Bellevue City Councilmember Kevin Wallace.
Bellevue City Council member, Kevin Wallace.

Publicola reports that Kevin Wallace, the man behind East Link’s C14E alignment that poorly serves downtown Bellevue, has hired some local insiders to promote his plan:

Kevin Wallace, the freshman Bellevue City Council member who has proposed a Bellevue light-rail alignment along I-405, avoiding downtown Bellevue, has hired consultant Rollin Fatland and former Seattle mayor Charley Royer to help him promote his preferred alignment, which Wallace has dubbed the “Vision Line.”

Fatland said Wallace is paying him and Royer out of his own pocket; he would not say how much he is being paid.

The full Publicola report notes that Wallace would likely be prohibited from voting on his preferred alignment if he were a Seattle city councilmember due to that city’s more zealous ethics laws, but Bellevue has more lax requirements. Wallace’s company owns some property near the C14E alignment that would probably have to be purchased if his alignment were selected. (For what it’s worth, I doubt Wallace’s motivation is to get his property purchased at market-rate since he could probably accomplish that more quickly and with much less scrutiny without having Sound Transit be the purchaser.)

If Wallace’s proposed alignment is so good, why are we seeing a self-funded PR blitz promoting it? Well, while Wallace has brought forward a cheaper plan in a constructive manner, I think many would conclude just isn’t worth the trade-offs in accessibility, transit-oriented development, and ridership. No amount of lobbying is going to change those fundamentals.

60 Replies to “Wallace Hires Consultants to Promote Alignment”

  1. It sure is a vision: a vision of Kemper/Wallace; NOT what us Bellevue residents want

    Personally: I like that surface drawing from a few posts back that show a redesigned Bellevue Transit Center (and yes, I was one of those offering to pay more taxes for a tunnel)

    1. Jessica,
      It’s going to take a lot more than you being willing to pay additional taxes. Propose a tax package that will fund the cost. An army of one doesn’t cut it, unless of course you’re checkbook is as good as Bill Gates := In which case cut the $300 million dollar check and we can start digging.

  2. Sound Transit needs to come up with a catchy name for their alignment. Something sexy, bold, modern. East Link isn’t as cool sounding as the Vision Line.

    “How are you getting to Seattle, Dave?”
    “Why, I’m riding the VISION Line”

    It’s all about marketing now…

    1. “The VISION Line, what is that, Dave?”

      “It’s the Light Rail that runs next to the freeway!”

      “Oh, yeah, I’ve never bothered to walk all the way over there…”

  3. How about just skipping Hellevue and running express to Redmond, where they want LINK?

    The 550 could terminate at the Mercer Island Station.

    1. Good idea. Obviously because Kemper Freeman and Kevin Wallace want the Vision Line, none of the 40,000 people who work in Downtown Bellevue and the 5-10,000 people who live in Downtown Bellevue, not to mention the tens of thousands who shop, go to the library, or see movies there, will ever ride Link.

      1. They can ride LINK to Mercer Island and then take the 550 from there.

        And then we can watch downtown Hellevue die off and fall apart as the price of gasoline reaches $10 per gallon.

      2. Maybe all the people that have made smart real estate investments in the past are totally wrong. Here’s you’re big chance to get rich. Now how was it that you’re going to get movie goers and library users to pay for this?

  4. Lets put it this way. Kevin Wallace wouldn’t advocate and spend his own money for something that isn’t in his best interest.

    So why is this project so important to Wallace that he would hire ARUP and Royer to advocate for him?

    What about this. How much is land next to a freeway worth? Not much even if it is downtown. How much is land right next to a regional rail system worth? A whole lot more. In real-estate you make money one way. Buy low, sell high. I don’t see how he can be trying to achieve anything different. This situation is just more obvious because he is trying to screw over tax payers to make his money.

    1. You’re on the right track but the reason for wanting the line pushed over to the less desirable properties near the freeway (and that land ain’t cheap) is to prevent the perceived loss in value of the more desirable properties that most land owners in Bellevue believe would occur with an at grade rail line running past them. They might be dead wrong about that but it’s their financial future that hangs in the balance and most of them have a pretty good track record of getting it right up to now. If Kevin Wallace were just in it to create a windfall he wouldn’t support a ST financed tunnel (which the council is in unanimous agreement on as the preferred alternative).

      1. The problem with that logic is that all those landowners WANT Link running next to their properties. It’s just Wallace and a couple of others who would prefer it run next to THEIR properties.

      2. Except for Kemper Freeman who’s also a major DT landowner and of course the Bellevue Downtown Association which represents businesses in DT are opposed to any at grade alignments too.

  5. Does he seriously think his plan is going to have the best impact? It’s frustrating what lengths he’s willing to go.

  6. off-topic:

    The P-I has posted the video from the Westlake Station attack on the 15 year old girl by a group of thugs, while “security” guards stood by and watched.

    Seattle P-I

    1. The Sheriff’s Office gave this explanation for the guards’ inaction:

      “They did not intercede as they are unarmed, civilian employees of Olympic Security Services. They are trained to not become involved in violent confrontations or fights, but are directed to call 911, which they did via the tunnel communications center.”

      And apparently they have had their testicles removed?

      I mean, that train was not stopped from entering the station. Had it been a four car train, and the kids were still on the tracks, what then?

    1. I expect that Charley Royer is working for the Vision Line because it would cripple rail transit service to downtown Bellevue, thereby substantially reducing the ability of that Urban Center to ever compete economically and/or politically with downtown Seattle.

      If I were just another cynic in Seattle, I’d support his move. But I believe in good transit for everyone, even suburbanites, so no, what Charley is doing is counter to Bellevue’s interest and certainly to the region’s.

    2. “substantially reducing the ability of that Urban Center to ever compete economically and/or politically with downtown Seattle.”

      Huh? The Eastside already competes economically and politically with downtown Seattle. That’s why the reverse commute has gotten as big as the inbound commute. The problem is that all those jobs are hard to get to without a car, and if you want to live in a walkable neighborhood on the eastside there are only a few choices (almost all too expensive for the average person). Rail should improve both of these situations. The Vision line, not as much, but it’s better than nothing.

      1. OK, I should’ve said “effectively compete” with downtown Seattle. Bottom line is: If Vision Line wins, downtown Seattle wins over downtown Bellevue.

  7. At least we’re arguing about how the rail should be built rather than whether it should be built. That’s an accomplishment we’ve never had before.

    1. And that’s the real reason behind the Wallace proposal. If ST says no tunnel (which is pretty certain) and Bellevue says no surface alignment (also a pretty good bet) then you have a stand off and then everyone loses except the lawyers. Personally I’d like to see C9A advanced to the point of street level planning and renderings. I think it’s a compromise everyone might be able to live with (if the transition from B to C is addressed). But in the end the transportation needs of downtown Bellevue are going to require far better bus service and once you come to grips with that the location of the station becomes more an issue of how well those connections work and how quickly the trains can get through Bellevue than whether or not it’s a couple blocks one way or the other.

      1. The only at grade alignment I personally think has a chance and would be good for the system and Bellevue is C9A. C11A has several fatal flaws. First, it takes Main which Bellevue wants to convert to a three lane street and make the ped/bike cooridor and runs double track mainline up a fairly major hill. Next it heavily impacts auto traffic on 108th. Yes, people that want to advance light rail by hindering traffic thing this is a feature. I don’t think that is practical in Bellevue. Even Seattle recognizes the need to improve roads in respect to things like the Mercer Mess. Walk shed from station locations is really just window dressing. At best 20% will be commuting to jobs via transit; less than that via Link. Trains are neato but you have to look at the big picture commuting patterns and not just pick a route that appeals to a transit fixated audience.

      2. C11A doesn’t actually run on Main Street, it runs in its own ROW to the south of Main Street. It could be a good opportunity for the city to have ST pitch in to re-make Main Street with bike and pedestrian amenities.

      3. OK, I don’t see how that’s going to work since there is no ROW south of Main without taking private property (most of which along Main is currently a wasteland) but I’m interested to see how this works. The City wants to provide on street parking on main after it becomes a three lane road which (to me) seems silly. How does a South running alignment fit in with business interests that feel on street parking on both sides of Main are essential? To me, on street parking seems silly given that Main is supposed to be a transition. Parking south of Main is even less important (in fact should be avoided) and there is talk (I believe actually city plans) for a park in this area.

      4. Bernie, you NEED to actually read the analysis document. It has maps of every alignment. Every alignment takes some property south of Main.

      5. “Walk shed from station locations is really just window dressing. At best 20% will be commuting to jobs via transit; less than that via Link.”

        No, walk sheds are the main point, or at least co-equal with regional mobility. If your goal is a place where the majority choose not to have cars — as my goal is — you need places to live/work/shop/recreate within walking distance of the stations. NYC and London did build their cities this way, and the majority don’t have cars. Seattle did have a nice infastructure going until public policy shifted toward highways and moving the core to the periphery, which created the Eastside sprawl.

        Transit-oriented neighborhoods will naturally be more expensive to live in, but if we build enough of these communities the price difference will gradually lessen. The reason these areas more expensive to live in is the demand far exceeds the supply. Many people who want to live in these walksheds can’t afford to. The answer is to build more walksheds. And not all on one place (Seattle). Some suburban residents want to live in these walksheds too, and some city dwellers would be willing to move to the suburbs if it was a self-contained walkable neighborhood (all the daily necessities) with full-time transit. So I, for instance, would not want to live in downtown Burien/Renton/Kent now, but when their (their!) urban plans are more completed and they have more transit, I might.

        (I did live in downtown Bellevue in the 1980s, and the transit situation there is much better now. It just needs to be improved further.)

      6. Bernie, it’s not up to ST to say no tunnel. It’s up to the city council to say no tunnel. They’re the only ones with the choice.

      7. The City Council selected a tunnel as the preferred alternative. ST just has to figure out how to pay for the project they’re task to build.

      8. It’s the other way around. ST Board selects an alternative. City Council just offers a recommendation.

  8. Rollin Fatland used to be one of those progressive Republicans, back in the day (20+ years ago) when there were such people. Haven’t heard if he’s followed the lurch to the right, or if he’s given up on the R’s like so many others have.

  9. Wallace is [deleted, ad-hominem]. Even with studies done that provide the evidence needed to conclude which options are better than others, he’s still pushing the worst one. It’s infuriating when [deleted, ad-hominem] are in positions of power. [deleted, ad-hominem]

  10. I don’t see why there not using colors i.e. Blue line. Pretty much every agency across the US uses color coding for there rail lines. Personally I kind of feel that when you say east link, central link etc it kind of divides the region. If we are going to build high quality rail we need to be united.

      1. Patrick, the lines aren’t branded. Nobody even knows this is happening. Ask folks on the street where they want light rail to go and they’ll ask you what light rail you’re talking about.

    1. The lines will have to be numbered or named or colored or lettered after the second one opens (East Link). Well, actually, East Link is a name if we want to keep it.

      That is, assuming people are happy with the name “Central Link” for the Lynnwood-to-Federal Way line. Those who predict that the center of gravity will move to the Eastside and an eventual 405 line built, may object to calling the Seattle line “central”.

      Atlanta has an interesting system I haven’t seen elsewhere. Stations have names, but they also have a station number from the center (N1, N2, S1, S2). That makes it easy for people to quickly find “N2” for instance. The lines were also named by direction (the N-S line, the NE-S line), although Wikipedia says they were renamed to colors last October. It would be hard to do the station numbering here because we don’t have a single central transfer station, although either Intl Dist or Westlake could plausably be chosen. But it’s still an interesting idea.

      1. The numbering of stations is common in Asia (Singapore, Bangkok, come to mind, etc.). Line numbers are common and fairly neutral and more accessible compared to colors and names.

    1. Yes, just sit back and enjoy. Nothing’s going to happen. Consultants can only go so far before they realize they’re hitting the same brick wall as their clients. If Wallace wants to stir up conflict of interest, then let him stir up conflict of interest. If he wants to put his political life in jeopardy by wasting money, then let him do it. He really has nothing to lose; being a councilmember is just a part-time gig.

      1. I hope you’re right. It just seems like all the newspapers and city council members seem to be on board by letting it go forward. The Bellevue Reporter’s editorial on Wallace’s line was like a lovefest. :/

      2. Jojo,

        I think the Bellevue Reporter piece you mention isn’t the position of the editor or publisher. It was a contributed op-ed, right? But certainly one of the paid consultant’s primary jobs will be a media relations strategy to gain favorable editorials for the client.

      3. The piece was written by Mike Skehan, a frequent poster to the comments on this blog. It was well written. I’d point out that the cost of $8,800 per Bellevue “household” is difficult to quantify as is the premise that the Vision Line will result in a cost savings (compared to what?) of $160 million. And the idea that any “savings” on East Link will somehow translate to funding for Eastside Rail is really a stretch.

      4. As John mentions, C11A+B2A is actually about the same price as C14E.

        That “savings” will just be contingency funding anyway.

  11. I’m a little young to remember, but wasn’t Royer mayor of Seattle long ago? And before that, a TV reporter? So, he’ll know how to talk to the public and advocate for a point-of-view, even if he doesn’t really agree with it. Just a big ol’ paycheck in his hand and he’ll be a spokesman. Nice way to add to a legacy. If Sound Transit is going to have to fight this, then I sure hope they paint these Bellevue [ad-hominem] as only holding things up and trying to go against the will of the people.

    1. I’m not so young but a quick google search show he was doing TV in Portland so that would explain why I never saw that side.

      I sure hope they paint these Bellevue [ad-hominem] as only holding things

      Nice, tax dollars from eastside equity should be used to portray Bellevue voters as [ad-hominem]… well, to be fair, only the minority that didn’t vote for the incumbent City Council. We are Seattle, all your base are belong to us.

    2. Royer was Seattle mayor but I was not paying attention to politics at the time, so I couldn’t tell you if he was pro-transit or anti-transit. I’d hesitate to assume/suspect his current motives without more facts. It’s unfortunate that he chose to be involved in the Vision Line though.

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