Orange Line - Los Angeles, CA
Orange Line in Los Angeles Source: EMBARQ Brasil

In this post, I’ll provide more details on the BRISK (Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Seattle, Kirkland) network, which is one component of a ST3 package that I hope Sound Transit will consider over the next few months. Sound Transit has studied each of these individual corridors, but there are areas where STB readers would probably like additional details as well as areas where enhancements to Sound Transit’s concepts are desirable. The goal of BRISK would be a full-featured BRT system meeting these standards:

  • Right-of-way: Buses would generally operate in right-of-way which has been prioritized over general purpose traffic. This could be done using busways (at-grade or elevated, similar to the LA Metro Orange Line), HOV3+/HOT lanes, or median bus only lanes. Avoiding lower quality solutions like HOV2+, curb bus only lanes, or BAT lanes would be desirable.
  • Service Frequency: Buses would come frequently, all-day long. High frequency service is key to reducing total travel times, particularly for trips that include a transfer to/from Link.
  • Stations: Stations would be fully equipped with off-board fare collection and level boarding much like Swift. Station spacing will vary by corridor and segment with regional travel in mind.
  • Vehicles: Lines would use articulated buses with 3 full-width doors, passive restraint systems, easy to circulate interiors and in-bus bike storage. Again this is much like Swift.
  • “Open” System: In addition to the core BRT routes, parts of the system could be be used by local Metro or ST Express buses to maximize the usefulness of the capital investments.
“BRISK” BRT Network

Community Transit’s Swift and LA Metro’s Orange Line are good examples of BRT lines which meet some of these standards. The Orange Line is a particularly good example for ERC segments since it too was a former railroad corridor and has a multiuse trail along it.  The descriptions below build off of Sound Transit’s existing studies, adding features and modifying routing.

Totem Lake – Kirkland – UW (Purple)

  • Sound Transit’s B1a route from the University District-Kirkland-Redmond Corridor Report is very similar to this route. On average 8,100 daily transit riders used buses in this corridor during 2014.
  • This line would likely replace the current 255/540 and would mostly travel along the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) from Totem Lake to the South Kirkland P&R. From the ERC, buses would access the SR 520 HOV 3+ lanes. After crossing SR 520, buses would access UW Station via a new Montlake crossing and an off-street bus-rail transfer station.
  • Like existing successful services on this corridor, this route serves the more transit-oriented neighborhoods in the city, but delivers better travel times between those neighborhoods than the often-congested 108th Ave NE corridor and surface streets between downtown and Totem Lake.
  • Downtown Kirkland would be served with a deviation from the ERC because the ERC skirts the edge of the downtown. There are a variety of ways this could be achieved and Sound Transit should study the options, with the goal of minimizing mix-traffic operations and balancing coverage while also minimizing out of direction travel. Routing options through downtown include 6th Street/Central Way or via the Transit Center on 3rd St.
  • The routing in Totem Lake would exit the ERC near 124th NE crossing that street on an elevated alignment. It would then continue via bus lanes to the transit center and onward to the freeway stop at NE 132nd. This would be a useful connection point to I-405 BRT. The line would reach within easy walking distance of much of the urban center, promoting transit oriented redevelopment in the area.
  • A trail along the corridor would be protected and improved. Capital investments in bus-way facilities should be leveraged to improve the pedestrian/bike experience. For instance, an elevated crossing at NE 124th St could also serve trail users, reducing or eliminating many of today’s conflicts with cross-traffic.

Totem Lake – Kirkland – Bellevue (Blue)

  • This route is most similar to the northern portion of Sound Transit’s C2 route from the Kirkland – Bellevue – Issaquah HCT report, excepting the service to downtown Kirkland described above.
  • From Totem Lake to the South Kirkland P&R. the line would run almost entirely along the ERC leveraging investments made for the Purple Line.
  • As with the Totem Lake-UW line, improved travel times are key to this corridor’s success. A direct service to Bellevue that avoids most on-street congestion will deliver better ridership than today’s services in mixed traffic.
  • The line would extend into Bellevue mostly along the ERC. There would be a connection to Link at Hospital Station. South of that point it would continue along the ERC to NE 6th St where it would cross the freeway to the downtown Bellevue Transit Center.

Issaquah – Bellevue (Red)

  • This line would replace the 271 between Bellevue and Issaquah (the UW-Bellevue segment would have Metro service similar to today).
  • The line is fairly similar to the southern portion of route C2 from Sound Transit’s Kirkland – Bellevue – Issaquah Corridor Report.
  • From I-90, buses would use 142nd Pl SE/Snoqualmie River Road, allowing connections at the Eastgate P&R and Bellevue College. It would use the proposed Snoqualmie River Rd Busway to connect to a combination of at-grade and elevated alignment along Richards Rd and the Lake Hills Connector.
  • New in-line stations would be added to I-90 at Eastgate Plaza and Lakemont Blvd. The line would access the Newport/Hyla area of Issaquah which is planned for high density mixed use via a direct access ramp and at-grade busway. Bus lanes would be used to connect to Old Town and Issaquah Highlands.
  • The east end of the route would extend to Old Town and Issaquah Highlands with various routing options. As with the Kirkland routing, mix-flow operations should be minimized even if roadway widening and removal of street parking are necessary.
  • In 2014 WSDOT reports that the I-90 HOV lanes operate above 45mph 100% (morning) or 99% (evening) of the time in the peak direction. While other corridors have degraded over the years, I-90 has not. (Bottom of page 20).

Issaquah – Mercer Island (Green)

  • This route would replace the 554/212 and leverage investments made for the Red Line. On average 7,200 daily transit riders used buses in this corridor during 2014.
  • Beginning at Mercer Island buses would use the proposed bus-rail transfer station and then enter the I-90 HOV lanes, continuing on to Issaquah via the same routing as the Red Line.

UW – Redmond (Orange)

  • This line is similar to C1 from the University District-Kirkland-Redmond Corridor Report with HOV 3+ lanes moved to the inside lane, new inline stations, and direct access ramps. On average 11,100 daily transit riders used buses in this corridor during 2014.
  • The Orange Line would replace the 545/542, upgrading those routes for the fastest possible connections from Redmond and Overlake to Link at UW Station.
  • It would begin by running north-south through Downtown Redmond accessing SR-520 via a new direct access ramp near Redmond Town Center. New in-line stations would be constructed at 51st St, Overlake TC, and Overlake Village (feasibility would need to be studied).
  • The remainder of the routing is shared with the Purple Line.

In combination with completion of East Link and I-405 BRT, these five lines would deliver more frequent service and better travel times over every major trip pair on the Eastside. Balancing the necessary commuter-oriented service on I-405, BRISK delivers upgraded urban connections.

The final post on this series will cover the cost of this package of investments.

83 Replies to “Describing “BRISK” in More Detail”

  1. Looking at this from my home in Issaquah, I would have a very hard time supporting this.

    The “Green” routing is today’s 554, except it terminates at MI instead of Seattle. There is no improvement over the current situation, and the MI transfer is a degradation of today’s situation. Switching to HOV-3 and adding a door to the bus would no significant improvement on this route. The route is already relatively frequent, and the additional hours freed up by terminating at MI should make this even more frequent with no additional investment.

    The “red” routing is a terrible idea. the 271 is essentially a local neighborhood bus that just goes on for a while from Issaquah all the way until the U district. It’s current routing in Bellevue (or anything like it!) should never be used by a BRT. The routing to follow is the 555/556 routing which stays on I-90 until Bellevue Way.

    As a more general eastside voter (even one who loves transit), I can’t see this proposal being something that will get enough votes to pass. Light rail is more sexy than BRT, and I would want to see more limited Light Rail than buying more BRT.

    1. Green Line: “There is no improvement over the current situation.” You would be gaining a whole lot of frequency. I don’t see the current 20-30-minute frequency as “already relatively frequent.”

      “The routing to follow is the 555/556 routing.” Not necessarily. Once you are at Bellevue College, the 271 routing can be faster than the freeway during rush hour, particularly if you were to take out a number of the 271’s local stops. The Lake Hills Connector is a good way to get places quickly.

      1. On 554, the frequency will increase without additional cost when 554 starts terminating at MI. You would take those same hours and buy more frequency without additional cost.

        According to transit schedules, the 555 is 4-6 minutes in rush hour (it is possible that the 271 is chronically early or the 555 is chronically late – I don’t know) — if you switched the routing to take I-405 directly to Bellevue, I bet it is even faster. Taking out stops on the 271 would help a little bit, but the main issue with 271 between Eastgate and Bellevue is that you are on neighborhood streets stopping at traffic lights, not the number of stops.

      2. Keep in mind that that 555/556 schedule is from the freeway station, not the college. It’s also often unrealistic at rush hour.

        The biggest change that would benefit the 554 would be some kind of dedicated ROW in Issaquah. I don’t know exactly how that would look — I’ve never thought it through in detail — but the amount of time the 554 spends to get through lowland Issaquah is absolutely insane given the distance involved.

      3. 271 currently uses 140 /145 Pl NE which can get frequently congested. A better way would be a modified 240 route from P&R along Eastgate Way with a stop near Factoria Blvd intersection, then turn north on Richards Rd and then Lake Hill Collector.

        I agree that any route along Lake Hills Connector will be faster than taking the freeway during rush hour.

      4. “On 554, the frequency will increase without additional cost when 554 starts terminating at MI. You would take those same hours and buy more frequency without additional cost.”

        No so fast. Based on ridership data and the way Sound Transit has tended to operate in the past, Sound Transit would most likely invest nearly all the savings by truncating the 554 route into more peak-period trips, while keeping the 554 a 30-minute route off-peak, on top of the additional overhead of the transfer.

        Especially on weekends, when the current riders of route 554 will abandon the bus in droves when they can just drive directly to the train at South Bellevue P&R and avoid the transfer.

      5. “the UW-Bellevue segment would have Metro service similar to today”

        So everyone going from Bellevue to UW would have to do the Medina Mosey or go the long way on Link?

      6. @Mike. I could have been clearer about that. I think it would be better to NOT do the Medina Mosey and send it up Bellevue Way instead. But it seems to perform fairly well even in mixed traffic. So, to keep the proposals within budget, we didn’t prioritize upgrading it to BRT status.

        [something like David’s suggestion here].

    2. >> the MI transfer is a degradation of today’s situation

      Yes, but it is inevitable. There is no way that Sound Transit or Metro will send buses from Eastgate or Mercer Island to downtown once East Link opens.

      >> Switching to HOV-3 and adding a door to the bus would be no significant improvement on this route.

      I wondered that myself. I am a bit hesitant to support off board payment and level boarding for much of the east side because I find it overkill for the number of stops. If a bus makes less than ten stops (over a pretty large area) then it doesn’t matter that much if one stop takes a while. I always consider the hypothetical race between a bus and a car. Traffic is bad enough, and there are so few stops that even a bunch of folks fumbling with change will still allow the bus to win (especially since the commuter nature of this run probably means very few people fumbling with change). On the other hand, a bus running on Aurora stops every five blocks, and needs to get everyone on or off to compete against a car that just keeps moving along (albeit slowly). Plus there are few issues with headways here (this is not a bus tunnel).

      But I don’t think these change cost much. So for you, if you are headed to Seattle, you get very little out of the deal, but it doesn’t cost much either. Other areas get a lot more.

      >> The “red” routing is a terrible idea

      I’ll admit I was very skeptical as well. I think it might make more sense to just swing into Bellevue College (using the busway) and then back onto the freeway. There just isn’t much at Richards Road. But as the author explained, that should be just about as fast, and adds a good stop on the other side of 405, right before Bellevue College. I would like to see the numbers, but if adding that stop (along with another stop that is, admittedly, not that great) only adds a couple minutes for that trip, I think it is a winner. Connecting the college with Bellevue TC this way is a great thing, and connecting both to Issaquah in that manner seems like a good line.

      1. Just to add the “Better Eastside Rail” option has a lot of feasibility (how do you get past the I-90/I-405 interchange?) as well as soil issues (Mercer Slough). Add to that that it doesn’t improve travel to/from Seattle for either Kirkland, Issaquah or Redmond. I see the appeal of rail but this is a case of a hammer seeing everything as a nail…

      2. People Mover,

        The exact proposal would be a massive travel time win for Issaquah and Kirkland (though not Redmond) at the cost of the expensive Sandpoint crossing.

        As for the benefits of interlineing allow me to quote myself: “Other gains come from interlining with East Link through Bellevue over the Mercer Slough and transferring in South Bellevue, 12 minutes faster from Westlake to Eastgate and Issaquah.”

        The technical issues would need to be studied and solved if the studies and public deem it worthwhile. But there are clear benefits.

      3. @Peyton Contrary to your statement Issaquah is actually the only Eastside city that sees improved travel time to/from Seattle over existing conditions. Neither Redmond nor Kirkland see a benefit because I-90 is so far out of the way. If you dig into the U Link connections data you’ll see that travel times to Downtown Seattle from Downtown Redmond or Overlake are actually faster using U Link + 542 than they would using East Link. Similarly Kirkland would see no improvement with the the 255 getting overlooked entirely.

      4. I conceded Redmond.

        Also I, did account for the 255, I just didn’t put it in the post. Departing at 5pm the current fastest bus route from Kirkland TC to the Ave is a 255 with a transfer to the 542 on 520.

        For example this 42 minute trip from Kirkland TC to University Bookstore.,+3rd+St,+Kirkland,+WA+98033/University+Book+Store+-+Seattle,+University+Way+Northeast,+Seattle,+WA/@47.6622502,-122.2539335,13z/am=t/data=!3m1!4b1!4m17!4m16!1m5!1m1!1s0x549012e7f7b439c7:0x255ac7be15679a2f!2m2!1d-122.203543!2d47.676424!1m5!1m1!1s0x5490148b239c0b8f:0xa8469f0b785497ea!2m2!1d-122.312831!2d47.660558!2m2!7e2!8j1431018000!3e3!12b1

        Of course the gains for Kirkland in the post are mainly from Sand Point, without it the time is just over 47 minutes. (With a stop at SR-520 in Bellevue) Which is why I phrased the Kirkland bit as the “exact proposal” meaning with Sandpoint.

    3. As someone who frequently rode that tail of the 271 as well as all competing service. The entire route from Bellevue to Issaquah is a mess and from Eastgate to Issaquah is the worst of it. Sometimes I would get on the 271 for a change of pace, but I never rode it when I wanted to get to Bellevue College fast. Waiting for the next 554 was always faster.

      On top of that the 271 routing from Bellevue to Eastgate also is bad throughout the corridor. That area is the most suburban and least dense part of Bellevue.

      In the KBI HCT corridor study the difference between options B1 and C2 is the routing south of Downtown Bellevue. Following the C2 loses an estimated 1000 to 4000 daily riders while being more expensive.

      Also following the C2 routing doesn’t necessarily mean you would be able to stop running the 271 or a replacement bus. Though the metrics on the route should eventually justify its end, it might take a great deal to overcome the inertia of current routing and ridership.

      On a similar note the ERC routing of B1 north of Downtown Bellevue adds 1000-5000 more riders over B2’s I-405 route, with that being their only difference. I think in this case an ERC routing is worthwhile assuming you figure out how to prevent opposition to it in Kirkland. I think rail would help that case, but I want specific polling.

      The UKR HCT study weirdly shows no ridership difference between A1’a I-405 routeing and B1a’s ERC routing. Similarly I don’t think there is much room for improvement on the 542’s current routing.

  2. Rail bias aside, I would love to see a cost and ridership comparison between:

    1. This
    2. The equivalent light-rail plan htt:// – but ignoring the whole new Lake Washington crossing for now, effectively terminating the line in DT Kirkland.
    3. Status quo++ (eg not building new ROW but doing incremental improvements such as improving stop spacing, real time arrival boards at busiest stops and TSP at the intersections with the worst backups, possibly queue jumps).

    1 and 2 would require significant invesements in ROW for busses or trains.

    Both would serve a similar key areas with the exception of Totem Lake in the rail proposal.

    3 is interesting because if it can support a comparable ridership and travel times to 2 with an order of magnitude less investment I think that’s a good indicator that we should look elsewhere for fancy new brt.

    1. I agree with you — an apples to apples comparison of #1 and #2 would be interesting. I think you would find more people would support a smaller footprint light rail than an expansive BRT. Rail bias at work. :)

      1. Yes, it would be interesting to see. But I’d add a few more numbers into the mix in order to give a full picture.

        First, I’d like to see project completion dates. From my perspective, it seems like rail would take much longer to complete. How much sooner would this BRT system be up and running vs. a similar LRT system?

        Second, I’d like to see the future cost of upgrading this BRT system to LRT.

        My thoughts on this are that this proposal can be presented as a “we’ll get you something in the relative short term (BRT) that will help things, but while we are at it we will set things up to make conversion to what you really want relatively inexpensive when the time comes”.

        And regarding Stephen’s #3: Wouldn’t a “status quo++” plan mess up plans in Seattle and other areas due to sub-area equity requirements? It is my understanding that, for the betterment of the whole region we have to convince East King to spend a whole lot more than they might want to in order for Seattle to get the things it needs.

      2. I would think that just a route from the UW to Kirkland would be more expensive than all of this (and then some). Don’t expect Seattle to want any of it. Seriously — can you imagine that (“Hey, we decided to skip Ballard light rail for now so we can focus on an underground line with a few weak stops in the city in the same general area that already has light rail. But guess what, you will be able to quickly get to Kirkland, a city that makes Magnolia look like Manhattan”).

        That’s one of the dirty little secrets about the “Better Eastside Rail”. It does very little for Seattle and it would be extremely expensive. They might chip in, say, 25% of the total cost (and that is being generous). I’m sure the East Side folks expect us to pay for all the Seattle stops as well as half of the lake tunnel (lunnel?) but that won’t happen. So good luck getting East Side voters to support picking up most of the tab of a very expensive project. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen. Not that I mind them looking at it (knock yourselves out boys and girls) but it will never be built.

      3. Nobody is proposing the Sandpoint crossing for ST3, if it was on the table it would be as an alternative to SR-520 light rail, perhaps in ST4.

        The rest of the route could still be viable, even substituting an end point in Totem Lake over one heading to the U District.

      4. Any chance of having an SR 520 Link station added to the Eastside subarea budget?

      5. “Any chance of having an SR 520 Link station added to the Eastside subarea budget”

        What do you mean by an SR 520 Link station? EastLink will have a station at Overlake Transit Center which is right on the 520. That is the only place the line goes near the 520. ST3 plans to put another station near the 520 in downtown Redmond.

      6. Another one just south of UW would clearly benefit an awful lot of east side locations as it would allow some SR520 buses to continue west to SLU or Seattle Center, and downtown or UW passengers could transfer there. Even if the existing route structure is kept, it would be an effective frequency increase from the east side as any bus coming through on SR520 to UW has a much faster transfer to downtown and vice-versa.

  3. Running buses along the Cross Kirkland Corridor nature path is an act of hostility against most potential riders. Most of the trail is not near anything. So as a transit line it’s anti-pedestrian and it’s anti-walkable. It will encourage more home to P&R car use. So Swift and the Orange Line are not an equal comparison.

    1. That is my concern as well. I wonder how much opposition there will be from folks that like to bike or walk there. These are folks that might otherwise support a transit package (since, well, they like to bike or walk). For a vote that is likely to be close, I wouldn’t want to lose votes, especially for a line that won’t be that great. It will be good, but not great. All of the proposals are good, but not great. I am fine with that, and I think there could be wide spread support for such a package. But if you are going to run across major opposition, you better offer up something great, and I don’t see it with this line (I don’t see that many people using it — Kirkland doesn’t have that many people). But I also have no idea if there would be that much opposition — this path is no Burke Gilman, but how popular is it?

    2. The critical thing is that it is not on 405. The major transit access problem right now on the north side of 405 is getting access to the freeway and it’s PRs in a timely manner, with in my view the second being the over utilized HOV lanes. By moving the corridor off of the freeway you produce a significant amount of counter traffic flow which better would utilize the surface street network. A few neighbors are going to be upset for sure but the vast majority don’t care, case in point the two guys on the 257 this morning discussing how they will vote yes for *anything* that improves the situation, whether it be BRT or LRT. You are not going to get people out of their cars and away from those PRs anytime soon but as compare to a pure 405 solution this actually allows it to potentially happen someday, such as if the plans at Totem Lake come to fruition.

      It is inevitable that parts or all of the ERC will be used for something someday other than the trail, it’s simply to valuable and there is to much extra space in the ROW.

    3. If you want to avoid 405, there are parallel surface streets to the ERC that buses could use, which are relatively uncongested. But, if you’re going any significant distance, nothing is going to compete with 405 on speed, without the need to open the controversy of destroying the ERC. Remember, the new express toll lanes will be 2-lanes per direction, so double the capacity of a normal HOV lane.

      Also, remember that noise and safety constraints will not allow any bus or train to travel along the ERC at anything approaching highway speeds. At best, buses would attain speeds roughly equivalent to parallel surface streets, so if you’re going to do that, you may as well just stick to the existing bus routes down parallel surface streets.

      1. Yes, but as Kyle said, the issue is less “on 405” and more “getting to 405”. HOT lanes will make being on 405 a lot better. So much so that we need to focus on getting to 405. One way is by using the ERC — another is to add lanes to existing streets (like 85th). It is hard to say which is tougher from a political standpoint. This will get opposition from recreational users, while adding lanes might mean buying up a bunch of land or shrinking sidewalks — both of which are tough politically as well.

      2. NE 85th/Redmond Way used to be a state highway (WA908) but it was relinquished to Kirkland/Redmond by the state ~5 or more years ago. Kirkland/Redmond are continuing to rebuild/maintain it as a state highway and as such it does a horrible job of both moving people and of being safe for all the people who use it (including people walking and bicycling – yes, people do bike on it since it is the most direct route between the two downtowns).

        Most of the traffic on Redmond Way/NE 85th is not going to any destination along it or even going to downtown Redmond or Kirkland. It is all traffic to/from further east that is continuing to try to use it as a state highway to get to/from I-405 or to get through downtown Kirkland so they can go over the lake to avoid tolls on WA520. This traffic could and should be using 520/405 rather than using Kirkland and a 520 bypass.

        Redmond/Kirkland, if they are serious about their multi-modal claims could easily convert 2 of the 5 lanes to BRT lanes. Would this be politically tough? Probably, although most of the outcry would come from Seattle and Sammamish/Snoqualmie/Duvall. This could even allow Kirkland to turn the NE 85th subarea in Rose Hill into a viable TOD area where people can easily connect to jobs in Redmond/Kirkland, schools like LWIT, LWTC, and even bike access to UW.

      3. Buses and LRT will easily be able to maintain highway speeds on the ERC. Before it’s rails deteriorated and it was lowered to 25mph with a few exceptions in particular areas it was 30 to 35MPH rated for freight trains. Usually that would indicate a 40 to 45mph rating for passenger if the rails were in good condition. Buses and LRT have less stringent weight requirements than traditional trains would. Studies done in the early 2000’s on commuter rail on the line have shown that even with a straight rebuild with no grading or reworking of any curves over it’s length average train speed would have exceeded that of Link.

        With the appropriate grade separation, some of which was outlined in this plan, there is no infrastructural reason why the ERC cannot be used for a highway speed transit, whether it *should* is another matter.

      4. But Ross, how will the ERC help people in Kirkland get to 405? The corridor is mostly parallel to 405 (with the exception of its crossing in Totem Lake). Dedicated lanes on east-west streets and median freeway stations (like this for NE 70th (and 160th, 195th, SR 527) and it’s inversion for NE 85th) seem a much better way to accomplish connectivity with a 405 trunk while also enhancing the connections available on the local bus network (245 on 70th, 248 on 85th, 236/8 on 160th, 106 on 195th, 105/120 at SR 527).

      5. Why should riders of an ERC service as proposed here need to get to the 405 trunk (other than transfers at BTC to get to points south)? As discussed in yesterday’s comments, dedicated bus lanes on all of those cross streets would be almost impossible to build, and freeway stations at all of those places would also be either expensive or impossible.

        Good connecting E/W service to the ERC corridor (which can also connect with the 405 corridor in the few places where that’s possible) is absolutely necessary, but the reality is that it will have to use current ROW.

      6. Sorry David, I didn’t make it clear I don’t think a service on the ERC is necessary.

        I think the improvements to transit infrastructure on surface streets and freeway stations are worth further investigation before we simply dismiss them. With those improvements you get much enhanced access to existing (and to be improved) fast north-south transit services on 405 along with huge benefits for local transit routes which is where there is a lot more ground to gain. I’m not necessarily seeing BRT on the ERC as an improvement over this arrangement and it’s not just going to be a political cake walk.

        None of the freeway stations are going to be “impossible”, just engineering problems to solve. Also, define expensive. In relation to what? The more important question, of course, is would the cost be worth it.

      7. I’m dismissing a lot of the surface improvements because I simply can’t imagine things like the local neighborhoods agreeing to widen 68th/70th, 132nd, or 160th. All three of those would be massively invasive projects, featuring takings and destruction of properties, in a way that even gold-plated ERC BRT wouldn’t be.

        As for the freeway stations, yes, anything’s possible, but it’s easy enough to see when a project would be so expensive that it couldn’t pass the laugh test. Sadly, 70th, 85th, and 160th median freeway stations are all in that category.

      8. Some sensitive spot improvements (such as dedicated lanes in the to-405 direction on 160th and 70th/68th to address chronic morning congestion approaching the freeway ramps) would probably be sufficient and more popular than lanes all over the place.

        The width for a station looks to be there for 70th and 160th as long as the platforms aren’t directly under the overpass/and or the platform for each direction were staggered to save horizontal space; 85th would definitely be a tough/expensive station to fit in with the constraints of the current overpass.

        I’m having trouble understanding what need service on the ERC is trying to satisfy. For fast north-south service, we have 405. For service that actually serves the primary corridors and heart of Kirkland (what heart there is), we have routes like the 255, 234, and 235 that go down Market, 6th/108th, State, and Lakeview.

        Are we installing high-capacity transit on the ERC just because the right of way exists? Is having a right of way unencumbered by any auto traffic worth missing most of the parts of Kirkland people actually frequent? Commenters have already brought up the unlikeliness of any land surrounding the ERC south of downtown Kirkland and north of 520 being redeveloped due to the high values of the homes on land overlooking the lake—so you can’t really count on the proposed service to catalyze development that will drive walk-up ridership. If the goal is to spend money in the East King subarea so North King can get its fill, why not go with the expensive freeway stations and spot treatments that stand a chance at improving regional and local mobility?

      9. The City of Kirkland wants to redo the 85th cloverleaf anyway to get rid of the crazy rural highway-to-freeway design and make it much smaller and more urban in design. So if that project can get funded independent of ST3, then an 85th freeway station would be easier and cheaper.

      10. At least for now, Sound Transit has ruled out stations at 70th and 160th because of the expense. Thus 405 is fast but doesn’t actually serve anyone between Bothell and Bellevue, except at Kingsgate. ERC can have stops within an easy walk from multi-family housing areas in Norkirk, downtown Kirkland (with a minor deviation), and Houghton, and near the commercial areas around Totem Lake and S Kirkland P&R. It runs mostly through single-family areas but is an easy walk from multi-family areas.

        South of downtown, 108th and State are becoming increasingly ineffective and congested at PM peak — I’ve noticed a difference just since August when I moved to Everest. Just last night, it took my 255 nearly 20 minutes to get from S Kirland P&R to the 68th stop. North of downtown, the ERC is the best way to get buses between downtown and Totem Lake without getting caught in the morass of 85th east of I-405 like the current 235 does.

      11. But they haven’t ruled out a station at 85th? Odd. There is a station at 70th, albeit lightly used and on outside collector-distributor lanes.

        The ERC is the best for getting from downtown Kirkland-ish to Totem Lake (405 excepted).

        I know the congestion problem can get pretty awful in Kirkland; my mother has often called the 255 the “bus from hell” when forced to take it to Brickyard from Seattle on the way home from work (usually she was on the 311). Are there no significant improvements (short of dedicating right of way which as you note would probably never work out) that can be applied to 6th/108th or State to improve the situation?

        It sounds to me like we’re settling (which is of course what you have to do in political situations). Why is ST willing to consider putting Link on the ERC but not build stations to leverage the investments it has already made toward 405 BRT?

        Perhaps the ERC can succeed if services are made legible enough people are willing to walk from actual activity centers to stops, but this seems without precedent. The deviation to downtown Kirkland is an absolute must for it’s success.

      12. Glen,

        that’s really cool to hear. I really hope that happens for Kirkland’s sake.

      13. Regarding 160th, has ST considered HOV ramps just from NB 405 and to SB 405? The current 535 and any proposed 405 bus that needs to take the 522 will need to move between left and right sides of the freeway. If half an HOV ramp is doable, then this allows the current northbound 535 to get off using 160th St HOV ramp, drop off passengers, and then cross over to the HOV entrance to 522 (I assume there’s an HOV entrance there). This makes that transition faster and much safer than crossing over 4 lanes of traffic.

      14. David L,

        Do you know in what study they ruled out 70th and 160th stations? I would think their dismissal would have been here, but I see no mention of 70th. A station at 160th is mentioned and it also happens to be the LEAST expensive station at $133 million compared with NE 85th’s $384 million (bullet points on marked page 32 of the linked document), even though 160th is a direct access ramp and not the cheaper in-line stations I was suggesting. Given 85th would be a good-deal more useful than 160th. Sound Transit also oddly considered a station at 240th St SE and not 195th.

        It’s really unfortunate they didn’t even bother studying a station at 70th and are (apparently?) deferring a station at 160th.

  4. If we’re building new infrastructure – and this plan does call for lots of new ramps around Kirkland – a much better place to put it would be Factoria. It’s a significant employment center very close to I-90 and I-405 both, but so hard to get to because none of the freeway buses have a place to stop there. At minimum, I’d put in a new freeway station at Richards Rd / Factoria Blvd. Better still would be a flyover ramp leading to a stop at Factoria and 38th, though it might be hard to get back on the freeway afterwards.

    1. Dedicated infrastructure in Factoria would be excellent.

      It’s also a really, really, really hard problem because of the topography and the sheer height of the I-90 freeway infrastructure. A simple freeway station built in the I-90 median would be almost impossible for pedestrians to access from anywhere. And solutions to get people closer to the heart of Factoria quickly start involving towering elevated installations, tunnels through highly developed hillsides, and so forth.

      The only way to improve Factoria connectivity cheaply is to add bus priority treatments to the current 245 routing between Factoria and Eastgate. They would also provide significant benefit to the 241 running between Factoria and S Bellevue P&R, which really ought to get much more frequent when Link opens.

      1. Why do you say a median freeway station would be almost impossible to access from anywhere? It’d require a walk, yes, but it wouldn’t be any farther from anywhere than the Eastgate freeway station. And there’re sidewalks leading there.

        I agree that doing anything significant would be expensive, but not much more so than the flyover ramps you’re talking about at Totem Lake.

      2. A median freeway station would have to be like the Eastgate freeway station: elevated. There’s not enough room for ROW and platforms otherwise. Given the height of the freeway in the area, you will be at Aurora Bridge height, without any room for elevators. It’s going to be complicated and expensive just to get people from the street to the station.

      3. Hmm… you’re right, unfortunately. Eyeballing it on Google Maps, it’s about fifteen feet too narrow. Though maybe you could do it by staggering the platforms – on one side of Factoria Blvd, fill the median with the westbound lane and platform; on the other side, fill the median with the eastbound lane and platform.

        Alternatively, have fly-under HOV ramps that connect with 36th St somewhere around 131st. Buses can go a block on 36th and then pull back on the freeway through new HOV ramps at Factoria Blvd.

      4. The ultimate solution would be like this:

        – a short tunnel from the Eastgate bus overpass through the hill east of Factoria
        – emerging into an elevated structure at 38th Place
        – which then flies dramatically over the hill west of Factoria to get back to I-90

        Both cost and likely neighborhood opposition make that option pie-in-the-sky, but other solutions don’t work nearly as well. Factoria is just in a difficult location for E/W service to serve.

      5. Creating some solution to Factoria is important. Factoria has a lot of lower-cost retail stores that aren’t readily available in Seattle, in addition to jobs.

        Solutions merely cost money and creative design. I’d think a Factoria station would be more cost effective than going to Issaquah Highlands with two BRT routes.

      6. The low-cost solution for Factoria would be to give Factoria Boulevard bus priority treatments and make the connections from there to both Eastgate (current route 245 or 240 routing) and S Bellevue (current route 241 routing) far more frequent.

      7. Areas of Eugene’s EmX are single track with passing sidings….er, Single lane with passing lanes. If ridership is too low to justify light rail, then perhaps it is low enough to have buses infrequent enough to warrant a single two directional dedicated lane. Some of the more narrow areas might justify that treatment at the sacrifice of some schedule flexibility.

  5. I know we are talking Sound Transit here (i.e. major rapid transit lines), and I am fairly new to the area and can’t keep track of all of the different transportion entities, so bear with me. But, when I look at this map the major thing that stands out to me is that there is nothing connecting the Kirkland/Bellevue south of 90 folks to Microsoft in a direct way. Have you ever travelled 148th/140th during rush hour? There is a huge group of people travelling North/South. But, maybe that is a Microsoft Connector hole to fill.

    1. There’s already the Metro 245, running down 70th between Kirkland and Microsoft, and then taking 156th/140th to Eastgate. It’s direct from Kirkland, but you can definitely take a faster route from Eastgate, where both Metro and the City of Bellevue are planning a more direct route on 148th.

    2. 148th between Eastgate and NE 8th would be an excellent candidate corridor for bus lanes.

      1. I’m not sure where you would build them, though. There’s too much traffic to just repurpose of the lanes for buses without causing severe congestion. Nor is there really room to widen the road, at least not without severely compromising the aesthetics of the corridor and the environment for people walking and biking.

        In present conditions, 148th Ave. actually has a pretty wide sidewalk, which is able to reasonably accommodate both bikes and peds, something that is pretty unusual for a suburban road. It also has some nice landscaping between the sidewalk and the road so the exhaust of speeding cars isn’t quite breathing down your throat.

        I suppose if you really wanted to, you could carve out room for bus lanes by chopping down all the trees and reducing the sidewalk to a Houston-style 4-foot walkway immediately adjacent to the bus lane, but the neighborhood outcry would be immense, and the costs to the environment would not be worth it.

      2. Compromise the aesthetics of the corridor. Transit ROW is more important than super-wide grassy medians. There’s plenty of room for wide sidewalks and six lanes.

    3. I’m assuming you mean 90th St (given your reference to Kirkland) and not I-90.

      This is actually an even bigger hole than just south of 90th St. There’s really no good transit from the 405 corridor to Microsoft south of 522. There is the 245 from 70th St, but there’s no way to connect to that except a few odd 405 buses (the 342, which only runs a few times a day). The other option is to take the 405 buses south to either Bellevue TC or Evergreen station and then connect on an ST bus to OTC – which takes 40-50 min. Or just drive, which takes 30 minutes (from Brickyard, where I live) during rush hour and 15 without any traffic. And if you don’t live within walking distance of a station, you may as well just drive all the way once you get in your car.

      1. There’s also the peak-only 244 from Totem Lake. Though, given the average Microsoftee’s schedule, it could do with later service.

      2. If we ignore the Connectors, there’s no good transit from anywhere in the 405 corridor to Redmond. I just highlighted south of 522 because the southernmost connector stop I know of is in Bothell just north of 522.

        As for the 244, I don’t think its of much use. It takes 40 minutes from Totem Lake to OTC and, as you mentioned, has bad times and peak-only service. Instead, I can just spend 15 minutes on the 532/535 and then grab either the 566/567 for the 10 minute trip or a Microsoft shuttle bus.

      3. @asdf2,

        The Connector buses are not open to contractors, many of whom are low-paid enough that they really could benefit from viable transit.

  6. First, I really appreciate how much work you’ve put into putting this together. That being said, I still don’t see a case being made for the ERC. You claim that the routing serves the more transit oriented cities in the area. But, really, the only transit oriented station along that corridor is downtown Kirkland. And that will require an expensive diversion that will be difficult to make happen – in yesterday’s discussion, it was pointed out that 6th St cannot be easily reconfigured. So I don’t see how you can get off the ERC and back on without spending a ton of money building infrastructure and acquiring land.

    As for development, the ST report for the ERC (page 48 of the PDF you linked to) states that there is limited potential outside of downtown Kirkland. As I mentioned yesterday, the houses surrounding the ERC south of 70th St are million-dollar homes. That’s going to be very hard to redevelop. The area along Lake Washington Blvd is either further away from the ERC (near downtown Kirkland) or down a steep hill from the ERC, which means limited walkability. The area around South Kirkland P&R is too hilly to be of use for substantial development. Totem Lake might work out, or might not – we won’t know for a while longer.

    If we’re going to re-develop things anyway, why not put in an E-W route along 85th connecting onto 405? That’s probably cheaper and less politically challenging than paving all of the ERC. Totem Lake can be served by adding HOV access directly from the 124th St exit or by providing bus only lanes via the 128th St exit. If you want to add a BRT south from downtown Kirkland, why not route along curb lanes on Lake Washington Blvd or State St? Not quite as reliable probably, but a lot cheaper and with direct access into Kirkland TC.

    1. @David,

      The ‘limited potential outside of downtown Kirkland’ that you refer to is for an assumed station location just east of 6th St on the ERC. I think they’re right about that. It’s a mostly single-family neighborhood that would like to stay so. It also has very limited road access and wetland issues, so they’d have challenges in upscaling even if they wanted to.

      ST did not study a deviation into downtown Kirkland. That, maybe, was to maintain comparability between BRT (where it’s somewhat feasible at reasonable cost) and LRT (where it’s not feasible except at large cost). It also reflects that the corridor studies were fairly high-level.

      There is a significant development potential in the area along 6th St down into the Houghton Business Center. That’s not yet captured in zoning, and therefore was ignored by ST. But the rezoning is coming, and the development right on the corridor won’t be far behind. The pickings do get slimmer south of there, minor concentrations at Northwest U. and Carillon Point.

      But let’s pull back a second. Even with current zoning and development, the most successful bus in Kirkland is the 255. So if we want to grow transit organically, that’s what we want to build on. Other than Market St/Juanita, the 255 runs right through the corridor we’re describing. We’re making it better and faster and more reliable by separating it from traffic for 95%+ of the route. There are cheaper ways to route a bus, but the surface streets can’t support the reliability we want (there’s very little opportunity even for bus lanes). I-405 is very out of direction, and expensive because you can’t put a station at NE 85th for less than $380m.

      1. So I agree there are benefits to the ERC routing. But as others in this thread have said, it’s a good option at best. I agree that short of rebuilding half of Kirkland, it’s probably the best option. But the question for voters is not “Is this a good thing” but “Is it worth the money”. The only people who will solidly benefit from it are those in downtown Kirkland. There is no dense development right now in Totem Lake, so no one there will care. And you’ll get opposition and lawsuits from homeowners along the ERC – getting a gravel trail in there was hard enough. Plus, unless you make it a really nice trail the whole way including paving the section where no buses run, pedestrians and bicyclists won’t be happy either. So while I don’t disagree that this is a “good” option, I do disagree that you can sell it.

    2. I don’t know what you’re talking about with regards to a NE 6th extension. The city of bellevue and WSDOT have always planned on extending that road to 120th Ave. The existing DA was designed accommodate that.

  7. Voting with David here on providing some sort of service to central Factoria. What’s the possibility of bus lanes on Factoria Boulevard between Eastgate Way and 38th, with some sort of turn around loop there? The red line could exit the HOV lanes at Eastgate, loop around to the TC with a stop at 142nd and Coal Creek along the way for Bellevue College riders, continue down Eastgate Way to Richards Road, mixed traffic would be fine there, make the loop through Factoria then go north on Richards Road to Lake Hills Connector. You wouldn’t lose anything by skipping the empty part of LHC but gain a lot by serving Factoria.

    A very frequent shuttle bus between Factoria and South Bellevue via the slip ramps to Factoria Way should already be in place, but when Link is in service would be a huge winner.

  8. 1) Overall, I think this is great value-for-money. I’d rather see Bus Rapid Transit/BRT be the wave of the future around here – and yes, when I’m in Seattle, I like getting my light rail fix.

    2) I’d like to see a line similar to this from Everett Station to the Boeing Plant to Future of Flight down the Mukilteo Speedway to Bernie Webber Drive, the Mukilteo QFC and a few stops later Swift I. Just a thought.

  9. For BRT to be viable on the Eastside, the buses need to allow roll on service for bikes. The slashes on the Eastside just don’t cover enough potential riders and we already have problems with the 3 bike limit on buses that can vary what 100 people? To get enough people to these buses we need to focus on bike capacity on the buses and AAA bikeways to the stops.

    The other option is Dutch/Danish style bike parking but I think we are a long way from Puget Sounders moving to the European model of having two bikes, one on either end of your bus/train trip.

    1. Exactly like Swift. I think all of the Eastside ST delegation should go up there and ride it if they haven’t already.

  10. As another potential Eastside project, how about access improvements to some of the existing freeway stations? For instance, at Eastgate Freeway Station, you could widen the 142 St. overpasses to allow local buses to stop right next to the freeway station, rather than drive right past it and force everybody making connections to walk an extra 1/4 mile. Or a staircase connecting the 142 St. overpass to the residential neighborhood immediately to the south?

  11. Is there a reason that the region should pay for both BRT and light rail into Downtown Redmond — beyond a legacy promise? I don’t see why we would want to invest in so much capital and service both going there — unless that place was doing more offering expensive mid-rise apartments (common in many cities on the Eastside) and chain upscale retail stores (many of which are also in Bellevue). +

    1. The only overlap is between the Overlake Transit Center (40th Street) and downtown Redmond (85th Street), which is 3.2 miles on the 545. The 545 is ST’s second-highest performing route on the Eastside and perhaps second or third in the network, so both a successor route and Link would probably have good ridership. I don’t have a strong opinion either way. But an argument could be made that Overlake TC is like Mercer Island: a good place to truncate buses to Redmond. I’m not sure if that’s a good argument or not.

      1. EastLink is far too slow and roundabout to be a valid replacement for the 542. With the HOV lane, Overlake TC to the UW is about 10-15 minutes on the bus, compared to about 40 minutes on the train. This is enough of a time advantage that, even if you are headed from Overlake to Northgate, you would choose the bus->train connection over riding the train all the way.

        Downtown-bound riders would have the choice to make the Link connection at either Overlake or the UW station. Which option would depend on where within downtown the ultimate destination is.

      2. I thought Al S was referring to the other part of the route. So the 542 would go from UW to Overlake TC and terminate, and people continuing to downtown Redmond would transfer to Link.

  12. In the discussion last week, Alex Bailey brought up a transit corridor through the Sammamish River valley. There were various issue there that I among others pointed out (flood plain, agriculture) but, after biking down the trail this past weekend, I’m wondering if this wouldn’t be a relatively cheap and useful corridor to add. Has any study been done? I have no idea of the possible ridership on the corridor, but here is why I think it could work:

    1. Both Redmond and Woodinville have denser development along the trail. Many apartment complexes, most offering access to the trail already.
    2. Once in Woodinville, you could have a station near the center of downtown, and then connect through bus only lanes to 522 and from there to UW Bothell, where the line would terminate (part of this could probably go next to the trail, part would need to go elsewhere.
    3. 405 buses running into Snohomish could use the transit-only road to connect to East Link and avoid all traffic on 405. If you pave it to Overlake, you could let Microsoft’s connector buses run there as well in exchange for some funding.
    4. Most of the trail seems to have a wide ROW and is already grade separated. You’d need to modify the bridges, but that’s probably doable.
    5. There would be a stretch of 3 miles or so that goes through the flood plain with no potential for development. But you could convert the 60 acres parking lot into a P&R. Another option is to provide a bus lane on 124th and have a fast bus from Totem Lake to Redmond.
    6. One useful selling point is that it allows you to go to the winery area of Woodinville without having to drive (much), which means it’s worthwhile even for those people with little other interest in transit.
    7. It would have little opposition from bikers/walkers/area residents if done well. The ROW is wide and there’s plenty of space for one or two lanes I think. Most landowners are (I think) farmers (who won’t care) or apartment buildings (for whom rapid access into Redmond is only a sellingpoint).

    Anyone else find this idea interesting?

  13. The only thing I don’t like about the plan is that the routes end at UW. I think they absolutely should serve UW, but I think they should continue up to Brooklyn station as well. I see Brooklyn station as not only the most important station in North Seattle, but the most Important station in the entire system outside of downtown.

  14. Segregated and Elevated busways.

    Man, if we had started with those in 1993, we’d be done already.

    We’d have regional transit all over the place, at 60 mph.

  15. I really like this proposal–it’s similar to what I had been thinking about before, but it’s articulated a lot better. Thanks for posting this!

    The only thing that I’m a little skeptical about is whether Issaquah will have the demand to support two very-frequent (10 minute or better) lines westward–one oriented towards Seattle and the other towards Bellevue. If you can’t maintain high frequencies on each line, it seems like it would be better to have one frequent line connecting Issaquah to East Link, instead of two infrequent lines. Also, I’m a little confused how the red line would connect from Snoqualmie River Rd to Richards Road–is the proposal to use 32nd St, 139th Ave, and Kamber Rd/26th St to connect them? (This skips the center of Bellevue College, but I suppose it is close enough.)

    Ultimately for Issaquah though, it will be hard to improve the current peak commute substantially since the express buses are already quite optimized (frequent express service in freeway HOV lanes). While surface street bus lanes in Issaquah will definitely speed up the 554, I wonder if it would be possible for ST to also take over most express bus service from Issaquah (214, 216, 217, 218, 219). This would allow Metro to substantially improve the local Issaquah network, which is skeletal (40-minute midday frequencies) at best, and completely nonexistent in many populated neighborhoods.

  16. Here’re my suggested revisions to the I-90 service, combining David’s observation that topography makes it impossible for freeway buses to serve Factoria with Josh’s comment that Issaquah can’t support two ultra-frequent all-day services, heavily influenced by Anandakos’s suggested routing:

    * Keep the Green Line on its mapped route.

    * Cut the Red Line back. It now starts at Bellevue College, heads down Snoqualmie River Road to Eastgate, and takes 36th-132nd-38th to Factoria. Then it heads north on Factoria Blvd to Lake Hills Connector and downtown Bellevue. This shortened line, I think, could easily be through-routed with the Blue Line to Kirkland.

    1. This looks like a good route. Adding a stop on 142nd Pl overpass on I-90 just next to the current freeway station would allow people travelling from Issaquah to Bellevue to transfer from Green Line to Red Line pretty easily (assuming both lines run with decent frequency)

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