As part of the process of updating its Transit Master Plan, the City of Bellevue has published a “Transit Service Vision Report.” The report is the culmination of a year-long public process intended to help the City of Bellevue identify its future transit priorities. The report includes proposed networks for 2030, 2022, and 2015, modified for each of three funding scenarios.
The unifying theme of the proposed networks is “Abundant Access,” which incorporates goals of frequency, convenience, efficiency, simplicity, directness, and effective regional connections. The networks include only service that serves Bellevue destinations, although the maps cover almost the entire Eastside, so some mental “filling-in” will be necessary as you look at the maps.
At a high level, the proposed networks are outstanding examples of frequent, gridded network design. High-ridership lines connecting major destinations are improved, with more frequent routes than exist today even in the Reduced funding scenario. Coverage to extremely low-ridership neighborhoods is mostly eliminated in the Reduced and Stable funding scenarios, with priority given to services that accommodate high numbers of riders. Construction impacts from Link are taken into account in the 2015 and 2022 scenarios.
Some specific changes in the 2030 proposals, below the jump, are likely to get riders’ attention.
- 108th Ave NE becomes a frequent transit “spine” in downtown Bellevue, with many more routes than serve it today. This would enable the city to focus appropriate transit treatments on NE 108th, such as TSP, dedicated lanes, and possibly partial restrictions on private vehicle traffic comparable to those on 3rd Avenue in Seattle.
- Off-peak service to Seattle on SR-520, including routes that correspond to today’s 545, 555/556, 255, and 271, is presumed to terminate at either UW Station or BTC, requiring off-peak riders to transfer to Link to reach downtown. In exchange, that service becomes more frequent and faster. Trips using Link would likely be faster than current one-seat service at certain times of day, but slower at others.
- In all three scenarios, a new RapidRide-like line connects Bellevue, Kirkland, Juanita, and Totem Lake. This is a corridor which has much lower ridership than it ought to today, despite having 15-minute service (although not on the same route) throughout the corridor. Can the overall network improvements generate ridership on this corridor on the scale you would expect given the importance of the destinations, and on the scale needed to justify RapidRide-style investment?
- Service between Bellevue and Issaquah is redesigned such that the frequent, all-day connection between the two cities is a freeway express bus, instead of today’s meandering local. This is a win for 90% of riders along this corridor.
- In the Growing scenario, RapidRide B is split at Crossroads, and the north-south portion is extended south to Eastgate and Factoria.
- The RapidRide B deviation to nowhere at Overlake is eliminated. But service to The Village is maintained on a frequent local route mostly oriented toward 148th Ave. NE.
- In the Stable and Growing scenarios, frequent local service comes to Bel-Red Road. Is it better to have the service on Bel-Red, rather than on Northrup Way and 20th along with Link? The same route offers new frequent service in far west Kirkland.
- The high-ridership service between Renton Highlands, Newcastle, and Bellevue currently provided by Route 240 becomes frequent and much more direct.
- The plan assumes the improvements to Snoqualmie River Road, near Bellevue Community College, which Martin wrote about in 2011.
- S Kirkland P&R, Eastgate P&R, and S Bellevue P&R become major transfer points, each served by multiple local frequent routes. Of course, anyone who favors increased residential and commercial development around major transit nodes will find this bittersweet, as none of these three locations will ever be central or have much going on around it. Nevertheless, quick and easy transfers at these locations should make many local trips quicker, with less waiting than today.
This is exciting work — the most serious, credible proposal for a major restructure toward all-day frequent networks that is currently on the table in the Puget Sound area. The City of Bellevue deserves enormous credit for making this happen. I can’t wait to watch Bellevue, Metro, and Sound Transit work toward these ideas as Link’s opening approaches, and I hope this work inspires other local jurisdictions to take a similarly cohesive, comprehensive approach in their own transit planning work.