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Space at a transit center in the heart of a growing downtown should be at a premium. Strangely, The Bellevue Transit Center has a 2,100 square foot building taking up useless space. Here’s why I think it should be repurposed, and I’d love to see some ideas on what could happen instead.

First, a bit about what is there: the Bellevue Transit Center has 12 bays, 23 bus lines, and thousands of passengers every day. It also has the Bellevue Rider Services Building which SoundTransit described in 2008 as

…adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. Several rider amenities are available including transit schedules and other rider information, public phones, community information, bike racks and public restrooms. The building also houses a station for the Bellevue City Police.

The majority of the stations users are workers in the core of Bellevue. They are extremely likely to have access to transit schedules via computer or smartphone. They are also unlikely to need a public phone (wait, there are still public phones?), or access to paper community information. There are no bike racks in the building (though there are *many* in the nearby area), and the police station closed 3 years ago.  In addition, just a  few feet away is a small building attached to the transit center that housed a ticket office at one point. Now, it is a very expensive and big map holder so you can find your bus in the 12 bays of the transit center.

Before going forward, you have to wonder what SoundTransit and the city of Bellevue were thinking here. In 2006, payphones had all but gone the way of the dodo bird, and the city of Bellevue’s headquarters is two blocks away — why would they need a station so close by? The public restrooms are a nice item to have, but I’m frankly surprised they have lasted – Seattle’s experiment with public restrooms didn’t go as well. Overall, it seems like the building you would want in 1985, not in 2006 and certainly not in 2014.

Moving forward, that leaves a $3.5 million dollar 2,100 square foot  built in 2006 sitting mostly empty. What would you do with this building and the accompanying former ticket office?

6 Replies to “Repurpose This Building”

  1. How about contracting a bike share company to operate/provide services? Perhaps Kemper and Co would be OK with bicyclists. I haven’t heard otherwise.

    The problem with the lack of public restrooms is what takes place in downtown Seattle. The smell of human excrement, the frequent wet floor signs at the bottom of the escalators at Westlake… Just take a walk through Pioneer Square and look down any alleyway and see what takes place. Perhaps some Portland loo-style facilities should be envisioned.

  2. The restrooms at Bellevue TC, SeaTac, and Tukwila Intl Blvd are not the epitome of cleanliness either. And they’re minimalist stainless steel structures like those in parks, which doubtless aid in cleaning and reducing vandalism but they’re not very user-friendly. And they close at 5:30pm and on weekends, or at least the Bellevue one does, so they’re useless off-hours. We need full-time restrooms, but at the same time we need people to respect them and keep them clean. Europe has manned restrooms with a minimal entrance fee. I wish we would do that.

    1. This is a very short building amid much taller ones. Could it be repurposed as a daycare center? Plenty of parents work nearby: this facility would make it feasible to commute to work in DT Bellevue by bus and drop off / pick up the kid, making it easier for families to lead car-free or car-lite lifestyles. The class can go play outside in City Center Plaza or City Hall Park, provided it is possible to shepherd kidlets across 110th within the allotted time.

      And during the daycare’s off hours, a separate section of the building should be open to the public providing bathrooms and charging outlets. Maybe a bouncer from Blue Martini could tend it on slow weeknights, in the ultimate public-private partnership.

    2. Yes. Before this building was built, there was a Honey Bucket porta-potty on the TC, that was available nights and weekends unlike the building that replaced it.

  3. I’ve actually never noticed this building before at Bellevue TC, and I’ve been there… several times. Are the bathrooms accessed from the inside or the outside?

    I think Lynnwood TC has similar bathroom hours; its bathrooms are on the outside of its customer service building and share its hours (it was always open when I went through in the morning, closed when I went through in the evening, though it’s been a few years since I went through there daily). That building probably isn’t as big as Bellevue’s; its public area is just a single counter and a wall holding brochures and maps.

    I believe Renton TC has longer bathroom hours, extending into later commute hours and even Saturdays; I’ve only been there once, but there’s a sign with hours (it was on a Saturday, and I used the bathroom). There they’re accessed from the outside of a building with a snack window, and share its hours.

    So… maybe bathroom hours could be extended in the building if there was a snack/drink cart there. Those sorts of things seem to do well enough to survive at less popular transit centers than Bellevue! That wouldn’t take up much space in a building that size, though (even if you plop down some chairs and tables and other random interior design elements to demarcate seating space).

    If the building’s staffing level is low enough that its functions could be performed in the unused ticket booth on the platform, it could simply be sold or rented to the highest bidder (the less infrastructure, more city approach)… but the ticket booth is probably a pretty unpleasant place to work, especially if the people working there are expected to get other stuff done during the day (common enough for people in public-facing positions these days).

    Thinking about the future, East Link is going to basically leave the bus platforms untouched as I understand it. Any additional interest in purchasing fare media will be focused around the train station, and if there’s any sort of public building going up there it would make sense to consolidate public help-desk type functions near the TVMs. So in 2023, if they can move existing functions to the train station, they should certainly sell or rent the building unless there’s some seriously urgent function that needs 2100 square feet of space and only a public agency can solve. Until then, maybe just a food cart to help keep the lights on.

    I have to admit, the day care idea is more interesting, especially since it (a) is proposed by a koala (b) includes a swipe at DT Bellevue traffic signal timing.

    1. Hah. Yeah — those Koala Care changing tables you see in bathrooms? All me.

      Similarly: I am at BTC twice a day, every day, and have poked at this building maybe once. I think it was closed.

      I thought about ‘food cart’ a lot before proposing the daycare + Blue Martini bouncer-staffed bathroom combo.

      But there so many other food / drink options nearby during business hours (Tully’s, Mrs. Field’s, yet another froyo place, quizno’s, starbucks, specialty’s), and foot traffic around BTC is so light in off hours that it probably doesn’t pay the cost of employing someone for the time. I know you say that the Renton TC snack window does ok, but it looks like there isn’t as much fast food nearby.

      The daycare idea is half-baked also, though. The Bellevue YMCA daycare is already on that block, and I can see why you might not want to cart your kid on the 555 where everyone is trying to quietly enjoy their few minutes before work. (or is this the voice of car culture and its low expectations for children?)

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