The Kirkland City Council was updated at its Dec. 10 meeting on the proposed RapidRide K Line from Totem Lake to South Bellevue/Eastgate. Mayor Penny Sweet, who was unanimously supported by the council, signed a comment letter expounding on council alignment preferences and concerns, including the popular 255 line.
The RapidRide K Line is under King County Metro’s Metro Connects, a long-range transportation plan that was passed three years ago by the King County Council. Ultimately greenlighting 26 new RapidRide projects, the plan seeks to make community transportation input a reality. RapidRide itself is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service.
The K Line, which is set to open to the public in 2025, moves through Totem Lake to Bellevue. In the alignment seen in Metro Connects, portions from current lines — 234, 235, 255 and 271 — are incorporated.
King County Metro is still in the process of finalizing the alignment. There has been concern from the community over 255, which is Kirkland’s most popular route. It moves from the Totem Lake Urban Center to key locations like downtown Seattle and University District.
“We recognize that bringing RapidRide to Kirkland will have impacts to existing local routes, but we would like to reiterate how valuable the 255 is to our community and to the city’s and the county’s goals of improved transit service and increase transit ridership,” the comment letter signed by Sweet states.
The city is requesting that if any of the 255 service hours and routes are deposed by the K Line, an alternative that keeps in place the Seattle connection is secured.
There are several route options. For the Totem Lake Transit Center to Kirkland Transit Center route, there are two alignments referred to as A1 and A2. According to the meeting agenda item, A1 goes along the same path as the current 255 from Totem Lake. It takes Northeast 124th Street, then goes south along Market Street to downtown Kirkland.
As noted in meeting documents, Metro staff has stated that if this alignment is selected, then the 255 route as it currently stands would be dramatically affected. It could potentially be nixed from this part of the path and instead begin and end at the downtown Kirkland Transit Center.
The slightly faster A2, in contrast, goes from Totem Lake South along 124th Avenue Northeast to Northeast 85th Street. It would work in conjunction with the also-in-the-works I-405 BRT Station at Northeast 85th Street. From there, it would progress into downtown Kirkland.
“If A2 is chosen, the future route 239 to Kingsgate to UW Bothell (starting in March of 2020 as part of the North Eastside Mobility Project) would be significantly impacted and would likely be truncated at the Totem Lake Transit Center,” meeting documents state.
For the downtown Kirkland Transit Center to South Kirkland Park-and-Ride, there are similarly two options, called B1 and B2.
B1 goes along State Street from the Kirkland Transit Center. In then moves south by Lake Washington Boulevard to the South Kirkland Park and Ride. B2 uses the same route as the currently standing 255 alongside 6th Street South/108th Avenue Northeast to the South Kirkland Park-and-Ride.
“One potential option would be to shift the 255 to State Street and Lake Washington Boulevard and truncate the future route 250 to Redmond at downtown Kirkland,” meeting documents state in response to the possible 255 impact.
Metro has voiced a preference for A2 and B2, in part because they most sync up with community input, have quicker travel times, a higher chance of partnership opportunities and more. Kirkland has echoed Metro’s choices, though continues to note the importance of keeping the opportunities afforded by the 255 route in place.
“As a frequent 255-er, I hear more and more often about our underserved public in terms of bus service,” Sweet said. “So I think this is the right stuff. It’s not soon enough, but it’s as soon as we can get it… This is an important move forward for our entire council.”
Community engagement from Metro will continue through mid-2020. By the end of the year, the agency intends to share its final concept with the public.