west to a full “Wye” whose northeast leg defines the southern boundary of the sewage treatment plant and whose southeast leg ran alongside what is now Longacres Way east of Jackson Place. That right of way is completely consumed by auto-oriented businesses.

  11. Thanks for the suggestion, Igor, seriously. Now that the weather’s getting nicer, time to either walk or bike that trail in the picture. From what I see, if there’s lower ground or marsh to the left at this particular point, transit lanes can be added with pilings.

    But good comparison could be to Photoshop busways and railways, so we can get “visuals.” But problem discussing these things from small pictures takes things toward ideology, which generally shoots engineers.


  12. “UPDATE: In a development inconvenient for my thesis, Save Our Trails utterly rejected the compromise proposal today, for reasons good and bad.”

    “Save Our Trail views the $250 million compromise proposed by Kirkland City Council as no different than adding transit on the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail”

    Wow, the opposite of the view that, “If we agree to just planning for transit, we can kill it in the next round, or maybe there won’t be a next round.”

    “Transit Dollars Should be Used for Transit: The “Kirkland Compromise” does nothing to reduce congestion and takes precious funds away from critical ST3 transit projects that will efficiently serve the transportation needs of Puget Sound’s growing population.”

    So Save Our Trails does think some ST3 projects are worthwhile. Which projects would those be? And (assuming 405 BRT) who would use them, and would they meet their needs? What about people in south Kirkland who need regional transit, are they SOL?

    1. It’s not about transit for SOT, and never was. They don’t want people in their backyard at all, they just want a nice private trail. Kirkland City Council has done an admirable job resisting SOT and sticking to the vision of good transit for Kirkland.

      I’d guess that SOT thinks that transit is good for other people, but they don’t know who those people are or how they use transit. Hence the rhetoric of keeping buses on 405 “where they belong.”

      1. That is my understanding as well (and you know more than me). As I said above, this is the way I understand this went down:

        1) Kirkland hired consultants to do their own analysis for transit improvements. They came up with this:

        2) Sound Transit basically rejected that idea, preferring rail on the ERC.

        3) Kirkland elected officials didn’t like that proposal, so they said, in a letter, that they would oppose ST3 if it had rail on the ERC.

        4) Kirkland has since proposed this compromise.

        Notice there is nothing about saving the trail. That is just a side issue. The Kirkland City Council is ready to go to battle with SOT, but not over a train line! They think a light rail line is a waste of money (as do the consultants, and lots of other people). It is one thing to tell folks along there that they have to put up with the change to the trail so that you would have “Gold Standard BRT” serving areas like Juanita, downtown Kirkland, Woodinville and Bothell. It is another thing to tell them that they have to see their trail changed so that a train can zoom by carry at most 5,000 people a day.

        I get this. It makes sense to me. Imagine the council meeting, with people carrying signs saying “Save our trail!”. Now imagine the people in opposition. If you propose a train, you have hardly anyone. You have Seattle Subway and Seattle Transit Blog folks, ready to do battle over transit (and transit). But when asked, they would have to say “No, I wouldn’t use this, nor would anyone I know”. If the council was queried, they would repeat what the consultant told them (hardly anyone would use this).

        Now imagine it is BRT. Now you have the consultant talking about Gold Standard BRT, and two minute frequency along the line. You have folks in Juanita saying “Yes, I could use a fast ride to Seattle”. Of course it is a contentious meeting, but at least the folks pushing for change have something to show for it.

      2. That’s a pretty good summary that matches what I understand of it.

        The mode doesn’t really matter so much. It’s that the ST light rail proposal has zero useful stops in Kirkland. If there was a rail proposal that actually served the destinations we do have, I don’t think there would have been anywhere near the objection.

        The rail proposal for Kirkland that was posted here earlier this week is much better, but I don’t think the city council will go for it, because they are going to want to connect Totem Lake with downtown Kirkland.

  13. Market through downtown Kirkland has a median + parking lanes + bike lanes. Would the BRT route convert the parking to bus lanes? Or would this be a BRT in name only project?

    1. Is that “would” in the sense of possibility (what could they do) or prediction (what will they do)? The possibility exists, yes. Whether they’re willing to do we don’t know because there hasn’t been an alignment proposal to that level of detail.

      1. Exactly. What they have published are the numbers that show it will be cheaper. Wonder what this detail on Cheapness and this total lack of detail on alignment tells us about where the real emphasis is for Kirkland’s leaders.

      2. The lack of detail is common for an initial concept. It costs money to do studies, and that’s only justified if there’s some level of commitment to it. It would properly be ST’s job to do the studies since it was voted money to do precisely that. But it would be worth somebody asking Kirkland for more details, and trying to get Kirkland officials on the record on whether they’d support transit lanes in north Kirkland, and pointing out that that’s what Seattle is doing.

    2. Kirkland is advocating for Gold Level BRT. Whether what they advocate for is actually built is another matter, but that is what they are proposing. It is like advocating for a high quality subway with an adequate number of stations in the most urban part of the state. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t (we didn’t).

  14. So the “compromise” is function EXACTLY as designed – less effective transit. The only reason the BRT crowd has traction is because they are cheap, and taxpayers love cheap. They may not care about “good” or “effective” or even “adequate.” But “make it seem like we did something and make it as cheap as possible?” That’ll draw advocates to your side faster than anything.

    This is what 2 generations of riding around on infrastructure your grandparents built, watching it rot, and not paying to keep it up, let alone expand it to current need… will get you.

    The whole goal here is to delay and drive a cheaper solution for Kirkland. Not better, not more effective – cheaper first, everything else… maybe. Or who cares.

    1. That argument has merit in Seattle where the failure of the 1972 subway proposal has led to thousands of wasted hours for hundreds of thousands of people each. But in Kirkland it has less merit because even with LRT on the CKC it would have limited effectiveness for Kirklanders’ trips and Kirkland visitors’ trips. The reason BRT is being considered there is that the difference between BRT’s performance and LRT’s is less there than, say, downtown to the U-District (where the 71/72/73X are already effectively BRT and melt down under the demand and congestion).

      1. Today’s Kirklanders’ trips are today’s Kirklanders’ trips precisely because they lack real choice for other kinds of trips. The commute cost is already built into a Kirklander’s choice for where to work, where to put kids in Daycare, where to eat, where to shop, etc.

        If we judge the need for Light Rail based on travel patterns built from decades of car-centric development, then of course something that looks and feels and behaves more like a car is going to look more reasonable right now. In 20 years? I seriously doubt it. We couch this bias in terms like “flexible” and “cost effective” but implementations with very few exceptions are merely cheaper. They aren’t better or more effective. They just cost less.

        I’d like to see where Kirklanders’ leaders are talking seriously about real BRT and not just the cheaper version of whatever mass transit they’re going to get whether-we-like-it-or-not-grumble-grumble. I don’t see it. I hear BRT thrown out constantly as this alternative to LRT, but not by anyone who appears serious about it. The city council’s own letter highlights ONE specific number and one specific number only – that BRT will cost $XXX million and not $X billion.

        That tells me all I need to know about where the real emphasis is here. They’ve done the math on the one thing that’s most important. The rest? Meh – it’ll work out.

        The constituency being represented by this recalcitrance wants transit only insofar as it gets everyone else off the road and out of the way of their car – OR anything as long as it does not impact them in any way. Close in suburbs can either accept that they will look more and more urban in the coming decades, and need to act more and more urban, OR they can continue to plan as if basic patterns of transit and living will be pretty much mid-60s norm deep into the 21st century and throw cheap band-aids at it periodically.

      2. “If we judge the need for Light Rail based on travel patterns built from decades of car-centric development”

        Kirkland is forcing us to do that by refusing to upzone south Kirkland or downtown, which are the only ways to approach the transit center from the south or 405.

        “Close in suburbs can either accept that they will look more and more urban in the coming decades, and need to act more and more urban, OR they can continue to plan as if basic patterns of transit and living will be pretty much mid-60s norm deep into the 21st century and throw cheap band-aids at it periodically.”

        They probably have their heads in the sand regarding how long these low-density neighborhoods will be viable or desirable (except that Kirkland is unusually wealthy and has water views, so that will keep them viable for longer). But they could very well choose to keep everything in amber for decades, and there’s nothing we can do about it. (Although there is something the PSRC could do about it, if it raises Kirkland’s growth quota so much it has to do more widespread upzoning.)

    2. Read the proposal, as outlined here:

      Pay attention to the paragraph after the colorful diagram. It starts with “Kirkland is advocating a gold standard BRT (per ITDP standards) …”

      That isn’t about being cheap. That is about being smart. It is about building what is appropriate for the area. In this case, they are proposing open BRT. To be fair, building the same level of rail ( would be more expensive — but way too expensive. If that line was rail, it would cost a fortune, and ridership would never justify the expense (not to mention that service would be really poor because the trains wouldn’t run very often). That really isn’t an option.

      You have a couple choices: Light rail that serves a handful of places where very few people live (and thus would only carry 5,000 people a day) or an open BRT system that serves way more places and way more people. In this case, the BRT open is simply better.

  15. Broken record time…

    I think we missed (perhaps we can get back to it) a great opportunity where the Kirkland City Council endorsed a comprehensive BRT plan that was attuned to their needs and assessments as a suburban city without truly dominant activity centers that justify rail. The City Council probably already knew of all the Save Our Trails stuff that was to follow, but regardless they endorsed a “gold standard BRT (per ITDP standards)” plan for the trail, which is great. I think ST taking a hard line on insisting on LRT for branding/vision reasons is absurd. If they don’t want their brand compromised, have it be RapidRide++ (funded by ST) or something. We should just give Kirkland the BRT they want and frankly suits them well. This is an example of unnecessarily winning a battle and possibly losing a war for ST.

    If more East King investment needs to exist, then we need to use that to get LRT to Renton Landing via Downtown Renton and Southcenter. It makes more sense to transfer East King funds for a couple mile stretch of South King than transferring to Seattle (even if the latter makes more sense for the system as far as capital cost/rider calculations). Unlike Paine Field, the industrial development near the Landing is somewhat compact and walkable within 10-12 minutes or so. Downtown Renton has the bones for an upzone and Southcenter is perfect for a Tyson’s Corner type revisioning. I think the reason the studies showed weaker ridership is the lack of a direct one seat option to Seattle. Similar to Issaquah, that’s where most Southcenter, Renton (and Burien) transit users have an interest in going.

    I fear that it may be too late for the Renton idea to take hold, but I don’t think continuing to play hardball with Kirkland, a suburb that is actually fairly amenable to transit in general, is anywhere close to being worth it. I hope ST backs off now and offers an olive branch to Kirkland and takes the BRT deal that is actually very good.

    1. The failure of simple forecasting for a first-tier suburb to simply indicate/say/imply “oh, we’re not concentrated like the city, so this doesn’t make sense” is STAGGERING to me. In 10 years – still no centers? How about 20? How about 30 when the system could actually be said to have come into full maturity? Still going to be right across the lake from (by then) one of the 15 biggest cities in the richest country in the world and have no real dense centers?

      Is that really a mindset we’re willing to accept from people making decisions with decades-long implications?

    2. I agree with your first and last paragraph (I’m not counting the intro as a paragraph). That is really the crux of the issue.

      What you say about Renton may be true, but I wonder if just additional bus service, along with similar improvements in various East King areas would make a lot of sense. Extra service along with improvements to the streets (including the connections to the freeway) could be the way to go.

  16. The upside of freeway alignments is that no one complains. So, from Spring Dist, go north on Eastside Rail, then north along west side of 405, curve west under NE 53rd, the north on 108th Ave, then to downtown Kirkland.

    1. “The upside of freeway alignments is that no one complains.”

      I think for the most part, you’re correct. I guess people that live along a freeway is already use to the noise

  17. Would I rubber-tired line like Montreal has qualify in this compromise? It sounds like the SOT people won’t allow any transit, but I’m not sure how the Kirkland City Council would react.

    It may be a way to approach the 520 rail weight dilemma too to cross the bridge — and on to UW station and perhaps points further west.. I could even see much of the Kirkland BRT concept working with rubber tired trains instead of BRT.

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