Among the projects that Sound Transit has suggested for the Eastside are I-405 Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail between Totem Lake and Issaquah. While light rail is a clear priority, Eastside cities are interested in BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) as an interim solution. So there are several proposals in play that could serve as a high capacity transit (HCT) corridor in Kirkland.
Kirkland is attempting to balance these options. Some form of I-405 BRT is very likely to be included in any ST3 package, but requires an expensive station at NE 85th St to be relevant to Central Kirkland. The City has asked for a NE 85th St station along with a fast, frequent connection to downtown. A fixed guideway connection – aerial tram or people mover – has been suggested, but bus is surely more probable.
Light rail on the ERC gets closer to more Kirkland transit riders, but still has a last-mile problem in downtown Kirkland. BRT on the ERC could resolve the last mile issue with a deviation to downtown and at much lower cost than a rail alignment.
Casual observers surely take for granted that any of these new transit options will be better and faster than today. Surprisingly, this is not the case for many riders to the most popular destinations. For riders to Seattle, neither light rail nor I-405 BRT would even approach the travel time of today’s Metro services. For travel to Bellevue, light rail would be slower than current bus service. I-405 BRT could deliver somewhat improved times for some customers, but would mean longer travel times for others. BRT that follows the Eastside rail corridor would handily beat any of the alternatives for a much larger number of transit users.