C11A Visualization of the Bellevue Transit Center
C11A Visualization of the Bellevue Transit Center

Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue have just released their joint analysis (PDF) of the East Link options for downtown Bellevue. East Link project manager Don Billen briefed me (and happily answered all of my questions) by phone on Saturday morning.

Four options were studied, and two come out as rock stars – C11A, a surface option with two stations, providing great walking distance coverage to almost all of downtown Bellevue’s jobs and homes, and C9T, a more expensive tunnel option that provides decent walking coverage of downtown, plus reduced travel times that attract more riders from the east. Both of these alternatives get the segment 8,000 weekday riders in 2030.

The two not-so-good options are losers for clear reasons. C9A, a surface version of the tunnel option, has the same downtown travel time as C11A, but doesn’t compete with C11A in walking coverage, especially as downtown grows. The City’s walkshed maps are similar to what Adam did for our First Hill Streetcar piece, using the actual walking times from the platforms to different destinations via the network of sidewalks and paths, rather than just drawing a circle at a particular distance. As a result, they give a much more accurate view of what’s accessible from a station.

C14E is the other loser – the I-405 alignment that Kevin Wallace has proposed. Analysis found that a circulator bus would offer no significant benefit. It would attract only 6,000 riders, completely failing to serve western downtown.

The real comparison here will be between the better two: what I’ll call the tunnel (C9T) and surface alignment (C11A).

More after the jump

First, on the tunnel: Sound Transit found that if they design the section just south of downtown Bellevue specifically for a tunnel approach, it can save $100 million – bringing the gap between available funding and the cost of a tunnel to just under $200 million. That’s a gap the City of Bellevue could afford to fill.

The tunnel also picks up 2,000 total East Link riders over the surface alignment – for a total 2030 weekday of 51,000 versus 49,000. These other riders are mostly poached from bus service, as this alignment makes travel times to Bel-Red, Overlake and beyond more competitive with 520 buses.

C9T and C11A Summary Table (see PDF for more details)

But the tunnel has a downside. Not only does it have longer construction time than a surface option, it would be a cut-and-cover tunnel, both increasing project risk and seriously impacting downtown Bellevue during construction. In addition, modeling shows that it doesn’t do much in the long run to help traffic. A surface route’s impact on Bellevue traffic is negligible – while Bellevue will have much worse traffic in 2030 than today, that would change minimally with or without surface rail. The projection shows Bellevue streets’ 2030 car carrying capacity would be 78% of demand with a tunnel, or 77% of demand with surface (with a margin of error >1%).

In terms of walksheds, the two station surface option looks by far the best. While Adam can speak more to what “matters” here, I believe ridership drops off significantly past a 5 minute walk, so I’m focusing on those numbers. Projecting to 2030, 76% of downtown jobs and 53% of downtown residents will be within 5 minute walk of surface option stations, with 99% and 92%, respectively, within a 10 minute walk.

The next best coverage comes from the other surface alternative (C9A), with a 25 percentage point drop each for only 51% of jobs and 28% of residents in a 5 minute walkshed – you can see how much the second station is worth. The tunnel is seven points below that for 44% and 21%, due to the added time it takes to get underground (yes, the walkshed calculation includes that). And finally the 405 alignment walkshed is laughable – covering only 27% of jobs and 7% of residents.

Fundamentally, there’s a big tradeoff here, and it’s going to be up to the ST Board and Bellevue City Council to determine whether they want to take on the added risk and expense of a tunnel to better serve points east of downtown, or a two station surface option that provides better long-term coverage for growth in downtown Bellevue. Personally, I predict they’ll choose the latter – this analysis shows that there’s only a minor traffic impact, and in the long run, we’ll be happy we built the extra station.

172 Replies to “New Data: Two East Link Options Look Good”

    1. I’m assuming you are being sarcastic.

      Everything was pretty much as I expect however I was surprised how much C11A distinguishes its self from the others. I also think that the transit center in C11A is just about perfect. You can’t build a transit center better.

      1. What? You’re saying you weren’t likewise shocked to learn that if you put transit where the people are, you get more people on transit?!?!?!

  1. Finally, some good news, though it looks like C11A will require a new Bellevue Transit Center shelter(?). It’s still a shame East Link probably won’t serve the Ashwood neighborhood, but oh well, let’s just hope East Downtown gets a boost in redevelopment.

    Now, just South Bellevue to fix…

      1. Bel-Red should look interesting – but it’s still really mid-density. They’re planning on a lot of “open space”, and that 160′ wide arterial.

      2. Yeah but I think that will start to change as the city realizes that it won’t pencil out to redevelop this area and devote so much room to the transportation function. Land devoted to a new road means land not developed on or set aside for open space.

      3. A well designed wide road with Link in the middle, bike lanes, street parking, a large planting strip, and wide sidewalks can be great. Even though we generally don’t like cars and functions devoted to them, streets are very important for urban design.

      4. Yes but too large of streets act as barriers, which is exactly what you don’t want around transit. LINK through the valley is pushing the envelope. Anything wider and you start running into problems.

      5. What are the concrete plans for NE 16th, Adam? I’m too lazy to pull up your old post. Is it four lanes, no parking?

      6. I’m guessing 4 through lanes 1 turn lane and 2 parking. I would like to see no new road, just Link and a mixed use path or more realistically a 2 lane road on the south side of the ROW and link on the north side. If Link is in the center you have to have a left turn pocket. Either way driving through the heart of the TOD should be limited and all traffic should have to go around.

      7. Adam,

        Well said. There should be a two lane one-way road adjacent to the transitway and a two or perhaps three lane one-way road a block farther away. The transitway should be separated from the buildings by a wide walking promenade with a bike lane along the transitway and modest greenspace between it and the tracks. Vehicular access to the buildings fronting the transit/pedestrian way would be from the rear. You have the Miami Beach or Santa Monica boardwalk and people LOVE it!

        The street should be separated by a green strip, too, wide enough so that the stations on the street side can be a few feet from the actual roadway.

        I would fence the right of way modestly and non-punitively (no pickets, wood or metal) between stations and cross-streets so that people are separated from the transitway, which should be speed limited to about 35 or 40 miles per hour. It’s only 1.3 miles from 116th to 140th so giving up 15 mph will only increase transit time by about 30 seconds. Plus there are two stations in that distance, so 40’s probably about all they’ll be able to get up to anyway. It saves electricity, too.

        The point is to put the transit system in the middle of people’s lives out at its periphery. There aren’t tens of thousands of through riders being slowed down but it makes for a MUCH better linear city. They do this in Germany everywhere with LRT’s, and it WORKS!

    1. I was a fan of the tunnel until I started understanding where trips would be lost and gained.

      As downtown Bellevue grows, you’re basically trading trips from Bellevue to Seattle for trips from Overlake to Bellevue. And those trips are mostly transit riders already.

      I think there’s an argument against the tunnel there – we have a good, high density city center in Bellevue, and we’d be skipping serving it well in favor of serving lower density suburbs. I’d rather encourage people to live in downtown Bellevue and work in Seattle than live in Redmond and work in Bellevue. The former is much better land use – it’ll help keep the region more compact.

      1. But the reverse is what is likely. People will more and more live in downtown Bellevue and work in Redmond. And people are already coming from Seattle to the employment centers in Redmond. So, work with that reality.

      2. On the contrary – Redmond hasn’t been building significant new office space since Redmond Town Center, they’ve been building residences.

        Part of my division at work, in fact, just moved from Redmond to Overlake, to replace a team that moved from Overlake to Bellevue. Office space is going inbound.

        So please don’t tell me about this “reality” before you show me a trend.

      3. Microsoft continues to expand it’s main campus and Nintendo is building a large tower where there was single story industrial park. Tons of new space out on Union Hill Road as well. The mini storage and light industrial by Marymoor can’t be far behind.

      4. I think you guys who keep wanting to defend “Seattle” downtown as the ne plus ultra should look at what Vulcan is doing with South Lake Union…basically wanting to build another downtown further north.

        Bottom line, people should be allowed to live in pleasant low density places that are good for kids, low cost and have good schools, low crime…

        They should be allowed to commute to wherever the jobs are located that will allow them to have their chosen lifestyle.

        Anything less, is social autocracy.

      5. I think you should step back and realize that my argument supports lower density suburbs and higher density downtown, exactly what you’re asking for.

      6. How does your bottom line at all relate to your top line? Blue Swan, we had a post about comments like this last month. Not every post on this site is an open invitation to talk about how urbanism or public transit is socialism.

        This topic is about downtown Bellevue light rail alignments.

      7. Besides, your “bottom line” is simply a fantasy, Blue Swan…

        The reality is that low density suburbs have higher crime rates per capita, have higher costs to a family’s overall budget, and are extremely unhealthy and unsafe for one’s children.

      8. Yeah, they’re taking away the wonderful low-density places in South Lake Union and Downtown Bellevue and forcing us all to live in skyscrapers!!
        But seriously, they’re not making SLU a new downtown, they’re extending our current downtown into SLU. And I don’t think anyone here has a problem with downtown expanding or with urban centers in the suburbs becoming more dense and walkable.

      9. SLU isn’t downtown. I wouldn’t even consider retail core to be downtown, at least not in the true sense of the word.

      10. But SLU already looks like part of downtown, at least from the perspective of a SLUT rider south of Mercer Street. Tall buildings every direction: the definition of downtown.

      11. Most of those are one and two story buildings. The new stuff is still very much in the minority.

      12. I don’t know what your definition of downtown is, but mine is the area in the center of the city that is filled with skyscrapers.

      13. Swan,

        Who do you think is trying to make you give up your suburb? Nobody is against suburbs that are already there. What people question is building yet another ring outside the current third ring and all the rain impervious surfaces that have to be created to support it. Plus, obviously, the fuel needed to propel the cars that follow the houses.

        There is an HUGE generation of people my age who will be moving out of the second and third ring and into the dense cities in the next decade. They’ll want more entertainment activities since they’re no longer working full time, less yard work because of old bones, lower utility bills and less house to clean. So opportunities for younger people like (presumably) yourself to buy houses in very nice suburbs will multiply. We need more 1000 square foot high quality shared wall housing with mobility primarily provided by high quality transit and walking. The owners will be healhtier and happier than they would stuck up some cul-de-sac off Coal Creek Parkway.

        House prices in the suburbs will fall relative to those in the central cities because fewer people will want the isolated lifestyle.

        You don’t have to sneer at people who want to create an infrastructure that recognizes demographic reality. You’re going to get your little mansion in the Renton Highlands sooner than you think.

      14. I never thought I’d say this, but the surface option C11A actually looks quite viable to me, looking at the present range of available options.

        Through trips may be 3 minutes slower vs. a tunnel alignment, which would certainly be unfortunate, but I think actually being able to see Bellevue from the train would make the 3 minute journey more enjoyable than looking at the wall of a tunnel, and seeing the train from the street would help keep it in mind as a travel option for getting to Bellevue. An at-grade alignment would help establish the “presence” of transit and help to activate and humanize the urban landscape in Bellevue.

        The walksheds for the BTC and 108th/Main stations would overlap, but the station at 108th/Main shaves 5 minutes off walk trips to the SW quadrant of town (e.g. Old Main) versus BTC which is more time savings than the approximately 3 minutes you’d lose coming from Redmond. Those who are headed between the stations from Seattle or Redmond could get off at the one that avoids most of the slower surface segment.

        Certainly, any of them is better than the so-called “Vision Line”, which Vision appears to be to banish light rail to the desolate landscape by I-405, which is pedestrian hostile now and will probably still be in 2050.

        The journey from UW to Redmond is already about 28 minutes slower via East Link than it would be via SR 520 (drawbridge openings notwithstanding) so adding 3 minutes would probably not really affect which corridor is used for those trips… I think basically everyone headed from north of the Ship Canal to Redmond and Kirkland will use SR 520 to avoid the detour through downtown, Mercer Island and Bellevue.

      1. I believe it does. Once we build a tunnel, we can use it for hundreds of years. If you divide the cost by 100 (yr), the annual cost would be a few million dollars.

      2. The problem is, this isn’t really a “long term” tunnel. In 100 years, we’ll need the coverage offered by the at-grade solution.

      3. Look at the map on that document. C11A really doesn’t cover much more of Downtown Bellevue than C9T. In 100 years, we’ll need the capacity offered by the tunnel solution, and we can mitigate the slightly smaller coverage with a Main St Tunnel or something.

      4. I haven’t dived too much into picking C9T over CllA, or vice versa, but whatever alignment you go with, it’s a vast improvement over the earlier DEIS alternatives, and significantly better than C14E. Ultimately, there’s no earth-shattering difference in the macro scope of the plan. What you have to consider is the political fallout leading up to prelim engineering and construction. C11A probably won’t fly with the council, but it’s about time Sound Transit starts not giving a shoot. Sometimes, ST just needs to kick people in the ass and assert that they do know better.

      5. Well, C1T was always really best. But then we’d have to take away lanes for cars.

      6. Well, if you believe the 3 minutes then it’s about a 15 year payback. So much for the investment for the next 100 years. more likely it’s more like 9 minutes. Then it’s a lot less less than 15 years because ridership drops. ST just won’t produce an apples to apples comparison. You have to ask yourself why?

    2. Afterall, the ENTIRE world has built their subways underground. What makes Seattle and Bellevue any diffferent?

      Boston, New York, Hamburg, Los Angleles, Tokyo, Nagoya, Seoul, Osaka, Beijing, Shanghai, Pyonyang, New Delhi, Athens, paris, London, Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Mexico City, Madrid, Munich, Philly, Stockholm, Chicago, Singapore, Atlanta, Barcelona, San Fran, Toronto, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Beijing, Boston, St. Petersburg, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Brussels, Yokohama, Kobe, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Sendai, Kyoto, Tashkent, Kiev, Tblisi, Montreal, Baku, Kharkov, Samara, Minsk, Kazan, Volgograd, Pusan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, and the list goes on and on and on.

      If those cities can build an underground system, we can too.

  2. There’s a difference between the effects of the train on congestion, and the effects of congestion on the train. Apparently, from the post above, removing the train from traffic will shorten train travel times and attract more riders.

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

    1. It will take riders from buses on 520 and put them on the train instead. Those wouldn’t really be new transit riders.

      It will also lose us coverage of downtown Bellevue in favor of encouraging suburban living farther away from Seattle.

      1. Not really. It won’t encourage the kind of suburban living you’re envisioning.

  3. Regarding the tunnel, how much reduced travel time are we talking about here? I’m also curious as to the total cost difference between a tunnel boring machine vs the cut & cover approach? Does the cut & cover cost estimates also take into account the potential money losses due to nearby businesses suing over lost revenue during construction (similar to what’s happening in Vancouver with the Cambie Street merchants)?

    This is a tough call. I almost always prefer rail transit to be as rapid as possible, but there’s certainly also a benefit in providing rail service to more people (via the additional downtown station with the surface alignment). If it was clear just how much time would be saved with a tunnel, that would impact my preference for one option over the other.

    1. So three minutes more to Redmond is not very noticeable.

      The main problem with surface trains downtown is when they stop at lights: it feels extremely slow (cf Dallas, Portland, etc). But MLK is working pretty well, except when the train doesn’t meet its timing window. If they can do Bellevue like MLK, that might be acceptable. But MLK has cross streets every mile, while Bellevue has them every block. Is Bellevue going to close some cross streets to make the train more reliable (which is politically unimaginable), or how are they going to prevent the train from crawling along stop-start-stop-start.

      1. They will likely use some signal coordination like MLK that’ll allow the train a one shot between the two downtown stations. I hope they learned something from MLK.

      2. The C11A alignment would only have 4 signalized intersections, Main St, NE 2nd, NE 4th and NE 6th. MLK has dozens of signals. I’m sure it would be fairly easy to coordinate the signals to allow the trains to get between Main Street and the transit center without stopping.

      3. Not dozens. One dozen at most. All the minor streets were made right turn only, and the train buzzes through them. The only cross streets that go through (and that the train might have to stop for) are at the stations and a few others.

      4. 18 cross streets to be exact. From north to south:

        Waldon St
        Columbian Way
        Dakota St
        Alaska St
        Edmunds St
        Dawson St
        Brandon St
        Orcas St
        Graham St
        Holly St
        Myrtle St
        Othello St
        Renton Ave
        Kenyon St
        Cloverdale St
        Henderson St
        Merton Way
        Norfolk St

      5. “The C11A alignment would only have 4 signalized intersections, Main St, NE 2nd, NE 4th and NE 6th.”

        Six. There would be two on Main and two on NE 6th, one at 108th NE and one at 110th NE. Of these, only two are really high traffic intersections, NE 4th/108th NE and NE 6th/110thNE.

      6. Actually 5. There are 4 between the two stations and 5 total. There is only one signalized intersection on Main at 108th, because the line is elevated over 112th and runs on the south side of Main, avoiding the intersection at 110th.

      7. Bellevue already coordinates their signals so you pass by multiple cross streets with a single green light. NE 8th is a good example. Getting across NE 4th will be a bit more tricky since the lights are timed East/West, not North/South. That said, the trains aren’t any more frequent than the light cycles now so it’s just a matter of getting the trains to hit downtown at the right time.

        I’m driving in the tunnel right now and from listening to the 800Mhz radio, it sounds like LCC and the drivers are working on improving on this issue. (Lots of calls for trains to hold for 60 or 90 seconds and talk about the cascade) There is a lot of micromanaging going on with train timing so it seems like they are trying to get the timing down. (Anybody in the know here who can verify?)

  4. Ben,

    Would it be possible to take the $50m sitting around waiting for matching funds on Eastside Commuter rail and divert it to the tunnel?

    1. I think there’s quite a bit of time left before those funds expire and can be added to the general fund (maybe 2012) – and even then, given sales tax recovery, I think more conservative voices on the board would want that money for contingency rather than programming it.

      1. The PSRC study was pretty clear. The claims GNP makes would only be possible if we were still importing Chinese slave labor.

      2. Which claims?

        – that maintenance of way activities would be exempt from SEPA and NEPA?

        – that a machine could renew the roadbed and rail at a rate of 1 mile/day?

        – that a starter commuter line wouldn’t cost a BILLION dollars?

        Now, I’m not sure about the claims that you could use the old ballast as a sub-grade for a trail, or that they could just dump it at the side in wetland areas, but I’m more interested in the rail aspect than the trail aspect.

      3. If we’ve learned nothing else from the experience of our friends in London, (and we have learned alot in nearly a century and a half) it is that PPP’s don’t work. Look at any responsible railways magazine, blog or bulletin board from the UK, and you’ll see Transport for London’s PPP problems bared mercilessly.

  5. Nice Post Ben. The visuals in the report are just ‘stunning’, and really give of sense of what a pedestrian would see and feel after construction is completed. That alone will have a calming effect for citizens in general to make wise choices going forward.
    Having the cost/benefit values that really matter all on one table was the next best smart move by the planners. I’m not sure where Eastside stakeholders and decision makers will come down on this, but they can’t complain for lack of information to base it on.

    1. Agreed. We are all very impressed by the report and I for one wasn’t expecting the visuals. They give those who aren’t transit nerds a good idea of what is being studied. I sure this will help dispel a lot of fear and lies that have been spread by those that opposed to the project.

      1. Yes very roughly but these aren’t “pretty” paintings. These are best guesses of what would actually get built.

  6. The C11A alternative sure looks like the clear winner to me. It provides the best access to the Bellevue CBD, and the traffic impacts are minimal, and it can be built within the budget.

  7. Ah, I love it!!!

    But…I don’t see Bellevue allowing a surface option. It’s just not in their DNA. I think in the end there will be a tunnel. Think of this as a business negotiation. All of the Bellevue politicos are businessmen, who go into politics to steer public funds and zoning ordinances to maximize their business interests. Seattle pols do that too, to certain extent…but in the Eastside it’s an art form. From their point of view, why should they pay for the tunnel when they can hold the entire East Link line hostage until we agree to pay for the tunnel? Yes, technically Sound Transit can build the surface option anyway, but the political cost to public transit would be brutal. They know the prudent liberal pols will cave in the interest “getting along” with our east side brethren, and pickup the costs of the tunnel.

    Wow, I really am cynical!!!! But I do love this surface option. :-)

    1. It’s also not in their DNA to raise $200 million in taxes from Bellevue residents.

    2. So, let them hold Sound Transit hostage for a tunnel. With subarea equity the funds for the tunnel would shift from one east side project to another.

      Why not let the east side have some input in where they want to place their funds, at least as long as it isn’t to the detriment of another east side community? So, if the tunnel can happen and the line still makes it to Redmond, why not?

      1. The eastside had their input. Bellevue supported ST2 with full knowledge that they were only funding a surface alignment.

        Bellevue has no power to hold ST “hostage”. ST will just build.

      2. I really hope ST says definitively that the vision line is a NON-STARTER, and hope they say it really soon. I keep seeing articles about it in the Seattle Times, who seem intent on treating it a serious option. The sooner ST takes it off the table the better.

  8. Despite the claims that C14E will effectively serve future “downtown” growth on the east side of 405, the walkshed maps prove otherwise. The other alternatives serve as many, if not more, properties east of the freeway.

    1. Yeah actually the hospital station is better with C9A, C9T and C11A because it spans NE 8th giving peds a direction connection to that area.

  9. I am a grad student at the UW, and I conducted quantitative decision analysis on this segment similar to the analysis by Bellevue and ST last year. I am for C9T because long-term benefits are so much more important than the construction cost when building infrastructure that lasts for centuries. I wonder why they can’t build C11E (entirely elevated) though. It may be counterintuitive to some people, but the cost of building elevated tracks is actually about the same as at-grade light rail.

    1. But the impact on livability is horrible. We don’t build elevated because it kills streets in cities like Bellevue that don’t have the pedestrian and storefront density to overcome it.

    2. It’s interesting how some people may have a different perception of elevated structures. My dad suggested building elevated tracks everywhere. Didn’t seem to see any problem with it. Vancouver’s SkyTrain and Canada Line in Richmond are also elevated. A lot of the people who suggest that come from places that have those and are used to seeing them.

      1. Yeah the one thing about SkyTrain is it is *impossible* to run it at grade even if you wanted to.

      2. Livability is wonderful with an elevated line nearby. I live a block from Chicago’s Green Line @ IIT, and I love it. The noise is something one gets used to instantly, and in fact, stops hearing. I am in a 1960’s or older building, so make no mistake, it is NOT engineered for acoustics, it was supposed to be a cheap Navy ROTC barracks. Also, Elevated lines have the benefit of having a presence, and capacity, while surface is impeded by stoplights, and tunnels have almost no street presence. Personally I’m for anything but a surface option for future train capacity. I think that we need to build the train line so that it can eventually have trains every two minutes or less (while I believe that to be unrealistic with public transit, I consider it a nice goal) Living in Chicago I know people’s biggest qualm with riding the “L” is Waiting for the train, transfer times, and lack of a transit “beltway”, in other words, people can not get say from the University of Chicago to Midway airport unless they go downtown Chicago first, then come back out. To put it in perspective in Seattle, as the bus system there has the same problem, One cannot get from Kent to Federal way without going first through downtown Seattle, and no one has time for that.

        So this is a long way of saying I don’t think that the surface option is wise, because some day (I hope) we are going to want to put more that one line through downtown bellevue, and It would be wonderful to have available capacity to do that without building more lines, as Chicago’s Loop (5 lines on the inner(clockwise) track, 2 lines on the outer (counterclockwise) track) does.

  10. As a Rainier valley resident I find the illustration above somewhat comical. People are walking all over the tracks as if it’s part of the sidewalk. Meanwhile, in the real world the safety people are trying to drill into people down here that standing on the tracks when you don’t have the ped signal is instant death.

    1. Lol yeah I noticed that. Everyone’s just milling around in the middle of the intersection.

      1. I wasn’t all that impressed with Strasbourg. Old town was narrow streets, suburbs were busy freeways just like the eastside.

    2. That is because that turn into Bellevue Transit Center is a giant all direction walkway, just FYI.

    3. Anyone who frequents Bellevue Transit Center will recognize this voice:

      “WALK sign is on for all crossings… WALK sign is on for all crossings… WALK sign is on for all crossings.”

      The crossing at 108th Ave NE is basically a pedestrian scramble like the one at Pike Pl or West Seattle Jct but I don’t think it’ll become like this.

      1. 1st and Pike is also an all-direction walk.

        They need to improve that voice. It sounds so Big Brother. “We allow you to walk now.” And it says the walk SIGN is on, not that it’s time to walk. The walk sign doesn’t say, “The traffic light is green now,” it says, “Walk”. Why doesn’t the voice do the same?

  11. The one thing this surface visual doesn’t do justice is to the elevation gain necessary to get from 405 to the top of the hill on main to hook North on 108th. A tunnel would cut quite a bit of that gain out and would make it easier for the train to maintain speed. With the stop at the bottom of the hill in either case, it’s going to be a regular pain for that train to make it up the hill.

    The second thing, is that a good city has more, not less pedestrian congestion. Putting LINK on the surface endangers those people. Which is the second good reason for tunneling. Thirdly the tracks make it more dangerous for bicyclists. Fourthly the increased ridership, and Fifthly the travel time decrease from Redmond to Seattle.

    The tunnel is a no brainer if not for the funding which is why we should work to find a way to fix that.

    1. The trains do not endanger pedestrians, pedestrians endanger themselves – take a look at Amsterdam!

      1. oh yeah silly me. Pedestrians who run into trains injure the train by spilling soft goo all over the place! It’s hard to clean out of all the crevices, it sticks to everything and it clashes with the blue and white paint!

  12. Please Bellevue, get together the extra couple hundred million dollars and build the tunnel. It will reduce travel times for everybody (including bus riders on the streets), attract more riders, and, most importantly, have the capacity for future lines along the 405, from the UW via 520, etc. The arguments that the three minutes in time savings would be bad because they would encourage more people to live farther away from the Urban Centers are simply ridiculous; I doubt the three minutes will have an impact on development, but it will have an impact in terms of ridership. You’ll have the same number of people living out on Education Hill, they’ll just either be driving to Link and riding that into Bellevue or Seattle, or driving SOVs the whole way.

    1. Think about it this way. If you have 200 million laying around would you spend it all to get 2,000 people off a 520 bus and onto LINK… or would you spend it on a new streetcar line, several Rapidride lines, ped/bicycle master plan etc. I’m sure that people would still say yes or no but there is an opportunity cost.

      1. It’s not a one or the other thing… This extra $185m is something that would be specifically approved by voters for this purpose, and it would in the long run be a lot more important than most other transit improvements that could be bought for that money, because of the increase in capacity that will be important far into the future.

    2. Maybe WSDOT would kick in some of the money they extorted from Sound Transit for the use of the “Designed for Transit” Reversible lanes?

      1. Fat chance. That’s what the PAC is for, though – in a few years we really could change the attitudes in Olympia.

      1. Not unimportant. I have an 18 year old born and bred here that ignores this. We shall not Californicate! The reporters on the local news need to get a clue or get another job.

  13. Well as they say in marketing, reduce it to simple numbers:

    $300 Million cost difference for C3T alternative
    2000 additional daily riders = 480,000 annual weekday (20*12*2000) riders or optimistically 730,000 (2000*365) daily riders 7 days a week)

    $300,000,000 / 480,000 = $625 per additional rider added because of C3T.

    Amortized over: 10 years: $62.50
    20 years: $31.25
    30 years: $20.83

    cost per ride: 625/(20 weekday boardings *12 months * 10 years) = $0.26 | 20 years = $0.13 | 30 years = $0.09

    ( best salesman voice) “Folks, its just 9 cents a ride to have a great pedestrian walkway right in the CBD and quick and quiet connections to the Overlake employment campuses. Our downtown streets will be less congested and quieter (wink wink).” “This is just steps from your high rise condo and you can be quickly at Overlake Hospital Clinics, Microsoft, Nintendo for work, and Redmond Town Centre for shopping. All without having to get your car out of the garage. (wink wink) Want to meet your friends on Mercer Island for that Tennis Match? easy! 2 stops! Want to take in a Mariners game? Really easy! You can get to the stadium in under 20 minutes. No traffic jams, no $30 parking fees. You can be sitting in your box seats relaxing while others are dealing with all of that headache. So what will it take to get you into this beautiful Kinkisharyo vehicle today?”

    1. It’s actually less than $200 million if you build B2A – hence my bit at the end.

      Those 2000 extra riders don’t come until later, though. Those are 2030 numbers.

    2. Also, keep in mind that the extension from Overlake to Redmond Town Center is, as yet, unfunded.

    3. Amortized over: 10 years: $62.50

      If you can find 0% interest loans Bellevue might come up with the money.

      $250,000 mortgage at 7% for 30 years = $598,772 Total amount paid (interest plus principle).

  14. Surrey will go crazy over c11a, having a station surrounded by homes…

    I still say going at grade up Bellevue way to 2nd, then over to 108 is the best option. It would have the highest ridership, would be cheap, and could be done very quickly. Of course it would take lanes from cars so it will never happen.

    1. It is indeed the best option from a transit perspective, and from a future development perspective. But you’d have Bellevue residents lying in the street to block the construction equipment.

  15. If the main beneficiaries of a Bellevue tunnel are the people east of Bellevue why should Bellevue be responsible for the extra cost. It seems like the region as a whole (i.e Sound transit) should pay.

    1. Maybe because Bellevue get’s all that tax money from business being conducted inside it’s borders and all those people buying high rise condo’s downtown?

    2. Up to the Overlake station, those folks along Bell-Red are residents of Bellevue! And anyone going East to Redmond would like the train to run on time all the time and not be delayed by accidents in downtown Bellevue.

      A tunnel brings benefits to all riders.

    3. The region as a whole does not pay for transit built on the Eastside. We have subarea equity. Seattle paid for and is paying for its tunnels with its own section of money in the West subarea. If the East subarea raised enough revenue with ST taxes for a tunnel, then this would be moot. Unfortunately there is still a small gap.

      1. I understand subarea equity. But it seems like a lot of the benefits of the downtown Bellevue tunnel are people going to Redmond (and East Bellevue). It seems like they should also contribute to the cost of a tunnel.

      2. That’s an interesting thought, jeff, but I’m not sure how the politics would play out. Expanding light rail deeper into Redmond would help downtown Bellevue gain riders, maybe Bellevue should pay for that rail expansion? It gets pretty balkanized pretty fast, though.

    4. I’m not sure where you’re getting that the beneficiaries are east of Bellevue. The beneficiaries are mostly other Bellevue residents.

      1. The tunnel benefits everybody that rides the train including Seattle residents going to Microsoft and Redmond residents coming into Seattle as well as people going to and from Bellevue. It will likely extend further into Redmond in another decade.

  16. If I’m reading this right, the tunnel adds 3 minutes of walking but shortens the trip by 3 minutes due to increased train speed. So if I’m going from Downtown Seattle to Downtown Bellevue, total travel time would theoretically be exactly the same, right?

      1. yeah. See, we have to build this to cater to the people that would otherwise drive. Push it out from 3 minute to 5 minutes and ridership numbers collapse. NOBODY will walk 5 minutes. But all sorts will abandon cars and ride transit if the magic number is 3 minutes. Then you control the zoning and all the numbers fit the DEIS figures. Simple.

      2. I think the point is that we are very lazy people. Livable, walkable communities will hopefully change this, but in the short term, people don’t like to walk. 3 minutes walking v 3 minutes sitting in a train are very different in people’s minds, regardless of them being the same amount of time.

      3. But the same argument could be made for places that are slightly closer to C9T’s station than to C11A’s…

      4. I don’t buy that. Yes, we are lazy as a society. (Some people in Beaux Arts actually drive to our house, even though it’s a 5 minute walk from everywhere in the Village !?) But as the pedestrian, cycling, and transit infrastructure improves more people *are* walking and cycling to use transit. One example: The bike racks at S Bellevue & Mercer Island P&R constantly have bikes at them now – only a couple of years ago I was the only cyclist using either – even on a sunny day.

        We have a long way to go, for sure, but people are beginning to understand what the lack of physical activity is doing to us.

  17. I’ve always been more a fan of the surface than a tunnel, and now that they have dumped the previously preferred tunnel route (C3T) for a route (C9T) that if closer to the freeway and further south, I think the surface is an even more obvious choice. Unfortunately, it seems that the Bellevue City Council is dead set against the surface option.

    Building an inferior tunnel route to save 3 minutes going through Bellevue would be a mistake. Downtown Bellevue should be the main destination of East Link, not somewhere to get through as quickly as possible. But, that said, the tunnel route is still way better than the “Vision” line.

    1. I think it’s going to be very clear in the near term that some members of the Bellevue City Council are clearly obstructing the process, not trying to come up with a compromise.

      1. Yeah this report puts them on notice. Anything after this point is just obstruction. They can’t claim there needs to be more study of options.

      2. You mean some of the numbers that use the same ST software used to model traffic delays and with real world input yield different results? Yeah, ST wasn’t willing to fund Bellevue buying the same software to run indepedent results.

      3. That part of the analysis was done by CH2MHILL. Again stop spewing lies and lets get back to the facts.

      4. CH2M Hill is a public service organization? ST pays them hundreds of millions to produce the answers they want. Cracks me up, a couple of thousand in a hundred thousand dollar campaign and the Bellevue council is bought and paid for but a contractor who knows which side of the bread the butter is on; they’re totally objective. CH2M Hill makes millions on this project and the more expensive the option the more they make.

    2. Why is C3T better than C9T? The C3 alternatives get messy around NE 12th, with the transition to elevated, impacts on medical office space and general inconvenience of the Ashwood station.

  18. Once again, Seattle’s social engineering machine is running full tilt. Bellevue doesn’t want or need a surface alignment thru it’s one square mile downtown core. If surface alignments were such a great option, then why don’t we find them in the core district of downtown Seattle? Additionally, the Eastside has contributed over $700M to Link construction with no direct benefit – subarea equity is a real issue in this whole process that has yet to be addressed.

    One last item – if you think that the majority of growth in Bellevue will occur in the existing downtown core, over the next 20 years, you have no clue regarding planning, growth potential and “where Bellevue is headed”….

    God help us! Save us from Seattle’s incessant medling!

    1. Feeling oppressed much?

      “Additionally, the Eastside has contributed over $700M to Link construction with no direct benefit”

      What are you referring to? Money raised in the Eastside has to stay on the Eastside.

      “if you think that the majority of growth in Bellevue will occur in the existing downtown core, over the next 20 years”

      The majority of jobs growth will, in fact, be in downtown. I don’t know about residential growth, because Bellevue could be opening a bunch of new subdivisions over the coming years — but none of those folks would be able to benefit from light rail anyway since cul de sacs can never be served by light rail. Thousands more people will move into downtown, though.

      I’m curious why you think it’s “social engineering” if all if, like you claim, the new development won’t get near light rail anyway. Downtown Bellevue is growing and it needs to be served by light rail. We should not site light rail blocks away from the Eastside’s biggest jobs center to spite Seattle, because it hurts Bellevue more than it affects anyone on the other side of the water.

    2. “God help us! Save us from Seattle’s incessant medling!”

      Really! I use to live in city of Seattle but I don’t now. I still care about this issue and sure there are many people that live outside the city limits that care about this issue. What one city does can have a major impact on other parts of the greater Seattle area. Plus ever now and then doesn’t Kemper Freeman try to tell Seattle what to do?

      I would be in support for an at grade alignment but because Downtown Seattle blocks can only handle 2 car light rail trains. Downtown Bellevue has blocks that are 600+ feet.

    3. Hey Gandolf – where’s your $700 million figure coming from?

      Could it be… made up? Or perhaps… money paid back in East Link?

  19. So where’s the Federal government or Ray Lahood in all this? Didn’t the gov give us grants to fund a big chunk of Central and University Links?

    1. Oh and I’m AGAINST any surface route. Didn’t we learn anything from MLK yet? So…downtown Bellevue will have 75,000 jobs, 15,000+ residents, thousands of cars and pedestrians all in a tiny half square mile, and you want to have a light rail train glide smoothly through the center of all this?? It’ll be a mess and the Eastside chokepoint that’ll kill reliability for decades to come. I also hate the Wallace Line. Bellevue NEEDS a tunnel. The point of the light rail was to skip and avoid all the downtown traffic, not become part of it.

      1. And yet, Jojo, the study the City of Bellevue just did shows that traffic impact is tiny.

      2. Did the study look at possible accidents? That’s a huge problem in a congested area, as every time even a minor train-vehicle or train-pedestrian accident happens, the whole line is screwed.

      3. Look in the ST 2010 budget for federal funding ‘expectations’ thru 2023. It’s a lot of money for ST2

      4. I can’t see that putting the train on the surface of either 110th, 108th, or both will be such an apocalyptic event. Both of those streets are my preferred cycling routes through downtown Bellevue precisely because they don’t have a lot of traffic on them. While I’m not thrilled about the idea of dealing with tracks, those streets seem like a logical place to put a surface line. Just don’t try to cross NE 8th though (Which I don’t believe any of the lines do). I *hate* waiting for the lights at NE 8th and either 108th, 110th, or 112th.

    2. yes big chunks, although they did not pay for the whole project. The problem is fed funding may take years to secure, and we need to make a decision asap…

    3. Keep something in mind here.

      2030 ridership of Central Link: 45,000 for $2.6 billion.
      2030 ridership of U-Link: 70,000 for $1.8 billion.

      2030 ridership of East Link: 50,000 for ~$4 billion.

      East Link just doesn’t compare to a central city line.

      1. Of course, U Link is one of the highest priority transit projects in the country. Even though it gets less riders for the money, East Link is still probably high up on the list. And comparing it with Central Link is unfair because of inflation; if Central Link were built starting in 2012 or whatever it probably would be a lot closer to East Link.

  20. Folks,

    One thing to remember, YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL! Let’s assume that C11A is chosen and follows the alignment shown in the visualization (east of I-405 via the existing NE6th HOV bridge). It’s going to have to curve into the BNSF right of way over one of the car lots. If that curve is “stacked” (which I expect the car lot in question would like since it would require a smaller footprint) a single track express bypass could connect at the curve and run alongside BNSF linking into the main line at the Wilburton “wiggle”, which would also be stacked.

    This would give the opportunity for base moves to stay out of downtown Bellevue and of course Seattle expresses could run at the peak. They too would not interfere with traffic during peak hours. Local trains through the Bellevue CBD would carry Redmond/Overlake to Bellevue riders and then fill up in Bellevue and at the stations to the south and west.

    Trains would depart from Redmond (this wouldn’t be needed before Redmond is reached) in braces, rather than at even headways. The express would lead picking up the clear majority of Seattle bound riders from east of downtown Bellevue. The “local” would follow two or three minutes later, and by the time it made the extra two stops and lower speed running through the Belleveue CBD would be six or eight minutes behind the express, providing the proper headway when the Seattle tunnel is reached.

    This sort of clustered service has been offered for decades on the CalTrain peninsula service and has now graduated to six to eight stop “Baby Bullet” trains.

    I know what you’re thinking: oh that would be too expensive. Actually, probably not. There is only one grade crossing of the BNSF tracks between SE 5th and NE 8th, at NE First, and it isn’t heavily trafficed. The bypass would diverge from the BNSF ROW about where SE 5th intersects with 116th and could make good use of the hill above Lake Hills and I405 to cross them on a descending grade without enormously tall supports. The track between the landing behind SE5th and the stacked curve at NE 7th would be at grade.

    THIS IS NOT A PROPOSAL FOR TODAY. Instead it could be built at relatively little cost should ridership and train volumes reach a level that truly does begin to adversely impact downtown Bellevue traffic if the critical corridor between BNSF and I-405 is protected by an ST purchase as a part of East Link construction now.

    1. I don’t think something like this is necessary, the trains have plenty capacity to get people from all along the route, and the couple minutes gained will be offset by the fact that people would get confused about where their train is going. Also. it would end up being really complicated when the two lines meet up because trains don’t always run on time.

  21. At grade, as proposed will never fly. I’d really (really!) like to see a B9A proposal fleshed out. We can’t even count on ST to nail down a location. NIH sydrome.

    Rail is not going through DT Bellevue at grade. Not going to happen. C9T and such are nice but unfunded. Don’t see the funding happening but I’m open to options.

    That leaves; either it’s elevated or it’s not built

    I’m thinking



  22. is the at-grade C11A route going to be like MLK way? or like MAX in Portland where the rails are in the street and not a dedicated ROW in the center of the road?

    1. It would have a dedicated ROW. I believe that all of MAX is “dedicated ROW” as well. It just isn’t as well defined and protected as LINK’s is.

  23. It’s either we suffer a few years with building the cut-and-cover tunnel, or we suffer a lifetime of an at-grade option. Mixing trains and cars (especially downtown) is a HUGE mistake.

    We’re trying to build a vast subway/light-rail system here that will help bring us out of economic woes here, and move commuters faster than ever by getting them off our congested roads and highways. Building the light-rail down the middle of road in car-oriented, congested downtown Bellevue is the worst mistake ST can make.

    The London Tube is underground, The Paris Metropolitian is underground. The New York Metro as well. Boston, Berlin, Rome, Seoul, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Athens, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and so many other cities have built their subway/metro systems underground. Seattle and Bellevue should do the same

      1. [deleted, ad-hominem]. Have you experienced a vast, convenient subway system overseas? Guess what… I have. And I know for a fact, that underground subways travel much, much faster than ST’s light-rail on MLK Way. All over the world, they have been digging subway lines ’til this very day. In fact, Beijing is building the world’s largest subway system in five years, and it is all underground. Sure, they could’ve built an at-grade light-rail system that travels half the speed of what an underground train could. Nope, they plan ahead… as should we. The Seattle-Bellevue-Tacome-Everett Metropolitan area is growing rapidly, and could exceed 6-7 million by 2050.

        Think of the future. Think of all the problems the MLK Way lightrail is having. Think internatonal.

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