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Google Earth – click to enlarge

The jobs and retail along SE Eastgate Way neither receive nor deserve excellent transit service. Surrounded by vast surface parking lots and hiding from the main arterial, the buildings couldn’t be unfriendlier to pedestrian approaches. The south side of the road is given to the I-90 right of way rather than buildings, cutting the potential market in half. Vehicles getting on and off the freeway have the speeds one would expect. Bellevue does have long-term plans to make this less of a wasteland, but that’s irrelevant to Metro’s current service level.

However, there’s always value in optimizing the service that does exist, and there’s a nearly costless opportunity in the peak hours to provide something approaching frequent service. This is a lot of words to spill about a tiny and not very efficient route, and in many ways this kind of one-off peak service is the bane of a legible and flexible network. Still, it’s presumably symbolic of a larger pool of low-hanging fruit Metro could exploit with a little attention.


There are only two routes that serve the street. The 271 runs all day between Issaquah and Eastgate before heading on to Downtown Bellevue and the University District. Although this well-known route runs every 10-15 minutes, only selected buses continue beyond Eastgate to give it 30-minute headways on this stretch throughout the day.

Aside from a one-trip high school route, the only other service is the 217, a reverse-peak milk run that connects Seattle residents with Southeast Bellevue and Issaquah office-park jobs three times a day.


At right is a typical westbound afternoon schedule at SE Eastgate Way and 158th Ave SE, according to OneBusAway, near some sometimes-vacant office parks, a strip mall, lesser-known Microsoft and Boeing campuses, and other stuff.

Depicted this way, the problem is obvious: two 30-minute headway lines arrive four minutes apart, where better spacing would create 15-minute headways to connect this neighborhood in a straight line with the Eastgate transit hub and its suite of Metro and ST Express services. In many of these cases, constraints elsewhere prevent proper synchronization: the buses are hopelessly unreliable, or have transfer and interlining requirements elsewhere. However, that isn’t the case here.

The 217 is constrained in that it interlines with the reverse-peak 212 west of here, providing 15-minute headways from Factoria into Seattle, and (however imperfectly) at Eastgate P&R the 212 and 217 both try to avoid the half-hourly peak visits from the 554. In contrast, the 271 suffers no such constraints. The selection of 271 trips that continue to Issaquah is essentially arbitrary*, and nothing prevents Metro from sliding this selection to the trips that depart 10 minutes later. If Metro is going to provide this kind of service, it might as well make it as useful as possible.

* As far as I can see; Metro did not reply to my request for comment on this analysis.

5 Replies to “Peak service on Eastgate Way”

  1. How are we ever going to get those Eastgate Way area employees that currently drive to work and park in those vast surface parking lots to switch to transit if we take the attitude that the street in front of their workplace doesn’t deserve excellent transit? I’ve always felt that the area in the above arial photo is a transit wasteland, and that a few years ago, when the eastside’s service was reorganized, Metro made a mistake in not sending a route north up 156th Ave SE from SE Eastgate way, like the 221 or 245 or 226. Those three routes all go north or east after leaving Bellevue College, leading to the Robinswood area being overserved, and 156th Ave SE having almost no service.

  2. Although Eastgate Way is mostly a vast wasteland, the other side of the freeway, SE 36th St. is lined by office buildings including the T-Mobile complex, home of some 5000 workers; the SRO complex at Factoria Boulevard; and the mall itself which is a two block walk from SE 36th (complete with separated path if walking the sidewalk isn’t your bag). It’s unfortunate that the bus service is concentrated on the P&R which is close only to Bellevue College and a LONG walk from the commercial center on Factoria Boulevard between 36th and 41st. Given that I-90 is a long wall between the two that fouls traffic about ten hours a day, it seems a perfect spot for some sort of overhead connection from the P&R to, say, the middle of T-Mobile’s complex with an escalator down the hill behind the QFC.

  3. At least for the Microsoft building, transit is pretty decent, as you don’t have to mess with the horrible pedestrian environment on Eastgate Way to get there. There are good walking trails that connect the campus to Bellevue College and nearby bus stops on the 221, 226, 245, and 271. There are also Microsoft-sponsored shuttles going between there and Overlake Transit Center every 10 minutes. Most employees who working there that commute by transit are probably taking either the Connector or the 545 to Overlake TC and picking up the shuttle from there, not going through Eastgate. (Although another shuttle to Eastgate P&R is available too).

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