D segment alternatives from ST East Link SDEIS (click to enlarge)

I recently sat down with Redmond city planner Terry Marpert to talk about the city’s plans for the Overlake area when East Link comes in (hopefully) by 2021.  When the project’s SDEIS (Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement) came out last month, I took an editorial slant favoring the D2 NE 24th Design Option over the currently preferred freeway-running alignment for the D segment.  That option would have veered off 520, along NE 24th Street, and curved up 152nd Ave NE to rejoin the freeway, stopping once at the Overlake P&R.  The new D2A continues entirely along the freeway with an Overlake Village station at the north end of 152nd.

In the past, we’ve been pretty opposed to freeway-oriented stations generally due to their deterrence for mid-day transit dependent users and unfriendliness toward TOD (transit-oriented development).  According to Marpert, however, the city’s plans and support for the new freeway-running D2A alternative will actually help encourage walkable TOD in the Overlake area.

More below the jump.

Overlake Village with 520 ped/bike bridge, plan from City of Redmond

Some of the positives of the Overlake Village freeway station are typical with freeway segments in general.  Because of the grade separation and adherence to the 520 right-of-way, the new D2A will reduce travel times and likely produce less noise.  It would also cost some $50 million less by reducing track length and avoiding business displacements.  With the NE 24th Design Option, around 67 businesses would be displaced because of the track’s 500 foot curve radius from NE 24th to 152nd.

According to Marpert, the freeway station still wouldn’t make much sense without some kind of connection across 520.  To address the issue, Redmond has been planning a ped/bike-only bridge (PDF) across the freeway that would link the commercial district south of 520 and the employment areas to the north along with the 520 trail.  This would be in addition to the newly opened NE 36th, just a fifth of a mile northeast.

With the ped/bike bridge, however, Marpert says you can expand the freeway station’s walkshed by serving areas unreachable with the old station.  This would include multi-family housing along 148th Avenue NE in addition to the offices north of 520.  While the freeway station would move the walkshed away from areas south of NE 24th, the RapidRide B line would already help compensate for some of these lost service areas.

What 152nd Ave NE could look like in 2021 (click to enlarge)

The project is only a small part of a much larger Overlake Village plan (PDF), which includes subdividing the block bounded by NE 24th and 152nd into a much more pedestrian-friendly street grid.  The plan includes street-level retail, a dedicated bikeway along 152nd, and even sidewalk zones for seating and thru-traffic.  Under the NE 24th Design Option, the plan’s elements would be severely curtailed by Link’s 500 foot turn.

The City of Redmond has a terrific page on the Overlake Village planning initiative with a treasure trove of information, including diagrams of the proposed ped/bike bridge and plans for the sub-divided street grid, as well as walkshed maps for all of the considered stations in the Overlake area.  With so much thinking going on behind the project, it’s encouraging to see that Redmond is actively caring about using Link to create walkable transit-oriented communities, something Bellevue could certainly learn from.

47 Replies to “Redmond’s TOD plans for Overlake”

  1. Station spacing has always perplexed me about Link. Henderson to TIBS is a good example, with no access to the system – Eliminate ALL stations and ridership plummets to zero:)
    It’s nearly 2 miles between 130th Stn and Overlake Vlg Stn, yet I don’t see any access to the system between the two, like at 140th Ave which is really a major N/S collector from both sides of SR520.
    Did I miss something in the drawing above?

    1. Only if Bellevue plans a large development there similar to the one planned at 130th. More stops means longer travel time, which makes the system less effective for regional transportation. If a station brings in a significant node of riders, as will definitely happen with Overlake Village and Beacon Hill and is promised for 130th and Othello, then it makes sense. But if the station just serves a strip mall or a few houses, then it’s of dubious value.

      Between Rainier Beach and TIB is a few small house/apartment clusters, and heavy industry which might generate 1 rider a day. The idea of a Link/Sounder transfer doesn’t pan out: Sounder runs a few times a day so it’s not worth building expensive transfer stations to it, and who would transfer between Sounder and Link to go downtown anyway? (Maybe a few people going from Rainier Valley to Tacoma?) A station at 133rd to truncate the 150 would make more sense, but again it’s a lot of money for moderate benefit.

      1. Oy, not this again. 2 miles between stations means nobody from that entire area uses the thing, except for “special occasions” that involve driving to it.

        There may not be density along 140th, but Mike is right that it’s a “major N/S collector from both sides of SR520.” Put a frequent, straight, reliable bus on it — not a classic Metro route with some ridiculous efficiency-torpedoing tail or detour on it — and a station over it, and voilà: actual connectivity.

        You can debate the cost/benefit all you want, but please let the stupid time/benefit debate die. I’m tired of STBloggers defending every dumb policy that slows Metro down, then insisting that Link be a bullet train. You’ll never convince me that 30 seconds is too high a price for exponentially increasing trip possibilities and connectivity of the system.

      2. d.p., I’ll never be able to endorse your constant use of bold font, but man this is one argument where you’re spot on. Urban light rail and heavy rail should serve corridors, not nodes. If I live along a line I should be within walking distance of a station. That simple.

      3. What is within walking distance of a station at 140th? If it’s on Bel-Red Road, a Safeway and some smaller shops. If it’s on 20th, a few computer shops in one-story buildings behind large parking lots. If it’s on 24th or 520, there’s a lumber store, a 7-11 and another small strip mall, amid a sea of parking and some groves of trees. Nobody’s within walking distance of the station because there’s no housing there. And if you’re shopping, Overlake Village is a much better destination: it has another Safeway and several department stores.

        If Bellevue wants to upzone 140th and make it pedestrian-friendly, great. ST can put a “deferred station” in their plan. But that’ll make four stations between 120th and 148th, which is more than one per superblock (8 blocks). That sounds like downtown spacing.

      4. Your right of course. It’s an auto oriented ‘wasteland’ of parking lots and those that cater to them. Boy, will they be sorry when fuel goes through the roof, and light rail passes them by for their short sightedness. That’ll teach ’em a good lesson.
        Just like SouthCenter Mall, which is 9.5 miles south of Seattle at the intersection of two major freeways. Screw them too.
        Now, Northgate Mall, that’s a whole new ballgame. 7.5 miles North of Seattle and next to a freeway. Now that’s worth going to at all costs.
        Like I said, “Station spacing has always perplexed me about Link.”

      5. To start with, your math is incorrect. Your hypothetical four stations bookending 28 blocks would only contain three station-intervals, for an average of 9.33 blocks. But the Overlake Village station is actually at 152nd, not 148th. So that’s 32 blocks, for an average of 10.67 blocks — still nearly a mile on average (and that’s counting only distance traveled on the east-west axis).

        I just can’t overcome my bafflement at still having this argument in this vacuum. Even with the flurry of rail-building activity in this country in recent decades, there are only 2 systems with habitual 2-mile-plus stop spacings: BART and Washington Metro out in the suburbs.

        BART is essentially useless if your destination isn’t an airport, one of the 2 downtowns it serves, or UC Berkeley. It also scores horribly on any number of performance metrics, from ridership-per-mile to trip-share in the areas it “serves.”

        D.C. Metro’s ridership benefits from highway snarls that would be beyond Seattle’s worst nightmares, but only because the majority of important regional destinations are in the District and because the District itself is well-covered by the lines (not so with Link, especially with your same “speed” argument justifying disastrously wide in-city spacing). Still, I know no one in Virginia who finds Metro the slightest bit of help when not making a commute-like trip to the city.

      6. But wonkiness aside, the “we can’t slow down the train!” argument is exhausting because it’s so darn dumb.

        You can design your operations to emphasize short dwell times and quick acceleration and deceleration. The Montreal Metro did so. The result is a surprisingly close-spaced and refreshingly usable system by this continent’s post-war standards. And it’s still fast!

        [Jason, is there an underlining mark-up of which I’m not aware? I want my points of emphasis to be unmistakable to even a speed-reader, but I agree that bold can be jarring, and itallics often look clumsy.]

      7. Yes, good point.

        But Montreal’s vehicles also have many doors, spaced evenly, that open and close quickly. From Wikipedia: “Design specifications called for station dwell times of typically 8 to 15 seconds.”

        I’m just sick of hermetic Seattle posters (wrongly) insisting that an extra one or two stations would make it take “7 minutes longer” to get to Lynnwood or Federal Way or whatever far-off po’dunk is fortunate enough to get rapid transit service in the first place (while our urban centers get nothing of any significant usefulness).

      8. Just giving you a hard time, d.p. Usually enjoy your posts, and at least the bold—regardless of how the editor in me feels about it—makes it easy to recognize your comments when giving a thread a quick scroll.

      9. I’m trying to avoid making a single-minded “10 blocks is too narrow” argument. I’m just pointing out that 140th is a low-priority, low-ridership location in its current state of development. You can put a north-south bus there, but wouldn’t a bus on 148th be more productive? It would link Redmond, Bellevue College, and the planned Evergreen Village station, and be an 8-block walk from 140th. Does 140th have more houses/apartments in its path than 148th? (BTW, the empty K-Mart block on 148th & Main would make a great place for TOD, given a frequent bus.)

        Bellevue could upzone 140th, but I think it will have its hands full for twenty years filling its existing planned urban villages. There won’t be any significant housing construction for another five years, and it’ll take 10-15 years after that to build up the Bel-Red project, 116th, and the no-man’s-land on NE 8th between 112th and 122nd to their capacity (and find enough residents for them).

        My main criteria for a station is, is it a significant regional destination, or does it have an above-average concentration of housing? Bellevue TC, Overlake Village, Microsoft, Marymoor, and Redmond are clearly regional destinations; 130th will be an urban village. 140th as-is doesn’t reach that level. And I say that even though I personally could use a 140th station for a couple martial arts schools and the computer shops and Applebe’s. But it’s not a stop I see the bulk of passengers using.

      10. Do what the Singaporeans do. They built a fully functional subway station at a location with potential development. But they keep the station closed and have trains bypass them until the land above is developed and sufficient demand warrants having trains stop there.

        Or at the very least make provisions for a station there even if you don’t build it immediately (like Boeing Access Road station).

      11. Thanks, Jason, for your kind words.

        I often feel like I dig myself into a curmudgeon-shaped rut on this blog, that I don’t always represent myself well. (I’m a nice person. I smile a lot. I swear! I also possess of a form of optimism — the belief that things can work better than they do — which in Seattle is frequently mistaken for harshness towards the current state of things)

        But where Seattle irks me most is its insistence that all opinions be regarded equally. Even though, on many matters, there exist gobs of precedent-based data that outright refutes some of those opinions. Development policy and transit function are two such matters. And the “all opinions are valid” fallacy plays out on STB a lot.

        Mike, I agree that 148th would be well-suited for a straight, unobstructed, frequent north/south bus line. But 140th, more than 3/4 of a mile away, would also be well-suited for a straight, unobstructed, frequent north/south bus line if it had something to connect to.

        You see, a 140th bus line would be useless today, as the thoroughfare passes end-to-end through low-density areas. Today, you would need to tack on some extravagant tail to downtown Kirkland or somewhere in order for the route to gain some one-seat use.

        But if it were to pass a Link station in the middle, then suddenly the gridded route alone gains purpose — every single person who lives or works along it is now one very easy transfer away from anywhere Link goes! (I emphasize the “very easy” part, because a perpendicular transfer mid-route both is and feels much less laborious than a winding transit-center transfer at the end of a route.)

        For the ultimate example of the 1-bus-plus-1-train network, spend some time studying the CTA. http://mappery.com/map-of/Chicago-Transit-Map-2 Chicago — endlessly sprawling, medium-density Chicago — will never in a million years have thorough rail coverage. But nearly every major north-south or east-west street has a reliable and relatively frequent (in many cases extremely frequent) bus with a painless perpendicular rail connection mid-route. You can get pretty much anywhere with one bus and one train.

        And most importantly, the density of any single area ceases to matter, as long as somewhere along the corridor demand exists, and somewhere else along the corridor a connection is made.

      12. In 20 years, I would expect Sounder to be running frequently, perhaps hourly during the day and every couple of hours until 11pm. The idea of a Boeing Access road station is not to support the few people that live in that area but to act as a station for Boeing workers and as an interchange between Link and Sounder. Making trips from South King County to downtown Seattle faster.

        As to the spacing issue for light rail, I would fully expect that bus and street cars would be used to feed traffic to stations. If they’re not planning on this then yes, this station spacing would be a failure.

      13. 140th isn’t the obvious choice for the station over 130th because of a continous N/S connection. It’s the connection between NE24th and Bell-Red Rd that matters. South of Bell-Red there are a lot of multi-family units and it becomes a route to Bellevue College and Factoria. North of NE24th not so much. It’s one acre lots, a golf course and a large undeveloped parcel where cows still graze (and, from what I hear likely to stay that way).

      14. ‘But if it were to pass a Link station in the middle, then suddenly the gridded route alone gains purpose — every single person who lives or works along it is now one very easy transfer away from anywhere Link goes!’

        That’s the best argument you’ve made yet for a station at 140th. Yet I fear that the Eastsiders, who will only pay for a small bit of transit improvements, would not be willing to fund frequent buses on both 140th and 148th. So that 140th would remain an underused station for years, and a target of “rail is expensive and useless” comments. But by all means, tell ST to plan for a future station there, and it can be infilled in ST3 or ST4 like Graham.

        ‘For the ultimate example of the 1-bus-plus-1-train network, spend some time studying the CTA… endlessly sprawling, medium-density Chicago… But nearly every major north-south or east-west street has a reliable and relatively frequent (in many cases extremely frequent) bus with a painless perpendicular rail connection mid-route.’

        Yes, Chicago is light years ahead of Seattle, and I’m going to suggest a Chicago-like goal for the Seattle Transit Master Plan. 10-minute buses every half mile in a grid, and 30-minute night owls every mile. But Chicago seriously needs a ring rail line about at Lawrence, because the 25-minute bus trips eat away any travel-time gains on the train. And I’d say Chicago’s density is not “medium”, it’s more like the U-district. We should be so lucky to have that density.

      15. It’s not so much about making “an argument for 140th” as it is about making an argument for “corridor” thinking rather than “node” thinking (with all of the potential for a much better system that follows from that change in mindset).

        1. Thinking in nodes contributes to overbuilding: if each node must be independently justified, then each is seen to deserve a meticulously designed station as a monument to its worthiness.

        Corridor thinking leads to a better understanding that all stations need not be equal, but can be appropriately scaled in size and expense. Overlake/Microsoft obviously needs high visibility and high capacity, and maybe a few amenities. But 140th? 1 platform, 1 stairway, 1 elevator, and you’re done! It could be the minimum width, and it need not be one inch longer than a 3-car train (the longest they ever expect to run). Smaller and simpler means less environmental impact, so the study and approval costs shrink as well.

        Obviously, I find the “we can’t build anything without building something huge” thinking to be counterproductive. But it’s also, on its face, false. Where do you think British national rail got all of those thousands of station platforms in the middle of nowhere? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Corrour(3).jpg Rail construction was infinitely cheaper a century ago, but do you think any of those stations in the makes-140th-look-like-Midtown-Manhattan kind of sticks would exist if the builders thought ever station needed to be Waterloo-or-nothing-at-all?

        2. Node-building works exponentially less well for feeder service. Be they annoying “transit centers” or actual urban centers, the impulse is to restructure bus service around nodes as endpoints. Connecting buses thus also cease to have corridor aspirations, the rail connection becomes the primary destination of each route, and in spite of the rail transfer, the one-seat mentality is otherwise preserved.

        I kept emphasizing the ease of perpendicular corridor-to-corridor transfers above. You step off of one vehicle, you walk a few feet or (maybe) cross the street, mount a few stairs, and the other vehicle whisks you away.

        Node-endpoint transfers are, by comparison, inherently laborious. Either on the way to the transfer or the way back, at some point your bus is loop-di-looping, stopping at crosswalks, or generally moving slowly the way large vehicles tend to in tight spaces or when the driver is still adjusting his/her seat.

        Strange that those who (falsely) claim each new station will add minutes to the journey don’t seem to care about the extra minutes added to the feeder routes. My guess is they’ve simple never experienced the easier transfers I describe.

        And yes, you can purpose-build painless node-endpoint transfer infrastructure: This subway-trolley-bus three-way:
        …is infinitely better than this future nightmare:

        But neither is as easy as this:

  2. I had to read this post several times to see if I missed Sherwin’s thoughts on what he think should happen. Sherwin, don’t be so timid. This is a blog, not a newspaper. Have an opinion! That’s what blogs are for. What do YOU think?

  3. It can’t hurt that the freeway alignment will eliminate that big elevated turn by the station, which is what tends to generate all the noise.

  4. Also, Metro had better move that RapidRide stop if the station’s in the freeway. A 3+ block walk is not acceptable for such an important transfer.

    1. The gerry-mandered RRB route is the antithesis of Rapid. The connection to Link should be at the Overlake TC stop, and RRB should just stay on 156th NE. The route via 152nd NE adds about 5 traffic signals and several left turns as well as a hill that gets impassable when there’s snow or ice. The 152nd NE routing must add 3-5 minutes travel time.

      1. That depends. You likely won’t find riders going all the way from Redmond/Overlake TC to Bellevue via RapidRide. That’s what Link is for. If Redmond is truly considering a sizable rezone and development plan, then 152nd may be a good option. I’m guessing that most riders will be taking the B line between Crossroads and Bellevue TC, Crossroads and Overlake, and Overlake and Redmond.

      2. Frankly, I think it wouldn’t be so bad if instead of on-street parking they just made those Transit lanes, and then had continuous transit lanes on 24th as well. Without that the bus is going to be incredibly slow. The traffic lights shouldn’t be issues because of the transit priority. I’m much more concerned about getting stuck in congestion.

      3. You likely won’t find riders going all the way from Redmond/Overlake TC to Bellevue via RapidRide.

        RapidRide will be here next year, and Link won’t reach Overlake until 2021 at the earliest. Until then, it’s either the infrequent 566, or the frequent B line. I imagine I’ll be taking the latter quite a bit…

        The route via 152nd NE adds about 5 traffic signals and several left turns as well as a hill that gets impassable when there’s snow or ice.

        I wish that every route was always its snow route. Well, not every, but in many cases, snow routes seem to be so much straighter and regular than their non-snow counterparts.

      4. Probably the non-snow routes are trying to extend the reach of transit (like why the 66/67 uses 80th instead of the more natural but freeway-hugging Banner Way).

    2. Terry told me that the B line probably won’t make a stop there until Link comes in. For now, stopping at the Overlake P&R is sufficient.

      1. In the 10 years between RapidRide B and East Link to Overlake, the proposed route makes sense. After East Link opens, maybe it makes sense to confine RapidRide to 156th NE between NE 8th and NE 40th to speed it up (as suggested above). It will still allow transfers to/from light rail at Overlake TC and Bellevue TC.

        A few local bus routes and Microsoft shuttles could serve the Overlake Village station and P&R.

  5. I think this is gorgeous :) My only quibble is the RapidRide station is a little away from the light rail station. On its own, the RapidRide station is nicely centralized, but I would honestly prefer making a less distant transfer. Believe me, when I use my manual wheelchair (which I do whenever it rains because water & electricity don’t mix thus no scooter for me), it can get quite tiresome on the arms (and I’ve been in a chair since 1999 or so)

  6. Keeping the Link station near SR-520, especially with a pedestrian bridge to reach locations on 148th NE north of 520, makes a lot of sense. NE24th is so congested and it would take a lot of condemnation to jam Link in there. The TOD plan around Overlake looks pretty well thought-out, especially if they create the pedestrian paths.

    I don’t think 140th NE would be all that great a location for a station unless Bellevue does a TOD redevelopment there. Right now everything around there is auto-oriented and there is no housing at all. Bellevue is planning for redevelopment around 130th and 120th stations

    1. I like the placement of the Overlake Village station along SR-520. Speeding the train through there is a good thing.

      Regarding a potential 140th NE station, there is SF and MF residential to the north within walking distance. There is also MF residential to the south along 140th, but it would be a longish hike. I think the placement of the proposed stations is okay. 140th NE could be a good place for an infill station.

  7. When you wrote about this before I though there was more to the story and I glad to see there is.

    I think this station and Northgate are examples of where, if designed correctly, TOD are possible next to a freeways. The key to making this work is high ridership demand on both sides of the barrier, high quality connection across the barrier (preferably the station its self since this minimizes walking distance), and quality/direct connections to the neighborhood on both sides.

    This station (Bergshamra) is a prefect example from Stockholm of how freeways can be “bridged” by stations. One entrance is on the north side of the freeway and the other is on the south side. Both entrances are well shielded from the noise of the freeway, have car free central zone with neighborhood type business.

    1. Yeah, Redmond is really thinking this through. Breaking up the block is an astoundingly good idea. Hopefully, these plans will come through.

  8. Great article! Until now I hadn’t heard anything about any plans Redmond has for its station areas. That streetscape design practically has me drooling… That’s how you do TOD!
    On the RapidRide Station thing, maybe that’s where the station would be before Link opens, but then they’d add in a second station up at the Link station in 2021? It’ll be less important for RapidRide to be “rapid” anyways by that point.

  9. It’s interesting that Redmond is not showing any design ideas for the old Group Health property directly east of their Overlake Village site. What do they imagine this massive property to be, I wonder?

    1. The GH property hit hard times with the economic bust. I believe its going through a separate master plan proccess. It should definately add to the TODness of the area when redeveloped.

  10. A while ago Hugeasscity had asked “Wheres my TOD” (http://hugeasscity.com/2009/04/08/wheres-my-tod/).

    Well, here it is.

    “Suburbs” have great infill potential that can change the face of the region in a way that the central city can’t match (making capitol hill more dense is laudable, but chaning low density business park into a dense urban center is huge).

    Most of this region’s growth is going to occur in the suburbs – we have a chance to invest and determine what form that growth will take. Remember that next time the arguments pop up about killing transit in the suburbs to build it in the central city.

  11. I appreciate this information because I am more focused on what’s going on in Seattle since I live near the Central Link line. It’s great to hear what other cities are planning for their future. Thanks for keeping me apprised on what the eastside cities are formulating around their future light rail stations.

  12. Yes, I just fell in love with the D2-A Alignment as well. I’m against surface center-running light-rail, so having it act more like heavy rail by being separated from the road and pedestrian traffic would be the best way to go.
    I an definetly invision your Overlake Village and TOD downtown in the future.

  13. I’m going to throw out something that could be considered wildly heretical. And that is, the eastside alignment has at least 2 stops that seem to be specifically for the benefit of commuters to Microsoft campuses. I see significant risk that Microsoft will be a much smaller company in 10-15 years. If their long term viability could be in question, is it wise to commit such a major and rather permanent infrastructure investment in that area?

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