More so than our neighbors to the north and south, a range of transit expansion options are before the Eastside. ST3 would almost certainly extend East Link to Downtown Redmond, but the Eastside is likely to have the revenue authority to do a great deal more. Unfortunately, a lack of consensus exists among elected officials, the transit community and the general public about what to do after completion of East Link. To a certain degree, this is reflected in the wide variety of projects studied by Sound Transit for the Eastside and SR 520 corridor.
To help unpack this question, several of us have been bouncing around ideas on what we think the overarching goals of a ST3 package should be. The possibilities include:
- Continue with Sound Move/ST2 projects including I-405 BRT and Link to Redmond. Advancing what has been started is important for the region. Redmond has been waiting for light rail since East Link planning began. I-405 is a central transportation corridor for the Eastside with a long-standing transit master plan. These long-anticipated transit investments need to move forward.
- Develop a high-capacity transit (HCT) network that strengthens the connection between all of the Eastside cities and Seattle. HCT needs to serve all Eastside cities including urban neighborhoods throughout each city. The cross-lake corridor is the strongest transit market on the Eastside and completion of East Link doesn’t obviate the need for improved transit service over SR-520.
- Leverage the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) for HCT service. The ERC, particularly between Kirkland and Bellevue, could be an exceptional resource for the Eastside. Sound Transit has an easement permitting transit use along this corridor and ST3 will likely be the best opportunity to use this corridor for HCT. The ERC, however, has a “last-half-mile” challenge: it does not penetrate the walkable urban cores of either Bellevue or Kirkland.
- Deliver meaningful HCT improvements within the ST3 time frame, including near-term congestion relief. Over and over again the voters have shown their support for transit, including near-term service improvements and long-term capital investment. Making sure ST3 provides timely benefits across the Eastside is important, particularly against a backdrop of double-digit increases in regional car travel times.
What do you think about these guiding principles? Do they resonate? And what’s the best way to achieve them? Sound off in the comment thread.