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In 2024, a new rapid transit line will connect to cities along I-405 every 10 minutes, providing direct service as far as Lynnwood and Burien.

But there’s one big problem: the stations aren’t close to where people need to go.

Consider the proposed station at NE 85th St in Kirkland: the BRT station is separated from Downtown Kirkland by a mile-long hill that climbs the equivalent of 22 flights of stairs, a 40-minute round-trip journey for a fit and capable walker. Sound Transit’s proposed solution is to build a set of bus lanes between 405 and the edge of Downtown Kirkland–throwing $50,000,000 at the least congested segment of the connection, mind you. To travel to or from the station, you’ll spend probably 5 to 10 minutes waiting for the shuttle, and another 5 to 10 minutes for the bus to trundle along thru Downtown Kirkland traffic, just like everyone else.

Isn’t there a better way? Something that’s more pleasant, or maybe even beautiful, fun, distinctive, or inspirational?

Instead, imagine…stepping into an aerial gondola for a four-minute ride with a glorious view of Downtown Kirkland and Lake Washington. Or glide down the hill on your bike, and then roll your bike into the gondola to return to the top of the hill. You know what’s even more amazing? It seems that many on Kirkland’s City Council are already on board with this idea, including Dave Asher, Penny Sweet, and Mayor Amy Walen. Kirkland’s City Manager, Kurt Triplett, has been promoting creative transportation strategies like this for years, and is also excited about the possibility of this aerial connector.

But providing a great connection at one station isn’t enough. We need to think creatively about how to create effective connections between BRT and the places where people need to go, all along this route. How do we create more efficient connections to stations in Bothell? Renton? And Woodinville?

Would you rather trundle along in another bus…or enjoy a unique view of our lovely city from above? Which of these will bring more people to businesses in our urban centers? Which of these will actually compel our residents, customers, employees, and visitors to ride transit instead of further clogging our streets…or taking yet another parking spot? Or maybe you have a better idea? Perhaps a series of covered escalators and walkways? Or just some frequent automated electric shuttles? Maybe some kind of monorail? A mini-metro? Or a cable car on an elevated steel truss guideway? Whatever it is, surely we can do better than just another bus.

5 Replies to “Connecting our cities to BRT on 405”

  1. scooters. a two station motorized scootershare similar to what Pronto was.

    One station in downtown kirkland. one at the 85th and 405 interchange. with a dedicated scooter lane between the two.

    the wind in the hair going down the hill would be quite wonderful I think, and I bet it would be less expensive than gondolas.

    or, when they build the new interchange at 45th maybe Metro will reconfigure routes to service downtown from 405 with buses more frequently.

  2. Unfortunately, the 405 representative project was done without much thought on it.

    1. There were no station areas or bus transfer station options presented.

    2. There was not a “blended” alternative ever considered, using segments of 405 and ERC. Every corridor and mode was specific to the actual alignment , unlike every other pre-ST3 study.

    I’ve wondered if 405 edge/side alignment segments would make more sense in some places, rather than rebuild the entire freeway for a mile just to squeeze in each median BRT station. A potentially electronically guided busway or a signal-controlled busway for width-constrained single-lane segments can be narrower and go on one side, so that interchange rebuilding can be kept to a minimum. Side stations would at least provide the potential to have great pedestrian linkages rather than have the median “no man’s land” design that is proposed.

    Finally, I’m not sure if we should be designing for buses with standing riders in HOT lanes from a safety standpoint..

    In sum, the 405 project is half-baked and inflexible. I’m not sure if that can be revisited though. It appears we are stuck!

  3. This is the right idea but thinking too small. How about instead of buses take that gondola system and expand it along the existing corridors of 405 or the Cross Kirkland Corridor? Little impact on the ground, great views and not trying to cram buses into already heavy traffic.

  4. A shared fleet of electric bikes and electric scooters would certainly get you where you’re going faster than waiting for a bus, and are much easier to implement than a gondola (LimeBike would do it for free). I’m a bit concerned about the scooters in the downtown direction, regarding stability and braking power, so bikes might be better from a safety standpoint. You would definitely want electric assist for the uphill direction, though – otherwise, the bikes would just cluster at the bottom of the hill. You would also need a widening of the sidewalk connecting DT Kirkland to the CKC, and onto 405, which is currently not designed to handle simultaneous bike and pedestrian movement.

  5. Hmm. My skepticism may have been misplaced. I just saw on the news that the Kirkland city manager is talking seriously about a gondola!

    I’m with Nate above though. If they do this it probably should be more than a downtown Kirkland to 405-and-85th line.

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