One really interesting component of Metro’s proposed Eastside service revision is the huge amount of service between Bellevue College and the Eastgate Park and Ride. Like many colleges, BC is a big all-day traffic generator, and Eastgate is of course the main access point to I-90 buses for a wide swath of Bellevue. There is a much better way to serve these nodes, but to date none of the involved parties has stepped up with the leadership and capital funding to make it happen.
Currently, four routes of varying quality shuttle between these nodes, and revised service would also have four routes, three with 30 minute headways and one with 15.
These two major transit hubs are less than a half mile apart as the crow flies. Unfortunately, terrain and the road network make this a very bad connection. Coaches go all the way out to 148th Ave and turn onto Eastgate Way; this amounts to three signalized left turns in the northbound direction, in addition to a lot of added distance. Google pegs this as a 5-minute drive; add time for a bus taking this route. More after the jump.
The 926, an hourly DART van likely to be discontinued, takes Perimeter Rd. Although slightly more direct (Google says 3 minutes), this route has lots of speed bumps and in any case cannot support the axle weights of 40 ft. coaches.
Quick inspection of the map indicates a far better choice: a 2-minute drive on Snoqualmie River Rd*, with new stops on the west side of campus. This has several advantages over coming in on Eastgate Way:
- a 6-minute** time advantage, plus the all-important perception that this is not a milk run. There are lot of people that currently have one-seat rides into Seattle and will now be asked to transfer at Eastgate; making this non-agonizing would be gracious.
- fewer conflict points with pedestrians and parking vehicles than at the current stop location;
- The 245 can stop on the bridge over I-90 and adequately serve both the bays and the freeway station and continue on to Factoria without going down to the bays at all;
- Fewer speed bumps;
- Passengers on all routes can get off at a new stop at 142nd Pl and Perimeter Rd and have a much easier walk to the freeway station.
Furthermore, the stops on Eastgate Way are still served by that frequent 271 on its way to Issaquah.
As always, there’s a catch. Bellevue has already done analysis on this option in its Eastgate/I-90 corridor project and found that the road is not adequate. From the December 2009 “Eastgate Preliminary Screening Analysis:”
These roads would need to be reconstructed to accommodate buses… The roads would need a 12” concrete subsurface to accommodate the weight of regularly scheduled buses. In addition, bus stops in both directions would need to be added at the intersection of Snoqualmie River Road & Kelsey Creek Road, while eliminating the stops at Tyee River Road & Kelsey Creek Road and at Landerholm Circle SE & SE 28th Street. The intersection of Snoqualmie River Road at Coal Creek Road should also be improved. Today, Snoqualmie River Road is not aligned with 142nd Avenue SE, and the north leg of 142d Avenue SE (which serves a residential area) is too close to Snoqualmie River Road. An additional mid-route stop along Snoqualmie River Road should be considered to provide quicker pedestrian access to housing and campus facilities. The college closes Snoqualmie River Road during evening hours, so the road would need to be opened during a longer time period to serve transit during off-peak hours.
The study estimates the total cost at $4.4m. The other problem is condos on the other side of the road, which could mean NIMBYs when the subject is a diesel bus going by every five minutes or so.
Of course, no one has any money. The good news is that with so many buses the operational savings are actually significant. The study estimates annual operating savings of $538,000 under route assumptions that place total service at about half of what it actually would be. Exact trip counts for the revised service don’t exist, but using the existing trip counts on the four routes involved, and a commonly cited figure of $125/service hour***, the annual savings come out to $1.3m, recovering the capital cost in less than four years. Put another way, that’s a 30% return on investment forever, before considering any impact on riders.
My understanding is that, report aside, this isn’t on anyone’s project laundry list. It’s about time it was. Between Metro, the City of Bellevue, and Bellevue College, someone should take responsibility for this.
*Google calls this 142nd Pl SE, but Bellevue documents say Snoqualmie River Rd is the real name.
** Time savings estimate from the Bellevue study.
*** On 221, 233, 245, and 271, there are 347 weekday trips, 193 Saturday trips, and 113 Sunday trips. There are 255 weekdays, 52 Saturdays, and 58 Sunday/Holidays in a typical year. The study uses $100/hr for reasons that escape me.