Probably the most significant revision to B7 that Bellevue’s current study would be the addition of a new park-and-ride near the Bellevue Way on-ramps, which would substitute for bypassing the South Bellevue P&R. The general principle of moving an existing commuter node to a freeway orientation just to avoid places where people live is pretty absurd, in my opinion. Nonetheless, it’s obvious that this revision is simply attempting to make up for lost ridership on B7– something critics will say is the holy grail of good alignment criteria for Sound Transit.
The most glaring problem with this quick and dirty method of racking up ridership is that it fundamentally ignores what kinds of riders you would gain and what kinds of riders you would lose. For all we know, it may actually turn out that this alignment may produce the highest ridership of all B segments. But I’ve made a similar case before with the Vision Line, C14E– lots of riders from elsewhere will do you no good if it’s at the expense of neighborhood riders.
A look at the walksheds of the two stations below the jump.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but it’s worth reiterating that freeway stations are almost always bad for growth and ridership in the long term. In the short term, though, stations like these tend to be the champion of highway-oriented growth advocates, typically based on their high park-and-ride utilization rates. The shocker is that Bellevue’s proposed A-2 Station, being clearly visible from I-90, could very well rack up greater ridership than the existing South Bellevue P&R.
The worry here is that A-2/B7 advocates will just sell this as the solution to skipping South Bellevue with most unsuspecting citizens buying their argument. There’s a qualitative aspect to ridership here that is typically overlooked– where riders are coming from and how they’re getting to the station. In my opinion, 1000 riders who walk or bike to the station would be preferable to 2000 riders who drive there. The trade-off with the A-2 Station, of course, is the depletion of a more central walkshed.
To be clear, South Bellevue P&R’s walkshed is not great– one side of the parking lot is swamp, and the other side is a make-up of low-density single-family residences perched on a short plataeau. The A-2 Station, however, being bounded by swamp and freeway on three sides, doesn’t exactly make a better case for pedestrian friendliness. To illustrate the point, I’ve created parcel walksheds for both stations.
Because of large amount of land taken up by roads, parks, and wetlands in the area, I’ve highlighted all the residential and commercial parcels accessible by a 5 & 10 minute walk instead of graphically drawing a traditional walkshed showing land area coverage. The sheds are calculated from approximate quarter-mile and half-mile walks, respectively, walk-to-transit distances that are frequently cited in planning literature. Like Adam’s First Hill Streetcar maps, the analysis takes into account taxicab geometry that follows a network that pedestrians can actually walk on, as opposed to drawing a useless circular buffer, as is often the case.
The A-2 Station would be pedestrian-accessible from two distinct entrances– one at 113th Ave SE (bordering the west side of the park & ride), the other from the I-90 trail crossing Mercer Slough. All South Bellevue P&R entrances would be accessed from Bellevue Way. To be fair to both stations, I’ve connected a multi-use trail network to the street network, which we’ll assume has either sidewalks or shoulders sufficient for pedestrians. I’ve also eliminated highways and on-ramps for obvious reasons. Parcels slated for condemnation are omitted as well.
Initial reaction from the maps indicate that the walkshed areas don’t look drastically different, but a deeper look at the differences between the two are pretty telling. Within a 5-minute walk, 45 parcels are accessible from South Bellevue, whereas only 25 are accessible from A-2, indicating 80% more coverage in the former. That narrows to 29% for a 10-minute walk with 251 parcels served by South Bellevue, and 194 served by A-2. Graphically, the A-2 Station parcel walkshed looks inflated because several long parcels (waterfront homes) south of I-90 stretch the ostensible coverage area.
South Bellevue Park & Ride’s diminished walkshed isn’t so much due to its location as it is to the lack of street connectivity in the neighborhood, with Enatai accessible to the P&R via only one entrance. A few million dollars and enough public will to add Enatai-Bellevue Way street connections could potentially double South Bellevue P&R’s walkshed.
The A-2 Station, on the other hand, remains inherently flawed simply because of where it’s sited– in fact, the street/trail connectivity there is slightly better, yet still less parcels are served than at South Bellevue. The only way you’d be able to improve the walkshed is to move the station closer to the neighborhood, which is heck of a lot more expensive than funding a few complete streets projects. What luck, though– it just so happens that there’s already one there.