'Lining up for the north bus' at the Bellevue Transit Center by Oran

In my interview last month with Bellevue councilmember Conrad Lee, hearing Lee’s emphasis on the unimportance of rail station  placement struck a nerve with me because that kind of thinking is exactly why rail alignments are often fouled up.  After Kevin Wallace introduced his “Vision Line” proposal, it was evident that the plan was conceived on two main premises (aside from impacts mitigation) of cost and planning.  While the argument for reducing East Link’s capital costs is relatively straightforward, the one for planning treads into rather muddy grounds, which pretty much renders the cost-benefit factor questionable.  The bulk of this planning argument is often grounded in the belief that the “future downtown” of Bellevue will be much closer to or centered around the east side of I-405.  And to be frank, I wasn’t aware that downtown districts could jump 8-lane freeways.

We editorialized last November about the importance of siting rail stations correctly.  I want to follow up on the growth of Downtown Bellevue specifically, and why a “Vision Line” station cannot serve the city center as effectively as proponents make it sound, now and in the future.  Back in 2008, we had a roundtable discussion on the use of the old BNSF corridor for passenger rail, and Andrew Smith touched upon this counterargument:

The common response is that it goes very close, and that the future of downtown Bellevue will be on that side of 405. I cannot see this happening until after ST2 gets built and a station connecting the BNSF track to Link is put in place.

There are three main points I want to break down that highlight the argument against building a station serving this theoretical “future city center.”  More below the jump.

1) If Bellevue’s city center does in fact begin to grow eastward, a station serving its central node cannot be sited next to or above the highway.  Dan Bertolet from Hugeasscity made this point very clear in highlighting the importance of maintaining a strong walkshed around the station.  I-405’s size and use as a major expressway automatically obliterates a large portion of the walkshed, subsequently depressing ridership and development potential east of the freeway.  The only way a station adjacent to 405 would be somewhat ideally located is if the freeway is lidded or capped from NE 2nd Street to at least NE 10th.  Considering the large costs involved and arduous undertaking to do so, that is an unrealistic luxury.

City center stations should also always be placed within the densest urban core of the city– the central node to which access should be available from all directions.  Planners sometimes refer to this as a ‘wedding cake’ configuration, where the tallest buildings are situated closest to the node, allowing the skyline height to gradually diminish outward as the station distance increases.  A 114th/freeway station would render the opposite result of a ‘wedding cake’ node.  In fact, Bellevue has adopted a comprehensive plan (PDF) since the 1970s for its downtown subarea highlighting the goals for this kind of urban growth:

POLICY S-DT-4. The highest intensity development shall be located in the core of
Downtown, with diminishing intensities towards the edges of Downtown.

POLICY S-DT-8. Locate major office development in the Downtown core in order
to complement retail activities and facilitate public transportation.

The Downtown Subarea land use plan map delineates the core area and perimeter.

The map of the Downtown Subarea plan delineates a specific “core” in which the densest buildings (termed as “highest intensity development”) belong.  For East Link to adhere to the comp plan, downtown’s main transit hub will have to be sited directly within this core.  When I interviewed Kevin Wallace in November, he implied support for moving this hub from the current transit center to a “Vision” station above 114th Ave NE.  Not only is the station far outside the subarea core, it is right on the perimeter of the downtown area, where development should have “diminishing intensities.”

2) Regardless of how the city center grows, an urban district east of I-405 will never be as important as the downtown district on the west side.  “Downtown” Bellevue (coterminous with the central businesss district (CBD) in this context) will likely remain in its current location for the foreseeable future.  For a freeway station to be ideal, not only would 405 have to be lidded, but the Wilburton/Auto Row district would have to rival the CBD in the amount of office space, number of major companies (Symetra Financial, Microsoft, Expedia, etc.), and presence of civic institutions (city hall, Meydenbauer Center, etc.).

While Vision Line proponents often cite the rezoning of Auto Row and its future development as a key planning benefit to a highway station, the likelihood of the area becoming some kind of extension of downtown is beyond unrealistic.  I submitted an inquiry to the Bellevue planning department to find out the specifics of rezoning the subarea.  According to Paul Inghram, Bellevue’s comprehensive planning manger and president of the AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners), the neighborhood will still remain a hotspot for automobile sales (PDF):

The City has an adopted Wilburton Subarea Plan that anticipates long-term transformation of parts of Auto Row (116th Avenue NE). The current GC (General Commercial) zoning allows for auto sales and a range of uses other than auto sales so the properties have flexibility to change today. Some parts of the area will be allowed to change to CB (Community Business) zoning when NE 4th Street is extended to 120th Avenue and increases access and circulation in the area. Why[sic] some transformation of the area is expected, it is also expected that the area will remain as one of the city’s locations for auto sales.

While I’m not one to speculate about the prospects of future land use and growth, it’s likely that the Wilburton-Auto Row area will look similar to a reduced hybrid neighborhood of Belltown and Denny Triangle in Seattle, with a combination of mixed-use midrises and auto dealerships & repair shops, with the addition of limited strip mall-type development.

3) By the time the Wilburton/Auto Row area east of 405 realizes its full development potential, it will then be more prudent to consider a third city center rail station to serve the area outside of the hospital and downtown districts.  While there are a number of viewpoints among the pro-transit community regarding this issue, the BNSF tracks between 116th and 120th Ave NE present one of the many options the city can consider for future rail infrastructure.  While I am not above making wild speculations about future planning, ST3 or ST4 can bring such a station to the table, assuming there is demand for one.  Building a 405-adjacent main station closer to what we think is some kind of “future downtown” district now will be a botched planning move.

Bellevue has one opportunity to do this right.  The argument that the downtown district can grow east and creep across one of our region’s most congested freeways is beyond realistic.  Even if 116th Ave NE/Auto Row is transformed into a livable pedestrian-oriented neighborhood, building the main station next to an 8-lane asphalt freeway now could be a critical planning mistake that will be regretted for a very long time.  Let’s not undermine common-sense planning principles– East Link belongs in the downtown core.

84 Replies to “Editorial: Site ‘Future Downtown’ Bellevue’s Station Right”

  1. Classic obstructionism and I suspect it will only get worse as the process goes farther along. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the planning person you’ve been talking to suddenly becomes quiet.

    I suspect some audacious use of Washington’s open meetings law will be in order to keep some sense of sanity over there.

    1. There are still several non-Freeman council members who can frame the conversation. Also, even reps who’ve been convinced by Freeman will respond to shifting public moods. This is the lesson of MLK and the civil rights movement–cynical politicians know when to hop on a bandwagon led by a non-politician.

  2. I certainly believe you are entirely correct in your stance on this issue, but unfortunately I have little confidence in the Kemper Freeman bought-and-paid-for Bellevue City Council making the correct decision. I suspect few if any of them actually use public transit on a regular basis and as a result do not truly understand the importance of a strong “walkshed.” I remain hopeful, but not optimistic.

    1. As far as I know Chelminiak is the only one that takes the bus, the 550 I think. Chelminak is also the biggest supporter of peds / bikes on the council. Thankfully the ST board will be making this decision, I hope they don’t listen to Bellevue’s new “protect our neighborhoods” obstructionist.

      1. Aside from Chelminiak, Degginger and Balducci don’t like the Vision Line. They’ve been willing to let it slide by for a study, but beyond that, they’re bound to vote against it as a preferred alternative.

  3. It’s not that they don’t understand, it’s all about Kemper. His business model is built on the car and car trips. Not walk-ability (unless it’s inside one of his properties).

    I think the example of Tyson’s Corner in the PBS special recently linked to should stand as a stark warning to Bellevue and the Eastside. That is their fate in only a few years if they fail to change course.

    The behavior you’re seeing with crazy unrealistic proposals is old hat obstructionism. How quickly people forget that this was the modus operandi in the Bush years for how to kill programs. You just make them unworkable then when it becomes patently obvious that the program doesn’t work, it get’s canceled.

    I think the way to address this is a two pronged approach, 1) state the goals of public transit, often, ad nauseum (improved quality of life, lower pollution, reduce oil consumption, reduce noise, frees people from dependence on cars, increase density and walkability in urban cores, etc.) 2) call these people out on their shit. When a proposal such as the vision line or modified B7 come out, ask how it conforms to these objectives? That puts the burden back on them and it makes their obvious stunts obvious for what they are.

    Obviously, since Belleuve residents voted for ST2 and have voiced support for light rail in surveys, then it makes sense that political activism is also needed because you have powerful and moneyed interests mucking things up. We need to get lots of people involved in any public meeting, and at any opportunity to give input into these decisions. If it’s packing city council meetings, writing letters, pressing the flesh etc.

    1. That cap is really well done. I would be interested to see how much more this costs compared to a normal cap. For SR-520 the east cap will probably be a success because of the great view, but I think that the western cap will need something like this to make it successful.

      1. As someone from Columbus who lived there both before & after the cap was in place, I can definitely confer it is immensely well done. For anyone unfamiliar with the area, I think they would be completely surprised they were walking over an interstate. Even the noise from auto traffic on the interstate is greatly mitigated by the “wall” of buildings housing restaurants & bars that line both sides of High Street.

    2. This is awesome. I’d love to see something like this done in every place it is practical. For example NE 45th in the U-District or Pike/Pine/Boren downtown.

    3. I haven’t seen anyone else mention this, and I know the point of light rail is to help get people out of their cars and where they want to go, but … have you seen I-5 at the Seattle Convention Center?

      I-405 is further along in its development than I-5 was at that decision point (I assume) but if you’ve driven there during rush hour you can see what I’m getting at.

      I’m just sayin’

  4. As a regional agency, ST has the duty to plan a system for the region. Accordingly, they should take feedback from various city councils very seriously, but at the same time should flex their regional muscle in cases where there’s an agenda such as this. ST bowed down to Tukwila and changed the alignment there – resulting in higher cost, lower ridership, and longer travel times for everyone. ST needs to have the guts to prevent a similar situation in Bellevue, where the routing is even more important (i.e. a dense downtown district vs. a moderately developed highway strip).

    I will put the blame squarely on ST if a poor routing is selected. It’s their call – not the Bellevue City Council’s. This is one fight that’s worth it.

    1. The B7M alignment into the CBD seems to be a ploy by the council to get what they really want – a tunnel under downtown paid for entirely by ST2 funding.
      They would have to be nuts to ask each Bellevue household for an additional $8,500 ($500m /59k HH) in addition to their ST1 and ST2 taxes to pay for the tunnel. The argument goes: Why should we pay additional taxes for OUR tunnels when Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, and Roosevelt didn’t contribute and extra dime to get theirs?
      I suspect ST will cave in, and do what they have done in the past. Shorten the routes, eliminate stations or extend the timeframe to let revenues catch up to cost estimates.

      1. Well, I think in Seattle’s case geography plays a more important role than in Bellevue. It was simply not possible to engineer an at-grade line to Beacon Hill. Capitol Hill is too dense for at-grade, and, transitioning from the downtown tunnel to at-grade likely wouldn’t be feasible either. Roosevelt is the one I will agree could have been built differently if ST really put their foot down on cost.

        I take issue with your point that Seattle is not paying for their tunnels, however. We are definitely paying for them – at the opportunity cost of less bus service, sounder stations, or at-grade light rail within the city. Imagine if the U-Link were instead built at-grade along Eastlake. Much lower cost – savings which could have been used for a W Seattle or Ballard line. I suppose a tunnel could be afforded with the Eastside’s existing dollars, but the question is, would Bellevue be willing to accept a line that ended at Overlake Hospital and doesn’t go to Microsoft until a future phase? Would Redmond accept this?

      2. Well, you’re right Ryan. Opportunity cost isn’t on the tips of the council tongues.
        My post is pure speculation over what’s driving this current round of negotiations, and the most likely outcome. As for, ‘how far the line goes and when’ – it’s mostly about how you package the compromise deal which has to include all those players.

      3. Roosevelt Station is underground because of a play very similar to the one Mike descrbied. During ST1 planning the neighborhood ran an YIMFY campaign (“Yes In My Front Yard”). At the time Sound Transit could easily have said no due to funding, but instead they put it in ST2. Bellevue, Shoreline, etc should all be running YIMFY campaigns right now.

      4. There are big differences between the Seattle tunnels and the Bellevue’s tunnel. The tunnels in Seattle are necessary because of the topography and physical constrains, not because of worries about impacts to surface traffic. That is why Bellevue is being asked to pay for the tunnel.

      5. Not to put to fine a point on this (or God forbid want to revisit the endless debates), but, Seattle had options too. Dearborn to Rainier at grade v. Beacon Hill tunnel, or Eastlake to Campus Pkwy v. Capitol Hill/Udist/Roosevelt tunnel.
        Looking at Bellevues point of view, 400′ trains blocking key intersections in the CBD is not an viable option, regardless of what ST says.
        That’s not my opinion, it’s what’s driving this debate by the new Bellevue city council.

      6. As I understand a surface line on Dearborn was looked at but there were problems with connecting it to the DSTT, especially since the I-90 line wasn’t in the second Sound Move vote. Also using Dearborn would have rehired a long connection to the maintenance base or placing it in a different location.

        As for Eastlake there simply isn’t room for a surface Link line on that street without going elevated, demolishing all the buildings on one side of the street or running in mixed traffic.

        In downtown Bellevue the blocks are quite long and the streets are quite wide. 400 foot Link trains are not going to “block key intersecions” any more than they do on MLK or in SODO. IOW the train will be in the intersection for a few seconds and other traffic can pass at in the direction the train is traveling at the same time.

        To hear the ST critics talk you would think ST was planning on running mile-long slow freight trains through the middle of Bellevue.

      7. @ Chris: “… you would think ST was planning on running mile-long slow freight trains through the middle of Bellevue”
        Well, that’s kinda the perception at this point.
        Actually it’s only about 15% of the intersection time for LRT at max headways, but good luck convincing the council or traffic engineers that’s not a big deal!

      8. @ Mike don’t think that all traffic engineers are against it. I’m a transportation engineer with a good knowledge on signal operations and TSP and I think it certainly can work. How well, I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it won’t be as big of an impact as most Bellevue politicians think, and I would like to see the traffic studies.

      9. Try driving N/S during rush hour. Bellevue will continue to control signal priority and trains running N/S at grade will end up sitting up to 6 minutes through downtown. The LOS for the roads will be preserved but the light rail will suffer. At best 20% of the people commuting will be using transit. Of that maybe half on Link. Where do you think the signal priority is going to be?

    2. Wait! ST also ignored Tukwila’s request to go to South Center, the center of Tukwila’s retail and designated office growth, which would have increased the ridership!…. Now it could be argued that South Center should not be where it is, due to being located on a flood plain, but that argument was never brought up by either ST or the City Council.

      1. I think it was the other way around. ST wanted to go to Southcenter but Tukwila wouldn’t grant them the building permits because the council was train-phobic.

        Interestingly, I read an article that Southcenter was originally going to be built in Burien, and the large piece of Burien that looks surprisingly open had been cleared for it. But then they decided to move to the I-5/405 interchange, which was farmland. Good for the convenience of drivers, but it set the stage for paving over the Kent Valley and locating malls near freeway exits.

      2. I think it was the other way around. ST wanted to go to Southcenter but Tukwila wouldn’t grant them the building permits because the council was train-phobic.

        As I understand it what happened is Sound Transit wanted to run Link up the SR-99 corridor. Tukwila wanted Link to serve Southcenter, in order to try to “force” an alignment through Southcenter Tukwila fought the SR-99 alignment tooth-and-nail.

        The two reasons ST didn’t want to go through Southcenter is it would have cost much more and it would have added significantly to the travel time of everyone going to or from South of there. The added travel time would have made it less likely for Central Link to get New Starts grants which would have made the routing that much more expensive.

      3. That’s exactly correct. There is no efficient way to serve both Southcenter and the Airport on the same line. There are steep grades in the area and it’s much more complex than just jogging a mile east, and then climbing the hill to the airport.

  5. Can I see the data that says the area around the BTC has more residential density than the projected figures for the area just east of I-405? Because if you are talking about density, and you were, when you said “City center stations should also always be placed within the densest urban core of the city,” without seeing the actual data, I believe the area around the BTC isn’t dense at all. Yes, people work in that area, but not many people live around there. STB has always argued that light rail spurs growth (when it hasn’t flip-flopped on the issue). Why not support it in this case? Bellevue wants to encourage growth on the east side of I405, then up the Bel-Red corridor. Let’s let the supposed magic of light rail work.

    1. The transit system is supposed to serve both residences and workplaces. The area around BTC is mostly workplaces. In any case, the already dense residential areas are further west than I-405: north of BTC, around NE 12th & Bellevue Way, residential towers in downtown and in Old Bellevue.

    2. It will take many years for Bellevue’s CBD to be built out. I asked the Bellevue planner a few years ago if they were looking at any upzone in the near future and her response was that they probably wouldn’t look at changing anything for at least 10 years.

    3. You can’t try to spur development while ignoring an existing urban core. While we have funding for East Link, let’s not be idiots and put it where people are going to ride it.

      1. Let’s not exaggerate. The distance from the BTC area to just across I-405 is just a little over 2000 feet. Also, who’s decision do you think light rail routing through a particular city should be? You would agree it should mostly be the decision of the city in question, correct? In this case, Bellevue should decide, correct? I seem to remember STB being just fine with Central Link not going to southcenter because “it was Tukwila’s decision.”

        From your post’s title, you also have to ask yourself, right for whom? Right for commuters coming in from Seattle? Right for the city of Bellevue?

        And speaking of bypassing density, did you think it was an idiotic decision for East Link to bypass the NE 8th corridor and Crossroads? I don’t recall you speaking out against that. Did you?

      2. No, I wouldn’t say it’s correct that it should “mostly be a decision of the city in question” because this is a *regional* transit system. And in order for the regional transit system to be most effective, it needs to be located where the highest ridership will occur. I wouldn’t want to see Sound Transit’s viability damanged due to less than adequate ridership on their rapid transit lines.

      3. 1) Adding a Southcenter station would have taken the line far out of the way, required an expensive station, and added millions to an already politically volatile line.

        2) Am I hearing right? Are you actually comparing NE 8th/Crossroads to Downtown Bellevue?

      4. One thing I find interesting is that Vision Line architect, and Bellevue City Councilman, Kevin Wallace, is President of Wallace Properties, Inc., which co-manages the Overlake Hospital Medical Center properties, and other properties in the vicinity.


        That said, I have a question for anyone who can answer this. If it’s decided that the main downtown Bellevue station will be on the west side of I-405, closer the to the BTC, would this necessarily put a stop to the B7 alternative? Or is that unrelated to the placing of Bellevue’s downtown Link station?

      5. The decision on B7 vs. other alternatives for South Bellevue doesn’t effect the selection of the downtown segment.

      6. Thank you. Why is this so hard for people to understand? Perhaps they are completely disconnected from the reality of the situation.

      7. Sam when was the decision to build central link where it is made and when was this blog started? We have gone through this before. You can say this or that but don’t get stuck splitting hairs. The question before us now is should Bellevue’s station be in the center of their CBD or on the edge. That is the only issue we are talking about right now.

      8. No, STB wasn’t “just fine” with skipping Southcenter, Sam. It took me 5 seconds to find Brian speaking out against skipping Southcenter before the opening: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2007/12/27/central-link-light-rail-update-12-26-2007/

        And the city itself was fine with a central Bellevue alignment, but someone with a strong bias was able to fund winning candidates, so it’s really his decision and now we have rail on 405 as the favored plan.

        As to your pointing out that it’s 2,000 feet over 405, the ridership from that minimum distance erases any potential riders, even those who refuse to own a car.

      9. 2000 feet is a long walk. In terms of distance, this would be like putting the Capitol Hill light rail station at REI on the west side of I-5. The walk in Bellevue would be through an area far less pedestrian friendly than Capitol Hill, and lidding I-405 and building something on that would cost more than a rail tunnel would under downtown Bellevue.

        Regardless of how much development takes place east of 405 in the future, there is already a whole lot of development west of 405, and that ought to be directly served if we are building this system at all. For those heading west of BTC, many might spend more time on foot than on the train.

        It’s also about 2000 feet from the Montlake Flyer stops on 520 to the UW rail station. If that walk were considered OK, we could have just put the UW rail station in Montlake instead and the Eastside bus connections would have been a cinch. The rail line passes directly under the current bus stops. The rail station is being built where it is because that’s the major destination.

    4. 1) There are no projected figures for Auto Row. At any rate, they’re not going to be any more dense than the residential midrises north of NE 8th.

      2) Yeah, no one lives in Seattle’s downtown office core either. Would you have rather built Link around to First Hill or maybe loop to Belltown?

    5. There is a lot of new and existing residential in downtown Bellevue. Five recent 30+ story condo towers surround the existing transit center – Lincoln Square, Bellevue Towers x2 and Bravern x 2. Yes, I know they are mostly empty. The new Avalon apartments on Bellevue Way opened in 2008, supplementing existing apartment buildings on 107th and 108th. There is also the massive new apartment complex on 112th, and all of the condo and apartment development north on NE 8th which is only a few blocks away. I think it’s fair to say the residential density is equal to the SLU, and probably getting close to downtown Seattle (outside of Belltown).

  6. One point that was not brought up is that for any of the proposed alternatives that cross I-405 at NE 6th, like C9A or C11A, the location of Hospital Station would be in the BNSF ROW near NE 8th. That station would serve the businesses along 116th NE and 120th NE.

    1. Yep. I think this station is critical; not only for serving the hospital and any future “upzone” of auto row, but also because it will promote connectivity with whatever eventually goes in the BNSF corridor (be it a trail, commuter rail, etc.).

  7. I think a streetcar up through auto row could work really well once that area gets upzoned, but for now, you’re absolutely right, it’s ridiculous to suggest that the Vision Line would get much ridership at all from the other side of 405.

    1. Yes, there’s a possibility of future streetcars or east-west LR in Bellevue, and that can serve Autorow Estates when/if that development occurs.

      Also re Southcenter, ST was already planning for a future 405 line that would serve it. So if there was objections for Central Link to go to Southcenter, why not let Central Link do what it does best, which is going north and south.

  8. The main future growth of Bellevue will be in Bel Red, then Eastgate. Auto Row is close enough to DT Bellevue for a quick walk or bike. Auto Row is *closer to the TC then Old Main, and we have plenty of density over here right now.

  9. Great editorial, Sherwin. However…. Although I agree with you alot of the time and my opinion remains that the best routing in Bellevue is surface through downtown, I might actually dispute one of your premises and (I can’t believe I am writing this) I might actually agree with Sam.

    You wrote, “Regardless of how the city center grows, an urban district east of I-405 will never be as important as the downtown district on the west side.”

    Of course you’re correct if your timeframe is 15 years or less. But how can we be sure of that in 20, 25, 50 years from now? I’m in the Bertolet school on central link and supported the Futurewise ideals for TOD around the stations along that line. When the economy improves, that TOD will happen and the Central Link station areas will benefit from it.

    Continuing with a Bertoletian approach, big boxes and auto-rows are horrid urban land uses and antithetical to good urban design. So why couldn’t East link perform the same seeding function for a larger downtwon Bellevue? How much would an I405 lid that could be built-over cost compared to building a tunnel under downtown. If the costs are competitive, then you’ve altered the walkshed equation entirely, and made east-of-I405-parcels better prospects for urban development of the sort you assert will never rival the existing core.

    I just don’t see downtown Bellevue as that static and inorganic. There’s room for both growth and infill in and around DTB. Besides, wouldn’t a recalibrated walkshed and pushing eastward of the downtown fringe have the (delightfully) perverse result of providing service to non-KF properties, while having limited or no benefit to KF properties. Certainly, that wouldn’t be the policy behind such an alignment and DTB station, but it would be a result. Just sayin’.

    1. I would venture to say it’s better to locate the main transit station close to where the most jobs are. If in the future downtown Bellevue does indeed expand east of I-405, then I would suggest the creation of a Portland-like streetcar that connects new residential areas to downtown and the downtown Link station.

      1. That sounds reasonable. The “2000” feet is nearly 1/2 mile and over a very serious grade. It’s not very walkable except for very hardy people.

        I don’t see a mention of a lid over I-405 but that would be an interesting improvement but it shouldn’t change the alignment from the Transit center area.

      2. And just wait until that canopy blocks someone’s view… and then they get new council members elected to block the canopy…

      3. Under the minuscule possibility that we’re getting Wallace’s alignment, Sound Transit is only responsible for the capitol costs of the infrastructure. A moving walkway is out of their hands and rightly not the agency’s responsibility. So if the city had to fund that, it’s goes with the same rationale that Bellevue should also pay for the tunnel, which, as a resident, I’m perfectly willing to comply if a tax increase were leveraged.

      4. I’m not defending the Vision Line, but if they did choose it, the moving walkways would almost certainly be ST’s responsibility, as it would be basically the most important part of the station, getting people to Downtown Bellevue. The city would need to fund a tunnel because it costs more than the amount of money that ST2 budgeted for East Link, not because it’s “not the agency’s responsibility.”

      5. I don’t see a moving sidewalk ever being a reality. They don’t even work that well inside airports. If, and it seems like a good probability, the crossing of 405 is at se 6th then a Hospital Station serves the east side of 405 just fine. As optimal as it could be. There are too many stops on the East Link plans. The issue really is getting people to/from the Link stations to their destination in Bellevue and Seattle. Remember, unlike Central Link where there was a no P&R policy in force (now being attacked) East Link is predicated on new P&R or greatly expanded P&R facilities in South Bellevue and in Bell-Red at 130th. Yes Virginia, light rail means more traffic congestion coming to a neighborhood near you!

    2. Because, David, TOD doesn’t work without proper planning governance. There are two points to my argument. Bellevue clearly wants to keep Auto Row as the premier destination for the city’s auto sales, for the foreseeable future. If you look at the Wilburton Subarea plan, there’s nothing in it that says it wants to rival the downtown hub. My second point is that any new pedestrian-oriented neighborhood that sprouts there can’t justify taking light rail away from the downtown financial core.

      Lastly, if you want to look at the city center as a whole, that’s fine, but remember that that’s two whole subareas. I don’t want to do the math, but that’s a lot of land. Lid 405 or not, the walkshed will all but disappear without covering even half of the city center. That’s why I put point three up.

      1. Bellevue clearly wants to keep Auto Row as the premier destination for the city’s auto sales

        What world do you live in? Bentley, Jaguar, Porsche, Lotus, all up on 20th; the new “Luxury Auto Row”. The dealerships on 116th are dead or dieing. The area that was the “big three” is a waste land. Nissan (aka Datsun) has a building up on NE 8th. Subaru/VW, Honda and Toyota are out in Eastgate.

    3. Good point but I think that if in 20, 25 or 50 years the area east of 405 has the type of density to support light rail it will get it. However in the mean time it is most prudent to invest in areas that currently need service and when we make that investment, make sure that the area is served well. This is one of my problems with the 12th Ave couplet. In the effort to do too many things at once, you end up doing nothing well at all.

  10. I think the Vision line is a red herring, designed to obstruct the designing and building the East Link. It gives the opposition the appearance of objecting to routing of Light Rail, when really they want to buy time and hope ST mucks things up in the future, and then they can pounce and get ballot measure to kill it. I do, however, think LR should be tunneled through downtown Bellevue. Otherwise I’m afraid it would slow down travel times further east. There’s tons of commuters between Redmond and Seattle, and the faster LR is, the more riders it will attract. In fact, between the tolling on 520 and the LR East Link, future capacity on 520 could be significantly curtailed.

  11. In the current circumstances, well within the life of the system the area between Wilburton and Bel-Red east of 405 will be built up and dense. If, as I expect, driving becomes more expensive, developers will look east of 405 for cheaper land on which to build more close-in housing. Bear in mind, the Bellevue you know was built since 1970, a period of 40 years.

    Then there is the consideration that the idea of Seattleites commuting to Bellevue implies multi-polarity for the SMA that may, in fact, be echoed in multi-polarity in Bellevue. From what I can see, Bellevue has very cleverly arranged matters so that development along Bel-Red is considered extremely likely. In a better world this would be a good thing, as there is already a north-south rail line passing large undeveloped parcels there, but we’ll let that pass. Suffice it to say that the Bel-Red corridor was abandoned to development many years ago.

    Then there is the rather tantalizing prospect of building 20 and 30 story buildings over 405, and collecting a little rent to help out with the state budget. Is we learning yet?

    The Bellevue City Council may have drifted far from the shore in their mental meanderings, but it would also be possible to be too tightly anchored to what exists today- and that goes double when ‘today’ involves a big dollop of bus station. Buses, you may recall, are flexible.

    1. Is it possible to build skyscrapers over a freeway? It seems like you wouldn’t be able to get adequate support in there.

      1. You’d probably support the structure with columns along the edges and bridge the area over the highway.

        The Seattle Municipal Tower is kind of like this, as the structure is supported by the 4 outside columns and it is straddling a couple of freeway ramps.

        There are also some apartment buildings built over the Trans-Manhattan Expressway in Harlem.

  12. “Downtown Bellevue” is an oxymoron. Business is done in hundreds of office parks in Bel-Red with 2-3 story buildings fed by buses and parking lots. Its a type of myopia shared by planners that they put all their money on “cores” while neglecting where most people really work and live.

    1. Bellevue is trying to change the mistake that is Northup Way/NE 20th Street. Non-walkable office parks, the “garden city” movement. But like most big changes, it will take twenty years before Bellevue looks like a different kind of city. Bellevue has invested heavily in a dense downtown for at least the past decade, and it’s not going to change its mind because that’s the future. It’s the only way Bellevue can absorb population increases and get out of its auto-dependent hell. (Kemper may not believe walkable suburbs are necessary or desirable, but many in power in Bellevue know that this mode is increasingly attractive to people.)

      1. Yea, I thought Microsoft was moving into downtown Bellevue. At the very least they’ve been steadily increasing the amount of office space they lease in downtown Bellevue from none to a fair bit (Bellevue Place and The Bravern).

        In that time they’ve also given up some space in North Bellevue out on 108th near 520. Their old HQ on Northrup was sold to BCC and they gave up the leased space they had in the office park on the other side of 520.

      2. Microsoft is moving into downtown Bellevue. One Microsoft sign is prominent next to the transit center, and another on the Bravern. They just went up within the last year or two (obviously the Bravern sign didn’t go up until the building was completed). Crazy Swan seemed to suggest they’d made a sudden about-face and were moving back to the office park world, which I haven’t seen collaborated elsewhere.

  13. However disingenuous, Mr. Freeman’s logic is unassailable.

    1. Without density –> rail fails. (A–>B)
    2. Build away from density. (A)
    3. Rail fails. Kemper happy. (B)
    Modus ponens. QED. =)

    1. The logic of Centrist Urbans is unassailable:

      1. Without density -> no need for rail, hence, no need for bureaucracy to build or operate rail.

      2. Therefore, instead of choosing technology appropriate to will of the people, force people into lifestyles they would not choose.

      3. Rail succeeds. People enslaved.

      [deleted, whining about comment policy.]

      1. Huh?? As if rail will somehow shut down the freeways? What are you talking about, nobody is going to force you to give up your car and make you take a train. If taking the train works for them, that’s one less car on the road for you. Be happy. I drive every day on the Valley Freeway to work cause there’s no train to Bellevue and I hate buses, but trust me, I’m GRATEFUL for the 6,000 other people who take the train each morning who would otherwise be clogging up the morning rush even WORSE.

      2. “2. Therefore, instead of choosing technology appropriate to will of the people, force people into lifestyles they would not choose.”

        You realize that the Will of the People was passing ST2 in 2008, right? The logical conclusion here is that the Vision Line would “force people into lifestyles they would not choose.” Of course, many different people chose all kinds of different lifestyles.

      3. I think it’s right to be skeptical of claims about the “will of the people” from any side. Electorates vary from election to election; both candidates and ballot measures are voted on for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad.

        Moreover, even people’s revealed preferences are partially a product of existing government subsidies and incentives.

  14. There are three clear winners if Bellevue picks the Vision Line route.

    First will be the Downtown Seattle. Office developers and Hotel developers will point to Seattle’s excellent connections to the SeaTac airport and after Northlink is completed downtown’s connection to a regional shopping center.

    Second will be Northgate. Unlike Bellevue Square, Northgate will have both excellent freeway access and a light rail station. Bellevue square will have increasing traffic and no light rail.

    Third will be Wright Runstad. They bought the old Safeway distribution site in Bellevue and the City has zoned it for commercial use. Unlike Keeperman, Wright Runstad will have a light rail station and they want the station. They know what it can bring in benefits.

    As for downtown Bellevue, the only future is increasing traffic. The highest density will be between Bellevue Way and 108th Ave NE. This area is zoned CBD-01. The height limit is 450 feet with a FAR of 8. That means 45 story buildings that can have a size 8 times the total lot area. (100,000 square foot lot equals 800,000 square foot building) This brings up two big problems, the parking ratio in new buildings is very low to encourage transit and the super block street grid does not have the capacity to handle all of the traffic that the density will bring. Moving the station to 405 will be great for Seattle and bad for Keeper in the long run.

    1. How so? If I read it right they want the segment from Alaska to 35th to change right?

  15. “Following Fauntleroy would be more rational, for multiple reasons, they say, including the fact that a long stretch between Morgan Junction and The Triangle has just been rebuilt. But even without that factor, they say route planning — which includes RapidRide station locations — needs to be part of the Triangle process that’s about to rev up.”

    A route on Fauntleroy between Morgan Junction (the proposed Green Line terminus) and the Triangle would skip the Junction.

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