RapidRide B
RapidRide B to Bellevue. Photo by Kris Leisten.

Transportation planners at the City of Bellevue have been working for several years on a comprehensive update to the city’s 2003 Transit Master Plan (TMP) and those efforts are likely to bear fruit on Monday when the Bellevue City Council votes on adopting the final product.  We’ve covered the city’s ongoing work on the TMP a couple of times in these pages.  In 2012, Sherwin described the process and gave readers a sneak peek into planners’ thinking.  Last October, I covered the Transit Service Vision report, which is the piece of the overall plan that is focused on network planning.  The new TMP goes well beyond network design, though, encompassing capital planning; political priorities for service improvement; a holistic approach to multimodal trip generation; and a realistic assessment of existing baseline conditions.

We are big fans of the thorough planning approach Bellevue is using in this process, and we hope other local jurisdictions will take some inspiration from it.  Bellevue isn’t a place that has always been known for transit friendliness, but this work will make it a–arguably the–regional leader in transit planning.  There is a remarkable amount of consensus in the City Council around the TMP, with even transit-skeptical members such as Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace applauding most of the work and sounding friendly to some transit investment.  Of course, it’s worth remembering that a master plan is not a budget, and that few of the improvements the TMP recommends are funded.  Still, a cohesive vision is likely to make funding much easier in the future.

As next week’s council vote nears, we’ll have another post highlighting the capital improvements in the new TMP.  Below the jump, we summarize the pieces of the new TMP, the priorities that have shaped it, and the reasons it’s a remarkable piece of work.

The process began with a set of principles that the Council considered through 2010 and 2011, before approving it in July 2012, and a comprehensive survey that was offered online in early 2012.  Bellevue Department of Transportation staff and consultants then went through further public process, including a public forum; an interactive network design workshop led by planning consultant Jarrett Walker; and a further round of public comment.  Staff, working with Walker, also conducted lots of groundwork of their own, in a series of reports on current conditions that makes for very interesting reading.  They prepared a fantastically readable profile of Bellevue’s existing network; an analysis of current travel times; and a comprehensive report on existing conditions which took some material from the earlier reports and added material on development and land use.  Last, but certainly not least for those of us who have spent time behind a big steering wheel, staff surveyed bus drivers to learn more about conditions on the ground.

These public outreach and assessment processes laid the groundwork for the planning work to come.

In May 2013, staff prepared a Funding Scenarios report which outlined three possible funding scenarios for transit service: Reduced, Stable, and Growing, and the conditions which would bring each one about.  At the same time, the Bellevue City Council adopted a Market-Driven Strategies Report which set forth goals for the service planning aspect of the TMP.  This report crystallized the Council’s principles into a theme of “Abundant Access,” which included these goals for future transit service:

  • Convenience
  • Frequency
  • Efficiency
  • Simplicity
  • Directness
  • Regional connectedness

These six goals, filtered through the knowledge of existing conditions and stakeholder priorities which came from the public outreach process, informed the detailed planning which formed the last part of the process.  Ultimately, Department of Transportation staff delivered two major planning documents.  The first was the Transit Service Vision Report, which encompasses network planning, and which we covered in October.  The second is a Transit Capital Vision Report, released last month, which provides a prioritized list of capital improvement projects.  We will cover these in more detail later this week.

Both reports are outstanding in their thoroughness, addressing both major and minor parts of the system and providing an easily grasped vision of how transit in Bellevue might accomplish the goals the Council has set for it.  To my knowledge, no other local jurisdiction (including Seattle, with its much more selectively focused Transit Master Plan) has presented such a cohesive vision for mobility.  While Bellevue has a long way to go to become a truly transit-friendly place, its TMP is a great start.  If fully implemented, it could give Bellevue the most effective bus transit of any city in the Pacific Northwest.

16 Replies to “Bellevue City Council Considers Transit Master Plan”

  1. Wow, that was great until we got to “bus”. Still, a very positive development…

    1. I’m beginning to think you are actually Kemper Freeman, delightedly trolling us with your feet on your huge, solid mahogany desk up above Bellevue Square.

    2. With more Khaki Dockers and Boat Shoes per square mile than any other city.

  2. Great document! I always love any charts or maps that show ST and Metro routes together, evaluated by the same metrics and criteria (or maybe different criteria separated by corridor and purpose, but not necessarily agency…). The chart of how all the routes perform by time of day (page 21) is sort of interesting. If you’ve seen charts of bike volumes by hour at the Fremont Bridge and the Broadway Bikeway, the B Line graph looks sort of like Broadway (low in the morning, rising through midday, highest in the afternoon) and the 550 more like the Fremont Bridge (sharp commute-hour peaks), which serves to reason (the B Line, like Broadway, serves a wide variety of destinations in a continuous urban area of some sort, while the 550, like the Fremont Bridge, is the way across the water for commuters).

    The 271, the chart notes, is the only route that’s most productive midday. This is curious for a cross-lake route… or really any route, given the midday lull seen almost everywhere! Is this due to UW schedules or the late-rising tendencies of college students? Are Eastgate and Bellevue College big midday destinations? Do riders that prefer faster peak-only routes switch to the 271 midday when those routes aren’t available? Is that especially true for riders from Issaquah or Eastgate, where there’s lots of peak-only service?

    If I had to guess wildly, I’d guess that the 271 would be at least as productive in the afternoon as midday and probably more so (like the B Line) if it weren’t for the awful traffic delays it faces that time of day — that there are at least as many riders per trip, but each trip takes more time. If the floating bridge and landing projects improve the 271’s reliability as they should, its productivity will peak-up on that segment, like its regional peers. Those projects won’t help peak reliability farther east, but there are changes coming farther east anyway…

    1. My wild guess: Could it be that student populations’ mid-day trips tend to start mid-day and end mid-day? e.g. last class at 11, club meeting at 4, so go and return from DT Bellevue for a midday excursion. Both of those trips fall within ‘midday’.

      In contrast, commuters go to work in the AM peak bucket and go home in the PM peak bucket.

    2. The 271’s entering the freeway at 84th is a big problem during the PM commute and will continue to be that way until it gets rerouted to another street. While there is an HOV entrance ramp from 84th Ave. to 520 west, there is often 20+ minutes of sitting in traffic to get to where the entrance ramp picks up. Then, the 271 is entering the freeway on the wrong side and has to merge across 2 general-purpose lanes to get to the future HOV lane across the bridge.

      The 271 should really be rerouted down Bellevue Way, 108th, or 10th St. to 405. (Or, perhaps, allow the 271 to be replaced with all-day service on the 556).

      1. Right, the 84th entrance mess combined with the Montlake exit mess combined with all the construction-related HOV lane closures make the afternoon peak 271 a dismal trip, especially going west.

        I’m tempted to agree about an all-day 556 (that’s the one that actually goes to the U District, right?) replacing a cross-lake 271. That’s based on the assumption that the riders the faster route skips over are mostly making intra-eastside trips and would be happy with a local route. Whatever replaced the 271’s coverage of western Bellevue would surely wither; Bellevue College would do better.

      2. Despite all this, the 271, given the current lack of HOV lane before / after the 405 junction, had still been often the best way to get from BTC to Evergreen Point, and thus, the best way to get to north-central Seattle from Bellevue. The 84th entrance mess seems to be an occasional happening; the Montlake mess is more consistent, sadly.

        An all-day + more frequent at peak 556 would be just fine as long as there were lanes on 405 / ramps to bypass all the pretty people going to happy hour in Kirkland who make the 555/6 sit in cloverleaf hell for 15 minutes.

  3. Just curious…when Prop 1 was defeated, the only King County city that expressed outrage and vowed vengeance was Seattle.

    How come Bellevue is rolling merrily along with its expansion plans…?

    1. This is a planning process. Prop 1’s failure changes the funding picture in ways that planning process anticipated. As of right now without any further changes the funding picture will look less like the plan’s “Stable” scenario and more like its “Reduced” scenario.

      Bellevue isn’t screaming bloody murder like Seattle about that fact because it doesn’t have 70%+ support for increased transit funding like Seattle.

    2. They’re not. This is a proposal document, stating what Bellevue would like to have happen and a method of guiding policy should the opportunity present itself. Quoth the author: “Of course, it’s worth remembering that a master plan is not a budget, and that few of the improvements the TMP recommends are funded.”

  4. Wow, that’s a lot of information. The route profile info, in particular, is very interesting. Is that type of info available for routes in the other sub-areas? It would be nice to info to compare Bellevue routes with Seattle and south King County routes.

    If Bellevue wants to grow transit service they are going to have to find ways to make their routes much more productive. Most of the local eastside routes have farebox recovery rates in the teens, which means that they are using a tremendous amount of money subsidizing very unproductive service. Bellevue can build bus bulbs and install transit signal priority lights, but until they modify their land use patterns, transit service is going to be very expensive. And what I’ve seen from the development plans around East Link stations isn’t very encouraging.

    1. >> And what I’ve seen from the development plans around East Link stations isn’t very encouraging

      Like putting a transit maintenance facility in an area that’s ripe for transit-oriented development?

      Seriously, though, can you give some specific examples or suggestions? Most of the area around East Main Station will be high-density housing and/or hotels. The entire Bel-Red corridor is being built up with high-density housing projects. And the Overlake/Microsoft area is pretty dense (pun not intended.)

      I’ll admit that Bellevue has large regions of uncompromised suburbia. But I think they’re trying to develop the urban core as transit-friendly.

  5. I still believe in comprehensive planning, not piecemeal, in separate silos. Better to have a Transportation Master Plan within which transit is a major component, or even better, The major component.

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