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.

{updated} 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 (possibly as early as 2021 though given the history of ERC trail projects we aren’t so confident). With ST3, the trail may open for a few years, but we expect it then to close until 2041. This means that, aside from those few years, 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

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5 thoughts on “A sad no vote on ST3

  1. Pingback: A sad no vote on ST3 part 2: the region | The View from the Crosswalk

  2. A question (more may come later):
    “The Eastgate stop is between the Park & Ride and the freeway, discouraging anybody from walking there.”
    Where are you finding the exact station locations? As a student at BC for 6 years now, I’ve used the Eastgate stop many times to get to Issaquah or Seattle (mostly Seattle) from BC. And every time I have there are several other students there too. It’s a little bit of a walk to get to the freeway station to catch 554 but not inconvenient in my mind. I love being able to take one bus to get downtown. I think a light rail stop there would be fantastic! Of course I’ll be done with school by then.

    Like

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