How will Increased Density Impact Our Quality of Life, Green Space and Transportation?

Housing density 2010

We constantly hear elected officials recite predictions that the population of our region will balloon over the next few decades as they justify their policy plans in land use and transportation. For many, the planned changes are welcomed. For others, the impact is seen as a decrease in the quality of life we enjoy today.

Are we not wise enough to be able to preserve as much green space as possible today for future generations and provide transportation improvements as well?

The job of us all is to find a balance which serves both the needs of today as well as prepares us for tomorrow. Unfortunately, predicting the future is not always easy. Making big bets today as to what will be tomorrow's needs is risky business.

Take, for example, the issue of the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC). Some see this as a greenbelt which should be preserved for future generations to enjoy, unencumbered by noisy, intrusive mass transit. Others want to add mass transit in the form of light rail or bus rapid transit to the CKC reasoning that the transportation infrastructure will be needed in the future and the the CKC is the best place to put it.

Predicted housing density, 2020

Predicted housing density, 2040

These competing visions of the future of CKC will likely be central to Kirkland's interest in supporting Sound Transit's upcoming $50 Billion ST3 package.  With increased population density, we will have an increased desire for both green space and transportation. The question before us today is this: must we have one at the exclusion of the other?

Advocates for mass transit on the CKC say that rail along the corridor will not be incompatible with a trail and that trails and rails can co-exist nicely.

Those wishing to preserve the CKC as a natural green space say that mass transit on the CKC is incompatible with the nature of the trail and that the I-405 transportation corridor is the appropriate location for light rail.

Should transportation be limited along existing transportation corridors or should we build out new ones?

Must one sacrifice the other? Are we not wise enough to be able to preserve as much green space as possible today for future generations and provide transportation improvements as well? Some believe that green space is an ever decreasing, yet ever more valuable asset. What will be the value of green space in the future when our population density doubles? How will the placement of transportation infrastructure impact the surrounding area? Should transportation be limited along existing transportation corridors or should we build out new ones? Is the cost of one option over another worth the benefits both today and in the future? 

These are just a few of the questions voters will consider when ST3 is on the ballot this November.

Seattle Curbed has posted an article titled, See How Seattle's Population Might Expand in 21st Century, including some interesting EPA maps showing the predicted housing density of our country through the year 2100. We have included a few of these maps showing predicted increases in density in our region.

The following video was used by the City of Kirkland to demonstrate that rail along the Cross Kirkland Corridor would have too large of a negative impact including noise, proximity to houses, at-grade road crossings and safety concerns. At the time, the City of Kirkland was attempting to persuade Sound Transit to install bus rapid transit on the CKC rather than rail.

Hat tip to Lynda Haneman who shared the Seattle Curbed article on Facebook.