Point/Counterpoint: Which is the best location for transit: CKC or I-405? 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

Since our last Point/Counterpoint, a lot has happened to make this final question especially relevant.

First, Sound Transit told the City of Kirkland that they would not consider bus rapid transit (BRT) for the Trail.

Then the City of Kirkland told Sound Transit it was against light rail on the Trail.

And as you may remember from the ending of my last installment, I mentioned how the environmental issues (wetlands, streams and wildlife habitats) raised by Save Our Trail make a significant part of the Trail unbuildable for both rail and BRT.

So how can we provide transit for Kirkland?

It turns out Sound Transit has had the answer all along: Bus rapid transit for Downtown Kirkland and I-405. This is known as Intensive Capital E-02 in ST3, made up of the following projects:

·      E-02b-SegA: BRT from Lynnwood to Bellevue

·      E-02c1: Kirkland-NE 85th Street BRT Inline Station

·      E-02c2: Bus-only lanes on NE 85th between Kirkland Transit Center and 132nd Avenue NE

How different is this solution when you compare it to BRT or rail on the Trail?

Turns out, not much.

In Kirkland, here are the Stops for the Intensive Capital E-02 project:

  • Kingsgate/Totem Lake
  • 112th
  • 85th Street
  • Kirkland Transit Center
  • 6th St/NE 85th

Here are the Kirkland stops for BRT on the Trail:

  • Kingsgate
  • Totem Lake
  • 112th
  • Kirkland Transit Center
  • 6th St/NE 85th
  • South Kirkland Park & Ride

And here are the Kirkland rail stops:

  • Totem Lake
  • 112th
  • 6th Street South
  • South Kirkland Park & Ride

What can we learn from this comparison?

First, it’s understandable why everyone agrees (Save Our Trail and the Kirkland City Council) that rail is a very bad solution, as it has the least amount of stops. It can’t even get to downtown Kirkland.

So this leaves us with BRT on the Trail vs. 405.

If you look at stops, what you see is mostly a parallel service with many of the same stops. In fact, when Save Our Trail recently met with Sound Transit planners, they told us the parallel service was why they do not see a good reason for BRT on the trail.

Certainly, there are some differences: For example, to get from Totem Lake to Downtown Kirkland you would have to switch at 85th Street. Also, the BRT on 405 solution does not stop at the South Park & Ride, which is a gateway into Seattle.

However, this is where the huge taxpayer investment in ST2 hopefully pays off. With rail connections currently in development between Seattle and Bellevue, a better solution will be for people in Kingsgate/Totem Lake and Downtown Kirkland to use BRT on 405 to get to Bellevue, and then quickly travel to downtown Seattle.

Even today, Sound Transit’s bus from Totem Lake to Bellevue only takes 12 minutes, versus the 35 minutes it would take with BRT on the Trail.

Let’s keep buses and rail on the roads. And leave the Trail for pedestrian and bicyclists.       

Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

If I ever have a choice between Metro 235, and taking a bus to NE 85th to catch the I-405 BRT to Bellevue, I’ll be on Metro 235. 
If I choose between Metro 255, and a bus to I-405 to catch another bus to Bellevue to catch a train across I-90, I’ll take the 255 every time.
For most people in most places in Kirkland, I-405 BRT is slower and less direct. Once you’re on the freeway, it’s faster than any alternative. But it’s not easy to get to. Outside of Totem Lake, there will be at most one place to access I-405 BRT.
Nowhere near I-405 is walkable.
The map (courtesy of Metro) shows the busiest bus routes in Kirkland in black. Notice how none are on I-405? Metro and Sound Transit have always known the people who use their services are elsewhere in Kirkland.
Sound Transit Express buses to Everett and Lynnwood use I-405. Metro buses to Woodinville use I-405. But no important Kirkland route uses I-405 because that’s not where people are.

Click to enlarge

I-405 BRT works well for some people, and it makes sense as part of a regional package.
Whatever the Sound Transit Board decides on Thursday, the need for transit in Kirkland isn’t going away. The people who need it aren’t, for the most part, living beside the freeway. So we’ll have a future conversation about the corridor whether the Board plans for it or not.
In the meantime, I’ll be looking for better buses. RapidRide has a lot of limitations, and won’t always be enough. But it can make trips to Bellevue and Seattle better with improved frequency, and capital investments in infrastructure can give the buses a fighting chance in traffic.