Debra Sinick

Posts Tagged ‘commuting’

Sound Transit, Proposition 1, Trails, Rails, and Commuting Through Kirkland, Washington

In Bellevue, Kirkland News, Kirkland WA, rails to trails, WA on October 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm

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?

Washington’s King County to Buy The Rail Line-What’s Next? Will There Be a Trail, Rail or Both?

In King County, Kirkland News, Kirkland WA, rails to trails, Uncategorized on May 6, 2008 at 3:50 pm

The Seattle Times reported today that King County has agreed to the keep the BNSF rail line in the public domain.  A trail could (the operative word being could) be on the rail line sometime in the near future.  However, all that is to be decided in the future. 

Keith Ervin reports in The Times article:

“Port and county officials said the deal upholds the concept of “dual use” of the 42-mile corridor by rail commuters and trail users on foot or on bike. But many details wouldn’t be decided for months or years, and there is no assurance that either a trail or passenger trains would be a reality in the near future.”

The first step has been passed with county agreeing to the three way deal with the Port of Seattle and BNSF rail line.  The deal between the three must be signed by May 15th or there will be a huge financial penalty.

National Public Radio also had a story reporting on the latest update.  Check out this link to hear Liam Moriarty’s piece on the latest rail/trail news.

Much still needs to be decided and hashed out over whether there will be a trail or a commuter line or both.  There will be public hearings in which you can voice your opinion.  You can also contact King County Council Members and make your opinions known.

The Eastside Trail Advocates are holding a meeting on Thursday, May 8th at 7 PM at the Houghton Fire Station meeting room.  The address is 6602 108th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98033.  This meeting will be a great opportunity to hear about the issues.

How Safe Will It Be For Kids To Cross the Railroad Tracks to Go to School in Kirkland, Washington?

In Bellevue, Kirkland News, Kirkland WA, rails to trails, WA on May 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Picture a commuter train whizzing by in Kirkland during the morning commute on its way to Bellevue.  The tracks completely separate the Kirkland Highlands neighborhood from Peter Kirk Elementary School and Kirkland Junior High.  There’s no other way to walk to school and Peter Kirk is a “walking” school.   Picture kids crossing the tracks to visit friends after school hours when there’s no supervision at the crossing.

The following videos show school children crossing the railroad tracks on the way to school from the Kirkland Highlands neighborhood.  The entire neighborhood of over 600 homes is separated by the railroad tracks from the school.  The kids cross over 110th Ave NE and the railroad tracks behind Peter Kirk Elementary to get to school.  As you can see, the kids are walking and running to school.


 The crossing guard raised her concern about kids walking down the tracks to get to school in the morning.  Someone can come to educate the kids about railroad safety, but having worked with middle school kids for 13 years in the past, I’m familiar with typical teen and “kid” behavior.  Kids won’t remember what someone told them three months ago about not walking on the railroad tracks. Walking on the tracks is more of a problem when kids go from neighborhood to neighborhood to see their friends or  walk to downtown Kirkland, not just to school.  There are no crossing guards watching over them at those times.


From the Highlands neighborhood, kids also cross over the railroad tracks in Cotton Hill Park, a few blocks north, to get to Kirkland Junior High.  That crossing is far more concerning because young teens tend to be busy multi-tasking as they walk to school.  Picture typical teen behavior and you see teens talking to friends, talking on cell phones, running, and listening to IPods.  You do not picture kids paying attention as well as they should to their surroundings.  How many teens do you know who think they are invincible and will try to tempt fate by running in front of a train as they are rushing late to school?


If a fence is erected to stop people from walking down the tracks, kids will be cut off from their friends.  Walking paths will be cut off to schools. Neighborhoods will be cut off from each other.  Not only is the rail line as a commuter line a safety hazard, it will hurt the fabric of the community.

Today’s Seattle/Eastside BNSF Rails and Trails News, Plus Upcoming Eastside Meetings

In Kirkland News, Kirkland WA, rails to trails on April 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm


There are a number of active groups on the eastside who are for smart transit and trails, but not wasting taxpayer money.  Find out about this issue.  If you live within one mile of the BNSF tracks, you will be affected.


   On May 1st at 7 PM, there is a meeting at the Houghton Fire Station in Kirkland, 6602 108th Ave NE with the Cascade Bicycle Club to review the issues.


  On May 5th, there is a meeting with the King County Council, 10th floor of the King County Courthouse Building, 516 3rd Avenue in which people are invited to voice their opinions. ( FYI, I do not know if the time or the place have been confirmed for this meeting.)


And lastly, on May 8th, The Eastside Trail Advocates will be holding a meeting at the Houghton Fire Station at 7:30 PM  to review the issues.  Become informed about what may happen so you can decide what is the right thing to do.



Here is a copy of some of the key testimony given by Shawn at today’s King County Council meeting:


KING COUNTY COMMISSIONERS                                                                                 Seattle, April 28, 2008

” Leaving the option of using the corridor for commuter trains indefinitely open seems sensible to me.  BUT, what is most important is that WHEN that option is exercised, it be BASED on a reliable and impartial Economic Evaluation of ALL the major transit-related options available. That should include, at least, Buses, Trains on 405, Highway Tolls, Bicycles, and even Rollerblades.

 Such an evaluation does not need to be too long or expensive, given the information already obtained from previous studies and experiences on projects like the Sounder Train, the Monorail, and Bus ridership.  However, it must include a fair comparison of the TOTAL Short- and Long-Term COST-PER-COMMUTER associated with each transportation option.  It should ALSO include a BALANCED comparison of the local and regional recreational, health, and life-style BENEFITS that ALL, or Parts of the corridor, may offer to Eastside and King County communities.  Finally, the conclusions and recommendations of this study should, in my opinion,  be ‘certified’,  by neutral Business-Teams from 1 or 2 local universities,  that THEY ARE fair and complete’, in order to minimize further controversy.

Only THEN, should the top option, or maybe even the top 2 options, be submitted to the voters for final selection.  Any rush, at this time, to submit commuter-train ballot propositions, based on incomplete studies and narrow interests, will be justifiably viewed by the voters with suspicion.”













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