A lot of the current dispute about whether or not we should have BRT on the CKC now, and Light Rail later, revolves around technical issues regarding how ST and the Kirkland City Council can put transit on the CKC, one way or another; as well as on the different interpretations and understandings of previous legal documents. From my perspective, if sufficient public and/or private funding is available, incredibly, both of those options could possibly still become reality, regardless of the cost and long-term merits of them. But, I believe that those are not the only, or even the main, issues that we should be considering and focusing on. Instead, shouldn’t we also be asking ourselves the following two questions?
1. How many long, quiet, and safe urban-trail alternatives like the CKC are there in Kirkland today for walkers and bikers? Answer: ONE.
2. How many more of them are there likely to be in the future? Answer: NONE.
The other relevant issue in this discussion is whether or not there are alternatives for additional bus routes around the city. The answer to that is YES and they are cheaper than on the CKC. Of course, I-405 is still the more logical and less disruptive long-term choice on which all intercity transit should go. Buses or rail on the I-405 can move faster, in a straight line, and be next to some major Park & Rides and other bus connections.
So, looking well beyond the typical planning of 30-60 years into the future, why should we even consider forever destroying Kirkland’s urban trail, instead of preserving it and improving it as time goes by?!! Don’t we want future generations to have a safe, walkable, bikeable, and quiet urban trail that connects parks, schools, and downtown in Kirkland, precisely at a time when population density will be much greater than today??? Has anyone seen young kids using the bike lanes on Kirkland streets? Has anyone wondered why? Is it pleasant, or even acceptable to city residents, that our main current option for urban walking is on narrow sidewalks alongside busy and noisy streets? Especially when these sidewalks, where there are any, often have obstacles on them.
Isn’t it time to stop focusing on clearly failed, narrow, expedient, and fairly short-term solutions to our motorized transportation that were favored by previous regional transit planners over the past 80+ years? Let us focus instead on a balanced long-term solution that values equally the need for motorized transportation and the need to provide separate corridors for non-motorized transportation within the urban boundary. Young and old people need the opportunity to move around the city in a safe and pleasant environment away from noise and hazards caused by motorized transportation. Offering them only the option of walking next to noisy cars, or riding bikes on very dangerous, narrow strips next to fast-moving vehicles, seems pretty myopic and irresponsible and provides a perverse incentive for people to keep using a car.
As a guiding principle, I keep thinking how much nicer King County and its recreational spaces would be today, in terms of urban livability, if most, if not all, of the shores of Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish had been preserved as public areas like around Green Lake in Seattle. Unfortunately, that option has been lost forever.
So, with that in mind, today’s choice for Kirkland, as to whether or not to save the CKC exclusively as an urban trail, should be an easy, obvious, and unequivocal YES! And I believe that that should also be the case for the other cities crossed by the ERC. Unless I am misinformed, nobody today seems to be clamoring for connecting streets across New York’s Central Park to solve their traffic problems. And… there must be a reason why subways, or even elevated ways, are often used as the solution to urban traffic congestion around the world, even in much poorer countries.