East Link map, via Sound Transit

In yesterday’s open thread, commenter and long-time reader Mike Orr pointed out two surveys that Sound Transit is using to solicit input on East Link final design for the downtown Bellevue segment.  One survey is a fairly straightforward multiple-choice form for station naming options, while the other wants slightly more comprehensive input on station access, specifically for pedestrians,  bicycles, and transit.  Responses and comments are due by the end of tomorrow so be sure not to dilly dally.

The station-naming form gives a few predetermined choices for the three “downtown” segment stations: East Main, Bellevue TC, and Hospital Station.  Respondents also have the option of submitting names of their own, although I’d guess that option is probably abused more often than Sound Transit would like.  While I don’t exactly get riled up about station names, I tend to lean toward those that incorporate cross-streets, which help give some reference to the grid.

When it comes to pedestrian and bike access, I’m not sure there’s much more that can be done aside from what’s already being considered in the Bellevue’s Downtown Transportation Plan update.  Obviously, bike facilities are severely lacking downtown so there’s a lot of progress to be made on that front.  The most feasible improvements for pedestrian access, on the other hand, are likely going to be mid-block crossings, through-block connections, more pedestrian-friendly signals, and other stuff that will help break up the grid a bit.

Transit-wise, however, the great shame with the NE 6th station is that it negates all the benefits of great bus-rail transfers that the old C11A surface design made possible.  Also terrible is the fact that on-street bus stops along NE 6th Street are pretty much infeasible, thanks to the steep grade and the fact that station entrances will be on opposing sides of the block anyway.  Although I’ve been rather partial to the idea of decentralizing Bellevue TC bus service in the past, the new station design makes planning bus-rail interface a few degrees more challenging.

40 Replies to “East Link Station Access and Names in Downtown Bellevue”

  1. Well, look on the bright side.
    It’s only 8,000 boardings a day for all three Bellevue stops in 2030, compared to 15,000 for either Northgate TC or Lynnwood TC stops.
    At least both of those stations are properly situated for maximum ridership.

    1. In the open thread I made the following points – which together could mean dramatically more boardings for East Link. Given how large the total investment is, the siting decisions for these two stations are penny wise and pound foolish.

      I looked at the material for the Bellevue poll and there are two things that just glared out at me. This is from the material presented at the meeting:

      1. There is a nice diagram of the catchment area for the “Downtown Bellevue” station. At least 40% of the catchment area is occupied by I-405, and the large majority of downtown Bellevue is missed.

      If the station were moved one superblock westward, so that it were under the BTC between 108th and 110th, instead of between 110th and 112th, the number of destinations within the catchment area would be doubled. Let’s put aside the politics of paying for it, but given the multi-billion dollar cost of the whole project, does it really make sense to put the Bellevue station so far to the side of downtown Bellevue? Even at the cost of a delay, this should really be revisited, and whether it’s tunneled or surface the route should be going via 108th, with a station closer to 108th.

      2. The proposal shows all entrance for the Hospital/Midlakes station on the north side of NE 8th St. This seems incredible short-sighted. I can’t imagine Bellevue is going to want a signalized crosswalk under the light rail, so the nearest crosswalks are at 116th Ave or 120th Ave. That makes transfers to/from eastbound buses unattractive, and it closes off the entire south side of NE 8th St from convenient transit access. The area is currently the auto row, but this is prime ground for redevelopment into apartments or offices. Even if the station is to the north of NE 8th St, there should be pedestrian crossing that lets people alight on the south side of the street. Even better is to have the station span the street, but at least the pedestrian access should go to the south side.

  2. Am I correct in recalling that “East Main” station is actually on 112th, and a block or two south of Main?

    1. Yes. It used to be closer to SE 8th. It’s a pretty worthless station that, during the week, is served by the 240, 246, 555/556, and 560 coming from BTC. Seems like a perfect station to defer until a developer comes along with a plan that utilizes stops at that location. If it is built, I’d suggest they call it “Surrey Downs Station”

      1. I see.

        So it’s far enough south and east that it doesn’t really serve Main Street, that it in no way intends to act as a second downtown Bellevue station, and that’s it’s just as far (and somehow even less pleasant) a walk from Old Bellevue — what people actually mean when they say “Main Street” — as BTC is. Correct?

  3. Why does the grade on NE 6th make on street stops impossible? I’m 90% sure I’ve gotten on/off busses on hills, but I guess I’m not certain. Plus, there could totally be bus stops on 110th or 112th, immediately adjacent to the station entrances (likewise, at the top or bottom of the block on NE6th).

    1. I think you’re 10% wrong. Just look at James St. It’s nearly flat between 3rd and 9th.

    2. The first and last downtown Seattle stops for the 54 are both on quite a steep hill.

  4. When thinking about East Link in the past, I guess it never dawned on me that there would be a stop on the west side of the lake as the map indicates (23rd and Rainier). SouthEast Seattle will really have some nice connections into downtown once it is built. Also, it seems that area could be a nice spot for TOD, but I acknowledge that other SE Seattle TOD has had its issues (see: Othello station).

    1. It could become the preferred station for Rainier Avenue residents who have been complaining about how far MLK is. It will go nonstop to Intl Dist at 55 mph, as opposed to three intervening stations and 30 mph in SODO. It will also offer speedy access to Bellevue and other Eastside jobs. It’s main problem is that the station is in the middle of nowhere next to an un-urban freeway, but that could be addressed with station-area development.

      1. I highly doubt it’ll do 55mph through those curves and down the ramp into IDS, but yes Rainier/I-90 could become a good second option.

        From Mt Baker to IDS via Central Link is currently 8 minutes. The 7 takes 6 minutes from MBS to Rainier/I-90, plus 2 minutes from Rainier/I-90 to IDS. With similar frequencies on each segment, it’d basically be a wash, except for the uncertainty of the transfer at I-90. I’d still take the train from MBS, just for ride quality, but many others may choose Rainier/I-90 instead.

      2. For people coming from the stretch between MBS and I-90, the I-90 station is probably the obvious choice, if not just staying on the 7. If, on paper, the travel time is the same for people south of MBS, factors like the quality of the transfer and average train loads come into play. I think the I-90 transfer involves a fair amount of walking up ramps, but no street crossings in either direction. I’ve never done the MBS transfer but it seems to be a common source of complaints around here.

      3. Yes; it will have to be built out around the area, but a quick look at Google maps shows lots of low-slung buildings and vacant lots, but good amenities (parks, schools, etc) around there.

        I’m slightly regretting choosing north Seattle as my place of residence. I’ll be waiting for transit until I’m too demented to know what it is.

      4. Zach, the #7 is about TWELVE minutes + between I90 and IDS (5th & Jackson). So, transferring to the train will probably be a win time wise give or take the train headways.

        I also hope and expect that the train station will be equipped with escalators and ADA elevators. That will make a world of difference in the usability of this station. It also needs to be regularly policed for indigents camping out underneath as well as the accumulation of crap that blocks the ramps.

    2. The Rainier station is going to be right where the existing Rainier freeway bus station is today. I haven’t heard of any plans to improve on the pedestrian conditions along Rainier at that interchange, which aren’t very good generally. Access to the station from the neighborhood to the northeast (along Hiawatha Pl) is pretty nice, though, and I think there’s some construction going on there. IIRC you can walk to the southwest pretty easily, too.

      These areas around the Rainier station are a lot closer to downtown than Othello or even Columbia City; the northeast one is near the Central District and Judkins Park, which is already pretty hot property. I don’t know what neighborhood you’d call the southeast one… topologically it’s off the side of Beacon Hill, but the Beacon Greenway goes right through it. It has an interesting mixture of houses, some modest old ones and some that look really new. Another difference between these areas and the MLK corridor is that ST probably won’t buy a big chunk of key land in the area and then try to sell it to a big apartment developer, so any growth will be more organic (more similar to the sort of growth that’s occurred in successful neighborhoods). There can’t really be anything facing the station and the prospect for a great streetscape on Rainier itself is dim, but there’s some stuff facing Hiawatha today, and Hiawatha is more of a biking and walking street than a driving one.

      Well, I’ll be watching this space, at least. It’s along a couple decent bike routes, so I’ll pass through reasonably often.

      1. The plan-of-record is for station access from both Rainier and 23rd, which would dramatically improve access from the east over what exists today.

      2. (Not that I’d expect this area to blow up in an enormous way, or be a big commercial or retail area… but the bus station is already a decent amenity for the people living there and Link will really expand the options. This station will eventually provide a one-seat, fairly direct train ride not just to downtown Seattle and Bellevue, but Redmond and UW as well… I wonder which will win the race to UW, the 48 or Link… anyway, that will be a super convenient place to live for access to four important job centers, especially for white-collar, highly educated types, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see that station walkshed become quite rich post-East Link.)

      3. That access to 23rd is vital–that gives access not only to 23rd up the hill a bit, but MLK as well 1/4 mile through the lid park. If they’d take that weird jog to 23rd between Yesler and Jackson out of the 8, this wouldn’t be a bad option for Madison Valley as well (a moot point if the Madison BRT ever comes to fruition, perhaps, but we’ll see).

        Just think how much better yet that station area would be if there were a central platform at ID Station for E-S transfers, but that makes way too much sense. At least it’s a pretty short bus trip to Mount Baker station.

      4. I wonder which will win the race to UW, the 48 or Link

        Not counting any walk to the station, Link will win every time, particularly for people going to 45th.

        Even before Link gets there, that station is a major reason I feel so comfortable arguing for things like taking the 7 out of downtown.

      5. …it wouldn’t surprise me to see that station walkshed become quite rich post-East Link.

        Walk 6 blocks uphill to the area atop the I-90 tunnel, and it’s already exceedingly rich.

        While I don’t specifically disagree with what you’ve written, it still makes me cringe a bit to see this station extolled by urban advocates. It’s still the intersection of a highway and a pedestrian-hostile thoroughfare, and we’re still paying for it out of our own sub-area money, instead of funding things that would actually be useful for getting around the city in general.

        It’s not bad that it exists. It’s the paying for it that super-irks me.

      6. The freeway’s already there, d.p., and it’s been there since 1940. It’s not going anywhere. The best we can do is to make it useful for some of the locals most affected by its presence, and the station does a decent job of that and could do a better job with some more pedestrian improvements.

        It’s the Secret Key to avoiding the Jackson Street mess.

      7. The freeway’s already there, d.p., and it’s been there since 1940. It’s not going anywhere.

        Right. And that’s why the area looks like this, and not like this. And that includes the swanky, swanky ridge.

        The station’s fine, and will be an improvement upon the limited-access stop that exists there now.

        But let’s not pretend there will ever be a ton of people around to use it, or clamoring to live right next to it, or actually experiencing significant better mobility on account of its existence. We’re being asked to swallow a line of b.s. to make ourselves feel better about paying for something that shouldn’t be even a top-100 urban priority.

      8. It is an ugly spot (next to the freeway), but get a couple blocks away and things are fine. You can see prime examples of this in various parts of the city. For example, move a few blocks away from I-5 on 65th NE and you can see houses selling for well over half a million, and big new fancy apartment and condos being built. Rainier and 23rd aren’t very pretty (close to where they intersect) but this can change in a hurry. Look at what happened to Lake City. From the looks of it, these things have started changing as we speak. My guess is that this area in general will undergo a lot of new development (as long as zoning allows it). The city will hopefully chip in somewhere along the line and make necessary pedestrian improvements (as they did with Lake City).

        I agree with your general point, though, d. p. This is not a very good station for Seattle. It fits in with the rest of the east line, which seems to have a car centered and cheap approach (put stations next to freeways and close to existing park and rides). Of course, the general cheapness of the line is quite appropriate for a city that has made this a hallmark for its civic endeavors (with the exception of the two new stadiums, which replaced the far more appropriate Kingdome). We shouldn’t have to pay for something like this, but that is the nature of sub area equity.

      9. That’s the part that’s b.s.

        The fact that it happens to run briefly within city limits doesn’t make it “our line”, and shouldn’t make it our responsibility.

        In fact, it has been written here before that our subarea originally wasn’t on the hook for any of East Link, until ST went looking for Bellevue tunnel money just as we started to run a surplus. So shift some ink, rewrite some rules, and now the East Link ROW to the Mt. Baker tunnel is “ours”. Yay for us!

        When you consider that we’re also paying for highway trackage that primarily benefits Lynnwood, and when you note the awful urban stop spacing we’re seeing justified by the travel-time desires of those from Everett and Federal Way, the application of Subarea Equity starts to look anything but equitable!

      10. Huh. I must have missed some of that. I had thought North King subarea was basically just paying for the station, not the trackage. That is outrageous, and I won’t bother saying more on the point since everyone on this thread has heard d.p. say it already :).

      11. We are “contributing” at least $110 million to “Segment A” of the project.

        Again, yay for us. It’s not like that money, combined with the stupid FHSC money, could have bought us a real First Hill subway station. It’s not like that money would cover 5% of an in-city subway line that we desperately need.

        No, the best possible use of that money was to ship it on a fucking train to Bellevue.

  5. >> I tend to lean toward those that incorporate cross-streets

    Me, too. It can be nice to have a station name and a cross street

  6. Rainier is really Rainier and 23rd Ave. The same Rainier Ave. passes right by Mount Baker Station on the line that goes to the Airport, a short distance away, which invites confusion. The name Rainier sounds nicer than 23rd Ave., but is less clear. These stations at least ought to have secondary names in a smaller font that help identify the location, using cross streets or other points of reference.

    Mercer Island is a fine name, clear as could be.

    South Bellevue, while vague, accurately conveys the vagueness of the place itself, which is a park and ride adjacent to a huge wetland and a few homes up a hill. It’s really quite an odd place for a high capacity transit station.

    East Main sort of inaccurately describes the location (on 112th, south of East Main) of this station that serves an area lacking much of an identity today.

    To call the downtown Bellevue station Bellevue Transit Center is to overstate the importance of the transit center itself, which is actually uphill out of the trench and across a busy street. It’s the one and only stop that could justifiably call itself Downtown Bellevue… arguably tragically east of the true center of it, but downtown nonetheless. The east end of this station is actually quite a hike from the west end of BTC, but very convenient to the largest plot of never-developable land in the area, the I-405 / NE 8th St. cloverleaf interchange that occupies most of four superblocks.

    Hospital is too generic a name for what is actually mostly Overlake Hospital. Every train going there also serves UW Medical Center which is a much bigger hospital than the one in Bellevue. (That same location also has a very prominent, huge stadium, Husky Stadium, like the Stadium stop on the same line, and serves a major University, unlike the University St. station.) Meanwhile, the name Overlake is used for not one but two stations further east, and there’s no geographic hook to the Hospital name. This situation is begging for a more systemic approach.

    120th and 130th are geographically descriptive but do not help create a sense of place in this currently nondescript area (future “Spring District”) slated for major redevelopment.

    Overlake Village will hopefully feel more like one by the time this line opens… even though the station will be adjacent to a major highway and is today dominated by aging strip malls.

    Overlake Transit Center is a weak name for what most people think of as the Microsoft / NE 40th Station. There’s plenty more around there but Microsoft is by far the dominant presence as of today. (Things do change; Amazon moved its HQ to SLU of course.) OTC begs for confusion with the other two Overlakes on the same line. There must be a better name than OTC. Maybe Microsoft has a suggestion, or would be willing to pay some princely sum for naming rights. Or maybe something with Redmond in the name would work since the station is wholly contained therein, even if it’s not downtown Redmond.

    1. I agree with your comments. I would name the last station Redmond Station. Overlake Transit Center is a lousy name. When I think of Overlake, I think of Overlake Hospital. When I think of Microsoft, I think of Redmond. In other words, if I wanted to go to Microsoft and only saw one station with the name “Redmond” in it, I would get off there.

      I like Lake Bellevue for the “Hospital” station. Very few people have heard of it (I hadn’t) but it is clear cut and unambiguous. There is only one Lake Bellevue (unlike either word in “Overlake Hospital”).

      I think there is nothing wrong with numbered street stations, especially when the line is generally going one direction. Doesn’t New York have numbers for many of their station names in Manhattan? In this case, I think it works well. Basically 120th, 130th and 152nd. If you are meeting someone on 134th, you know exactly which stop to take (and when you are getting close).

  7. Why can’t they sell naming rights.
    Petco Station, complete with fire hydrants sand boxes galore.
    Sonics Field, Home of the team to be named at a later date.
    Your ideas here…

  8. I would name the South Bellevue station Factoria Station. Wait, it doesn’t go to Factoria. OK, then it is easy. I would name it WTF station. As in, WTF! Why doesn’t the train go to Factoria (WFT-WDTTGTF is a bit too long). Seriously, there are a lot of problems with this line, but skipping Factoria to serve a park and ride seems crazy to me. My guess is that it is cheaper, but still. The folks who work in Factoria (and there are lots and lots of people who do) will ride a train, then take a bus for a mile and half. Great. Oh, and the bus doesn’t have priority (the carpool lanes go west, towards Seattle) so it will crawl through I-90 traffic. My guess is the bus will also serve other areas after Factoria, and run so infrequently that a lot of east side workers just drive to work. WTF!

    1. It’s another johnny-come-lately proposal. Did anyone ever suggest Factoria to ST before the ST2 ballot measure or during East Link’s alternatives analysis? Neither the BNSF option nor the Vision Line had a Factoria station. We can’t keep redesigning lines forever or we’ll never get anything built. It was known that East Link wouldn’t serve Factoria, and that that would put Factoria and Issaquah in the funny position of a shuttle. The reason for the South Bellevue P&R is that bus service in the area is so minimal, especially south of I-90. It was deemed prohibitively expensive to add comprehensive bus routes in a mostly low-density area, and cheaper to have a P&R as a stopgap.

      1. Yeah, I guess its my fault for not thinking of it sooner. I guess no one ever considered that Factoria would be an important stop if you are running a line essentially from I-90, north on 405 and through Bellevue. Seriously though, I’m a creative guy, but I have a really hard time believing that I’m the first guy to come with the “Hey, why doesn’t it stop at Factoria” idea. Frankly, I’ve pretty much ignored the east line. I assumed it would go to downtown Bellevue, so I should be happy that they remembered to do that. I suppose they could have run the line through Sammamish High School instead. Then I would write a similarly obnoxious note about how poor this line is.

        Just so we are clear, I’m not suggesting they redo anything, but simply mentioning that skipping Factoria is stupid. The line serves downtown Bellevue, Overlake hospital and Microsoft. That part is good. But the fact that it goes within a short distance of huge buildings without stopping (in a city with very few areas of big buildings) suggests that the designers had a 1950s mindset. Build it cheap, build it mostly for cars, build it for the folks commuting from the east side and ignore the fact that there are huge office buildings on the east side now.

        Things will be better for the folks that drive to the park and ride, but only marginally. Imagine if they skipped that stop. The buses could simply shuttle people from there onto the Mercer Island station. The lane is designated bus only, so it is a quick ride. The station at Mercer Island is right by the freeway, so that shuttle trip would only take a couple minutes. In other words, the driver who wanted to drive to the park and ride would have to put up with a minor delay if they didn’t add a station there.

        I suppose they may add a shuttle bus for folks in Factoria, but why favor park and ride drivers over people working in high rises? Plus, the Factoria bus will be stuck in traffic, because the bus lanes from the park and ride head (you guessed it) towards Seattle. Again, these things are built as if Bellevue and the rest of the east side is a bedroom community. It isn’t. Anyone who has ever tried to drive from Seattle to the east side in the morning (or back in the evening) will attest to that.

        Plus, the road geography of the area is dominated and divided by the freeway. You can get from Factoria to Eastgate and back easily without getting on the freeway. This is not the case with the South Bellevue Park and Ride. You either get on the freeway or go a long way around. This means that a station at Factoria (only a short distance away from where the trail will travel) could easily serve Eastgate with a shuttle. But serving either area from the South Bellevue Park and Ride will take a lot longer, and be snarled in freeway traffic. It isn’t just that a three minute shuttle becomes a ten minute one (with traffic) it’s that it won’t be as frequent. My guess is that they create a bus line that serves both Factoria and Eastgate, and that it doesn’t run that often because it takes so long to serve those areas and get back to South Bellevue.

        I also don’t think Issaquah makes sense. It is no where near where the train is going. If you are going to make a line that essentially follows the freeway, it makes sense to stop at the big stops. Factoria has more big buildings than half the stops along here. Similarly, going to Eastgate would require a lot of backtracking. Those should be controversial moves (how much backtracking do you want to do to serve these dense areas) but Factoria should have been an obvious stop. I assumed it was until I read the details.

        Oh, and I’m not sure the folks south of I-90 on the east side are really digging this either. They still have to go through congested 405 past I-90. On the other hand, if you threw together a park and ride a little ways from Factoria, at worst they would have to take a shuttle to the train station. My guess is that you could find land in there to buy and turn into a park and ride. The area has some really big buildings, and a lot of parking lots. There really isn’t a lot of in between around there.

        The only winners for this choice are the folks that wanted to build this on the cheap and the folks who live close to the South Bellevue Park and Ride. There may also be folks in the greater Factoria area who didn’t want their neighborhood to become a de facto park and ride.

        OK, rant over.

      2. “suggests that the designers had a 1950s mindset. Build it cheap, build it mostly for cars, build it for the folks commuting from the east side and ignore the fact that there are huge office buildings on the east side now.”

        It’s a 2000s complete streets mindset. The biggest pedestrian destination and jobs center on the Eastside is downtown Bellevue. That has been the main goal of regional transit for the past 20 years. The 550 was the first attempt; the fact that it’s the most popular ST route and has Seattle-style overcrowding shows that it was successful.

        I think what happened with Factoria is that its growth took people by surprise, and urban planning hadn’t quite caught up with it when the Link line was designed. Also, most of Factoria/Eastgate is pedestrian hostile. Of course, a train station could catalyze pedestrianization, but on the other hand pedestrian hostility hinders the effectiveness of a station.

        Where is Bellevue’s southern boundary now? The ironic thing is that Bellevue could have recommended a Factoria station and maybe used it as a way to get Link out of Surrey Downs.

        “I also don’t think Issaquah makes sense. It is no where near where the train is going.”

        Issaquah has been clamoring for a Link line. Interestingly, Factoria and Eastgate have not. A line would have to go to either Seattle or Bellevue, or be a shuttle. Seattle is probably out, a shuttle may not gain enough ridership (although it could be a first phase), so that leaves Bellevue. In that case, it could either go up around 405 or join East Link at South Bellevue. Sharing the East Link track will appeal to low-tax people, so it would probably do that. At that point, it could continue to Midlakes (Hospital) station and then to Kirkland.

      3. RossB, topography and existing infrastructure means that having the first East Link line serve Factoria would have added quite a lot to the travel time to Bellevue. Given that Bellevue is the overwhelmingly most important transit destination — one that packs 550 buses every 15 minutes, while Factoria doesn’t fill any buses at all and doesn’t even warrant a stop on the 554 — I don’t think the delay is worth it.

        The hope for Factoria is in ST3 or ST4. It would be a very natural first stop after Mercer Island if an Eastgate/Issaquah Link line is ever built.

      4. Going to Factoria and then downtown Bellevue would be like going to Southcenter then the airport. Start in the median of I-90, cross over south of it, then over 405 to Factoria, then over 90 going north, back west over 405 to downtown Bellevue, then back east over 405 to head out to Redmond.

        Just because Factoria can be said to be at the intersection of 405 and 90 doesn’t mean it’s reasonably on the way to downtown Bellevue. That’s a reflection of how little it means for a place to be at the intersection of two freeways.

  9. Shouldn’t at least one station be named after Kemper Freeman? :)

    (Not, mind you, as an honor…)

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