LRP Map – Eastside Detail

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.

81 Replies to “What Should be the Goal of an Eastside ST3 Package?”

  1. I would love to see an expansion of the Eastside Rail network, but given that there are not as many high density areas, that makes it difficult… But then what you can do is build them into the current high density transit hubs (Eastgate, Issaquah TC, Kirkland TC, Kingsgate), you can then free up a lot of service hours from Metro to essentially create that last mile network with buses either laying over at the TC or having TC serve as a halfway point in a N/S or E/W direction. With additional funds freed up, that actually can lead to a lot of meaningful restructures of many neighborhood routes to provide more connected service.

    Plus, branching North from Bellevue can lay the groundwork for ST4 (we know it’s coming eventually) with a rail expansion along the 405 corridor, connecting north to UW Bothell and the northern zones.

    1. To give people choices and reduce traffics, we really need to where the 405 traffic mess starts.

      North end, it starts in Everett and Bothell. South end probably in Federal Way.

      The solutions is that we really need to have light rail loop around the sound. Starting in Everett or at least in Bothell. We also need to have one running from February to Kent/Renton.

  2. Good in principle but I frankly don’t want to see any expenditure on I405 BRT, just minimal improvements to the HOT/HOV lanes and onramps as needed. In that aspect I’d say no, we shouldn’t complete the ST2 plans on that.

    Generally speaking 405 is a massive ROW with little to no people living within easy walking distance of any station (for example @ Totem Lake or NE 85th). Putting BRT on it only means more Park & Rides near the freeway and more people driving on already crowded streets to get to those P&R’s. The oft touted Totem Lake freeway station is in reality a great example of what not to do, with only two mid-sized apartment complexes in walking distance, the nearest P&R lot a 5 minute walk away even for someone in good shape like me, but is nearly completely inaccessible for anyone with difficulty walking long distances. If that station is any indication of the concept for BRT on I405 we don’t want it.

    In my view the only way to do HTC on the Eastside that will result in a meaningful change to travel patterns is to use the ERC and get into neighborhoods where people actually live. BTW, I suspect the last half mile problem in Kirkland is overblown, a simple line with a stop in between Park Place and the park where the QFC is today will get walkable access to much of the downtown apartments and restaurants, further west by the existing transit center could be done for more cost to increase the walkshed but you can get a significant amount relatively cheaply. The “hill” that 85th runs up is actually a dirt pile and the downtown area and industrial area to the NE is relatively level with the ERC in actuality. Bellevue is a whole other issue.

    1. The last half mile problem into Kirkland from the ERC (CKC) is not overblown. I bike that on a regular basis (twice in the last week) with my four kids. It’s a serious hill. Google maps says the Kirkland Library (our usual destination) is at elevation 46 feet. The ERC is at 190 feet. We live on the top of the hill at 482 feet. 85th St East of 405 is around 300 ft. If you get off the trail at 12th and head toward 405 you’ll go up the steepest hill I’ve found in Kirkland – steeper even than the corkscrew ramps up to the bike/ped overpasses. Putting a station in Park Place would solve the problem, but that’s not where the right of way goes. The ERC is wholly disconnected from downtown Kirkland, which is a problem already as a trail. It does not serve anything dense in Kirkland, by design. It was an freight railway, not a passenger railway, so it served industrial areas. I am fairly convinced at this point that for Eastside transportation purposes, the ERC is better off as a trail. If you’re traveling it on a bike (or better yet, an e-bike), you already have a solution to the last mile problem.

      1. Yep it’s not an easy problem, but it is not this boogey man people make it out to be either. There’s nearly 2400 ft between the transit center and the ERC which would result in a 6% or so grade which is very doable for light rail but can cause problems with traction in poor conditions. The grade could be lessened through the use of an elevated station or retained cut but it is significantly within the capabilities of light rail. Buses would of course have an easier time, the new hybrid buses perform well in Seattle after all. You certainly would have more trouble on the south side near Kirkland Way than anywhere else unless you choose to follow the same route back out (doable for buses not so much for light rail). That might only be solvable by a very expensive retained cut into the hillside or even a short tunnel that popped up over by the Google campus. But if you did BRT first the light rail construction could be done later, with ST doing acquisition now to hold onto a ROW for a rail line exit later.

        The issue in Kirkland is I think going to be more about disruption to the neighborhood, big concrete pillars/roadways that are unsightly and loss of the trail than anything else.

    2. I totally agree that 0 money should be spent on 405 BRT. 405 basically goes through wilderness much of the way between Lynwood and Renton. Thinking of the places you’d want to hit you hit north -> south you have Downtown Bothell (not on 405), Juanita (not on 405), Downtown Kirkland (not on 405), Downtown Bellevue (adjacent to 405 – but deviation required) and Downtown Renton (adjacent to 405 – but deviation required).

      Honestly, I would say we should encourage development in those areas to the point where that could be a viable LRT corridor in ST4 or something. In the meanwhile, I think it’s a waste of time and effort to try to turn 405 into something it isn’t — namely a high density corridor.

      1. The point of 405 BRT is not that there’s anything on 405 itself. It’s that it’s the shared corridor that connects all of the destinations that branch off of it on both sides. The alternative (other than doing nothing) is to build expensive rail corridors through low-density areas to connect the few areas with enough density to make sense for transit. And those places are not located along a line or in a legible grid. The express lanes exist already or are in the process of being built, so you can use that existing infrastructure to create good service with a high degree of separation.

        East Link is mostly grade-separated too, so by connecting to it you broaden the reach of both investments.

        If there were places on the Eastside that had lots of areas of density a mile or less apart that were along a line, then you could make a case for light rail, but that’s just not the development pattern on most of the Eastside.

      2. @Cascadian: That’s fine for cars. You use local streets to drive the last mile, fast… or at least you do until they’re all congested, and then you’re just screwed.

        But transit that only stops in transfer points where nobody’s actually going is useless. Anywhere to anywhere is a three-seat ride — on the eastside, where parking is mostly free, people will hardly take transit if it’s a one-seat ride! So, of course, it gets off the freeway to serve downtown Bellevue, which makes it a two-seat ride from any place anyone wants to be. The buses that do this today are mediocre performers, and this is not surprising. Run them twice as often and they’ll run twice as empty and that’s all.

        You might say any other corridor on the eastside is just as bad. The eastside, indeed, doesn’t have too many compact, walkable nodes. But 405 is particularly bad. Not only are its current walksheds bad, its walksheds are permanently damaged by the freeway. Any destinations are permanently pushed from the platforms by the expanse of freeway lanes, ramps, and interchanges. At any station in an interchange station access is permanently made inconvenient and dangerous by interchange traffic. At all the stations the desirability of the real estate is permanently damaged by the freeway’s impacts (air quality and noise).

        The way the freeway damages the local street network by limiting crossing locations and pushing destinations on opposite sides of the freeway farther apart doesn’t necessarily show up if you just look at what’s within walking distance of the platforms themselves. But if the destinations are inconvenient to walk between, this makes the proposition of arriving on transit to do multiple things less appealing. If you have a class at North Seattle College, but also want to stop at Northgate Mall and Target, the extra space between the various destinations, the extra walking to reach a way across I-5, and the qualities of the roads you have to cross to walk between them makes it pretty unappealing to arrive on transit and make those trips on foot. Where would be better? Literally any other place.

      3. @Al Dimond: You’re not going to be able to change development on the Eastside anytime soon, nor do I think you should. Bellevue and Redmond are both doing a decent job creating relatively dense, walkable areas. Instead of trying to force something people don’t want, encourage the dense areas that are growing.

        I’m not quite sure what you mean about buses here being weak performers. The 532/535 are heavily used, particularly during peak times. The 532 (runs peak only) is one of the top routes and the 535 (which runs all days) is middle of the pack (most 535 buses during peak time are packed with standing room only southbound by Totem Lake). But this is commuter traffic. Push those people to cars and congestion on 405 will get even worse.

        With the express lanes coming, adding some infrastructure (bus only ramps at all stops) would help reliability and speed for the buses. If you add a stop at 85th or 70th St, you can increase ridership to some extent most likely. Not all day, but it will help. Then get Bellevue to invest money in pedestrian and bike facilities (which are abysmal, particularly over 405) and that would help.

      4. The 532 and 535 are popular for a narrow slice of the day, in one direction. Why? Because the only place they go with any destinations is Bellevue. I never said the ridership was terrible, I said it’s mediocre, and that it is by any rational standard. I wish it was better — back when I worked in Canyon Park I wished it was good enough to justify running later into the evening! But it isn’t. These routes shouldn’t be shut down but they aren’t making much of a case for their expansion in a subarea where there’s money to be thrown their way.

        There is nothing but a parking lot near 70th. The parking lot fills up every day, so its ridership potential is just about tapped, just on other routes. Don’t take my word for it, there was a corridor study that said the same thing. 85th has a cloverleaf — the big question is not, “Do we stop at 405/85th,” but, “Do we deviate to some place actually near Kirkland?” And the funny thing is, if we do, it’s still hardly faster for Bellevue-Kirkland trips than a decent arterial route.

        Maybe an arterial route would be a better project than 405 BRT. Actually go places people need to go, make useful connections, but do it faster than the 234/235, because there’s a ton of room for improvement there.

      5. I agree with Cascadian, but I think a lot depends on how they implement this. To be clear, this won’t be BRT the way that Swift is — this won’t connect areas along a dense, shared corridor. But I see no reason why you can’t add a bunch of 405 stations, make 405 really nice for buses, then send the buses from the neighborhoods to 405 (to those stations) then off to another neighborhood. This would help solve the problem you mentioned, Al (having to transfer). You would certainly transfer, but you would transfer less (a two seat ride versus a one seat ride).

        So, just to pick a couple random places: Let’s say I want to get from NE 85th and 132nd Ave NE to Woodinville High School. With any luck, there is a bus starts in Renton somewhere, then north on 405, then along 522. Meanwhile, there is a bus that goes along NE 85th, then heads north to Juanita. Obviously I’ll take the Juanita bound bus and get off at one of the 405 stations, then transfer to the bus headed to Woodinville. This sort of setup (lots of buses running along 405) makes a lot more sense than one BRT line along 405.

        All of that suggests where the investment should be: we should make a bunch of road improvements to help the buses. I have no idea if NE 85th has a bus lane, nor do I know if the entrance to the freeway has an HOV ramp. But that is the type of thing that makes sense for an area like the East Side. There just aren’t the obvious rail corridors that there are on the west side (or we are to build one). The area is very dispersed, so adding lots of little changes are most likely to have the biggest improvement.

      6. @RossB Buses using a 405 BRT route for varying distances before becoming local or acting as a simple collector distributer is an interesting idea. But a major issue is that the surface streets in those neighboorhoods are clogged with traffic. The 252/257 is a good example. Morning runs returning “empty” from earlier trips to downtown or elsewhere will exit 405 “on time” and begin thier local loop. But by the time they return to the Kingsgate PR and get back on 405 they are routinely 10 minutes late, sometimes as much as 20.

        There is definitely a lot to how they implement it though. I use the Totem Lake station a few times a week when I miss the 252/257 and take the 311 or worst case connect on ST through BTC (still faster than 255). It’s terribly sited, has a bad parking situation, is useless for ADA and is very dangerous to access (I’ve nearly been hit twice). There obviously needs to be a *lot* of thought put into any BRT stations on 405. @ NE70th there is room to put a station in but 85th after the most recent rebuild would require massive changes to the interchange to put in a station.

        Consider that if you followed the ERC ROW the line it would connect with 405 @ 116th in Totem Lake and @ 520 (further argument for a dedicated HCT transfer facility there) and if you continued north would eventually connect with SR522 in Woodinville. Giving you three transfer points to other destinations already all while giving you a dedicated ROW through areas where people actually live.

      7. @Kyle — If the surface streets are crowded, then this is where they need to put the money. I’m not sold on BRT for this area, because frankly, it isn’t that important. Off board payment and level boarding is great, but first things first. It sounds like we need to get the buses moving quickly. Investing in surface street improvements sounds like a good investment. It might not be cheap, but it is a lot cheaper than light rail. Given the amount of money we are talking about spending, I think you could make a lot of huge improvements in that regard. If folks want to call it BRT, then I’m fine with that, but just stretch the “BRT” area out beyond 405 to include the side streets. This actually looks better on a project map, too. People in various neighborhoods can see how there neighborhood will get something, even if it isn’t light rail. I think this would be a lot more popular and a lot more effective at moving people than just BRT on 405.

    3. There is a creek that intersects Kirkland Avenue just before it hooks into Kirkland Way which would provide a wonderful walking access to the city with a station at Sixth Street and Third Avenue South. There’s even a walking access to Third Avenue already provided which would allow folks in the apartments on State Street around Third Avenue to walk directly to the station. There are a bunch of apartments around 87th and the ERC and new offices on both sides of Kirkland Way just south of 85th.

      It goes right by Google and PCC and behind the row of apartments along Lake Washington Blvd. It runs right next to the historical Microsoft complex and of course ends right at Hospital Station.

      On the other end it offers direct access on both sides of the freeway at Overlake and by skirting the west side of Totem Lake Park could hook back to the HOV ramps at 128th, to the north of the worst congestion on I-405.

      South of NE 6th in Bellevue it is much less useful because it hugs the wetlands park and then the lake to the south.

      Like most old railroad rights of way in nice suburbs it’s a great potential asset. But, converting it from the popular trail it is today will be very difficult.

  3. Isn’t the ERC in the process of being converted into a trail? It’d be a shame to go from a rail line to a trail and back to a rail line (or dedicated busway) in such a short period of time. But that said, it still appears to be the best available option. Its probably not worth it, but what would be the marginal cost of taking the ERC and doing a cut & cover in order to keep the trail?

    In order to avoid the last-half-mile issue on the Kirkland side, would it be possible to do a bored tunnel with portals near 7th Ave S and NE 104th St with a stop at 85th/Central? It would be about 1.5 miles.

    On the Bellevue side, how about using hospital station as a transfer? …or if station alignment works out having an ERC light rail merge onto the east link rails between hospital and south Bellevue then either crossing 90 and jumping back onto the ERC to continue south or across 405 to continue out to Issaquah (which seems to be a much lower priority from my observations).

    1. ST2 East Link isn’t scheduled to go into service until 2023 so the ST3 redevelopment would occur after that. It could be a trail for a good long time even if the eventual plan is to return it to a rail corridor.

      I went to a community meeting in Bellevue about ten to fifteen years ago before they started the latest round of work on I-405 and the one consensus was that Bellevue needed to provide pedestrian access across I-405. There were promises, but nothing ever happened and it’s probably a more dangerous crossing today than back then.

    2. According to the Cross Kirkland Corridor plans I’ve seen, the ERC is supposed to be able to support (width-wise) both light rail and a trail. Whether people would want to walk right next to a light rail line or if it would be a good idea is a different question. Right now it’s a peaceful, secluded walk/bike ride. Adding light rail would require separating the tracks and the trail and supporting a large number of crossings – if you try to both run a light rail line on the ERC and close off people’s access to it, there would be many protests.

      1. There already was many protests, 17 years ago.

        That’s how our transit system is getting designed.

      2. Sure, but what I’m saying is that you can’t run light rail next to a trail without a barrier. If you just run a continuous barrier without any access from the surrounding areas except at street crossings, it won’t be popular. If you have crossings everywhere, you can’t run a fast train.

      3. I agree with you. Personally I think the ERC should either be transit-only or a trail. Since it’s not great for transit location-wise anyway, then spending a lot of money on a solution that loses a walk/bike trail and doesn’t go where it needs to is not a good idea in my opinion.

      4. A good portion of the Perth-Fremantle commuter rail line also has a trail adjacent. Also FWIW.

  4. Restricting my comments to north of the 520 and downtown Bellevue (since that’s where I live/work), my big question is what is the goal of transit here. Is it to connect the denser neighborhoods? Or is it to relieve commute congestion? The majority of this area is low density residential. The only dense area is downtown Kirkland and Bellevue and to a lesser extent Juanita and downtown Bothell. None of those are on the ERC. There are dense pockets near each of the 405 exits.

    The current ST buses work well for the 405 pockets and the park and rides except that they’re unreliable during peak times (waiting 10-20 minutes for a bus is not uncommon right now). Diverting those to the ERC will slow them down substantially from 128th St to Bellevue, particularly if the HOT lanes can really maintain 45 mph on 405 (which should improve reliability).

    What about putting in rail or BRT between Kirkland and Redmond, and then establishing another freeway stop at 85th St? That sets up the E-W line going Ballard-UW-Kirkland-Redmond and provides connectivity from Kirkland both north and south using the current 405 lines.

  5. Dan, good start to a much-needed discussion. Background: I live in Mercer Island, active in transit issues there and on this blog, commuted to Redmond for many years.
    General comment: It’s important NOT to try do everything. Guiding principles often fail in this first and most important criterion. This set already cries out for prioritization and maybe culling.
    My own not-everything list – largely agreeing with Martin’s “Informed Speculation”, and fitting within likely ST3 pool of ~ $3B
    First, complete East Link to DT Redmond.
    Second, I-405 BRT
    Third, Kirkland to Seattle (say, connecting with UW Link station) – BRT probably makes more sense than rail within $ available

    And what’s NOT on my list
    Leveraging ERC – even if it’s an incredibly rare ROW, if it doesn’t work for existing / likely land use, let’s not be distracted by it.
    Issaquah – Bellevue (more generally, trying to connect ALL of the Eastside cities with HCT within likely ST3 $)


    1. Whoops – should clarify, this isn’t intended to dismiss ERC, rather using it should be a “does it work best?” question rather than a fundamental principle.

    2. I pretty much agree with your priorities.

      With East Link, branching 405 BRT (with actual grade separation the whole way including the tails/branches), and no diversions from the main busway outside the tails, you could have fast and frequent and reliable service between any 2 significant Eastside destinations with a single convenient connection. You’d be able to get from any Eastside city center to Bellevue with a single seat ride.

      I’m not sure how much UW-Kirkland needs more service, though.

      You might want to supplement with some actually intersecting routes that build a grid, like something that connects Redmond and Kirkland more directly along 85th, with stops on 405 and at the East Link terminus.

      To support this, local Metro routes could probably be made more grid-like as well, and it would be good to integrate them into the system with easy connections to 405 buses and East Link.

    3. Redmond – Kirkland – Bellevue RapidRide, anybody? It would be a mirror of the B.

  6. I’ve never seen this mentioned anywhere, but I’d really like to see improved bike access to transit on the
    Eastside. There aren’t all that many people within walking distance of reasonable transit, but lots more could bike if it were safe to do so. Biking that last mile or two is much more appealing than a transfer to a bus. Sound Transit builds infrastructure – could they build all-ages-and-abilities access to their stations and major transit stops?

    1. Agreed, bicycle access to the LRT stations is quite important. ST can do more at the stations themselves, but connections to the stations need to be handled by the local municipalities or other agencies handling the street design.

      1. Charles is right, the funding for improved bike access to stations from points beyond the LRT station needs to come from the local municipalities. During the board meeting I heard them talk that improving bike/ped access was a priority of the agency, but they shouldn’t be building bike lanes 2 miles from where they are building transit facilities. Make the local jurisdiction pay for that work.

      2. I reluctantly have to agree with Charles and subrookie. As tempting as it is, spending ST dollars would be a political nightmare. Even though it would be peanuts (and pay for itself many times over) a Sound Transit investment in bike infrastructure would just add to the anti-transit crowds opposition. I can just imagine the editorial (“.. and, on top of all that, they want to pay for bike lanes — bike lanes! — with our hard earned money. Vote no on ST3).

        At best it can be includes as part of other work.

  7. Do a Redmond->Kirkland connection or a Redmond->OTC connection and connect Kirkland to the Ballard-UW line via Sand Point in ST4.

  8. I would really like to see HCT drive density on the Eastside. I think this is one of the driving forces behind the Spring District density in Bellevue. I think this would have the same effect in Issaquah where there have been changes in zoning as well as some real density in the Highlands.

  9. I think it’s going to be hard to get many Eastside residents to vote for ST3 without something noteworthy to inspire them.

    The author has laid out some great principles, but I’m not sure how far the money will go.

    My first question to Eastside residents is simply this: Where do you want to see new, frequent rail service beyond Eastslink? It will probably be split between Downtown Renton, Downtown Redmond, Downtown Kirkland, Eastgate/Bellevue College, Factoria and Issaquah. It’s not cost effective to serve all of those places, and parking is not particularly expensive in any of those places so mode shares won’t be that high for destinations there. I wish there was a way to ask each area to come up with a future station area plan that they could commit to — and then try to determine who gets the money. When a community gets promised a station, they naturally shift into more of a “what can we get out of ST” mode.

    My second question to Eastside residents is this: Are there corridors that are more notoriously and frequently congested AND rail transit would become a viable alternative for you? The most congested today is I-405 South of Downtown Bellevue in first place according to TomTom — and that appears to be increasingly a day-long problem. I’m not sure how users would use the ERC if rail transit was available, and the BRT may be ok.

    I think people sometimes forget that Renton is the second most populous city in the Eastside sub-area and is the largest city in King County without a current or proposed light rail line by far. Renton residents endure 405 and 167 on a daily basis and transit connectivity with the residential areas is relatively poor. Listening to what Renton wants to do about things should be very important.

    1. Here’s the dilemma as I see it. Eastside residents are not going to be inspired to vote for an ST3 without any rail. But there are no areas where rail is needed or would work very well.

      So do you add a next-to-useless rail line somewhere to attract votes, knowing that it won’t actually perform well? Or do you think through mobility with buses that supplement East Link and risk boring people into voting no?

      I would actually connect Renton with rail before anywhere else on the Eastside. But the connection that makes sense is west to intersect with Central Link and destinations along that line, not going north through miles of nothing until you finally get to Bellevue. But you can’t spend all Eastside money on that (plus finishing East Link to Redmond), giving nothing to most of the subarea.

      1. I agree with you in concept, Cascadian! The challenge is simply that the entire Eastside would have to agree with linking Renton into SE Seattle and maybe paying for it — and I’m not sure if that can happen.

        Months ago in the ERC discussions, I suggested a Renton to Rainier Beach to Mt. Baker to 23/Rainier/90 station rail line. I pointed out that this would give Renton rail access to both Bellevue and Seattle. MLK grade crossings would probably be the hardest thing to figure out. No one seemed to like it.

      2. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work very well because Central Link through Rainier Valley is limited to six minute headways. So I’m not sure if that investment (which, arguably should have happened before SeaTac) will work with that kind of limitation.

        I wouldn’t necessarily rule out good bus service as the key to ST3 in the suburbs. You might be getting diminishing returns, but since we will have new 405 HOT lanes as well as new HOV lanes on both I-90 and 520, that might be the answer. I’m sure there are various combinations of neighborhood to neighborhood that haven’t been tried (e. g. Tacoma to Bellevue). ST Express buses are very popular, so I would not rule them out.

      3. The not-next-to-useless rail line that chased current density, studied around the year 2000, was a $5 Billion option (in Budget $)

        High cost, not enough ridership within the C/B time-frame.

        I-405 BRT and ERC rail had same ridership, with BRT just slightly more expensive.

      4. I do think an East/West line between Renton and Burien should be the next highest priority for East King and South King. But after that I propose extending East Link further north to Woodinville and then Bothell or I-405 via the Sammamish River Valley. But such a line only makes sense if you believe that TOD can be built in the immense about a greenfield space in that valley.

      5. Alex,

        HANDS OFF the Sammamish Valley! That is ultra fertile glacial till topsoil hundreds of feet deep.

      6. Anandakos,

        Great soil conditions are nice and admittedly I have little interest (not to mention little power) in ramming massive development down people’s throats. But even if the soil is phenomenal, I think it is very fair to question the value of maintaining farm land that is so close to regional employment centers and the heart of the region. This is especially true because it is difficult to imagine any other area on the East Side that could so readily create TOD and the resulting benefits. And without that sort of development your in the counter factual of more sprawl in the hinter lands out past Arlington, which, though I am not a soil expert, presumably also has good farm land.

        With that being said another reasonable alternative would be to follow Willows Road to 124th then go west to Totem Lake. That would mean that only a tiny amount of the existing farm land around 124th and Willows would make sense for development.

      7. I think the bigger problem with the Sammamish River valley is that it’s all a 100 year flood plain. All those farms will basically flood anytime the river floods. The occasional building in a flood plain might be ok, but building TOD there will eventually be a disaster.

      8. Interesting. But in that case isn’t Downtown Redmond in the flood plain too?

      9. Relatively little of downtown Redmond is (you can search for the King County floodplain maps and it’s all mapped out). Basically, the area around the library is in the flood plain, but it extends only 1-2 blocks from the river. From what I see, the big part of the flood plain in Redmond is Marymoor park, so it shouldn’t cause any major issues. But between NE 100th Ct and NE 145th St you basically have a flood plain between Willows Rd and just east of the river. It narrows from there until it hits Marymoor.

    2. Ridership between Bellevue and Renton is lower than in the other corridors, both currently (560) and in the projections. That’s why there was no consideration of Kirkland – Renton Link. Renton has significant ridership but it’s mostly to Seattle, not to the Eastside (or Burien). 405 BRT is more about a complete north-south corridor than about stellar ridership south of Bellevue.

      Is Renton really larger than Redmond or Kirkland? That’s interesting, but its ridership is still underdeveloped, meaning they’re not using much several of the routes that do exist much. Off-peak the 101 and 169 get a steady trickle but it’s like half the level as in Kent, and the 105, 106, 107, F, 240, and 560 have less than that. I don’t understand why Renton’s ridership is so low but every time I go there it is. Would better bus routings help? If so, how?

  10. I *really* don’t love the ERC as an HCT conduit. The only pro to using it is that it is there (except the easement is for freight rail and not light rail, so new easements = more money – see http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/was-public-railroaded-in-trail-deal/). The cons are many. You have a missing link over I405 at Wilburton, You have an old rail bridge sound of downtown that would need to be replaced, it is 1/2 mile from the center of Kirkland and Bellevue, etc.

    If you are going to HCT on the Eastside, do it right. Run the tracks where people are — even if that means running a shorter line for ST3. Bellevue to Kirkland would be the shortest line you could do that would be helpful, followed by Bellevue to Issaquah, and then Bellevue to Renton. You would get more miles for less money using ERC, but it would not be a good long term plan.

  11. The ERC should be a trail, not a rail. It’s 4-6 blocks from the three planned downtown Bellevue train stations. We are building rail on 112th Ave. Why build another rail on 118th Ave?

  12. Growing Eastside Rail should be done in conjunction with a general program of De-Seattlization.

    That is, centralized resources need to be moved around to all points N-S-E-W and the idea of pumping thousands of cars and people into an isthmus every day has to be eliminated.

    They need to think big. How about a brand new Mariners Stadium in Issaquah? Thus the pull is both towards the West and the East. Can Marymoor Park be a destination…imagine an all-rail journey there to a concert.

    1. John, you very much need to ask yourself why you live in the Northwest? Is it because you were born here? Is it because you have family? Those are externalities which certainly might explain it. But if it’s just a place you came, then ask yourself, “Why did I come here?”

      If it was for a job or other economic advancement, well then you certainly must know how much better the economic opportunities are in other parts of the country. You crow about them all the time. It seems to me that it would behoove you to reconsider your choice. What’s not to like about cheaper housing and more jobs in the relatively new “radial” cities of the south and Midwest.

      If however it’s that you love the Northwest ecosystem, the greenery, the clean water and air, the wildlife, then you really need to ask yourself, “Why do I want to destroy that which I think I love?” Is it some sort of self-loathing? An infantile desire to get back at people who you think are laughing at you? A millenarian desire to drag everyone into the grave along with you?

      Whatever it is, you probably would be wise to seek help for it, so that you can finally enjoy that which you think you love.

      [ed. note: They are. Laughing at you, that is]

      1. Sorry, Mossback, but Washington State has always been for the doers, changers and thinkers, not sticks-in-the-mud.

        Others see, and experience problems, each and every day with this Region, so, like the ST3 planners, we look for solutions, not a narcissistic nostalgia for a vaguely remembered past.

        Here’s where my head is: People are building apartment buildings in 5 days, using techniques of prefab and 3D printing.

        I ask, why not us?

        One9: Nine-Story Prefab Apartment Tower was Installed in Just Five Days


      2. By the way, I did make my move…in 1999 when I decided to live in Kent.

        However, it is only this year that the drinking water became potable.

        The traffic is awful and the air polluted during rush hour.

        Because of the traffic all around, amenities like the beaches, which are only a few miles away, can take a long time to get to.

        I feel many of the decisions make in Olympia decades ago have prevented this area from being as good as it can be.

        Not being one of the “elites” I have no weapon other than my pen.

        Yet even that seems to irk bullies and thugs such as yourself who enforce a system that has grown ever more unfair, ever more unworkable and ever more insane in its implementation.

      3. “The traffic is awful and the air polluted during rush hour. Because of the traffic all around, amenities like the beaches, which are only a few miles away, can take a long time to get to.”

        Why is traffic so awful, and why is there no other way to get to the beaches? It’s because of the low density all around Kent and most other places that makes it difficult to serve by transit, and the scattering of jobs with no regard to how people can get to them without driving (a decentralization success?), and the lack of willingness to invest in a European level of transit infrastructure that would get you both to work and to the beach. But the European infrastructure would not be decentralized; it would be centralized the way the railroad towns on Sounder and the interurbans used to be.

        By the way, the is a bus from Olympia to Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor Transit #50, weekdays and Saturdays.

  13. The biggest problem with transit on the eastside today is that their buses don’t run frequently enough, so that’s where I would put the emphasis.

    I would limit the rail to just Overlake to downtown Redmond, and spend the rest of the money on new bus service, significantly increasing the frequency on key routes, such as the 522, 535, 542, 554, and 566.

    It would also look at allowing the 540 to replace the 255 and the 556 to replace the 271, freeing up Metro funds to provide more local service in the area. I would also split the 554 (truncated to Mercer Island) into an Issaquah branch and a Sammamish branch, allowing Sammamish to get some form of all-day service for the first time.

    For Renton, I would look at a Kent->South Renton P&R->downtown Seattle express route as a replacement for the 101.

    I would also improve Houghton Freeway Station, moving the bus stops to the median and building a pedestrian bridge for access, with the goal of making it feasible to serve that stop on the 535 all day long.

    There are tons and tons of worthwhile projects that could done that, all put together, would cost less than one rail line. An emphasis on buses also has the advantage that it spreads the benefits around, so everybody can say that they are getting something for their money.

    1. Your ideas are sound but they are too complex to be easily explained and understood by the average voter. You must understand that sound transits first and most important job is to put together a package that can be sold and approved by voters who have little or no knowledge and interest in how transit systems should be built or operated.

      This should be taken into acount when trying to understand st3 current proposed projects.

      1. It’s actually quite simple. Everyone living near and ST express route gets to see their bus run more often, all day long. Unlike rail, everyone gets the benefit, not just people living along whichever corridor happens to argue the loudest.

      2. Yet another way to sell buses is that it offers people something for their money NOW, rather than making them wait 10-15 years to actually see any benefits for what they are paying for.

      3. That’s exactly how ST initially sold ST Express and Sounder: short start-up time so you wouldn’t have to wait a decade for Link, or multiple decades for Link extensions.

        A spread-out bus solution could be popular on the Eastside if it’s substantial. I’m really looking skeptically at Kirkland – Bellevue – Issquah Link: the area doesn’t seem ready for it, and we know that ST rejected the good Link routing (South Bellevue) for the bad Link routing (Hospital), but it is willing to put buses on the good routing.

        I’m indifferent to 405 vs ERC BRT, although the arguments above are making me lean toward 405. I have never understood why the 405 buses serve 70th and 132nd rather than 85th and 124th because the latter are where most of the destinations are and where I’m usually going.

        For the same reason, the multiline version of 405 BRT with overlapping routes to different endpoints looks better than the single-line version.

      4. I think the ideas are good, and would be *more* popular than any light rail plan on the east side (other than extending East Link to Redmond). Remember, what happened in the past. The first light rail plan failed because it was too big — it had light rail in Bellevue. The second plan eliminated rail for the East Side, but added lots of bus service. In this article it is clear that voters in the suburbs wanted more express buses, while those in Seattle wanted more rail (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19961106&slug=2358535). This makes sense, and I don’t think things have fundamentally changed.

        Yes, voters on the east side supported a rail line, but that one is done, and every other possible rail line would not be very popular (because it would be hideously expensive or mean a two (or three) stop ride to Seattle). For example, you might want a light rail line along I-90 that then goes into downtown Bellevue. Fair enough, except for someone who starts on a bus a little ways away from the freeway (e. g. Issaquah Highlands) this means riding the bus to the freeway, making a transfer, then riding the train to South Bellevue (at best) and then taking the train the other direction to get downtown. It would simply be a lot faster to ride a bus straight to Mercer Island instead.

        The ST buses are popular from what I can tell — lots of people ride them, and I’ve only heard good things about them (and often in comparison to Metro, as in “Sound Transit buses are great, but Metro sucks”). I don’t think that comparison is fair — Sound Transit can cherry pick their rides, while Metro is supposed to serve everyone, but so be it. We should leverage that popularity by adding more runs and doing what we can to make the existing runs faster. I have no idea, but I would assume that during rush hour, a lot of buses get stuck in traffic. Maybe not on the freeway (because of the HOV lanes) but approaching the freeway. Invest in that sort of infrastructure, and I think it will be quite popular.

        A big, questionable rail project for the east side (one that even transit fans might find excessive) is a pretty easy political target. You can point out what it won’t do (e. g. make it much easier to get downtown) and propose alternatives (better bus service). But by adding better bus service (along with a little extra rail and some freeway improvements) you look a lot more frugal, even if it costs the same amount. I’m going to guess that the swing voters on the east side are frugal and would be more likely to support projects that folks on here think are a good value, rather than something flashy.

    2. Great idea, but just adding trips won’t help. The 532/535 could certainly use additional peak trips, although off-peak the 535 is sparsely used. The bigger issue is reliability. Buses often run 10 minutes late, 20 minutes or more is not uncommon. If you wanted to improve reliability, you’d need to put in HOV or bus-only ramps at 70th/85th and Brickyard/160th St. Those should be pretty easy. The harder ones would be how to get buses to UW Bothell and Woodinville. I’d also suggest setting up a system to allow buses to trigger green lights on approach. It would probably save a minute at most stops. Not a lot of time, but probably pretty cheap. The bigger question for reliability would be getting Snohomish to agree to add HOV ramps to the stops there. If not, maybe the 532/535 should be split into Snohomish only routes and one or two serving 128th St, Brickyard, Woodinville, Bothell, and Kenmore.

      On a similar question, what about getting a direct HOV to HOV connection between 90 and 405? Wouldn’t that eliminate at least part of the traffic problems there?

      1. Even if the 535 is sparsely used off-peak, it’s still necessary if the goal is to have a functional bus network. You don’t have a functional bus network if basic trips that take 15 minutes to drive take over an hour by bus, whenever it’s not rush hour. If scaling the service to match ridership means running small buses on weekends, fine. But you can’t just have nothing and leave no options except to drive.

        At an absolute minimum, Sunday service on the 535, which existed until 2009, should be restored, with daytime Saturday service improved to half-hourly.

        An additional stop at Houghton P&R, with a connection to the 245, should make the 535 at least a little bit more useful.

      2. Yes, I definitely agree that the 535 is needed (I use it daily :) ). I’ve never looked at Houghton before precisely because the 237/532/535 don’t stop there (only the 342 does) and I’ve always lived north of it. But having the connection to the 245 would be interesting. I’d guess East Link would be operating by the time a 70th St ramp could be built. Connecting with the 245 would probably save about 10 min between Houghton and Redmond over East Link assuming. Might be worthwhile. If you could built BRT between Kirkland and Overlake, that would probably make this even faster and even more worthwhile.

      3. These are exactly the type of projects that make sense for ST3. If they are cheap, then we add a bunch. If the aren’t then we add only a few. But either way, you can add a bunch of significant improvements for the money we are talking about.

    3. I definitely agree. Currently, large parts of the Eastside transit network are practically dysfunctional due to low frequencies (which greatly reduces the effectiveness of a transfer-based network) and crippling traffic congestion. ST3 has the opportunity to address both of those issues. For example, Bellevue has already developed a Transit Master Plan containing many great suggestions for dramatically improving the bus network, both in terms of capital investments such as bus lanes (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/07/03/bellevue-shows-the-way-on-capital-projects/) as well as a restructured frequent network (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2013/10/28/bellevues-2030-transit-service-vision/). Many similar opportunities for improvement also exist in other cities, and Sound Transit 3 could provide funding for these.

      The question is whether such a package would be appealing enough to voters–I’m honestly not sure. If it is marketed well (as a method to avoid congestion with a solid frequent bus network in exclusive lanes, for example), it could potentially work. However, this would be more difficult to advertise than rail extensions, even though the impact on total mobility could definitely be better.

      1. Roads and Transit failed in 2007 with an all-rail proposal. ST 2 passed in 2008 when more bus service now was added. So, the precedent is there.

        Today (and at the time of November 2016) residents of the eastside will vote having already seen the benefits of the bus service funded by ST 2, but with ST 2-funded rail service still off in the distant future.

        And, as I mentioned earlier, a bus-heavy proposal means everybody gets to see something in it for them, no matter where they live. Whereas, a Kirkland->Issaquah rail line would do nothing for anyone not commuting along that particular corridor.

  14. Maybe rebuild the Bellevue tunnel so it doesn’t have sharp curves and has an actual downtown station?

    1. That’s a point, ST3 could give more money for the Bellevue tunnel before construction starts. And, theoretically, East King could pay North King back for the part of East Link transferred to the latter (Rainier Station and the track west of it). Just sayin’.

      However, if you start talking about a tunnel, that will lead directly to the most vocal activist coalition now, led by former Bellevue mayor Davidson, who object to Link adjacent in Mercer Slough, and are recommending extending the Bellevue tunnel south to I-90. They say it would be less expensive than ST’s preferred routing. I have no idea how they calculate that. They have also threatened legal action over the slough, so that may be the next East Link lawsuit.

      1. I would be extremely shocked if ST were willing to re-open the can of worms regarding the downtown Bellevue routing with ST 3, even if what we have for ST 2 is sub-optimal. Any changes at this point would likely put the schedule at risk.

  15. “Eastside Rail Corridor…has a “last-half-mile””:

    Doesn’t east-link towards Overlake/Redmond cross the ERC, so why can’t the two connect there? As for into Kirkland, a stop around 6th St would provide walkable access to downtown Kirkland, and the surrounding area could support higher intensity develop, plus the Google campus is nearby. Rail isn’t immovable, there’s a great existing ROW there just calling out for use, in time develop around it, and in future a deviation from the ERC can be built to better access downtown Kirkland when the money is available.

  16. In general, I would focus on the following:

    1) Extending light rail into Redmond. This has wide spread support, and will get plenty of votes.
    2) More ST buses. This includes new routes as well as more buses throughout the day.
    3) Speed up the ST buses. I have no idea which buses are stuck in traffic, and which ones aren’t, but I’m sure there are dozens of projects that could improve things. There may be a lot of routes that Sound Transit hasn’t considered, because the surface streets are too crowded.

    The second and third don’t sound too exciting, but sometimes the boring project gets the votes. Express buses are popular and these are the type of “bang for the buck” projects that appeal to frugal voters.

    I wouldn’t touch the ERC, because I think that would get a lot of opposition. It is why no one is talking about replacing the Burke Gilman with light rail, even though the needs of the city are much larger. BRT for the ERC, along with some additional work might be a great project, but I think it wouldn’t work out that well politically when all is said and done.

    I-405 BRT is a different story. I think it makes sense to have a bunch of overlapping bus routes along 405, but one dedicated route that only goes along the freeway would be a waste of money, in my opinion. Overlapping bus routes might require a more substantial investment, but I think it would lead to a much better experience. You would simply have fewer transfers. It is one thing to use a train as part of your three seat ride, it is another thing to use a bus. But my guess is that 405 BRT is not horribly expensive, so while I don’t think it is a great project (and I would rather put my money elsewhere) I wouldn’t go against the idea, just because it may be too far along to stop.

  17. Just a post of general support for the Metro 245, which is a workhorse eastbound bus out of downtown Kirkland, at the 68th Street transfer from the 255 and 540, and at the Houghton Park and Ride transfer from the 277. Great drivers, almost always on time, seldom packed but vital for those of us who ride it.

    And another general comment. When Seattle’s streetcar lines were being built, they pulled development after them, up Eastlake and Westlake, out to Green Lake, down to Renton and so on and on. You can surf the digitized Times and PI, and see the developers promoting building lots near the lines for easy commute into the city. And that’s true elsewhere, of course, for these streetcar suburbs. Seems to me to be true along Link, as well, So perhaps the argument isn’t just where are the current riders but where is the buildable, zonable land for development along the routes you all are discussing here, that will serve future riders.

    1. My experience with the 245 is not that it’s “almost always on time.” When I’m trying to catch it northbound on the last mile between Houghton and Kirkland, it’s between 10 and 15 minutes late the majority of the time. I’m glad to see it included in Metro’s reliability improvements.

  18. On the Eastside, I’d like to ultimately see light rail from UW-Bothell to Renton, with the Bothell end connected to the I-5 spine wherever it makes more sense, but I think west/east might be an interesting nuance to explore. That is, west via Kenmore and possibly Lake Forest Park to connect at Lynnwood, 220th, Mountlake Terrace, 185th. At the Renton end, at least to the Sounder station, ideally to Tukwila International station.

    In the short term, put HCT – and I think rail makes more sense than BRT – where it’s most congested, and I consistently read that’s between Renton and Bellevue. Yet, for some reason, this segment always gets omitted, other than for BRT. Extend light rail to Renton from Bellevue, and one can then take light rail to/from Lynnwood to Renton, e.g. Boeing employees who (at least used to) get transferred from Boeing plant to Boeing plant. This way, they could conceivably, someday (when the system is built out) park at the Boeing plant nearest to their home, then take bus and/or light rail to the plant where they work at. Next, light rail in the next most heavily-congested segment, which I think(?) is the north end of I-405.

    In my view, Sound Transit should aim to add/invest in new transit where transit doesn’t presently (or won’t) exist, not to duplicate what is already there/planned to be there. That’s why I favor Ballard to UW instead of Ballard to downtown and going direct (via I-5) to Everett. On the eastside, the duplication isn’t an issue at this point, for RapidRide B is the only BRT there.

  19. On the Eastside we still think rail improvements such as this: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/07/23/better-eastside-rail/
    Would not just serve to gather votes, but would really serve their transit users.

    We’re still a bit confused about why ST didnt study anything like it and why 405 BRT seemed to be annointed as “the plan” in advance.

    If the Eastside keeps all of its money in ST3 it can easily pay for this plus targeted BRT expansion.

  20. Whatever is built has to be ‘over the moon expensive’ to eat up some sub area equity. ERC must be fully tunneled or elevated with 50m stations and people movers to every fucking cul de sac.
    I’m laughing my ass off right now at Seattle, sitting on my hotel balcony overlooking several Zurich rail lines merging into the downtown HB station. I can count 9 LRT trains in view, with cars, peds, bikes seeming to co-exist and just across the river a jillion intercity trains reading to push off.
    Zurich is really screwed!

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