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:
- 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.