In an effort to close the funding gap that Martin described last week, the Bellevue City Council has voted to keep studying an East Link surface-street alternative leading into downtown, writes Keith Ervin at The Seattle Times.  It’s worth clarifying that this surface option on the table is the segment running along 112th Ave SE and not the downtown C11A alignment that STB editorialized in favor of back in 2010, before Bellevue became gripped by tunnel fever.

25 Replies to “Bellevue Surface Option Still on the Table”

  1. It’s clear now that Bellevue has two options in light of available funds – a tunnel through downtown or neighborhood noise and access mitigation. Not both. While this is a financial reality, the result is a political play between business and residential interests with civic leaders in the middle catering to both and refereeing the final outcome.

    Our sleepy little town is growing up, I am so proud.

  2. Um, the EIS should have been prepared after the route, profile, and stations were decided. As it is, the impacts of this new proposed alignment won’t even be studied as part of the EIS process.

  3. I am so tired of Bellevue and their whining … lets just screw it and build Link to West Seattle and Ballard (amongst other places)

    1. Where ever you want. East sub-area money can be used on a loan basis just like it was for Central Link. By the time anything is built to West Seattle or Ballard the I-90 bridge would be sinking anyway so it’s a win win.

  4. Thank god. The surface alignment is superior. Yes, Bellevue will have to make room for it in their signal rotation, unlike the slog the 550 endures in both directions, but it will be SO worth it in terms of walkable access to Link for the *entire* downtown core.

      1. Yeah, I had my hopes up too. Damn STB with their bait and switch. Seriously, if the “answer” is an open air station “sort of close to” BTC then just forget the tunnel light all together. Next year are City Council elections. None of the incumbents are scoring well with their base. Two will likely retire. The idea of increasing property tax to benefit developers isn’t going to work in the favor of council member Wallace. The next few months are going to be very interesting.

  5. I’m okay with surface light rail in some cities, but the less Link is seen above ground in Bellevue, the better. Bellevue is a quality city, and should be kept that way.

      1. 42 is from OTC to UW-Husky Stn. I just added ELink segments A-D (C9T), got 32, and added 10 for Central Link for the rest of the DSTT stops, CHS, and UW. Still much slower than the 542 going direct or anything coming from north of SR520.
        How many riders really, really want to go from Bellevue to Northgate to go shopping, or visit someone in Roosevelt? Not many.

    1. Remember, the light rail isn’t just going to Bellevue – it has to get to Redmond. And it is not acceptable for people to Redmond to have to sit through a bunch of stoplights in Bellevue every time to get to Seattle – remember, we’ve got a freeway we’re competing with. Done right, the tunnel through Bellevue can potentially allow EastLink to replace the 545, leaving only the 542 between Redmond and Seattle. Done wrong, we’re forced to continue running the 545 for all eternity, in addition to the train and the 542. So, skipping the tunnel means saving some money now, but paying more down the line in bus service hours.

      1. Excellent point. So you are saying East Link will be to light rail, what Rapid Ride is to Bus Rapid Transit. It will be an inefficient, watered-down version of light rail. It will essentially be a glorified bus route on rails.

      2. Not only look at Redmond as an origin/destination but look at the other end as well.
        A bus across 520 is on the schedule at between 12/15 minutes between OTC and Montlake. Add a couple to get to UW stn, then compare that to the same trip on East Link of 42 minutes. Bus service is going to have to get really crappy across 520 to ever force riders over to Link, or ST is going to have to kill the service on the logic ‘we can’t compete with ourselves, so ride the train now’.
        Given the huge time penalty going north of Seattle on E Link, maybe it’s better to have E Link go to Ballard, picking up 10 more useful stops like Amazon, Seattle Center and beyond.
        These realities of what Link can and can’t do should all factor into decisions being thrashed about now for alignments and stations in Bellevue.
        Keep in mind kids, ST is short 4.7 Bil in revenue from when ST2 was adopted, and counting. All of E.Link is only 3 Bil. How old do you really want to be to see the dream come true?

      3. For any transit line, there are some distances where it’s competitive and some where it isn’t. Link’s competitivity circle (the distance it can reach as fast as existing buses) from Westlake is Lynnwood, Bellevue TC, and Rainier Beach. I don’t have Link’s estimates in front of me, but I think Redmond-Westlake is around 50 minutes, and Redmond-UW 58. The 545 is 43 minutes; the 542 is 30 minutes. So the 512 will be history, but not the 542 or 545 (or 577 or 578, when/if Link reaches Federal Way TC). Except that ST can choose to truncate them anyway off-peak, losing travel time but gaining frequency.

        Link’s presence will, however, have a significant effect on travel patterns, by opening up whole new one-seat rides and train-to-train transfers. Let’s not get too focused on replacing ST Express buses, when Link is a game-changer in providing all-day reliable transit between a wider variety of areas than any single bus route. A bus-to-bus transfer will get you further, but that completely loses any advantage the bus had, and it will probably take twice as long as the train.

        That “glorified bus route on rails” will run at least every 10 minutes all day and evening. Train-to-train transfers are faster and less hassle than train-to-bus or bus-to-bus transfers. It has 100% off-board payment, which RapidRide has been struggling with and ST Express hasn’t even tried to implement.

      4. “ST is going to have to kill the service on the logic ‘we can’t compete with ourselves, so ride the train now’.”

        I wish I could believe this but ST and especially Metro have a lot of trouble with it. Thus my idea for replacing it just off-peak (or off university-peak in the case of the 542). Commuters are the ones most tenacious on travel time because time is money, commuting is already stressful, and there’s a large chunk of riders/voters who take transit only peak hours. So by letting them have their expensive, inefficient transit peak hours, we can ask for more efficiencies off-peak, and also have the large benefit of 10-minute trains. Commuters-only are unlikely to oppose this because they probably don’t even know what existing off-peak service is available.

      5. Somehow, I thought that Overlake->Westlake via Link was supposed to be 30 minutes (with the Bellevue tunnel), not 52. If I were correct, link would actually be faster than the 545, when you factor the 20 minutes from the Stewart St. exit ramp to the middle of downtown. But if it’s 52, like you say, then I guess the 545 will have to maintain its current schedule. However, Link will still provide a nice bypass when traffic on the freeway is really bad. I’ve seen days when 520 is bumper-to-bumper all the way from Microsoft to the 520 bridge and I would absolutely choose the 58-minute Link ride to the U-district over sitting through those same 58 minutes in stop-and-go traffic on the bus. Fortunately, though, these days only happen a few times a year.

        What this really does make one miss, though, is the lack of a good transfer between a 520-bound bus and Link at Montlake. With a priority path off the freeway and a stop right next to the station, 542->Link would actually get you from Redmond to downtown faster and more reliably than the 545. In rush hour, even taking the existing 542 to Montlake and Shelby, followed by a transfer to Link, would likely be faster.

      6. 42 is from OTC to UW-Husky Stn. I just added ELink segments A-D (C9T), got 32, and added 10 for Central Link for the rest of the DSTT stops, CHS, and UW. Still much slower than the 542 going direct or anything coming from north of SR520.
        How many riders really, really want to go from Bellevue to Northgate to go shopping, or visit someone in Roosevelt? Not many. (first post was the wrong nest level)

      7. Sam, who are you to say definitively, right now, what ST is going to decide do 10 years from now. No one, not even the ST board members themselves, can answer that question right now, with any certainty.

        As to what happens to the 520 buses when EastLink opens, assuming 32 minutes from Overlake->Westlake actually happens, I think that’s good enough to let the train replace the bus – when travel time through downtown is considered, the 545 is no faster than this, except maybe at 5:00 in the morning.

        However, if ST attempts to replace the 10-15 minute ride from Overlake to Montlake today (which will become a lot more reliable once the construction on 520 is complete) with a 42-minute train ride, this, I would consider unacceptable – such a policy essentially forces anybody in north Seattle who wants to go to Redmond to go through downtown Seattle, even though it’s completely out of the way.

  6. I’ve actually been excited by the grade separations that came out of neighborhood opposition to the original design. At-grade is penny-wise, pound-foolish, once you look at perpetual operating costs, including the unlikelihood the 542 and 545 would ever go away.

    As RapidRide and the SLU Streetcar have shown, cities (not even Seattle) are not under any order to give signal priority to “rail on wheels”.

    I also wouldn’t mind an open-air downtown station, if only it were in the heart of downtown. Auto Row, btw, doesn’t count as downtown, especially since Hospital Station is being built.

  7. Going with a surface option defeats the entire point of the alignment. Why the hell aren’t they switching to C11A then? Is it because they want to make Link as useless in downtown Bellevue as possible? You know, the place where it’ll have the most impact on Bellevue’s fortunes as a whole? The place where most of Kemper Freeman’s holdings are? Oh wait…

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