On Tuesday, we talked a bit about Bellevue’s great new Transit Master Plan, which is expected to be adopted next Monday by the Bellevue City Council. The plan’s final detailed product (which is very far from the only useful thing we got out of the process) is divided into two pieces: a “Transit Service Vision Report” laying out a detailed vision of a frequent, gridded Bellevue bus network, and a “Transit Capital Vision Report” which describes capital projects necessary to make Bellevue’s service vision workable and efficient. In October, we covered the network report in some detail. This post is about the capital projects report, which is equally worthy of attention. Other local jurisdictions should pay close attention to Bellevue’s approach to capital projects, because it presents a logical, orderly path toward making a city in which transit trips are safe, easy, and practical from end to end.
The report is divided into four sections which, together, cover the entirety of a transit trip. This is already a welcome departure from most municipal transit plans, which tend to focus exclusively on the on-vehicle aspects of transit planning. Read about each section below the jump.
The first section is “The Development Lot,” which does not include new capital projects, but serves to acknowledge the importance of good land use planning to effective transit. It emphasizes that virtually all of Bellevue’s future growth is expected to be concentrated in downtown Bellevue, the redeveloped Bel-Red area, Crossroads, and Eastgate. It spotlights policies from the city’s Comprehensive Plan that are particularly important to effective transit, and focuses on the need to add service where high ridership is anticipated.
The second section is “The Pedestrian and Bicycle Environment,” which summarizes existing pedestrian and bicycle projects from earlier city planning work, and then singles out those projects that are within a quarter mile of a transit stop. Sidewalk improvements, particularly in car-centric South and East Bellevue, deservedly get the lion’s share of attention here, but the plan also incorporates the beginnings of a nice gridded network of bike lanes and three major trail projects, including the Eastside Rail Corridor and connecting links near Eastgate and SR-520. Finally, the report acknowledges that its “as the crow flies” quarter-mile distance isn’t optimal for planning, and promises a more detailed, real-world analysis of bus-stop access to come.
The third section is “The Transit Stop,” and naturally enough discusses improvements to and at bus stops. This being Bellevue, a substantial portion of the projects included are park-and-ride projects, which is in keeping with residents’ survey responses. The report also focuses, however, on shelters, real-time schedule information, and bus layover space — which is expected to be in critically short supply in Downtown Bellevue if anything like the plan’s network vision is implemented.
The final and largest section is “Transit Running Way,” and this one is the meat of the report. It incorporates all of the speed and reliability goodies we love, and focuses especially on corridors that are designated as frequent corridors in the Service Vision Report. Work from previous studies involving the City of Bellevue is rolled in, along with some new items developed with the Service Vision in mind. TSP, queue jumps, bus bulbs, Dexter-style boarding islands, BAT lanes, transit-only lanes, and contraflow lanes are all considered as part of a speed and reliability “toolbox” which could be applied where needs are identified. This toolbox was applied using an analysis that incorporated data from diverse sources. Then each project was prioritized using a methodology that considered its importance to the frequent network the city designed, its time savings relative to other similar projects, and previous study of the project. The result is a detailed, complete, transparent road map for how the city can most effectively use capital funds to improve speed and reliability.
The high-priority projects are all likely familiar to Bellevue transit users (and perceptive readers). The one that will be the most familiar is the “Bellevue College Connection,” a series of related projects intended to straighten and speed bus service near Bellevue College, of which the most important piece is a redesign of 142nd Ave. NE and Snoqualmie River Road to allow through bus traffic. Martin covered this project in detail, and begged for it to happen, years ago. Other high-priority projects include:
- two bus corridors in downtown Bellevue (108th Ave NE and NE 6th St)
- southbound bus lanes on Bellevue Way approaching I-90
- bus lanes on 116th Ave NE north of Overlake Hospital
- a southbound bus lane on 148th Ave NE south of SR-520
- queue jumps in three directions at the intersection of NE 8th St and 148th Ave NE, and
- signal revisions at Coal Creek Parkway and 119th Ave SE.
Regular Bellevue bus riders will recognize all of these as places where congestion regularly slows down bus service, particularly in the afternoon peak. Completion of these projects alone would help Bellevue’s transit network meaningfully.
The Bellevue Department of Transportation is to be congratulated both on the process that led to this plan and to the result. By adopting similarly clear criteria and a comprehensive approach, other local cities could bring us much closer to a future where transit trips are a realistic option for more trips, more of the time. This is how we’d like to see local transit planning work.