On December 11th, 2011, the Kirkland City Council approved the purchase of the abandoned BNSF rail corridor within the city limits of Kirkland. The purchase closed sometime back in March and shortly afterwards, Kirkland placed concrete blocks across the rail line. Because the tracks have already been severed south of the Wilburton trestle in Bellevue, it is currently impossible for trains to travel anywhere within the city of Bellevue. With Kirkland planning to convert their section into a bicycle and pedestrian trail you can be assured that trains will not be crossing at either NE 8th in Bellevue or 108th near the South Kirkland park & ride any time in the near future.
Unfortunately, because of the way State law is written, commercial drivers in buses and trucks are still required to stop at these crossings, because they both lack an “Exempt” or “Out of service” sign. Given the mandatory penalty of a 60-day license suspension for not stopping, you can bet that the vast majority of commercial drivers will be stopping. (The State Patrol has recently been stepping up enforcement at other crossings in the area – ones with active train traffic – so there has been increased awareness among commercial drivers of the rules and penalties)
I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue. Rest assured though, that marking these crossing as “Exempt” will improve traffic flow in both areas. Cars can’t pass stopped buses at 108th and NE 8th has a considerable amount of bus traffic since it has the RapidRide B-line and is a deadheading route for buses coming from the east side bases.
A noticeable improvement in traffic flow for two congested areas for the cost of 4 “Exempt” signs? I’d call that a prime example of low hanging fruit.
Great timing, Apple. Just when I’ve decided to give up my car, along comes this news story. In short, Apple has tired of relying on Google’s rather lame mapping app for the iPhone and has chosen to go it alone. Here’s what concerns me:
Maps itself will not feature information on public transit or alternative methods of transport like biking, as Google’s app does now. Instead, Apple will release APIs for Maps and allow developers to build their own transit apps that will be featured, integrated, and promoted from within Maps.
Let me be blunt: I could not care less about turn-by-turn driving directions (Frankly, I don’t trust them). Despite its relative lameness, I use Google Maps heavily on my iPhone for walking and transit directions. I *crave* biking directions and integrated real-time arrival times for public transportation. Those two items have been my motivation for looking at Android phones but, for now, I’ve been content to wait. If Apple pushes out a new mapping app without lining up quality developers to produce walking and transit directions at least as good as Google’s, that will push me over the edge.
The generation currently entering the workforce and buying cell phones like candy is driving less and using public transportation and bikes more than my generation. Does Apple really want to risk losing them? I assume the answer is no and that Apple will get this all sorted out. That said, you know what happens when you assume, right?
I have been contemplating ditching our 2nd car for several years but have been reluctant for various reasons. While we have decent bus service near our home, many routes aren’t in service when I need to be at work. Additionally, while the base is only a 25 minute bike ride away, there are hills, a high school with inexperienced teenage drivers, and misty eye-glass obscuring conditions between here and there from time to time. Most days I’m fine riding into work but there are times where a “cumulative disincentive” builds up to the point where I just drive. Lastly, there are the memories of several heavy snow days where only our trusty Subaru could get me into work. Well, maybe a Salsa Mukluk could too. Or I could walk. And then there are those snowshoes gathering dust in the garage.
All that worrying aside, we’ve only driven our Subaru 2,000-3,000 miles per year since we bought our Prius. Additionally, many of those miles were for what I call “pity” drives – Times where I could have used another mode of transportation, or our Prius, but decided to take the Subaru to keep the fluids moving and the battery charged. But all in all, I really don’t need a car to get to work. My wife, on the other hand, does. Thankfully she is able to work from home many days which means I’ll still have access to a car at home from time to time. Additionally, I have 8 Zipcars within a 15 minute bus or bike ride as well. I’ve also been meaning to try out the many taxis I see in Bellevue as well.
I’m sure this decision will require some sacrifices such as getting up a little earlier to ride in every day or figuring out how to ride in sub-freezing temperatures – something I’ve been reluctant to do because of a combination of hills, ice, and knowing a fellow bus driver who broke his hip riding into work in icy conditions. But I’m excited to give it a shot and will keep you all up to date on the highs and lows of being car-lite in the suburbs.