Point/Counterpoint: Why does BRT on the CKC work better than the alternatives? by Dan Ryan

City Manager Kurt Triplett presenting the city's vision for the CKC in 2015.

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.

Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

Why does BRT on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor work better than the alternatives? Start by asking how a successful transit system can serve journeys you make regularly.

It must be reasonably fast and reliable; it can’t accomplish this if the vehicles are stuck in traffic for miles like too many of today’s buses.

It must be accessible. Service must be close to places where people live and where they want to go. If you are asking transit users to take a bus in the wrong direction to a highway overpass to take another bus to another connection, you’re doing it wrong.

To be useful in Kirkland, it needs to reach lots of places in the city. One station in Totem Lake, whether it’s a highway bus or a train to Redmond, is irrelevant to most people. We don’t want only connections to regional destinations, though those are important too. We want connections that join up the city.

Take a look at these two maps. On the left is I-405 BRT. The blue line is the ‘low capital’ investment we are certain to see in the plan, with a single local station at NE 128th. The red line is the more speculative ‘higher capital’ version with up to two additional stops.

Compare the second map. That’s the City’s proposed open BRT corridor, with services stretching out all over Kirkland. That’s a useful network. It’s closer to many people in Kirkland, and goes everywhere we go.

If not a transit user yourself, imagine the journeys you take that could be on transit. Which of these maps gets you to where you want to be?

That doesn’t imply I-405 BRT isn’t useful for some. It’s primarily for commuters into Bellevue from places like Lynnwood and Renton and SeaTac. For many, it’ll be great. Few of those people are in Kirkland.

Some form of I-405 BRT will be in the draft plan. For Kirkland, not enough people live or work near those highway stops, so we want something more useful for us.

I-405 BRT is primarily for pass-through commuters. Transit on the CKC joins up Kirkland neighborhoods, connecting them to the places we visit the most.

Transit advocates use a nerdy term “access penalty”. If “access” is too difficult, if it takes too long to get to the transit, you’ll find another way to your destination. I-405 BRT will work well for some people in Kirkland; BRT on the CKC works for many more.

It’s an important reason Kirkland favors BRT over rail. The current rail proposal from Sound Transit has few stations, and the locations are less convenient. Again, think “access penalty”. However much you like trains, if it’s too hard to get to the rail station, you’ll find another way to your destination.

Kirkland may have to wait for transit on the CKC if Sound Transit doesn’t have a better rail or BRT proposal. Having to wait is unfortunate. But no alternative off the CKC can be as useful.

David Greschler

David Greschler

At the end of the day this issue comes down to a trade off:  Are we willing to add transit for potentially increased accessibility at the risk of ruining the Trail?

As one of the leaders of Save Our Trail, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with people all over Kirkland. Again and again they say how much they love the Trail and are shocked to hear of plans to add transit. In 13 months since it opened, the Trail has gained many admirers who use it regularly. Just read the comments in our petition and you’ll see there are Google employees who use it to get daily exercise, parents who take their kids for walks, and many joggers and bicyclists.

Why is the Trail so popular?

As we face a life of increasing density, digital distraction and traffic, people also need a respite from the built-world. There is something special about being surrounded by trees, the sound of streams, views of the lake, chirps of birds and the smell of leaves that the Trail offers. This connection to nature is an important part of people’s lives, and will become even more essential as our population increases.

Will adding transit change this?

Absolutely. Dan and others who support transit on the Trail say that the experience will remain the same, but most people I’ve talked to in Kirkland don’t believe that is possible. Buses or trains running along the corridor simply won’t allow for the same isolated, peaceful and safe experience people have today.

It’s just not worth the risk.

I leave you with this video by a volunteer from Save Our Trail about the people who use the Trail. For me it captures all the reasons why we should fight to protect this beautiful addition to Kirkland.