Bellevue is in the midst of updating its Transit Master Plan (TMP), which will serve as a much-needed update to the 2003 plan, adopted once upon a time when transit took a backseat to other transportation priorities. Since then, ridership in Bellevue has increased nearly twofold from 22,000 daily boardings in 2003 to over 40,000 last year. The new and improved plan is much more comprehensive than its predecessor and is constructed on nine project principles (PDF), which range from considerations of future growth and development, to accommodations of light rail expansion and companion projects.
While the Bellevue TMP won’t mirror its counterpart in Seattle in terms of identifying high-capacity/rapid streetcar/rail corridors, it does largely hinge on accommodating Metro’s new service guidelines, which emphasize things like productivity, frequency, and geographic value, rather than the one-seat-ride-oriented approach that the agency has taken in years past. For a brief primer on the TMP, you can watch a video short about the project.
More below the jump.
To initiate the development of the plan, Bellevue transportation planners underwent a comprehensive outreach process (PDF), part of which included an extensive 95-question survey. A few outreach results are summarized below:
- According to a February budget survey, a whopping 83% of Bellevue residents agreed that the City should “work with regional agencies to improve local and regional public transportation serving Bellevue.”
- For survey respondents who did not take transit regularly, top priorities for improving transit included: speed, simpler routes/schedules, availability of real-time info, stop proximity to destination, and frequency.
- When asked for the best way City resources could be best spent to improve transit, 30% said speed/reliability improvements, 11% said wayfinding/information at transit facilities, 19% said real-time information, and 14% said added parking at park-and-rides.
In addition to outreach, planners also compiled a lengthy and comprehensive network profile (PDF) of current transit in Bellevue (recommended reading for anyone interested in becoming well-versed in Bellevue transit). While the intention of the TMP is not to redesign Metro’s network or hijack the agency’s operations planning efforts, the plan will play a large role in both the City’s capital contributions to infrastructure improvements as well as coordination with municipal land use planning. Things like determining what kind of corridors could use transit priority treatments or how certain land use districts should be served in the future will be under consideration.
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with various members of the city’s citizen boards and commissions to talk about the principles of the TMP, and what kind of visioning Bellevue should do to improve its standing in the transit world. The forum turned out to be more or less a crash course in Transit Planning 101, Jarrett Walker style. Discussion topics largely centered on tradeoffs in planning, including peak vs. all-day service, direct service vs. connective network, frequency/ridership vs. coverage, and even if it was better to provide priority for transit if it came at the expense of other vehicular traffic.
The discussion also primarily generated a few common themes:
- Transit in Bellevue was agreed to be most useful for commuters but much less so for those taking non-work trips, like doctor visits, grocery shopping, etc. While some used this observation to argue for a more peak-oriented network, the importance of serving all travel needs dayround was raised, particularly for the growing number of transit-dependent riders in the city.
- Questions of covering the last mile produced varying opinions. Some argued for better vehicular access to local park and rides, which was highly indicative of notions of car dependency in Bellevue, even when approaching transit.
- A number of the elderly participants seemed partial to the concept of a downtown Bellevue circulator, an idea which has been on the backburner for a while. However, favor towards a circulator quickly waned after examples of transit rich cities were brought up, places where center city mobility is enhanced thanks to an interwoven frequent network rather than a redundant circulator.
While many of the forum attendees had not been previously exposed to the more technical layers of transit planning, basic lessons of geometry and transit’s mathematical attributes convinced many to vouch for a frequent connection-oriented network focused on productivity while maintaining equity.
The City is slated to adopt the TMP by the end of 2013 so it’s still relatively early on in the process. Through the outreach and briefing process, planners have already got a fairly solid footing on the plan’s direction, which means we’ll see a lot more talk about transit in Bellevue in the coming months.