South Bellevue Park & Ride

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.

Walksheds for the existing So. Bellevue P&R and the A-2 Station (click to enlarge)

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.

42 Replies to “Looking at South Bellevue Walksheds”

  1. Not that it would ever or could ever happen, but if it weren’t already in a single-family suburb, that A-2 location actually could present some interesting development opportunities, specifically the stretch of SE 34th st between 113th and 114th avenues and even some of 113th ave itself. Its a shame all those cul-de-sacs destroy any hope of a miniature neighborhood center around the station.

  2. What I don’t understand is why anyone is willing to spend so much time and money trying to keep out of their neighborhood something that is so clearly a desirable thing. The money being spent fighting for “B7” would probably be enough to solve every legitimate complaint about more sensible alignments-which would only be beneficial to the neighborhoods in question.

    Would someone who lives along the preferred alignment please explain why your neighbors are so dead set against a project that my neighbors and I would be glad to have here in Ballard?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Maybe they’re afraid of the noise?

      By the way, did I see you on a Link train leaving the airport around 9:30 on New Year’s eve?

      1. Noise mitigation is one of those items where the money I spoke of could be better spent. A few years ago in Portland, we stayed at an elegant old hotel west of downtown. On a Sunday morning, we couldn’t even hear MAX trains going by under our windows. Much less noise than the average 550, and all accompanying rush hour traffic.

        You’re right about New Year’s Eve. But the greatest time to be on Central LINK was when the one special train left Westlake with a crush standing load after the fireworks display was over. People can argue forever about statistical comparisons between rail and bus transit, but in thirteen years’ Metro driving, I never carried loads like that with everybody in such a relaxed good mood.

        Another interesting thing: Tukwila International Station park & ride is regularly putting large numbers of “south subarea” passengers onto light rail years before anybody expected. And based on coversations I’ve overheard, liking it better than they ever expected.

        Best of all, LINK is drawing a powerful new group of advocates, namely children ten and under. Not only will their eighteenth birthdays mark the beginning of decades of positive transit votes, but short-term, parents tell me that light rail rides top the list of constant demands for treats.

        If Sound Transit could flood Bellevue with special family fares for train rides- like round trip on the 550 (which is a spectacular ride in itself
        to the Tunnel) and a train ride to the airport and back, Bellevue City Council might start getting pressure too shrill to refuse.

        Mark Dublin

    2. I’m sure some of it is not wanting “those people” in the neighborhood, as well as not wanting to lose the character of single-family suburbia.

  3. Good analysis. The So Bellevue P&R definitely has a better walkshed using the “number of parcels” metric. As this better translates into potential ridership than does the “total area” metric, it is clear that the So Bellevue P&R is a far better station location.

    However, even the So Bellevue P&R walkshed is severely constrained by the suburban style street layout in So Bellevue. Consider for example how much larger the walkshed would be if just one parcel was condemned along 109th Ave SE and converted into a walkway.

    Condemning one of these parcels would almost double the available walkshed for the So Bellevue P&R. ST ought to consider doing this. It would be cheap compared to other alternatives.

  4. I think the most important point made here is that with a stairway and a bit of sidewalk, B2’s walkshed would probably increase 30-40%, something not possible for B7.

    1. Yeah, I went out the that P&R to see what all the fuss about B2M was about. That area is quite pedestrian-unfriendly, although I doubt that keeps residents of the area up at night.

      I’m still curious what legal remedies the people there and in Surrey Downs might have. Provided ST does the FEIS right, can they do anything but scream and shout?

      1. No, they really can’t. They can sue, but they’d have to get an injunction (I think? IANAL of course), and so they could either do that *now*, when it’ll have time to be resolved long before construction, or they’d have to wait until construction was about to start, at which point a judge would give them a stern look and tell them they had years.

  5. I’m no fan of B7, but how many actual people does this even translate to? In this area doesn’t a parcel = one single family home? It feels like the difference we’re talking about is on the order of 100 people. And that’s only *potential* riders. Of course I could be totally missing something here.

    1. You’re not missing anything here. The difference is only 57 parcels of single family homes, or say about 100 workers. If 10% use transit (higher than average), then you’re down to a paltry 10 extra riders per day between the two proposals. That’s not even measurable on a daily basis.

  6. Ideally you’d want something that is simultaneously a P&R, a transfer to future Issaquah and N-S Link lines, and a transfer for buses coming from south. None of these locations are good at that. With SBP&R, the Issaquah line would have to dip up if it’s going to Seattle, or share the East Link track from SBP&R to BTC if it’s going to Bellevue. Or it could turn up at 405 and skip SBP&R, but then ppl going to Seattle would have to detour to BTC and back down to SB, which would prevent the elimination of the Eastgate-Seattle expresses.

    For a N-S line, it would have to share the East Link track from BTC to SBP&R, or have a separate track on 405 that bypasses SBP&R, which wouldn’t be as bad for it as it would be for Issaquah.

    The thing is, rail-to-rail transfers should be the main driving factor because they’re the largest factor in how effectively the transit system works. And while the other rail lines don’t exist, the equivalent bus transfers become critical, especially if one goal is to replace ST Express buses as it should be. The location of P&Rs is of lesser importance. Those who put the P&R first are effectively saying that the main use of the rail will be P&Rers. In that sense, I’d almost say eliminate the P&R if it’s causing such distortion to the station location. Except that that wouldn’t happen: instead the P&R would remain and the express buses with it, and they would compete with Link. So it’s a difficult problem, and the reactionary part of me says just eliminate the station rather than putting in a P&R dud that won’t be a good transfer station.

    1. Maybe I spent too much time staring at the Moscow Metro maps in Russian class or my thing with symmetry, but the idea of crossing lines in Bellevue really appeals to me. Whereas Eastlink currently comes East over the Lake, North through the Bellevue and then East to Redmond, 520 Link, or Sandpoint-Kirkland Link could come East, then South through Bellevue and then East to Issaquah.

      1. I think it’s just a good idea. Issaquah-Bellevue-Kirkland-Sand Point-UW. But then, I’m the Sand Point guy. ;)

        I also think that the frequencies would line up. Bellevue will always be “half frequency” because it merges with Central Link. Ballard-UW-Kirkland could be “full frequency” with one line going east to Redmond/Woodinville and one going to Bellevue/Issaquah.

      2. Holy Crap. I hadn’t thought about the two lines over the water idea, but damn that would be awesome!

    2. “The thing is, rail-to-rail transfers should be the main driving factor because they’re the largest factor in how effectively the transit system works.”

      where would rail to rail transfers occur the most ??north to south??

      would most rail tavel in the seattle area be pretty much on a single rail?? burb to CBD for instance?? some occasions a burb to cbd to transfer to university or hospital or such??

      1. The largest bulk of ridership is right where East Link is. The Eastside is more dispersed so it’s harder to site a N-S line that would put the most workplaces/houses/destinations within walking distance. But for the most ridership it would stop in downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, Bothell, and Renton; and at lesser strategic centers like Totem Lake, Factoria, and somewhere around Newcastle/Kennydale. It would have to zigzag a bit to reach all of those, which illustrates part of the problem. Building on 405 would of course be cheapest, but it runs through low-density neighborhoods so the walksheds would be like SBP&R.

        If it came to the stations I mentioned you’d see people riding to:
        – Google in Kirkland (require short shuttle bus)
        – Kirkland tourist destinations (downtown, Moss Bay Park, Argosy cruise)
        – Kirkland library
        – UW Bothell
        – Transfer to 522 and Sammamish River Trail in Bothell
        – Shopping in Totem Lake
        – Work, shopping, library, arts museum/festival, transfers in Bellevue
        – Shopping and work in Factoria
        – Renton Boeing (require short bus shuttle)
        – Renton, it’s “ahead of the curve”
        – Transfer in Renton to Southcenter
        – Transfer in Renton to residential areas to visit people
        – A slightly longish walk in Renton to Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart, which could be mitigated by a circulator bus. Bonus if it stopped near Ikea, Fry’s, and Valley Medical Center too.

      2. Mike, for the destinations you’ve listed, the Eastside BNSF Corridor lines up pretty well. It would connect to 522 (bus or highway?) and the Sammamish River trail in Woodinville, not Bothell, additional stops in Houghton and at SK P&R, transfer station to East Link at Bellevue Hospital district, misses Factoria and stops in Renton near The Landing.

      3. I passed the BNSF corridor every day for years growing up and always thought, “If only we had a train… but it’s too far from downtown Bellevue.” But I’d assumed that that no-man’s-land could never be upzoned. When somebody said people are actually thinking of dense neighborhoods on 116th and 120th, and that the city center could actually shift in the next two decades… well, BNSF will be in the right location then. And we can live with the 3/4 mile gap from BNSF to BTC if we have to… better to have an N-S train than no N-S train.

        My main concern about commuter rail (heavy rail) is that it needs to run every 10-15 minutes, not hourly or only at peak hours. I’ve never seen commuter rail that did that except PATH in NY/NJ, which is excellent. So I tend to favor light rail because people run it more like a metro.

  7. The other advantage of the A-2 station is that if/when LINK goes to Issaquah and points East, the A-2 station will become the transfer to Bellevue station. Not that it won’t need major modifications but if there are two stations within a 1/4 mile of each other that will be kind-a dumb.

    1. If they ever build Link to Issaquah I would imagine that they would probably build a wye near South Bellevue so that trains can be routed to Bellevue/Redmond or Seattle.

  8. Walkshed studies and statistics are great in urban planning classes, and I can see why someone would be eager to try to apply what he’s learned in college to the real world, but the first question I would have for this person is how many people currently walk to the South Bellevue Park & Ride from adjacent communities? I know this area well, and I can tell you that number is in the very low double digits, making any sort of walkshed comparison discussion unimportant.

    1. Of course it is. But in 30 years some of those houses could be apartments or condos.

      1. The following question was asked at the beginning of this thread…

        “Would someone who lives along the preferred alignment please explain why your neighbors are so dead set against a project that my neighbors and I would be glad to have here in Ballard?”

        And Ben, I think you answered it….

        “in 30 years some of those houses could be apartments or condos.”

    2. Current counts of people who walk to the SB P&R aren’t going to be a good measure of who will walk to a Link station at the same location. I’d be willing to bet that most people in that walkshed don’t even know what the 550 is, or really care about bus service at all. This is not a bus-riding demographic. But light rail, on the other hand, with its improved riding experience, is something they would walk to.

      1. ’d be willing to bet that most people in that walkshed don’t even know what the 550 is, or really care about bus service at all. This is not a bus-riding demographic. But light rail, on the other hand, with its improved riding experience, is something they would walk to.

        did polls say that??

        if a bus gets you closer than a tram/train would that be a factor in a better riding experience??

    3. unless potential for improvement in a walkshed area can be a comparison point. what is a walkshed and when was the term first developed??

    4. I live in the neighborhood on 28th place, the culdesac with the stairs directly down to Bellevue Way – about a 3 minute walk to the current park and ride. I bought the house 7 years ago knowing that SBPR was a potential light rail station site for the future eastlink and was now operating on the 550 line, which was a HUGE deal in wanting to buy there. While I’m guessing the majority of residents in the neighborhood don’t use transit daily, there are a significant number who do – and bought into this area for the same reason. I don’t know specific numbers (local transit users), but judging from activity I see, there are probably somewhere between 50-125 trips from the neighborhood to the PR every week day. And it would be interesting to see if we had stats of how that’s changed over the years, as the pathway at the end of our culdesac is only about 6 years old. The subdividers in the 50’s surprisingly had the forsight to leave a 10′ easement at the end of our street – with the city completing the improvements within a year after I moved in. As a result, it substantially improved walking times to the PR. Sherwin mentioned above about the possibility of a new connection to the north would improve the walkshed #’s, and it’s true. While I’m guessing that the current residents would balk, the city could adopt a soft policy to work with residents to negotiate an easement between sideyards in the future to plant the seed….so yes, our numbers overall are small, but there are implications that I beleive are significant.

  9. I’m all for debating what is “preferred” ridership vs. “unpreferred”, although I think in the end fewer car trips along I-90 between 405 and I5 is a good thing.

    What really bothers me about this is the location of the proposed station. It’s perched right above the existing wetland. How is ST going to get permits for this?

    Another thing that bothers me is what to do about the existing P&R. Do the proponents of this alignment really think people are going to park or transfer from a bus and walk as far as 1/3 of a mile uncovered to a platform?

    The last thing that bothers me is this entire exercise is just that: an exercise. ST has already decided the train is coming up Bellevue Way and 112th. I think Bellevue needs to prepare for that and stop waving B7 in the air like it has a chance of happening.

    1. The existing P&R is just fine. Shouldn’t have been built in the swamp and would never be allowed today but that’s water under the bridge. The 550 will live on. Just transfer people at M.I. It’s not that hard. The idea of building a new multistory structure in either location is just stupid. The idea anywhere near there will be high density apartments in the next… when pigs can fly.

  10. Even if all those connections were put in around South Bellevue P&R to expand the walkshed and there were 500 homes in the ten minute walking radius, you’d be extremely lucky to get even 20% of the commuters in walking distance of either possibility for a South Bellevue station to take Link. Let’s not kid ourselves: wherever this station ends up, the vast, vast majority of its riders will come from bus transfers or parking & riding. The A-2 station could get like half the ridership from the surrounding neighborhood as SBP&R, or less even, and still come out with way higher ridership because of the much easier bus connections to that station from Issaquah and other Eastside cities. Also, an SBP&R station has very little TOD potential, and A-2 has virtually none, but I think the Wilburton Station, included in B7, does have potential for at least a few midrises around the station, which could generate a substantial number of riders.

    1. Exactly right. The ST plan generates like 8 walk on passengers and the exceedingly stupid Bellevue Council plan generates about 4. Wilburton and B7 does actually have potential. There are condo complexes there now but most is commercial zoned and much of that is storage and warehouse space that is ridiculously close to DT Bellevue and the hotel district seems to have been completely lost in the analysis. That’s where the development potential is, not Enatai and the wetlands.

  11. @Sherwin lee

    From one of the Representative at one of the open houses “80% of the users of that P&R is from the south from I-405 (Renton,etc) and east form I-90(Issaquaah,etc).” I think in the remaining 20% some come from wood ridge , surrey downs community.

    Your study on the Walksheds of the south bellevue park & ride and the A-2 Station is appreciated. But, There is very minimal to no impact by A-2 station because the number of riders to this P&R come by walking is negligible.

    The question here is how many of those parcels who have access to the existing south Bellevue P& R and A-2 station by walking are really a potential transit user to go to seattle. As far as we know very few of those people ride transit.

  12. If we accept that most present and future users of the P&R drive there, then it makes little difference whether A-2(B7-R) is used or B2M is used for the South Bellevue stop on east link. Except that the A-2 option is projected to cost $45 million (almost 35%) *more* (see the Alternatives study from last summer) for that little difference.

    1. If you see the SDEIS, the south Bellevue P&R will have a huge 2030. If A-2 Station is constructed then the spill over can be accommodated in the existing south Bellevue park & ride. I don’t quite agree with the number 35% but that is worth it.

  13. Skehan has it: there is little walk access difference.

    The South Bellevue alternatives will destroy South Bellevue in order to serve it. That will lead to several years of diruption. The B7 alignment would allow Route 550 and South Bellevue to operate as is up until east Link opens. that seems a large benefit.

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