New concept sketch for the NE 6th downtown station
New concept sketch for the NE 6th downtown station

By the end of April, an important milestone in the East Link saga will be complete.  If all goes to plan, the Sound Transit Board will adopt its preferred cost savings options in Bellevue, and effectively finalize the alignment.  The cost savings work, which hopes to find savings to fund a downtown tunnel, will be one of the last major steps in the project prior to final design.  At this point, many see the cost savings ideas more as give-and-take concessions rather than the intense tug-of-wars over the alignment that took place in 2011 and prior.

Last week, Sound Transit hosted an open house with an update on the work, which included new cost estimates, concept sketches (.pdf), and environmental findings that were adopted as part of a SEPA addendum to the Final EIS.  According to ST spokesperson Geoff Patrick, there haven’t been any ground-breaking developments since the last update, although sentiment from various groups has solidified either for or against certain cost savings options.

The most contentious of these takes the retained-cut alignment along Bellevue Way, brings it up to at-grade, and adds a new southbound HOV lane.  The entire roadway would shift west and require a significant retaining wall to support the hillside.  I’ve heard split reactions about HOV lane addition, generally with support from the pro-roads business crowd and opposition from the neighborhoods, two groups that the Bellevue city council may end up finding difficult to reconcile.

Although the revision saves in the neighborhood of $5 to $8 million, environmental impacts would increase nearly across-the-board.  Wetland and park impacts are the lone exceptions, since everything would move westward away from Mercer Slough.  There are downsides for transit and ped advocates, too.  As Martin alluded to last time, the retaining wall would make future pedestrian connections north of the park-and-ride between Enatai and Bellevue Way virtually impossible.

Meanwhile, Surrey Downs is fighting its own battle over connections and access.  Another group of cost savings ideas affects access to the neighborhood via SE 4th St along 112th Ave SE.  All the options produce the same environmental impacts, more or less:

  • An at-grade crossing (either right-in/right-out public access or emergency access only) which saves $2 to $4 million, or
  • A grade-separated crossing in a retained cut which adds $6 to $11 million, whereas this option previously had no net change in the cost

From what I’ve heard, residents in Surrey Downs have been adamant about the latter option.  Preserving street access is typically a wise planning move, so I’m generally sympathetic to their plight, although the price tag could be a tough sell for the City Council and ST Board.

The final cost savings idea deals with the downtown station.  Since the last update, one option– the stacked tunnel station– has been canned, leaving two remaining options:

  • An optimized shallower 110th Ave NE station with the north entrance shifted west, saving $6 to $10 million, or 
  • A east-west daylight station south of NE 6th, saving $19 to $33 million 
Downtown Bellevue: Optimized 110th Ave NE station (top), NE 6th station (bottom)
Downtown Bellevue: Optimized 110th Ave NE station (top), NE 6th station (bottom)

Although we’ve opposed the latter option for obvious reasons, the newest station design is an apparent improvement which reduces train travel time and adds a new entrance on 112th Ave.  According to Don Billen, East Link deputy project director, Bellevue staff conducted a walkshed analysis of the options and found only minute differences between the stations that might impact ridership.  The NE 6th station would also lessen impacts to 110th Ave during construction, a consideration that could be well-received by a council that has been frightened by the prospect of prolonged street impacts downtown.

On top of the segment-by-segment cost savings options, engineering ideas could produce an additional $9 to $16 million, putting any combination of all the savings anywhere within the range of $4 to $61 million.  Even at the high end, however, the savings are barely enough to satisfy the target goal of $60 million.  With so few options, both the Bellevue city council and ST Board will have some appreciably tough calls to make come decision time.

In the meantime, you can submit your own feedback about the cost savings work by filling out the online survey form today.  Comments received by the end of day will be incorporated into a public comment summary.  You can also view all the open house materials here.

90 Replies to “Decision on East Link Cost Savings Nears”

  1. And I’m sure that drawing accurately reflects the number of cars on that street…

    1. That’s usually about twice as many as there are when I drive up it at 7:30am…. :-)

    2. I’m with Scott Stidell here, that’s more cars than I usually see in that intersection, and I cruise right through it every day around 9 AM.

      I wish there were some way to speed up the East Link project – I would love to commute by train instead.

  2. What exactly is the point of a 112th Ave station entrance? So that people can more easily throw themselves into highway traffic after witnessing the mind-boggling stupidity of building a $300 million downtown subway and then stopping outside of it, in the rain and wind, and as far as humanly possible from anything useful?

    And that “110th Ave entrance” carefully relegated to the back of the sketch, where you can barely comprehend its placement? It’s more than 200 feet — 1/3 of the megablock — from the actual cross-street. And that’s just the top of the stairs.

    It’s 1/5 of a mile from some bays of the transit center. It’s half a mile from the actual center of downtown. It’s a full mile from anything you’d want to reach on Main Street (which would have had a separate stop somewhere along it in most early plans).

    Bellevue staff conducted a walkshed analysis of the options and found only minute differences between the stations that might impact ridership

    Bullplop. Seattle is crawling with people who won’t use the DSTT — and who crave Stupid Seattle Streetcars — because the platforms are such a notorious pain in the ass to access. And Bellevue wants to do double damage by making the pain-to-access platforms not even enclosed.

    “Bellevue staff” are worthless.

    1. It’s an incredibly stupid waste of money and time to jaunt east on Main St into a downtown tunnel that serves no purpose whatsoever. Why don’t they just stay on 112th? It’s mind boggling.

    2. Bellevue has plans to reconnect their massive street grid over the freeway. What they don’t realize is how unfriendly those crossings are, even with the new wide sidewalks. “It sucks less” should be Bellevue’s motto…

      1. The next station is literally right on the other side of the highway anyway.

        This new “consolation entrance” serves no purpose other than to look inviting in decontextualized renderings.

    3. “Seattle is crawling with people who won’t use the DSTT”

      They don’t use the DSTT because their route isn’t there. The DSTT is twice as fast as surface streets where the buses wait at stoplights. The argument for streetcars is not about avoiding the tunnel, it’s about having a one-seat ride to the streetcar lines around downtown.

      1. Mike, you are wrong.

        Westlake to Pioneer Square is .8 miles. Westlake to the I.D. is just over a mile. Those are absolutely subway transfer distances, if only the transfer is good. Especially when the surface lights are so terribly timed across the C.B.D., and when the broken grid makes sub-Yesler par a zig-zaggy waste of time.

        And yet Seattleites do not make this transfer. To date, I’ve met precisely zero Seattle natives (or people whose only experience with a transit city is this one) who will use the tunnel for this purpose. This goes double for those who have recently lost their one-seat service to south downtown (Capitol Hill and RapidRide users). Instead they switch on the surface, get stuck on a painfully slow 3 or 7 or 14, and complain about the loss of their one-seat rides.

        And you know what? They’re not entirely wrong. Because the tunnel is such a pain to access that if you experience any delay at all on the platform, it might be slower than transferring on the surface would have been!

        Ease of access and transfer time matter. Period. You don’t get Mayor McCheese publicly extolling the virtues of surface-running downtown MAX unless people’s experience with subway access is shitty. Sound Transit needs to fucking stop this.

      2. I take the DSTT all the time from Convention Place to Jackson, Westlake to Jackson, Convention Place to University Street (for the library). A couple times a year I try the surface routes only to confirm they’re annoyingly slow. The only time I don’t use the tunnel is going from Westlake to University Street, because it’s silly to take it one station when you can just walk straight to your destination in the same time/distance.

      3. And yet every time I point out how duplicative the “downtown connector” is, a flurry of responses will decry inaccessibity of the tunnel.

        The Mayor speaks longingly of surface MAX, and a room full of transit advocates nod in agreement.

        On the last Fremont streetcar thread, someone actually wrote this:

        Streetcars and surface street buses have to contend with traffic signals and the drawbridge, but are the quickest to board as there is no station to enter or exit. That is worth something. The trip from UW to Capitol Hill will be a mere 3 minutes on Link but you will probably spend that long just getting to and from the platform. The surface also offers a more scenic trip than a tunnel and is dramatically more visible to the public. Those intangibles are not meaningless, even if they aren’t determining factors.


        Fine, Mike. You and I are the two hyper-optimization thinkers in Seattle who will use the tunnel for a downtown transfer despite the difficulty of access, because we have a >50% likelihood of saving a minute or three even with the walk.

        But I’ve never met a non-transit nerd willing to do so, because it just seems a pain. This sample includes strangers, acquaintances, close friends, and my own girlfriend, all of whom would rather complain about the lack of a one-seat ride than to overcome the perceived distance-barrier to tunnel access. Bruce has even told me he doesn’t bother with intra-downtown tunnel transfers.

        And now the rest of this city has the caught the mixed-traffic streetcar disease.

        Terribly conceived access points and station designs have consequences.

      4. What do you mean by “downtown transfer”? When I say “transfer” I mean getting off one route and getting on some other route in order to go in a different direction; you seem to mean something different in this context and I’m not sure what you have in mind.

      5. Transferring from a route into downtown to another route across downtown. Because the initial route doesn’t cross the C.B.D. (10, 11, 43, 47, 49, RR) and/or because surface traffic is terrible and switching to the tunnel might be faster.

        If a downtown transfer using the tunnel were easier, everyone would do it without thinking twice about it. Because a tunnel transfer is a p.i.t.a., everybody but Mike and me transfers to a different surface route instead, and then complains about it.

      6. Some people categorically believe surface stations are better they’re right in front of the sidewalk and are small. I don’t on both counts, but those who do always find underground stations inferior. And they’ve even convinced me that surface Link would be acceptable for downtown Bellevue (but not downtown Seattle).

        “The trip from UW to Capitol Hill will be a mere 3 minutes on Link but you will probably spend that long just getting to and from the platform.”

        6 minutes then. As opposed to 15 minutes on the 43, plus the longer wait time for the bus.

        “The surface also offers a more scenic trip than a tunnel”

        That’s true, and that’s why I prefer elevated best of all. I also sometimes take the 43 from 45th to downtown, or even the 26 or 16, for a nice view and a relaxing low-stress ride. But I wouldn’t want to do it every day.

      7. (I meant to say Berlin, rather than Prague. As a late-Soviet system, Prague’s platforms are not especially easy-access. Super fast trains and escalators make up for that, though.)

      8. I haven’t been to those cities but I have been to Moscow, St Petersburg, London, Duesseldorf, New York, DC, Chicago, and San Francisco. Moscow and St Pete are the big grand stations you hate, while DC has some large deep stations that aren’t as grand. London and New York have several little hole-in-the-wall stations with tiny platforms. Duesseldorf has cut-and-cover light rail. San Francisco (BART) has large plain stations.

        I like the grand stations the best, because it feels like a real city and serious transit. The hole-in-the-wall stations make me feel like, “Well, these are the oldest subways in the world; they made some mistakes back then.” Especially egregious are New York’s one-way stations, where to turn around you have to go back to the surface and across the street and into another station. The cut-and-cover stations feel like a letdown. BART was built before the “1% for art movement”, and its plainness shows a heavy modernism. Especially the fact that the platform benches have no backrests. No understanding of what passengers would want. I don’t know whether the BART stations are too big since I’ve rarely used it at rush hour.

        The one thing that bothers me about Moscow’s stations is that you usually have to go up stairs in the center of the platform to transfer. That gets especially annoying because the network often requires you to ride two or three stops, transfer, and ride two stops again, so it’s constant in-and-out-and-up-stairs.

      9. BART benches have no backrests because the Bay Area is full of transients and the new system needed to make a visual statement that it was for getting around and not for living in. Sad, but justifiable.

        As for “grand” versus shallow and simple, I think you should make an effort to see the places you visit less as a transit fan/transit tourist and more for how things function for full-time residents.

        Being able to hop easily below ground for either a journey of significant distance or a one-stop connection is among the reasons why an average passholding Boston resident is likely to hop on a train 3-8 times every day, and to use the subway for a large percentage of their basic needs. It’s why the MBTA’s combined heavy and light rail subways carry twice as many trips daily than the bus system and why, by extension, the system is efficient enough to be able to provide infinitely better service at a fraction of the fare of a Seattle bus.

        As for the one-way stations in New York and elsewhere: they’re not a problem, since no one using them for non-tourist purposes needs the opportunity to turn around at any given station. The last truly egregious one-way situation was the Bleecker Street 6 stop, where a transfer to the B/D/F/M was available in one direction but not the other, and the MTA finally fixed that six months ago.

        I just don’t understand how you can possibly claim “they made some mistakes back then” when describing many of the most successful transit systems on the planet?

      10. And you don’t have to worry about sudden stops when idiot jawalker hops in front of a bus. Today I actually saw a bus having to slam on its brakes because somone in a motorized wheelchair crossed against the light in front of it.

      11. I can’t say that the above- or below-ground nature of the route would ever occur to me. Whenever I have to ride the bus, I just punch the addresses into google maps and then do whatever it tells me. I’d never think to go into the tunnel looking for a different bus – how would I know which one to take? Perhaps I am an outlier, but it seems unlikely that the majority of Seattle bus users have committed any more of the system to memory than the part which they use on a regular basis, so if they don’t go into the subway tunnel it’s probably because nobody has ever plotted out a route for them which shows how they can get where they are going that way.

      12. If you’re right, then that’s very sad.

        Both because:

        A) it’s a reminder of how needlessly complicated our transit system is, too illegible and too scattered to be mapped onto the collective consciousness… the direct result of which is 91% of the population wanting nothing to do with it outside of commuting (if even then), and;

        B) because it suggests that we are a society of automatons who live our lives according to the algorithmic adjudications of Google, Siri, Tripadvisor, Yelp,, Amazon and Netflix recommendations, and

        Seriously, if Google told a Seattlite to jump off a bridge…

      13. Hey,… HEY, Computers NEVER MAKE MISTAKES !!

        Google is infallible, all mapping apps biblically believable.

        Kinda like that Bridgestone Tire commercial, or the one Mayhem State Farm one.

        Sound Transit would function better if it were more aggressive, but that’s not the nature of the board.

  3. If they’re going to build that ridiculous NE 6th station they might as well just build the Vision Line.

    1. It does remind me about the Convention Place Center station. Near one thing, but not really anything useful (sans the walk up to the Hill)

    2. The Vision Line station would have been an improvement and saved $200 million in tunnel costs. This whole East Link project just becomes more and more of a farce every step of the way.

      1. As much as I opposed the Vision line, I’m beginning to agree with you, although I still believe South Bellevue will be a good connection point for Eastside buses. That said, the station entrance on 110th is relatively close to the existing 550 bay and crossing the street can be made reasonable with an all way crossing. Compromise is ugly.

        I would have preferred the surface alignment for it’s walkability, but nobody in Bellevue seems to agree. Oh well.

      2. The Vision Line would not be better than this tunnel alternative. People here are freaking out about walking an extra half block to get to the station; how would they react to walking an extra 4 blocks?

        As Velo says, a surface alignment on 110th NE would have more convenient access and also save the cost of tunneling. Even better would be an alignment on 108th NE. Contrary to what some pleople are saying, a Bellevue Way alignment would not be ideal; that’s to the west of the bulk of downtown today. 106th or 108th is closer to the center.

        In any case, count me as someone who is, if not happy with the compromise, at least accepting of it.

      3. AW, nobody seriously thinks the Vision Line was a good option.

        The fact remains, however, that its station was barely 2/3 of a block further than this one, without the pretense or whopping expense of a tunnel that will wind up totally pointless.

        This is the disparity between the westmost entrance of the 6th street plan and the Vision Line station.

        Every little bit counts, I know, but only a moron would advocate spending $300 million on a tunnel and providing only this much improvement.

      4. Check my Google Map again. That is precisely where I marked it.

        Now check the above renderings again, and notice that the 6th St platform is so far to the east that 4-car trains are actually stopping on top of 112th.

        The two locations are not that far apart.

      5. p.s. A proper Bellevue Way alignment would have arrived in downtown from the southwest and exited downtown to the northeast.

        More tunneling, presumably cut-and-cover. Disruptive but not terribly expensive, given the wide streets available to work with.

        A stop at Bellevue and Main, and another under the transit center, would have ably walkshedded central Bellevue for the foreseeable future.

        And that’s why Bellevue Way would have been ideal.

      6. “but only a moron would advocate spending $300 million on a tunnel and providing only this much improvement…”

        Or, somebody who believes taking *ANY* space away from cars, no matter how relatively minor, is absolutely unacceptable. The lower cost and the walkability of the surface line but the possibility of occasional disruptions due to a surface alignment would have been a reasonable compromise. As it stands, the relatively “conservative” council pushed for the gold plated tunnel with less overall utility.

        At least Redmond residents will eventually get a shorter ride out of the deal…

      7. I think that the slowdown inherent in any form of surface running — combined with Bellevue’s position as an intermediate point on the line that a very large minority (perhaps even the preponderance) of passengers will be passing through rather than heading to, and with the well-demonstrated suburban American habit of driving in front of oncoming trains (the wealthier and more luxury-SUV-dominated the area, the more impatient) — is more than enough reason to have sought total grade separation.

        Now if only every decision that has followed that decision hadn’t made the station locations worse, the line less useful, and the tunnel more like an extravagant bypass than an actual subway.

    3. “

      But it has a nice painting…”

      Yes, the painting makes it look like the Central Business District is a mile away, when, in reality, it is only two blocks away (and only one block away from the dismal location of the future station). Kevin should demand his money back.

  4. So a new entrance even further away from the places people actually want to go is an improvement?

    The 110th station is bad enough. Don’t make it even worse. The station should have been under 106th to begin with.

    1. It’s significantly inferior to a station on 106th or 108th, but at this point, I think even most pro-rail people in Bellevue are willing to throw up their hands and make that concession.

      1. Actually, I like that it is directly in line with the Bellevue Transit Center although I would wish it was directly underneath it.

    2. I still don’t get why Bellevue was so opposed to running a sleek new elevated line through its mostly flat downtown, which could enable a Link station with a near-zero walk elevator transfer to downtown buses (like we could have had at Mount Baker…), offer pedestrian weather protection opportunities underneath, provide dramatically better views for transit passengers, allow the system to advertise itself and obviate the need for a tunnel. For what, so we can preserve the design integrity of Bellevue’s auto-dominated, non-human-scaled streetscape? The line has to end up crossing over I-405 anyway, so we do a big expensive grade transition mostly to hide the system from the people who might use it?

      Chicago has had a big, steel, noisy elevated line running like a noose around the center of its downtown since 1895, just a few feet from buildings old and new, and Chicago seems to be doing just fine. It hasn’t stopped luxury condos like the 72 story Legacy Tower at Millenium Park from going up literally adjacent to it. Chicagoans proudly refer to the area as “The Loop“.

      I-405 isn’t going anywhere, but the Bellevue Link station’s location is TBD. BTC is pretty well situated, the closer to that the better. Sigh.

      1. As a former Chicagoan, I hated the noise and vibration from the EL that could be felt at the tops of 30 story skyscrapers. And compared to the Redline tunnel underneath downtown, the EL tracks are very inefficient and delays are common.

      2. But are the delays because of the tracks being elevated, or simply because more lines are running around the Loop? I’d guess the latter. (And – though I know this’s very anecdotal – the last time I was in Chicago, I was forced to wait out a ten- or fifteen-minute delay in the Dearborn St. Subway.)

      3. I think the Loop tracks have tighter turns than the subways… and they certainly have more junctions, and more randomness like drawbridges.

      4. “I still don’t get why Bellevue was so opposed to running a sleek new elevated line”

        It’s a concession to people who think trains and trolley wire and tracks are ugly.

    3. I just noticed the most stunning detail in the lower rendering:

      The escalators and platforms are placed an additional 1/3 block down the hill not because of some pressing need to straighten out the tracks, but in order to retain access to City Hall’s precious parking structure.

      (Enlarge the image to view. The platforms are now open, but at least the headhouse and escalators provide rain protection for the entering cars!)

      Wow. Just… wow!

      1. Thanks for noticing that. It’s clear from that detail what the Bellevue city council thinks about transit: it’s a useful tool to get the lunch counter workers in and out, but real people don’t ride it.

  5. In either of these station options there ought to be a corridor and stairway that take you to the center of the BTC. It looks like the 6th St station effectively requires two at-grade street crossings (110th Ave, plus half of the bus traffic.) Why wouldn’t there be an underground walkway that exits at the BTC center island?
    That should be part of both plans.

    1. Considering how much thought that idea was given when constructing the DSTT fairly close to King Street Station, I highly doubt it’ll happen.

      1. When the bus tunnel was built there were only 2 or 3 trains per day serving King Street, building an underground concourse between the two would have been a huge waste of money.

  6. Are we seriously talking about $11 million in a $3 billion project? That’s absolutely ludicrous. I’m all for saving money, but this is the transit system for the next 50+ years. Make it grade separated!

    1. From the City of Bellevue’s perspective, it’s $11 million out of $60 million (18%), not $11 million out of $3,000 million (0.3%). The $60 million is what Bellevue would have to pay ST to get its downtown tunnel if these cost-saving measures aren’t enacted. The other $2,940 million doesn’t matter to Bellevue because Sound Transit is paying it, and Bellevue is more concerned about keeping trains away from its downtown streets than about the most effective rapid transit. Conversely, the $60 million doesn’t matter to Sound Transit because it’s a wash to them either way, but ST wants to accommodate the city’s wishes and master plans if feasable.

      To make it non-ludicrous you’d have to convince the Bellevue City Council to make effective rapid transit a higher priority, but that’s precisely what we’ve been unable to do for the past five years. (The most effective solution would be either an expensive underground station or an inexpensive surface station right next to the bus bays.)

  7. You people amuse me. Unhinged outrage and hysteria over the station being a few dozen feet further east than optimal, but complete silence over the fact that it should have gone up Bellevue Way and not 112th.

    1. It should indeed have gone up Bellevue Way, but that ship has long since sailed.

      This asinine additional permanent harm that could happen tomorrow.

      1. Death by a thousand nudges.

        When there’s only one station to serve an entire downtown area, and when it’s already blocks further to the east than it should be, 300 additional feet plus an additional (long) light cycle to wait for plus the additional inconvenience of waiting on a windswept elevated platform are the last straws.

        Because, “Oh shit, that last bit made me miss the train. What a pain in the ass this is to use.”

      2. I just got through looking at maps of Bellevue and Northgate, and measured the distance between Bellevue Station and the BTC, and Northgate Station and NTC. The distance between Northgate station and the Northgate TC is greater than the distance between Bellevue Station and the Bellevue TC. If this outrage is mostly about distance, why don’t people complain about Northgate Station’s placement?

      3. People did.

        And as a result, Sound Transit and Metro have come to an agreement that will put the post-construction Northgate bus stops almost directly below the train platforms. Northbound buses won’t even have to pull off the main road, to the time-saving benefit of transferring and through-passengers alike.

        In Northgate as in Bellevue, Sound Transit would have inconvenienced future users for all eternity just to save a handful of construction dollars. Kudos to Metro for preventing that.

        Of course, Northgate is most crucial as a transfer point; the mall and the surrounding area are exceptionally hostile to pedestrians, so foot access to the station will always be less than ideal. By contrast, downtown Bellevue is crucial as both transfer point and destination.

        The potential harm here is the devaluation of the entire line.

      4. A bit off topic, but I’ll offer my opinion on the Northgate station anyway. Initially, it may be a transfer point (AKA feeder station) but I think that will go away fairly quickly. Coming from most directions (everything but directly south on 5th) it is difficult to get there. That is why the idea of more park and ride spots (even if you think park and ride spots area a good idea) was completely misguided for that area. Driving to that area is (for the most part) a big hassle. The same is true for buses; they spend a good chunk of time going very slowly, waiting for traffic.

        On the other hand, although the pedestrian facilities are poor around there, they are slated to improve. Probably the biggest improvement will be the bridge across the freeway. Not only will this link the station with NSCC, but also the buildings around there. There is a rapidly growing medical industry there on both sides of the freeway. Along with this, you can see lots of new apartment buildings going up, along with the potential for many more.

        When the 130th street station is added, my guess is that a lot of buses will change their routes. The 41 from Lake City, for example, won’t have to bother trying to get to Northgate. It will simply drop people off at 130th. Like the Northgate station, you want to make sure that people can quickly get off the bus and onto the train.

        Feeding people from higher up on the hill (Maple Leaf) to the Northgate station is a tricky proposition. I don’t see an easy way to do it. They might just add more buses to Roosevelt.

        My point in all of this is that Northgate is doing everything fairly well. It might have made sense to have a station on the other side (closer to the college) or add additional stations (such as Maple Leaf) but the little things they are doing will make a big difference. The bridge will serve a lot of people, the buses will feed the train as best they can and the sidewalks and bike paths will improve. Compared to Bellevue, Northgate is really small potatoes, but they seem to be putting more effort into it. I can’t help but think it is because Seattle has guys like Conlin, while Bellevue doesn’t.

      5. @ RossB–good comment. The Northgate bridge is critical, as is accelerated planning for extension to 130th if funds allow (similar to S 200th). 130th is crucial to Lake City/NE Seattle, more so than Northgate because of the direct connection you discuss (and because of the cluster**** getting to the NG station will be from NE Seattle).

        I’m looking out the window at the Bellevue station location right now, and can only reiterate–what a waste. The location could’ve been so much better but death by a thousand cuts makes it useful primarily to City Hall and the Bravern (well, and to me as well if I’m still at this location–but I can’t wait to get off the eastside!). Direct connection to the transit center would have been so much better, but this will have to get filed into the same category as “why no center platform addition to ID Station to facilitate E-S transfers?” Ugh.

        Grade separation throughout should be mandated, even at the cost of temporarily pulling back one station in extent if necessary to fund it.

      6. But the real point is that Sam is wrong to assert that Northgate will wind up even more hostile than Bellevue.

        Because Metro went to bat for betterment and fixed Northgate. While Bellevue just gets worse and worse.

      7. 130th is not a done deal yet. ST will choose a “preferred alternative” this fall, and “select projects to be built” in late 2014; I’m not sure at which point it will finally decide on stations.

        Regarding Lake City – Northgate local service, it really depends on whether Metro designates 5th Avenue NE (41) or Northgate Way (75) as the primary — and hopefully full-time frequent — route. Or whether it keeps both corridors equally half-hourly, bad. I assume the 41 routing is more likely because of the multifamily buildings in between. But either the 41 or 75 or 522 could be rerouted to 130th station and the Aurora ex-Kmart. (Does the neighborhood at 130th & Aurora have a name? Is it part of Bitter Lake?)

        The pedestrian bridge would significantly open up the area, and I agree that the city should start working on it now rather than treating it as just a station project. I don’t know what to do for Maple Leaf. It seems like an east-west bus route should go somewhere but I’m not sure where. Maybe the 68 is the only thing possible, and it could be extended to NSCC and Crown Hill to provide full east-west service, and free the other routes from having to go around to NSCC.

      8. 130th station could be “Bitter Lake City.”

        Based on the City’s history of ignoring the area, that’s not a bad choice. ;-)

        (the station needs to be fought for; it provides far better utility than 145th if only one can be chosen–both Bitter Lake and Lake City would have far better connecting service to Link than a transfer at 145th or–particularly–Northgate)

      9. Mike, the 41 corridor is already 15 minutes full-time (except at night) and the 75 corridor is already 15 minutes peak. Once North Link is there it’s very believable that both corridors will be 15 minutes full time during the day, and the 41 corridor (which is slower but denser) will become 15 minutes even at night.

    1. Maybe there could be a cottage industry of pedi-cabs at the station.

      BTW, where is the bike parking?

      1. I don’t think the bigwigs who are pushing against ST on this project consider bicycles to be a serious form of transportation. It’s funny considering the reasonable amount of bicycle infrastructure already in Bellevue.

      2. “where is the bike parking?”

        From page 2 of the concept sketches PDF, see the aerial view of the plaza. On the plaza, along NE 6th and west of the station entry there is a white box. There is a person standing next to it with what looks like a bicycle. Could those be bike lockers?

  8. There’s a lot of hatred for Bellevue in these comments, but none for Sound Transit. Interesting. I don’t think anyone is happy with the compromise.

    At least you’ve stopped complaining about Surrey Downs :)

    1. Part of it is a bias against Bellevue, but most of it is ignorance. Commenters think local municipalities have more power than they actually do when it comes to dealing with Sound Transit, partly because ST often lays down so quickly and easily. ST, if they wanted to, could build a great light rail system, but they lack the political will power. You can’t blame cities like Bellevue for walking all over ST. ST has the ultimate power. They just choose not to wield it.

      PS, you want cost savings? Eliminate the ridiculously placed (and named) East Main Station. Then put that into a better Bellevue Stations. But it’s too late for that now.

    2. It’s Bellevue that’s pushing for the changes because the cost savings will count towards Bellevue’s contribution to the tunnel. These changes don’t benefit Sound Transit at all.

    3. The hatred for Bellevue is because Sound Transit could have done the right thing (whether “right thing” would have been Bellevue Way or 112th but with a Bellevue station further west) if it had received more cooperation from the Bellevue City Council. Instead the council kowtowed to a tiny but vocal group of activists.

    4. You have to look at what each payer wants and would do if they totally had their way. ST would build grade-separated rail throughout. ST has everything to gain and nothing to lose from a fast system, plus that would avoid friction with the (Surrey Downs) property owners and (downtown Bellevue) parking interests. The reason it’s not doing that is budget limitations, and the budget limitations are because too many voters are penny-wise and pound-foolish about capital costs vs long-term benefits. If the City of Bellevue had its way, it might like the full subway too as long as it didn’t cost Bellevue anything. But Bellevue is heavily concerned about about: (A) shoppers offended at the sight of trains or trolley wire or overhead tracks, (B) losing any parking spaces or garage entrances, (C) trains blocking intersections (even though a train is no more disruptive than two articulated buses running together), (D) impacts to Surrey Downs properties, (E) the Winters House. It appears that Bellevue cares more about these things than about getting the most seamless transit system it possibly can, because what we’re suggesting is what would make it the most convenient for people using transit, and thus would attract the highest ridership. If Bellevue is opposing these, or putting the other five priorities above them, I can only conclude that Bellevue is putting cars and properties above transit.

      Sam may be right that ST could be a lot more aggressive than it is. I’m not sure about that. But being aggressive also creates enemies and generates backlashes.

      , because it has everything to gain and nothing to lose from a fast system, plus it would avoid friction with the (Surrey Downs) property owners and (downtown Bellevue) parking interests. The reason it’s not doing that is budget limitations, and the reason for that is that too many people look only at the capital cost

      1. Just as the University of Washington was concerned about the placement of rail going through its campus. This is politics. If you don’t have money, you don’t have a voice.

        Sound Transit and Bellevue both made tradeoffs to favor commercial interests over homeowners. The best routes for this train–up the center of Bellevue Way or along the existing railroad right of way that already runs to Woodinville and Renton–wouldn’t have started nearly as many fights with homeowners.

        It’s stupid to start a fight with people who have believed for a half a century that they would die in the modest homes they’ve lived in most of their adult lives. Talk all you want about the good of the many, but fund improvement on the backs of businesses, not homeowners.

      2. AP, I don’t know what to say if you think running rail up the center of Bellevue Way wouldn’t have started fights with homeowners. All the money in Beaux Arts would have rapidly coalesced around fighting it. I think the route ended up on 112th because the Surrey Downs homeowners lack the clout of those further west.

        And as for the old railroad right of way, it’s absurd to describe it as the best route for anything. It’s indirect, a huge topological challenge, and nearly a mile from anything that could be described as downtown Bellevue.

      3. David L, Beaux Arts is by the water, not by Bellevue Way. Enatai completely separates the two. Regardless, the train already runs up Bellevue Way for most of Enatai’s border. It stops at 112th, Enatai stops at 104th. Please visit the area before forming opinions.

        As for the existing rail right of way posing a “huge topological challenge”, I have no idea what you are talking about. It’s a rail line. Rail lines are graded for trains. Maybe you mean it would be difficult to get between I-90 and the rail, but we’ve already built a freaking highway over the swamp. Another bridge wouldn’t hurt anything.

  9. None of this is as bad as the missed opportunity/cluster that is Mt Baker Link station & Metro transit center

  10. As conceptually attractive as it is to move the Downtown Bellevue station to NE 6th Street, I have to say that I’m extremely disappointed on two aspects of this current plan.

    1. The station could be so much better for many if there was an underground pedestrian connection to the BTC from the station! Given the cost savings and the overall cost of the Downtown tunnel, ST should do it right and connect the BTC with the station with no at-grade street crossing at 110th!

    2. Isn’t it time we start demanding that high volume stations be signature buildings? I’m really totally saddened about this being just a glorified platform. What about a real “Grand Central Station” for Bellevue proposal? There are going to be cabs, shuttle buses, people getting dropped off and picked up, bicyclists, and all sorts of other things going on here. There is such an opportunity here for a signature piece of architecture that could have nice restaurants and other activities that serve the community. There’s not even a clock tower! Instead, the proposal is for a very “blah” transit center whose redeeming signature features are a red awning (noting that the awnings are even discontinuous to the train loading areas) and escalators, and will be a nightmare with pedestrian, traffic and bus conflicts in large pulses on 110th and NE 6th!

    1. underground pedestrian connection

      It would be a slight improvement. But you’d still be walking 400 additional feet in a dank passageway just to reach the point where an actual subway station should have been.

      Isn’t it time we start demanding that high volume stations be signature buildings?

      No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Absolutely not. This is a transit system, not a grand interstate gateway.

      “Civic monument” thinking is exactly how we got the monument to inconvenience that is Westlake station, the terribleness that is Mt. Baker, and the gigantic pile of uselessness that is Tukwila International Blvd. It’s how station price tags get so high that we build them way too far apart even in the city.

      This remains the gold standard of subway access.

      This is the greatest form a subway entrance can take.

      This is meticulously choreographed awfulness.

      This is a nightmare.

      1. A good light rail system has stations that serve different functions, so what appears to be a problem may be because it’s not designed for the function that it should be. I think an independent design assessment from out-of-town specialists would be valuable for ST at this point, because local people are too vested to be objective. I do have to disagree that there is no place for signature public buildings though. Under that logic, we would have torn down King Street station and put in “blah” replacement structure. Transit stations should certainly be functional first and foremost, but creating a visual focal point landmark is rather basic to good urban design and creating mixed-use activity around a station boarding area is the kernel of what TOD is in the first place.

      2. King Street serves, to some small degree, as a civic gateway. But it’s a civic gateway that has gotten better not only through restoration and reopening of the Jackson Street frontage, but also because a functional pedestrian overpass has given it a direct bee-line connection to the subway tunnel than it otherwise would have had.

        In fact, as nice as the historic King Street building is, one can make the case that the clean, elegant, non-invasive glass-and-steel direct-access entrance to the Sounder platforms is the best single piece of transit architecture in all of Seattle. Form complementing function, rather than fighting it.

        Visit New York’s Grand Central Terminal just once and you’ll understand that it isn’t 10 times the size of King Street for the sake of pride, but because it needs to be. It connects to 67 tracks, and enables 700,000 crisscrossing passengers to pass to and from 700 trains per day. The space is necessary to enable waiting and egress; not one inch is superfluous.

        At King Street, such space would be entirely waste.

        And not only would such space be wasted at King. It would be wasted even in a New York Subway station of similar passenger count, as the subway is all about movement, and there is never the need to arrive early and wait for a platform announcement, such as arises with commuter rail or intercity trains. Show me a subway stop with a grandiose space between the street and the platform, and I’ll show you a ghost town.


        I love a great civic building, of any era. I love the Neo-Renaissance magic of the Boston Public Library and the Koolhaas Seattle Library in equal measure.

        But useful public buildings are places you have a reason to be. Transit isn’t a place to be, but a method of moving through. Path, not destination. Means, not end.

        99% of overscaled transit architecture is just getting in the way (and setting money on fire to boot).

  11. I have used the DSTT as d.p. suggests many times; it was more important before Seattle provided transit priority on 3rd Avenue; to reach SR-520 routes on Olive Way, I use it beteen IDS and CPS; to reach 3rd Avenue routes, I use it between IDS and USS; to reach Pike Street routes, I use it to Westlake and walk south on 4th or 6th avenues. but I am a transit nerd. the surface streets are about eight minutes slower through the CBD; the grade separation is crucial to travel time and reliability.

    back to East Link: how about zeroing out the South Bellevue parking garage (1,400 x $40k is about $416m or real money), putting the funds into improved frequency on Route 522, buying the lot from WSDOT, changing the zoning, and building several hundred apartments next to the station? put the new TOD and access policies to use. walk the slough trails on the weekend; have easy commutes during the week.

  12. I certainly hope someone at the ST Board meeting on Thursday can get an answer as to why we’re spending $200 million for a tunnel and then not building the station where you can transfer to a bus without having to cross 110th. It’s a seven minute walk from the meeting rooms in City Hall to Bay 1 of BTC. The only possible reason for this tunnel and it’s four minimum radius turns is to prevent any possible impact on traffic flow which could still be done for far less money by elevating the line.

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