TOD around a highway interchange?


The site analysis for a proposed 770 unit, 1,311 parking space development shows the location of the future Kirkland BRT station in the middle of a redesigned freeway interchange. The site currently houses a Petco store and parking lot and is surrounded by big-box stores (with associated parking) and car dealerships. (Image: City of Kirkland)

Sound Transit is looking into spending $300 million on creating a three level highway interchange to integrate one station of a 37-mile bus rapid transit line on I-405 east of Seattle. The estimated ridership for this freeway station with 10 minute frequency during peak hours is less than 300 a day in 2024, eventually ramping up to 1,000 in 2040.

While some new development around the interchange is coming, including 770 housing units (with 1,311 parking spaces), the City of Kirkland hasn’t yet changed its zoning to allow more development. This project brings up interesting questions that come with transit expansion and TOD including whether it’s appropriate to expect pedestrians to flourish in non-pedestrian environments such as the center of a freeway interchange and whether land near a freeway interchange can be developed in a more pedestrian and transit-oriented manner.

In an attempt to address these issues, designers are suggesting a three level interchange and the addition of a funicular to take people the mile and 250-foot climb from downtown Kirkland to the freeway station. The redesigned interchange creates a center level for bus boarding islands and seperated walking and biking paths to cross the freeway. While not the perfect solution it is a somewhat innovative one that will connect frequent transit with downtown Kirkland, a city that has added Google and other large employers in the last decade.

For resources on how to rate potential TOD outcomes for transit projects like the I-405 BRT check out ITDP’s TOD Standard. Additional guides to help transit agencies focus on better land use outcomes include TCRP 182: Linking Transit Agencies and Land Use Decision Making and the FTA’s guide to Planning for Transit-Supportive Development.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.

  • Can transit improvements lead to gentrification? (East Bay Express)
  • In the works for 20 years, does a development project at a transit stop still fit? (Curbed Austin)
  • San Diego to back down on plan to increase height limits near transit…again (Voice of San Diego)
  • Hudson Yards braces for thousands of new visitors—with limited transit options (Curbed New York)
  • Solving the Swedish housing crisis through TOD (Markets Insider)