Donning green bandanas and plastic leis, opponents of the city’s plan to add Bus Rapid Transit to the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) packed the house at the city’s event titled, “Keep Kirkland Moving” held at the Kirkland Performance Center on Thursday. The crowd of 350+ engaged city, King County and Sound Transit staff about the proposals to push for high capacity transit along the CKC. The near standing room only crowd sent a clear message to the Kirkland City Council and Sound Transit Board: Do not put Bus Rapid Transit on the CKC.
That was not the message the city had hoped to hear. The resounding rejection of the city’s plan for installing BRT on the CKC was undeniable and on occasion, raucous, once shouting down the presenter at the podium.
The city had hoped to woo constituents to favor they city’s plans. That did not happen.
In the late spring or early summer of 2015, the City of Kirkland began a $250,000 lobbying effort to give Sound Transit justification for supporting Bus Rapid Transit on the CKC. The city produced alternative plans showing BRT on the CKC instead instead of on I-405.
Of the three Sound Transit options presented at the open house, only option E-02 calls for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on I-405. The other two presented options called for either BRT or rail to be installed on the CKC as a part of ST3, the three county ballot measure for November 2016.
The disconnect between City Hall and the citizens who filled the performance center on Thursday was laid bare for all to see.
The majority of attendees at the open house were supporters of two grassroots community movements, SaveOurTrail.org and EastsideCorridor.org. Community organizers encouraged concerned citizens to wear green as a sign of support against City Hall’s plans.
As word spread that the city council was lobbying Sound Transit to add BRT along on the CKC, a small army of community leaders spearheaded coordinated efforts including canvasing neighborhoods, going door to door, handing out flyers, disseminating information online, posting yard signs and writing letters to the editor, to the city council and the Sound Transit Board.
The message conveyed by the crowd on Thursday was that the Cross Kirkland Corridor is cherished trail in its current state, and that adding high capacity transit would ruin what makes it so special. The community's vision seems to be at odds with City Hall’s stated dream of transforming the Cross Kirkland Corridor, often referred to as the Cross Kirkland Trail, into an urban developed park loosely modeled after NYC’s High Line Park.
The open house was the city’s attempt to inform the public and answer questions about the future of the trail, with the help of staff from Sound Transit and King County. The lobby of the Kirkland Performance Center was filled wall to wall with an impressive number of easels displaying charts and graphs and photos to educate the public. Staff was on hand to answer questions and to facilitate discussion.
The city staff did a commendable job of fielding sometimes pointed questions. The city council sat quietly, listening to the concerns of their constituents
Following the open house, attendees shared their conclusions of the event. Many were not flattering to City Hall. Some people expressed concern that the city council is being poorly advised. Some wondered why the city council cares more about regional transportation than the needs of the people of Kirkland. Others said the city council has “gone off the tracks,” so to speak, and are severely out of touch with their constituents.
Will the city council change their position as a result of the input they received at their open house?
Early signals are not promising.
One councilmember departing the open house said, “half want rail and half want buses [on the CKC],” referring to a show of hands in response to the question, “if you must have either bus or rail on the CKC, which would you prefer?”
Rather remarkably, this councilmember somehow ignored a followup question and answer which encapsulated the sentiment of the entire evening: “Which would you prefer, Bus Rapid Transit on the CKC or no Bus Rapid Transit on the CKC?”
The majority response was a show of hands against putting BRT on the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
Is the Kirkland City Council is out of touch with their constituents? Will the council continue to lobby Sound Transit to put Bus Rapid Transit on the CKC?
[For the purposes of full disclosure: this writer is a member of the Save Our Trail team.]