A Times article describes the Bellevue Council’s unhappiness with potential sites for Link operations and maintenance base in their city:
“It doesn’t make sense” to put a rail yard in what will be an upscale area, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee said last week. City Council members have asked the staff to draft a letter to Sound Transit expressing the city’s concerns.
As background, ST2 is predicted to require 180 rail cars in total, and the Sodo facility can only accommodate 104. For various operational reasons, expansion of the current facility is not an option. By the end of 2020, ST will have taken delivery of enough vehicles to need the second facility open for storage.
Because a South King location is just too far from the North and East endpoints, ST is looking at four sites on the Eastside and one near Lynnwood. In the longer run, trains will span from Everett to Tacoma and Redmond with 3-minute headways in the core, and a third facility will be necessary.* The five sites under consideration are west of the Lynnwood Transit Center, between 120th Ave NE and the BNSF tracks, between 130th and 136th Avenues below SR 520, west of 148th Ave NE and north of NE 20th St, and between Northup Way and the Link line.
I have mixed feelings about this dispute.
At the most fundamental level the Council is correct. It’s poor form to place a land-intensive yard close to a station in any case, due to the potential for development that will attract riders. This is particularly the case when the Council has stated plans to upzone for development. If it must be near a station, it would be best near a parking-oriented station where the region is basically punting on development.
On the other hand, Mayor Lee’s accusation that Sound Transit “[threw] this big curve at us” after years of cooperation is entirely bogus. Although the original ST2 plan mentioned Overlake TC, not anywhere in Bellevue, as a likely site, these Bellevue sites have been mentioned in public documents going all the way back to March 2009.
Furthermore, placing the O&M facility far from a station just encourages Sound Transit to continue with one of their more annoying operational habits: operator changes in mid-segment.
It would be nice to see where along the line Bellevue thinks a maintenance facility would be workable. “Put it in Lynnwood” — which has its own plans for station area development — is just a little too easy for a Bellevue group to say. Personally, of the five it seems like the last two listed above are farthest from a station, and therefore would have the lowest effect on ridership.
* Although I suppose this third site could be well to the North or South.