A sad no vote on ST3 part 2: the region

In the previous post we addressed the Eastside projects. This post we’ll give a few reasons why the regional package is not worthwhile.

The main argument for building trains seems to be that we can’t do buses right. We need to do buses right. If we can’t, we’ve already failed, because the train is only walking distance for a few people. In the suburbs, the train is walking distance for even fewer people. Doing buses right doesn’t even mean Bus Rapid Transit vs. Light Rail – it also means getting the feeder buses right. Buses get caught in traffic accessing the South Kirkland Park & Ride. The 245 regularly gets stuck in a sea of cars on 148th Ave, and the B on 40th St. We need to find a way to get buses out of traffic so that they become a reasonable option. If we don’t solve local trips like going to the store, then using transit remains a special case for the commute or an event in Seattle and not the default (or even a considered) choice for arbitrary trips.

Commute times on I-5 from Everett to Seattle regularly get to two hours. Link from Everett to Seattle is planned to take 60 minutes. Great, right? Save an hour even when traffic is terrible? But by building the train to Everett, we are encouraging more building of housing in Everett, and more families to live in Everett, shackling them to a soul-sucking 90-minute commute (because you’d need to get to the train, and then from the train, either or both of which may require a bus transfer, a bike ride, or a lengthy walk), and an otherwise car-centric lifestyle. We need to build housing targeting 30-minute commutes, not 90. Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond: you all need to buck up and build the housing the region desperately needs. We don’t have space for more cars. Build housing where people don’t need cars. The suburbs want to grow because growth, but that’s stupid and unsustainable. Every unit of housing we decline to build in our close-in walkable neighborhoods is one more family stuck in the suburbs, driving thorough the close-in walkable neighborhood.

The stronger way of saying this is that high-capacity regional transit (ST’s charter) is the wrong problem to solve. Sure, there will still be people who choose to live in the hinterlands and commute to the city, but lets make that an actual choice, and not force people out there because there is no suitable housing in the city.

The new Angle Lake station actively makes the current system worse than before. It doesn’t serve anything but a park & ride garage, and now the system has less flexibility because it needs an additional train on the tracks. The reasons to take the train to Angle Lake are not compelling reasons to build a rail line there. ST3 is more of the same – many more miles of the same.

Here are more arguments in note form because I’m tired of writing:

Capacity of train vs capacity of parking lot. If there is no car-first future, don’t build more parking lots. Eastgate shows us what a “high-capacity” park & ride is, and it’s terrible.

“serving” Issaquah with one stop on the SW corner. “serving” Kirkland with one stop on the far south. “serving” West Seattle with one stop, granted in the densest part.

We traded a massive road package in order to now trade stupid lines to the north, south, east, and west in order to build the second best line to Ballard.

Renton is actively getting worse replacing their downtown transit center with a parking lot on the edge of town.

The spine is not an outcome.


Arguments for the pro side:

“transit!” – We oppose this exactly because it blocks good transit.

We can’t do buses. – We need to do buses or it doesn’t matter.

Politics – This isn’t an excuse for actively continuing down the car path and making the region worse.


Arguments for the con side:

“no transit!” – Sorry, geometry.

“cars!” – Sorry, geometry.

“taxes!” – Yes, stuff costs money, but overstating the costs isn’t helpful. And if you insist on low-density, car-centric development, this isn’t even close to covering the costs you’re putting on the region.


And that’s that. We’re sad for the lost opportunity to do something great.

A sad no vote on ST3

It is with heavy hearts that we announce our “no” votes for ST3.

There are a few projects that are indeed worthy, and if ST3 included only those projects, we would joyfully vote “yes.” But in the ST system, each subarea has its own projects, and the suburban projects, with few exceptions, will make the region worse, not better.

In theory, the suburban projects are “what the suburbs want,” so Seattle voters will vote for ST3 in large numbers because their own projects are worthwhile and the suburbs are welcome to waste their own money.

We live in the East King subarea, so the East King projects are what we’d be voting for. What are those projects?

  1. Light rail from South Kirkland to Issaquah via Bellevue. This rail line is a series of Park & Rides with nothing at either end. The South Kirkland Park & Ride is right next to the freeway, and has absolutely nothing within walking distance aside from the TOD built on site. The Issaquah end is on the west edge of Issaquah, next to a freeway, in a “Regional Growth Center.” The land is currently low-density car-oriented strip malls with a population of zero. This line is entirely dependent on Park and Rides for ridership, and cars don’t scale.
  2. I-405 BRT from Lynnwood to Renton via Kirkland and Bellevue. This is a minimally upgraded bus running mostly in freeway traffic. There are proposals for shoulder-running, and it does have access to the already heavily watered-down Express Toll Lanes. There’s no way this will be transformational in the way High-Capacity transit should be.
  3. Lots of Park and Ride lots. This increases local traffic, prevents more useful uses of the land next to high quality transit stops, and makes it harder to bike, walk, or bus to a transit center.
  4. Light Rail to downtown Redmond. This is the one worthwhile East King project, but even it has a detour to a large new Park & Ride that will make its vicinity worse.


Specifically, what does Kirkland get?

  1. I-405 BRT at Totem Lake. I have little to say about this except that there are already express buses from Totem Lake to Bellevue.
  2. Light Rail at the South Kirkland Park and Ride. SK P&R is so far south in Kirkland that it’s actually in Bellevue. This is a meaningless gesture to mollify the Kirkland City Council after ST declined to build actual transit in Kirkland.
  3. I-405 BRT at 85th St. If the BRT station were a catalyst for redeveloping the area around 85th & I-405 and taming 85th St, maybe it would be worthwhile. But the only proposed access to this station is bus lanes to downtown Kirkland. So we can take a bus to Downtown Kirkland, then another bus the mile uphill to I-405, then another bus to one of a number of park & rides, or downtown Bellevue. Who exactly is going to take this mess? What problem would be solved with a stop at I-405 and 85th St?
  4. More parking! South Kirkland Park & Ride and Kingsgate Park & Ride will both be expanded.


Back to the light rail line.

If your train is dependent on Park & Rides for ridership, your train has failed. A train is high-capacity. A parking lot simply can’t be high capacity – geometry doesn’t allow for it, cars are too big. A train should serve high-density places. It can serve high-density places that already exist, or it can induce the development of high-density places. A parking lot is neither. Even a parking garage is not high density.

The “Central” Issaquah stop is next to a freeway interchange. Even if we can somehow get enough people to the stop by foot or bike, why should we be encouraging people to live in Issaquah, 10 miles from anywhere?

The Eastgate stop is between the Park & Ride and the freeway, discouraging anybody from walking there.

The Richards road stop is on the opposite side of I-90 from Factoria!

There are stops in Bellevue shared with Eastlink, increasing frequency on that segment. That’s good, but not worth building the ends.

The South Kirkland stop is not even in Kirkland, is next to a freeway interchange, and is completely car-oriented. Granted, there is great access from the Cross Kirkland Corridor, if you can get to that. People don’t come to the South Kirkland P&R to go to Bellevue. They come there to go to Seattle. At best, the Seattle buses will continue, and we’ll run empty trains every six minutes. There are few people for whom a trip to Bellevue via a train at South Kirkland would be more convenient than driving. Who are they planning to serve here?

We worry about the temptation to truncate the Kirkland buses, forcing even more transfers. Currently we have a two-seat ride to Seattle. We can take the 245 to Downtown Kirkland (a useful destination on its own) and transfer to the 255 to Seattle via South Kirkland and 520. If the 255 is eliminated, we’d have a four seat ride to Seattle: we’d take a bus to Downtown Kirkland where we’d catch a bus to South Kirkland, then a train to Bellevue, and another train to Seattle. With or without ST3, we’d be more likely to get on our bus the other direction, and transfer to the train in Redmond: still a two-seat ride.

The train will run on the Eastside Rail Corridor between Bellevue and Kirkland. King County is pursuing a trail on the corridor, which will greatly expand the biking/walking access to Bellevue. Sound Transit owns a key piece on the north end of Bellevue, and does not plan to give access to it until they are done building rail on it. Without ST3, that’s 2023. With ST3, that’s 2041, meaning we won’t be able to bike to Bellevue for twenty-five years, all for a train that’s not very useful.

What is good transit for Kirkland? The Metro long-range plan is very exciting for Kirkland. Since there isn’t anything worthwhile in ST3 for Kirkland, not passing ST3 won’t change that plan much.

Also this. Do this.

It’s been argued that given political realities, we won’t get anything better if we turn the package down and wait. If the next try does not have a train to Issaquah and South Kirkland, waiting will be worthwhile.

Even if they were free, the ST3 projects would not be worthwhile. So we are voting “no” on ST3.

part 2

Walking Routes to Bellevue Have Gone from Bad to Nonexistent

I ran down to Bellevue today with the stroller as a cargo hauler for stops at Uwajimaya and Total Wine, and wow are things in bad shape.  I don’t think I can make this trip anymore until things settle down.

Here are the blockages that I know about from this trip:


120th Ave (location “A”) is completely closed to cars and people.  It’s a giant construction site with machinery everywhere.

124th Ave (location “B”) is a pretty terrible street to begin with.  Sidewalks are mostly missing.  It has large shoulders that one might use, but a lot of them are taken up by trucks.  And some of the few stretches of sidewalk are closed (in the distance you can see a truck blocking the right-side shoulder):

I don’t have a lot of optimism for the Spring District’s transit/bike/walk friendliness.  One of the exits is mostly complete:

The fence is at the existing sidewalk location, so the intersection is going to be huge.  Multiple exit lanes will help ensure car dependence in the area.  And it doesn’t look very good for bike infrastructure.  But I suppose I digress…

116th Ave has no access at all from the north or east because of the intersection at Northup and the other 116th Ave (location “C”).  Zooming in:


The northwest corner of the intersection is completely closed to pedestrians as well as the sidewalks leading to it.  This means the crosswalks along the north and west sides of the intersection are unusable.  There isn’t a crosswalk or a signal along the east side of the intersection.  And if you try to go an intersection to the east, you’ll then discover that the south side of Northup doesn’t have a sidewalk.  You might be able to stumble through construction cones and gravel.  (It eventually will have a sidewalk, but a future sidewalk doesn’t make for a very good detour today.)

[Update: September 14th, 2016:

I went back and looked at that south side of Northup again.  There is a temporary path on the shoulder that is guarded by traffic pylons.  One could walk through here.  When I looked during my previous trip, it didn’t register as a possible route.  One could probably get a single stroller through, but a double or a wheelchair would be difficult.  Here are some pictures:

If you come down 24th, then there is a detour sign pointing this way, but if you come down 116th from Kirkland, then you get this confusing sign:

The busy intersection doesn’t have a crosswalk to the left of the picture, and to the right is the wrong direction.


The end result of this is that 116th, 120th, and 124th are unusable.  The next crossing to the west is at 108th (a half mile west and you have to backtrack north).  The next crossings to the east are at 130th and 132nd (almost a half mile east), which also have intermittent sidewalks but hopefully no construction.

The hope for the area is supposed to be the ERC (Eastside Rail Corridor), which Kirkland, Bellevue, and King County have all shown interest in opening to people (especially Kirkland with the CKC (Cross Kirkland Corridor)).  However, at this point it looks like this stretch is going to be held hostage by Sound Transit for years or decades.

In other words, don’t try to walk in Bellevue.


Tales from 60th

I try to focus on the good things that happen when we are out on foot and bike, because I want to remember the joy in our lifestyle. I don’t want to be an angry cyclist. But there’s this one street that I ride regularly that is just soul-sucking. There’s no bike lane, but it’s busy enough that people driving get angry at me for riding in the road.

Most of the summer it wasn’t so bad to ride, but this week I got honked at again. I kept riding, because there was nothing else I could do – the street has no shoulder, no bike lane, no parking lane, no sidewalk, just a narrow gravel path on the opposite side from where I was riding. Then after the traffic going the other way (a whole three cars) had cleared, the driver passed, mostly safely, if maybe with some excessive acceleration.

This was less than a quarter mile. I delayed her (making assumptions here because white Lexus SUV) maybe 20 seconds.

Obviously this person was in a hurry. I can just imagine the conversation when she got to her destination. “I’m sorry I’m late. There was this CYCLIST in front of me!”


A bikey week

I get lots of comments on my bike and my lifestyle when I’m out with the kids and the bike. One common comment is “I don’t know how you do it.” But really, I don’t know how they do it, driving everywhere with their kids. I go crazy.

There was a week earlier this summer when our oldest was with her grandparents, so we signed up the 5yo for chess camp so he’d have something special too.

Chess camp in Bellevue.

We’ve written about Bellevue before.

I spent all week driving.

The next week I was so very glad to be back on the bike.

Monday: I took both big kids to visit the eye doctor in Redmond. 8yo’s bike was having trouble with the front brake rubbing, so I towed it down and we stopped at a bike shop first. Bike fixed, she got to ride around Redmond.

Downtown Redmond is pretty kid-friendly, but there’s such a big climb to get home that we don’t usually bring their bikes along. It was a beautiful day and we had a nice ride aside from the dicey crossing of Avondale. We stopped at a donut shop for lunch and then I toted kids and bike back up the hill to home.

Tuesday: we biked to Crossroads. I biked the boys down to the library while the oldest was at her appointment.

Then we picked up a half flat of berries at the farmers market, picked up the oldest, and met some friends at the splash park before biking home.

Thursday: I biked to afternoon tea at a friend’s house. It was hot! And I’d forgotten how much uphill there was to get there. But then it cooled down as evening approached and I was able to get a tip on a bike shortcut that involved less climbing.

Friday: we biked to swimming lessons. We’re at a sweet spot where I can fit all four kids on the bike at once for short trips, so I’m milking it as much as I can.

Then later in the afternoon we biked about a half mile to tour a potential new house.

After a week of driving, I was especially grateful that most of the time I don’t have to. Our infrastructure might be lacking, but for our most important destinations, there is enough that I can get there

I Quit Bike-Commuting

In fact, I’ve quit riding pretty much anywhere with the exception of our church and family outings. There are a variety of reasons, but I’ll be blunt with the main one. Bike infrastructure on the east side is terrible, and I don’t want to deal with it anymore at commute times. WSDOT, Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue are all part of this. WSDOT and Redmond make my commute miserable, which would be a common ride. Kirkland is puttering along with their Transportation Master Plan which says that biking is important unless it involves doing anything involving traffic (but maybe, just maybe, I’m hearing baby steps – the 100th Ave project is a big test). And Bellevue is Bellevue (though surprisingly there is some hope that Bellevue doesn’t want to be Bellevue anymore).

On the bright side, I’m running to most places that I need to be. Pedestrian infrastructure, while not very good, isn’t as bad as bicycle infrastructure. Plus, of course, running is my hobby. So I can understand why almost all east side bicyclists are hobbyists, which is an almost insignificant group as far as trip mode share is concerned. I can also take Metro 245 to a number of places, but that’s about it for reasonable transit.

The Route Itself

Anyways, let’s go back to the bike commute. It’s a bit under 4 miles in each direction: Old Redmond Rd to 152nd Ave to the 520 trail. There’s about 150 feet of climbing to work and 300 feet to get back home. I’m not going to discuss other deterrents in this post, but relevant to the infrastructure complaint is that there would be less climbing if the best route topographically didn’t consist of arterials with no bike infrastructure. 148th Ave is more direct and much flatter than 152nd/520 trail, but it’s a five lane 40 mph arterial. Here’s the route:

There are 3 major intersections going down Old Redmond Road (132nd, 140th, 148th). They provide three different examples of unprotected intersections, none of which work. 132nd maintains paint-only bike lanes through the intersection; here you can get right-hooked (just came across this today).

140th ends the bike lane before the intersection; here you get to play with cars.

148th has a slip lane (a.k.a. freeway onramp); here you get run over by moving in a blind spot (but at least the main intersection doesn’t have any right turns).

Outside of the intersections, Old Redmond Road is still fairly stressful. I think I would probably be ok riding by myself (but definitely not with the kids) if it actually had 5 foot painted bike lanes. However, it doesn’t. At best it reaches 5 feet counting the gutter, and in a lot of places it is narrower. There is also a manhole cover gauntlet. The car lane is better, but there are strategically placed covers to get you there too. Switching back and forth between the bike lane and the car lane would be best but only if you get the right breaks in traffic. Or you can ride the brakes and hope you don’t wipe out on them.

This is just between 132nd and 140th:

and coming back up the hill isn’t a whole lot better. The second one is particularly problematic because the road dips steeply from the white line to the cover.

Of course it continues after 140th (the third has been improved but not moved):

After 148th, the lane is so narrow that the bike stencil doesn’t fit!

The neighborhood streets between Old Redmond Road and the 520 trail work well. They are fairly quiet, and Redmond recently painted sharrows. This is a case where sharrows “work” because they provide a reminder on a street that already works. While the streets are too wide, as pretty much all of our residential streets are, the stop sign and turn seem to be enough to keep car traffic over on 154th (which sadly is a classic “residential arterial”).

The 520 trail is nice, though on the narrow side when the racers are blasting down the hill (the direction of these pictures is the reverse of how I’ve been describing the route):

However, it is also plagued by terrible intersections at 51st and 40th. These are the scariest part of the commute and why I can’t take WSDOT or Redmond seriously when they talk about bicycling. These are easily the biggest reasons why I avoid bike-commuting.



I counted 11 near misses in 2 hours when I did the pedestrian/bicycle count last year. I wrote a lot about the details of 40th back here (note that 51st is a copy of the geometry of 40th though not as busy). There have been minor changes since then. The order of the signal phases at 40th was changed with a positive effect. The right turn pocket to the 520 on-ramp is now cleared right before the trail signal. Previously the trail signal would provide the first “opening” for right-turns-on-red. Also, at some expense, the curbs on the corners for the trail were slightly adjusted to improve angles. This has had fairly little effect as far as I can tell.

There are some obvious real improvements that could be made here. A real curb bulb on the on-ramp (since the on-ramp is two lanes wide, maybe the opening could be reduced to two lanes wide too) is what the previous curb adjustment should have been. There is no reasonable excuse for allowing either right-turn-on-red across the trail. Allowing right-turn-on-green across a trail green is equally inexcusable. But time and time again, we are told that car traffic is more important. How many people avoid biking because of these decisions?

The magic solution for 40th is a state-funded tunnel (and a separately funded bridge across 520).  These will be huge improvements, but there are three problems. (1) There are no plans for improving safety before the tunnel project is finished. We know how to make improvements today. (2) There are no plans for improving 51st. I can’t get to the tunnel at 40th if I can’t get past 51st. (3) The funding story for ped/bike improvements is so broken that a tunnel is a huge amount of money to spend.  We know how to fix this intersection and every other, and it would take very little money to do so. Paint, planters, and posts, and a willingness to slow down the cars would significantly improve safety at a price of some car throughput. How many intersections could we fix for the cost of this tunnel?

These intersections are unsafe because of cars, not people biking and walking. The funding for making the intersection safer should not come out of ped/bike funding, it should come out of general transportation funding. If we really cannot impact car throughput for safety, then the tunnel is a car throughput project, not a safety project. A tunnel isn’t the only way to improve this intersection, but it is the one that doesn’t impact car throughput.

I don’t believe that WSDOT and Redmond are serious about road safety at all.  The evidence at places like 51st simply doesn’t allow it. Instead the tunnel was a single project aimed at shutting up the safety advocates – or just another piece of pork – so that a massive roads package could be passed.

How to walk for your groceries with kids

Shopping, unencumbered by children, for one or two people is no problem. You may have done it yourself in college (I did). You can take a backpack and carry a few grocery bags and it works without too much extra planning. If you also need to take a child or two or four with you, grocery shopping gets more complicated. I’ve shopped with most combinations of small children, and can tell you how to do it.

If you have one baby.

Grocery shopping with one baby is easy now, but in the early days it certainly was not. With one baby everything is new and everything takes adjustment. But you can do it! I have always worn the baby, as worn babies are generally happy. At first I wore my daughter on my front and a backpack on my back, but as she got bigger that needed to change. One day I realized that I just didn’t have it in me to carry her and a gallon of milk. So I bought a wire grocery cart at the hardware store across the street, and then realized that I couldn’t carry her, the unassembled grocery cart AND the groceries all at once. The groceries waited until the next day.

Let me tell you, that grocery cart was life-changing. I’d always walked to the store, but now I could see how I’d feed my family as it grew. Going to the store is not (usually) a chore, it’s an outing, a little exercise, and a change of scenery on cranky days. It’s something I don’t have to save for when there’s somebody else to watch the kids. I can get the grocery shopping done with them. On good days I teach them how I choose things in preparation for them doing the shopping themselves. On busy days we just get our things and go.

We have no pictures from those early pre-smartphone days when we didn’t obsessively document the minutiae of everyday life. Here’s a more recent one.

We’ve lined our shopping cart with a piece of foam camping sleeping pad – it’s waterproof and dries quickly. We have a couple of bags that fit nicely side-by-side in the space. They are very worn, but I haven’t found anything else that fits so nicely! We bag heavy things in the lower bags and pile lighter things on top. Sometimes it takes a little rearranging after the bagger loads the bags.

One baby and one toddler.

After the birth of our second child, our oldest was two-and-a-half when Mark went back to work and I had to do the shopping by myself with both of them. She walked to the store and I wore the baby, holding her by one hand and the grocery cart in the other. At the store I put her in the seat of the store cart and left mine stashed out of the way near the checkout area. If your toddler doesn’t walk or can’t be trusted, see “two non-walking children,” below.

Toddlers and up of whatever number.

Once the kids are able to walk with you and behave in the store, it really doesn’t matter how many you have. A wire grocery cart is still essential, and they might pull it for you (at least when it’s empty). They also might fight over who gets to pull it. I’m really looking forward to sending my kids to the store when we are out of yogurt, and it doesn’t have to wait until they are 16 and can drive!

Two newborns.

This is the trickiest situation I’ve had to handle, but it can be done. I wore one and used a stroller for the other. The best situation would be a city stroller with an enormous storage basket, but I didn’t have one, I just had a stroller that took the infant carseat. I put as much as I could in the small storage basket and tied a couple of bags to the handle. We shopped often because it was something to do.

We were quite a sight in those days. I frequently wore one, held one in one arm, and pushed the empty stroller around the store with the other hand. My big kids (aged three and five at the time) pulled our groceries as we shopped with small shopping baskets on wheels.

Two non-walking (either by your choice or their ability) children.

Bonus: nap-fighting toddler sleeps while you get your work done!

I learned this tip from a friend who oldest two are close in age, and we’ve used it extensively with twins. I wear one baby and push a double stroller with the other baby in one seat. After shopping, we fill the other seat of the stroller with groceries. I frequently stash the stroller out of the way in the front of the store and use a shopping cart with the second baby in the seat while we are in the store.

also works for paint

and pumpkins

Our twins are now toddlers, and they love to walk to the store. I only walk with one at a time because I can’t hold both and the shopping cart all at once. The other still rides on my back. We use the “one baby and one toddler” method as described above, and the big kids can be trusted (with reminders) to stay nearby while we walk across the street and across the parking lot.

“I want to walk on the lellow!” (curb in the parking lot on the way to the store)