NE 6th option, downtown Bellevue

Back in May, Sound Transit presented its first iteration of East Link cost savings options to slim down Bellevue’s $60 million contingent contribution to a downtown tunnel.  The ST Board advanced a few different options along three segments of the alignment for further study.  Last week, ST released the findings (pdf) of the adopted cost savings work plan, which will help both the agency and the City decide which options might be pursued for further engineering.

While the entire cost savings effort is part of Bellevue’s deal for a tunnel, the work plan thankfully instituted limits on how far such reductions could go (emphasis added):

The MOU specifies that Project cost reductions from value engineering, design advancement, scope modifications and for any other reason within the City of Bellevue shall count towards the reduction of City contingent contribution (provided that such reductions do not result in deferral of stations or Park-and-Rides or deferral or complete elimination of other Project elements that have a direct negative Project impact on ridership or operations and maintenance).

More on the cost savings options below the jump.

The first proposal on the alignment heading into Bellevue would run Link trains at-grade along the east-side of Bellevue Way as opposed to the original retained cut profile agreed upon in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  To preserve the historic Winters House, the cost savings option would move Bellevue Way to the west and widen the roadway to accommodate a new southbound HOV lane.  The most recent cost estimates put the savings between $7 and $11 million, slightly more than what was originally proposed.

Cost savings options (click to enlarge)

With the exception of the new HOV lane, the concept remains largely unchanged since it was first proposed earlier this year.  The downside to the added lane is that the street’s right-of-way eats into the hillside and requires a fairly tall retaining wall, greatly increasing the difficulty of making pedestrian connections between the station and neighborhoods palatable.

Moving north, the second cost savings proposal runs the train under 112th Ave SE to reach the street’s west-side and continues an at-grade profile entering downtown.  Three sub-options on the table right now deal with access to the Surrey Downs neighborhood via SE 4th St:

  • Closure of the street entirely, with the exception of emergency access: $9 to $16 million
  • Provide general access via right-in, right-out ramps over the tracks: $7 to $12 million
  • Maintain access by running trains in a trench under the road: no savings

Surrey Downs has the most to lose with a closure of SE 4th, and the impacts on property values are creating understandable opposition.

Moving into downtown, the work plan advances three tunnel options:

  • Optimizing the adopted station on 110th: $6 to $10 million
  • Stacking the trackways and platforms to narrow the footprint: $8 to $13 million
  • Moving the station entirely to NE 6th: $23 to $39 million

Earlier this year, we editorialized against the latter two options.  Since then, the stacked tunnel has improved a bit with a station entrance moved to the west-side of 110th adjacent to the transit center.  The station’s configuration still eliminates the possibility of a center platform though, which isn’t crucial at this station but still far superior to the side platforms that populate Central Link.

Nothing about the NE 6th option, however, has convinced me that it’s any better than it was back in May.  The station is the farthest removed from the transit center and only has general access from one end of the platforms.  Its open-air construction also entirely defeats the purpose of even exploring cost savings for a downtown tunnel if the station won’t even be underground.

As one might expect, unfortunately, the NE 6th option saves the most money.  The worry here is that the City will be tempted to promote what would be the cheapest but most inferior option moving forward.  For now, I’ll stand by our editorial position that the adopted MOU station (C9T) still prevails as the ideal option out of the three proposals.

None of the cost savings proposals are a sure bet that the City’s contingent contribution can be removed entirely, which injects some risk into Bellevue’s ability to uphold its end of the agreement with ST.  Nonetheless, I’ll accept the current rate of progress as a vast improvement over previous collaboration efforts between the two parties.

88 Replies to “An Update on East Link Cost Savings”

  1. Seems like it would be a lot less expensive to move the Winters House than move a rail line and arterial.

    Why not move it east?

    1. I think ST decided in the last iteration that it would cost more to move the building than to move the street, because the building is fragile enough it risks breaking apart if moved.

    2. I don’t understand all the hyperbole about the “historic” Winters House.

      I’ve been a Bellevue area resident for over 30 years, and it’s just a darn house. I think the main reason it became the historic Winters House was to be give the B7 proponents another argument.

      I don’t see justification for any exceptional expenses based on this house.

    3. I don’t think the house is important either. But it has been historic for years before Link. I also don’t like the Egan House, a steeply angular roof thing on Lakewood Boulevard that’s billed as the first modern style house in Seattle. That thing should be torn down, it’s an offense to the greenbelt. But on the other hand, tastes change between generations in unpredictable ways. People now sorely lament the 1800s and 1920s buildings that were torn down for modern buildings. Maybe in fifty years somebody will be glad the Egan House is there.

      1. Yep, the Winters House is being used just like the endangered species act has been to steer government subsidized projects. How is it salmon on the endangered species list are for sale at the super market? The anti B7 crowd did the same thing with the “crossing the slew” propaganda that made it sound like B7 would mean the end of frogs in North America. What’s funny is the anti B7 crowd campaigned against running the light rail line past NIMBY Condo owners in favor of undevelopable land in a wetlands buffer zone.

  2. Clarification about the west-side 110th access. ST also has a “optimized adopted” project design which includes west-side 110th access, so both the “optimized adopted” design and then stacked tunnel design have a one crosswalk transfer to BTC.

  3. So we’re trying to save $60 mil out of a project costing $3 bil, or about 2%.
    Meanwhile, in a recent post, the financial picture for E.King has worsened, with local revenue slipping from 28 to 33% less than expected for now.

    1. As i understand it, the downtown savings are to help the city of Bellevue. They argreed to pay money for the downtown tunnel since the ST plan was at grade, but might not have the money required.

      The savings south of DT Bellevue are a result of the mitigation study. ST is being pressed to provide mitigation in this area since the adopted plan was originally at grade with crossings. The savings are to find a way to build some of these mitigation strategies, in the allotted budget.

    2. The presence of a surface parking lot is hardly a justification for a train station. The current parking lot at Lynnwood should be TODed, and have the station end up in downtown Lynnwood, such as it is. Otherwise, the daytime ridership will be pretty close to nil.

      Of course, the same problem can be pointed out in Federal Way, where serving the business core on Highway 99 makes a lot more sense than serving the isolated parking garage, and then keep Link on 99 all the way to Tacoma.

      South Bellevue Station falls under the serving-a-surface-lot category, but at least it will also be a major transfer point, won’t it?

      1. “South Bellevue Station falls under the serving-a-surface-lot category, but at least it will also be a major transfer point, won’t it?”

        Potentially, yes. That location is pretty good for getting to/from I90 in both directions and there is a fair amount of transfer activity there today although hardly enough to justify a train station. The question is whether Metro and/or Sound Transit will truncate routes that currently travel through South Bellevue. Given the layover space they are building there, it looks like that is the plan, but who knows if they can actually pull it off. Routes that go through there include: 211, 241, 249, 555, 556, and the 560. The 550 will be replaced by Link.

        I could frequent service from Issaquah and Issaquah Highlands terminating at South Bellevue, or continuing on to another part of Bellevue. That said, getting people to transfer isn’t easy.

      2. The 249 already terminates at S. Bellevue. Terminating at BTC would eliminate service to SE Bellevue. The 241 will be more important in connecting to Eastgate and I believe it’s through routed as a 226? Terminating at S. Bellevue would cut off service to Bellevue Way and 108th which would have to be made up with other routes. The 211 could/should terminate at S. Bellevue but a new route will have to be created to serve the majority of the stops which are in Seattle. Link is too out of direction to replace the 555/556 which with HOV improvements on 520 will be much faster. The 560 tries to do too many things; Bellevue to SEA, Renton to SEA and West Seattle to SEA, Renton and Bellevue. Link will provide marginally slower service from Bellevue to the airport with the added PITA of a transfer. A transition from bad to ugly. And Eastlink does nothing for the important connect of Renton TC to DT Bellevue.

      3. As I said in another thread, an ideal transit center serves three purposes in one stop: a place to transfer, a place to walk to destinations, and a place to park cars (like the Renton, Burien, Northgate, and Lynnwood transit centers). But I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s better to move the P&R outside the city center, as Bellevue P&R does. The needs of driving and non-driving passengers seem to be different. Non-driving passengers need walkable destinations, good transfers, and a coffee shop/newsstand at the station. Driving passengers aren’t walking anywhere or transferring, so they don’t need any of those, they just need a place to park. In that sense, maybe the Bellevue model has it right: put the transit center in the city center, and the P&R just outside, making two separate stops. Because I’ve always liked the Bellevue TC better than any of the others, and it’s probably because it doesn’t have a big parking lot next to it. (It’s also because the walkability is good and the timed transfers are good — or at least they were good until RapidRide blew a whole in the concept of timed transfers. :)

        There is one remaining issue, in that the Renton and Burien garages seem to do double duty for people driving into the center and not taking transit. A separated P&R like South Bellevue can’t do that. But I’m not very sympathetic to people who drive to the center rather than taking transit, and I don’t want their traffic in the center, so I’m not much concerned about them. I can understand how the city governments and chambers of commerce might be concerned about them, however.

    3. Can you provide a link to the Lynnwood Transit Master Plan. I’m not finding anything.

      1. Sorry Adam, that failed. Google this.
        City of Lynnwood Mode Split for City Center Street Master Plan

      1. The zoning is there. That’s a significant change in direction. Sometimes transit needs to precede development rather than follow it.

      2. And for the record:

        Lynnwood — population 38,000 (less than 2/3 of 98107 + 98117) —,_Washington

        Edmonds — population 40,000 (not directly served) —,_Washington

        Mountlake Terrace — population 20,000 (with no center of gravity to speak of) —,_Washington

        The “hundreds of thousands” in the anything-shed of North Link are a fiction!

  4. The years of delay Bellevue has caused will end up costing Sound Transit’s taxpayers north of $100,000,000. There’s a time value to money, and dicking around the way Bellevue wants to do now is burning piles of cash.

    Sound Transit should just go ahead and start building. Enough already! It does not need Bellevue’s approval, the legislature ensured that several years back. If you take your date to a dance and she just wants to drink punch, get out on the floor and dance yourself!

    1. The last time I heard, the delay was because of the I-90 Two-Way HOV project, not Bellevue. Is there something I missed?

    2. It lost one year due to the extended planning over the south Bellevue alignment, and it also cost money that could have gone to East Link enhancements like, oh, I don’t know, a downtown Bellevue tunnel maybe. Kemper’s legal challenges to the I-90 conversion have also undoubtedly cost money although I don’t know if they’ve cost time yet.

    3. ST has always acknowledged that deferring the project is one way to save money. You have more time to collect taxes so less has to be finance plus you push out the date when you have to start using tax revenue for operational costs. The idea that delay is costing money is just bass ackwards.

      1. Bernie: I was referring to the additional costs that inflation will cause. The costs of construction materials, engineering services, etc. grow at a faster rate than general inflation. ST2 said East Link was to be operational in 2020, now we’re looking at 2024 for when service operations begin. That’s a long delay, by any measure. Your comment about less bonds being needed is wrong as well. In the past year the estimate for how much additional bonding will be required has INCREASED, from $5.3 BLN to $6.8 BLN. Plus, I’m not even including the additional tax costs to the public of the delays in issuing the later tranches of bonds for ST2 work because of the delays in my $100,000,000 figure. Why are you intent on lowballing the bad cost impacts of delay?

      2. Inflation isn’t a worry because the tax revenue is tied to a percentage of sales receipts. If there is an uptick in inflation then tax revenues also increase and investment income increases. Or, if we use the model where money is reinvested in the North sub area, which is what I proposed then ST is hedged against inflation anyway because they would be expediting projects with higher ridership.

        The only thing that pushes construction costs up higher than the average rate of inflation is another building boom which means a sales tax windfall. Plus as the area grows the tax base increases. If you believe the growth projections used to try and justify the needed capacity of eastside light rail then all those tens of thousands of new workers and residents in DT Bellevue and Bel-Red will be stuffing ST’s pot of gold. But you don’t have to believe me; just take ST’s word for it.

      3. “The costs of construction materials, engineering services, etc. grow at a faster rate than general inflation.”

        That’s hard to say since many existing predictors of inflation have been untenable since the crash. Some say general inflation will skyrocket when the bond markets start being concerned about US debt or there’s a stampede to a non-dollar currency. Others say inflation can’t rise until employment returns and demand consumes the excess supply. We know that certain things rise for intrinsic reasons: gas prices when the Middle East looks unstable, rice when there’s a drought. It’s unclear where construction materials and engineering services fit into this, but I doubt they’ll see a sharp rise unless there’s a supply shock in raw materials, or if overseas shipping shuts down due to oil prices.

      4. Construction prices are heavily dependent on oil prices. They will continue to rise faster than general inflation until we get battery-powered excavators.

      5. Nathaniel is thinking clearly about this. Bernie — not so much. He says: “Inflation isn’t a worry because the tax revenue is tied to a percentage of sales receipts. If there is an uptick in inflation then tax revenues also increase and investment income increases.” Of course inflation is a worry . . . the longer the project is delayed the higher the costs go. Your point, Bernie, that it doesn’t matter because there always will be lots of tax revenue streaming in is correct, but only in the sense that it does not matter to Sound Transit’s management (which has no incentive to do projects quickly or cheaply). It does matter however to taxpayers whether or not the project gets done soon, and the four-year (so far) delay is going to cost taxpayers big-time.

      6. Here’s Bernie’s logic: If the YOE expenditures to cover the capital costs and financing costs of East Link are $5 BLN because it gets done in 2024 that is better than having those costs be $4 BLN if it were to have been completed in 2020 because Sound Transit will have hauled in an additional $6 BLN in tax revenue during the 2020 – 2024 period.

        Have I got that right, Bernie?

      7. Construction prices are heavily dependent on oil prices.

        Well, pretty much everything is dependent on oil prices; even the cost of electricity. World wide demand is increasing and production (drilling and refining) isn’t keeping pace. However, we have huge natural gas reserves and it will be relatively quick to change the vast majority of long haul trucking over to LNG. We also have the first nuclear plants in a generation coming on line in 4-5 years. Then there’s wind, solar and good old conservation that can reduce demand for oil.

        But you don’t need a crystal ball into the futures markets to understand that the more you rely on financing the more it’s going to cost long term. Look at what you pay over the life of a 30 year mortgage vs a 15 year. Likewise, eliminating operational cost is money in the bank. And no, East Link costs won’t be paid for by eliminating the 550.

        Finally, I’ll repeat, it’s revenue and risk neutral for ST as an agency if they use the money to accelerated North Link as they did for Central Link and then repay at the rate of inflation. In fact I’d argue that it’s pretty much a sure thing as all they are doing is prioritizing the building what by all estimates is going have a significantly better ratio of fare recovery. Then, hopefully development on the eastside will have reached a point where the ridership numbers start to pencil out.

      8. Naturally we should accelerate Link lines as much as possible because the need is already here (and has been for two decades), and the shorter people have to suffer through it, the better. And shorter financing periods are always good, and interest/bond rates are at remarkable lows. But my point is that there’s reason to think inflation over the next decade may be at the bottom end of what we’ve come to expect over the past two decades (2%), and may even be less than that (as it has been for parts of the past four years). In that case, there’s no need to rush into things because inflation is not going to eat away as much as it used to.

      9. Construction is *more* dependent on oil prices than other things.

        It’s also dependent on labor costs, so it’s really a good idea to do it during a recession.

        Financing is indeed an issue. If you have to finance at all, though, do it during the period of Zero Interest Rate Policy, which means soon.

        Now, if you’re already planning to do your construction after the recession is over and interest rates have risen (sigh) then it probably save money to postpone it longer. However, if you have a choice between building during a period of high unemployment and high interest rates, and building later, you should seriously consider building now.

        (This is independent of the question of whether to put off building stations which simply aren’t useful yet, such as 120th and 130th in Bel-Red. Those should be deferred because… they’re simply not useful yet. There is value to building stuff earlier if it’s going to be used as soon as it opens, but not so much if it won’t be.)

  5. What are the cost savings of discontinuing the effort to find ways to hobble East Link? I’m talking reduced operating costs, engineering costs, and litigation costs. Will that pay for the tunnel? Perhaps let Bellevue get paid back over time from operational savings from building the line in the way that makes the most sense. That makes a lot more sense to me than any of these penny-wise-pound-foolish proposals.

    Have a clause that says if Bellevue sues, ST’s litigation costs are paid for by reducing Bellevue’s reimbursement.

    1. This can easily be another test case of the mythical Vision Line. Many downtown interests seem fiercely resistant to the NE 6th station, so we’ll see how much sway they have come decision time.

  6. “Its open-air construction also entirely defeats the purpose of even exploring cost savings for a downtown tunnel if the station won’t even be underground.”

    That’s not really fair. The main reason people want a tunnel is to make the line grade-separated. By a happy coincidence, the hillside goes down in the block next to the transit center, so that the line can transition from underground to elevated while remaining flat, with a station right where it emerges. That’s the only reason an open-air station is feasable. So if it meets the underlying desire for grade separation, I don’t see why it matters that it’s open-air. Of course, that doesn’t address your other issue of being a further distance from the bus bays. But the argument that it’s not fully underground so it’s some kind of cheating doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. Indeed. The tunnel would still prevent Link from sharing the road with cars, which is the point.

      1. No matter the merits or demerits of the location, it seems stupid to build a brand new subway tunnel through a downtown area and then still expose your passengers to the elements immediately adjacent to it. (It’s different than, say, a tunnel through a mountain with a station at the portal.)

        Martin’s point is that there’s exactly one chance to build this thing, and such visible half-assery could do quite a bit of long-term damage to the image of transit as a usable, pleasant travel option in this region. I wholly agree.

      2. What exposure to elements? It’ll surely have a rain cover. I think an open-air station is more desirable than an underground station because it lets in light and gives a view.

      3. it lets in light and gives a view.

        And a marvelous view of I-405 it would be. Repeat, if your going to settle for the open air station then forget the tunnel and go back to the Vision Line. Same thing less money. Full disclosure, I could support the vision line. I think that with a 405 lid it could even eliminate a “duplicate” Hospital Station and support an expanded transit center. But if you spend the money to even do tunnel light and then don’t build an underground station then the whole project just becomes an order of magnitude more stupid.

      4. I think an open-air station is more desirable…

        Seattle person thinks subways shouldn’t be subways!

        Please wait while I alert the presses.

      5. Not newsworthy. I like all-elevated rather than all-underground. “Subway” is shorthand for grade-separated and ultra-frequent: it’s a metaphor everybody understands. But underground is second best, it avoids ROW constraints above ground, and it quiets the opposition of those who consider trains a blight on their view.

      6. Seattle person offers opinion that runs counter to the established experience of the entire world.

        Again I’ll alert the preferences.

        Subways are better because they’re better. No noise, ROW width, or “view” constraints inhibiting routing or running speed. No exposure to the elements. Pop down; get where you’re going; emerge.

        There’s a reason that subway-running is the gold standard the world over, and every other form of transit running is a cost-conscious compromise!

        How did Seattleites develop the illusion that their weather is just awesome to stand outside in forever waiting for a transit vehicle? Or to walk 1/2 a mile from SeaTac station to the airport terminal with no wind protection at all? Or to wait two minutes for the light to change before walking? And I happen to like Seattle weather!

        (My hunch is that it’s really about Seattle’s autocentric history. When you’re in a protected steel box 98% of the time, you can feel super-intrepid facing the weather the other 2%. But no matter what it likes to claim, the truth is that when the weather gets harsh and the daylight gets short, this city largely jumps right back in its cars!)

      7. d.p.
        The airport terminal is not 1/2 mile from the LINK Airport station. For that matter the walk to/from the ticket counters or baggage claim out to the end of the A, B, or C gates is the same or further (though out of the weather).

        Do other airports have rail stations closer to the main terminal? Yes, but some have their rail stations much further away requiring one to take a shuttle bus. Sound Transit was at the mercy of the Port of Seattle for the location of the Airport station, the crappy quality of the walkway through the garage is also the fault of the Port.

        One slight silver lining is the station location allows serving buses on International Boulevard and the businesses around the airport (though frankly this really isn’t a very transit friendly area).

      8. Fine, true. It’s just under 1/4 mile to the closest weather protection. (It is, however, 1/3 mile to the closest security checkpoint, and 3/4 mile from the A Gates where I always seem to dock less than 15 minutes before the last train.)

        Do other airports have rail stations closer to the main terminal?

        I can’t think of a single one with a brand new rail station nearly this far away.

        the crappy quality of the walkway through the garage is also the fault of the Port.

        Perhaps true. Still inexcusable. If Sound Transit were too timid to vouch for the need for a station that wasn’t worse for access than any other possible method of reaching the airport, then they needed to pay for window installation.

        What we got is precisely the same “Seattle winters are awesome!” denial that Mike has internalized in his anti-subway preference.

      9. What surprised me is that places colder than Seattle have outdoor stations. Vancouver, Chicago, etc.

      10. “Subways are better because they’re better. No noise, ROW width, or “view” constraints inhibiting routing or running speed. No exposure to the elements.”

        You just acknowledged the sentiments of half the people and ignored the other half.

      11. The money is not always there to justify subways — or subway replacements. Much of the urban El in Chicago predates every subway on the planet except for London’s.

        Chicagoans are unbelievably hardy people! But that doesn’t make elevateds “preferable”.

        Vancouver, as you might have noticed, put as much of the Canada Line underground as it could possibly justify. It was more expensive to do so. This was not an accident.

        You just acknowledged the sentiments of half the people and ignored the other half.

        I repeat: Subways are the gold standard the world over. Every other form of transit running is a cost-conscious compromise.

        I’m describing a minority view as being a well-demonstrated minority view. By definition, I am not dismissing “half” the people.

    2. People like underground stations because of the insulation from weather. I more or less agree with you, but it’s another factor.

      The problem with the NE 6th station is that it’s more than a quarter mile from anywhere people actually want to go. 110th is bad enough, but 6th is worse.

      1. A quarter mile from where people want to go? There are office towers all around. The transit center is across the street. There’s a convention center across another street and a shopping center and office tower next to that. And if you want to complain to city officials about the station location, City Hall is conveniently located in the same block.

        And if the geographic center of downtown Bellevue will be shifting east as some people say, then the station will be closer to that too.

      2. if the geographic center of downtown Bellevue will be shifting east

        Irrelevant for a couple of reasons. First there’s a freeway in the way. Second there is already a stop in the form of hospital station that will be more convenient for anything east of 405 and the Old Main stop will be closer and a lot nicer for anything in Wilburton (aka Auto Row). If they’re going to put the station there then the tunnel is a total waste. An elevated ROW parallel to 405 is a $100 million cheaper and accomplishes the same thing. I’d go so far as to say better.

      3. For once Bernie gets it exactly right.

        Whether we like it or not, the office towers, convention center, and city hall are accessories. Downtown Bellevue exists because it has one of the best retail cores in the region. That core is centered at the intersection of 106th and 6th. The transit center is already 1/8 mile east of there. Putting the rail station further east yet is idiocy, and the further east it goes, the worse.

        Really, this tunnel should be under 108th, not 110th, and the portals should be at the transit center and at 108th/8th. 110th is (barely) an acceptable compromise. 6th at 112th is too far.

      4. Really, the tunnel should be under Bellevue Way, and the TC at Bellevue Square or Lincoln Square. But the Bellevue TC has always been too far east, and it has crept eastward over time. Originally it was on 106th.

      5. And if the geographic center of downtown Bellevue will be shifting east as some people say

        Hey, that sounds familiar [cough, cough, RapidRide, cough, Ballard].

        How come any time a Seattle-area transit line grossly misses its mark, people start arbitrarily claiming things are “shifting east”?

        I just walked home from RapidRide. Guess where all the activity was and where all the people were headed? I’ll give you a hint: not “shifted east”.

        Similarly, one crafty developer built one building next to BTC, filled it with predictable local demi-chains, and marketed the hell out of it. It hasn’t “shifted” a damned thing; all of the retail at the Bravern is reportedly struggling.

        But I guess this habitual fact-free “shifting” is helping remind me why I really need to shift myself 3,000 miles east.

      6. David L has it on the button. The die is cast with respect to formerly suburban cities’ architecture. Like Tyson’s corner, Tukwila, and Bellevue, the mall IS the center of the town. Might as well embrace it. For that reason, the idea of a link station at Alderwood is not so crazy.

      7. d.p.: you’ll probably find the behavior of the governments in MA, NY, and PA completely aggravating — sure there are decent systems now, but the goal for decades seems to have been “don’t dare improve it”. Particularly at MassDOT/MBTA, which have been fighting hard to not build overdue, legally obligated projects.

        Don’t count out LA or San Diego, both of which are getting better public transportation at a noticeable pace. And Chicago’s behavior is respectable (though my god, the roads). And then there’s the Twin Cities, which has had particularly sane *planning* lately though they haven’t built very fast.

      8. Except the Mall isn’t the center of downtown Bellevue. The Mall is the Western edge of downtown Bellevue. The office towers are mostly along 108th and the multi-family residential is scattered about a bit.

        To the extent downtown Bellevue has a “center” it is 106th & NE 6th. That is the one location that isn’t “too far” from the majority of residential, retail, or office properties in downtown Bellevue.

        Of the proposed stations during the East Link EIS process the station under the current TC with an entrance on the west side of 108th at NE 6th (along the walkway between the TC and the Mall) came closest to serving the “center” of Bellevue.

      9. Chris:

        Yes, the tunnel should have been under 108th. It would have been foolish not to provide a direct interchange to the existing transit center.

        Though if it had tunneled in from under Bellevue Way, offering stations at both Bellevue & Main (or 2nd) as well as 108th & 6th, you would have had an exponentially better line overall.

      10. Nathanael:

        Trust me, I know the MBTA. I know that it makes many mistakes, and that it can behave with enmity-bordering-on-loathing for its own customers. I know that the quality of its administration and policies has ebbed and flowed with each management change and financial crisis, and I know it’s on a bit of an ebb right now.

        I don’t care. The T is so vital to how Boston moves and operates that, even at its very worst, it provides a service that is 15x faster, more usable, more able to get you where you’re going with a minimum of trichotillomania than anything the half-asses in the Seattle transit world seem capable of even putting on their radar!

        I’ve given Seattle chances. I’ve voted for the tax increases. I paid the ever-ballooning fares. I’ve written to support progressive changes and advocated against destructive compromises on this blog. It never seems to matter. RapidRide is a fucking local bus; it’s BRT features are all broken or missing; 15 minutes (or more) is suddenly “so frequent you don’t need a schedule”. Streetcar plans that will do nothing for the ability to get around are all the rage. On this very page, we’re arguing about whether to build a subway tunnel through a major edge city… and then stick a weather-exposed platform a four mega-blocks away from anywhere!

        This city’s “best efforts” are faceplants next to to the MBTA’s very worst efforts!

        RE: the rest of your list:

        No, I would definitely not count L.A. out! I’ve visited many times, often without a car, and I find their rate of change stunning. Villaraigosa is going to completely change that city for the better. Shame that it still has so far to go.

        Never been to San Diego, but I’ve heard that sterility is its stock-in-trade and that its trolleys are of sadly little utility or impact when you really get into the SoCal-iness of the city’s way of organizing itself.

        Notwithstanding the fact that everyone I’ve ever met from the Twin Cities has been a bit of a disingenuous prick, Minneapolis’s transit visions are disastrously suburban-sighted in the mold of Dallas, Denver, and Seattle. Go read about the Southwest Corridor routing debate, in which revitalizing Uptown/south Nicolette were permanently passed over for transit in favor of a straight shot to the boonies. So much for “sane planning”.

        Actually lived in Chicago, actually still like Chicago a lot, actually would consider Chicago again. It would be a question of personality.

        Philly is definitely in the transit dark ages, operationally, which is too bad because so much useful infrastructure exists, and because Philly is a gorgeous and extensively urban place that is finally on an economic and cultural upswing after a 100-year slump. But SEPTA still uses tokens as its primary payment medium, has an insanely complex fare structure for transfers, and is considered “dangerous” at night in a way that most American transit systems haven’t been since the early ’90s. Philly is an “almost awesome” city in a variety of ways; transit is definitely one of them.

        New York: Yes, there are political battles. Yes, there are financial crises. Yes, the Second Avenue Subway is being way overbuilt at way inflated prices. And yet: And not just the big, highlighted projects. They’re plowing through years of maintenance backlog with gusto. Every months, it seems like a new connection opens: the in-system Court Square escalators in Long Island City; the Bleecker Street transfer from B/D/F/M to the northbound 6 that was 50 years overdue; new ADA elevators everywhere. Even at it’s most politically dysfunctional, New York is getting useful stuff done.

        While Seattle pats itself on the back for half-achieved milestones on its Grand Vision of Uselessness. I am over it!!

      11. “The T is so vital to how Boston moves and operates that, even at its very worst, it provides a service that is 15x faster, more usable, more able to get you where you’re going with a minimum of trichotillomania than anything the half-asses in the Seattle transit world seem capable of even putting on their radar!”

        The T as a hundred-year head start. If they were just building it now, they’d run into similar problems and opposition. Maybe not as bad as Seattle and western cities, but they wouldn’t be able to get the whole thing done all at once with a just snap of your fingers.

        But by all means, if Seattle transit is intolerably minimal for you, move to Boston. I’d do the same if it irritated me that much and I didn’t have ties here.

      12. Not only that, the presence of the T for the past hundred years has shaped people’s trip preferences, land use, and incentives for businesses to locate near stations. That’s exactly what Seattle (and Lynnwood) has lost in the sixty years without rail transit or HCT. It takes a long time to reverse that trend and start going in the right direction… a long time after some of the suburban lines have opened. But if you don’t open them at all, people will just get more and more rigid in their pro-car attitudes because transit isn’t there for them.

      13. …shaped people’s trip preferences, land use, and incentives for businesses to locate near stations.

        Yes, the existing network has continued to shape people’s movement habits and locational preferences, most of which were pre-existing in the 19th century, some of which were expansion-focused.

        If you read up on the Green Line in particular — in fact, on streetcar suburbs everywhere — you’ll discover that the transit was built to support and promote development that was already going in as the lines were being built.

        Not promised, zoned, envisioned, or talking-pointed. Already happening concurrently, at the hands of the very people building the line. Lynnwood and Federal Way haven’t an imagined leg to stand on in this comparison!

        The T as a hundred-year head start.

        And Seattle will never catch up by doing everything wrong.

      14. @Chris Stephan, I beg to differ, yes, there are some office buildings and you could make a case that a “geographical” center of the downtown is NE 6th as you said, but the real commercial gravitational center of Bellevue is Bellevue Square along Bellevue Way & NE 8TH. The shear number of people that travel to be there all day is far different than a relatively fixed number of people that transit to and from the office towers.

        At least in Minneapolis, the train goes right into the garage of Mall of America.

  7. I’m confused … the illustration at the top of this thread showing the open-air station idea … isn’t the entrance to this the closest of all the options to the transit center? it looks from the illustration to be right across 1 street … whereas the other options all seem to have entrances about a block or so away.

    Not saying this is the best option … but isn’t it the best w/regards to the BTC?

    1. Whatever it is, I hope we don’t get another MBTC situation where transfers are unbearable.

    2. The extreme length of the block makes that image misleading.

      If you look closely, paying attention to the profile of the City Hall building, the Bravern, and the current parking structure, you realize that the tops of the platform stairs are all the way over here.

  8. aside from the cost cutting exercise, the south bellevue garage could be deleted and the funds used to improve service on Route 522 in Northshore; that would attract more rides per dollar; Kenmore, Bothell, and Woodinville East King taxpayers will not benefit from East Link. there is plenty of parking in East King County.

  9. the stacked tunnel has improved a bit with a station entrance moved to the west-side of 110th adjacent to the transit center.

    That’s a pretty significant improvement. I still favor the original design (actually I liked the shallow tunnel best) because of the center platform and faster train operation. The stacked configuration only saves $2-3 million vs the optimized “as adopted” project. Unfortunately I think Council is going to push for the open why bother with a tunnel option not only because it is cheaper but because it preserves the precious traffic lanes. Likewise the stacked tunnel is DOA because it has the most traffic impact.

  10. So how much would it cost to shift the platform west so that it’s partly under the hillside? City Hall had better not object to its lawn being torn up temporarily: it’s not like people are driving to vital shopping destinations on its lawn.

    1. It’s also not a lawn, it’s a criminal justice center in the garage. If you get arrested in Bellevue then you go into the parking garage.

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