Point/Counterpoint: Should the CKC have Rail or BRT, or neither? By Dan Ryan

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

Sound Transit and Metro will bring more service to Kirkland in the next 25 years. How does the Cross-Kirkland Corridor fit?

It won’t be the only transit route in Kirkland; many Metro routes will have increased service. But the corridor connects our fastest growing neighborhoods; Downtown, Houghton, Totem Lake, South Kirkland.

No alternative delivers such reliability and convenience to more Kirkland residents and workers than Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the corridor. Not even close. Buses that get stuck in traffic will always be slower and less reliable. I-405 is too far away from where people want to be. Do you want to walk or take a bus to a freeway overpass every day?

Transit that is easy to access, and faster, and more reliable, is transit that works. That’s the promise of the Eastside Rail Corridor for Kirkland.

The rail corridor is a popular connection through the city. People everywhere use the interim trail to walk or bike to their destination. It’s safe, comfortable, and direct. Transit fits that perfectly. Walk paths, bike paths and transit are how more of us get around every day. The connections the City built to streets and businesses make the interim trail more useful. I walk the corridor several times a week, not to stroll, but because I’m going somewhere.

In Kirkland and other cities along Eastside Rail Corridor, development is turning to face the Corridor. There will be fewer blank walls and back parking lots. More of the places we want to go will be accessible from the trail and by transit.

BRT won’t harm the experience of using the trail. A single bus every several minutes would be the least travelled street in Kirkland. It’s not an isolated nature path, but most of the corridor isn’t that today. Parmac and Totem Lake aren’t. Google is wrapped around the corridor. The corridor is big for ample trail and natural space everywhere in up to 70’ not used for transit.

Rail is a better long-term transit solution than BRT in many regional corridors, but BRT fits Kirkland’s circumstances. BRT will have more Kirkland stations, including downtown. The nearest rail station, on 6th St, is too distant. A bus from Kirkland to Seattle can use the corridor, but a rail line wouldn’t go there. BRT from Kirkland would go directly to downtown Bellevue, but rail requires a transfer to East Link at Wilburton. Rail has greater capacity, but is less useful for many journeys than a busway on the corridor.

It’s early to speculate whether rail would relate as well to trail uses as BRT. Rail has heavier engineering requirements, larger stations, and restrictions to maintain safety. That doesn’t mean it will be dangerous, or there wouldn’t be a trail (there will). But it might be harder to cross than a busway or more intrusively engineered. With smart design, this may be well managed. But those most concerned about the trail should be advocating for BRT which meets Kirkland’s transit needs.

David Greschler

David Greschler

Dan and I may disagree about the impact bus rapid transit (BRT) will have on the Trail, but when it comes to using light rail transit on the CKC I think we mostly agree: it’s not the right fit.

Light rail would exacerbate many of the issues I raised regarding the degradation of the natural look and feel of the Trail, and would significantly increase safety concerns due to faster speeds and longer stopping distances.

Visually it would add a forest of overhead electrical wires along the entire Trail, as seen in the Sound Transit light rail in this picture:

However, the biggest issue is the noise it would create. Every 10 minutes or so, as a train would pass at crossings, the surrounding neighborhoods would have to hear the train’s bells ringing.  Here’s an example of what light rail sounds like today as it enters Sound Transit’s SODO Station:

Is this the soundtrack we want for the City of Kirkland?