Point/Counterpoint: Does Kirkland need an ST3 transit investment? By David Greschler

Kirkland Views is hosting a series of three online debates about the future of the Cross Kirkland Corridor and public transportation. David Greschler (SaveOurTrail.org) and Dan Ryan (KirklandPlaces.com) will present opposing arguments on these pages. The purpose of this series is to enhance the public understanding of complex issues. Your comments are welcome below each article.

Read the opposing argument here.

David Greschler

David Greschler

Do we need transit investments to solve problems created by the growing population and employees in Kirkland and the Puget Sound area? Absolutely. 

Is putting transit on a path designed in 1891 that completely misses downtown Kirkland and plows a 100-foot corridor through wetlands and streams a smart investment that will solve these problems? Not even close.  

In fact, people who learn about transit on the Trail cannot believe that Kirkland is encouraging Sound Transit to use it. Especially once they hear there is an ST3 investment planned for Kirkland that is far more effective without touching the Trail.

Sound Transit projects are designed to move large numbers of people for significant impacts. That’s how they can justify huge, billion-dollar costs. For example, in ST3 a light rail project from Ballard to Seattle supports 133,000 rides.  A project from Lynwood to Everett moves 58,000. Projects like these have real impact by taking huge numbers of people out of their cars to reduce emissions and congestion. 

Compare this to what Sound Transit says will be the maximum number of rides by putting buses on the Trail: 3,500 (at a cost of $747M).

That only represents 1,750 people! (assume a person takes two rides a day).  With light rail on the Trail, the riders go up by just 750.

It’s because of this ridiculously low ridership that these projects are almost 2 times more expensive to build and operate per rider than any other ST3 project:

The appalling economics of transit on the Trail may be the reason why, in a joint letter by six Eastside cities to Sound Transit that included Kirkland (Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, Renton and Bothell), there was no support for bus transit on the trail. In fact, in our discussions with ST planners and Board members we heard concerns about the low ridership, high costs, and large opposition by Kirkland residents.  

Am I suggesting Kirkland does not need an ST3 investment? Not at all. 

What I’m saying is that we need to apply the same common sense principles to ST3 investments that we all do with our own budgets. ST3 will not be cheap. It will increase sales tax by .5% (in addition to .9% currently collected), annual motor vehicle excise tax by .8%, and property tax by 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. 

There is an ST3 project investment for Kirkland that makes sense: Bus rapid transit for Downtown Kirkland and 405. This proposal has stops at Totem Lake/Kingsgate, 112th and 85th street, as well as the Kirkland Transit Center and 6th street. It is half the price to build per rider, and will move as many, if not more, Kirkland residents and employees than transit on the trail. All six cities voiced their support for it in their joint letter. 

And by keeping transit off the Trail, this project also protects another investment we’ve made in Kirkland that becomes more precious as our population increases: Mother Nature. 

Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

I’m pleased Mr. Greschler did not argue against ST3 or transit in general, but unfortunately our agreement ends there.

The implication that the Eastside cities are opposed to transit on the corridor is incorrect. Six cities joined in demanding transit on the Eastside Rail Corridor along with I-405 BRT (nobody but the self-styled “save-our-trail” sees one as an alternative to the other). Some cities, for their own reasons, would prefer to build rail rather than BRT, but that’s just a discussion about modes. Every city acknowledges that transit serving Kirkland on the corridor is a priority.

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Likewise, the “low ridership” cited is a cherry-picked number, just one of several services that could run on the corridor. In reality, a busway could serve many journeys with 15,500 using similar buses today, and 34,500 in 2040.

Use a realistic number for ridership and all the claims about cost-effectiveness crumble.

There’s no reason BRT on the corridor would miss downtown Kirkland. The ability to serve downtown (via a short deviation from the corridor) and other key Kirkland neighborhoods is precisely what makes this busway so useful. The “alternative” of I-405 BRT can’t match that.

At bottom, the vision Mr. Greschler promotes is very limited. If all one seeks is to get a few cars off the freeway through Kirkland, then I-405 BRT will do fine. But Kirkland’s priority isn’t to get a few commuters from Lynnwood or Bothell onto buses on I-405.

What Kirkland needs is rather straightforward. We want transit that serves people in Kirkland convenient to where they live and work. It should join up our neighborhoods, not tell riders to go wait on a freeway overpass. The corridor is for connecting Kirkland. That’s true whether on foot, or a bike, or on transit.