This past weekend, The Seattle Times came out against Sound Transit’s newest ballot proposal, prompting this post. At a recent Kirkland City Council’s meeting, the City Council came out in favor of the Sound Transit ballot initiative. Mayor Lauinger was the lone holdout who advocated for better bus service. Better transportation is critical for this area as it continues to grow. But better, means exactly that, not just any transportation system, but a better transportation system.
If you check out my post on my eastside blog, I’ve talked about some of the very basic reasons why the transit package is flawed. The Seattle Times, Ron Sims, and The Eastside Transportation Association are all against it. The light rail proposal is a plan for 15 years into the future, not a solution to today’s commuter problems. What will happen now and over the next decade if something more immediate and comprehensive is not done?
The package, besides its exorbitant costs for light rail and its lack of short-term solutions to today’s transportation problems, includes money for a demonstration train on the BNSF tracks. The train along the BNSF railroad line would be a diesel train, a diesel motor unit, that won’t minimize commuting times because it crosses 50+ intersections and travels by schools and neighborhoods at a “fast” 25-30 miles pace along older rails. (There’s a video on the Eastside Trail Advocates website which shows a 4 minute wait during the middle of the day at the Totem Lake crossing because of a train coming through the intersection.)
We all, including the city, need to become more “green” and look for ways to limit our carbon footprint, ways that are realistic and meaningful, not ways that sound as is they may work, but don’t accomplish the goal to improve our transportation.
Besides commuter rail along the BNSF line being a poor way to improve transportation, a commuter line will take away from the possibility of a fabulous world class trail for the City of Kirkland. This would be a trail people could use for commuting, biking, and walking. Ironically at the very same City Council meeting, several of the City Council Members talked about the Kirkland community’s emphasis on walking. The Active Living Task Force is a huge promotor of walking in the community. This is their mission statement:
“The Active Living Task Force (ALTF), created in 2007, is comprised of residents, community agencies, local businesses, and City representatives.
Our Vision is for community design, services and programs to enhance our quality of life by making it safe, enjoyable and easy for everyone to be physically active in their daily lives.
Our mission is to advise Kirkland policy makers, advocate and provide support for local strategies aimed at promoting community-enriched physical activity as an integral part of everyone’s (including the disabled) daily life.”
It would be great if the City Council would pay attention to the goals of the Active Living Task Force. One of the city’s goals, according to a comment made by Council Member Jessica Greenway, is to connect all of Kirkland parks by trail. The BNSF line is the answer.
A similar discussion has been happening in Bellevue. That city has also been wrestling with support of the Sound Transit package. The Seattle Times had an article discussing the opposing viewpoints. Bellevue’s Mayor Grant Denniger is for the proposal and Eastside Transportation Association (ETA) backed by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, is not. Dick Paylor of ETA was quoted in the Times article as saying: “There’s much better choices than what we have been given.” The group supports ride sharing, road improvements, and a better bus service through $1 billion dollar investment for bus stations. The bus system would be ready far sooner than a rail line, which is supposed to take 15 years and far more more money.
On many levels the transit package is flawed. One level affects everyone. There will be a huge tax increase for a long term solution that may not solve our transportation problems. I’m not against taxes, that’s so far from my thinking. If taxes are raised to pay for services, teachers, police and fire departments, health care, and realistic programs, I’ll be first in line. But I’m last in line for raising taxes for a program that makes no sense.
Another is our immediate transit needs are not being effectively met, and lastly, on a local Kirkland level, we could end up with a commuter line that disrupts Kirkland’s traffic, routes for walking to schools, separates neighborhoods, and costs us the opportunity for a world class walking/biking/commuting trail.
Still not sure what to think or how to vote? There’s an open house this weekend at Bellevue City Hall.
What’s your opinion?