A two-mile rail connection to Kirkland would connect all the major cities on the central Eastside in ST3.
A two-mile rail connection to Kirkland would connect all the major cities of the central Eastside in ST3.

The debate leading up to the adoption of the ST3 draft system plan on March 24 was politically fraught on the Eastside. After Sound Transit and the City of Kirkland failed to reach agreement on use of the Eastside Rail Corridor, the Board elected to build neither rail nor BRT on the corridor in Kirkland. Since then, however, Kirkland has worked with Board Members on a rail extension from Bellevue to South Kirkland. The ST3 program also includes a study of future high-capacity transit through Kirkland, leading to a record of decision.

Rail to South Kirkland has changed the calculus around future transit in Kirkland. The environmental study is, strictly speaking, flexible with respect to both mode and alignment. But the starting point of a rail station at South Kirkland makes it almost inevitable that ST4 will include a rail extension into Kirkland and onward to Totem Lake.

With light rail to Kirkland more inevitable than ever, why stop short in ST3? A mere two-mile extension would bring rail to 6th St, serving the fast-growing Google campus which is expected to grow to several thousand employees. It would be within walking distance of other fast-growing employers in downtown Kirkland.

Sound Transit must add a provisional project on the Eastside to extend the rail line into Kirkland.

Some have pointed out, accurately, that the ST3 package includes significant investments in Kirkland. Nevertheless, transit users are understandably unenthusiastic. South Kirkland falls short of the major centers in Kirkland where most riders access transit.

Won’t Save-our-Trail challenge a rail extension? Save-our-Trail is opposed to the South Kirkland station and any environmental study of transit on the corridor. So their opposition is inevitable either way. Meanwhile, the narrowness of their support has become obvious. Public comment on the draft plan from Kirkland was overwhelmingly pro-rail, and Save-our-Trail were unable to solicit more than a dozen opposing comments despite an intensive campaign.

Neighbors and users of the trail are not well-served by political uncertainty or delays in extending transit. The earliest possible design work on compatible transit will deliver certainty, allowing the trail to be developed without the risk of later relocation or disruption.

Kirkland has a successful urban core that is the envy of many growth centers that will see transit investments in ST3. Had the political process played out more agreeably, Kirkland would have been connected to the high-capacity transit network in ST3.

Please let the Sound Transit Board and your Council members know they must finish the rail line to Kirkland.

67 Replies to “ST3 Must Include a Provisional Light Rail Extension into Kirkland”

    1. Google it. Their home page is pretty white and empty and 1990s, so they must be a small startup. It has an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button so it might be a gambling site. Maybe they’re building a casino in Kirkland. Does Save Our Trails know there’s a big casino coming to their neighborhood?

      1. Nah. They’re into air conditioning. Just east of Mosier, where the oil train blew up last week, they’ve got an air conditioning unit the size of downtown Portland.

        Hope they’ve got fireball insurance. That fence they built around the place could keep out a herd of 50 foot tall elephants but no way is it stopping an oil train fireball.

  1. Anyone else think it’s a bad idea not to connect the Issaquah extension to east link at south Bellevue rather than east main (as is shown in the map)? How are people from Issaquah going to get to downtown Seattle? Go all the way up to Bellevue then back down? Why does it seem as if everyone has just accepted this alignment? It seems much more important to ST3’s success then a south Kirkland station.

    1. Amen. This routing direct to South Bellevue must be studied. The only time anyone from Issaquah would use light rail would be for going to Downtown Seattle, they will drive to the parking utopia of Downtown Bellevue, not take light rail. I can not believe the slough, already ruined by a wide freeway with additional flyovers, is so sacred that a minimum impact 2 track electrically powered rail line cant be carefully constructed here.

      1. “Parking utopia of Downtown Bellevue”? I can see “automobile utopia” but “parking utopia” confuses me. It’s not cheap to park in Bellevue.

    2. We’ve been over this before. ST selected the 112th alignment for East Link and not the B7/BNSF alignment specifically to avoid the direct wetland impacts of crossing Mercer Slough, e.g. they didn’t want to cross the Slough for environmental reasons. This was in the face of significant pressure from Bellevue to cross over to the BNSF corridor. ST is not interested in reopening that debate.

      1. Yes have been over this before. The point is “direct wetland impacts of crossing Mercer Slough, e.g. they didn’t want to cross the Slough for environmental reasons” is an inadequate excuse. TriMet just built a bridge in the Willamette River with plenty of environmental impacts. Even the Sierra Club here supports crossing the slough.

      2. They didn’t want to get involved in a lawsuit over croissing the slough. They’ve had enough trouble with Bellevue alignments.

      3. They can avoid crossing the slough and still connect at South Bellevue.

        However doing so would mean working with WSDOT to get ROW along I-90. Unfortunately it just isn’t that easy to work with WSDOT right now, and with the R’s running the show in Oly every time ST touches state property they view it as an opp to milk ST dry. That leaves the easiest and lowest risk option being the northern route.

      4. The main argument against the B7 was that it was a bad alignment that ran along I-405. Crossing the slough was just one of the arguments used as a leverage against B7, but not the main reason why it was rejected.

    3. Yep, it’s a bad idea. When you consider that the light rail line stops won’t be very close to where most of the people in Issaquah live, it gets even worse. Just about everyone from Issaquah would have a three seat ride to Seattle (bus, train, train). This means that very few people would ride this train (it only works to get to Bellevue) which means that it will likely run very infrequently (every 20 minutes). It’s a bad idea for sure, but at least it won’t be built for a very long time.

      The answer for that neck of the woods is to improve the bus system. Make that connection from Eastgate to downtown Bellevue using a busway (not rail). Improve the connection to Bellevue College. Make similar improvements in Issaquah. Now start running buses from all those places, and have them stop in Eastgate. Run buses from Issaquah, Sammamish, the college, Eastgate and Factoria to downtown Bellevue and Mercer Island (or South Bellevue, if they invest in a fast way to achieve that). A series of overlapping bus routes would allow one stop rides to a lot of places, and easy transfers to the rest (Eastgate would become a major hub).

    4. “How are people from Issaquah going to get to downtown Seattle?”

      Drive to South Bellevue P&R, of course. How else?

      1. Or just order up a self driving car to deposit you at Mercer Island, along with several other random riders. Much quicker and cheaper than building a pointless rail line to Bellevue, much less continue the madness of extending this piece of shit line to Kirkland.

      2. Or you know they could take the bus between Issaquah and S Bellevue or Mercer Island as Metro and ST already proposed in the ST2 program.

      3. For the next 25 years, yes. The concern is that once the Issaquah->Bellevue line opens, will the Issaquah->South Bellevue bus route still be there? With ST2, it has to be there because not having it would leave Issaquah without any service at all. Throw in the train line, and the parallel bus route becomes just about saving time, rather than essential coverage. So, maybe the bus routes gets cut back from all-day to peak-only, leaving anyone who’s not a 9-5 commuter stuck with a permanent detour.

      4. If Metro’s long term service plan is any indicator, yes there will be all day express service connecting these same areas post ST3. I get the concerns but stuff like this borders on hyperbole. Or worse concern trolling since no commenter here really supports this alignment in the first place.

      5. You guys are making a big deal of “all the way up to Bellevue”. It’s about two mintes overhead compared to crossing the slough. Also we’ve been telling people not to commute so far. So encourage people to travel more within the Eastside with a line going toward Bellevue and all the Eastside cities, so that the Eastside becomes more of a self-contained unit.

      6. I was about to reply “you’ve got to be kidding”, but I went ahead and drew some lines on the map. A direct bus from Eastgate P&R to South Bellevue P&R is 2.4 miles, and my best guestimate of the Link routing is 5.2 miles, a 2.8 mile difference which could be as short as 3-4 minutes. This is short enough that, if the train is allowed to run more frequently than existing bus service, the net effect for downtown->Issaquah travel could actually be an improvement.

        Of course, there is the overhead of the transfer, but with a direct bus to South Bellevue, you’d need to transfer anyway. Keeping the existing route 554 all the way downtown could, in theory, avoid the transfer, but in practice, the existing 554 is so slow getting from one end of downtown to the other end (not to mention random traffic delays on I-90) that the transfer of frequent->frequent service should be faster, on average.

        One thing ST3 will do, of course, is greatly improve Issaquah’s connectivity to other destinations on the eastside. I’m not totally sold on the idea that we need rail. But it is true that Issaquah has a lot of under-developed land near the transit center that could densify in the next 25 years, and also that the I-90/I-405 interchange is a big mess, as is I-405 around Bellevue, and the Issaquah->Bellevue line could be attractive to a fair number of commuters, simply by bypassing that mess. With the existing gridlock on I-405 and “free” parking garages that take more time to drive in and out of than to wait for a train, it is not crazy to imagine the Issaquah line being faster than driving, at least for rush hour trips to downtown Bellevue.

    5. Not only is it a transfer required, but there is no third or fourth transfer platform. At least MacArthur in Oslland or Davis Street in Chicago are built so that riders can quickly board their second train. At East Main, it will likely be a big hassle with additional waiting and walking required.

      Operationally, ST could split the line – with half of the trains going to Seattle and half to Kirkland. That would require a fully separated ‘y’ but no transfer platform would be needed. Then, half the Kirkland trains could go to Issaquah and half to Seattle. The big question would be if the bridge can take the loads.

      Carrying that scenario into Downtown Seattle, all three lines could go to Northgate and split or stop based on demand – the base Redmond line to Everett and the two lines (each operating at half the frequency) somewhere else. Then both West Seattle and SeaTac-Tacoma lines could go through the new tunnel and give SLU- Ballard the added second line it will probably need. It would also reduce the cross over track requirements south of IDS. North of the ship canal, the two lines could split with one heading east and one heading north or west into Ballard.

      If ST3 passes, hopefully the line operational configurations get debated and researched more. Lots depends on loads and transfer activity. Still, I hope we can avoid not building the missing junctions and third platforms – and doom future generations to the resulting limitations.

      1. You’re going to build four platforms in Surrey Downs?

        Going to Seattle would add pressure on the DSTT. If ST wasn’t willing to put a Ballard line there, it’s not going to put an Issaquah line there. And some people have been complaining about too many long one-seat rides to downtown, espeicially low-volume origins like Issaquah.

        Issaquah is the last line in 2041, so there is time for attitudes to change, board turnover, and a possible ST4 or ST3.1 that could modify it. Eyes will also be on Isaquah’s urban center: how much will it build up over the next decade, and how effective is it?

      2. No Mike,

        I’m saying to put the West Seattle line in the new Downtown Seattle tunnel and replace it with a line that splits between Issaquah and Kirkland. That’s the same number of trains in the current DSTT.

      3. @Mike Orr
        >> You’re going to build four platforms in Surrey Downs?

        No, they’re not. Because Surrey Downs is quickly being torn down and replaced with multi-million dollar McMansions. Those people have money for lawyers, unlike the people Sound Transit dealt with over the past decade.

      4. So Surrey Downs is becoming like the CKC trail area.

        Why again was it a good idea not to upzone?

      5. Why was it not a good idea to build the train down Bellevue Way? You can’t just capitulate to businesses lest you lose the taxpayer’s trust.

    6. The current plan looks silly on a map, but what if the Issaquah/Eastgate to downtown Bellevue/Overlake rider clientele is (or becomes) larger than Issaquah to Seattle? Maybe this is ultimately a 50-50 proposition, whether a S. Bellevue transfer point can save more time for more people than an East Main transfer.

    7. It adds three total miles and one station stop now that it’s connecting at South Main. More mid-day riders will be heading for Eastside destinations than to Seattle, and AM bus shuttles can connect directly at South Bellevue or Mercer Island as is already planned. The peak shuttles won’t go away when Kirkland to Issaquah is completed.

    8. I agree with those who say that the express trips will be retained. Getting from Issaquah to Seattle via the train would take substantially longer. You have the added distance (about three miles) plus the extra stations (Factoria, East Main and South Bellevue). Heading towards Seattle, the transfer should be about the same and fairly good (East Link will run often). The other direction it will likely be substantially worse. Buses headed to Issaquah can wait for the train on Mercer Island, but I think it will be difficult if not impossible to time the train (because of the shared track). All together, I figure it will be over five minutes longer from downtown to the Issaquah station, even if you luck out with the transfer.

      That is to the Issaquah station. To the Highlands, it gets worse, because you have one more transfer. Like the transfer at Mercer island, this is a pretty straightforward one heading home (the bus will wait for the train). But getting to Seattle will be problematic. Like the trip to Mercer Island, it can’t be timed (local congestion would screw up the schedule). But unlike East Link, the Issaquah train will likely not run very often. Every ten minutes seems optimistic, but even if it does, that adds another five minutes onto it.

      When East Link opens, things will get interesting. You can send the express buses to South Bellevue or to Mercer Island (or a combination of both). My guess is they will want to truncate the buses, and serve a station along the way (Mercer Island or South Bellevue). Either way, you would funnel all bus traffic to there, which means that you have added frequency and the possibility of more express routing. It is very difficult to justify an express bus from the Issaquah Highlands to downtown Seattle right now, but if an express from the highlands to South Bellevue is the fastest way to get to both Seattle and various part of Bellevue, then ridership would likely go way up. Stopping at Eastgate would provide a connection to various other places as well (e. g. Factoria).

      Over the years, bus service in Issaquah could also become more direct. Rather than sending a bus from the Highlands through town, then onto the freeway, you could just send the bus straight onto the freeway (there are HOV ramps there). This would be substantially faster than today, and much faster than a bus-train-train combination. If a billion dollar train project is justified, than certainly more express bus service is. The only stop such a bus would make before heading to Mercer Island is at Eastgate (a minor penalty).

      What is true of Issaquah is true of various locations along the I-90 corridor. Sammamish, obviously, but also places much closer to the stations. It is difficult to serve Bellevue college as well as the various clusters of office buildings and apartments with only a couple stations. Either you ask people to walk a pretty long distance, or you have feeder buses. Like the I-405 BRT plans, you end up with three seat rides that involve a lot of waiting.

      All of this suggests that if the train is built, it would simply not be very popular. If Issaquah has grown, then there will be a lot more express bus routes connecting to Link (via Eastgate). For many, taking the train would be slower (even for some of the folks headed to downtown Bellevue). If Issaquah hasn’t grown — if there aren’t more express routes, and more frequent existing bus service — than building the train will seem sillier than ever.

  2. Amazing the power of all 12 SOT NIMBYs that they can make noise and steer the transportation future in a major city of 85,000 for the next 40 years against the majority’s wishes. I’m glad people are pushing back at this madness.

    1. It wasn’t just SOT. Kirkland opposed ST’s light rail and preferred its BRT alternative. So ST has the choice of pissing off one group or the other or both. Instead it made an unexpected sidestep. That’s kind of creative, and it’s a bit like a parent saying, “No marbles for you until you’re ready to cooperate with others.” So Kirkland misses out on ST investment for a third time. But it does get its highest priority, BRT to Totem Lake. It wanted that more than it wanted service and upzones in downtown.

  3. I’ve said before, but I will go ahead and rehash the reasons why rail (or any kind of motorized vehicles) on the CKC is a bad idea:

    1) Replaces greenery with concrete. A pathway side enough for two-way bus or train traffic would be more than double the width of the existing trail. Add the trail itself, and the entire corridor becomes paved over with concrete, with no room for any natural environment. Granted, in some sections, the “greenery” is overgrown blackberry bushes, but the invasive species should be replaced with native plants, not concrete.

    2) Loss of quiet. The CKC, especially the section between Google and South Kirkland P&R, is the only place where you can travel the city without constant car noise. With trains running along it every few minutes, the quiet would be lost. Besides trail users, having noisy trains run immediately adjacent to people’s back yards would also significantly impact the adjacent homeowners.

    3) Loss of access. Safety considerations would require the rail corridor to be fenced off, forcing the closure of several places, both formal and informal, where people can cross or access the trail. Obviously, some well-marked crossing points would exist, but they would be infrequent – most likely, street intersections only. This would make it significantly more difficult more many residents to walk to the trail and the waterfront below.

    4) Construction impact. Finding room to build a rail corridor alongside the trail would involve large amounts of clearing and grading, which would likely result in the multi-year closures of several sections of the trail.

    5) Would not replace parallel bus routes. The gap between Google and South Kirkland P&R is long enough that you would still need parallel buses along 108th and Lake Washington Blvd. to maintain coverage. Even if the CKC train stopped every 1/4 mile, you would likely still need parallel buses due to the large vertical gap between Lake Washington Blvd., the CKC, and 108th Ave. The already-empty 234/235 would become even emptier with a parallel train, but would still have to run, anyway. Then, there’s the 255, which would still need to run down 108th, since forcing a transfer at South Kirkland P&R would be a huge step backward.

    6) Parallel roads are not congested enough to make dedicated transit right-of-way truly necessary. Outside of rush hour, the parallel roads are free-flowing and contain minimal stoplights. Even during rush hour, the only slightly problematic intersection is 108th/68th, during which, a bus might have to wait two or three cycles to get through (in the peak direction). Annoying, but hardly the end of the world. This is in direct contrast to Seattle roads like Denny and 45th, that are full of stoplights and can become gridlocked at any time of the day.

    7) No clear path for the train to actually get to downtown Kirkland. The streets aren’t wide enough to take lanes for train tracks, so actually getting to downtown Kirkland would require either massive property acquisition or tunneling underground – both very expensive.

    8) Due to noise and safety constraints, any trains on the CKC will likely be speed-limited to around 30 mph, which is no faster than a bus down 108th. Even if the train tracks extended all the way to Totem Lake, traveling this way from Totem Lake all the way to downtown Bellevue would be significantly slower for thru-riders than the existing bus down 405.

    9) No consideration about a Kirkland->Bellevue express bus. The primary trip that rail down the CKC would improve over the status quo is downtown Kirkland->downtown Bellevue. If the demand exists, we can run a Kirkland->Bellevue express bus down 405 today, rather than 30 years in the future. At least in the short term, local congestion on the roads leading to/from the freeway could delay the bus, but if direct access ramps to the ETL lanes were built on 85th, along with bus lanes on 85th itself, things could start looking a lot better. If done right, a Kirkland->Bellevue express bus should solve the problem that rail down the CKC is intended to solve, without the problems, and it is disappointing that nobody has given this approach any kind of serious consideration.

    1. Electric train noise on tracks anchored to the ground are a negligible noise issue. The Riverside line in Brookline is a good example. The Norristown line outside of Philadelphia is another. I recently walked by a speeding BART train in north Walnut Creek and I really only heard the click-clack on the tracks and the train was 40 feet away!

      The CKC movement is based on fear. Fear of visual disruption. Fear of accidents. Fear of noise. Fear of a diminished experience. Frankly, these are speculative fears and blown way out of proportion. It’s that same kind of fear diatribe that gets bad politicians nominated or elected.

    2. I can go either way on the CKC, but after walking the trail last Christmas I can see asdf2’s point. It is a stretch of wilderness that ideally every city should have. It’s non-motorized transportation with few street crossings. And doesn’t really provide much better transit than going up 108th.

      On the other hand, I was shocked to see the 1960s houses had been replaced by huge McMansions, not just a few but as far as they eye could see. Apparently you have to have a million dollar house to live near the trail. I’m not inclined to give special concessions to people who are rich enough to buy their own trail somewhere; it’s a rail corridor and they knew that when they built their house.

    3. How many trains per hour are we actually thinking will be here?
      Suburb to suburb is sort of like WES in Beaverton with a train every 20 minutes and a single track line with passing sidings.

    4. Terrific summary asdf2 of why light rail on the CKC is one of the stupidest ideas to ever get serious consideration from ST. But it can’t be stated strongly enough that the overarching reason is, there’s not sufficient ridership. There are a few reasons why this idea is still being bantered about. The main one is hidden in the article:

      the ST3 package includes significant investments in Kirkland. Nevertheless, transit users are understandably unenthusiastic.

      The driving force in what’s supposed to be regional public transportation is how to buy votes. That might be OK if the votes reflected demand for transit but the real calculus behind the way the board crafts the ballot measures is how to increase taxes so they can hand out free candy that will bolster their reelection. Since the majority of the votes don’t come from people actually benefiting from the transit projects it boils down to what sounds cool. And certainly there is a large block that believe trains are the only solution.

      More insidious is the ST board’s penchant for only supporting mega-capital projects. That’s why there’s the schizophrenic support for mass transit and structured parking. Big projects are built by big donors. A somewhat legitimate reason to “save the trail” for transit is the belief that once it becomes a rail trail it will never revert to being anything else. While that’s a valid concern the window to “save the trail” came and went with zero support from the ST board. DMU service was shot down as not being cost effective. It other words, it didn’t cost enough.

      1. I agree, you really nailed it.

        >> Since the majority of the votes don’t come from people actually benefiting from the transit projects it boils down to what sounds cool. And certainly there is a large block that believe trains are the only solution.

        >> More insidious is the ST board’s penchant for only supporting mega-capital projects.

        Yeah, that is it. So often I read that the problem with ST3 (or Sound Transit in general) is subarea equity. But that ignores the real problem. There is no “One Big Solution” to transit mobility in a region as big and as dispersed as Kirkland or Issaquah. There are dozens of little things that could help immensely. What is true of the east side is true to the north and south as well. But a focus on rail — or even a pseudo rail line like I-405 BRT — is a very poor alternative.

        It all a bit depressing, really.

    5. I would agree with you that light rail on that corridor is a stupid idea. A closed BRT plan (similar to the I-405 BRT) would be a similarly stupid idea.

      But the KIrkland BRT plan (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/11/16/kirklands-brt-design/) has merit, from what I can see. There is a value judgment when it comes to preserving a pathway, or converting it to rail. I get that. I’ve only walked in the area twice (once on that pathway, but the other direction, on the old railroad tracks) and I know those types of paths serve as a rare respite from noise and congestion in the area. It is difficult to find quiet streets that have sidewalks, and thus hard to get around in general. But this doesn’t look that bad to me: http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/08184051/CKC_Corridor.png. Trolley buses (which would be hybrids, like the old buses that used to run in the downtown bus tunnel) are pretty quiet when running via the wire (much quieter than trains). Again, that picture looks fine to me (in many ways nicer than the Burke Gilman, where pedestrian/transit conflicts occur often). But again, that is a value judgement and just one of the trade-offs involved with transit infrastructure.

      But from a mobility standpoint, I think it represents a substantial improvement at (what I would assume to be) fairly low cost. From what I can tell, this would be much faster than the alternatives. Part of the problem with the current system is that there are two main destinations (Seattle and downtown Bellevue) and the buses split the service between them. Rarely does it make sense to combine the service, and try to serve both. This could change that. For example, I have a friend who just moved to Totem Lake, and lives very close to the transit center. To get to Seattle in the evening on the bus he basically has a couple choices. Either he takes a bus to the Bellevue Transit Center (and transfers there) or he takes the 255, which works its way through Kirkland before going over the bridge. Either way it takes around 45 minutes.

      Regardless of the particular routing, it is easy to see how this could greatly improve things. Worse case scenario, he gets a fast ride to somewhere on the ERC, followed by a fast ride to Seattle. The first bus would just keep going to downtown Bellevue.

      There are other ways to solve the problem, of course. One would be to just add service. But again, that splits things. It wouldn’t make sense to take the express bus (like the 257 or 311) to get to Bellevue. As mentioned, doing the opposite (going to Seattle via Bellevue) requires too big a time penalty. There is no way to combine service, unless you do something like add a flyover station (in four directions) at the intersection of 520 and I-405. That would be great, of course, but I would imagine very expensive.

      The devil is in the details, of course. It is easy to make these pictures, but what matters is how fast and frequent these actually run. The latter is often dependent on the former. It is about 10 miles from Totem Lake to South Kirkland Park and Ride, where these hook up again. Compared to the express (the 257) that trip would be substantially slower, but still a lot faster than the regular streets today. Assuming BRT (off board payment and level boarding) I figure it would take about 10 minutes longer than an express (via 405). This basically splits the difference between an express or the local, while enabling service that can be combined in a much more efficient manner.

      Is that worth it? Hard to say, but compared to a lot of projects being considered (or voted on) it looks pretty good.

      1. @RossB. I appreciate the positive words about the Kirkland BRT plan. I was an advocate for that.

        But we were on the losing side of that debate. Short of rejecting ST3, what are the alternatives now? Nothing that is in the system plan today is coming out. So how do we take that network and make it work better? The system plan will be locked down eleven days from now, and it’s no longer constructive to revisit decisions made (whether or not we agreed with them).

        It’s in that context I advance the proposal in this piece. Either in ST3 or ST4, it’s a racing certainty there will be transit on the corridor and it will be rail. Given those likelihoods, does it make sense to stop short of the central Kirkland ridership market in this round?

        If there are to be more provisional projects, then what (without tearing up existing plan elements) would you suggest the Eastside should do?

      2. Interesting Dan, I didn’t realize you wrote this piece as well.

        Good point. I can see your perspective. It is similar to the idea behind the Center City Connector (the streetcar in Seattle connecting both ends of the streetcar). The streetcars don’t make any sense, in some cases the route is terrible, there were other, much better alternatives, but since it is built, we might as well make the best of it and try and connect them.

        To answer your question, short of voting ‘no’ (a vote I will likely make) I don’t what the answer is. But as said above (https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/06/11/st3-must-include-a-provisional-light-rail-extension-into-kirkland/#comment-738921), the best thing to do is probably build dozens of little projects. It is likely way too late to propose them, which means, well, we are all probably screwed. If I had to pursue a big project (since ST seems only to focus on big projects, no matter their actual value) then I would explore various ways to improve the freeway. Add flyover stations, along with more HOV lanes. Ideally you would build a transfer station where 405 and 520 connect.

        The problem I see with this is that it has all the negatives that asdf2 mentioned, with very little that is positive. It works as a way to get from South Kirkland and maybe downtown Kirkland to Bellevue, and not much more. One is a parking lot, the other a very sparsely populated area (even when you include employment). From Totem Lake it does nothing (it doesn’t go to Seattle, and this would be a much slower ride to downtown Bellevue). From Juanita, it does add a connection to downtown Bellevue. You could take the bus towards Seattle, and then transfer to this train. But that isn’t that bad now, and I don’t see it being that great, because I just don’t see the ridership on this train justifying high frequency.

        Lacking anything else, i would simply propose a bunch more in the way of express routes and extra service. That would be a much better use of money than extending the fallacy that light rail is a good idea, regardless of where you put it.

      3. To get to Seattle [from Totem Lake] in the evening on the bus … it takes around 45 minutes.

        That’s really pretty phenomenal transit service considering that in the evening (Google directions @ 6PM) it’s 35 min by car from the TC address to 4th and Stewart. Of course you’ve then got to find and pay for parking. The fact that there is a one seat ride from a suburb that runs until midnight is pretty phenomenal. Consider that East Link will be 30 minutes from Overlake to DT Seattle, longer from DT Redmond. The fact is that outside of DT Bellevue and maybe the vicinity of the Microsoft campus there just isn’t the density to justify frequent express service to DT Seattle.

      4. I did a quick search on Google, and it quotes 1 hr 10 min or so to get to DT Seattle from Totem Lake. But the big problem is getting back. Sure, if you live at Totem Lake you can get back. But live a few miles away from there and you’re out of luck since most suburban buses stop running by then.

        “there just isn’t the density to justify frequent express service to DT Seattle”

        I agree, which is why I think we need to build a 520-405 transfer station. You don’t need to run the 311/257 anymore – you just run 405 BRT with split destinations. Then people can transfer at the 520 station to a Seattle bound bus. Buses to Seattle run every few minutes in the morning. You’d probably need to increase peak frequency even more, but this gives people frequent access from anywhere around 405 to Seattle, instead of just a few time sin the morning.

      5. I think we need to build a 520-405 transfer station.

        That would be an astronomically expensive project. I don’t see any way to do it without rebuilding the entire interchange. Maybe that needs to be done anyway but WSDOT’s answer is to make any changes incrementally. I think that’s driven by both the funding and the desire/necessity to keep both highways and the interchange open during construction. There is a plan for direct 520-405 HOV access which is likely the only transit related improvement to happen in the time frame of ST3.

        There was a chance to make a substantial improvement with the decision to pour money into the South Kirkland Park & Ride by engineering a land swap with WSDOT and building the structured parking and a flyer stop on the land between Northup and 520 but instead we’ve doubled down on the existing difficult to access location. And I still can’t understand the decision to rebuild two uber expensive 520 flyer stops on the eastside; especially when they originally wanted to eliminate Montlake?

  4. I wish the Eastside had their own transit blog. Perhaps written by the Eastside transportation association?

    1. Its not to hard to set up a blog like this if you’re motivated and have a little free time. This blog started off all volunteer and is still mostly volunteer work.

      What starts off as a single person’s blog on a free blog site can grow to something much larger if interest grows and others begin to contribute.

    2. Sam will be Editor-in-Chief. It will be The Onion of transit blogs.

      (That was an inside joke.)

      If it’s run by a transportation association, it would be different than STB. STB is run by a few citizen activists who mostly don’t work in the transit industry and aren’t part of more formal coalitions (as far as I know). So we provide a kind of citizens’ review — especailly an amateur technical review — of what agencies like ST, formal coalitions like TCC, and other activist groups like Seattle Subway and the Transit Riders Union are doing. In Tacoma there’s Tacoma Tomorrow, which seems to be one person’s review of Tacoma and sometimes gets into transit issues. That and The Urbanist are the closest counterparts to STB that I know of.

      Is this transportation association a formal coalition of industry/government/citizen adherents? Then it would be more like TCC, and its blog would be more the voice of the association. That may be worthwhile but it’s not the same as a few people outside the larger associations giving a distinct voice to what they see.

  5. Hear that, middle and lower class, you now must pay for a light rail line to the very industry that has made housing here unaffordable. Better not object, or you will be called a NIMBY or luddite. Now pack up your s, and go move to Monroe or Marysville, or someplace else you can afford, sucker.

  6. Does anyone else notice the tech bias some have? Light rail to Boeing in Everett or on Marginal Way? Blue collar workers can take the bus. But tech workers? Because they are inventing today’s most important products like robotic dogs and post it widgets, deserve light rail. They shouldn’t have to slum it with the proletariate. Notice the breathless excitement some have over Google’s few hundred employees vs the distain and boredom over Boeing’s tens of thousands of employees?

    1. Notice the false stereotypes. Boeing and the Paine Field businesses are spread out thin over a large area, and they take excessively more space than they need to, which makes it a longer walk between buildings and thus hard tor a train with one station to serve. Google built a relatively compact campus right near downtown Kirkland near the existing transit so it wouldn’t have to go out of its way to reach it. In Brooklyn industrial factories are in regular buildings on city streets next to subway and bus stops, with no special setbacks, and some of them are in multistory buildings with different businesses on different floors, so they can just walk up and down to collaborate or order from each other. Boeing needs a multiblock assembly building but that doesn’t mean it has to be as sprawled out as it is.

      1. >> Google built a relatively compact campus right near downtown Kirkland near the existing transit so it wouldn’t have to go out of its way to reach it.

        I went looking for that, but couldn’t find it. I did find this, though: https://goo.gl/maps/FqfQfMWB3LS2. This appears to be a lot with two story buildings on it. The buildings take up less than half the space, making this as about as densely populated during work hours as a typical mini-mall. Oh, but wait, I’m sure Google employees are crammed all together, with barely enough elbow room to work.

        Which is not to say that Sam’s comment has merit. He misses the point, which is that these silly ideas would be proposed no matter the clientele.

    2. I would probably call it a general income bias. Why is Issaquah and Redmond getting rail before Renton, or Federal Way before Burien, or Ballard before Lake City, or Alaska Junction before White Center?

      On the other hand, it may be good to have less accessible but more affordable housing.

      I take issue more with the region paying billions so that a project can be more aesthetically pleasing to the neighbors. Why should a Rainier Valle resident pay extra billions for a new tunnel in South Lake Union (as opposed to aerial) when Mt Baker Station doesn’t even get a second escalator or escalator out of the deal?

    3. Income bias, yes. The powers that be wanted a rail line in Bellevue/Redmond, Ballard, and Alaska Junction, and just in time they remembered Rainier Valley. What do these have in common? Income and new jobs (“innovation”) to some extent, but the other thing is they were the neighborhoods that were on people’s minds in the 1980s when high-capacity transit was first being drawn up. People on both sides of the lake said, “Naturally light rail should go there”, or to go further, “Those are the places I’ve heard of.” That “heard of” is key, in their minds these places had a longstanding distinct neighborhood identity or culture. Lake City, well, nobody lives there; there’s no there there. These perceptions change slowly. Rainier Valley, while they thought of it as a lawless shooting gallery, they recognized they had to serve poor and minority areas somehow (to not be like Palo Alto), and Rainier Valley was the largest such area, was an American melting pot with an even mix of black/white/Asian that had formed a distinct culture, and clearly a functioning working-class neighborhood that many people didn’t leave often but it’s so long they needed transit within it. Also, there’s a logic that Ballard/Norfthgate/WSJ/Rainier Valley cover the four corners of the city in an X, and that gets light rail close enough to everybody. (Lake City still wasn’t visible, and in any case it’s planned for a Lake City-Bothell line later.)

      Issaquah came about because it was so insistent and focused on light rail from the mid 2000s on, and offeret the carrot of an urban center. In other words, it was rewarded for good behavior. Otherwise light rail would have focused on the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland triangle and maybe goitten around to Renton sooner.

      Renton acted like it didn’t care about transit. Zach wrote a week ago, “Some of this perceived wound [no light rail in ST3 or other similar service] is based on geographical bad luck, but much of it is also self-inflicted.” And somebody wrote (can’t find it) that Renton seems to see its constituents as those in the low-density eastern neighborhoods who drive to P&Rs and it doesn’t look further. Renton has not done anything urban except renovating a few blocks around the old high school and creating The Landing, which are not much. It has not laid out a transit vision that would work for its non-driving residents and future non-driving residents. So that’s why ST and Metro mostly bypass it for renovation — because Renton seems to want to remain mostly car-only.

      Federal Way is not wealthier than Burien. What Federal Way has is it’s on I-5, it has an exit sign that makes it look like the midpoint and largest city between Seattle and Tacoma, and a longstanding fleet of express buses to downtown. We wouldn’t take away what it already has, would we? We wouldn’t underserve the largest transit demand in South King County, would we? (But that’s circular, it has demand because express buses exist there. Other parts of South King County would have similar demand if they had a similar level of bus service.) So Federal Way gets Link based on, again, public recognition and public perception.

      South King County in general is more suburban and car oriented than the Eastside, and less willing to move away from that. That’s an ironic characteristic of American working-class areas: as soon as they finally got a generation with cars, they don’t want to hear about anything else. Bellevue is just more interested in midrise buildings and walkable Spring Districts than Renton, Kent, Burien, Des Moines, or Federal Way are, and more willing to make compromises for it (i.e., stand up to NIMBYs). Des Moines couldn’t disrupt its car dealerships and McDonald’s strip malls on 99 because of ther business tax bas and low-income entrepreneurship opportunities: it couldn’t think further to the future businesses and larger population that could be there, or how business-protection programs could help the existing businesses transition. And it was blind to the advantages of making the district more walkable for everybody.

      Alaska Junction has always been the center of the West Seattle neighborhood and its main transit hub. (If’s right there in the older name, “West Seattle Junction”.) Naturally rapid transit must serve the neighborhood center. There are other wealth issues: the proximity of Fauntleroy and the Admiral District, and the number of current and former councilmembers who live in West Seattle. Westwood Junction is now a hub urban village so recent transit has treated it as treated it as a second center. White Center basically has the status of the third center.

      1. I really don’t see a large income bias in what Sound Transit has done (or is proposing to do). I see a geographic bias, which you point out. The idea of a spine, or an ‘X’, or a line to Issaquah all have the same thing in common: They look good on paper, especially if you don’t consider the details. “Close enough” seems to be the main idea. Never mind how you are supposed to get to the station, or whether there are alternatives, or intersecting bus routes, or how long it takes you to get to where you want to go. What matters is that it “serves the area” in a very broad sense of the word. Rainier Valley was served because it saved money to go on the surface and because it was on the way to the airport. When it came time to build one of the most important stations in the system — the crossroads between the new light rail line and some of the most popular bus lines in our system (the 7 and 8) they cut corners, and didn’t concern themselves with it. If you looked at a transit map and looked at the ridership numbers of the buses, you would assume that Mount Baker would be one of our most popular stations. You would be wrong (and it is because the station itself is awful). But again, it looks great on a map. Symbolism over substance.

        Lake City wasn’t served because it was very difficult to simultaneously serve it and the north end. I get that. Those that propose light rail ignore some of the challenges. Obviously it was part of the Forward Thrust plan, but that plan wasn’t concerned about Snohomish County. Link is. I don’t blame ST for heading north via the freeway (or even curving over to serve 99). But ignoring how folks were supposed to get from Lake City to Link — ignoring just basic stop spacing — shows a huge disregard not for poor people, but for basic transit functionality.

    1. You can’t effectively serve the low-rise waterfront downtown and Google with a single station.

      But downtown is growing eastwards. Kirkland Urban (one-time Park Place) is within a more reasonable walkshed. That alone will be several thousand employees, and the area east of 6th will be substantially redeveloped ahead of ST4.

      So the walkshed to the denser parts of downtown starts to look reasonable. You just can’t cover the one/two story buildings near the water.

      On the other hand, a 6th Station doesn’t preclude a tunneled alignment towards the waterfront side of downtown in ST4. It may look like overkill now. But there’s time for downtown development to play out (or not). That decision doesn’t need to made at this time.

      1. So a centrally located station would have Kirkland Urban and Google within circa five-minutes. Not quite front door, but that’s about 15K jobs under current zoning within a compact walkshed. (The larger part of that being actual or near-term pipeline, not just notional capacity numbers) .

      2. The one-two story buildings near the water is the dense part of Kirkland. All the other stuff might one day exist, but currently is not there at all. East of 6th is not walkable at all. I grew up there, and I would have driven in that part of town 100% of the time

      3. Yeah, that is the problem with the line. From a bus perspective, it has merit. Add a few stops because they are on the way (why not) but the main purpose is to keep going, to more important places. Running a line there (and only there) and pretending that this is a bustling downtown, or even a heavily populated area is silly. It isn’t, nor will it be anytime soon (if ever).

      4. Downtown Kirkland is more urban than almost anything else on ST’s radar outside Seattle and Downtown Bellevue.

  7. Could not disagree more. I would support fully funding an EIS for Northern king County, which is a step further than the current study proposed in ST3. If 405 BRT is successful (and I think the northern half has a good chance ), LRT to Totem Lake is duplicate, so the only value of extending LRT through Kirkland is to serve downtown proper – and remember, 1) it’s not a regional growth center, and 2) ST3 is going to spend $100M to add bus lanes between downtown Kirkland and 85th BRT station. And finally, I always thought the CKC BRT line was superior to light rail, given it’s ability to serve areas north of Kirkland, and it’s a better system complement with 405 brt.

    I think it’s very much an open question where the line should go next. If it’s $1B cheaper to cross Lake Washington via the flooding bridge vs. a tunnel at Sand Point, then the line turn west and head over the bridge to UW, rather than head up to Kirkland first.

    In other words, I view the Issaquah line as the beginning of a line that will extend to UW and Ballard, not a line heading north up King County. The routing of the line through kirkland shouldn’t be established until the final destination is set.

    1. AJ,

      The “flooding bridge” is soooooo ’90’s. WSDOT’s attitude is “been there; done that!”

  8. Sound Transit must add a provisional project on the Eastside to extend the rail line into Kirkland. … Please let the Sound Transit Board and your Council members know they must finish the rail line to Kirkland.

    At the risk of being needlessly contrarian, I plan on doing nothing of the sort and I vehemently disagree that Sound Transit “must” include this. Why? Because my list of things* that Sound Transit–or literally any agency capable of building HCT in this region (so far, only Sound Transit)–must do has a huge list above “light rail in a city that demonstrably does not want light rail.” Considering Sound Transit’s manifest unwillingness to add any other “provisional projects” that would improve ST3 in my eyes, I can’t see why Kirkland rises to a level of “must” when we have bus routes in other parts of the ST region that carry more people than several of the confirmed parts of ST3 are estimated to carry. Doubly so when even Kirkland’s own citizens don’t want rail; if they’re happy with grade-separated BRT (as I would be for my area), that’s perfectly grand.

    (* What outranks Kirkland rail in my fantasy world? Metro 8/23rd Ave; Lake City Way; Ballard->Loyal Heights…in that order.)

    1. I’m with you here – hardly a must, and easily covered as part of the 405 BRT. You could run a Bellevue, Kirkland, Juanita, Totem Lake BRT with limited stops, for example, which would serve Kirkland pretty damn well.

      BTW, also outranking Kirkland is Tacoma Mall & North Everett. Not all of us are Seattlites, you know.

      1. BTW, also outranking Kirkland is Tacoma Mall & North Everett. Not all of us are Seattlites, you know.

        Very true and I didn’t mean to slight outside-of-Seattle, but “Everett College” and “South Tacoma” are both already on Sound Transit 3’s map as “yellow dotted lines,” meaning future investment study. Just like is proposed for Kirkland here. The three I listed, Sound Transit won’t even consider adding to the map as a “someday” and that irritates me immensely.

    2. This is the East King Subarea though.

      Seems like a better bang for the buck while still being in East King would be some sort of improved bus to Link situation at Montlake. New station? New bus only bridge? Just study it all and get something better there.

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