— Seattle Transit Blog (@SeaTransitBlog) April 29, 2015
Last week, I presented some goals that I and several others have considered for ST3 on the Eastside. While there are a range of opinions on specific routes, certain messages came through in comments very clearly. ST3 needs to deliver improved connections across the Eastside. While commuter express service is important, improvements to the core network between urban centers are key.
So where does this all take us? To start this discussion, I’ve pulled together a package of investments that I hope Sound Transit will consider over the next few months as it develops a ST3 package. The package includes:
- Extending East Link to Downtown Redmond. This is the most logical next-step on the Eastside.
- Investing in I-405 BRT. I-405 BRT isn’t a win for walkable, mixed-use communities, but it’s the only real solution to address the mobility challenges of the suburban I-405 corridor. Option A3a from Sound Transit’s I-405 Corridor Study is a service-focused BRT concept with a four route “trunk-and-branch” service network and new direct access ramps. Option A3b is a single route that runs up and down the I-405 corridor. These options don’t include all of the bells and whistles, but they advance the corridor in a meaningful way while not over-investing in a corridor that will always be auto-dominated. I-405 is one true “Eastside” corridor and a ST3 package that doesn’t provide improved mobility along it, albeit a commuter focused solution that is contingent on HOV/HOT lanes, will not resonate with Eastside voters.
- Investing in a 5 line, full-featured BRT network along the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC), SR 520 and I-90 corridors including:
- BRT from Issaquah to Totem Lake via the I-90 HOV lanes, Richards Rd, Downtown Bellevue, Downtown Kirkland and the ERC. I’ve assumed this would operate as two lines but it could operate as one line. Sound Transit has studied this (Alternative C2) but improved high-quality connections into urban centers are key. I’ll have more on that and what I mean by “full featured BRT” and “high-quality connections” in a later post.
- BRT from Totem Lake to UW Station via Downtown Kirkland and the ERC. This too has been studied by Sound Transit (Alternative B1a) and would leverage the investment made for the project above. High-quality connections between SR 520 and UW Station are key. More on this later.
- Upgrading key Metro and ST Express routes to full-featured BRT. The most important routes are 542/545 (Redmond-Seattle), 271 (the Issaquah-Bellevue portion), and 554/212 (between Issaquah and Mercer Island). This would be achieved by leveraging the investments of the projects above in addition to new in-line freeway stations, bus-rail transfer facilities (at UW Station and Mercer Island Station), arterial bus only lanes and other capital investments to allow buses to operate separately from general purpose traffic.
For ease of reference, I’ve nicknamed the list group of projects as BRISK (Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Seattle, Kirkland) BRT network. So why do I think this package of investments makes sense? Here’s why:
- It builds upon existing investments and plans. This package of investments advances longstanding Eastside priorities, builds off existing resources like the HOV/HOT lane network, and leverages new opportunities like the ERC. Additionally, this package of investments is consistent with Sound Transit’s newly adopted Long Range Plan, the SR 520 HCT Plan and I-405 Corridor Plan, Bellevue’s Transit Master Plan, Redmond’s Transit System Plan, Sound Transit/Metro Transit Integration initiative, Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan and land use priorities of both Kirkland and Issaquah.
- BRT provides the best geometric solution for the Eastside’s multinodal travel patterns: The Eastside’s travel patterns demand a fast and reliable HCT network to both Seattle and Bellevue from destinations across the Eastside. A rail based solution will force the Eastside to choose between better service to Seattle or Bellevue but not both.
- It builds upon existing transit corridors: Improved service in places where ridership already exists fosters urban development and transit-oriented community building.
- Investments can be phased, providing near-term relief and long-term solutions: A clear message from past Sound Transit measures is that voters want to see near-term relief from congestion. Bus service in this package could ramp up quickly, with capital investments coming on-line as they’re completed.
- The Eastside can afford it. More than anything else, voters want transportation choices and ST3 needs to make meaningful progress on this. Asking Eastside voters to wait for ST4 before they can get a meaningful HCT system isn’t a winning message.
Tomorrow, I will describe the BRISK network in more detail.