Andrew’s already pointed to all the great new information on East Link, but I’d just like to come out against the “B7” (I-405) alignment in South Bellevue.  There’s going to be a lot of fear of traffic, noise, and disruption among residents living near the existing S. Bellevue Park and Ride.  The path of least resistance, certainly, will be to shove the line out to the highway.  That’s a bad idea for several reasons:

  • Ridership projections and cost per rider are worse by a factor of 5.
  • The bus connections for I-90 routes will be much better along Bellevue Way.  When there’s an accident on I-90, it’ll be great to have an efficient way to connect to the train from Eastgate or Issaquah.  Depending on how the travel times work out, it may very well be that it makes more sense to terminate the 554 at South Bellevue.  In any case, a stop near Wilburton won’t be nearly as efficient, not least because of how hard it is to get on I-405 from I-90.
  • The road disruption won’t be all that bad.  MLK, which was a massive job, finished up in less than two years in front of my development.  Traffic flowed pretty well throughout that time.
  • In the long run, being close to the light rail will increase property values in that neighborhood.
  • It’s true that it might attract more traffic, but any amenity that makes a neighborhood a better place increases traffic.  At least light rail provides an alternative to sitting in that traffic.
  • Link is really, really quiet.

Not only do I think the residents are operating from a misperception of their self-interest, but when you consider the broader region, the B7 alternative is by far the worst.

I think the public meetings are going to have a lot of this NIMBY sentiment, so I hope Sound Transit comes armed with data about property values, a sound recording of an operating LINK train, and some other examples of why residents’ worst fears are unfounded.   If you live or work nearby, they also probably won’t mind your support.

27 Replies to “South Bellevue”

  1. Hopefully area residents can be appeased. I’d hate to see a hardened group of activists force Sound Transit to either litigate for decades or choose the crummy B7 alignment.

  2. the surrey downs ‘hood has been VERY vocal against any light rail coming up near them. They are pushing for a BNSF alignment.

    Since I live near old main I would of course love to see the tunnel option, but I know that’s not going to happen.

    I really don’t understand the point of having a ‘east main’ station, there is no density there and having a park and ride there would not make sense.

    1. I think the primary reason for the B3 alignment other than to serve the C8E 110th elevated is to avoid passing by the Surrey Downs area without having to bypass the South Bellevue P&R.

      The East Main station doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense unless the city is willing to upzone everything within 1/4 of a mile. If 112th & Main was as dense as 108th & 8th a station there might make sense. Otherwise there are just a couple small office buildings and a hotel all surrounded by huge parking lots.

  3. They can come with all the data they want. That won’t change the fact that most people don’t want to live near busy train tracks.

    1. The increase in prices and density seen around rail transit stations would seem to indicate otherwise.

      Being near busy train tracks means I can get where I want to go quickly without getting in my car.

    2. Most of those people seem to think that ‘busy’ means they’ll be stopped by lights more often than they are – that’s probably not true.

      Most of those people also seem to think that the trains would be noisy, when in reality, they’re *much* quieter than the car traffic.

      Because some of their neighbors would use the line, you’d have more people out on the street throughout the day, meaning more eyes and a safer neighborhood.

      1. Unfortunately people’s impression of the noise of rail transit comes from comparing it to freight rail loud diesel locomotives, train horns, wheels squealing, etc. That or they have an impression from when a TV or movie producer put some local “color” into their Chicago or NYC set production by having a train squeal by on the elevated.

        In my admittedly limited experience I haven’t ever found a LRV or modern tram to be “loud” from trackside, at least as compared to mainline rail equipment.

      2. Fortunately, as we already have the streetcar running and Link in testing, it is painfully obvious that modern light rail is quieter than a car.

  4. I’d also favor the non-405 option, but I think using the argument that MLK was not a big dispruption isn’t a good idea. MLK was a mess for many years. MLK was barely paved, almost too bumpy to drive over, for long stretches of time, with not a worker in sight.

    Ask the businesses along there if they think the process was not a disruption. I still think it was something the city needed to do (I’m not arguing for a tunnel or anything like that), but it was a mess.

    I have friends in the neighborhood, and they were pissed – they feel it was worth it in the long run (now they will have light rail a half mile from their house), but they also feel that if the neighborhood had any political representation, things would have gone a lot smoother. I hope sound transit took notes on the MLK process, and learns from it, because the east side does have that representation.

    1. A couple differences I see here. One is Bellevue Way/112th NE are hardly the “front door” of the neighborhood in quite the same way as MLK is. Second according to the EIS documents elevated alignments have fairly low construction impacts, especially if it is run alongside the roadway rather than down the middle.

      Still Sound Transit will have to tread carefully here as SW Bellevue has the means to block any rail through the neighborhood should they choose to do so. I don’t want to see the kind of litigation we saw surrounding the I-90 completion.

  5. The “by a factor of 5” part is misleading. While the segment would get only 1,000 riders compared to 4,000~4,500 for the other segments, the whole line would still get 43,500 which is 2,500 worst than the best ridership estimate routing (46,000) and just 1,000~2,000 less than the other routes (44,500 or 45,500).

    So the ridership difference is a couple thousand boardings a day or so.

    1. Andrew,

      The “by a factor of 5″ part is misleading

      You could certainly construe my comment as meaning that ridership along the entire East Link, or even the whole system, would be reduced by a factor of 5. However, I think it’s reasonable to consider the number of residents in the neighborhood that will be served by each of the options, and the fact remains that less than a quarter as many locals will be served by the B7 options than the others, with no appreciable reductions in cost and more severe environmental impacts.

      1. Absolutely, but if it’s that neighborhood’s NIMBYs that want the BNSF layout, then maybe it’s okay not to serve them.

        Also, it’s not obvious that all riders there would be from that area, they could be bus transfers from other places.

  6. being close to the light rail will increase property values in that neighborhood

    Ssshhh…don’t say that to loud. We can buy these properties cheap during the noisy construction phase and then sell to moderatly rich MicroSoft types once light rail is in.
    Only kidding of course (sort of).

  7. Whatever your preference, make sure to spend a little time to make a formal comment on the DEIS and attend at least one public hearing. You know the anti’s will be out in force.

    Surrey Downs NIMBY’s use fear and disinformation to turn their people out. Why? Because they know it works. And they’re not that smart when it comes to even the most basic details of these projects.

  8. Speaking as someone who grew up in the part of Bellevue south of I-90 (the ‘real’ South Bellevue), having a station at South Bellevue P&R is essential. To add to Martin’s list, transit connections out to 118th/Wilburton P&R are dismal—I think it’s only used for commuter buses—plus it’s an extra 5-15 minute drive from the south, particularly when 405 is bad. On the other hand South Bellevue P&R connects with the 240 and 222, as well as a few other potential connections (the 219, 221, 245, 921). This would give you pre-existing transit connections to Newport Hills, Factoria, Somerset, and Eastgate.

    Also, to echo a point made in an earlier comment, Bellevue Way i very sparsely populated—the surrounding neighborhoods are almost entirely single family housing. One side of the street is a wetland, while the other side is the occasional house, which already gets a ton of noise from the cars going by.

  9. Even though I live on the 230 near Crossroads, count me in as a supporter and will be a very vocal pro-Link advocate

  10. B7 connects directly and apparently uses the old BNSF right-of-way. This could make it a direct catchment for bicyclists and pedestrians- for example the entire Woodridge community.

    The South Bellevue Station on B1 is actually a terrible place to put a park-n-ride. Between the hills and wetlands there will never be good collateral circulation for cars or people. I don’t blame the people there for being upset- that alignment means the widening of several arterials and quite a bit more traffic.

    1. B7 is on the wrong side of 405 for connecting with Woodridge, and the proposed station is too far north for walking to from that area. Paradoxically, South Bellevue P&R is far better for cyclist connections since it’s right on the I-90 trail which connects to Factoria and MI.

      South Bellevue P&R is in a horrible place for TOD, but its placement is pretty much perfect for connecting to other transportation. Both Bellevue Way and I-90 are pretty major arterials, and already have good transit service going along them. On the other hand, 118th currently has no local bus service on it; in fact, local service along it will never be feasible since it’s in between the wetland and 405 (even worse than South Bellevue P&R), as well as having no east-west connections between SE 8th and the south end of Factoria.

      1. Is there some reason they can’t serve South Bellevue on an alignment like B7? That has always been a big transit hub, and it would be nonsense to let the train go by without any access.

        However, it makes much more sense to have an alignment up bellevue way, and also close to Bell Square. The West side of Bellevue has now grown a lot in density, plus, the 405 corridor is a bunch of car dealerships and mechanics. Exactly close to people who don’t need transit.

      2. I don’t think there is any sane way to service the South Bellevue P&R from a B7 type alignment. I suppose you could put tracks across Mercer Slough but that isn’t going to fly real well anywhere but adjacent to the I-90 ROW.

        I don’t think an alignment all the way up Bellevue Way to Old Bellevue and Bel-Square is going to happen unless Bellevue can come up with an extra $800 million or so required to connect this alignment to the rest of the system. The C3T 108th tunnel is far cheaper and offers similar or better ridership than the Bellevue Way tunnel. A further plus is construction would be far less disruptive due the tunnel being bored rather than cut & cover.

        B2E, B2A, and B3 are the best alignments through South Bellevue. The Station at 112th SE and SE 8th in the b2 alignments offers some potential for TOD, though I suspect the Surrey Downs neighbors will fight any zoning changes on the West side of 112th. From a TOD perspective the potential station at East Main in the B3 and B7 alignments might be better. The 118th SE station in B7 is very difficult to access both for bus transit and for drivers wanting to use the P&R. While it looks like there is slightly more potential for TOD than the South Bellevue P&R location it is still very limited as there isn’t much buildable land within 1000′ of the station.

  11. Frankly, looking at the big picture, this has been gerrymandered almost beyond belief.

    The most obvious alignment is to a P&R at the Factoria interchange, up the BNSF ROW to a stop north of Wilburton and then to the old Safeway distribution center and out the Bel-Red Rd or 520 alignment.

    This would save so much money that an El-shaped loop could easily be put through the Bellevue downtown. The loop could be a circulator or some trains could go through downtown Bellevue while others went directly alongside 405.

    Obviously the powers-that-be have other ideas, but I’m thinking that trip to Redmond will assume certain slow-boat-to-China aspects if there really are four stops in Bellevue alone.

    1. A stop at Factoria is entirely impractical. You’d have to cross 405 twice and 90 at least once, and then somehow make it back to the BNSF tracks without cutting through any neighborhoods. It certainly wouldn’t be cheap, and would probably raise more neighborhood problems than the Bellevue Way/112th alignment. Factoria and Eastgate can wait until an Issaquah extension in ST3.

      As far as gerrymandering goes, have you ever ridden the 550? The route is the way it is because that’s where people want to go. Even with 4-5 stations (assuming the Bel-Red alignments), that shouldn’t add more than a few minutes onto a ride from Redmond. Regardless of the route taken, it should still be way faster than the 545.

  12. Well, I think rather obviously a “Factoria” stop would be simply in the NW quadrant of the area bisected by the intersection of 90 and 405. However, still looking at the map, it seems odd they didn’t just go out 90, veer north to pass BCC, and then to Redmond through Lake Hills. There used to be tons of apartment buildings out there.

    As matters stand there’s a Twist-em set of routes to serve “Bellevue” which neither serve Bellevue or become cheap by avoiding the town.

    What should be happening is downtown Bellevue installing a people-mover to connect with a LINK line that passes nearby. Then Bellevue could decide for themselves what they wanted and when they wanted it and the rest of the construction wouldn’t be delayed.

    But then, I’ve just been reading history books about how trolley lines actually got built, and we’ve changed all that now.

    1. The area NW of the 90/405 interchange is over a mile away from both T-Mobile and Factoria Mall, and that’s via bike trail only. To get there via car/bus you’d have to go south to Coal Creek Parkway or north to SE 8th (2.5 or 4 miles, respectively). You could put a station there, but no one would use it.

      I guess you could run Link out to BCC and then up 148th to Overlake. You’re correct that that area has some apartment buildings, but it’s nowhere close to the density or population of downtown Bellevue—remember, this is still a car-oriented suburb full of single family housing. We don’t have ridership projections for such a route, but I’m certain that they would be very low compared to the current ones. And you’d still have all the problems associated with building an elevated track through a neighborhood.

    2. East Link is NOT “Microsoft Link”. The intent is NOT to get to the Microsoft campus as cheaply and quickly as possible.

      While Microsoft is a major regional employer, their main campus isn’t the densest area of the Eastside nor is it the highest ridership portion of East Link.

      Downtown Bellevue has more residents, jobs, and higher transit ridership than the area around the Microsoft campus.

      To build East Link while bypassing downtown Bellevue would be the height of insanity.

      Given that any initial East Link alignment pretty much has to serve Downtown Bellevue and the Overlake transit center the alignment alternatives seem to make a fair bit of sense.

  13. Well, obviously, there won’t be many big changes in the maps we see today. I’m just looking at the catchment areas chosen and thinking about how the decisions were made and it looks like a fair amount of “prediction as straight-line projection of the past” is involved here.

    For example, the B1-B3 alignments roughly follow the existing 550, which is good for having ridership figures and people who already ride transit, but may not be quite as good when you substitute a rail line for a bus.

    The argument seems to be that TOD will happen and those lucky dogs should be happy that their property values will go up. Of course, if the area is already multi-family zoned, or high-rise, that argument fits pretty well.

    Using that argument, there wouldn’t be any real doubt about what should happen- you go up Bellevue Way and 104th to NE 8th, hang a right, and head out to Redmond. The fact that this isn’t the only option on the table is a hint that something else is going on.

    Well, all of this will be decided by the “process”- a process that now includes bunches of billions and public approval for getting it done. Issaquah will wait a while for that line running straight out on 90, and that may not be such a bad idea. But in the absence of high-density zoning and development, I wouldn’t expect those South Bellevue ridership figures to go up very much in the future.

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