The public got a chance to see the long-awaited first renderings of the South Bellevue and East Main Link stations at Sound Transit’s third final design open house last week. With the alignment decision settled, planners are considering a series of design improvements– bicycle/pedestrian access, station architecture, site planning, etc. As with the other East Link stations, station naming will also be a part of this process.
Although no one expects South Bellevue to transform into some greenfield TOD hub, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to station access. ST is meeting basic expectations by rebuilding sidewalks and preserving the multi-use trail along Bellevue Way. One opportunity far too potent to pass up, however, is greatly expanding the station walkshed by improving neighborhood connections, something that’s been a pet cause of mine for some time now.
So far, Sound Transit’s ‘Neighborhood Context Plan’ map (.pdf) shows just one ‘neighborhood connection’ which veers off south into the Enatai neighborhood via 112th Ave SE. Further north, however, are multiple cul-de-sacs that jut out to the edge of Bellevue Way, but have no access to the street whatsoever. Given that these potential improvements might be out of ST’s geographic scope for station planning, this might be a good opportunity for the City of Bellevue to step up and take the initiative.
As far as transit access goes, the station isn’t without its flaws. Because the Link guideway bisects the station footprint lengthwise through its center, the parking garage is set back from Bellevue Way, which effectively pulls the bus bays back as well (see above). That means a longer deviation, longer travel times, and less efficient operations. According to a tweet by VeloBusDriver, exiting buses won’t get signal priority either. I’d much prefer an alternative where buses stay on Bellevue Way by making on-street stops in both directions, and the pedestrian crossing is greatly improved*.
At any rate, you’ll be able to submit comments of your own via two online comment forms: one for general design input, and the other for station naming suggestions. The comment period closes
today tomorrow, so if you want your input to be bundled into the public comment summary, be sure to fill out those forms ASAP. There’s also one more upcoming final design open house this evening from 5 to 7pm at Mercer Island Community & Event Center, where you can presumably learn more about the Mercer Island station design.
*As Martin points out, there’s invariably a trade-off with keeping the bus stops on-street, but this is one case where I’m probably more willing to accept a slight reduction in transfer quality. Of course, great pedestrian access is paramount to making this work.